Jazz Prospecting: July 2013

Susanne Abbuehl: The Gift (2012 [2013], ECM): Singer, b. 1970 in Switzerland; third album since 2001. Group includes Matthieu Michel (flugelhorn), Wolfert Brederode (piano, harmonium), and Olavi Louhivuori (drums, percussion) -- rather spare accompaniment. Abbuehl wrote the music for poems by Emily Dickinson, Sara Teasdale, and Emily Bronte, plus one each by Wallace Stevens and Wolfgang Lackerschmid. So spare that it seems to all hang on the words, something I often have trouble following. B [advance]

Laura Ainsworth: Necessary Evil (2013, Eclectus): Singer, website also says "comedian," father played in big bands, second album, all covers although I doubt that she left them all unscarred. Brian Piper plays keybs and produced. The "necessary evil" is sex, and she never lets it wander far from mind, either as "necessary" or "evil." B+(*)

Brian Andres and the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel: San Francisco (2013, Bacalao): Drummer, based in San Francisco, second album, with a large band, including several who contributed songs: Aaron Germain (bass), Jamie Dubberly (trombone), Javier Cabanillas (conga), Carlos Caro (bonga, other percussion), Gloria Amaral (vocals). B+(**)

Anomonous (2012 [2013], Prom Night): Josh Sinton (amplified contrabass clarinet), Denman Maroney (hyperpiano), Ben Miller (synthesizers, samplers). Sinton is perhaps best known for the Steve Lacy tribute band Ideal Bread, although I also liked his album with Jon Irabagon last year, Holus-Bolus. Hyperpiano is Maroney's term for a set of techniques for playing the piano from inside the box (as opposed to the keyboard). So this is a kind of electronic music with complex acoustic resonances. B+(**) [bc]

Lucian Ban/Mat Maneri: Transylvanian Concert (2011 [2013], ECM): Piano and viola, the concert recorded in Romania, near Ban's birthplace. He studied at Bucharest Music Academy, moved to New York in 1999, has a handful of records since 2002. Maneri was also b. 1969, but in New York, the son of microtonal clarinetist Joseph Maneri, and has more than 15 albums since 1995. B+(***) [advance]

Billy Bang: Da Bang! (2011 [2013], TUM): Probably the late, great violinist's last recording -- in Helsinki, about two months before he died. Quintet, with trombone (Dick Griffin), piano (Andrew Bemkey), bass (Hilliard Greene), and drums (Newman Taylor-Baker). Six cuts -- one original, the title cut by Barry Altschul, other pieces from Don Cherry, Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and Sonny Rollins. Far from his greatest work, but his solos are unmistakable, and trombone is a nice contrast. Plus you can't go out on a more ecstatic note than "St. Thomas." I'm in no mood to quibble. A-

Beat Funktion: Moon Town (2013, DO Music): Swedish six-piece funk band, all instrumental, Karl Olandersson's trumpet in the lead; second album, with extra studio musicians (including some vocals, plus one credit for "breathing"). B

Tim Bedner: Of Light and Shadow (2012, self-released): Guitarist, teaches at Carleton University, seems to be his first album, a trio with Norman Glaude (bass, chromatic harmonica, percussion, synth strings) and Jeff Asselin (drums, percussion). Back cover suggests the whole thing is meant as a suite. Hangs together fine, the harmonica a nice touch. B+(*)

Joel Behrman: Steppin Back (2012, self-released): Trumpet player, originally from St. Louis, studied in Miami, wound up in Bay Area. First album, a hard bop sextet with Dayna Stephens as the sax player, Danny Armstrong (trombone), Matt Clarke (piano), Marcus Shelby (bass), and Howard Wiley (drums). Has a nice mainstream vibe, especially with traditionalists like Shelby and Wiley driving the rhythm. B+(*)

Robin Bessier: Other Side of Forever (2013, self-released): Singer, from Olympia, Washington; first album, three originals, two from producer Barney McClure, six standards. Darin Clendenin plays piano, Clipper Anderson bass, Mark Ivester drums, and Jay Thomas plays tenor and soprano sax as well as trumpet/flugelhorn. Nice, clear voice with some bounce, pays off especially on "God Bless the Child." B+(**)

Andy Bey: The World According to Andy Bey (2013, High Note): Singer-pianist, cut his first records 1964-65 as Andy & the Bey Sisters; staged a comeback in 1996, and now has six albums since then. This one is done solo, just voice and piano, meant to be intimate like, say, The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, but when this really slows down he's neither the singer nor the pianist to pull it off. Much better, however, when "The Joint Is Jumpin'." B

Ketil Bjřrnstad: La Notte (2010 [2013], ECM): Pianist, b. 1952 in Norway, has close to 40 albums since 1989, 11 on ECM. This one is built around a core of strings -- Arild Andersen's double bass, Anja Lechner's cello, and Eivind Aarset's guitar -- a combo where the volume centers in the cello range and the variation is broader than you'd get with a violin. The piano dices with the strings, Marilyn Mazur adds percussion, and Andy Sheppard adds some nice colorings on tenor and soprano sax. B+(***) [advance]

Anna Borges & Bill Ward: Receita de Samba (2012, Brasil): Duo from Boston (married), both sing, Ward also plays guitar and piano; first album, backed with flute, bass, percussion, and more percussion. Sambas by various Brazilians, none named Jobim, light and airy. B

