Jazz Prospecting: July 2012

J.D. Allen Trio: The Matador and the Bull (2012, Savant): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1974, seventh album since 1999, has a strong individual voice, usually able to hold center court even with just bass and drums -- Gregg August and Rudy Royston this time -- support. But this one seems awfully tame, his tone not quite pitched for a ballad thing, but not enough energy for anything else. B+(*)

Rodrigo Amado Motion Trio & Jeb Bishop: Burning Live at Jazz Ao Centro (2011 [2012], JACC): Portuguese saxophonist, mostly tenor, always an impressive free player -- I recommend his 2010 album, Searching for Adam (Not Two). His Motion Trio, including Miguel Mira (cello) and Gabriel Ferrandini (drums), debuted on a 2009 eponymous album. Bishop is a trombonist from Chicago, one of the founding members of the Vandermark 5; his record elsewhere has been spotty, and he mostly muddies the waters here, with three long joint improv pieces. B+(**)

Arild Andersen: Celebration (2010 [2012], ECM): Norwegian bassist, a major figure since 1975, his most recent triumph a 2007 small group with Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith, Live at Belleville. Here he follows Smith home to Glasgow for another live date, this with Smith's beloved Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, working their way through a set of modern jazz standards (Dave Holland, Jan Garbarek, Chick Corea, Trygve Seim, Keith Jarrett, and Andersen). The stars have separate problems here: to make the bass audible the Orchestra has to go quiet, and while Smith has enough volume to tower above his protégés, he doesn't take enough space to redeem the record. In between, the sound seems compressed and shallow. B

Susie Arioli: All the Way (2012, Jazzheads): Singer, from Montreal, backed as ever by guitarist Jordan Officer, eighth album since 2000. All standards this time, starting off with an eery "My Funny Valentine," as if she's trying to take Chet Baker to his logical endpoint -- an effect she dispenses with by the third song, "Here's to the Losers" (guess the irony went too far), but returns to later on. She has an effective voice, but this seems a bit confused. B+(*)

Arts & Sciences: New You (2012, Singlespeed Music): Quartet, based in Oakland, Michael Coleman is the leader, plays various electric keybs (Wurlitzer, Yamaha CS-10, Fender Rhodes), with Jacob Zimmerman (alto sax, flute), Matt Nelson (tenor sax, effects), and Jordan Glenn (drums). Second group album; Coleman also has an unrecorded group called Cavity Fang, plays with Aram Shelton (who returns the favor playing bass clarinet on one track), and has a Tune-Yards side credit. More exciting when the saxes cut loose than when they coil tightly, but dense either way. B+(***)

Bill Barner: Ten Tunes (2011 [2012], self-released): Clarinet player, first album, wrote all ten tunes, played with Stan Smith on guitar, Roger Hines on bass, and Danny Aguiar on drums. Draws in bits of world music, some raga, Brazilian rhythms, a whiff of klezmer keeping the album moving smartly. B+(*)

Bruce Barth: Three Things of Beauty (2012, Savant): Pianist, b. 1958 in California, studied at New England Conservatory and Berklee, has about ten records since 1994. This is piano trio plus vibes (Steve Nelson), lively postbop with lots of accents. B+(**)

Sylvia Bennett: Sonrie (2011, Out of Sight Music): Singer, b. in Italy, raised in US, got her "big break" in 1980s singing for Lionel Hampton; has a half-dozen albums. This one is all in Spanish, all the way down to the liner notes and credits, where the name of Hal S. Batt stands out (bateria y percusiones programadas; guitarras; coros; programación, bajo y cuerdas; producido por; grabado y mezclado por; ingeniero de grabación) plus two songs. No horn credits, so that must be Batt too, but he does seem to have had some help with the strings. I'm tempted to find the arrangements hokey, but Bennett makes it all seem credible. B+(*)

Chloe Brisson: Blame It on My Youth (2011 [2012], self-released): Standards singer, cut a record in 2007 when she was 13, so she must be something like 17 here. Has studied with Sheila Jordan, who joins in for the last song here, and she's managed to round up a reputable band here, including Fred Haas on sax, Marvin Stamm on trumpet, Bill Mays on piano, and Matt Wilson on drums. B+(*)

Brooklyn Jazz Underground: A Portrait of Brooklyn (2011 [2012], Bju'ecords): Composer co-op, the five members, young but notable leaders in their own right, pitching in two pieces each: David Smith (trumpet), Dan Pratt (reeds), Adam Kolker (even more reeds), Anne Mette Iversen (bass), and Rob Garcia (drums). Postbop, sometimes breaking free, lots of spin on the horns. B+(**)

Peter Brötzmann & Jörg Fischer: Live in Wiesbaden (2009 [2012], Not Two): Sax-drums improv, Brötzmann playing his usual alto, tenor, clarinet, and tarogato, much as you'd expect -- which is to say, this isn't the album where you'll find any sort of breakthrough. The drummer does a fine job of keeping pace and egging him on. B+(**)

Cactus Truck: Brand New for China! (2011 [2012], Public Eyesore): Dutch trio: John Dikeman (saxophones), Jasper Stadhouders (guitar and bass), Onno Govaert (drums). They make a lot of noise, much like The Thing but they're not very good at controlling and focusing it. B

