Jazz Prospecting: May 2012

Ballister: Mechanisms (2010 [2012], Clean Feed): Sax trio, with Dave Rempis (alto, tenor, baritone), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello, electronics), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). Second group album after the limited edition String. Three long cuts, free-wheeling improv with a lot of squawk, its cacophony largely redeemed by the very high energy level, its interest mostly in the electronics the cellist uses to extend his range and amplify his contribution. B+(**)

Pat Battstone and Richard Poole: Mystic Nights (2011, Bat's Tones Music): More commonly Patrick Battstone, pianist, b. 1954, studied with Joanne Brackeen, day job as a rocket scientist at Draper Labs. Second album with vibraphonist Poole; can't find much else they've done. Just the two of them, piano/vibes. Does a nice job of hitting its intended mark. B+(*)

David Boswell: Windows (2012, My Quiet Moon): Guitarist. Born in San Francisco; played in a rock band called Metro Jets; does session work in LA. Fourth album since 2004. Plays synth guitar as well as more conventional ones, backed by piano-bass-drums, dense with no rough edges, brightened up by John Fumo's trumpet near the end. B-

Don Byron New Gospel Quintet: Love, Peace, and Soul (2011 [2012], Savoy Jazz): After Mickey Katz and Raymond Scott, among other sources less specific and idiosyncratic, yet another niche for Byron's clarinet. (Would have included Jr. Walker, but Byron played alto sax that time.) Inspirations here include Thomas Dorsey and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Eddie Harris and George Russell, aunt Dorothy Simon, and Donald Byron Sr. Vocals predominate, with DK Dyson counted in the quintet, and Dean Bowman given a guest shot. Also on hand are Xavier Davis (piano), Brad Jones (bass), and Pheeroan Aklaff (drums), and guests include Brandon Ross, Vernon Reid, and Ralph Alessi. Hot enough to overcome my increasing resistance to gospel, especially when the clarinet races to the front. A-

Maureen Choi: Quartet (2011, self-released): Violinist, studied at Michigan State and Berklee, based in Detroit. Probably her first album, with Rick Roe (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Sean Dobbins (drums). Standards, starting with "Caravan," ending with "Donna Lee"; mostly set up by the piano, with violin sketching out the melody. B+(*)

Todd Clouser's A Love Electric: 20th Century Folk Selections (2012, Royal Potato Family): Guitarist, b. 1981, from Minneapolis, studied at Berklee, based in Los Cabos, Mexico. Called his last album A Love Electric, now promoting that title to group name, and promising three group records this year. The folk tunes here include pieces by Buddy Holly, Neil Young ("The Needle and the Damage Done," Nirvana, Velvet Underground ("Heroin"), Beastie Boys, Pearl Jam, Malvina Reynolds, and trad. Loopy, silky guitar, Fender Rhodes, some trumpet and/or trombone, Cyro Baptista on percussion. B+(**)

Dan Cray: Meridies (2011 [2012], Origin): Pianist, b. 1977, studied at Northwestern in Chicago. Fifth album since 2001, a quartet with bass, drums, and Noah Preminger on tenor sax -- a significant plus. B+(*)

Dirty Dozen Brass Band: Twenty Dozen (2011 [2012], Savoy Jazz): The venerable New Orleans institution sticks to its guns, and for good reason: the early instrumental cuts here are lackluster, but the nth edition of "When the Saints Go Marching In" finally shakes all the cobwebs loose and turns this into a party. B+(*)

Jimmy Earl: Jimmy Earl (1995 [2012], Severn): Bass guitarist, b. 1957 in Boston, studied at Berklee, has two 1995-99 albums (newly reissued), many more side credits (AMG shows 90 lines). Musicians come and go here, although the keybs and drums are pretty interchangeable, the latter compatible with the programmed drums on several tracks. Not many horns (one trumpet track, two soprano sax). He's trying to keep it light, more jazztronica than funk, and often succeeds. B+(*)

Jimmy Earl: Stratosphere (1998 [2012], Severn): Presumably named for the thin oxygen and general chill, more hospitalable to the computers that seem to have taken over -- at some point subtlety risks turning into noodling. B

