Jazz Prospecting: December 2012

Eivind Aarset: Dream Logic (2011-12 [2012], ECM): Guitarist, b. 1961 in Norway, eighth album since 1998. Producer Jan Bang -- a figure on Nils Petter Molvaer's jazztronica albums -- feed him samples, with Aarset adding guitar, bass, percussion, electronics, and what have you, all at the dreamy level promised by the title. B+(**)

Jeff Babko: Crux (2012, Tonequake): Keyboard player, from California, fifth album since 1995, lots of studio work, arranger for Jimmy Kimmel Live since 2003. I figure this multi-layered momentum for fusion, most striking when the trumpet (Walt Fowler or Mark Isham) cuts through the haze, least when Babko indulges the strings. B+(*)

Jeb Bishop/Jorrit Dijkstra: 1000 Words (2011 [2012], Driff): Trombone/alto sax duo, both also credited with mutes, which must help homogenize the sound. Bishop is a Chicago trombonist, best known for his tenure in the Vandermark 5, but he has a handful of albums under his own name (starting in 1998 with 98 Duets) as well as several post-V5 group projects. Dijkstra is Dutch, moved to US in 2002, teaches at New England Conservatory, has ten albums. Resembles a sax choir, with the horns hopping over one another in interesting patterns. B+(**)

The Julian Bliss Septet: A Tribute to Benny Goodman (2012, Signum): Clarinettist, of course, b. 1989 in England, has a couple of classical records under his belt and has designed his own clarinet. Septet adds piano, vibes, trumpet, guitar, bass, and drums, of which guitarist Colin Oxley is the most important, even if he's more Eddie Condon than Charlie Christian. B+(*)

Anthony Branker & Ascent: Together (2012, Origin): Composer-arranger, commands a postbop quintet here with two saxes, fender rhodes, bass, and drums. B+(**)

Kyle Brenders Quartet: Offset (2012, 18th Note): Plays sax (soprano, tenor) and clarinet (plus bass), based in Toronto where he is artistic director of AIMToronto Orchestra. Has a handful of albums since 2008, including one of duets with Anthony Braxton. Quartet adds a contrasting horn -- Steve Ward's trombone -- plus bass (Tomas Bouda) and drums (Mark Segger). Likes to roll up repeated rhythmic figures, but he can just as well bust loose and run away with a solo. A-

Zach Brock: Almost Never Was (2012, Criss Cross): Violinist, b. 1974, has several previous albums (although AMG doesn't seem to know about them). Quartet with piano (Aaron Goldberg), bass (Matt Penman), drums (Eric Harland), an impeccable postbop group, on three originals, six covers -- including Monk, Henderson, and a not-very-energetic Hendrix. B+(*)

Jeff Coffin & the Mu'tet: Into the Air (2012, Ear Up): Saxophonist, has more than eight albums since 1997, but may be better (at least more widely) known as a side man to Béla Fleck and Dave Matthews. Formed his Mu'tet in 2001, and this is their fourth album -- first I've heard, not that his mild-mannered funk is especially memorable. With Bill Fanning on trumpet, and an electric bassist named Felix Pastorius. B

Avishai Cohen: Triveni II (2009 [2012], Anzic): Trumpet player, from Israel, brother of Anat Cohen, has more than seven records since 2002 (AMG's count, missing at least two Third World Love albums). "Triveni" is Sanskrit for three rivers meeting, hence his trio, with Omer Avital on bass and Nasheet Waits on drums. The format puts the trumpet up front, and he sounds terrific. His songs are less imposing, with three (of four) originals up front, the six covers including two from Ornette, one from Don Cherry, one from Mingus, and the odd juxtaposition of "Willow Weep for Me" and "Woody n' You." B+(**)

Coat Cooke/Rainer Wiens: High Wire (2011 [2012], Now Orchestra): Cooke is a saxophonist, based in Vancouver, Canada; he founded NOW Orchestra in 1987, which continues as one of the world's premier avant-big bands -- their recordings seem to be limited to when guests arrive (Barry Guy in 1994, George Lewis in 2001, Marilyn Crispell in 2005). Cooke has a trio album, and two new duos. Wiens plays guitar and thumb piano, a bit ambient, but that draws out the scratchy sax. B+(***)