Bill Carrothers: Family Life (2009 [2012], Pirouet): Pianist, b. 1964 in Minneapolis, has 18 albums since 1992, should be counted as a major figure. This one is solo, always something hard to get excited about; thoughtful, logical, as always. B+(**)

Charles Compo: Foolish Pleasure (2012, Chaos Music): Plays flute, sax, and guitar. Father played bass with Zoot Sims, and he started out in free jazz -- his 1994-98 credits are all with William Hooker. Then something happened and he moved into smooth jazz -- a 2003 album called Psycho Jammy may have been the moment. Mostly keybs here, the sax (of course) better than the flute, but fleeting either way. B

Marc Copland: Some More Love Songs (2010 [2012], Pirouet): Pianist, b. 1948, has a lot of records and should be regarded as one of the top pianists of his generation, but also seems fated to be a guy I admire a lot but can never find an album to get excited about. This is a piano trio with Drew Gress and Jochen Rueckert, a sequel to his 2005 Some Love Songs (both start with Joni Mitchell and end with Victor Young). B+(**)

Isaac Darche: Boom-Bap!tism (2011 [2012], Bju'ecords): Guitarist, originally from California, now in Brooklyn. First album, an organ trio with Sean Wayland on the B-3, Mark Ferber on drums. Wayland wrote three pieces, Darche four, one cover (Rogers & Hart). Lines are trickier than the norm, and the guitar-organ harmonics are tight. B+(*)

Rick Davies: Salsa Norteńa (2012, Emlyn): Trombonist, originally from Albuquerque, got a Ph.D. from NYU with a dissertation on Cuban brass, teaches at SUNY Plattsburgh while running a salsa band (Jazzismo) based across the pond in Burlington, VT. Side credits include Blondie, Michael Jackson, and Wyclef Jean, and he has at least one previous album under his own name (Siempre Salsa). No session info, but this looks like two sets with different players at trumpet, piano, and bass, one of those with Jorge "Papo" Ross singing, but one basic sound. Not sure if Davies intends to introduce something Mexican (which is what Norteńa means to me) or just to push the border up to Montreal, but it has a jump feel, and the brass is for muscle, not filigree. B+(***)

Steve Davis: Gettin' It Done (2011 [2012], Posi-Tone): Trombonist, b. 1967, studied with Bob Brookmeyer and Jackie McLean, played in Art Blakey's last band, has more than a dozen albums since 1996. Basic hard bop sextet here, with Josh Bruneau on trumpet and Mike DiRubbo on alto sax, Larry Willis on piano, plus bass and drums. Mostly upbeat, cools off a bit toward the end, but gets it done -- especially when DiRubbo takes over. B+(***)

The Dan DeChellis Trio: . . . My Age of Anxiety (2012, self-relased): Pianist, b. 1970 in New Jersey, studied at Duquesne, mostly classical, and briefly with Ran Blake at New England Conservatory. Has a dozen albums since 1996. Trio with Mitch Shelly on bass and Zack Martion on drums. Nice touch; even the slow stuff at the end holds my attention. B+(**)

Joey DeFrancesco/Larry Coryell/Jimmy Cobb: Wonderful! Wonderful! (2012, High Note): Superstar confab: organ, guitar, drums, all upbeat, rousing even. Plus DeFrancesco plays trumpet on one cut -- damn good at it, too. B+(**)

Louis Durra: The Best of All Possible Worlds (2011 [2012], Lot 50): Pianist, b. 1961, looks like his third album (with a fourth released this month, but not in hand). Piano trio, impresses more with the melodies than improvs, often picking rock things that you don't expect but that aren't all that surprising -- Radiohead (twice), Dylan, Marley, Alanis Morissette (nice bit by DJ Rob Swift at the end). B

Yelena Eckemoff: Forget-Me-Not (2011 [2012], Yelena Music): Pianist, from Moscow, Russia; came to US in 1991. Divides her albums between classical, original instrumental, and vocal -- the jazz fits in the middle (and largest) category. Piano trio, with Mats Eilertsen on bass and Marilyn Mazur on percussion. Smart, precise, tasteful, as is everything I've heard from her. B+(***)

Duke Ellington Legacy: Single Petal of a Rose (2011 [2012], Renma): Nominal leader here is guitarist Edward Kennedy Ellington II, the Duke's grandson. Pianist Norman Simmons does most of the arrangements, the two exceptions by saxophonist Virginia Mayhew. The songs are classics by Duke Ellington and/or Billy Strayhorn (plus Erskine Hawkins' "After Hours"). Nancy Reed sings three songs. The band keeps all the elements of Duke's orchestra in play but without the numbers: one trumpet (Jami Dauber), one trombone (Noah Bless), and with tenor saxophonist Houston Person appearing as "special guest" Mayhew fills in on clarinet. Great songs, nicely done. B+(**)

Ari Erev: A Handful of Changes (2011 [2012], self-released): Pianist, from Israel, second album; group favors electric bass and extra percussion, and adds Ofer Shapiro's alto sax and clarinet on one track each, but the real news is on the front cover: "Featuring Joel Frahm" -- five cuts on tenor sax, three cuts on soprano, in peak form on both. Piano sparkles, too. B+(***)