Wayne Escoffery: The Only Son of One (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist (plays soprano on the last cut), b. 1975 in London, UK; moved to New Haven, CT when he was 11; studied under Jackie McLean; eighth record since 2001. Mainstream player, has always had a lot of flashy technique, is developing a sensitive, nuanced ballad tone, much evident here. With Orrin Evans on Fender Rhodes and piano, and Adam Holzman on keyboards -- the latter meant to suffice for strings, and just as well given how much worse a phallanx of strings could be. B+(***)

Gene Ess: A Thousand Summers (2011 [2012], SIMP): Guitarist, born in Tokyo, grew up in Okinawa, studied at George Mason University. Fourth album since 2003, all standards, features Nicki Parrott singing (but not playing bass; that's Thomson Kneeland), plus piano and drums. I've always found Parrott's vocals charming, no less so here, and the guitar breaks are eminently tasteful. B+(**)

Amit Friedman Sextet: Sunrise (2010 [2012], Origin): Israeli saxophonist, google him and you get lots of cheesecake pics of a buxom Israeli model with the same name. Debut album, recorded in Israel, mostly a bright and jaunty sextet with oud or guitar, piano, extra percussion, but the cuts with extra strings can dampen the mood. B+(*)

The Galactic Cowboy Orchestra: All Out of Peaches (2011, New Folk): Fusion band out of Minnesota -- self-description runs "Chick Corea meets The Dixie Dregs meets A Prairie Home Companion." Four albums, including two volumes of Songs We Didn't Write. Sound is dominated by Lisi Wright's "fiddle" over guitar-bass-drums, which can wear thin but is fun for a good while. B+(*)

Marshall Gilkes: Sound Stories (2011 [2012], Alternate Side): Trombonist, b. 1978, third album since 2005: a quintet, with Donny McCaslin on tenor sax, Adam Birnbaum on piano, bass, and drums. Gilkes wrote all the pieces, keeps it all nicely balanced, the trombone leads as muscular as the sax. B+(**)

Tord Gustavsen Quartet: The Well (2011 [2012], ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1970, not clear how many albums -- e.g., I had his 1999 collaboration with singer Siri Gjaere under his name but it looks like hers came first; five, since 2002, all on ECM, is my best reckoning. This one has Tore Brunborg (tenor sax), Mats Eilertsen (bass), and Jarle Vespestad (drums). B+(***) [advance]

Joel Harrison 7: Search (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Guitarist, has a dozen albums since 1996. Has long had an interest in picking over rock pieces, exemplified by Gregg Allman's "Whipping Post" here. Has lately explored extending his guitar sound with a few more string instruments -- violin (Christian Howes), cello (Dana Leong), and bass (Stephan Crump) here, all superb jazz musicians -- and that's rarely if ever worked so well as on the first two-thirds here. Also helping: Donny McCaslin (tenor sax), Gary Versace (piano, organ), and Clarence Penn (drums). The dull spot comes from Olivier Messaien. B+(**) [advance]

Boris Hauf Sextet: Next Delusion (2010 [2012], Clean Feed): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano here), b. 1974 in England, based in Vienna, but seems like all his friends are in Chicago: sextet here includes Keefe Jackson (tenor sax, contrabass clarinet), Jason Stein (bass clarinet), Frank Rosaly (drums), Steven Hess (drums, electronics), and Michael Hartman (still more drums). In other words, this sextet reduces to a reeds/drums duo, with electronics reinforcing either side. Striking passages, some dead spots. Hauf claims "more than 40 CD, Vinyl and online releases." I don't have a handle on him, but AMG lists him under "avant-garde" (only crediting him with 2 albums), so they don't either. B+(*)

Lisa Hilton: American Impressions (2012, Ruby Slippers): Pianist, born "in a small town on California's central coast," studied at UCLA, based in Los Angeles, has 16 albums since 1997. Don't know if she's related to Paris. Her early albums (covers anyway) suggested light cocktail jazz -- one was actually titled Cocktails at Eight, others Feeling Good and My Favorite Things (with her draped over the piano, like Michelle Pfeiffer), but she's gotten more, um, serious, composing 10 pieces here (of 12, the others from Ellington and Mitchell), and has recruited a very serious band: J.D. Allen (tenor sax), Larry Grenadier (bass), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Maybe too serious: Allen, in particular, is severely underused, mostly providing color around the piano figures, which tend toward deep rumbling. America's getting to be an unsettling place. B+(*)