Coat Cooke/Joe Poole: Conversations (2011 [2012], Now Orchestra): Another duo, pitting Vancouver saxophonist Cooke with drummer Poole, a slightly more conventional match up than the one with Cooke and Rainer Wiens (guitar, thumb piano), losing just a tad on variety and surprise, but louder. B+(***)

John Daversa: Artful Joy (2012, BFM Jazz): Trumpet player, also dabbles with EVI, from Los Angeles, studied at UCLA, third album since 2009, last one a big band deal, this smaller -- electric keybs give it a fusion sound, which he keep supbeat and engaging. B+(*)

Roger Davidson Trio: We Remember Helen (2011 [2012], Soundbrush): Pianist, has specialized in Latin (especially Brazilian) music since 2000, although you would never guess that from this mainstream trio record, supported by David Finck on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. "Helen" is Helen Keane, a jazz producer and manager who died in 1996, and who had been a critical supporter of Davidson at least since 1987. Keane introduced Davidson to Finck for a record they cut in 1991. Not clear what Nash's connection to Keane is, but he's peerless as a mainstream drummer -- who wouldn't want to work with him? B+(***)

Caroline Davis Quartet: Live Work & Play (2012, Ears & Eyes): Alto saxophonist, b. in Singapore, based in Chicago, first album, with guitar-bass-drums, no one I've heard of but expect to hear more from guitarist Mike Allemana. Wrote six (of ten) pieces, covering Billy Strayhorn and Charlie Parker, getting songs from two band members (Allemana and drummer Jeremy Cunningham). Unexceptional postbop, flows nicely, makes a strong impression. B+(**)

Kui Dong/Larry Polansky/Christian Wolff: Trio (2012, Henceforth): Dong is a pianist, b. 1966 in Beijing, China; moved to US in 1991 and teaches at Dartmouth, as do the others. Wolff, b. 1934 in France but grew up in the US, also plays piano here. He was influenced by postclassical composers like John Cage and Cornelius Cardew. I first ran across him on one of Brian Eno's Obscure Records. Polansky plays guitar and mandolin -- a way of interjecting some contrasting sounds, not that the pianos are all that predictable. Improv that would satisfy Cage, for just that reason. B+(***)

Ingebrigt Haker Flaten New York Quartet: Now Is (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Norwegian bassist, doesn't have a lot under his own name but I've probably heard him on 50 albums, to no small extent because he's managed to collect most of them on Bandcamp. Main groups are Atomic and The Thing, plus various Vandermark projects, and lots more. With Joe McPhee (tenor sax), Nate Wooley (trumpet), and Joe Morris (guitar). All joint credits, but without a drummer the scratchy makeshift music seems to well up from the bass, gain volume through the guitar, and richochet off the horns. B+(***)

Hal Galper Trio: Airegin Revisited (2012, Origin): A fine mainstream pianist, b. 1938, has over 25 albums since 1971 -- I have Portrait (1989), Just Us (1993), and Art-Work (2009) on my A-list -- in a trio with Seattle stalwarts Jeff Johnson (bass) and John Bishop (drums). One original, six covers, "Airegin" included. B+(*)

Letizia Gambi: Introducing Letizia Gambi (2012, Jando Music): Singer, from Naples, Italy; first album. Attracted the interest of drummer Lenny White, who co-wrote several songs with her, and rounded up a roster of famous names who chip in for a track or more, not that you'd notice or care -- front cover touts Gato Barbieri, Ron Carter, Chick Corea, Gil Goldstein, Wallace Roney, Patrice Rushen, and White. Covers include Italian favorites, Prince, Björk, opera, damn near anything theatrical. C+

Joe Gilman: Relativity (2010 [2012], Capri): Pianist, b. 1962, eighth album since 1991, a classic quintet with trumpet (Nick Freney) and tenor sax (Chad Lefkowitz-Brown), although it's more postbop than hard -- thick and lush and a bit tricky. B+(*)

Mac Gollehon: La Fama (1980-96 [2012], self-released): Trumpet player, seventh album since 1996, including two with Smokin' in the title and one called In the Spirit of Fats Navarro, but these live cuts predate all that. Big band, no idea how many were playing at any given time, but 35 musicians listed on the back cover, with the Latin tinge provided by congas, timbales, bata drums, bongos, and two guys just credited with "percussion" -- 11 of those 35, or 13 if we count drums and vibes. B+(**)