Ron Boustead: Mosaic (2013, self-released): AMG's succinct biography: "Jazz vocalist whose sound is reminiscent of Mark Murphy." I'm far from expert on Murphy, but always regarded him as tied, however ineptly, to bop/vocalese, where Boustead is more into smooth jazz and schmaltz. AMG shows three albums; his website four, but mentions an earlier Chet Baker project from 1983. He co-wrote four songs here, and picks up "under-appreciated tunes by James Taylor, Carole King, Jon Lucien and Bill Withers." C+

Randy Brecker: Night in Calisia (2011 [2013], Summit): Title sometimes reported as Randy Brecker Plays Wlodek Pawlik's Night in Calisia. Second time the trumpeter has collaborated with the Polish composer-pianist, following 2009's Nostalgic Journey: Tykocin Jazz Suite, and I'm pretty sure they're the two best records of his career. Trumpet on top of Pawlik's piano trio backed by Kalisz Philharmonic, as swishy as they get, although the score stretches them, and someone (drummer Cezary Konrad?) minds the rhythm. A-

Kenny Burrell: Special Requests (And Other Favorites) (2012 [2013], High Note): Guitarist, one of the last remaining from the generation that gained prominence in the 1950s -- Jim Hall and Mundell Lowe are the only others I can think of offhand. Did his best work in the mid-1960s -- Guitar Forms, Ellington Is Forever -- and has been coasting through more or less charming live records lately (worst: 75th Birthday Bash Live!; best: Be Yourself). This is middling, but when he plays "Make Someone Happy" he does. B+(*)

Michel Camilo: What's Up? (2013, Okeh): Pianist, b. 1954 in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic; twenty records since 1985. This is solo, something he's done more than a few times in the past. Seven originals, four covers, his "Take Five" especially enjoyable. B+(**)

Raquel Cepeda: I'm Confessin' (2012 [2013], Peonia Music): Standards singer, from Venezuela, holds a degree in geological engineering and a daytime job in the Texas oil industry. First album, some in Spanish, some sambas, "How Deep Is the Ocean?" and "Dream a Little Dream of Me." Didn't care for the languorous "Bésame Mucho" but later cuts are winning. B+(*)

Ryan Cohan: The River (2013, Motéma Music): Pianist, studied at DePaul, based in Chicago, fifth album since 1997. Uses three horns for a frequently lush sound -- John Wojciechowski (tenor and soprano sax, flute, alto flute), Geof Bradfield (tenor and soprano sax, bass clarinet), and Tito Carrillo (trumpet, flugelhorn) -- and adds Samuel Torres' percussion to Kobie Watkins' drums for that Latin tinge. Still, strongest when the piano is out front, as in "Last Night at the Mannenberg." B+(**)

Larry Corban: The Circle Starts Here (2012 [2013], Nabroc): Guitarist, based in New York, second album, a trio with Harvie S on bass and Steve Williams on drums. Soft metallic lines (some nylon), S does a fine job of beefing up the sound. B+(**)

Dan DeChellis Trio: Strength and Anger (2013, self-released): Pianist, b. 1970, twelfth record since 1999. Nearly everything here is built on rumbling chords, a rhythm-first approach that sustains interest. With Scot Hornick on bass, Steve Decker on drums. B+(**)

Eldar Djangirov: Bach Brahms Prokofiev (2012 [2013], Motema): Pianist, b. 1987 in Kyrgyzstan; moved to Kansas City at age 10, and was touted as a prodigy at age 18 when his first Sony Masterworks album appeared (after two previous records on D&D). It may be unfair to typecast him as one of those Soviet products who moved from classical to jazz -- he's said the first piece he recalls playing was "C Jam Blues" -- but he's paid his dues on the classical repertoire, and probably figured "why not?" when the label asked for a classical release. Solo piano, moldy classics from obvious sources with no discernible jazz interest, capped with 1:07 of Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee." B- [advance]

Eldar Djangirov: Breakthrough (2012 [2013], Motema): His classical album is a snore, but the trio cuts here establish both his primary interest in jazz and his prodigious command of the piano. Two cuts with a guest -- Joe Locke on vibes, and Chris Potter on tenor sax -- are even better: I'm not sure I've ever heard Potter so frenzied, and I've heard him play a lot. Also promising that his closing "Good Morning Heartache" holds your attention even after he slows it way down. Two caveats: when he gets cranking he's still more likely to remind you of Rimsky-Korsakov than Tatum or Hines; and the last time I can recall that title was on an exceptionally great Don Pullen album, and this isn't anyway near that. B+(**) [advance]

Paulette Dozier: In Walked You (2012, PF&E): Singer, co-wrote three songs with pianist Mike Levine, adding nine standards (if you so consider Billy Joel, Bobby Hebb, and Seals & Crofts). Third album. She evidently does a stage act as Billie Holiday, but I can't reconcile the voice. Looks more like Sarah Vaughan -- doesn't have her voice either, but it's closer, more practical, good enough to salvage most of these songs, even some that shouldn't. B+(*)

Drye & Drye: Open Letter (2011 [2013], NCM East, 2CD): Baritone saxophonist Howard Drye and trombonist Brian Drye -- the latter is better known, playing in groups like the Four Bags and Bizingas. Each wrote a full CD's worth of songs, for a sextet adding Jeff Hermanson (trumpet), Nate McGinniss (clarinet, alto/soprano sax), Dan Fabricatore (bass), and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums). Several songs have dedications, mostly to Ellingtonians, also Horace Silver, but the interplay is more free -- especially on Howard's disc. B+(**)