Christian Escoudé Plays Brassens: Au Bois de Mon Coeur (2010 [2012], Sunnyside): French guitarist, b. 1947, has a couple dozen albums since 1975, would have picked up a Django Reinhardt influence even without his gypsy ancestry. Songs by Georges Brassens, mostly guitar and not just Escoudé -- Jean-Baptiste Laya is also on most cuts, and Bireli Lagrčne and Swan Berger get featured slots; some cuts add clarinet or violin, most bass and drums. B+(***)

Essex Improviser's Collective: Lifting the Light (2012, Fred Taylor Music, 2CD): Two horns -- Bob Ackerman (alto/tenor sax, flute, clarinet) and Herb Robertson (trumpet/flugelhorn, valve trombone, percussion, voice) -- bass (Chris Lough) and drums (Fred Taylor, with Adrian Valosin doubling up on half the tracks). Two 75 minute discs of group improv, lots of space to open up in. Robertson is the best known player here, and is especially strong. Never ran across Ackerman before, but he has a half dozen albums on avant labels since 1993; seems like someone to look into further. B+(**)

Cynthia Felton: Freedom Jazz Dance (2012, Felton Entertainment): Standards singer, third album. Producer and arranger credit: Dr. Cynthia J. Felton; also executive producer. When not flaunting her Ph.D., she's also good for cheesecake photos. Voice is a little hard to peg, unusual enough it stands out for better but also for worse. She runs through a long list of musicians here: cover gives "featuring" credits to Cyrus Chestnut, Robert Hurst, Ernie Watts, Wallace Roney, John Beasley, Terri Lyne Carrington, but most of those last for only one or two cuts (Hurst 3, Beasley tops at 6). Songs are all over the map, a tribute to her learning more than to her talent. B

Jörg Fischer/Olaf Rupp/Frank Paul Schubert: Phugurit (2011 [2012], Gligg): Drums, electric guitar, saxophones, respectively. Fischer also has a duo with Peter Brötzmann out. Not familiar with the others, but this is prickly free improv, nicely spaced out, interesting to follow. B+(***)

Danny Fox Trio: The One Constant (2009 [2011], Songlines): Pianist, b. in New York City, studied psychology at Harvard, now back in New York. First album, trio with Max Goldman on drums and Chris van Voorst van Beest on bass. Consistently engaging. B+(**)

FFEAR (Forum for Electro-Acoustic Research): Mirage (2011 [2012], Jazzheads): Quartet, with saxophonist Ole Mathisen and trombonist Chris Washburne doing the composing, backed by Per Mathisen on bass and Tony Moreno on drums. Starts with two long multipart pieces, ending with three more compact ones. The two horns range widely, the trombone especially notable. B+(**)

Curtis Fuller: Down Home (2011 [2012], Capri): Trombonist, b. 1934, cut his first records as a leader in the 1950s, and is still running a hard bop sextet here -- Al Hood plays trumpet, Keith Oxman tenor sax, Chris Stephens piano. Has a light touch with pretty conventional material -- no need to go retro when you're the original. B+(*)

Dan Gailey Jazz Orchestra: What Did You Dream? (2009 [2010], OA2): Saxophonist, teaches at Kansas University, doesn't play here but composed and arranged all six pieces, for a conventional big band -- names I recognize (among many I don't) are Al Hood and Don Aliquo -- plus vibes on one cut, but guitarist Steve Kovalcheck plays a larger-than-usual role. Also large are the saxophone parts, something Gailey has genuine feel for. B+(*)

Jacob Garchik: The Heavens: The Atheist Trombone Album (2012, Yestereve): Trombonist, third album, looks like he overdubbed all the parts to his trombone choir (plus sousaphone, baritone horn, slide trumpet, and alto horn), although for his July 25 Release Show he's recruited a who's who of NYC trombone (plus Brian Drye on baritone horn, Joe Daley on sousaphone, and Kenny Wolleson on drums), looking, no doubt, to further raise the rafters. All horns, some recognizable gospel swoops on the turbulent flow. The song notes are more rational, citing Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein, Stanley Crouch and Mark Twain and Woody Allen. Conclusion: Be Good. A-

Matt Garrison: Blood Songs (2010 [2012], D Clef): Saxophonist, not to be confused with the Jimmy Garrison's bassist son. Second album, postbop, pulls out all the stops, with trumpet (Greg Gisbert), trombone (Michael Dease), piano (Roy Assaf), bass, drums, a couple of guest guitarists, and Eric Alexander on one cut. Gisbert has the hot hand. B+(*)

Eddie Gomez: Per Sempre (2009 [2012], BFM Jazz): Bassist, b. 1944 in Puerto Rico; has about 25 albums since 1976, along with hundreds of side credits, perhaps most famously with Bill Evans' trio 1966-77. This was recorded live in Bologna, with Marco Pignataro (tenor/soprano sax), Matt Marvuglio (flute), Teo Ciavarella (piano), and Massimo Manzi (drums). All but the drummer contribute songs, plus they cover "Stella by Starlight." B

The Alex Goodman Quintet: Bridges (2011 [2012], Connection Point): Guitarist, b. 1987 in Toronto; second album as leader (plus one co-credited with saxophonist Brent Mah). Quintet includes Nick Morgan (reeds), Danny Myronuk (piano), Dan Fortin (bass), and Maxwell Roach (drums). Two classical covers (Chopin, Bartok), three "Intro" bits credited to band members, the rest Goodman originals. Overly fancy, I find, but I'm impressed by the intricate weave, and don't doubt his talent. B+(*)