Hardcoretet: Do It Live (2010 [2012], Tables and Chairs): Self-released in 2011, picked up for a reissue; second album. Seattle quartet, members listed alphabetically: Tarik Abouzied (drums), Art Brown (alto sax), Tim Carey (electric bass), Aaron Otheim (keyb); five tracks, all contribute, two from the drummer. The sax has some charm, but the electric instruments are stuck in soft-edged fusion. Docked a notch for the misleading name. B-

Ted Hefko and the Thousandaires: If I Walked on Water (2011 [2012], Onager): Singer-songwriter, second album, guess you can call him a jazz singer because the band uses an upright bass, Hefko plays tenor sax on the side, and he has a guy who plays trumpet and valve trombone -- otherwise he's not far from Americana, minus the twang, plus a sense of humor. B+(**)

Ig Henneman Sextet: Live @ the Ironworks Vancouver (2012, Wig): Viola player, from the Netherlands; AMG credits her with eight albums, plus she played on at least the latest Queen Mab album. Her sextet expands upon Queen Mab (Marilyn Lerner on piano, Lori Freedman on clarinet/bass clarinet), adding Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet, shakuhachi), Axel Dörner (trumpet), and Wilbert De Joode (bass). With no drummer, this tends to wander, the clash of strings and horns somewhat random. B+(**)

Sylvia Herold and the Rhythm Bugs: The Spider and the Fly (2012, Tuxedo): Herold seems to have started out as a British folk singer, but her path crossed with the Hot Club of San Francisco and through a group called Cats & Jammers, with her latest sounding like an Andrews Sisters tribute. Jennifer Scott and Ed Johnson harmonize, Cary Black and Jason Lewis keep the swing beat humming. B

Fred Hess Big Band: Speak (2012, Alison): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1944 in Pennsylvania, moved to Colorado in 1981, where he has played a major role above and beyond his own work -- sixteen albums under his own name, plus some other groups. Third Big Band album, with ringers John Fedchock and Matt Wilson cited on the cover. Hess wrote 5 (of 6) pieces, and is probably the saxophonist who first breaks out of big band orthodoxy and gets this cooking. B+(***)

Hobson's Choice: Of the Waves (2011 [2012], Barnyard): Dictionary defines this as "an apparently free choice that offers no real alternative." AMG describes one Virginia band with this one album, which is in fact by a completely different band, one based on Toronto, calls itself a "contemporary chamber jazz group." The chamber effect is mostly vocal (presumably Felicity Williams), surrounded by guitar, trumpet, marimba. Art song, extended through scatting or warbling -- first song I managed to tune into had a Rumi text that I mistook for Joni Mitchell in her most ponderous phase. B

Holus-Bolus: Pine Barren (2012, Prom Night): Josh Sinton, plays baritone sax and bass clarinet here, in his Steve Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread, and elsewhere. Builds most pieces from rhythmic vamps down low (helped by Peter Bitenc on bass), with vibes for contrast, occasionally breaking loose with hellacious solo runs -- Jonathan Goldberger's guitar, or more often Jon Irabagon's sax. Seems to be download-only. [Bandcamp] A- [advance]

Hood Smoke: Laid Up in Ordinary (2012, Origin): Group led by bassist Bryan Doherty, who produced, composed, and arranged; has a previous album under his own name, evidently fusion -- press clips compare him to Jaco Pastorius -- whereas this is, well, I don't know, rock I guess, at least rhythmically: guitar, keybs, singer is Sarah Marie Young. Title suffices as a readymade review. C+

I Compani: Garbo (2011 [2012], Icdisc, 2CD): Extended title adds: and other Goddesses of Cinema, with Brigitte Bardot at least as prominent as Garbo. I Compani is saxophonist Bo van der Graaf's outfit, a group that specializes in film music -- records on Fellini, Nino Rota, Aida, Last Tango in Paris, a side trip into Circusism. The band is large, but only two horns -- the leader's sax and one trumpet -- with piano/synth, bandoneon, a string section, vibes, and drums, and some vocals. The first disc is delirious and exhilarating, especially when the whole group is firing. The second is a bonus, a live "Tango and Impro" concert in memory of actress Maria Schneider (1952-2011), featuring big chunks of Gato Barbieri's heavy-handed Last Tango in Paris soundtrack. It drags a bit, especially compared with the first disc. One more caveat: possibly the worst CD packaging ever. B+(***)

