Rhapsody Streamnotes: February 12, 2014

The first (and probably the last) installment for February. New records remain spotty, meanwhile I'm finding lots of old ones to recommend. Just to review, records that previously would have gone into Jazz Prospecting or Recycled Goods wind up here. The former are tailing off, but make up the majority of the new records I've heard this year.

I might as well announce here that I did a major update to the Robert Christgau website tonight. The CG database is now up to date, and the recent articles I'm aware of at least have stubs. Also a few new old articles.

These are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Rhapsody. They are snap judgments based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (4414 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Actress: Ghettoville (2014, Ninja Tune): This suggests that an electronica artist can differentiate albums by coming up with successively stranger samples, but also that the more you do so, the more you are likely to come up with something unpleasant. B+(*)

Eddie Allen: Push (2013 [2014], Edjallen Music): Trumpet player, from Milwaukee, handful of albums, I tend to think of him as a mainstream player but he started with AACM before he joined Mongo Santamaria and, later, Rabih Abou-Khalil. Septet with three horns and two keyboard players, sound up front, with a touch of funk. B+(**) [cd]

Scott H. Biram: Nothin' but Blood (2014, Bloodshot): A Texan with a half-dozen albums, wrote most of his songs but covers Mance Lipscomb, Willie Dixon, Doc Watson, and "John the Revelator" and seems closest to the blues, especially turning on his exaggerated growl. B+(***)

Lena Bloch: Feathery (2012 [2014], Thirteenth Note): Tenor saxophonist, from Moscow, emigrated to Israel in 1990, studied in Germany and Canada and wound up in the US, recording her debut in NJ. Quartet with Dave Miller (guitar), Cameron Brown (bass), and Billy Mintz (drums), each contributing a song. Postbop tone, wouldn't call it "feathery" but it sinks into the aether, occasionally spitting out something reminding you to listen. B+(***) [cd]

John Brown: Quiet Time (2007 [2014], Brown Boulevard): Officially a Valentine's Day release although the back cover says 2012 -- don't know if that makes this a reissue. Bassist, leads a quintet with Ray Codrington (trumpet), Brian Miller (sax), Gabe Evens (piano), and Adonis Rose (drums) through some slow, romantic ones, including an original each by Brown and Evens. B+(**) [cd]

Steve Cardenas: Melody in a Dream (2012 [2014], Sunnyside): Mild-mannered guitarist, fond of long lines and mindful of the groove -- AMG groups him under Metheny and Scofield, but I've always considered him part of the Montgomery school, not that you'll find a contradiction there. Thomas Morgan and Joey Baron are thoughtful trio-mates, and Shane Endsley is a plus on trumpet. B+(*) [cd]

Cities Aviv: Come to Life (2014, Young One): Gavin Mays, from Memphis, more of a beat crafter than a lyricist, giving him a dense and arcane flow. B+(*)

The Wayne Escoffery Quintet: Live at Firehouse 12 (2013 [2014], Sunnyside): Hard-charging tenor saxophonist, more than a handful of albums since 2001. Quintet includes two keyboard players: Orrin Evans on acoustic, Rachel Z on the toys. Escoffery runs hot and cold. B+(*) [cd]

Hard Working Americans: Hard Working Americans (2014, Melvin/Thirty Tigers): I'm not impressed enough by Dave Schools, Neal Casal, Chad Staehly, or Duane Trucks to call this a supergroup, or even to hear it as something other than a throwaway covers album by instantly recognizable lead singer Todd Snider. B+(***)

Jon Irabagon/Mark Helias/Barry Altschul: It Takes All Kinds (2013 [2014], Irabbagast/Jazzwerkstatt): Tenor sax trio, as was Altschul's The 3dom Factor last year (only with a different bassist), or for that matter Irabagon's Foxy (yet another bassist). This is a bit more scattershot than the others. B+(***) [cd]

