Rhapsody Streamnotes: July 30, 2014

Fewer new records, but more old ones, for one of the larger Rhapsody Streamnotes posts of the year. I've written about the various factors driving my old music searches, especially in Monday's "Music Week," so won't try to repeat that here. New records have been harder to find, so I jumped on three of this week's releases: Jenny Lewis, Shabazz Palaces, La Roux. Each came close, but only Lewis improved on the second, and not quite enough to crack the A-list.

Those with a better memory than me will recall that I folded Jazz Prospecting into Rhapsody Streamnotes back in January (and no sooner). I got confused when I expected and failed to find the William Parker box in the Rhapsody Streamnotes index, so I dusted off last year's best jazz list review and included it here. Then I realized my mistake when I looked for more omissions and found more than I thought possible. Still, I kept the revised Parker review, if for no reason than I had bumped the grade up.

Everything of note has been tweeted about -- the easiest way to follow my researches is to follow my twitter feed here. The tweets are then rolled up in my weekly Music Week posts, along with some comments. Then, sooner or later, Rhapsody Streamnotes appears, rolling it all up with blurbs not limitd to 140 characters.

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 July 8. Past reviews and more information are available here (5100 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Dee Alexander: Songs My Mother Loves (2014, Blujazz): Standards singer out of Chicago, started out in gospel but the concept here gives her a secular album with classic songs -- "As Long as You're Living," "Now or Never," "What a Difference a Day Makes," two takes of "Perdido." Mostly piano-bass-drums, but the bassist is Harrison Bankhead, and the guest horns Ari Brown, Oliver Lake, and Corey Wilkes. B+(**) [cd]

Al Basile: Swing n' Strings (2013 [2014], Sweetspot): Basically a light-toned blues singer with a touch of Mose Allison in his voice, also plays cornet, with more than ten records since 2001. The strings here turn out to be two guitars, Fred Bates and Bob Zuck (who also sings a couple). No drums, but a bit of sax. B+(**) [cd]

Gerald Beckett: The Messenger (2013 [2014], Summit): Flute player, from Beaumont TX, studied at UNT, has a couple albums. Artwork here is very dark, but the album sloshes along agreeably, the sax boppish and the flute buoyant, flittering even. B [cd]

Kris Berg & the Metroplexity Big Band: Time Management (2014, Summit/MAMA): Bassist-led big band, second album, drew some guest stars here including Phil Woods and Wayne Bergeron. B+(*) [cd]

Todd Bishop Group: Travelogue (2014, Origin): Drummer, has a couple previous albums, leads a quartet with Richard Cole (not Richie Cole) on saxes, bass clarinet, and flute; Jasnam Daya Singh (better known as Weber Iago) on piano and fender rhodes; and Chris Higgins on bass. Flighty postbop, don't quite see the point. B [cd]

Drew Ceccato/Adam Tinkle: Eidolon (2014, Edgetone): Sax duets, Ceccato playing tenor and baritone, Tinkle alto, free and prickly but rather tethered in. B+(*) [cd]

Alan Chan Jazz Orchestra: Shrimp Tale (2013 [2014], Crown Heights Audio Network): Pianist, based in Los Angeles, debut album featuring a 17-piece big band, not many names I recognize but sharp and contemporary, with a spoken word narrative that works. B+(*) [cd]

Dagens Ungdom: Dagens Ungdom (2014, Metronomicon Audio): Norwegian pop/rock group, debut album, recommended by Chris Monsen: "[their] sophisticated lyrical wit may not easily translate into English, but their melodies should to anyone attuned to preppy and jangly British or Kiwi guitarpop from the 80's." I wouldn't say jangly (let alone preppy, something I have no sense of), given the elegant flow. B+(***)

Jason Derulo: Talk Dirty (2014, Warner Brothers): He's always had a knack for singles hooks, finally stringing together a full album of them -- admittedly a short one (37:56), with none of eleven songs topping 3:53. A-

Drumheller: Sometimes Machine (2014, Barnyard): Canadian group, second album, best known member is drummer Nick Fraser (whose Towns & Villages I recommend), but alto saxophonist Brodie West, guitarist Eric Chenaux, trombonist Doug Tielli, and bassist Rob Clutton all contribute songs. Interesting free-ish work, but nothing really jumps out. B+(*) [cd]

Dub Thompson: 9 Songs (2013 [2014], Dead Oceans, EP): Two 19-year-olds from Agoura Hills (near LA), Matt Pulos and Evan Laffer, debut with an eight-track 29:36 mini-album, postmodern postpunk, loud and brash but at one point ("Dograces") dissolving into distant circus sounds. A-

