Jazz Prospecting: February 2012

AIMToronto Orchestra: Year of the Boar (2010 [2011], Barnyard): AIM stands for Association of Improvising Musicians, a 17-piece free jazz big band under the artistic direction of soprano saxophonist Kyle Brenders. The group was formed to play Anthony Braxton's Creative Orchestra (Guelph) 2007. Here they do some of their own work: three pieces by Brenders, two by Justin Haynes, and one each by Joe Sorbara and Germaine Liu. I find the squeaky strings and scattered vocals detract some, but the odd angles and experimental flair are striking. B+(*)

Ehud Asherie: Upper West Side (2009 [2012], Posi-Tone): Pianist, b. 1979, Israeli (as I recall; his Flash website crashed when I tried to look at it), based in New York; sixth album since 2007. This is a duo "with" tenor saxophonist Harry Allen, who gets smaller, skinny type on the front cover, but carries the standards set, especially from "Our Love Is Here to Stay" (fourth song) on. At times Asherie reminds me of one of those pianists who used to accompany silent films, but he keeps Allen moving, rarely finding a solo spot, as on "My Blue Heaven" where he raises Fats Domino to a higher energy orbit. A-

Axel's Axiom: Uncommon Sense (2009 [2011], Armored): Axel is Schwintzer, b. in Köln, Germany, plays piano/keyb; studied at Berklee, wound up in New York. Group has two saxophones, guitar, bass, drums. Postbop, I guess; not fusion in any recognizable sense, although a certain rock-friendliness seems to be part of the idea. B+(*)

Matt Baker: Underground (2011, self-released): Pianist, from Australia, based in New York; first album, wrote 5 (of 8) pieces. Augments his trio with Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Dayna Stephens on tenor sax -- Pelt especially adds a lot of sass, and gets the rhythm jumping behind him. B+(*)

David Budway: A New Kiss (2011, MaxJazz): Pianist, from Pittsburgh, classical background, four albums since 1995. This is about half trio (with Eric Revis on bass and Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums), with 4 (of 11) cuts adding soprano sax (Branford Marsalis or Marcus Strickland), two of those guitar (Ron Affif), one of those accordion (Joe "Sonny" Barbato). The piano has a crisp rhythmic crunch, and the mix gets richer with the extra instruments, all the way up to the finale ("Sama'i Shat Arabud"). B+(**)

Tito Carrillo: Opening Statement (2011, Origin): Trumpet player, originally from Austin, TX; now based in Chicago (more or less: teaches at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign). First album, mostly a quartet with piano-bass-drums, but 4 (of 10) cuts add a saxophonist (Geof Bradfield or Phillip Doyle). Postbop, the trumpet especially striking. B+(*)

Erik Charlston JazzBrasil: Essentially Hermeto (2010 [2011], Sunnyside): Plays vibraphone and marimba, leading a group with Ted Nash (saxes, flute, clarinet), Mark Soskin (piano), Jay Anderson (bass), Rogério Boccato (drums, percussion), and Café (more percussion). I don't have a sense of Charlston's discography, in part because AMG seems to have filed some of it elsewhere, but this is the only album mentioned on Charlston's website. Six (of eight) songs by Hermeto Pascoal. Nash is a constant delight here, a much better choice than the usual guitar would have been, but most of all the leader adds some extra bounce to a perfectly fine rhythm section. B+(***)

Kevin Crabb: Waltz for Dylan (2010 [2011], Crabbclaw): Drummer, first album, wrote all of the pieces, played by Kelly Jefferson (sax), John Beasley (piano), and Don Thompson (bass). I can't really parse Crabb's biography: looks like he grew up in Canada (Toronto), moved to Florida, studied at Pepperdine, and stayed in Los Angeles. Postbop, doesn't break any new ground but has a nice tone and feel, the sax downright lush. B+(*)

Hans Glawischnig: Jahira (2011 [2012], Sunyside): Bassist -- cover pic shows him with a 4-string bass guitar, has a thick body like an acoustic but no hole in the middle. From Austria, b. 1970, third album since 2004, plus three dozen or more side credits, enough with Latin artists to peg him as a specialist (Miguel Zenón, David Sanchez, Ray Barretto, Dafnis Prieto, Luis Perdomo). This is a trio with saxophonist Samir Zafir (tenor, soprano) and drummer Eric Doob. You listen to the spare and elegant sax, but the bass is even more so. B+(***)

