Rhapsody Streamnotes: November 22, 2014

Three weeks into November and enough to report. I'll probably do two more Streamnotes columns in December, one aimed at the post-season polls (Jazz Critics Poll ballot due December 7, don't know about Pazz & Jop but last year it was due December 24). I've started to get my ducks ordered in two currently unofficial draft files, one for jazz, the other non-jazz. Since the polls close before the year ends, it is customary to include post-Thanksgiving releases in the following year (and maybe some date discoveries from earlier in the year), but I haven't researched that part yet. I also caution you that the sorting is likely to change quite a bit. This is mostly because I don't spend much time during the year sorting the A-list. I just look for some approximate context and insert new records as I find them. (The problem was even worse below the A- level until I just decided to artist-alphabetize each grade niche.)

One thing I need some help on is the section in the year-end files that goes: "records I haven't heard estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them." I haven't made a serious pass through the Music Tracking 2014 file yet, which is my next step toward filling them out. I'll also start looking at some early year-end lists, but what I'd really like would be for readers to write in with their suggestions: ideally records not on my rated list (although I won't have much trouble weeding out the duplicates). I'm not going to keep track of who suggested what, drop names, or spoil your year-end lists (although I might be motivated to listen to something I wouldn't have gotten to anyway). But the quality of those lists would greatly benefit from your input. Thanks in advance.

I'm also thinking about starting to construct a metacritic file with year-end list data -- I'm not about to go back and collect the year's review grades, but I am interested in what an aggregate year-end list might look like. I'm also not dissuaded by the fact that the lists I recognize skew slightly toward my own tastes -- that is sort of the point. I still may not do this -- the fact that I haven't started is one piece of evidence, but the underlying technology intereste me as much as the data does, so there's a chance (and if I do it it'll be useful in projects going forward).

First thing to say about this column is that the total number of records isn't record breaking (106 vs. 109 for March 19, or to go back into 2013 (when I only posted once per month) there was November 30 (185), October 30 (139), December 29 (131), July 27 (116), and May 29 (107). But in the past I've almost always gotten large totals by piling up old records, whereas this column is very heavily skewed toward new records (92 of 106; the only larger new record count was November 30, 2013, with 100 of 185).

The old records were mostly accidents. Christgau featured Jinx Lennon in an Expert Witness column. Fred McDowell and Club Ska '67 were mentioned by EW fans on Facebook. Another fan likes a recent Ross Johnson compilation: couldn't find it, but settled for this one. I checked out Bette Midler's first live album after panning her new one: a Christgau A- but rather dated. I had Jerry Lee Lewis before Christgau wrote it up for EW, but went back and bumped up the grade a bit. (Christgau didn't bother with the new one, but it's an improvement over Mean Old Man. Christgau also skipped the new Parkay Quarts EP. I may have underrated the first one -- Tally All the Things That You Broke, what with my general disinterest in EPs -- but I doubt I've overrated the new one.)

With all the new records, I'm surprised that there isn't more to recommend (or recommend more heartily). I expect I'll have a few regrades next time as I try to shape up the year-end list.

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 October 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (5574 records).

New Releases (More or Less)

Greg Abate Quartet: Motif (2014, Whaling City Sound): Saxophonist, plays alto/soprano/baritone here (plus some flute), always seemed to look back to bebop as the golden age -- early 1990s albums include Bop City and Bop Lives!. Leads a superb mainstream quartet with piano-bass-drums -- no one I've heard of, but note Tim Ray the pianist. Fast, brilliant sound, the rare mainstream album that jumps at you. A- [cd]

Afro Latin Vintage Orchestra: Pulsion (2014, Ubiquity): Sometimes ALVO, based in California, led by Masta Conga, misnomers pretty much all around. Rather, they produce keyb-based electronica, dense and evocative, with trumpet and sax for expression -- reminiscent of electric Miles, though more of a production. B+(***)

Allison Au Quartet: The Sky Was Pale Blue, Then Grey (2012 [2014], self-released): Alto saxophonist from Toronto, debut album, leads a quartet with piano-bass-drums through some haunting postbop, with bits of spoken word. B+(**) [cd]