Kidd Jordan/Alvin Fielder/Peter Kowald: Trio and Duo in New Orleans (2002-05 [2013], NoBusiness, 2CD): Avant tenor sax player, both from and based in New Orleans, looks like he recorded once in 1983 with the Improvisational Arts Quintet, but his career didn't pick up until he turned 65 in 2000. Since then he's become famous enough he got a cameo in Tremé -- when he shows up with Donald Harrison at a private after hours conclave, the trad trombonist character says something like, "ut-oh, the serious guys have arrived." Drummer Alvin Fielder was in that 1983 group and plays on both discs here, with the trio disc adding bassist Peter Kowald, who does a lot to soften the rough edges -- a plus, but the duo disc sharpens them, and that works too. A- [cd]

Daunik Lazro/Joëlle Léandre: Hasparren (2011 [2013], NoBusiness): Baritone sax and bass duets, nothing rushed, and not as bottom-heavy as you'd expect, what with all the reaching for novel sounds, separated by satisfied drones. B+(***) [cd]

The John Lurie National Orchestra: The Invention of Animals (1993-94 [2014], Amulet): Lurie plays soprano and alto sax and is best known for his work in the Lounge Lizards. This isn't much of an orchestra -- just Calvin Weston on drums and Billy Martin on percussion -- and appears to be old work, some live, some studio outtakes, seven cuts including the 17:40 title piece. B+(***)

Eleni Mandell: Let's Fly a Kite (2014, Yep Roc): Something innocuous to listen to on the "way to the protest march on the mall." B+(*)

Parker Millsap: Parker Millsap (2014, Okrahoma): Singer-songwriter from Oklahoma, likes red dirt and Jesus, which is to say he likes Oklahoma more than I do -- in fact, the most memorable line here is "Oklahoma's hotter than hell but it's better than Texas." Sometimes sounds so much like Guy Clark or John Prine you realize he isn't, but maybe he could be. B+(**)

Ian O'Beirne: Glasswork (2013 [2014], self-released): Saxophonist (alto and tenor here, although the hype sheet pictures him with a bari), based in Philadelphia, first album, backed by guitar, Fender Rhodes, bass, and drums. Has a nice tone, and keeps the horn out front for a pleasant, unassuming album. B+(*) [cd]

Eric Paslay: Eric Paslay (2014, Capitol Nashville): Country singer-songwriter from Texas, hype talks about how he studied the music business at Middle Tennesse State University and parlayed his songwriting (he shares credits on all but one song here) prowess into a shot at a traditionally overproduced album -- just like on Nashville except we're spared the idiot romance subplot. Sound is so sureshot it's hard to complain, except when the songs get as bad as "Good With Wine." B

Amy Ray: Goodnight Tender (2014, Daemon): One of the Indigo Girls goes for a country-folk record and gets it pretty close to right. B+(***)

Rudy Royston: 303 (2013 [2014], Greenleaf Music): Drummer, lately of the Dave Douglas Quintet, a connection he parlayed into this debut album. He wrote all but two songs, getting a bit fancy with piano and guitar, two bassists, and two horns. The softer mood stuff feels a bit slick, but no complaints when Jon Irabagon busts open a solo, unless he accidentally picks up a flute. B+(**) [cdr]

Herb Silverstein: Monday Morning (2013 [2014], self-released): Pianist, also an MD; not sure how many records he has -- website shows a dozen but he's played with his name [Dr. HS; HS, MD; HS (Doc)] enough to throw off AMG, and I'm not sure all dozen are properly attributed to him. Subtitled "10 Original Tunes." Quintet, no one I've heard I've heard of (sax, guitar, bass, drums), although saxman Jeff Rupert is a plus. B+(*) [cd]

Snowbird: Moon (2014, Bella Union, 2CD): Simon Raymonde, formerly of Cocteau Twins, with singer Stephanie Dosen, make something variously called dream pop (probably because the pop isn't real) or ambient pop (because it isn't pop enough to register). On the other hand, as it runs on and on (and into a second disc of RX Gibbs remixes) the ambience doesn't turn tiresome, so maybe there's something to it after all. B