Gene Ess: Fractal Attraction (2012 [2013], SIMP): Guitarist, b. in Tokyo, grew up on a USAF base in Okinawa, studied at George Mason and Berklee, played in Rashied Ali's quintet, now has five records since 2003. Lineup here is Thana Alexa (voice), David Berkman (piano), Thomas Kneeland (bass), Gene Jackson (drums). Guitar is adventurously post-bop, with Alexa scatting -- a combo I couldn't imagine working but somehow does. B+(**)

Anna Estrada: Volando (2012, Feral Flight): Singer, "Bay Area-based," third album since 2008, more Spanish/Portuguese than English, co-wrote one song, draws on Fred Neil ("Everybody's Talking") and the Beatles ("Happiness Is a Warm Gun/I Want You"), does "Beguin the Beguine" in Spanish, works in some bossa nova (no Jobim, but Jorge Ben's "Mais Que Nada" is probably the best thing here). Musicians slip in and out -- too many for me to track, but unobtrusive to listen to. B+(*)

Alan Ferber: March Sublime (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): Trombonist, fifth album since 2001, previously with septet and nonet groups -- here he goes whole hog with a big band. Six originals, two covers -- Björk and Hoagy Carmichael, the latter the nicest piece here, perhaps because it comes off a bit lighter, but also it comes late in the album, after the postbop murk started to cohere, and the star-packed NY band -- the reed section: John O'Gallagher, Rob Wilkerson, John Ellis, Jason Rigby, Chris Cheek -- has started to shine. B+(*)

Bill Frisell: Big Sur (2012 [2013], Okeh): Nineteen-piece suite commissioned by Monterey Jazz Festival, composed over ten days in retreat at Glen Deven Ranch, played by the group previously known as the 858 Quartet -- Jenny Scheinman (violin), Eyvind Kang (viola), Hank Roberts (cello), Rudy Royston (drums) -- plus Frisell on guitar. Typical of his recent work, but heavier. B+(**)

Steve Gadd Band: Gadditude (2013, BFM Jazz): Drummer, fifth album since 2004 although he had an earlier one in 1986. Band appellation is appropriate: guitarist Michael Landau and keyb player Michael Goldings 4 of 9 songs, with Gadd, Walt Fowler (trumpet), and Jimmy Johnson (bass) jointly offering a fifth. Two more pieces come from Keith Jarrett, one from Abdullah Ibrahim, one from Radiohead. Comes off as an attractive variation from the organ groove genre. B+(*)

Vana Gierig: Making Memories (2013, Enja): Pianist, b. in Germany, studied in Boston, based in New York. First album, all originals, the piano quick and playful. Paquito D'Rivera plays clarinet on five pieces, lifting the album, but strings (violin and cello) on three of them bring it back down. B+(*)

Guillermo Gregorio/Steve Swell/Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Window and Doorway (2011 [2013], Driff): Clarinet, trombone, and piano, respectively, everyone contributing pieces. The clarinet-trombone combo is attractive but soft-edged and the lack of a rhythm section lets them amble, noodle, splatter color about, at least until the piano gooses them along. B+(*)

Drew Gress: The Sky Inside (2011 [2013], Pirouet): Bassist, fifth album since 1998, about 170 side credits since 1989, a major figure although his intricate postbop compositions have yet to make much of an impression. But his connections give him an all star band: Ralph Alessi (trumpet), Tim Berne (alto sax), Craig Taborn (piano), Tom Rainey (drums). They have their moments here, as does the bassist. Runs long, 72:23, not that the title cut doesn't justify its 11:48. B+(**)

Giovanni Guidi Trio: City of Broken Dreams (2012 [2013], ECM): Pianist, b. 1985 in Italy, has a handful of records since 2007, this his first on ECM, a trio with Thomas Morgan on bass and Joăo Lobo on drums. Smartly done, but on the quiet side, something you have to stick with. B+(**) [advance]

Iro Haarla Sextet: Kolibri (2010 [2013], TUM): Pianist, b. 1956 in Finland, married drummer Edward Vesala in 1978 and only picked up her career after he died; sixth album since 2001; group has three horns -- Verneri Pohjola (trumpet), Jari Honigsto (trombone), and Karl Heinilä (tenor sax, flute, alto flute) -- plus bass and drums. Slower pieces enjoy a lot of color, but the clash of the faster ones is more interesting. B+(**)

Michael Hackett Quintet: New Point of View (2012 [2013], Summit): Trumpet player, originally from Oregon, spent some time in New York but not clear where he is now -- most side credits are with Buselli/Wallarab Jazz Orchestra, so maybe Indianapolis? Second album. Quintet with sax, piano, bass, and drums -- the classic hard bop lineup but more of a postbop feel, especially in the harmonics between the horns. B+(*)

Nancy Harms: Dreams in Apartments (2012 [2013], Gazelle): Singer, from Minnesota, second album. Four originals (three co-credited to producer Arne Fogel), a piece based on Erik Satie, and five standards ("It Could Happen to You," "Mood Indigo," "Never Let Me Go," "Midnight Sun," "While We're Young"). Aaron Parks plays piano, John Hart guitar on the back stretch, Wycliffe Gordon has a guest spot on trombone. She has a subdued, almost whispery voice -- doesn't grab you but sneaks up effectively on the last two covers. B+(*)