Pamela Hines Trio with April Hall: Lucky's Boy (2011, Spice Rack): Hines is a pianist, her trio adding John Lockwood on bass and Les Harris, Jr. on drums. She has seven records since 1998, and sole credit for the nine songs here. The songs have lyrics, sung by Hall, who has three albums of her own (scoring the previous Hall Sings Hines for Hall). Hard to put a finger on this, a bit dry, perhaps. B

Florian Hoefner Group: Songs Without Words (2011 [2012], OA2): Pianist, from Germany (I think), first album (as far as I can tell, although his label page says, "His performances are featured on seven CD releases"), a quartet with Mike Ruby (tenor and soprano sax), Sam Anning (bass), and Peter Kronreif (drums), recorded in New York. All originals, mainstream postbop, sax has some blues feel, all very nicely done. B+(***)

Anne Mette Iversen: Poetry of Earth (2011 [2012], Bju'ecords): Bassist, b. 1972 in Denmark, moved to New York to study at New School and settled in. Fourth album, 91:25 straddling two discs; wrote all the music for various poems (Svende Grøn, A.E. Housman, John Keats, Henrik Ibsen, Thomas Hardy, Lene Poulsen) sung by Maria Neckam and Christine Skou. The music has a chamber feel, with Dan Tepfer on piano and John Ellis on reeds. I haven't spent nearly enough time with this, and probably won't: not my thing, but remarkable nonetheless. B+(***)

Jazz Punks: Smashups (2012, self-released): First album from group: Sal Polcino (guitar), Robby Elfman (sax), Danny Kastner (piano), Michael Polcino (bass), Hugh Elliot (drums). Basic idea is to take a rock theme, like the Who's "I Can See for Miles," and lay a jazz riff on top of it, like Miles Davis's "No Blues," the result retitled "I Can See Miles." Or the Beatles + Wayne Shorter ("She's So Heavy" + "Footprints" = "Heavyfoot"), Led Zeppelin + Dizzy Gillespie ("Mystic Mountain Hop" + "A Night in Tunisia" = "Led Gillespie"), or the Clash + Paul Desmond ("Should I Stay or Should I Go" + "Take Five" = "Clash Up"). The Polcinos tend to get the rock parts, Elfman the jazz. Entertaining, occasionally witty, but not much punk, not that I can't see why they didn't call themselves Jazz Classic Rockers. B+(*)

Masabumi Kikuchi Trio: Sunrise (2009 [2012], ECM): Pianist, b. 1939 in Japan. AMG comments on his "vast discography," but only lists 14 albums under his name, starting in 1980. A fan called Poomaniac has more details, going back to 1963, with his first album as a sole leader in 1970, preceded by a Hino-Kikuchi Quintet joint in 1968. His early work manages to rope in nearly all of the names you're likely to have heard of from the 1960s jazz scene in Japan: Toshiko Akiyoshi, Sadao Watanabe, Terumasa Hino. In the 1970s he started working with Gary Peacock, and in the 1990s he led a trio called Tethered Moon with Peacock and (who else?) Paul Motian -- the only fragment of his discography I'm familiar with. This is his first on ECM, again a trio, with Thomas Morgan on bass and, again, Motian on drums -- you can construct a pretty impressive hall of fame just from pianists who Motian has played with. As usual, his presence here looks like zen-like disengagement, allowing the piano to emerge with remarkable clarity. B+(***)

Steve Kuhn Trio: Wisteria (2011 [2012], ECM): Pianist, dates back to the early 1960s -- did an album in 1963 with the intriguing title, Country and Western Sound of Jazz Pianos -- has consistently done fine work although I've never heard anything (even from his Sheila Jordan co-led group) that really blew me away. Trio, with longtime collaborator Steve Swallow and the always superb Joey Baron. Near the top of his game. B+(***)

Jonas Kullhammar/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Espen Aalberg: Basement Sessions Vol. 1 (2012, Clean Feed): Tenor/baritone sax, bass, drums, respectively; the leader b. 1978 in Sweden, runs the Moserobie label (which extends well beyond his own work), has at least eight albums since 2000 (Plays Loud for the People is one promising title), plus an 8-CD box called The Half Naked Truth: 1998-2008. First I've heard by him and I'm duly impressed, first by tone and natural feel which line him up as a worthy follower of saxophonists like Arne Domnerus and Bernt Rosengren -- a bit more avant, but that's what we used to call progress. B+(***)