John Stein & the Mingotan Project: Emotion (2013 [2014], Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, has a dozen albums since 1995, meets up here with an Argentine tango group led by drummer Matias Mingote German, including accordion, flutes, and bass. B+(**) [cd]

Helen Sung: Anthem for a New Day (2013 [2014], Concord Jazz): Pianist, from Houston, sixth album since 2004, expansive postbop with Ingrid Jensen on trumpet and Seamus Blake on tenor/soprano sax, some extra percussion, and several guest spots. B+(*)

Camille Thurman: Origins (2013 [2014], Hot Tone Music): Tenor saxophonist, also plays flute and sings. There is a theory, and some evidence to back it up, that vocals are the way for jazz artists to break through to a larger audience -- notably Esperanza Spalding, or I could just note George Benson, and I'll add that smooth jazzers almost invariably throw down a vocal track as radio bait. Thurman has several vocals here, pleasant but not especially interesting, amid more substantial instrumental tracks, also pleasing. B+(*) [cd]

Adam Unsworth/Byron Olson/John Vanore: Balance (2009-11 [2014], Acoustical Concepts): Unsworth plays French horn, Vanore trumpet and flugelhorn, and the group includes tenor sax, piano (Bill Mays), bass, and drums. Olson arranged and conducted two orchestras -- strings, flute, clarinet, bassoon, one had oboe and vibes. I wouldn't have bothered with the strings although they're not awful, more busy background. B+(*) [cd]

Young Fathers: Tape Two (2013, Anticon, EP): Scottish hip-hop trio, two African-born, rap some, sing some, beats grime and/or trip-hop. Seven cuts, 20:40. B+(**)

Young Fathers: Dead (2014, Anticon): Not much longer than the previous EPS, only 33:37 from 11 cuts. The increase is mostly doom and gloom -- not enough beat for hip-hop, let alone wordplay. B+(*)

Old Music: Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Gene Ammons: The Happy Blues (1956 [1991], Prestige/OJC): Son of the great boogie woogie pianist, Ammons pushed no boundaries but may have possessed the most readily identifiable tenor sax sound of anyone who emerged in the 1950s (Coltrane and Rollins included, but maybe not Ayler). Early jam session with Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Duke Jordan, Candido, bass, and drums. B+(***)

Gene Ammons All Stars: Jammin' With Gene (1956 [1986], Prestige/OJC): Names on cover: Don Byrd, Jackie McLean, Art Farmer, Doug Watkins, Art Taylor, Mal Waldron. Three cuts, shortest 10:00, mostly blues, ample space for everyone but I keep hoping for the leader. B+(**)

Gene Ammons: Funky (1957 [1986], Prestige/OJC): The septet has loads of talent -- Art Farmer, Jackie McLean, Mal Waldron, Kenny Burrell -- but none pushes it hard nor gets out of the leader's way, so you get long jams with moments but not a lot of momentum. B+(*)

Gene Ammons' All Stars: The Big Sound (1958 [1991], Prestige/OJC): Four jam tracks with Jerome Richardson on flute; two also have Pepper Adams on bari sax, and one of those adds John Coltrane on alto and Paul Quinichette on tenor sax -- those are the cover names, with Mal Waldron, George Joyner, and Art Taylor for rhythm. I wouldn't call that such a "big sound" especially at a time when Basie was going atomic. The most conspicuous instrument is the flute. B+(*)

Gene Ammons and His All Stars: Groove Blues (1958 [1992], Prestige/OJC): Same day session at The Big Sound, same stars split up over four tracks: Adams (bari: 2); Coltrane (alto: 3); Quinichette (tenor: 2); Richardson (flute: 3). Still, it is Ammons himself who provides the best moments, especially when the guests clear out and the pace slows down on the closer. B+(**)

Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt: Boss Tenors: Straight Ahead From Chicago August 1961 (1961 [1992], Verve): Coming shortly after Boss Tenor -- possibly Ammons' greatest album -- this adds a second tenor sax and doubles down. Stitt always enjoyed a good scrap, but Ammons is too genteel for that, so they just cuddle up around some blues. B+(***)

Gene Ammons/Sonny Stitt: Boss Tenors in Orbit! (1962 [2002], Verve): The second of many meetups between the saxmen -- a 1973 date released as God Bless Jug and Sonny: Live at the Left Bank is a personal favorite -- is jump-started by Don Patterson's organ, but by midway the two saxes are so deftly intertwined that the band ceases to matter, and they keep getting better through 9:58 of "Bye Bye Blackbird." A-

Gene Ammons: Angel Eyes (1960-62 [1998], Prestige/OJC): Cobbled together from two earlier sessions while Ammons was in jail (1962-69) for narcotics: one with Johnny Smith on organ and Frank Wess on tenor sax and (mostly) flute, the other a quartet with Mal Waldron. The ballads are the high points, of course, but so is the upbeat "Water Jug." B+(**)

Bix Beiderbecke: Volume 2: At the Jazz Band Ball (1927-28 [1990], Columbia): Cornet player from Iowa, joined the Wolverines in 1923, moved on to orchestras led by Jean Goldkette, Frank Trumbauer, Paul Whiteman, and others before he died, age 28, in 1931. This is the second of two volumes collecting various sides from the middle of his career, only 4 (of 23) originally credited to Bix Beiderbecke & His Gang. I've never been clear what it is that makes Beiderbecke the star here -- his solos are nowhere near as dominant as Louis Armstrong's were in the day -- but I also can't deny how attractive this jumpy, bouncy music is. Roughly on par with Volume 1, although it lacks anything as perfect as "Singing the Blues." A-

John Coltrane/Paul Quinichette: Cattin' With Coltrane and Quinichette (1957 [1990], Prestige/OJC): The latter was a tenor saxophonist who worked so hard to adopt Lester Young's style he was nicknamed Vice-Prez. This was originally attributed to the Paul Quinichette-John Coltrane Quintet -- the first Prestige LP under Coltrane's name was recorded two weeks later, but several earlier efforts have been re-credited. Coltrane adds a lot of heft to Quinichette's airy tone, and pianist Mal Waldron ties it all up neatly. B+(***)

John Coltrane: Coltrane/Prestige 7105 (1957 [1987], Prestige/OJC): First proper album for Coltrane -- usually just known by his name but the label/ID are prominent on the cover -- starts with a sextet anchored by bari saxist Sahib Shihab, then a gorgeous duet with piano, a quartet with Red Garland, more sextet (or quintet when Shihab drops out). Prestige seems to have thought of Coltrane has just a super-sideman, so his debut gives you lots of looks and lets him struggle for unity. B+(***)

John Coltrane With the Red Garland Trio: Traneing In (1957 [1987], Prestige/OJC): Art Taylor is the drummer, otherwise this would be the Miles Davis Quintet minus trumpet. The leader is remarkably poised on ballads, and barrels through the fast ones. B+(***)

Miles Davis: Miles Davis and Horns (1951-53 [1989], Prestige/OJC): Early session with Al Cohn and Zoot Sims (tenor sax) and Sonny Truitt (trombone); second with Sonny Rollins and Benny Green. The horns aren't as intrusive as I expected, nor does Davis particularly need the help. Rather, the title discloses that these sets are a bit low in energy and imagination. B+(*)

Miles Davis: Blue Haze (1953-54 [1988], Prestige/OJC): Compilation of session scraps assembled in 1956 when Davis left Prestige for Columbia. I've noted before that in the early days of bebop there were only three competent drummers, and they're all here: Kenny Clarke, Art Blakey, and Max Roach. The pianists are Horace Silver, John Lewis, and Charles Mingus. Percy Heath plays bass, and the only other horn is Davey Schildkraut's alto, just one track. Nothing fancy, but this winds up being a neat example of Davis' early craft. B+(***)