Joel Harrison 19: Infinite Possibility (2012 [2013], Sunnyside): Guitarist, at least 14 albums since 1996; 19 is his big band, presumably 19-piece although 23 musicians are credited, with JC Sanford as conductor (tenor sax and tuba are clearly two slots with alternating musicians; the two vocalists occur on one track each, so may not be considered a slot). Mixed postbop bag, even a bit of avant chaos, some impressive passages, a lot of stuff I don't much care for. B

Art Hodes: I Remember Bessie (1976 [2013], Delmark): Pianist, b. 1904 in Russia, not sure when he moved to Chicago but he didn't start recording until he moved to New York in 1938. Smith died in 1937, so they could have crossed paths in Chicago, but most likely he remembered her from records. Solo piano, old blues with some swing to them, the style Hodes grew up on and was exceptional at. B+(***)

Julia Hülsmann Quartet: In Full View (2012 [2013], ECM): Pianist, b. 1968 in Germany, sixth album since 2003, third on ECM. Quartet with Tom Arthurs (trumpet), Marc Huellbauer (bass), and Heinrich Köbberling (drums), with all four writing songs, plus three pieces by others -- don't see any reason to call them standards. No rush, no clash, the trumpet providing a pivotal voice. B+(**) [advance]

Ethan Iverson/Lee Konitz/Larry Grenadier/Jorge Rossy: Costumes Are Mandatory (2012 [2013], High Note): Piano, alto sax, bass, drums -- you should recognize all the names. Konitz is 85, has had a brilliant career; he doesn't break any new ground here, but is a joy to hear. Iverson, best known for the Bad Plus, has a few tricks up his sleeve. He does an interesting deconstruction of "Blueberry Hill" that breaks with the song in many ways yet remains instantly recognizable. That's in the middle of a record with two takes of Iverson's "Blueberry Ice Cream" on the ends. B+(***)

Bob James & David Sanborn: Quartette Humaine (2013, Okeh): The pianist is past 70 now, b. 1939, his first two records were called Bold Conceptions and Explosions, the latter daringly avant, but he settled into pop jazz in the 1970s and has produced very little I've listened to since. The alto saxophonist was b. 1945, has about 30 albums since 1975, mostly in the pop jazz vein. I've checked a few out, and wound up being blown away by 1991's Upfront -- he's clearly a very talented guy when he gives it a chance. Quartette here adds James Genus on bass and Steve Gadd on drums, settling into the mainstream with a little honk to the sax. B+(**)

Alan Jones & François Théberge: Another View (2010-12 [2013], Origin): Drummer and saxophonist (tenor, soprano, also wood flute, recorder, and trombone), respectively. The drummer, b. 1962 in Washington, grew up in Portland, studied at Berklee, passed through New York, Vienna, and Paris, winding up in Portland again. The saxophonist, b. 1963 in Montreal; studied at McGill, Concordia, and Eastman; passed through Miami, New York, and Paris. They have about a half dozen albums each, not sure if they have any together before this one, which was recorded in many sessions (10 days) in Portland, Paris, and Portland again. Twenty musicians, no track credits so the implication is that all but two (a Portland viola and a Paris cello) played on all tracks, but it doesn't have a big band vibe. It does have vocals: mostly Marilyn Keller, plus Jones on one track, Rebecca Kilgore on another. B+(*)

Eugenie Jones: Black Lace Blue Tears (2013, self-released): Singer-songwriter, based in Seattle, first album, with a notable local band: Bill Anschell (piano), Michael Powers (guitar), Clipper Anderson (bass), Mark Ivester (drums). Two covers ("Take Five," "My Funny Valentine") -- manages to wring a lot of emotion out of the latter -- plus nine originals, most striking. B+(**)

Gregg Kallor: A Single Noon (2012 [2013], Single Noon): Pianist, has two previous albums, one a trio with Kendrick Scott, the other a duo with "mezzo-soprano" Adriana Zabala of "Dickinson and Yeats Songs"; so has staked out ground straddling classical and jazz. This is solo, all originals, something he calls "a nine-movement suite." Fred Hersch admires it. B+(**)

Pandelis Karayorgis Trio: Cocoon (2012 [2013], Driff): Pianist, b. in Greece, moved to Boston to study at New England Conservatory in the 1980s and stuck around, with a dozen or more records since 1994 -- his 2007 album as Mi3, Free Advice, was a pick hit here. This is a piano trio with Jef Charland on bass and Luther Gray on drums, not as difficult or explosive as the pianist gets, but vigorous and inventive by any standards. B+(***)

Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet: Circuitous (2012 [2013], Driff): Recorded in Chicago, with bassist Nate McBride the link between the Boston-based pianist and the Chicago-based all-star band: Dave Rempis and Keefe Jackson (saxes/clarinets), and Frank Rosaly (drums). Sounds great one moment, questionable the next, in an oscillation that's almost an aesthetic. B+(**)

Kikoski Carpenter Novak Sheppard: From the Hip (2006 [2013], BFM Jazz): David Kikoski (piano), Dave Carpenter (bass), Gary Novak (drums), Bob Sheppard (saxes, mostly tenor). The pianist, b. 1961, has at least 17 albums since 1989, notably with Dutch mainstream label Criss Cross, but this is the first I've heard. Sheppard only has four albums (since 1991), but has a long side-credit list -- AMG's credits list runs 222 lines, lots of singers (including Rod Stewart and Linda Ronstadt) -- another mainstream player, always a plus. B+(***)