The Equity & Social Justice Quartet: The Whisper of Flowers (2013 [2014], Edgetone): Bay Area group, led by bassist Markus Hunt, with Henry Hung (trumpet), David Boyce (sax), and and Timothy Orr (drums). Album benefits the Homeless Children's Network in San Francisco, not that there's a huge market payback for such understated, disciplined free jazz. B+(**) [cd]

Grenier/Archie Pelago: Grenier Meets Archie Pelago (2014, Melodic): Archie Pelago is a New York trio, classically trained, acoustic instruments (sax, trumpet, cello), providing the texture here for DJ Grenier's synth beats -- all they need to move the chamber music to the dancefloor. B+(***)

Paul Heaton & Jacqui Abbott: What Have We Become (2014, Virgin): Heaton was the voice of the Housemartins and Beautiful South, recording some of my favorite albums, like, ever, and Abbott added her voice to the latter. I haven't sussed out all the meanings here -- is the title track only about obesity? what does "lost him to a DIY" mean? why, exactly, must Phil Collins die? -- but I'm hooked enough on the music. A- [cd]

Jazzhole: Blue 72 (2014, Beave Music): Acid jazz duo, Warren Rosenstein and Marion Saunders, sixth album since 1995, a set of 1972 pop tunes stretched into a languid downtempo groove with vocals by Saunders and several women -- Michelle Lewis, Rosa Russ, Lindsey Webster. The bossa-fied "Rocket Man" is particularly attractive. B+(**) [cd]

Jua: Colors of Life (2014, Chocolate Chi Music): Jua Howard, first name Swahili for "sun," second album, tries to cross between neo-soul and jazz, the latter helped by pianist-producer Onaje Allen Gumbs. B- [cd]

Sherie Julianne: 10 Degrees South (2014, Azul Do Mar): Singer, from the Bay Area, first album, Brazilian standards, produced by pianist Marcos Silva, who knows what he's doing. B [cd]

Dave Kain: Raising Kain (2014, Stop Time): Guitarist, third album (after Citizen Kain and No Pain, No Kain), a trio with bass and drums. All originals, nice tone, plays inside but doesn't fall into any obvious schools or traps. Vic Juris praises him. Dom Minasi too. B+(**) [cd]

Søren Kjaergaard/Ben Street/Andrew Cyrille: Syvmileskridt (2014, ILK Music): Piano trio, fourth album for Danish pianist, his rhythm partners well known, not pushed very hard in a rather stately album -- almost a series of slow march pieces, though there is much more to it than that. B+(***) [bc]

La Dispute: Rooms of the House (2014, Vagrant): Considered a "post-hardcore" group, they do grind out heavy guitar riffs but they also make way for Jordan Dreyer's more spoken than sung (or screamed) vocals, in part because he has something worthwhile to say. B+(***)

La Roux: Trouble in Paradise (2014, Cherrytree/Interscope): Elly Jackson is the singer and co-writer of all nine songs, danceable, mostly about sex. B+(***)

Le1f: Hey (2014, Terrible/XL, EP): Underground rapper, Khalif Diouf, started on Greedhead (Das Racist) and is inching his way into a major label with this 5-track, 15:36 EP. Beats are bleepy and words tumble fast but more funny than furious, until an end which could be a pop hook but hasn't snagged anything yet. B+(**)

Jenny Lewis: The Voyager (2014, Warner Brothers): I'm a sucker for women with pop hooks and brains, and this, like everything she does, at least meets the minimal formal requirements. But looking back it's possible I overrated her three previous albums (including the one with Johnathan Rice but I'm not counting Rilo Kiley here), and nothing here much impressed me until "Love U Forever," soon followed by the mythifying title tune. Gained a bit on the second play. B+(***)

Paul Marinaro: Without a Song (2014, Myrtle): Crooner, throwback to the 1950s, in fact starting with an acetate of his father singing "That Old Black Magic" -- nostalgia in many ways. B+(*) [cd]

Terry Marshall: Arrival (2014, self-released): Pianist, from DC, wouldn't quite call this smooth jazz but it is worn down into something very ordinary. Several songs have vocals from Iva Ambush or Kendra Johnson, one of the latter a particularly stilted duet with DeCastro Brown. C+ [cd]

¡Mayday x Murs!: ¡Mursday! (2014, Strange Music): Third album for "genre-buster" hip-hop group Mayday!, first to feature underground rapper Murs, nearly every track jumping the grooves. Much more here than I can sort out at the last moment, which is when I found this. Could move up. A-

Mark Meadows: Somethin' Good (2014, self-released): Pianist, sings some, has a couple previous records. This one closer to neo-soul than smooth jazz, not that either side offers much. Covers include "Come Together" and "Groovin' High." B- [cd]