Miles Davis: Bags Groove (1954 [2008], Prestige/RVG Remasters): Expanded with two alternate takes: 20:40 of Milt Jackson and Thelonious Monk on the title track, the rest with Sonny Rollins and Horace Silver, including three famous Rollins tunes that couldn't have been very old at the time ("Airegin," "Oleo," "Doxy"). Early stuff: the only guys here who've hit their stride are Percy Heath and Kenny Clarke, but simple as it is, this is pretty engaging. A-

Miles Davis All Stars: Walkin' (1954 [1986], Prestige/OJC): With Horace Silver, Percy Heath, and Kenny Clarke, plus: Lucky Thompson and JJ Johnson on the A-side, Davey Schildkraut on the B -- not really a star but he has a nice run and Davis ups his game to close. B+(***)

Miles Davis: Blue Moods (1955 [1990], Debut/OJC): A short one (4 cuts, 26:40) on bassist Charles Mingus' label, with Britt Woodman (trombone), Teddy Charles (vibes), and Elvin Jones (drums). Two takeaways: one is that Mingus is much more intrusive, and much more interesting, than other bassists; the other is that Davis could have had a future in ballads. Still, this is too slight to bother with. B

Miles Davis and Milt Jackson: Quintet/Sextet (1956 [1989], Prestige/OJC): Two tracks each, short at 6:35-8:15, the delta between 5 and 6 is Jackie McLean on alto sax (playing his own songs). Nice work by all, not least Ray Bryant on piano, but nothing really stands out. B+(**)

Miles Davis: Miles Davis and the Modern Jazz Giants (1954-56 [1989], Prestige/OJC): Another album cobbled together after the fact (1959), combining four cuts (two takes of "The Man I Love") from a quintet with Thelonious Monk and Milt Jackson with a later "'Round Midnight" with a rather hoary tenor sax solo by John Coltrane. Only Jackson seems totally comfortable here. B+(*)

Eric Dolphy Quintet: Outward Bound (1960 [1987], New Jazz/OJC): First record as a leader, starting a brilliant streak that ended with his death a little more than four years later. He plays alto sax, bass clarinet, and flute, opposite Freddie Hubbard and backed by Jaki Byard, a live outing pushing all sorts of boundaries. A-

Eric Dolphy: Out There (1960 [1989], New Jazz/OJC): Only one horn, so Dolphy's reed roulette -- adding clarinet to his previous mix -- comes off as different things rather than various looks. The other novelty here is Ron Carter playing cello, contrast to George Duvivier's bass and a bit of chamber jazz. B+(**)

Eric Dolphy: Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot: Volume 2 (1961 [1992], Prestige/OJC): With Booker Little on trumpet, dead at 23 a few months later in 1961, plus Mal Waldron, Richard Davis, and Ed Blackwell, a very vital group although the two long pieces here have more dull spots than Volume 1. B+(**)

Eric Dolphy & Booker Little: Memorial Album: Recorded Live at the Five Spot (1961 [1989], Prestige/OJC): Two cuts, 16:29 and 14:40, recorded the same night as the two Eric Dolphy at the Five Spot volumes and released in 1964 shortly after Dolphy died, three years after Little passed. Some good spots here, but they wander a bit. B+(***)

Ray Draper Quintet: Tuba Sounds (1957 [2001], Prestige/OJC): Tuba player gets a rare session, and it's fun to hear him try to play bebop, but the "with" names on the album cover set the tone and pace -- Jackie McLean (alto sax) and Mal Waldron (piano) -- even "introducing Webster Young" (trumpet). Also, note that adding bass and drums adds up to a sextet. B+(**)