Annie Kozuch: Mostly Jobim (2013, self-released): Singer, does some acting but nothing I've seen or heard of; second album. Only song not by Jobim is "So Nice" -- a dead ringer. Band credits are buried in a small print paragraph, beyond my eyesight to dig out, but they get a little samba groove going with flutes but not too many, and she handles all the songs, some in Portuguese. Nice, indeed. B+(**)

Deborah Latz: Fig Tree (2011-12 [2013], June Moon Productions): Singer, third album, wrote three originals here, the rest standards (Berlin, Porter, Gershwin, Arlen, Mancini), a Jon Hendricks scat, an Alberta Hunter blues, the obligatory Jobim and a bonus samba by Ary Barroso and Luix Peixoto to show that she's not just following the template -- also a pretty Greek ballad that seems to be associated with Haris Alexiou. She moves through this range expertly, with nice touches from John Hart on guitar and Peter Apfelbaum on reeds. B+(*)

Anne LeBaron: 1, 2, 4, 3 (2002-08 [2010], Innova, 2CD): Harp player, b. 1953, AMG classifies her as classical (making it hard to sort her out), Discogs credits her with seven albums since 1979. These are improv sessions recorded with various other, no more than quartet and often less, including some reputable jazz names -- Wolfgang Fuchs, Georg Graewe, Leroy Jenkins, John Lindberg, Torsten Müller, Paul Rutherford -- and others I don't recognize, like the trio with Kiku Day on shakuhachi and Konoko Nishi on koto. Her harp is sometimes amplified, sometimes combined with live electronics. Interesting sounds, but they tend to fragment rather than cohere, making this rather erratic. B

Dave Liebman/Michael Stephans: Lineage (2010 [2013], Whaling City Sound): Sax and drums, respectively, with Liebman listing soprano ahead of tenor. Stephans has a previous album and side credits going back to 1986, mostly with big band leaders (Bob Florence, Bob Brookmeyer). Liebman has too many albums to count, and brings along long-time associates like Vic Juris (guitar) and Bobby Avey (keybs) as well as protégé Matt Vashlishan (alto sax, soprano sax, flute, EWI, clarinet). Front cover says "Rock and Pop Classics Revisited": two Beatles songs, Stevie Wonder, Joni Mitchell, "Tequila", some surf rock, "Love Me Tender." I don't quite see the point -- it's not like they're either as clever or as cultivated as, say, the Lounge Lizards -- but it's not bad either (except, of course, for the utterly jazzphobic "Eleanor Rigby"). B+(*)

Steve Lindeman: The Day After Yesterday (2012 [2013], Jazz Hang): Credit continues: "with BYU Synthesis" -- Lindeman teaches at Brigham Young in Salt Lake City, so this is their big band, plus Lindeman on organ, some extra percussion and tuba, and a Kelly Eisenhour vocal. First album. All pieces by Lindeman, a veritable catalog of bad orchestral ideas -- although I did rather like the Latin piece ("I Remember"). C+

Rob Mazurek/Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble: The Space Between (2013, Delmark, CD+DVD): Mostly electronics, intriguing to start, with Mazurek's cornet as a counterpart, a text, then it builds up to something ungainly; bits of flute, piano, electric cavaquinho; another text. The DVD presents the same music with a video by Marianne M. Kim, mostly abstractions with bits of her dancing. Can't say as I enjoyed it, but the music is ambitious and adventurous. B+(*)

Michigan State University Professors of Jazz: Better Than Alright (2012 [2013], self-released, 2CD): I've run across several names here -- Etienne Charles (trumpet), Michael Dease (trombone), Rodney Whitaker (bass) -- but don't recall others -- Diego Rivera (sax), Reginald Thomas (piano), Perry Hughes (guitar), Randy Gelispie (drums). Compositions are split between Charles (4), Rivera (3), Whitaker (3), Thomas (2), plus one by "guest" Mardra Thomas (who sings two blues), and one cover. Hot solos, cohesive swing, really impeccable hard bop. B+(***)

Ben Monder: Hydra (2013, Sunnyside): Guitarist, seventh album since 1997, always seemed like a good rhythm side man but I never thought of him as fusion before. Basically, guitar-bass-drums meant to generate a strong flow. Where it gets, well, weird isn't the right word, more like unpleasant, is when he adds up to three vocalists, notably Theo Bleckmann. Only "Charlotte's Song" has lyrics, cribbed from E.B. White. B-

Chris Morrissey: North Hero (2013, Sunnyside): Electric bassist (should try to remember that come Downbeat poll time), second album, quartet: Mike Lewis (sax), Aaron Parks (piano), Mark Guiliana (drums). Lewis plays in a Minneapolis band called Happy Apple with Dave King, who produces here. Guiliana is a fair soundalike for King, Parks is a striking pianist in his own right, and Lewis is a double threat: a honker on the faster ones and a swooner on the ballads. Morrissey wrote both. A-