Roscoe Mitchell: Conversations II (2013 [2014], Wide Hive): A trio with Craig Taborn (piano) and Kikanju Baku (drums), like its predecessor a set of improvs where the saxophonist gets downright nasty, although not so often or so much as to spoil the adventure. B+(*)

Bob Mould: Beauty & Ruin (2014, Merge): I liked Hüsker Dü well enough back in the day -- my grades usually trail Christgau's by a notch -- but hated Sugar, totally ignored Mould's solo career, and haven't listened to any of it in well over a decade, so reports that this is a return to form didn't exactly send me rushing to check it out. But yeah, those reports are mostly right: that guitar echo/rattle is his sound and he does his best to sing under it, and some of the fast ones remind one of the allure, but breaks clear on occasion (e.g., "Let the Beauty Be") and that's more promising. B+(**)

William Parker: Wood Flute Songs: Anthology/Live 2006-2012 (2006-12 [2013], AUM Fidelity, 8CD): Got this box after reviewing three-fourths of it as digital releases -- that much appeared on Rhapsody -- then discovered much later that while I wrote this up for my year-end list I neglected it here. Let's focus on the two discs I missed: a septet live at the Vision Festival in 2009 with Billy Bang, Bobby Bradford, and James Spaulding joining Parker's stellar Quartet (Lewis Barnes, Rob Brown, and Hamid Drake -- they've been together since the extraordinary O'Neal's Porch in 2000); and a big band (William Parker Creation Ensemble) live shot at AMR Jazz Festival in Geneva in 2011. Both discs zing, as does, really, the rest of the box. The two early live sets weren't as consistent as I'd like (cf. 2005's Sound Unity), but their top spots are rarely equalled, and the last two discs -- an expansion of the group that cut Raining on the Moon and a revival of In Order to Survive with an outstanding performance by Cooper-Moore on piano -- just raise the bar. Music at this level deserves to go on and on and on. A [cd]

PJ Rasmussen: Another Adventure (2013 [2014], Third Freedom Music): Guitarist, second album, claims "inspiration from the classic Blue Note tradition," works with piano-bass-drums plus three horns, expanded to five on two cuts. Varied program, the last piece meditative and, well, I forget the rest -- a postbop mix, I think. B [cd]

Real Estate: Atlas (2014, Domino): Third album, easy-rolling tunefulness, the gentle lope touched up with a bit of guitar jangle. B+(**)

Ellynne Rey: A Little Bit of Moonlight (2013 [2014], self-released): Standards singer, first album, including a Jobim ("Dindi") and an English "Besame Mucho," a Monk mixed in with the Berlin and Styne. Band includes scrawny piano-bass-drums-percussion but the one thing you soon focus on is Gene Bertoncini's guitar, a sweet spot in an otherwise rather dry album. B [cd]

Rent Romus' Life's Blood Ensemble: Cimmerian Crossroads (2014, Edgetone): Plays alto and soprano sax, sometimes (judging from pictures) at the same time. Has close to ten records since 1995 -- the first I heard was last year's Truth Teller, and I'm turning into a fan. I wouldn't have ID'ed the fourth cut as Ornette Coleman because it sounds to me like what Charlie Parker should have sounded like if he was really as great as they say. (But Coleman was my first alto sax crush, so I'm easily swayed on the subject.) Romus' other alto master is Arthur Blythe, who wrote one piece and is subject of another. A- [cd]

Jochen Rueckert: We Make the Rules (2014, Whirlwind): Drummer, has a couple albums, this a quartet with Mark Turner (tenor sax), Lage Lund (guitar), and Matt Penman (bass). This sort of thing is becoming the new norm for postboppers, relying most on guitar with the sax for extra flavor. B+(**) [cd]

Amanda Ruzza/Mauricio Zottarelli: Glasses, No Glasses (2013 [2014], Pimenta Music): Guitar and drums; expecting that I was surprised by the keyboards, their prominence and how they center this fusion, and surprised again that the keyboardist is Leo Genovese, whose name (unlike the headliners) I recognize. B+(***) [cd]

Nicky Schrire: To the Spring (2013 [2014], self-released, EP): Singer, London-born, grew up in South Africa, based in New York, has a couple albums. This six-song EP runs 30:06, backed by Fabian Almazan on piano and Desmond White on double bass. All originals, a detectable nod to Joni Mitchell (although her website also mentions Tori Amos). B- [cd]

Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty (2014, Sub Pop): Hip-hop duo from Seattle on an alt-rock label, descriptions range from "left-field rap" to "Basquiat-styled broken boombox boom-bap" -- emphasis I would say on "broken" as this chugs-a-lug-on, a couple points so broken I doubt it can ever recover, but more often it remains interesting. B+(***)

Paul Shapiro: Shofarot Verses (2013 [2014], Tzadik): Saxophonist, plays alto/soprano/tenor here, also shofar, the ram's horn on the cover drawfing the alto, part of Tzadik's "Radical Jewish Culture" series although it will mostly appear to jaded r&b fans, featured in the comic, "The Book of Shapiro: A Tale of Rhythm & Jews." Not sure how that's packaged, but aside from the leader, the stars here are Adam Rudolph (frame drums, udu drum, shakers, bell) and Marc Ribot (guitar) -- the latter's most scorching performance to date. A [cdr]

Mitch Shiner and the Blooming Tones Big Band: Fly! (2014, Patois): Drummer, originally from Milwaukee, first album, an 18-piece big band, recorded in Bloomington, Indiana. Has a fondness for schmaltz standards, most obviously "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head." Docked for the last-track vocal. B- [cd]

Sia: 1000 Forms of Fear (2014, RCA): Sia Furler, has a voice similar to Shakira but not that Latin tinge -- Australia, which at least gives her a little distance from the gloom of so many of her Anglo contemporaries. B

Donna Singer: Destiny: Moment of Jazz (2014, Emerald Baby): Standards singer, has a couple previous albums including an Xmas thing I have but haven't bothered with. Nice voice, ably backed by the Doug Richards trio (Billy Alfred on piano, Richards on bass) with various special guests. Competent enough the songs decide: I'm a sucker for "Time After Time" and "Where or When," but not "Yesterday" let alone something called "I Believe I Can Fly." B [cd]

Vinnie Sperrazza: Apocryphal (2012 [2014], Loyal Label): Drummer ("et cetera"), has a handful of albums and many side credits, wrote everything here for a superb quartet: Loren Stillman (alto sax), Brendon Seabrook (guitar), Eivind Opsvik (bass). Can get sludgy or weepy at times, but the guitarist, in particular, is a powerhouse. B+(**) [cd]

Isabel Stover: Her Own Sweet World (2010 [2014], self-released): Standards singer, debut album, "Nature Boy" and "The Song Is You" are two of the better ones, with Taj Mahal an outlier. Dave Tidball's sax is a plus. B+(*) [cd]

Tilting: Holy Seven (2013 [2014], Barnyard): Montreal quartet led by bassist Nicolas Caloia, adopting as group name the group's first title. Jean Derome plays freewheeling baritone sax and bass flute to fit the bass tones, with Guillaume Dostater on piano and Isaiah Ceccarelli on drums. B+(***) [cd]

Peter Van Huffel/Michael Bates/Jeff Davis: Boom Crane (2013 [2014], Fresh Sound New Talent): Alto sax-bass-drums trio, the leader (from Canada, based in New York) also has a "punk-jazz" group called Gorilla Mask but achieves a comparable roughness here, the main difference being the really superb rhythm section here. A-

Anne Waldman: Jaguar Harmonics (2014, Fast Speaking Music): Poet, website lists 53 "books & pamphlets" going back to 1968 -- the highpoint of my interest in beat poetry although I don't recall her, a missed connection, as she would have impressed me back then. Website also mentions 18 audio recordings (but not this one), the last four with music by Ambrose Bye (her son), credited with "sounds and percussion" here. Striking music from cellist Ha-Yang Kim, plus free jazz horns by Daniel Carter and Devin Brahja Waldman (her nephew). A- [cd]

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Cabaret Voltaire: #7885 Electropunk to Technopop (1978-85 [2014], Mute): Dismissed by Christgau as "dadaist dance musicians," I got to them late and have scarcely scratched the surface, but I was blown away by a 2003 comp, The Original Sound Sound of Sheffield '83/'87. This, which favors shorter 7-inch versions over the 12-inchers that so impressed me, does much the same, the beats all but regimented but irresistible, with talkie vocals marking time. A-

Miles Davis: Miles at the Fillmore (Miles Davis 1970: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 3) (1970 [2014], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): The complete four sets from June 17-20 at Fillmore East, doubling the material previously released as Miles Davis at Fillmore: Live at Fillmore East ([1997], Columbia/Legacy, 2CD). This was one of the weakest of the five 2-CD "electric Miles" sets issued in 1997, but without comparison to the others expands nicely to full sets, and people tell me the sound is much improved (but they have CDs). The band had Steve Grossman on sax (tenor/soprano), Chick Corea on electric piano, Keith Jarrett on electric organ, Dave Holland on bass, Jack DeJohnette on drums, and Airto Moreira on percussion. Their fusion is still loose and funky, but the real attraction is the leader's knack for picking his spots. B+(***)