Benedikt Jahnel Trio: Equilibrium (2011 [2012], ECM): Pianist, b. 1980 near Munich, Germany. Third album, first for ECM, a piano trio with Antonio Miguel on bass and Owen Howard on drums. Has a nice rhythmic roll, toned down, of course. B+(**)

Al Jarreau and the Metropole Orkest: Live (2011-12 [2012], Concord Jazz): Vocalist, cut an album in 1965 and many more since 1975; built his jazz credentials on idiosyncrasy, a trap that seems to have consumed his entire generation, plus or minus one, of male jazz singers. Backed here by Vince Mendoza's big band, as sharp as any. B

Erik Jekabson: Anti-Mass (2011 [2012], Jekab's Music): Trumpeter, from California, studied at Oberlin, wound up in San Francisco, where the DeYoung Museum commissioned his title piece. Third album since 2004. With violin (Mads Tolling) and viola (Charith Prwardhana) and bits of vibraphone, a nice example of postbop chamber music, although the horns threaten to break loose, especially Dayna Stephens' tenor sax. B+(*)

Karl 2000 (2012, self-released): Avant sax trio: Daniel Rovin (tenor sax), Austin White (bass), Dave Miller (drums). First album. They claim Russian folk music and the Alexandrov Ensemble as inspirations, but you hear more Albert Ayler, which seems more to the point. B+(***)

Dave King: I've Been Ringing You (2012, Sunnyside): Drummer, plays in Happy Apple and the Bad Plus; third album under his own name, a piano trio with Bill Carrothers and Billy Peterson, seven standards, one joint credit. Fine pianist, but very quiet, you hardly ever notice that there is a drummer, much less King. B+(*)

Chris Lawhorn: Fugazi Edits (2012, Case/Martingale): As best I can tell, Lawhorn is a DJ, runs a blog aimed at selecting workout songs, not sure what else. Twenty-two cuts, each composed from instrumental fragments of several songs by the 1987-2002 hardcore band Fugazi. I didn't enjoy the group's well-regarded first album, and never gave them another chance, but the dense guitar offers a nice fusion crunch here. [Bandcamp] B+(***)

Christian Lillinger's Grund: Second Reason (2011 [2012], Clean Feed): Drummer, b. 1984 in what was then East Germany. Second album with this group, which expands on Achim Kauffmann's piano trio with a second bassist, two saxes, and vibes. Scratchy, squeaky avant. B+(**)

Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: No New Tunes (2012, Hot Cup): Guitarist, rolled out the Big Five Chord name on his 2003 debut, and is up to five albums now. All originals, not sure whether they're new or not, but the band has been together for some time, and return here more imposing than ever: Bryan Murray (tenor sax), Jon Irabagon (alto sax), Moppa Elliott (bass), Dan Monaghan (drums). The sax thrash is as powerful as ever, and the guitar is even sharper. Download/vinyl only. A- [advance]

Vincent Lyn: Wing Sing (2012, Budo): Kung fu fighter, at least in the movies, turned pop jazz keyboardist. His acoustic piano is respectable enough, the electric a bit chintzy. Michelle Bradshaw sings two songs, adding substance, and fluffs a bit on "Walk On By," which we'll generously consider a joke. B

Paul Lytton/Nate Wooley: The Nows (2011 [2012], Clean Feed, 2CD): Drums and trumpet, respectively; Lytton, b. 1947 in England, a long-time fixture in avant jazz; Wooley, b. 1974 in Oregon, very prolific on the avant scene since 2005. The drummer does a lot of duos, so he's very prepared for this sort of mix up. But while both sides start as duos, they soon expand to trios, with Ikue Mori (computer) on the first, and Ken Vandermark (clarinets and saxes) on the latter. Even the latter stays within the basic chop-chop format. B+(*)

David Maxwell: Blues in Other Colors (2012, Shining Stone): Pianist, b. 1950 near Boston, longtime sideman cut an album in 1997 called Maximum Blues Piano; has a few more since then. This one looks to take the blues on a worldwide tour, with Jerry Leake's Indian and West African percussion, various ouds and neys. "Harry's Raga" is the one that really gets out of his original skin. B+(*)