Tommy Flanagan/John Coltrane/Kenny Burrell/Idrees Sulieman: The Cats (1957 [1990], Prestige/OJC): With Doug Watkins and Louis Hayes, their names missing on the front cover, but that's fair if you consider this a revolving spotlight for soloists rather than a band. The four headliners handle their leads with aplomb -- especially the guitarist -- but those parts don't add up into more than the sum. B+(*)

Tommy Flanagan: Overseas (1957 [1999], Prestige/OJC): Piano trio with Wilbur Little and a terrific Elvin Jones, a fine example of his legendary erudition and touch. A-

Tommy Flanagan: The Tommy Flanagan Trio (1960 [1990], Prestige/OJC): Piano trio with Tommy Potter and Roy Haynes, originally released in Prestige's Moodsville series, a fact which dominates the artwork. Exceptionally measured even by Flanagan's standards, but I doubt that anyone has gotten more out of "You Go to My Head." B+(***)

Clancy Hayes: Swingin' Minstrel (1956-58 [1963], Good Time Jazz): Banjo-playing trad jazz singer, came up in Bob Scobey's Frisco Jazz Band, on one of his few headline albums, pieced together from sessions with tuba for depth and Ralph Sutton or Jess Stacy on piano. As for the minstrel bit, I don't hear any exaggerated effect -- just a lot of good time jazz. B+(**)

Booker Little: Booker Little and Friend (1961, Bethlehem): Title has an asterisk, and front cover refers that footnote to his trumpet -- I might have guessed Eric Dolphy, but he is nowhere to be found. Little died later that year at 23, and no one else in the well known band was more than three years older: Julian Priester, George Coleman, Don Friedman, Reggie Workman, Pete LaRoca. Remarkably advance harmonically, what we would call postbop now, which can be a sticking point for me, although rarely when the leader is blowing. This makes me recognize what a loss his death was, but hearing this generation of young players just after spending a lot of time with the 1953-56 Prestige "all stars" -- Monk, Davis, Rollins, Coltrane, Ammons, McLean, Silver, none really had it together at the time -- makes me wonder if the whole generation that started out c. 1960 wasn't wiped out by the jazz market crash of the 1970s. A-

Jack McDuff and Gene Ammons: Brother Jack Meets the Boss (1962 [1988], Prestige/OJC): Ammons started with organ players shortly before 1960 and found the soul jazz idiom they were developing fit him like a glove -- The Gene Ammons Story: Organ Combos, a 1977 2LP released on CD in 1992, adding tracks from Velvet Soul and Angel Eyes to Twistin' the Jug, is a good place to start, but there are a few others, including one led by Richard "Groove" Holmes (Groovin' With Jug) and this one under McDuff's name. B+(**)

Ken McIntyre/Eric Dolphy: Looking Ahead (1960 [1986], New Jazz/OJC): The former's name is larger and higher placed, so Dolphy's elevation appears to have been an afterthought, perhaps some marketer's? Both play alto sax and flute, often in unison so there isn't much contrast or distinction. B+(*)

Charles Mingus: The Charles Mingus Quartet + Max Roach (1955 [1990], Debut/OJC): With George Barrow (tenor sax), Eddie Bert (trombone), and Mal Waldron that makes five, although Roach only plays on 2 (of 6) tracks, Willie Jones taking over for the rest. Gives you a taste of where Mingus would go, but a very modest one. B

Oliver Nelson: Screamin' the Blues (1960 [1991], New Jazz/OJC): Best known as a big band arranger, and he hints at that here, juggling three horns -- Richard Williams on trumpet, Eric Dolphy on alto sax and bass clarinet, and himself on tenor and alto sax -- on a set of basic blues forms: all they have to do to sound great is wail, but they're more talented than that. A-

Oliver Nelson with Eric Dolphy: Straight Ahead (1961 [1989], New Jazz/OJC): Mixed messages here as Nelson seems to start heading into shifty postbop, but before long Dolphy blows right past him. B+(**)