Nancy Harrow: Wild Women Don't Have the Blues/You Never Know (1960-62 [2014], Fresh Sound): Two LPs, one on Candid back by Buck Clayton's Jazz Stars, the other on Atlantic with Gary McFarland Orchestra and a quartet/quintet led by John Lewis. Clayton's group is indeed stellar, with Buddy Tate and Dickie Wells standouts, although the disclosure in Ida Cox's song is worth pondering: "wild women are the only kind that really get by." In this company Harrow sounds like Helen Humes, but she comes more into her own with McFarland's relatively nondescript backing. Harrow wasn't heard from again until 1979's Anything Goes, starting a string of 16 albums up to 2010. B+(***)
[Wild Women Don't Have the Blues (1960, Candid): A-; You Never Know (1962 [1963], Atlantic): B+(**)]

Craig Leon: Early Electronic Works: Nommos Visiting (1981-82 [2013], Aparte): Best known as the producer of rock albums, starting in the 1970s with eponymous LPs Ramones, Blondie, and Suicide along with Richard Hell & the Voidoids' Blank Generation, later Dwight Twilley, The Bangles, and the Go-Betweens' Tallulah, and much later classical albums, but in the early 1980s he released these two albums of electronic music -- too beatwise for "new music" but not snappy enough for techno, closest in spirit to the ambient exotica Jon Hassell was developing, but sui generis nonetheless. [Also available on 2LP as Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music Vol. 1: Nommos/Visiting (RVNG Intl.); Rhapsody omits one 15:20 track.] A-

Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Play Morricone 1 & 2: The Complete Recordings (2001-02 [2014], CAM Jazz, 2CD): A marvelous pianist who's made a study of all the major Italian film composers, building on Morricone's melodies without bothering with the rhythm or sonics of the composer's best known electronics -- puts this back into the whitewater of piano jazz. The trio, by the way, started long before and extends long after this peak recording. The second set may be a bit excessive, but the reissue is a deal. A-
[Play Morricone 1 (2001 [2002], CAM Jazz): A-; Play Morricone 2 (2002 [2004], CAM Jazz): B+(***)]

Old Music

George Adams/Don Pullen: Don't Lose Control (1979 [1980], Soul Note): Tenor sax and piano, joined Charles Mingus and drummer Dannie Richmond around 1973 and kept the group going after Mingus passed, subbing Cameron Brown at bass. Pullen was by far the more adventurous player. Adams had a gorgeous tone and enough speed to keep up, and he was a credible blues singer so you get some of that, and he lays out on Pullen's choppiest romp, then returns with fractured flute over percussion, more like Brown tapping his box than anything coming off the drum set. B+(***)

George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet: Earth Beams (1980, Timeless): Adams can growl and wail with anyone, but this really takes off four songs in with Pullen's stratospheric piano runs -- no one else has ever played piano like this. The song is "Saturday Nite in the Cosmos," and it loses little when Adams switches to flute, not that we don't appreciate the tenor's imminent return. Nothing else hits that peak, but how could it? A-

George Adams-Don Pullen Quartet: Life Line (1981, Timeless): Featuring Dannie Richmond (drums) and Cameron Brown (bass). Mixed bag of swing, postbop and avant, a couple blues with Adams singing, though nothing he aces. B+(*)

George Adams & Don Pullen: Melodic Excursions (1982, Timeless): Just a duo, the former's buttery tenor sax and some exceptional piano runs by the latter, but also a bit too much flute. B+(*)

George Adams-Dannie Richmond: Gentlemen's Agreement (1983, Soul Note): Feat. Jimmy Knepper (trombone), Hugh Lawson (piano), Mike Richmond (bass), same as their 1980 Hand to Hand. The tenor saxophonist is a more vigorous leader here, at least to start, but the record tails off a bit. B+(*)

George Adams/Don Pullen Quartet: Decisions (1984, Timeless): Ends with one of Adams' blues pieces, actually a song about marriage which he sings as a blues and the band swings around, happy for once to just play and not have to invent. B+(**)

The Chris Anderson Trio: Inverted Image/My Romance (1960-61 [2012], Fresh Sound): Two early trio albums for the Chicago pianist, and pretty much all he recorded until the 1990s -- see the album below with Charlie Haden, my introduction to him. All standards, everything above mid-tempo with a brisk vitality and playful touch, the minority ballads touching in various ways. Certainly no clue here why he didn't have a career on a par with, oh, Sonny Clark, or Ahmad Jamal. A-