Steve Lacy: Estilhaços: Live in Lisbon (1972 [2012], Clean Feed): Still waiting for the avalanche of previously unissued recordings promised after the soprano sax legend's death in 2004, and eager to look at every piece that does appear to see how it fits into the puzzle. This one has been released before, first on LP in 1972, then on CD in 1996, both on obscure Portuguese labels. Lacy's quintet has rarely raised such a ruckus, and while much of it is hard to take, it does give you a sense of the thrill of freedom. I doubt that this had any role in triggering the revolution that freed Portugal two years later, but if Salazar had heard it I don't doubt that it would have scared the bejesus out of him -- in which case I'd have to grade it much higher. B+(*)

Andrew Lamb: Rhapsody in Black (2006 [2012], NoBusiness): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1958 in North Carolina, gravitated toward AACM, Brooklyn, and Europe. Has a spotty discography but he always makes a strong impression wherever he pops up. This is a quartet with two drummers (Michael Wimberly and Guillermo E. Brown), Tom Abbs working the lower registers (bass, tuba, didgeridoo), and Lamb on sax, flute, clarinet, and conch shell. He runs through the gyrations of an extended suite -- the soft flute segment (which I think leads into the shell) is right on the mark, but the rough stuff is even better. A-

Sinikka Langeland Group: The Land That Is Not (2010 [2011], ECM): Norwegian folk singer, plays kantele (bears a general likeness to a zither or autoharp), sings with great authority. Has at least seven albums since 1994, this being the second on ECM. The group itself is made up of accomplished jazz musicians. The hornwork of Arve Henriksen and Trygve Seim isn't central but is notable when it occurs; same for the rhythm section of Anders Jormin and Markku Ounaskari. B+(**) [advance]

Daunik Lazro/Jean-François Pauvros/Roger Turner: Curare (2010 [2012], NoBusiness): Three guys I had never heard of (well, Pauvros somewhat), but should look into. Lazro is a French saxophonist (baritone and alto here); AMG lists ten albums 1980-2000, nothing since, but Discogs has at least five more. Pauvros plays guitar, Turner drums. Both have been around since the late 1970, far enough off the beaten path that AMG files both under Avant-Garde. Most impressive when they get rowdy, but I'm hearing much more sax than guitar, but the quiet spots don't quite cohere. Probably should turn it up. B+(**)

Joe Locke/Geoffrey Keezer Group: Signing (2011 [2012], Motéma): Vibes and piano, group also means bass and drums. Locke has more than two dozen albums since 1990. His collaboration with pianist Keezer goes back at least to 2006's Live in Seattle, but this round works out much better, nicely balanced, flashy moments from both, and more depth -- bassist Terreon Gully deserves a mention. B+(***)

Joe McPhee/Ingebrigt Håker Flaten: Brooklyn DNA (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): McPhee's credit here reads, "pocket trumpet, soprano and alto saxophones," which may be why this duo with the Norwegian bassist doesn't hold up as robustly has their 2010 duo, Blue Chicago Blues (Not Two), where McPhee played tenor sax. Starts off with the catchy "Crossing the Bridge" -- a reference to Sonny Rollins, part of that Brooklyn DNA -- and gives Flaten ample opportunities to fiddle. B+(***)

Joel Miller: Swim (2011 [2012], Origin): Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), b. in Sackville, New Brunswick; studied at McGill in Montreal. Sixth album since 1998. Covers one piece by Miles Davis and Gil Evans, and wrote the other ten. Quartet includes Geoff Keezer on piano, Fraser Hollins on bass, Greg Ritchie on drums. Upbeat, rich sax tone, lush even. B+(**)

Mockuno NuClear: Drop It (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Sax-piano-drums trio, more or less Lithuanian: Liudas Mockunas, Dmitrij Golovanov, and Marjius Aleksa. Mockunas, b. 1976, has at least three previous albums. Mostly avant stretch, but sometimes they get a groove going and that's where they raise it up a level. B+(***)

Anders Nilsson: Night Guitar (2012, Soundatone): Guitarist, b. 1974 in Sweden, moved to New York in 2000. Has a fusion group called Aorta and various side projects and credits, rarely playing on an album where you don't find yourself perking up and wondering who that guitar player is. This one is solo, so you know, and like most solo albums this is a bit slower than usual; also more carefully rounded into coherent pieces, less explosive as such. B+(**)