Omer Avital: New Song (2014, Motéma): Bassist, from Israel, has recorded quite a lot since he moved to New York. Standard quintet, with Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Joel Frahm on tenor sax, and Yonathan Avishai on piano. Mostly easy rhythms building up momentum toward groove. B+(*)

Azealia Banks: Broke With Expensive Taste (2014, Prospect Park): Twenty-something hip-hopper, had a breakout video a couple years ago ("212") which got her a record deal this album evidently lost. Fast tunes, the words rarely breaking the surface, sounds promising when they do. B+(***)

Batida: Dois (2014, Soundway): Angolan/Portuguese DJ Pedro Coquenăo's project, a mix of beats that suggest but don't quite belong to Africa, blips of modern electronica, and samples and raps of international hip-hop. B+(**)

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga: Cheek to Cheek (2014, Interscope): Fine Italian names, Anthony Benedetto (88) and Stefani Germanotta (28), rip through eleven "jazz classics" (or fifteen on the 44:28 "deluxe version"), promising a "modern twist" but falling back on the shlock orchestral and big band arrangements of Bennett's youth -- the flutes on "Nature Boy" are the low point. His voice is fine, hers relatively anonymous but spirited, good enough for the fast ones. B+(*)

Eric Bibb: Blues People (2014, Stony Plain): Takes his title from Amiri Baraka's book and uses it to recount folklore, his own soft-spoken style one aspect in what turns out to be a very mixed bag (probably with too many guests). B+(*)

Big Freedia: Just Be Free (2014, Queen Diva): Freddie Ross, from New Orleans, started as a backup singer for bounce artist Katey Red. Doesn't really rap here so much as spit out words fast enough for beats. Kind of one note, but different. B+(*)

Maggie Björklund: Shaken (2014, Bloodshot): Pedal steel guitarist/singer/songwriter, originally from Denmark, given to open plains and melancholy with an odd shimmer about it. B

Otis Brown III: The Thought of You (2014, Blue Note): Drummer, plays in Joe Lovano's Us Five group. First album, produced by Derrick Hodge with input from Robert Glasper, forces at Blue Note pushing for some sort of crossover breakthrough, which here involves guest vocals from Bilal, Gretchen Parlato, and Nikki Ross. None of those hit the spot, but saxophonist John Ellis helps, and trumpeter Keyon Harrold makes a strong impression. B

Chingari [Ranjit Barot, U Shrinivas, Etienne Mbappé]: Bombay Makossa (2014, Abstract Logix): Drums, electric mandolin, bass, the latter from Cameroon via Paris, the others from Mumbai. Fusion, gets by on groove, loses a bit with vocals. B+(*)

Chumped: Teenage Retirement (2014, Anchorless): Post-punk band fronted by Anika Pyle, who gives them an intelligible air, variously humane and exuberant -- and contagious, the sentiment echoed by the drums, lifting this well above the norm. A-

Gary Clark, Jr.: Live (2014, Warner Brothers, 2CD): Young bluesman from Texas, his 2011 EP made him look like a breakout star, but his 2012 debut album fell awful flat. This is a corrective, but it's still not clear why we should care. B+(*)

Nels Cline & Julian Lage: Room (2014, Mack Avenue): Two jazz guitarists, duets although I rarely hear more than one guitar at a time, producing a quiet, melodious intimacy I don't really identify with Cline. Lage is much younger (b. 1988 v. 1956), got a big push when he landed a major label deal at 21, and has shown a fondness for duos. B+(*) [cdr]

Freddy Cole: Singing the Blues (2014, High Note): An odd collection of songs, something like "The Ballad of the Sad Young Men" is certainly down and out but lacks resiliency, which is what turns the blues back into a source of strength. Like his brother, Cole tends to ease on through -- aided by saxophonist Harry Allen here. B+(**)

Alessandro Collina/Rodolfo Cervetto/Marc Peillon/Fabrizio Bosso: Michel on Air (2014, ITI): "Michel" is pianist Michel Petrucciani, who wrote all but two of eleven pieces -- the covers are from Ellington ("In a Sentimental Mood") and Strayhorn ("Take the 'A' Train"). Piano, drums, bass, and trumpet respectively -- the trumpet grabbing you from the start, piano sneaking up. B+(***)