Conrad Bauer: Hummelsummen (2002 [2003], Intakt): The trombonist with Zentralquartett (more below), has about twenty albums more/less under his own name (sometimes as Conny Bauer, or as Konrad Bauer, some with brother trombonist Johannes Bauer). This is solo, something few trombonists try: with few exceptions, the pieces feel thin, like practice, but not without interest. B+(**)

Conrad Bauer/Johannes Bauer: Bauer Bauer (1993 [1995], Intakt): Both brothers play trombone and have substantial careers, so a duo was inevitable sooner or later. Nothing especially rough: they tend to build harmonically, getting a richly layered sound but still wholly trombone. B+(**)

Conrad Bauer/Peter Kowald/Günter Sommer: Between Heaven and Earth (2001 [2003], Intakt): Kowald sets the tone here with his unmatched mastery of every odd sound one can squeeze out of the big bass fiddle, first pushing the trombonist to his own exploration, then opening up into more vigorously avant fare. A-

Ron Carter/Herbie Hancock/Tony Williams: Third Plane (1977 [1983], Milestone/OJC): Piano trio, a reunion of the rhythm section of Miles Davis' legendary 1960s quintet, playing "Stella by Starlight," three Carter tunes, one each by the others. The bass is mixed way up and is a thing of beauty, and the pianist is refreshing, playing off the lines instead of hijacking them. B+(***)

Duke Ellington and Ray Brown: This One's for Blanton (1972-73 [2000], Pablo/OJC): Bassist Jimmy Blanton joined Ellington's band in 1939, playing until he was sidelined with tuberculosis in 1941 (dead in 1942 at age 23). His tenure coincided with a golden age for Ellington, and his impact was such that the group was informally dubbed The Blanton-Webster Band -- the title of a 3-CD RCA set covering the period. These are piano-bass duets, most from the day, along with a 4-part "Fragmented Suite for Piano and Bass." B+(***)

Art Farmer: Out of the Past (1960-61 [1996], Chess): Rolls up two albums on Argo (Art and Perception, minus one track each), both quartets, one with Tommy Flanagan on piano, Harold Mabern on the other. Mostly ballads, the latter half Farmer's first all-flugelhorn album. B+(***)

Charlie Haden: Quartet West (1986 [1987], Verve): With Ernie Watts (tenor sax), Alan Broadbent (piano), and Billy Higgins (drums), the first of seven albums (with Lawrence Marable replacing Higgins), a series that grew increasingly sentimental and schmaltzy over time (not that I wasn't enchanted by Haunted Heart, with dubbed-in vocals by Billie Holiday, Jo Stafford, and Jeri Southern). This is closer to standard Haden, a mix of Ornette Coleman and his own tunes, a Charlie Parker, "Passion Flower," "My Foolish Heart." B+(**)

Charlie Haden/Chris Anderson: None but the Lonely Heart (1997, Naim): Bass-piano duets, Anderson (1926-2008) only lightly recorded over a long career -- two 1960-61 trios recently reissued on Fresh Sound, several 1997-98 solo and duo albums on Naim. Mostly standards, these are especially touching. A-

Fred Hersch: Fred Hersch Plays Rodgers & Hammerstein (1996, Nonesuch): Solo piano, the famous songs hewing none too close to the standard form, presumably the point. B+(***)

Earl Hines: Blues in Thirds (1965 [1989], Black Lion): Solo piano from one of the all-time greats, remarkable both how much he does and how easy he makes it look. Not much of a singer, though. A-

Earl Hines: One for My Baby (1974 [1995], Black Lion): Another superb solo outing, seven Harold Arlen tunes, stretching "I Gotta Right to Sing the Blues" out to 12:01 (without singing any). A-

Earl Hines: Plays Duke Ellington, Volume Two (1971-75 [1997], New World): Originally four LPs (Volume One was 2-CD, leaving just a little over an hour here), a major survey by a pianist who was a contemporary of Ellington's and in many ways a significant figure even earlier, but Hines kept up with the times and has a lot of fun playing circles around Duke's indelible melodies. B+(***)

Johnny Hodges/Earl "Fatha" Hines: Stride Right (1966, Verve): Starts with three Hines staples, followed by five prime pieces of Ellingtonia and something called "Tippin' In" -- nothing here to break a sweat on, but the principals handle the pieces as you'd expect, sublimely. As does guitarist Kenny Burrell, still several years away from his masterful Ellington Is Forever (1975). A-