Chad McCullough & Bram Weijters Quartet: Urban Nightingale (2011 [2012], Origin): Trumpet player from Seattle, also plays in the West African-influenced Kora Band, met the Dutch pianist in Canada in 2009, and this is their second album together. With Piet Verbist on bass and John Bishop on drums. Carefully layered postbop, trumpet is engaging, but won't blow anyone away. B

Medeski Martin & Wood: Free Magic (2007 [2012], Indirecto): Organ trio, been around for twenty-some years, remarkably popular although John Medeski (keyboards) and Billy Martin (drums) have a parallel history of dabbling in avant-garde projects. When they set up their own label and started diving into old live tapes, they initially reached for the one with John Scofield -- it's their thing, right? This one is older, coming from their "first-ever acoustic tour." That mostly means Medeski playing piano, with such astonishing flair you wonder why he doesn't do more of it. Hype sheet talks about him "channeling his inner Cecil Taylor," but I hear as much Bud Powell, and at least a little Jerry Lee. Closes with a Mingus/Sun Ra medley. A- [advance]

Cristina Morrison: I Love (2012, Baronesa): Singer, actress, originally from Florida but also lived in Quito and Rome. First album, wrote lyrics on six (of nine) songs, the music by alto saxophonist Christian Hidrobo, favoring Latin percussion (Sammy Torres), looking as much to Gregoire Maret's harmonica for soaring breaks as to the saxes (Hidrobo and Alex Harding). The three covers are especially striking. B+(***)

Musaner: Once Upon a Time (2012, Lucent Music): Boston group, eleven musicians led by pianist Ara Sarkissian, play the leader's compositions and Armenian and Balkan folk tunes with a mix of native (duduk, shvi zurna) and western instruments (an imposing sax section). Second album. Like so much Balkan music, most fun when they pick up the pace and let the clarinet (or whatever) fly free. B+(**)

Myriad 3: Tell (2012, ALMA): Piano trio, with Chris Donnelly (piano), Dan Fortin (bass), and Ernesto Cervini (drums). Donnelly and Cervini have a couple albums each under their own names. All three contribute songs (edge Donnelly, 4-3-3), with one cover, Ellington's "C Jam Blues." B+(**)

Thea Neumann: Lady & the Tramps (2012, self-released): Singer, from Alberta up in Canada -- her guitarist, Clint Pelletier, has a group/album called Hot Club Edmonton -- wrote two songs on her debut, but mostly works old standards (two Cole Porters, "Makin' Whoopee," "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," "In Walked Bud"), slipping in pieces by Gillian Welch and Thom Yorke. Band is piano-bass-drums, plus Pelletier on four tracks, plus a couple horn spots. B+(**)

Kat Parra: Las Aventuras de ˇPasión! (2012, JazzMa): Singer, b. 1962, based in San Francisco, fourth album, all more or less Latin-themed, with a special interest in Sephardic styles. Starts upbeat, turning "Iko Iko" into a bomba, but tails off, especially when she brings out the strings. B-

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: The Clairvoyant (2012, Leo): Tenor sax, piano, drums. Shipp and Dickey were in David S. Ware's original quartet, and played several duos and trios around that time (c. 1990). Shipp and the Brazilian saxophonist go back about that far too, and while Ware may be the model for their interaction, Perelman has developed his own distinctive voice, especially when he doesn't have to bring the noise. This is part of the second batch of three albums he's released this year, the third with Shipp, a following hugely prolific 2011. A-

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Michael Bisio: The Gift (2012, Leo): Case study, where The Clairvoyant was Perelman-Shipp plus drummer (Whit Dickey), this is the same duo plus bassist (Bisio). The difference is that when the duo slows down they're more likely to stall, but over time they find outs -- a little cocktail jazz, a slow burn, a spot for the bassist -- even solo the saxophonist has little trouble carrying on, wth his most impressive turn solo. B+(***)

Ivo Perelman/Joe Morris/Gerald Cleaver: Living Jelly (2011 [2012], Leo): Tenor sax, guitar, drums, respectively, although Morris is also an accomplished bassist. His leads are more effective than Shipp's in the other two albums, probably because the tone of his guitar lines up more harmonically with the sax -- similarly, his comping is more transparent. But the leader excels here, uncommonly eloquent in the slow stretches and as thrilling as ever at high speed. A-