David Murray Infinity Quartet: Be My Monster Love (2012 [2013], Motéma): Paul Krugman likes to refer to Joseph Stiglitz as "an insanely great economist"; Murray, for much the same reason, is an insanely great tenor saxophonist: his solos here are monumental, taking off in flights of fancy that no one else can think of much less do. Unfortunately, he decided to do songs here, or more precisely, of texts improvised into something song-like. Three of the texts come from Ishmael Reed, whose own deadpan authority made them work on Conjure. Here, Macy Gray sings the title piece in her own idiosyncratic mien, and Gregory Porter tries to croon the others, plus a bit by Abiodun Oyewode on the importance of children. The texts mean well, but the hymn about "making a joyful noise" is doubly ironic: if only Porter would shut up and let the sax man wail. B+(***)

Michael Pagán/Colorado Saxophone Quartet: 12 Preludes & Fugues (2009 [2010], Tapestry): Pagán is normally a pianist, with something like eight albums since 1995. Here he's the composer, arranger, and producer -- if the Colorado Saxophone Quartet had anything else to their name I'd file this under their name and move Pagán into the title, like I do with Bach and Mozart. The CSQ has five members, but on any given cut only four play, with the alto sax split betwen Andrew Stonerock and Kurtis Adams, Clare Church on baritone, and Pete Lewis and Tom Myer juggling tenor and soprano spots. Still, for all the jazz musicians, the classical forms win out in the end, which I don't consider a compliment. B

Matt Parker: Worlds Put Together (2012 [2013], Bynk): Tenor saxophonist, originally from Fort Lauderdale, came up through the Maynard Ferguson band (c. 2006), based in New York, first album. Basic band includes piano, guitar, bass, drums, and Julio Monterrey on alto sax, although he strips down on a couple not-quite-solo cuts and adds a party-load of vocals on another. All interesting, whether he's cooing a ballad or smashing up the joint. [Parker and pianist Jesse Elder also have a side project called Candy Shop Boys, which I'd like to hear something from.] A-

Gary Peacock/Marilyn Crispell: Azure (2011 [2013], ECM): Not sure why the bassist comes first, although he is older and more famous (especially given his long tenure with Keith Jarrett). The pianist has a slight edge in compositions, plus the louder and more traditionally leading instrument, although she plays so softly here that it's almost a wash. Crispell's name came first on two previous ECM meetings, but they were trios with the no-longer-available Paul Motian. The record could use some of his misdirection, but gets by with remarkable tastefulness. B+(**) [advance]

Preservation Hall Jazz Band: That's It! (2012 [2013], Legacy): Institutional band, founded by Allan Jaffe half a century ago, led by bass-and-tuba-player Ben Jaffe these days. While devoted to New Orleans trad jazz, they wrote new songs this time. The title cut is dynamite, and the gospel-blues that follows is solid enough, not that their vocalists will win any prizes. If they were all that good this would be a breakthrough, but they aren't. B+(**) [advance]

Carline Ray: Vocal Sides (2008-11 [2013], Carlcat): Singer, b. 1925; father played in James Reese Europe's band. She studied at Juilliard, playing piano and bass. She joined the International Sweethearts of Rhythm in 1946, sang in Erskine Hawkins' Orchestra, and eventually formed a trio with Edna Smith and Pauline Braddy. She married Luis Russell in 1956. No previous albums under her name, but I see a few widely scattered credits: Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Ruth Brown -- those three on bass -- and more recently vocals for David Berger and Catherine Russell (who took an interest and produced this album). Not a notable voice, but she can get to you, and while I don't care for the gospels, at least I've heard her vitriolic version of Williams' "Lazarus." B+(**)

RJ & the Assignment: The Stroke of Midnight (2013, self-released): Keyboard player from Chicago, based in Las Vegas, group rotates bassists and the record is chock full of guests, including singers Jocelyn Winston and Windy Kairigianes and "spoken word" rapper Khari Bowden. B

Daniel Rosenboom: Daniel Rosenboom's Book of Omens (2012 [2013], Nine Winds): Trumpet player, b. 1982, fifth album not counting a couple of "jazz-rock" groups he's been in (Plotz!, Dr. Mint), or side credits like the Industrial Jazz Group. Quintet with Vinny Golia (contra-alto clarinet, alto flute, tenor sax), guitar (Jake Vossier), bass (Tim Lefebvre), drums (Matt Mayhall). Golia is key, making a lot of noise for the trumpet to slice up. B+(***)

Laila Salins/Anne Sexton: Elevator Into the Sky (2012 [2013], Alectrona): Salins is a singer with a couple previous albums. Sexton is the poet, 1928-74. Salins wrote music for twelve Sexton poems, played by a group directed by pianist Jamie Reynolds and featuring Marty Ehrlich on clarinet, soprano and alto sax -- by far the best thing here. I've never read Sexton, and don't find the words much more intelligible sung than printed in the booklet, in microtype on a halftoned gray background. Was initially tempted to complain about her overarching (cognate: operatic) stylings but I found them growing on me. Guitarist Jim Matus is also notable. B+(**)

Reg Schwager: Duets (2002 [2011], Jazz From Rant): Guitarist, b. 1962, based in Toronto, had a 1985 album and since 2002 another handful. I wrote about his Trio Improvisations (with Michel Lambert) released this year and the label (or maybe the artist) sent me three older releases. These are all duets with bassists -- Don Thompson, Neil Swainson, Dave Young, Pat Collins. The bassists bring one or two songs each, there's a patch of original credits, and three standards. There's a sweet-toned delicacy to the guitar, and the bassists add depth and resonance. B+(***)