Avi Granite's Verse: Snow Umbrellas (2010 [2012], Pet Mantis): Guitarist, from Toronto, Canada; based in New York. Third album, a quartet with Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Jerry DeVore (bass), and Owen Howard (drums). Anything with Alessi is bound to be good, and Granite gives him lots to play off of. B+(**)

Chris Greene Quartet: A Group Effort (2011 [2012], Single Malt): Saxophonist (mostly tenor), b. in Evanston, IL; studied at Indiana; based in Chicago; looks like his seventh album since 1998. Quartet with Damian Espinosa (piano, keyboards), Marc Plane (bass), and Steve Corley (drums), with song credits for all but the drummer, plus Kenny Dorham's "Blue Bossa" to close. After a preposterous intro by William Kurk, they find a mainstream groove and settle in, with a drum solo setting up Dorham's magnificent riff. B+(*)

Grupo Falso Baiano: Simplicidade: Live at Yoshi's (2010 [2011], Massaroca): Brazilian choro band from San Francisco, fake Bahians Zack Pitt-Smith (reeds), Brian Moran (7-string guitar), Jesse Appelman (mandolin), and Ami Molinelli (percussion). Given that nearly every Brazilian-flavored record I've heard from the Bay Area has been awful, this didn't seem very promising, but this sets a fast pace from the start, even before Jovino Santos Neto (who is the real thing) sits in on piano. Still, even with Neto piano rarely feels right for choro. B+(*)

Katie Guthorn: Why Not Smile? (2012, self-released): Standards singer, moved to Bay Area in 1978, has taught voice since 1988, performed in the Zazu Pitts Memorial Orchestra, but this looks to be her first album. Mixes "more contemporary compositions, by Joni Mitchell, Ben Folds, R.E.M. and Stevie Wonder" in with the old moldies. Band includes three guys named Haggerty, with Tim the producer/arranger, bass and keyb player, presumably responsible for the string and flute sounds and maybe the bubbly Latin beats. Some songs, including "Call Me" (the Tony Hatch song, a hit for Petula Clark) and "Lush Life," work fine, but others stiffen up, or get swallowed by the goop. B-

Human Spirit: Dialogue: Live at the Earshot Jazz Festival (2011 [2012], Origin): Seattle group, named for recent Thomas Marriott album -- Marriott plays trumpet, Mark Taylor alto sax, and Matt Jorgensen drums, each contributing tunes (Marriott 4 of 8, the others two each), but since that doesn't quite make for a modern postbop band, they added "special guets" Orrin Evans (piano) and Essiet Essiet (bass) -- Evans was an especially inspired choice. B+(*)

The Impossible Gentlemen (2012, Basho): Quartet, primarily pianist Gwilym Simcock and guitarist Mike Walker -- three and four song credits respectively -- backed by Steve Swallow on bass and Adam Nussbaum (who has the other song credit) on drums. Simcock (b. 1981) is a hot young player; Walker (b. 1962) has side credits from 1991 but only one record under his own name, yet they make a powerfully interesting match here. B+(***)

Jackson Garrett: Let Sleeping Dogs Lie (2011, self-released): Ten-piece band (or less, credits aren't clear), led by singer-songwriter Christopher Gore, horn arrangements by Marty Steele (who gets co-credits on four songs), nobody in the band named Jackson and/or Garrett. Gore started out in Maine, passed through Montreal c. 1985, wound up in California. Fourth group album, some female vocals, featured spots for Slim Man and EWF saxophonist Gary Bias. Not enough zip, or maybe just too many clumsy horns, for disco. Truly awful ballad: "Take Me Back to Heaven." C-

Irčne Jacob & Francis Jacob: Je Sais Nager (2012, Sunnyside): French-Swiss actress, b. 1966, has appeared in 40-some films, but this looks to be her first album, backed by her guitarist brother, who wrote the music and a bit more than half of the words. (Four cuts are listed as "inspired by Gilles Deuleuze.") Music has a café feel, but feels more somber, or at least more philosophical. B+(*)

Andy Jaffe: Manhattan Projections (1984-98 [2012], Big Round): Pianist, director of the jazz program at Williams College, has three albums since 1984, also a book, Jazz Harmony. This was his first album, six cuts released on Stash in 1985, a CD reissue in 1992, another reissue in 2001 from Playscape. This edition adds a seventh cut from the original session, plus five more from 1991 and 1998 -- the former with tenor sax, French horn, and trombone; the latter piano duets with Tom McClung. The original album featured Branford Marsalis (tenor/soprano sax), Wallace Roney (trumpet), Ed Jackson (alto sax), and Tom Olin (piccolo and maybe baritone sax on a cut or two -- accounts differ). Marsalis and Roney were emerging as powerhouse mainstream players at the time, so it's fun to hear them blowing away. Also nice to hear the piano emerging in the later pieces, but neither highlight is all that remarkable. B

Karen Johns & Company: Peach (2012, Ptarmigan Music/Jazz): Singer-songwriter (pianist Kevin Sanders has co-credits for music on most, but not all, of her songs), works in four covers here, her third album, with husband James Johns playing guitar and producing, the band including sax and trumpet. The covers are most successful, "Chattanooga Choo Choo" a throwback, "Maglio Stasera" and "Sentimentale" excursions into Italian. B+(*)