Mel Powell: The Best Things in Life (1953-56 [1999], Vanguard): A pianist with Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, Powell cut a number of albums for Vanguard in the mid-1950s, and this is the first of two sampler compilations. Not sure of the credits, but Buck Clayton and Edmond Hall were in Powell's Septet, Ruby Braff played elsewhere. Wish I knew more. B+(***)

Mel Powell: It's Been So Long (1953-56 [1999], Vanguard): More from the pianist's mid-1950s Vanguard albums. I give it an edge because it starts off so strong but even when they peel back the horns and slow it down the piano is fun to follow. A-

Paul Quinichette/Shad Collins/Freddie Green/Walter Page/Jo Jones: For Basie (1957 [1990], Prestige/OJC): The tenor saxophonist bounced around big bands from Jay McShann's in 1942-44 to Count Basie's in 1952-53, a nice landing for a guy who grew up on Lester Young. Pianist Pierce was a frequent Basie sub, and the others were all Basie vets. B+(**)

Jimmy Smith: Groovin' at Small's Paradise (1957 [1999], Blue Note, 2CD): Early, an organ trio with Eddie McFadden on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums. The organ still feels clunky, especially on its own, but the fast guitar runs turn spots into quite a race. B+(**)

Jimmy Smith: Bashin': The Unpredictable Jimmy Smith (1962 [2007], Verve): Minor point, but the idea of doing completely different things on each side of an LP made more sense when albums had two sides, but on CD the four big band cuts fizzle out as the trio takes over. The big band has its moments, especially on "In a Mellotone," but has its rough spots too. As for the trio, Jimmy Warren never jumps out front, so Smith stays low key. B+(*)

Jimmy Smith & Wes Montgomery: Jimmy & Wes: The Dynamic Duo (1966 [1997], Verve): Oliver Nelson's big band arranging is jarring at first, and only when the band peels way back do the stars get a chance to shine -- which, of course, they do. B+(**)

Jimmy Smith and Wes Montgomery: Further Adventures of Jimmy and Wes (1966 [1993], Verve): Nominally a quartet (except for a couple stray big band tracks), but often intimate -- on "Maybe September" you wonder if Jimmy isn't trying to put Wes to sleep. B+(*)

Rex Stewart/Dicky Wells: Chatter Jazz (1959, RCA): Cornet and trombone, dubbed "the talkative horns" here, veterans of 1930s swing bands (Ellington and Basie, respectively, before which both played for Fletcher Henderson). They have a light touch here, almost comic as they swing through a set of standards. A-

Mal Waldron: Mal-1 (1956 [1991], Prestige/OJC): The pianist's first album as a leader, still tied close enough to bebop that one tune's called "Bud Study." Quintet with Idrees Sulieman on trumpet and Gigi Gryce on alto sax, a fine pairing that the pianist ties together neatly. A-

Mal Waldron: Mal/2 (1957 [1991], Prestige/OJC): Two sessions from April and May, both with John Coltrane on tenor sax, the former with Jackie McLean on alto, the latter with Sahib Shihab on alto and Idrees Sulieman on trumpet. The horns are all first rate, but the pianist is special. A-

Mal Waldron: Mal/3: Sounds (1958 [1992], Prestige/OJC): Kind of an odd duckling set with cello and flute joining trumpet (Art Farmer), bass, and drums. B+(*)

Mal Waldron: Mal/4: Trio (1958 [1995], New Jazz/OJC): Piano trio, with Addison Farmer on bass and Kenny Dennis on drums, neither heavyweights but Waldron is steady and impressive. A-

The Mal Waldron Trio: Impressions (1959 [1992], New Jazz/OJC): Another piano trio, with Addison Farmer on bass and Tootie Heath on drums, picks up the pace on a couple vamp pieces which may or may not be a plus, given how thoughtfully he plays on the slow ones. B+(***)