Sebastian Noelle: Koan (2010 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, born in Germany, based in New York. Fourth album; the first a set of solos and duos with Gene Bertoncini. Group here includes Loren Stillman (alto sax), Thomson Kneeland (bass), Tony Moreno (drums), and, on 4 (of 11) cuts, George Colligan (piano). The piano can lift or push this over the top, but Stillman is always an asset, and the guitar weaves everything together. B+(**)

Miles Okazaki: Figurations (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Guitarist, third album, does his own graphic design (which is almost worth the price of admission), wrote all eight pieces here. The guitar lines are tense and spring open to drive this quartet, but your ears will chase after alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, at the top of his game. With Thomas Morgan on bass and Dan Weiss on drums. A-

Aruán Ortiz Quartet: Orbiting (2011 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, b. 1973 in Cuba, moved to US in 2003, has four albums since 2004. Four originals, four covers (Hermeto Pascoal, Charlie Parker, Ornette Coleman, "Alone Together"). Gives them all a delicate, thoughtful reading, supplemented by David Gilmore on guitar, Rashaan Carter on bass, Eric McPherson on drums. B+(**)

Aruán Ortiz/The Camerata Urbana Ensemble: Santiarican Blues Suite (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Pianist, from Cuba, came to US in 2003. Third album, commissioned by the Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, performed by an ensemble with three violins, viola, cello, two basses, two pianos (Katya Mihailova in addition to Ortiz), flute, percussion, and some voice in one spot. Too classical for my taste, but the clave broke the ice, and the strings have an airy elegance that may proove appealing. B+(*)

Dudley Owens/Aaron Wright Band: People Calling (2011 [2012], Origin): Wright plays bass; wrote 7 of 11 songs. Owens plays tenor and soprano sax; wrote the other 4. With piano (Willerm Delisfort), drums (Clif Wallace), and trumpet (Justin Stanton) on the last four cuts. Postbop with a bluesy base. B+(*)

Philippe Baden Powell: Adventure Music Piano Masters Series: Vol 2 (2008 [2012], Adventure Music): Son of the legendary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, plays piano, solo on his second album here -- series began with Benjamin Taubkin in 2010. B

Nate Radley: The Big Eyes (2011 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, first album after a dozen or more side credits since 2004. With Loren Stillman on alto sax, plus Fender Rhodes, bass, and drums. Wrote all the pieces. Strong flow with lean postbop lines; some further developed by Stillman, engaging as usual. B+(**)

RED Trio + Nate Wooley: Stem (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Piano trio from Portugal: Rodrigo Pinheiro (piano), Hernâni Faustino (bass), Gabriel Ferrandini (drums, percussion; he was born in Monterey, CA, his father a Portuguese from Mozambique, his mother Brazilian). Their eponymous 2010 release was one of the best piano trios I've heard lately. They carry on here, crisp and crinkly, adding the trumpet player, who takes more of focus but doesn't do much with it. B+(**)

Kate Reid: The Love I'm In (2011, self-released): Singer, plays piano (but also employs Otmoro Ruiz on three cuts), based in Los Angeles, second album: standards, starting with "Just Squeeze Me," includes a long and touching "I Loves You Porgy," a slow and smoldering obligatory Jobim ("Portrait in Black and White"). Striking voice, holds your focus even when she goes real slow (but there's a bit too much of that). Doesn't make much use of the band beyond piano -- Ernie Watts is on the roster but scarcely noticeable. B+(**)

The Ben Riley Quartet: Grown Folks Music (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): Cover adds "featuring Wayne Escoffery," and shows the tenor saxophonist standing next to the veteran drummer, the others (Ray Drummond on bass, Avi Rothbard or Freddie Bryant on guitar) off-camera. Riley, with only two other albums under hisown name, started out c. 1960 with Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis and Johnny Griffin, but is best known from Thelonious Monk's 1960s quartet, which continued post-Monk as Sphere. Two Monk tunes here, plus five other standards. Mature stuff, confident, relaxed, the guitar just flows, the sax rides along, occasionally dropping in some wit but mostly sounding supreme. A-