Dave Phillips & Freedance: Confluence (2011 [2012], Innova): Bassist, son of legendary bassist Barre Phillips; fourth album since 2000, all with Freedance either as group name or part of the title -- the lineups change, but "Freedance" is easier to search on than "Dave Phillips" -- I looked through about 30 of the latter at AMG. Current lineup: John O'Gallagher (alto sax), Rez Abbasi (guitar), Jon Werking (piano), Tony Moreno (drums), Glen Fitten (percussion). All Phillips originals, steady flow with complex postbop harmonies, few rough edges. B+(**)

The Reveries: Matchmakers Volume 2: The Music of Sade (2012, Barnyard): I know so little about Nigerian-born chanteuse Sade Adu or her band that I recognize none of these songs -- indeed, only two (of eight) show up on her first Best Of -- that I have to assume that the nasal falsettos squeezed through "mouth-speaker" and such are meant as satire. Canadian group -- Eric Chenaux (guitar), Ryan Driver (bass), Doug Tielli (guitar), and Jean Martin (drums) -- did this once before with Willie Nelson. B

Eric Revis 11:11: Parallax (2012, Clean Feed): Bassist, b. 1967, two previous records (2004, 2009), several dozen side credits, ranging from Branford Marsalis to Avram Fefer. Dream quartet here with Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, clarinet), Jason Moran (piano), and Nasheet Waits (drums). Half Revis originals, two group improvs, one Vandermark tune, one each from Fats Waller and Jelly Roll Morton, all of interest, perhaps not adding up to more than the sum of the parts but brilliant musicians like these manage to hold their own. A-

Scott Robinson Doctette: Bronze Nemesis (2001-09 [2012], Doc-Tone): Plays various saxes, clarinets, flutes, euphonium, Moog theremin, percussion, "gadgets"; b. 1959, has close to a dozen albums since 1984 (his debut was called Multiple Instruments, some close to trad jazz but others not. Front cover proclaims this as "12 Fantastic Musical Adventures Inspired by the Amazing Worlds of Doc Savage!" Comes with a lot of doc, but not knowing the references I'm at a more/less complete loss. Group: Randy Sandke (trumpet), Ted Rosenthal (piano), Pat O'Leary (bass), and Dennis Mackrel (drums), with Dennis Irwin taking over bass for one cut. Suffers a bit from soundtrack syndrome, especially the dingy atmospherics, but there are lots of interesting passages. B+(*)

Carol Saboya: Belezas (2012, AAM): Singer, from Brazil, daughter of pianist-composer Antonio Adolfo (on piano here, the songs focusing on Ivan Lins and Milton Nascimento). Has close to a dozen albums since 1997, many looking back to the music of her father's generation (Bossa Nova, Nova Bossa, Bossa Nova Forever). Nice guitar (Claudi Spiewak), and guests spots by Dave Liebman and Hendrik Meurkens brighten it up. B+(*)

Sara Serpa/Ran Blake: Aurora (2012, Clean Feed): Serpa is a vocalist, from Portugal, studied at NEC which brought her into contact with the pianist. Blake has a long history of working with singers, often in duo formats -- not unrelated is that he must have more than a dozen solo piano albums -- and this is his second pairing with Serpa. Hard for me to care much about their stripped-down abstractions, except when they offer a bent cover of something familiar, like "The Band Played On." B+(*)

Sophisticated Ladies: A True Story (2012, self-released): French quartet. Rachael Magidson seems to be the main vocalist although the others are credited with vocals (with a dangling asterisk), and Magidson also plays flugelhorn and percussion; the others: Emilie Calme (flute, bansuri), Nolwenn Leizour (acoustic bass), Valerie Chane-tef (piano). Standards -- "The Lady Is a Tramp," "Sophisticated Lady," "Autumn Leaves," "You Go to My Head" -- with the two closers in French and a Charlie Parker bit for a segué. Has a fake allure, which I find to be the charm. [Bandcamp] B+(*)

Tessa Souter: Beyond the Blue (2011 [2012], Motéma): Singer, b. 1956 in England, based in New York; fourth album since 2004. Has a torch singer's voice, lots of emotion. For this album she raided her classical archives for melodies -- Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Ravel, Borodin, Fauré, Albinoni, Rodrigo -- adding her lyrics to make songs that don't come close to triggering my classical gag reflex. One big help there is a band that could hardly be improved on: Steve Kuhn, David Finck, Billy Drummond, Joe Locke, Gary Versace (accordion), and Joel Frahm -- especially the latter, whose saxophones make for every singer's nonpareil duet partner. B+(***)