Kevin Conlon/The Groove Rebellion: In Transit (2014, Blujazz): Bassist, also sings on most cuts, plays some keyboards, guitar, and percussion -- sort of a retro-crooner effect. The band, with Mark Secosh on sax, various guitarists and drummers (no keybs), and occasional extra percussion, moves along nicely but doesn't have any funk to fake, which I'll take to be a plus. B+(*)

Chick Corea Trio: Trilogy (2010-12 [2014], Concord, 3CD): No fusion, no scientology, just back to basics in a no nonsense, unconstrained piano trio with Christian McBride and Brian Blade. Runs 3:24:42, compiled from numerous shows scattered over three years and at least that many continents. Reminds you why people adored him in the first place, but not without the occasional wart -- err, "guest appearance." B+(***)

Tara Davidson: Duets (2014, Addo): Saxophonist, alto and soprano, in a series of duets with piano (Laila Biali, David Braid), guitar (David Occhipinti), bass (Andrew Downing), and other saxophonists (Mike Murley and Trevor Hogg). Scattered, but mostly free and often liberating. B+(**) [cd]

Michael Denhoff/Ulrich Phillipp/Jörg Fischer: Trio Improvisations for Campanula, Bass and Percussion (2014, Sporeprint, 2CD): Denhoff composed the pieces. His campanula is a bowed string instrument, similar in size to a cello but with extra tunable strings to provide more resonant harmonies. Effectively, the campanula melts into the bass, extending its range and complexity. B+(***) [cd]

Paul Dietrich Quintet: We Always Get There (2013 [2014], Blujazz): Trumpet player from Chicago, first album, quintet with tenor sax, piano, bass, drums. All originals except for a Björk cover, all very conventional postbop -- a cut or two above ordinary, with an exceptionally lovely close. B+(*) [cd]

Ani DiFranco: Allergic to Water (2014, Righteous Babe): Resettled in New Orleans from Buffalo, pregnant, as she explains, "I'm pretty much happy all the time," and she doesn't even try to make a point of it (unlike in her previous Which Side Are You On?). Good for her, but that doesn't leave much edge. B+(*)

Brian Eno/Karl Hyde: High Life (2014, Warp): Second album this year, but where Hyde seemed like a spare wheel on Someday World this feels much more integral. Riffing guitar replaces the ambient blips of yore, every bit as captivating but more substantial. A-

Ex Cops: Daggers (2014, Downtown): Second album featuring singer Amalie Bruun (ex-Minks), with more pop aura than I expected -- "Modern World" is a choice cut. B+(*)

Ex Hex: Rips (2014, Merge): Punkish trio led by Mary Timony, previously involved in bands like Helium and Wild Flag plus a few solo albums (one from 2005 titled Ex Hex). She doesn't have a lead voice like Wild Flag's Carrie Brownstein (which in that specific case I count as a plus), so this depends a lot on flow and crunch -- abundant enough but lacking whatever it takes to get you to ignore the recycling. B+(***)

Expansions: The Dave Liebman Group: Samsara (2013 [2014], Whaling City Sound): Quintet, Matt Vashlishan providing a second reed instrument (alto sax, flute, clarinet), Bobby Avey is a notable pianist. Fancy postbop, more adventurous than academic but still, you know, a bit slick. B+(*) [cd]

Marianne Faithfull: Give My Love to London (2014, Easy Sound): Seeking fresh blood, she recruits an odd assortment of songwriters -- Steve Earle, Roger Waters, Anna Calvi, Nick Cave -- but only on "Mother Wolf" does she fully channel the fury and disgust she's uniquely capable of. On the other hand, her parched reading of "I Get Along Without You Very Well" suggests she's not through with the songbook. B+(*)

Farmers by Nature: Love and Ghosts (2011 [2014], AUM Fidelity, 2CD): Piano trio, one I've tended to file under drummer Gerald Cleaver because his name comes first, but that list may just be alphabetical, followed as it is by Wiliam Parker (bass) and Craig Taborn (piano). These days Taborn is the star, dancing all over the keyboard, but the rhythm section consistently raises his level. A-