Jessica Jones/Mark Taylor: Live at the Freight (2011 [2012], New Artists): Tenor sax and French horn respectively -- the latter not to be confused with the Seattle-based tenor saxophonist of the same name -- in a two-horn quartet with John Shifflet on bass and Jason Lewis on drums, a live shot at the Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse in Berkeley, California. Mostly free, the horns have a dull lustre, and they stretch out for a long set, interesting but understated. B+(**)

Bruce Kaphan: Quartet (2012, Wiggling Air): Pedal steel guitarist; AMG classified him as new age, probably for his 2001 album, Slider: Ambient Excursions for Pedal Steel Guitar. Quartet includes piano (John R. Burr or Rick Kuhns), bass, and drums. Pedal steel is essential to Hawaiian music, best known in country (especially Wesern swing), and has popped up in gospel, but I couldn't think of jazz musicians using it. Still can't. B-

Stacey Kent: Dreamer in Concert (2011 [2012], Blue Note): Standards singer, although her husband, saxophonist Jim Tomlinson, writes some tunes, including two here that she matched to texts by Kazuo Ishiguro. B. 1968 in New Jersey, based in England, AMG lists 17 albums since 1997. She has a small voice that I find especially charming in French. This is live, a long set, a bit of everything she does, including two Jobims (that she aces), yet another "It Might as Well Be Spring" (the most distinctive of the many I've heard this week). She plays some guitar, and Tomlinson's sax is always supportive. B+(***) [advance]

Sabrina Lastman: The Candombe Jazz Sessions (2011 [2012], Zoho): Singer-songwriter, b. in Uruguay, based in New York, passing through the Jerusalem Academy of Music & Dance. Has at least one previous album. Backed by Emilio Solla (piano), Pablo Aslan (bass), and David Silliman (drums) here, plus occasional guests. Candombe is an Africa-derived music from Uruguay and Argentina, with a distinct set of drums. Makes an appearance here, along with various hybridizations I can't begin to sort out. B+(*)

Linda Lavin: Possibilities (2012, Ghostlight): Standards singer, presumably the same as the actress who headlined the TV sitcom Alice (1976-85), which would make her 74 -- cover photo notwithstanding. (Inside cover photo does look older, but still not 74. On the other hand, Hal Prince's liner notes start with a reminiscence of meeting her in 1961, when she was already working on Broadway.) Billy Stritch plays piano, arranges, leading a band that includes trumpet and guitar. Most songs work nicely ("It Might as Well Be Spring," "'Deed I Do," "Rhode Island Is Famous for You," "Walk Between Raindrops"); only the obligatory Jobim ("Corcovado") falls flat. B+(*)

Sara Leib: Secret Love (2011 [2012], OA2): Standards singer, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory, settled in Los Angeles. Second album; second one I've played today that started off with "It Might as Well Be Spring." Band has some strong spots, including Dayna Stephens on tenor sax, Eric Harland and Richie Barshay on percussion, Taylor Eigsti or Aaron Parks on piano. Has a warm but indistinct voice, sounds especially nice on "All I Have to Do Is Dream," but much of this just slipped past me. B

Jeremy Long: In Suspension (2011 [2012], Innova): Saxophonist (unspecified, pictured with a tenor on the album back, with an alto on his website). First album, trio with Steven Snyder on organ and Jason Tiemann on drums. Lets is rip. Nothing wrong with that. B+(*)

Manner Effect: Abundance (2011 [2012], self-released, CD+DVD): Group debut album, with singer Sarah Elizabeth Charles, Caleb Curtis on saxophones, Logan Evan Thomas on piano, PJ Roberts on bass/guitar, and Josh Davis on drums: at least that's what the website says -- don't see any credits on the album. Group members (especially Charles, but rarely alone) wrote most of the songs, with Chick Corea, Michael Jackson, and Antonio Carlos Jobim the outsiders. Has some moments, like the sax break on "Corcovado" -- or any time the sax nudges the singer to the side. Didn't watch the DVD. B-

Branford Marsalis Quartet: Four MFs Playin' Tunes (2011 [2012], Marsalis Music): Saxophonist (mostly tenor, plus some soprano, enough to establish a polling reputation), with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner. Two covers (Thelonious Monk, "My Ideal"), originals by all but the drummer, and they are tunes, not just riffs to improv off. I've never been a fan of the pianist, but he does more than just fluff them up, and the leader sounds exquisite. [By the way, I did finally check out last year's Songs of Mirth and Melancholy on Rhapsody, and it's nowhere close.] A-

Martin, Haynes and Driver: Freedman at Western Front (2012, Barnyard): Canadians Jean Martin (drummer, plays suit case here), Justin Haynes (guitarist, plays ukulele), and Ryan Driver (street-sweeper bristle bass). Freedman is composer Myk Freedman, recently seen playing lap steel in Saint Dirt Elementary School. They call this "rough jazz," as in roughing it. B+(*)

Virginia Mayhew Quartet: Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years (2010 [2012], Renma): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1959, has seven albums since 1988, played with Earl Hines when she was young, and won the New School's first Zoot Sims Memorial Scholarship. This is a program of Mary Lou Williams pieces, with Ed Cherry on guitar to sweeten the swing, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone to deepen it, and no piano to confuse things. B+(***)