Tim Sparks: The Nutcracker Suite (1993 [2012], Tonewood): Guitarist, has ten or so albums, most solo, most rooted in Eastern European music. This looks like a reissue of his first, which I've seen dated 1992, 1993, or 1995 -- back cover mentions 1993 as the date he won the National Fingerstyle Guitar Championship playing Tchaikovsky's famous suite. It fills the first half of this album, familiar even to someone who swore allegiance to Chuck Berry back in the 1950s. Second half is Sparks' "Balkan Dreams Suite," arranged from Greek, Albanian, and Romanian folk songs. B+(*)

Mikolaj Trzaska/Olie Brice/Mark Sanders: Riverloam Trio (2011 [2012], NoBusiness): Sax-bass-drums trio. Trzaska, b. 1966 in Poland, plays alto sax and bass clarinet; has a large pile of albums since 1992, including jousts with Joe McPhee and Peter Brötzmann, with guitarist Noël Akchoté, and trios with the Oles Brothers. This was released as 2-LP vinyl, limited 300 copies. Free jazz -- breaks little new ground, but no doubt Trzaska can play in this league. B+(**) [advance]

Allison Wedding: This Dance (2012, GroundUp Music): Singer-songwriter, b. 1972, grew up in Dallas and studied at UNT; went west, to Los Angeles, then Melbourne in 2001 and back to New York in 2007; has several previous albums, released in Australia. Produced by bassist-guitarist-Snarky Puppy leader Michael League, Wedding's soprano voice is surrounded by strings (including Zach Brock), which often enough provide just enough support to let the songs work -- "Carry On" is one that soars -- not that I wouldn't mind hearing more of Chris Potter, who guests on one track. [Bandcamp] B+(***)

Mort Weiss: I'll Be Seeing You (2012, SMS Jazz): Clarinetist, eighth album since 2006 when as a 60-year-old he returned to the instrument he played in his youth, playing bebop and blues with the grace of swing. With bass and drums and "special guest" Ramon Banda on conga. Not sure if he's the one singing "Gots the Horn in My Mouth Blues," or even whether that should be called singing -- an odd break in the middle of what's otherwise his most accomplished album. A-

The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy (2012, Driff): Very few avant-gardists have had their compositions recorded by others, much less by tribute bands, but Lacy is well on his way, with two albums by Ideal Bread, and now this inspired sextet: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Nate McBride (bass), and Han Bennink (drums). Seven Lacy tunes cut at odd angles, the growl of the trombone especially appreciated. Then closes with Monk's "Locomotive," much as Lacy would have done. [Bandcamp] A-

Pharez Whitted: For the People (2012, Origin): Trumpet player, b. 1960, studied at DePauw and Indiana; fourth album since 1994, a sextet with Eddie Bayard on tenor/soprano sax, both piano (Ron Perrillo) and guitar (Bobby Broom), bass and drums -- all originals, bright and tough; effectively: post-hardbop. B+(*)

Andrea Wolper/Connie Crothers/Ken Filiano: Trance Formation: In Concert (2009-10 [2012], New Artists): Crothers is a pianist, b. 1941, a student and protégé of Lennie Tristano. She has at least 14 albums since 1974, and I'm embarrassed to say I've yet to hear any of them (although about six were on the 20-page shopping list I used to carry around to used stores). On the other hand, I've heard 35 albums with Filiano, one of the great bassists of our age. Wolper is a singer, married to Filiano, with three previous albums since 2005, a background before that in theatre and writing. All improv, words (if that's what they are) included, which tends to separate the instruments out into their own spaces, with Wolper's voice functoining as a thin and starchy horn. B+(*)

Katherine Young: Releasing Bound Water From Green Material (2012, Prom Night, EP): Bassoon player, has a couple recent records. This download-only has three cuts, runs 21:39, definitely within EP length, although there is also an accompanying Michael Kenney video (which I didn't watch). Percussion trio, with deep drone sounds from the accompanying horns/synth, an interesting concept, just one that doesn't last long. [Bandcamp] B+(*) [advance]

 November, 2012 January, 2013