Bryan Ferry: Avonmore (2014, BMG): Title hints at a return to 1982's Avalon, Ferry's last triumph although at the time it was credited to his band, Roxy Music. The music this time proves you can't go home again, although you can dream wistfully about it. B+(*)

Jean Luc Fillon: Oboman Plays Cole Porter: Begin the Night . . . (2013 [2014], Soupir Editions): Fillon plays oboe and cor anglais, and he's backed by Joăo Paulo on piano and Frédéric Eymond on viola -- a nice little chamber group for a bunch of Cole Porter tunes that normally call for more lascivious treatment. B [cd]

Flying Lotus: You're Dead (2014, Warp): Dense and dervishy, the elements I can identify as jazz make me Steven Ellison could have had a future in the family business -- he's related to John and Alice Coltrane -- but he's probably too warped for that any more. There are also whiffs of hip-hop and dance beats and other shit, but this mostly belongs to a soundtrack to a movie I don't want to see. B+(**)

David Friesen Circle 3 Trio: Where the Light Fails (2013 [2014], Origin, 2CD): Bassist, 50th album since 1975, another sixty-some side credits, could be the most prolific or even important jazz musician not in my database until this record showed up. Mostly piano trio, with Greg Goebel on piano and Charlie Doggett on drums, with guitarist Larry Koonse joining on 9 (of 19) cuts. Mainstream, very nice, especially if you cue in on the bass. B+(**) [cd]

Fumaça Preta: Fumaça Preta (2014, Soundway): Dutch band, led by Portuguese/Venezuelan drummer Alex Figueira, they play a rhythmically complex take on garage rock with airs of Brazilian psychedelia, a mix so unique reviewers grasp at analogous straws -- AMG mentions Os Mutantes, Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Lee, "Zappa-esque chamber music," and "Latin boogaloo meets Bollywood sitar music and breakbeats." My first thought was Pulnoc, but then I noticed a chintziness that veered toward Red Hot Chili Peppers and concluded they're pretty unique. Full of shit, maybe, but uniquely so. A-

Ananda Gari: T-Duality (2013 [2014], Auand): Italian drummer, know very little about him, least of all how he wound up fronting a trio of American all-stars -- Tim Berne (alto sax), Rez Abbasi (guitar), Michael Formanek (bass). B+(**)

Brad Goode Quartet: Montezuma (2013 [2014], Origin): Postbop trumpet player from Chicago, leads a quartet with Adrean Farrugia on piano, elegant and spacious with knots of tension, the sort of background trumpet was meant to break through. B+(**)

Vincent Herring: Uptown Shuffle (2014, Smoke Sessions): Alto saxophonist, has always run a little hot which is why the bebop keeps poking through the postbop. Backed by mainstreamers Cyrus Chestnut and Joe Farnsworth, plus bassist Brandi Disterheft. B+(**)

Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 1: The Rite of Spring (2014, Creative Nation Music): I must have heard Igor Stravinsky's Le Sacre du Printemps at some point, but I wouldn't bet on it. As best I recall, Charlie Parker was a fan, and Teddy Adorno wasn't. I certainly haven't heard the recent Bad Plus version, but even if you credit Iverson's super powers, the horns -- trumpet and clarinet -- give this version an edge in firepower, and it's hard to imagine dispensing with the leader's guitar (reinforced by cello). B+(***) [cd]

Eric Hofbauer Quintet: Prehistoric Jazz Volume 2: Quintet for the End of Time (2014, Creative Nation Music): Same group tackles Olivier Messiaen's "Quatour pour la fin du temps" -- no way I've ever heard that before. The emphasis falls much more on Junko Fujiwara's cello, but when the band breaks out all sorts of interesting things happen. B+(**) [cd]

Will Holshouser/Matt Munisteri/Marcus Rojas: Introducing Musette Explosion (2014, Aviary): Accordion, guitar/banjo, and tuba, with the accordion dominant, in a "musical style that somehow combines a French joie de vivre with the wistfulness of Brazilian saudade." B+(**) [cd]