Bob Mintzer Big Band: For the Moment (2011 [2012], MCG Jazz): Tenor saxophonist, best known as one of the Yellowjackets, but has had a long solo career including ten records with his Big Band, going back to 1985. The band has the usual 5 reeds, 4 trumpets, 4 trombones, and piano-guitar-bass-drums rhythm section, plus this time they've added guitarist-vocalist Chico Pinheiro and percussionist Alex Acuńa for a tour of Brazil. The Latin twists recall Stan Kenton, but nothing really stands out, other than Pinheiro's blasé vocal on "Corcovado" -- something that's been done to death. B

Tony Monaco: Celebration: Life-Love-Music (2012, Chicken Coup/Summit): Organ player, has a half-dozen records since 2001, mostly live. This one returns to the studio, lots of upbeat organ groove, occasionally punctuated by Ken Fowser's sax. Two vocal pieces, one a big choral hymn, the other a croon. B+(*)

Michael Pedicin: Live @ the Loft (2012, Jazz Hut): Tenor saxophonist, started out as Michael Pedicin Jr., to distinguish from his father, who led a Philadelphia band in the 1950s. Eleventh album. Group includes Johnnie Valentino on guitar, Jim Ridl on piano, bass and drums. Program includes three John Coltrane pieces, one called "Like Sonny." That's his tradition, and he follows it happily. B+(**)

Ivo Perelman/The Sirius Quartet: The Passion According to G.H. (2011 [2012], Leo): Brazilian tenor saxophonist, prolific in free jazz for over twenty years, meets up with a New York-based string quartet, classical in form (two violins, viola, cello) but leans more avant-garde. I figure the titular "G.H." to be violinist Georg Huebner. I'm torn here between the often extraordinary sax leads and the strings, which hit tones I find maddening and often hang on to them long enough to turn into something else. B+(**)

Ivo Perelman/Matt Shipp/Gerald Cleaver: The Foreign Legion (2011 [2012], Leo): Avant Brazilian tenor sax player, has developed into a very expressive player, in a power trio with piano and drums -- no bass, but that just gives Shipp more room to maneuver, and he has some tricks up his sleeve. Second play I turned the volume down and it revealed an unexpected subtlety to Perelman's blowing. Turn it up and he just blows you away. A-

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Clean on the Corner (2010 [2012], 482 Music): Drummer, from Chicago, has made a point of excavating the city's avant jazz lore, often to remarkable effect. Fourth album by this project/ensemble -- also has a group called Loose Assembly. Looks back with One song each by Roscoe Mitchell and John Jenkins, forward with six originals. Core quartet spins two saxophones off each other, with Greg Ward on alto and Tim Haldeman on tenor, plus Jason Roebke on bass. Adds Craig Taborn on two cuts -- past midway you suddenly realize there's a piano in the mix -- and Josh Berman (cornet) on two others. A-

Carol Robbins: Moraga (2012, Jazzcats): Plays harp, fourth album since 2000. The harp flourishes seamlessly mesh with, and often grow out of, Larry Koonse's guitar, with Billy Childs' piano anchoring the soft tone, and Gary Meek's sax and clarinet for contrast. B+(*)

Gonzalo Rubalcaba: XXI Century (2011 [2012], 5Pasion, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1963 in Cuba, moved to US in 1996 but had already built up an international reputation. Has close to thirty records -- The Blessing (1991) and Paseo (2004) are my favorites. This is trio (Matt Brewer, Marcus Gilmore) plus featured guests -- percussionist Pedrito Martinez on most cuts, guitarist-vocalist Lionel Loueke on two, drummer Ignacio Berroa on one. Four originals (one reprised); pieces by Brewer and Loueke; covers from important pianists Lennie Tristano, Bill Evans, and Paul Bley. Superb piano. B+(***)

Rusk (2012, Fenetre/The Loyal Label): Various artists compilation, out of Norway, although the better known artists are based in New York -- including Filipino altoist Jon Irabagon (doing a dubbed WSQ goof), Korean cellist Okkyung Lee, Norwegian bassist Eivind Opsvik, and trumpeter Nate Wooley. Mostly solo pieces, a few duo, two trios -- Splashgirl's closer is as close as anyone gets to catchy. Packaging is short on notes and legibility; gave it a second shot after locating the hype sheet, written by Chris Monsen. B+(*)

Saint Dirt Elementary School: Abandoned Ballroom (2009 [2012], Barnyard): Canadian group, Toronto (more or less), lap steel player Myk Freedman holds the copyright on the tunes, so figure him the leader. Band adds guitar, piano, analog synth, clarinet, alto sax, bass, and drums. Has an air which ranges between cartoons and cabaret. B+(**)

Jane Scheckter: Easy to Remember (2011 [2012], self-released): Standards singer, has acted on stage and in sitcoms, fourth widely spaced album (1988, 1993, 2003). She nails virtually every song, with a band built around Tedd Firth (piano), Jay Leonhart (bass), and Peter Grant (drums). But the "featuring" guests are even better, with Tony DeSare up for a duet, Gil Chimes adding harmonica on an especially delicious "Where or When," and "featuring" slots from the Arbors set: Bucky Pizzarelli, Aaron Weinstein, Warren Vaché, and every singer's best friend, Harry Allen. B+(***)