The Duke Robillard Jazz Trio: Wobble Walkin' (2011 [2012], Blue Duchess): Guitarist, b. 1948, co-founded Roomful of Blues, later played with the Fabulous Thunderbirds; started to edge into jazz on his 1997 Duke Robillard Plays Jazz and has continued to step that way. This trio includes Brad Hallen on acoustic bass and Mark Teixeira on drums. Four Robillard originals, nine covers -- standards like "All of Me" and r&b like "Hi-Heel Sneakers" -- done with a light guitar sheen that sounds more like Herb Ellis than Robillard. One vocal: guest Mickey Freeman on "Gee Baby, Ain't I Good to You." B+(*)

Alan Rosenthal: Just Sayin' (2011 [2012], self-released): Pianist, from New York. First album as far as I can tell, a trio with Cameron Brown (bass) and Steve Johns (drums). Wrote 8 of 9 songs, one dedicated to Mal Waldron; the cover is "Red, Red Robin." B+(*)

Amanda Ruzza: This Is What Happened (2009 [2012], Pimenta): Electric bassist, born in São Paulo, Brazil, Chilean mother, Italian father, speaks all those languages plus English. First album, recorded in Brooklyn. Starts with fuzzy funk and electric piano and Brazilian percussion, later adding some sax bits by Dave Binney. I wouldn't call it smooth jazz, but doesn't push very hard. B

Jerome Sabbagh: Plugged In (2011 [2012], Bee Jazz): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1973 in France, based in New York, four previous albums starting with North in 2004. Cover here says "featuring Jozef Doumoulin" -- Belgian electric keyboardist who half of the pieces here (7 of 14; the rest by Sabbagh). With Patrice Blanchard on electric bass and Rudy Royston on drums. Not sure that the electricity makes a difference, but the sax is eloquent, towering even. B+(**) [advance]

Elliott Sharp Trio: Aggregat (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Seventh album by Sharp (or, as he bills himself here, "E#") that I've heard, all since 2004, which must get me up into the 6-8% range -- let's see: Wikipedia lists 99 albums not counting ones he produced or played as a sideman on, with the earliest album a solo from 1979, but that 99 does include a couple of "collaborative groups" I have filed elsewhere (John Zorn: Downtown Lullaby, Satoko Fujii: In the Tank, Tomas Ulrich: TECK String Quartet); drop them and I'm back at 7 of 90, almost 7.8%. Point is he's someone I know of but have hardly met. For instance, I never knew he sax (tenor and soprano) before, but he does here on nearly half of the album, and he makes much of his efforts, like a slower and more rugged Evan Parker. The rest of the time he plays guitar, where he is faster and develops a harmonic overhang that gives his figures a rich shimmer. With Brad Jones on bass and Ches Smith on drums. A-

Mary Stallings: Don't Look Back (2011 [2012], High Note): Singer, in her 70s now; cut a record with Cal Tjader in 1961 then dropped out of site until Concord rediscovered her in c. 1990, when they were really good at that sort of thing, and she's produced ten albums since -- 2005's Remember Love is still my favorite. A dilligent, precise interpreter of the Carmen McRae school, she offers readings of a dozen standards here, as simply as possible, with Eric Reed on piano, sometimes Reuben Rogers on bass and Carl Allen on drums. B+(***)

Andrew Swift: Swift Kick (2011 [2012], D Clef): Drummer, from Australia, based in New York. First album. Has 17 people on album, mostly recognized names -- Ryan Kisor, Wycliffe Gordon, Eric Alexander, Sharel Cassity, Yotam Silberstein are a few -- but aside from George Cables (piano) and Dwayne Burno (bass) most are only a couple cuts each. Moves along at a nice pace, lots of postbop texture, a bit too much kitchen sink but consistently enjoyable. B+(*)

Tom Tallitsch: Heads or Tails (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, doesn't specify but he's pictured with a tenor, b. 1974, based in New York. Fourth album, a quartet with organ (Jared Gold), guitar (Dave Allen), and drums (Mark Ferber). All originals, except for the Neil Young cover at the end ("Don't Let It Bring You Down"). Grooveful, tasty guitar runs, sax doesn't push any boundaries but there's plenty of meat to it. B+(**)