Javon Jackson: Expression (2014, Smoke Sessions): Tenor saxophonist, impressive when he first appeared on Blue Note in the 1990s, but in a rut lately. He rights himself here, falling back on basics -- a straightforward quartet with Orrin Evans on piano. B+(*)

Darius Jones: The Oversoul Manual (2014, AUM Fidelity): One of the most imposing alto saxophonists to emerge in the last decade puts his horn down to conduct a quartet of operatic female voices, the Elizabeth-Caroline Unit. Something about planet Or'gen, a sacred manual, and rituals for imparting wisdom and experience to children. Not as awful as all that sounds like, but a little disjointed and uninteresting. B-

EG Kight: A New Day (2014, Blue South): Initials stand for Eugenia Gail, hails from Georgia but on hearing Koko Taylor she traded in her country/gospel roots for blues and headed for Chicago. I fell for her 2003 record Southern Comfort and don't know any others, but her formula ensures consistency. B+(**)

Lefteris Kordis: "Oh Raven, If You Only Had Brains . . .": Songs for Aesop's Fables (2010 [2012], Inner Circle Music): Greek pianist-composer, has several albums including a group called Bebop Trio. The texts, I assume, are from the ancient Greek fabulist, and are sung operatically by Panayota Haloulakou. Aside from that, the music is charmingly whimsical, and Darryl Harper (clarine) is always welcome. B [cd]

Jonathan Kreisberg: Wave Upon Wave (2014, New for Now Music): Guitarist, ten or so records since 1997, seems to be in the middle of the dominant post-Montgomery mainstream, controlling the tempo and sound even when Will Vinson slips in some sax, or Vinson or Kevin Hays sits down at the piano. B+(*) [cd]

Kronomorfic [David Borgo & Paul Pellegrin]: Entangled (2013 [2014], OA2): Borgo plays sax (tenor/soprano), Pelegrin drums, in a 7-or-8-piece group, plus extras -- flute, trombone, marimba, a second bass (Mark Dresser), for the 20-minute title suite. Postbop, sometimes a bit more. B+(*)

Jerry Lee Lewis: Rock & Roll Time (2014, Vanguard): At 79, he welcomes the help -- Keith Richards, Neil Young, Ron Wood, Robbie Robertson, Nils Lofgren, Shelby Lynne -- even if he doesn't need it. But producers Steve Bing and Jim Keltner do make a difference, and it's worth noting that while Lewis spent much of his career in Nashville, in the endgame he's come home to Memphis. B+(**)

Little Dragon: Nabuma Rubberband (2014, Republic): Bland Swedish electropop group fronted by exotically named but also bland singer Yukimi Nagano. B

Logic: Under Pressure (2014, Def Jam): Young rapper from Maryland, Sir Robert Bryson Hall II, first album after four mixtapes. B+(**)

Low Society: You Can't Keep a Good Woman Down (2014, Icehouse): Blues rockers, guitarist Sturgis Nikides and Houston-born singer Mandy Lemons left New York for Memphis to root around. Gritty, upbeat, almost a cariacature of a Janis Joplin wannabe, but "Up in Your Grave" ("I'd rather see you dead") hits its target. B+(*)

Corb Lund: Counterfeit Blues (2014, New West): Country singer from north of the border, calls his band the Hurtin' Albertans and has a song to that effect. Knows his way around the high plains, knows buckin' horses and highland steers and claims he roughest neck around. B+(*)

Harold Mabern: Right on Time (2014, Smoke Sessions): The label is a spinoff for the NYC club, Smoke, and their initial 2014 releases form a who's who of mainstream jazz. Mabern is a postbop pianist from Memphis who started recording for Prestige in 1968, survived the slack years recording for Japanese and Canadian labels, Piano trio with John Webber (bass) and Joe Farnsworth (drums), with a real feel for blues but the fast stuff is less impressive. B+(*)