Aaron Goldberg/Ali Jackson/Omer Avital: Yes! (2009 [2012], Sunnyside): Artist order on spine, which puts the pianist first. Front cover has Jackson first (left-to-right, like the picture), so AMG credits this to Avital -- a tic they've picked up in the last year, which makes it hard to find multi-artist albums and makes their counts all the more unreliable. Four (of nine) originals, two each by Avital and Jackson, mixed in with covers from Ellington (two), Monk, and Ibrahim. B+(**)

Taylor Haskins: Recombination (2009 [2011], 19/8): Trumpet player, b. 1971, fourth album since 2004. Postbop, group includes Ben Monder (guitar), Henry Rey (piano), Todd Sickafoose (bass), Nate Smith (drums), and Samuel Torres (percussion). Rey and Haskins alternating on laptop and various synths, with dollops of cheesy post-fusion expertly sliced up by the trumpet. B+(**)

Edgar Knecht: Good Morning Lilofee (2009 [2011], Ozella): German pianist, first album as far as I can tell, a trio plus a couple of guests. Fast rhythm-based pieces, I gather 3/4 German dance tunes and 6/8 Afro-Cuban are the main ingredients. This kind of snappy piano work seems to be a European exclusive. Here everyone wants to be Bill Evans, but over there Esbjörn Svensson rools. B+(***)

The George Lernis Jazz Quartet: Shapes of Nature (2011, self-released): Picked this out almost randomly after the Kevin Crabb album (alphabetized above) and turns out this is almost exactly the same deal: a drummer-led alto sax-piano-bass quartet, first album, smart and tasteful postbop. Lernis was b. 1980 in Cyprus, studied at Berklee, based on Boston. This is the (slightly) better album, largely thanks to saxophonist Scott Boni, who offers a sharper edge as well as some extra sweetness. B+(**)

Nick Moran Trio: No Time Like Now (2011 [2012], Manor Sound): New York guitarist (note that there's also a Chicago saxophonist with same name). Second album, a trio with Brad Whiteley on organ and Chris Benham on drums. I don't quite get the point of organ trios other than that they make you lick your chops thinking of Jimmy Smith's chicken shack. B+(*)

Youn Sun Nah: Same Girl (2010 [2011], ACT): Singer, from Korea, left Seoul for Paris in 1995, studied at CIM Jazz School. Website shows seven albums since 2001. This one was recorded in Sweden with guitarist Ulf Wakenius, Lars Danielsson on bass and cello, and Xavier Desandre-Navarre on percussion. Starts with a spare "My Favorite Things," winds authoritatively through Sergio Mendes and Randy Newman and Metallica and Philippe Sarde, with two originals, one piece by Wakenius, and one Korean trad. B+(**)

Jovino Santos Neto Quinteto: Current (2010 [2011], Adventure Music): Pianist, b. 1954 in Rio de Janeiro, based in Seattle, eighth album since 1997, mostly with this Quintet, which dates back to 1993. With Harvey Wainapel on clarinets and saxes, bass, drums, and percussion, plus vibes on four cuts, voices on one. The Brazilian influence runs deep and permeates the soft surface. B+(*)

The New World Jazz Composers Octet: Breaking News (2011, Big and Phat): Organized by saxophonist Daniel Ian Smith 11 years ago, but first album didn't come out until 2007, then one each in 2010 and 2011. Octet has two saxes, two trumpets, piano, bass, drums, and percussion -- effectively a lean big band with fast soloists but no section depth. Seven pieces by six composers, only two (Felipe Salles and Walter Platt) in the band. B+(**)

The Sam Pannunzio Trio: Goin' Home (2010 [2011], Eastside Jazz): Pianist, with Lionel Kramer on drums and the late Mark Bullis on bass, both named and pictured on the front cover. B. 1949 in Colorado. AMG lists one previous album, Java Jazz, and bio says he started out in NORAD and spent some time supporting Kenny G, neither relevant here. Wrote everything here but one tune by Dvorak. B+(*)

Alan Pasqua: Twin Bill: Two Piano Music of Bill Evans (2011, BFM): Solo piano with an overdubbed accompaniment, something Evans did (not sure how many times). Songs are mostly by Evans, with one from Scott LaFaro, "Nardis" from Miles Davis, a trad Scandinavian folk song, one by Pasqua, and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame," which Pasqua associates in his mind as a primal influence, like Evans. Doesn't have the usual piano duo feel, so the interaction of the two parts is more subtle than I can fathom. B+(*)