Reg Schwager/David Restivo: Arctic Passage (2012 [2013], Jazz From Rant): Guitar-piano duets, mostly the guitarist's tunes although Restivo's piano dominates the play, straightforward as it is. Two old-timey covers are especially notable: "Hard Times Come Around No More" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band." B+(**)

Reg Schwager Trio: Chromology (2010, Jazz From Rant): Guitarist, with Jon Maharaj on bass and Michel Lambert on drums. Eight Schwager originals, sandwiched between a trad opener ("Wayfaring Stranger") and closers from Stephen Foster and Victor Herbert. Schwager has a subtle but intriguing style, modestly and tastefully supported. B+(**)

Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: In the Spirit of Duke (2012 [2013], Spartacus): The names here, featured on the front cover, are tenor saxophonist extraordinaire Tommy Smith and pianist Brian Kellock -- their 2005 duet album, Symbiosis, remains one of my favorites. The big band is Smith's pet project. They've released a bracing version of Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (2009) and now this romp through Ellington's songbook, starting with "Black and Tan Fantasy" with three Ellington or Strayhorn arrangements of Edvard Grieg. Studious at first, they eventually loosen up, especially when they hit "Rockin' in Rhythm" and Smith doing the "wailing interval" between "Dimuendo in Blue" and "Crescendo in Blue." B+(***)

Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra: Jimmy Heath: The Endless Search (2010, Origin): Saxophonist Heath is both the guest star and the composer of the title suite and another piece, roughly the first half of the album, so his name could slide over to the artist side -- or dropped out if you follow the spine. SRJO, directed by drummer Clarence Acox and saxophonist Michael Brockman, dates back to 1995, and this is their third album. Features a long list of Seattle musicians, with Hadley Caliman, Jay Thomas, and Thomas Marriott among the better known. They're a fine ensemble, Heath is a worthy honoree, and when they close out their program with "Haitian Fight Song" and "Creole Love Call," well, can't go wrong with that. B+(**)

Kristin Slipp + Dov Manski: A Thousand Julys (2013, Sunnyside): Singer and keyboardist, both from Maine, studied at New England Conservatory, now based in Brooklyn. First reaction was that this may be some kind of joke: Manski's arrangements of very familiar standards are sketchy at best, and Slipp has trouble finding all the notes. Then it started growing on me, partly because so many of the songs are irresistible -- "I Get Along Without You Very Well," "You Go to My Head," "The Way You Look Tonight," "I Concentrate on You," "Just One of Those Things," "End of a Love Affair," opening and cosing takes of "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" -- and partly because something in her approach reminded me of Lisa Sokolov. Nowhere near that audacious, of course, and not all that unlikely this will turn plain annoying. [PS: Some further research: I have her Twins of El Dorado record at B-; also didn't like the one cut I sampled from The Adorables, but I don't have the record.] B+(**)

Chip Stephens Trio: Relevancy (2010 [2013], Capri): Pianist, fourth album since 1995, with Dennis Carroll on bass and Joel Spencer on drums. Three originals; covers from Carla Bley and Bill Evans on the ends, great American songbook in the middle. All done fast and boppy, so bright I can't find a minute to wonder whether it's really all that exceptional. B+(**)

The Summarily Dismissed: To Each! (2012 [2013], Laureniac Song): Ari Shagal describes herself as the "secret daughter" of Todd Rundgren and Laura Nyro (ok, maybe not literally, but she doesn't give us any more bio to go on). First album, original songs, would dub her a singer-songwriter but she only sings 4 (of 11), the other leads going to Fenma Faye (3), Matthew Lomeo (3), and Kenny Washington (1). Arrangements are jazzy, splashed with horns (Jessica Lurie is the only name I recognize), vibes, congas -- it's all a bit much to figure out, not that I mind listening to it. B+(*)

The Swallow Quintet: Into the Woodwork (2011 [2013], ECM): Electric bassist Steve Swallow, of course; 23rd album since 1975 (AMG; Discogs lists 44 and doesn't have this yet). All original compositions, although there are some quotes that can get cheesy. Quintet includes Chris Cheek (tenor sax), Carla Bley (organ), Steve Cardenas (guitar), and Jorge Rossy (drums). B+(**) [advance]

Sweet Talk: Glitterbomb (2011-12 [2013], Prom Night): First record from New York trio: Jake Henry (trumpet), Dustin Carlson (guitar), Devin Drobka (drums). Henry was b. in Toronto, studied at McGill (in Montreal), wound up in New York. Interesting free interplay at first, but it slows down and enters a less appealing drone phase that ends abruptly, probably because there's nothing left to do. B+(*) [advance] [bc]

The Michael Treni Big Band: Pop-Culture Blues (2013, self-released): Trombonist, originally from Maine, studied in Miami, taught there and at Berklee; went into tech business in 1985, left in 1996 and returned to music. Big band, old school verities, first song is called "One for Duke," rest have "Blues" somewhere in the title. B+(*)

Rick VanMatre: Lines Above (2013, Summit): Saxophonist, lists soprano before tenor; first album, backed by piano (Kim Pensyl), bass, drums, vibes on five cuts, percussion on one. Mostly postbop, occasionally cutting in something a bit more avant. B+(*)