Michael Mantler: The Jazz Composer's Orchestra Update (2013 [2014], ECM): Trumpet player, co-founded the JCOA in 1964 with Carla Bley (he was the second of Bley's three famous husbands) as a collective support system for large-scale avant-jazz works. This dusts off and spruces up some of Mantler's old compositions, but rather than reorganizing JCOA he picks up a European orchestra (Nouvelle Cuisine Big Band) and a string quartet (radio.string.quartet.vienna), for a big sound that rarely rises above the clutter. B [dl]

Thomas Marriott: Urban Folklore (2013 [2014], Origin): Trumpet player from Seattle, eighth album since 2005, a quartet with an exceptional rhythm section -- Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass), Donald Edwards (drums) -- with the trumpeter making much of his leads. B+(*) [cd]

Delfeayo Marsalis: The Last Southern Gentlemen (2014, Troubadour Jass): The trombonist in the family band, younger than Branford and Wynton and less prolific, only a half-dozen albums since 1992. My eyes preclude me from slogging through the liner notes, which I expect to be interesting. The music, however, is painless: mostly standards, the trombone backed by piano-bass-drums (Ellis Marsalis, John Clayton, Smitty Smith), the leads sombre and quite respectable. B+(***) [cd]

Ross Martin/Max Johnson/Jeff Davis: Big Eyed Rabbit (2014, Not Two): Guitar-bass-drums. Don't know much about the guitarist, but he has trouble emerging here. B

Bette Midler: It's the Girls! (2014, East/West): Her girl group shtick had an element of camp back in the 1970s but today could just be nostalgia or repertory or lack of other ideas. First problem here is leading off with two Spector hits that stiffen up the production. After them, "Bei Mir Bist du Schön" is a whiff of fresh air, but it's soon stranded as she reverts to early 1960s fare, hitting here and missing there. B [Later: B+(**)]

Tony Monaco: Furry Slippers (2014, Summit): Hammond B-3 player, over ten albums since 2001's Burnin' Grooves, this one backed by guitarist Fareed Haque, with pianist Asako Itoh (Monaco) tabbed as a "special guest." Does move a bit away from groove formula, especially with covers of "Round Midnight" and "But Beautiful." B [cd]

Jemeel Moondoc/Connie Crothers: Two (2012, Relative Pitch): Avant jazz duets, alto sax and piano, each has its own strength, but they stay closely in sync, partly because neither pushes too hard. B+(*)

Naked Wolf: Naked Wolf (2014, El Negocito): Dutch group, although the names seem to come from all over (Gibson, Provan, Szafirowski, Jäger, Ex, Klemperer, vocalist Seb El Zin). Closer to rock than jazz, with its mixed vocals trumping the twisted rhythms and horns, although maybe skronk is an apt compromise -- the jazz part I find much the more appealing. B+(*)

The New Pornographers: Brill Bruisers (2014, Matador): A band with several viable solo performers, none of which I've ever been enamored of either solo or together, but they know their way around pop hooks and throw out plenty here. B+(*)

Sam Newsome: The Straight Horn of Africa: A Path to Liberation [The Art of the Soprano, Vol. 2] (2014, self-released): Soprano sax, went solo on Vol. 1 but usually adds percussion here with these African and African-inspired melodies, including the three-part "Microtonal Nubian Horn" experiment and one called "Good Gooly Miss Mali." A- [cd]

Miho Nobuzane: Simple Words: Jazz Loves Brazil (2014, self-released): Pianist, from Japan, based in New York, second album. The band, with Filó Machado (guitar, vocals) and Mauricio Zottarelli (drums) does a nice job with the Brazilian thing. B+(*) [cd]

Karen O: Crush Songs (2006-10 [2014], Cult, EP): Yeah Yeah Yeahs singer knocks out fourteen demo-quality ballads, only two over 2:27 (four over 1:47) for a total of 25:04. Rather interesting for such a miniscule, even crude, effort. B+(*)

O'Death: Out of Hands We Go (2014, Northern Spy): Brooklyn band, although Greg Jamie's vocals suggest a bit of the Irish even though they took their name from the Dock Boggs tune. B+(***)

Parquet Courts: Parkay Quarts: Content Nausea (2014, What's Your Rapture?): Considered an EP, but runs 12 songs, 34:59 (even with three not breaking one minute, but one runs 6:26). Nor is the throwaway cover of "These Boots (Are Made for Walking)" worthless. Their post-Velvets drone isn't wasted on shlock; it thrives there. A-