Oscar Peterson: Unmistakable [Zenph Re-Performance] (2010 [2011], Sony Masterworks): Newly recorded solo piano, using a Bösenderfer piano and some extra hardware (a "SE2 System") I don't really understand, and some software that somehow captured Peterson at the piano. Give it a blindfold test and anyone moderately familiar with jazz piano will at least think of Peterson. Eight songs (counting the Ellington medley as one) in two versions: stereo and "binaural stereo" (the latter billed as "the ultimate headphone experience"). B+(*)

Lola Regenthal: With You (2011, Origin): Swedish singer, first album, recorded in Switzerland, done simply with guitar and bass/cello. Mostly originals, plus covers from Jobim, Arlen, the Gershwins, and Leon Russell. Voice takes a while to settle in, but the 1:56 "Summertime" fragment is striking. B+(*)

Matt Slocum: After the Storm (2011, Chandra): Drummer, second album, leading a piano trio here with Gerald Clayton and Massimo Biolcati. Wrote 6 (of 9) pieces, the covers from Porter, Ravel, and Rodgers-Hart. Clayton is a dilligent pianist, and keeps this moving at a high level. B+(**)

Gary Smulyan: Smul's Paradise (2011 [2012], Capri): Baritone saxophonist, b. 1956, mainstream guy, has ten albums since 1990. Wish I could say more, but his back catalog (on Criss Cross and Reservoir) has eluded me. Looks toward soul jazz this time, with two songs from and one for Don Patterson, and picked out a very fine group to do it with: Mike LeDonne (organ), Peter Bernstein (guitar), and Kenny Washington (drums). B+(**)

Sultans of String: Move (2011, self-released): Toronto, Canada group: Chris KcKhool (violin, viola), Kevin Laliberté (guitar), Eddie Paton (guitar), Drew Briston (bass), Rosendo "Chendy" Leon (percussion), with various friends and guests. Third album, sort of a world mix with the guitarists especially fond of flamenco, with gypsy jazz and Cuban rhythms and a bit of Brazil in the mix, but McKhool's violin usually gets the final say. B+(*)

Talking Cows: Almost Human (2011 [2012], Morvin/Jazz Sick): Dutch group: Frans Vermeerssen (tenor sax), Robert Vermeulen (piano), Don Nijland (double bass), Yonga Sun (drums). Third album, following 2006's Bovinity and 2008's Dairy Tales. More mainstream than avant-garde, but their bright good humor links them to the pop side of perennial jokesters like Breuker and Mengelberg. B+(***)

Dan Tepfer: Goldberg Variations/Variations (2011, Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1982 in Paris, France; had an early record in 2004, and now three on Sunnyside, starting with the impressive Duos With Lee. This is inevitably less to my taste, but I imagine it's hard to get very far on piano without running into a lot of Bach, and those with a taste for such things do hold him in highest regard. Opening and closing with a joint-credited "Aria," the meat here are Bach's 30 Goldberg Variations, ranging from 0:28 to 3:40 (but only 3 longer than 1:37), each followed by a short improvisation (again, only 3 topping 1:37) in the same vein. B+(*)

Steve Turre: Woody's Delight (2011 [2012], High Note): The trombonist played in Woody Shaw's quintet in the early 1980s, so there's a connection behind this tribute. Various quintet lineups -- Turre is determined to spread the pleasures, so he rotates five trumpet players (Wallace Roney, Claudio Rodito, Chocolate Armenteros, Freddie Hendrix, and a show-stealing Jon Faddis), five percussionists, four bassists, three keyboard players. Most of the cast are Latino, and the latter half of a rather scattered album is dominated by bongos and congas. B+(*)

Doug Webb: Swing Shift (2009 [2012], Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, has done a lot of studio work but not much under his own name until he hooked up with this label. Quartet with piano, bass, and drums; three covers, three originals -- two co-credited to bassist Stanley Clarke, including one that stretches out to 22:22. Previously thought of him as a mainstream player, but this seems to be his Saxophone Colossus move. B+(***)

The Wee Trio: Ashes to Ashes: A David Bowie Intraspective 2011 [2012], Bionic): Bass-vibes-drums trio: Dan Loomis, James Westfall, and Jared Schonig, respectively. Third album, works off six David Bowie songs. The vibes give the group a light and fanciful touch, but Bowie's melodies don't offer the group much to work with, even recognition. B

  March, 2012