Brahja Waldman's Quartet: Cosmic Brahjas/Closer to the Tones (2011-13 [2013], self-released, 2CD): Alto saxophonist, from upstate New York but based in Montreal. Second album (or second and third), the quartet on the first disc including piano (Shadrach Hankoff), bass, and drums; on the second, the pianist is replaced by tenor saxophonist Adam Kinner. Both discs are loose-free, soft-edged, interesting, with a few more interruptions on the first. B+(**)

Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet: Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin (2013, Patois): Bay area Trombonist, ninth album since 2000, moved quickly into Latin jazz and has served up a steady diet of it. Quintet includes piano, guitar, drums, and percussion, plus he draws on a long list of extras, featuring flute and violin on three songs. B+(*)

Mort Weiss: A Giant Step Out and Back (2013, SMS Jazz): Seventy-eight-year-old clarinet player, started late, says this will be his last album, evidently blaming the economy more than his age. Solo with what I assume are some overdubs, a few originals and a bunch of standards which he uses for the basis of free improvs -- a surprise in that he's always been a swing-to-bop man -- but his command of the clarinet doesn't leave you feeling the need for anything else. Some vocal something-or-other toward the end -- he referred to something like that elsewhere as a "brain fart," and that's as good a term as any. A-

The Whammies: Play the Music of Steve Lacy Vol. 2 (2013, Driff): Sextet, an interesting Dutch-Chicago-Boston hybrid: Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon), Pandelis Karayorgis (piano), Jeb Bishop (trombone), Mary Oliver (violin, viola), Nate McBride (bass), Han Bennink (drums). Eleven songs by Steve Lacy, plus one by Monk. First volume was terrific, and the new one, a new session (not leftovers from the first), carries on. A-

Mark Winkler: The Laura Nyro Project (2012 [2013], Cafe Pacific): Singer, has a dozen albums since 1985, typically writes much of his own material but here picks eleven Laura Nyro songs. I don't recall any of Nyro's albums (1947-97, her main run 1968-75), but she had a rep for combining pop-jazz-gospel-soul with much sensitivity and no humor. Winkler prefers cozy arrangements, using Bob Sheppard's sax sparely, switching him to flute toward the end, and closing with just Eric Reed on piano. B+(*)

Mike Wofford: It's Personal (2012 [2013], Capri): Pianist, b. 1938, about twenty albums since 1966. Solo, four originals (including one for Earl Hines), nine covers (including a medley of two songs named "Once in a Lifetime," including the Talking Heads one). B+(*)

Yellowjackets: A Rise in the Road (2013, Mack Avenue): Long-running group, 23rd album since 1981 with 17 Grammy nominations along the way. Only original member left is Russell Ferrante (piano, keybs), with Bob Mintzer (sax) and William Kennedy (drums) veterans, and Felix Pastorius (son of the legend) the newcomer on bass. They sound, at least here, more like hard bop than smooth jazz, except they keep piling ahead: no breaks, not many changes, little of interest other than their usual competency. B [advance]

From Rhapsody Streamnotes

Eliane Elias: I Thought About You: A Tribute to Chet Baker (2013, Concord): Standards program, fourteen songs, all most likely in Baker's songbook but no "My Funny Valentine." She's a terrific singer, an even better pianist, and these are all good songs, many great, so what's not to like? (Certainly not an occasional bossa nova lapse.) Ex-husband Randy Brecker supplies the trumpet, current hubby Marc Johnson plays bass. B+(**)

The Ex & Brass Unbound: Enormous Door (2013, Ex): Dutch group, around since 1980, originally figured for punk but guitarists Terrie Ex and Andy Moor dabble in jazz and have various African connections, especially with Ethiopian saxophonist Getatchew Mekurya. Arnold de Boer and drummer Katherina Bornefeld sing, and they've hooked up with the most avant horn section ever to grace an Afro-punk band: Roy Paci (trumpet), Wolter Wierbos (trombone), Ken Vandermark (clarinet, bari sax), Mats Gustafsson (more bari sax). Ends with a "Theme From Konono No. 2" that could use more garbage cans but makes do with the horns. A- [dl]

Zeena Parkins: The Adorables (2013, Cryptogramophone): Harp and accordion player, I know her mostly through Ellery Eskelin's Trio, but she has a couple dozen fringe avant records. Group includes Shayna Dunkelman (vibes, marimba, percussion) and Preshish Moments (live electronics and programming). Quirky rhythms, quirkier sounds, most impressive when aligned ("Sophia") but they probably view that as an accident. B+(**)

John Scofield: Überjam Deux (2013, Emarcy): Guitarist, close to 40 albums since 1977 including one called Überjam in 2002. That's a substantial career, but it's amusing to read reviews that place him in the "big three" of his generation (along with Frisell and Metheny). He's far less ambitious than either, far less accomplished than Frisell, and while he's probably produced more good records than Metheny, that's only because he found his groove and stuck with it. And that's all he has to offer here. B+(*)

Miguel Zenón & the Rhythm Collective: Oye!!! Live in Puerto Rico (2011 [2013], Miel Music): Alto saxophonist from Puerto Rico, so this is his home turf, with Aldemar Valentin (electric bass), Tony Escapa (drums), and Reynaldo De Jesus (percussion), and rhythm is indeed their thing. Opens with a surprising "Oye Como Va" then builds, the sax most impressive toward the end. Only thing with live albums is you have to wade through the bass and drums solos, but at least he didn't drag in a string quartet this time. B+(***)

 June, 2013 August, 2013