New Orleans Rhythm Kings: The Complete Set: 1922-1925 (1922-25 [2001], Retrieval, 2CD): One of the first significant jazz groups to come out of New Orleans -- a white group, although some of their recordings were joined by pianist Jelly Roll Morton -- they were considerably more advanced than the better known Original Dixieland Jazz Band (from 1917), and the latter half of this historical milestone set really starts to jump. A

Don Pullen: Healing Force (1976, Black Saint): Solo piano, a marvelous player although this early he exhibits more muscle than finesse, and hadn't yet developed his knuckle-bruising crescendos. B+(**)

The Don Pullen Quintet: The Sixth Sense (1985, Black Saint): More advanced as a pianist, but he comes up with an oddly matched quintet, with Olu Dara on trumpet and Donald Harrison on alto sax, Fred Hopkins on bass and Bobby Battle on drums. After fluttering around, they go trad on the closer, but it only lasts 1:58. B

Art Tatum: Classic Early Solos (1934-1937) (1934-37 [1991], MCA): Not really a proponent of the stride school, just a guy who played piano with both hands so deftly you sometimes wondered if he had more. But here at least the two hands are clear, making this a fair place to start. B+(***)

Art Tatum: The Standard Sessions: 1935-1943 Transcriptions (1935-43 [1991], Music & Arts, 2CD): Sixty-one standards ranging from "Tiger Rag" through what's since become known as the Great American Songbook, given the Tatum treatment and compiled from radio shots -- great songs always help, and here give the wizard much to work with. A-

Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume One (1953 [1992], Pablo/OJC): One of Norman Granz's "get rich slow" (Robert Christgau's term) projects: from 1953-56 he corralled Tatum in a studio, getting him to record 119 solo pieces and a similar number of small group pieces, eventually released on 15 CDs (8 Solo Masterpieces, 7 Group Masterpieces). Tatum died in 1956 so effectively they're his last testament, blessed with the best sound quality of his career. It's impossible to casually sort through the solo discs, each studded with a few breathtaking performances, and a lot of the highly ornamental pianistics that only Tatum could perform. B+(***)

Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Two (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): Ho hum. B+(**)

Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Three (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): Hum ho. B+(***)

Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Six (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): Not at his most athletic, but sometimes he takes a song you know well and turns it inside out so many times it's totally reinvented, and that's what happens on "Night and Day" here. He does that sort of thing a lot, but it's easier to follow on songs you know well. Several here give this a slight edge for me, but his more devoted fans will tell you he does it all the time. A-

Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Seven (1953-55 [1992], Pablo/OJC): Not peak material, either in terms of songs or performance, but only when he slows down do you get a sense of how much thought he puts into his readings. B+(***)

Art Tatum: The Art Tatum Solo Masterpieces: Volume Eight (1953-56 [1992], Pablo/OJC): It's not clear to me how the eight volumes are organized, but this seems to be the only disc with pieces from the final August 1956 session. Nor do I know where the last two cuts ending in live applause come from, but this "Willow Weep for Me" is one of the series' highlights. B+(***)

Art Tatum: The Complete Pablo Solo Masterpieces (1953-56 [1991], Pablo, 7CD): Originally released on 13 LPs c. 1975, the 8 volumes available individually on CD run 15-16 songs each, but the box here saves a disc by squeezing in 18-21 songs per. I've been surprisingly resistant to the individual discs, not that I didn't recognize remarkable moments or the overall high level of consistency, but that's partly because none of them really stood out -- ok, Volume Six, barely; I'll also note that Volume Four and Volume Five were previously rated at B+. Usually when I review multi-disc sets, the grade sinks to the lowest common denominator, but as a whole this enterprise adds up to something slightly greater than its parts. It's not the pinnacle of Tatum's solo art, but it does give you a sense of how massive his accomplishment was. A-

The Cecil Taylor Quartet: Looking Ahead! (1958 [1990], Contemporary/OJC): Taylor's second album, after Jazz Advance, is a piano trio plus Earl Griffith's vibraphone to add that extra percussiveness. B+(***)

Cecil Taylor: Silent Tongues (1974, Arista/Freedom): Solo piano, something Taylor's done dozens of times and can, like Tatum, be impossible or pointless to sort out. This one was live at Montreux Jazz Festival, a big venue, and the sustained energy blows you away. Close reading of Penguin Guide, where they credit Taylor with more 4-star albums than anyone else, suggests that they prefer For Olim (1986) and The Tree of Life (1988) among the solos. I'd say this smokes them. A-

Cecil Taylor: Algonquin (1999 [2004], Bridge): A duo with Mat Maneri on violin, a dark and dapper cloak around Taylor's still-powerful pianistics. B+(***)