Clarence Penn & Penn Station: Monk: The Lost Files (2012 [2014], Origin): Drummer, leads a group with Chad Lefkowitz-Brown on sax, Donald Vega on piano, and Yasushi Nakamura on bass (acoustic and electric), through ten Monk tunes plus one original. B+(*) [cd]

Plymouth: Plymouth (2014, Rare Noise): Organ player Jamie Saft seems to be the prime mover here, but rather than signing up the usual soul jazzers he picked two avant-guitarists (Joe Morris and Mary Halvorson), backed by bass (Chris Lightcap) and drums (Gerald Cleaver). Three pieces, averaging 20-minutes, feel like a free twist on fusion. B+(*)

Bobby Previte: Terminals (2014, Cantaloupe): Drummer, composed five pieces (running 13:02 to 18:11) for percussion quartet, a role filled by SO Percussion. Each piece allows a guest soloist to improvise over the percussion, so we get: Zeena Parkins (harp), Greg Osby (alto sax), Nels Cline (guitar), Previte (drums), and John Medeski (organ). The sax sounds like a conventional jazz idea. Cline doesn't. B+(*)

Rex Richardson & Steve Wilson: Blue Shift (2014, Summit): Wilson limits himself to alto sax here. He's well known, both for his own albums, as an accompanist, and for his big band work. Richardson is news to me: his discography includes big band work (with Bill O'Connell) and classical music (a 2005 album is subtitled New Virtuoso Trumpet Music by American Composers). But he plays trumpet and flugelhorn with exceptional verve, and nearly runs away with this album. Backed by guitar-bass-drums -- Trey Pollard has some nice spots on guitar. B+(***) [cd]

Doug Seegers: Going Down to the River (2014, Rounder): Nashville singer-songwriter in his 60s, first album, a throwback to honky tonk with a few quirks and one out-of-character market sop -- a gorgeous cover of Gram Parsons' "She" (replete with Emmylou Harris). Oddly enough, after the front-loaded stuff turns to filler he finds new depths to his songs. A-

Pat Senatore Trio: Ascensione (2008-12 [2014], Fresh Sound): Bassist-led piano trio, with Josh Nelson on the keys and Mark Ferber on drums. Evidently didn't qualify for the label's New Talent series due to the age of the leader, even though this is only his second album -- he attributes his interest in bass to hearing Scott LaFaro, and his closest brush to fame was as musical director for Herb Alpert. Two sessions here. That Nelson favors lushness is an understatement. B+(**) [cd]

Noura Mint Seymali: Tzenni (2014, Glitterbeat): Moorish griot from Mauretania, step-daughter of Dimi Mint Abba -- whose 1990 Moorish Music From Mauritania was for long the only available entry point into the desert nation -- aims for hypnotic trance groove that plays in Paris as well as Timbuktu. B+(**)

Ryan Shultz Quintet: Hair Dryers (2013 [2014], Origin): Plays bass trumpet, based in Chicago, presumably not the same-named Chicago-based painter. Group includes electric guitar (Chris Siebold), keyboard, and bass, which opens up a fusion angle. B+(*) [cd]

Tyshawn Sorey: Alloy (2014, Pi): Drummer, I first noticed him with Vijay Iyer and he's been on most of Steve Lehman's records. His debut album, 2007's What/Not was a sprawling 2CD affair with a long stretch of piano -- as I recall, Francis Davis ranked it number two that year but the publicist snubbed me, deciding I wouldn't take it as seriously as it deserved. (Found it on Rhapsody and gave it an A-, not that you should take that as a serious review.) This returns to his piano compositions, a trio with Corey Smythe on piano and Christopher Tordini on bass. Mostly ambles aleatorically, although there is one stretch where they find a beat and some intensity -- I'm a sucker for that. B+(***) [cd]

The Spin Quartet: In Circles (2013 [2014], Origin): Chad McCullough (trumpet), Geof Bradfield (tenor sax), Clark Sommers (bass), Kobie Watkins (drums): all four have solo albums, the horn players doing most of the writing here (one piece by Sommers, plus covers of Nick Drake and Gilberto Gil). B+(**)