The Thing with Barry Guy: Metal! (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Released only as a 2-LP, edition limited to 600 copies; I'm working off a CDR. The Thing is a noisy Norwegian avant trio: Mats Gustafsson (saxes), Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (bass), and Paal Nilssen-Love (drums). They have ten albums since 2000 (plus a 3-CD box), several with guests including Ken Vandermark (who uses each of them in various groups) and Jim O'Rourke (ex-Sonic Youth). This one adds the venerable English avant-garde bassist Barry Guy, who no doubt adds something but it can be hard to sort out just what anyway (short of headphones: Guy's got the right channel). When he's not tearing up the joint, Gustaffson groans monophonically, giving the others something to play off of. B+(**) [advance]

Rafael Toral/Davu Seru: Live in Minneapolis (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): B. 1967 in Lisbon, Portugal, Toral works with a variety of amplifiers and oscillators, in other words electronics. Has at least 15 albums since 1994. This was done live with a drummer (Seru), has the feel of improv. Fooled me a couple times into wondering who was playing sax. B+(**)

Twopool: Traffic Bins (2010 [2012], Origin): Swiss group: Andrea Oswald (alto sax), Andreas Tschopp (trombone), Christian Wolfarth (drums), Jonas Tauber (cello) -- I've seen Tauber, who plays bass elsewhere, identified as the leader, but all the pieces are free group improvs, the growl and stutter of the trombone spaced out, picked apart by the cello, the sax adding some melodic form. Origin started out as a local Seattle label, but has branched out, especially Chicago, but also to central Europe. Jonas directs their "Zürich Series" -- now up to seven records. B+(***)

Andrea Veneziani: Oltreoceano (2011 [2012], self-released): Bassist, from Italy, based in New York. First album, a piano trio with Kenny Werner expertly filling the hot seat, and Ross Pederson on drums. Veneziani wrote 4 pieces, filling the album out with three brief "Free Episode" group improvs and covers from Charlie Parker, Thelonious Monk, and Bill Evans. B+(**)

Eyal Vilner: Introducing the Eyal Vilner Big Band (2010 [2012], Gut String): Saxophone player, b. 1985 in Israel, leads a conventional big band, mostly staffed with New York musicians (Ned Goold and Dan Block are in the sax section), through songs like "Woody 'N You" and "Un Poco Loco" that get off on the harmonics and swing. Includes three vocal features for Yaala Ballin, especially superb on "The Nearness of You." B+(*)

The Jens Wendelboe Big Band: Fresh Heat (2008 [2012], Rosa): Trombonist, from Norway, has at least a dozen albums since 1982, mostly big band (or Big Crazy Energy Band, as he put it); seems to have moved toward US lately, working with Westchester Jazz Orchestra and Blood Sweat & Tears. Conventional big band line up, only with piano and bass plugged in, and Deb Lyons singing. B

Tom Wetmore: The Desired Effect (2011 [2012], Crosstown): Pianist (electric here), based in New York, first album, with alto sax (Jaleel Shaw or Eric Neveloff), two guitars, bass, and drums -- a group he calls (not on the album cover) the Tom Wetmore Electric Experiment. Describes his style as combining "the advanced harmony and rhythm of jazz and classical with the visceral groove of funk and other popular music." That's evident but has yet to develop into something particularly interesting. B

Spike Wilner: La Tendresse (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Pianist, has more than a handful of albums since 2000, a couple recorded live at Smalls, the New York club he owns. Before Smalls, he was house pianist at the Village Gate, and he brings that sensibility to this piano trio. Four originals, covers from Joplin to Monk with a lot of songbook fare in between. B+(**)

Larry Willis: This Time the Dream's on Me (2011 [2012], High Note): Pianist, b. 1940, has twenty-some albums under his own name since 1970, many more as a collaborator or sideman. This one is solo, a clear taste of what he's been doing all along. B+(**)

Nate Wooley/Christian Weber/Paul Lytton: Six Feet Under (2009 [2012], NoBusiness): Trumpet, bass, drums, respectively. Lytton is the best known, one of the major drummers of Europe's avant-garde, but Wooley has been prolific since 2002, even more so since he started releasing records under his own name in 2009 (AMG lists eight, missing this one -- an LP release limited to 300 copies, so I'm glad to have received my CDR). Scratchy, lots of low volume, high pressure maneuvers, making the few sections where the trumpet breaks loose all the more impressive. B+(**) [advance]

Brandon Wright: Journeyman (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, second album, first was called Boiling Point, and this is another pot-boiler: mainstream sax quartet, David Kikoski on piano, Boris Kozlov on bass, Donald Edwards on drums. B+(**)

 April, 2012 June, 2012