Mal Waldron: Update (1986 [1987], Soul Note): Solo piano, several standards like "A Night in Tunisia" and "You Are Getting to Be a Habit With Me," but also two long pieces relating to Cecil Taylor -- another example of Waldron's range. B+(**)

Mal Waldron Trio: Our Colline's a Treasure (1987 [1991], Soul Note): Piano trio, with Leonard Jones and Sangoma Everett. Whereas Waldron's use of horns -- either duos or in groups -- was rarely less than daring, his plain piano work is carefully constructed, subtle, and somewhat magical. B+(***)

Ben Webster/Don Byas: Ben Webster Meets Don Byas (1968 [1973], MPS): Late in the game for both tenor sax greats -- Byas died in 1972 at age 60 and Webster, only three years older, died the following year. Cut in Germany with Tete Montoliu on piano, perhaps the freshest player here, but the leaders are as recognizable as ever. B+(*)

Clarence Williams: Dreaming the Hours Away: The Columbia Recordings Volume One (1926-28 [1998], Frog): Ran away from home at 12 to join a minstrel show, landing in New Orleans where he learned to play piano, compose, and run various businesses, then moved on to Chicago and finally New York. His personnel revolved, including at some point or other nearly every notable musician coming out of New Orleans (his 1925 "Cakewalking Babies From Home" shows up in many Louis Armstrong best-ofs) -- the cover has a long list here including King Oliver and Bennie Moten, and singers Lucille Hegman, Lizzie Miles, Ethel Waters, and Eva Taylor. For all the variations, remarkably consistent and fun. A-

Clarence Williams: Gimme Blues: Washboard Bands 1926-29 (1926-29 [2011], Frog): This collects several washboard bands led by or featuring pianist Williams, including Dixie Washboard Band (14 cuts) and Blue Grass Footwarmers (5 cuts), most with Ed Allen on cornet and/or Bennie Morton on clarinet. They sound rougher than Williams' Jazz Kings, which may have been the point, and there are fewer vocals. B+(***)

Clarence Williams: Shake 'Em Up: The Vocalion, Brunswick, Victor, Paramount & Grey Gull Recordings (1927-29 [2000], Frog): Some washboard band tracks, several orchestras, a few piano solos, and the front cover adds some famous names -- Henry Allen, Buster Bailey, Coleman Hawkins -- to his standbys. A-

Clarence Williams: Whoop It Up: The Columbia Recordings Volume 2 (1929-31 [1998], Frog): Williams, especially in his Jazz Kings sides, continues to have a special feel for orchestrating small group classic jazz, but the cover list of names are a bit more obscure, with only Eva Taylor (aka Mrs. Williams) repeating among the vocalists. B+(***)

Mary Lou Williams: Zoning (1974 [1995], Smithsonian Folkways): One of the first really important women in jazz, starting out arranging for Andy Kirk's big swing band, and lasting far enough to duet with Cecil Taylor. These are mostly trio pieces, sharp bits of piano over a rumbling bass beat, remarkable. A-

Mary Lou Williams Trio: At Rick's Café Americain (1979 [1999], Storyville): With Milton Suggs and Drashear Khalid, two years before she died, an often dazzling set of standards material (including three Ellingtons), the sound a bit uneven and a couple flat spots the only downside. B+(***)

Lester Young, Roy Eldridge and Harry Edison: Laughin' to Keep From Cryin' (1958 [2000], Verve): One of the tenor saxophonist's last sessions (a year before he died), lifted by two swing trumpeters, Herb Ellis on guitar, and Hank Jones on piano. Nice record, although Young seems even more evanescent than usual, happy to lurk behind the trumpets. B+(**)


Records I looked for but didn't find on Rhapsody:


Everything streamed from Rhapsody, except as noted in brackets following the grade:

  • [cd] based on physical cd (but made most sense to review here)
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, or may be a promo deal