Christian Scott: Christian aTunde Adjuah (2012, Concord, 2CD): Trumpet player, from New Orleans, b. 1983, nephew of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. Not sure what the intent of this big time gesture is, especially what all the Africanisms refer to, but it maintains a persistent groove, and (aside from the opening bars) features Scott's most impressive trumpet to date. B+(*) [advance]

Woody Shaw: Woody Plays Woody (1977-81 [2012], Savant): Previously released material, live from Keystone Korner in San Francisco, five cuts from 1977, one from 1981; all originals to show off the leader's compositional skills, but of course they're mostly frameworks for hot and heavy trumpet blowing. B+(*)

Wadada Leo Smith: Ten Freedom Summers (2011 [2012], Cuneiform, 4CD): Hard to fault the desire for memorialization, but it does tend toward works that are overwrought and tedious, and that's certainly one's first impression in wading through Smith's thirty-year struggle with the civil rights movement, a subject that hasn't lost its relevance not least because it hasn't achieved its goals, and our hopes for it. Smith's pieces witness history, from "Dred Scott: 1857" to "September 11th, 2001: A Memorial," with most ranging from Thurgood Marshall in 1954 to Martin Luther King in 1968, but those are just titles. With no libretto to make connections obvious, the music can be abstracted from the intents, leaving you with 273 minutes of often overwrought and sometimes tedious neoclassicism, all the more so when played by Jeff von der Schmidt's Southwest Chamber Music -- strings, flute, harp, and the tympani that dominate the first disc. Smith's Golden Quartet/Quintet -- the difference seems to be the addition of a second drummer, Susie Ibarra or Pheeroan akLaff -- is more compact, the interplay between Anthony Davis' piano and the leader's trumpet often remarkable. In fact, Smith's trumpet is remarkable throughout, able to cut through his arrangements as well as dice with Davis. Focus there, and keep the faith. B+(***)

Jesse Stacken: Bagatelles for Trio (2011 [2012], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, b. 1978, fourth album since 1978, a trio with Eivind Opsvik (bass) and Jeff Davis (drums). Thirteen numbered pieces called "Bagatelle" -- abstract playthings, built around odd rhythms. B+(*) [advance]

Heiner Stadler: Brains on Fire (1966-74 [2012], P&C Labor, 2CD): German pianist, moved to New York in 1965, hooking into the avant jazz scene, winding up with the original release of this album in 1973 (three cuts), followed by a second volume (three more cuts) in 1974. This drops one track from the second volume ("Pointed") and adds three previously unreleased pieces, one a blowout with the Big Band of the North German Radio Station (including Manfred Schoof, Gerd Dudek, Albert Mangelsdorff, and Wolfgang Dauner). The rest are small groups, mostly with Jimmy Owens on trumpet and Tyrone Washington or Joe Farrell on tenor sax; the exception is a bass-vocal duet, Reggie Workman in fine form, but Dee Dee Bridgewater is barely audible. But everything else crackles. B+(**)

Bobby Streng's House Big Band: Getting Housed (2011 [2012], self-released): Tenor saxophonist, based in Ann Arbor, also has a group called Saxomble -- basically, a sax quartet plus rhythm section. For his big band, he pulled 19 musicians I've never head of together and recorded them live. Guitar on two tracks, bass split between one guy on electric and another on acoustic, but really it's all about the horns, lots of punch and polish. I know big bands are supposed to be prohibitively uneconomic, but there sure are a lot of them on record. Part of that is that damn near every musician wants to be an arranger, but often enough they must be a hoot to play in. B+(***)

John Surman: Saltash Bells (2009 [2012], ECM): Plays reed instruments -- soprano, tenor, and baritone sax; alto, bass, and contrabass clarinet this time -- and has since the late 1960s. Also plays synthesizer and harmonica, and multitracks various combinations throughout here. Not sure how many times he's done this before -- must be a handful -- but I don't recall any of them being this charming. A-

Richard Sussman Quintet: Continuum (2012, Origin): Pianist, b. 1946, based in New York, teaches at Manhattan School of Music. Fourth album -- first was Free Fall in 1979. I don't get much out of the leader's piano, but he managed to line up Randy Brecker on trumpet/flugelhorn and Jerry Bergonzi on tenor sax, and they are stellar, as usual. Also guests Mike Stern on one cut. B+(*)

Take 6: One (2012, Shanachie): Six-part gospel vocal group, fourteen albums since 1988 (counting at least three Xmas joints). Not quite a cappella but the main instrumental credit is programming, usually Khristian Dentley, sometimes David Thomas. One song by Stevie Wonder, who checks in for quality control. In a world where hundreds of iterations of "Alleluia" counts as an original, they need help. C+

Erena Terakubo with Legends: New York Attitude (2011 [2012], 4Q): Alto saxophonist, b. 1992 in Sapporo, Japan, which would make her about 19 when this was recorded (don't have dates, but the record was originally released in Japan last year); attends Berklee. The Legends are Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Lee Pearson (drums), and Dominick Farinacci (trumpet). Two originals, mostly hard bop covers. Nice, bright tone, some sharp trumpet breaks, and the rhythm section keeps her shakin'. B+(**)

THOMAS: Janela (2010 [2012], Barnyard): Best I can find out, "T H O M A S is the ongoing brainchild of Toronto's Thom Gill . . . exploring the world of song, at home and abroad, with blissfully confused audiences." Gill plays "guitar, tonebank, organ, vocals" -- joined by various others, mostly playing synths and/or adding vocals. The latter trend to the falsetto of nu soul. The rest exceeds my grasp of "the world of song," leaving me confused, and I wouldn't say "blissfully." C