Trevor Watts Moiré Music Trio: Moire (1995, Intakt): British alto saxophonist, appears at many critical junctures in the avant-garde -- e.g., cut one of the great albums in 1969 (Amalgam's Prayer for Peace) -- but only has a spotty discography to show for it, including a large hole from 1981 to this date. With Colin McKenzie on bass guitar and Paapa J. Mensah (from Ghana) on drums, African percussion, and occasionally vocals, Watts rides the riddims looking for patterns, mixing a fair amount of soprano sax into the complex weave. A-

Trevor Watts: The Deep Blue (2008 [2009], Jazzwerkstatt): Solo, but not just alto and soprano sax: Watts has dubbed in keyboard and percussion tracks, so he winds up playing with himself, a formula John Surman developed much earlier. The difference is that Watts' fascination with African rhythms make this a much livelier outing, upbeat and enchanting, and while at first it seems a bit pat, like another point of view might help, the backing is remarkably vivid, and the sax profound. A-

Zentralquartett [Conrad Bauer/Ulrich Gumpert/Ernest-Ludwig Petrowsky/Günter Sommer]: Zentralquartett (1990 [2001], Intakt): Trombone, piano, alto saxophone/clarinet/flute, and drums, the same group previously recorded as Synopsis (1974-77) and Günter Sommer et Trois Vieux Amis (1984), but have since adopted this album title as their group name, and it should be applied here too. Bauer is central here, but not enough of a virtuoso to pull off anything especially remarkable, not that the others don't have interesting ideas to thrash about. B+(***)

Zentralquartett: Plié (1994, Intakt): Trombone, drums, piano, alto sax -- the trombone central for the depth of vamps and riffs and so much resonance they can dispense with a bass, in turn allowing the alto to spend much time in the stratosphere. The pianist aspires to Monkishness, but he can also kick up a fairly convincing boogie woogie. Quite extraordinary when it all comes together. A

Zentralquartett: Careless Love (1997 [1998], Intakt): A maturing group, evoking chaos one minute then dropping into something slow and semi-minimalist with African overtones ("Fünf Andere Miniaturen"), starting the W.C. Handy title cover at a crawl then opening up the brass at something more like a fox trot. Each musician gets his due, and they all add up to an exceptional group. A-

Zentralquartett/Synopsis: Auf Der Elbe Schwimmt Ein Rosa Krokodil (1974 [2008], Intakt): FMP's 1976 release was credited to Synopsis, but same lineup so the reissue is credited as above. This is completely of its time in Europe's early avant-garde: discordant, harsh even, with Petrowsky's alto sax clearly in the lead, the others criss-crossing chaotically. Interesting, then on the final piece ("Mehr Aus Teutschen Landen") simply amazing -- credit Ulrich Gumpert for kickingout the jams. A-

Additional Consumer News:

Nothing above on the small group sessions Norman Granz organized for Art Tatum, subsequently collected in The Art Tatum Pablo Group Masterpieces (1954-56 [1991], Pablo, 6CD), because I previously graded all eight volumes separately. For the record, the grades:

  • Art Tatum/Benny Carter/Louis Bellson: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume One (1954 [1990], Pablo/OJC): A-
  • Art Tatum/Roy Eldridge/Larry Simmons/Alvin Stoller: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Two (1955 [1990], Pablo/OJC): A
  • Art Tatum/Lionel Hampton/Buddy Rich: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Three (1955 [1990], Pablo/OJC): A-
  • Art Tatum/Lionel Hampton/Buddy Rich: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Four (1955 [1990], Pablo/OJC): B+
  • Art Tatum/Harry "Sweets" Edison/Lionel Hampton/Barney Kessel/Red Callender/Buddy Rich: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Five (1955 [1990], Pablo/OJC): B+
  • Art Tatum/Red Callender/Jo Jones: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Six (1956 [1990], Pablo/OJC): A-
  • Art Tatum/Buddy DeFranco/Red Callender/Bill Douglass: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Seven (1956 [1990], Pablo/OJC): A
  • Art Tatum/Ben Webster/Red Callender/Bill Douglass: The Tatum Group Masterpieces, Volume Eight (1956 [1990], Pablo/OJC): A+

I haven't reviewed The Complete Pablo Group Masterpieces, but I suspect that the individual volumes are better in that they keep the sessions separate, whereas to squeeze everything into six discs required splitting the sessions up, so each disc gives you part of one and part of another.


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

  • [cd] based on physical cd
  • [cdr] based on an advance or promo cd or cdr
  • [bc] available at bandcamp.com
  • [sc] available at soundcloud.com
  • [os] some other stream source
  • [dl] something I was able to download from the web; may be freely available, may be a bootleg someone made available, or may be a publicist promo