Rich Thompson Trio: Generations (2011 [2012], Origin): Piano trio, led by the drummer, with Chris Ziemba on piano and Miles Brown on bass. Thompson studied at University of Oklahoma, teaches at Eastman School of Music, has appeared in the Count Basie and Glenn Miller ghost bands, and has side credits going back to 1984. Mostly covers (Ornette Coleman, John Scofield, Barry Harris, "I Thought About You"), with one piece by Thompson and three by Brown. Ziemba doesn't seem to have much of a discography, but his light touch works nicely here. Doug Stone's tenor sax on the closer is another lift. B+(*)

Sumi Tonooka: Now (2010 [2012], ARC, 2CD): Pianist, b. 1956 in Philadelphia, cut her first album in 1984, has seven now, on utterly obscure labels, although she's popped up in Penguin Guide and Francis Davis has written about her. This one is solo, covers on the first disc, originals plus a very nice Eubie Blake closer on the second. B+(**)

Tumbledown House: Fables and Falsehoods (2012, Silent Coyote Music): Duo, singer Gillian Howe and guitarist Tyler Ryan Miller, bill themselves as "gritty saloon jazz from Bozeman, Montana" and, with help from a few players from the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, "an upbeat, 1920's big band romp." Despite the jazz shadings, from the principals as well as the band, the murder ballads mark them as Americana, and the light touch should be welcome there. B+(**)

Turn Around Norman: We Turn Around (2010 [2011], TAND): Quartet, name is a character in the Tom Robbins novel Skinny Legs and All, first album: Cam Collins (alto sax), JJ Wright (piano, wurlitzer), Adam Hopkins (bass), and Nathan Ellman-Bell (drums), with all but the drummer contributing pieces. Mostly freebop, mostly sharp, but the final piece bulks up and slows down. B+(**)

Matt Ulery: By a Little Light (2012, Greenleaf Music, 2CD): Bassist, from Chicago, has at least two previous records, one as Matt Ulery's Loom. Makes a major effort here as a composer, spreading twelve pieces across two discs. Personnel varies, using either Ben Lewis or Rob Clearfield for piano, Jon Deitemeyer or Michael Caskey on drums, Jim Davis on trumpet, Michael Maccaferri on clarinets, Tim Munro on flutes, plus two or three strings, and occasional vibraphone or marimba. Second disc adds voice, either Grazyna Auguscik or Ullery. Goes some way toward arguing that jazz is the new classical music, or is it vice versa? B+(*)

David Ullmann Quintet: Falling (2011 [2012], Wet Cash): Guitarist, lifelong New Yorker, studied at New School, second album: quinet with Karel Ruzicka Jr. (sax), Chris Dingman (vibes), Gary Wang (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums). Various postbop moves, some strong sax leads, some intricate spots with the vibes sparkling. B+(*)

Yvonne Washington with Gary Norman: Trust in Me (2011, Mercator Media): Standards singer, b. in San Antonio 60-some years ago, based in Houston since 1973. Second album as far as I can tell, following a Billie Holiday tribute c. 2001. Norman plays piano, all the accompaniment she gets, or needs; her church voice and intricate phrasing are striking, but she does have a tendency to pile on too much of a good thing. B+(**)

Joanna Weinberg: The Piano Diaries (2011 [2012], Kissingpoint): Singer-songwriter, b. in London, studied acting at University of Cape Town in South Africa, moved to Sydney, Australia in 1997. Only album I've found, although bio says she's "written 3 musicals and 9 one-woman shows, all of which have been performed on the professional theatre circuit in Australia and South Africa." Inspiration here was resuming piano lessons "after 20 years," but she got her teacher, Rafael Hazario, to play on the album. Does have that show tune feel, even a bit of cabaret at the end. B+(**)

Florian Wittenberg: Artefacts: Solo Electronics (2005-11 [2012], GEMA): B. 1973 in Berlin, studied Music Technology at Utrecht School of the Arts (Netherlands), and in 2005 moved on to Centre de Création Musicale Iannis Xenakis in Paris. Five pieces of solo electronics, two titled "Nuageux" with numbers. No beat, not much volume, long on texture. B

Cory Wong: Quartet/Quintet (2012, self-released, 2CD): Guitarist, b. in Poughkeepsie, NY; grew up in Minnesota. Second album, one disc Quartet, the other Quintet, the difference subtler than you'd expect: the Quartet alternates pianists Dan Musselman and Kevin Gastonguay, while the Quintet keeps Musselman on piano and moves Gastonguay over to Fender Rhodes, while using a couple different bassists (including Wong). Maintains a nice groove, not a lot more than that. B

Miguel Zenón & Laurent Coq: Rayuela (2011 [2012], Sunnyside): Puerto Rican alto saxophonist, one of the most impressive to emerge since 2000, teams with a French pianist with a half-dozen albums of his own since 1999, for a set of tunes loosely based on a novel by Julio Cortazar. With Dana Leong, who has much more fun with his trombone than with the cello -- the latter is my main reservation here, not the first time that Zenón's fondness for strings has tripped him up. Also Dan Weiss, on drums, tabla, all things percussive. B+(***)

 June, 2012 August, 2012