Lyn Stanley: Potions: From the 50's (2014, A.T. Music): Standards, mostly from the early 1950s, at least pre-rock (although "Love Potion Number Nine" makes the cut). Can't begin to read all the fine print here, but the arrangements are tastefully conservative, the sax much appreciated. And her website starts off describing her as "known for her lush low notes" -- for once, exactly right. B+(**) [cd]

Vince Staples: Hell Can Wait (2014, Def Jam, EP): West coast rapper, has a couple mixtapes tied to Odd Future and/or Cutthroat Boyz, good for seven songs, 23:30 here. B+(*)

Aki Takase/Alexander von Schlippenbach: So Long, Eric!: Homage to Eric Dolphy (2014, Intakt): Culled from two nights in Berlin with a big band led by the wife-and-husband avant pianists -- actually two piano trios, five horns (Rudi Mahall, Tobias Delius, Henrik Walsdorff, Axel Dörner, and Nils Wogram), and Karl Berger on vibes -- tackle nine Dolphy tunes. B+(***)

Natsuki Tamura/Alexander Frangenheim: Nax (2013 [2014], Creative Sources): Trumpet-bass duets, the former scratchy, the latter inscrutable. B+(*) [cd]

Temples: Sun Structures (2014, Fat Possum): First album from Brit psychedelic rock group, echoes of '60s guitar drone with flashes of King Crimson -- not sure you can call them flashbacks, but then I'm never sure what psychedelia really means (and am extra dubious with a pop band this coherent). Topped the first "best of 2014" list published (Rough Trade), but I doubt it'll have legs. B+(*)

T.I.: Paperwork (2014, Grand Hustle): Atlanta rapper, Clifford Harris, earned his gangsta rep the dumb way, but is smart enough to go to Pharrell for his pop hooks. Front-loaded the rote stuff, knowing the album's long enough he can catch up on the backstretch. B+(**)

Touch and Go Sextet: Live at the Novara Jazz Festival (2012 [2014], Nine Winds): Four horns -- Aaron Bennett (tenor/baritone sax), Sheldon Brown (alto sax, bass clarinet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Darren Johnston (trumpet) -- provide a wide range of intriguing leads, while Lisa Mezzacappa (bass) and Vijay Anderson (drums) stir the pot. B+(***) [cd]

Piet Verbist/Zygomatik: Cattitude (2014, Origin): Belgian bassist, previous album was called Zygomatik so that continues as the band name. Quintet, two saxes -- Vincent Brus on baritone is most strategic for amplifying the bass -- with keyboard player Bram Weijters favoring Wurlitzer over Fender Rhodes. B+(**)

Marlene VerPlanck: I Give Up, I'm in Love (2014, Audiophile): A "songbird," as the liner notes put it, b. 1933 in Newark as Marlene Pampinella -- she was married to arranger Billy VerPlanck for 52 years, until his death in 2009. No date on when this was recorded, but nothing suggests it isn't recent, other than that she looks and sounds so great. Standards, some with the Glenn Franke Big Band for that brassy Sinatra-ish feel, the rest with intimate groups highlighted by Warren Vaché or Harry Allen. I should delve into her back catalog some time, but I'd be surprised to find better albums than this one. A- [cd]

Elio Villafranca and His Jazz Syncopators: Caribbean Tinge: Live From Dizzy's Club Coca-Cola (2011-12 [2014], Motéma): Cuban pianist based in New York, compiled this from two sets with different groups -- Sean Jones and Greg Tardy in one, Terell Stafford and Vincent Herring in the other, combining Lewis Nash with a lot of Latin percussion -- even the latter barely qualifies as tinge. B+(*)

Ernie Watts Quartet: A Simple Truth (2013 [2014], Flying Dolphin): Tenor saxophonist, nearing 70, always had great tone and command especially on ballads. With piano-bass-drums, no one I recognize but European. Sprints through "Bebop" for the exercise. B+(**)

Luke Winslow-King: Everlasting Arms (2014, Bloodshot): A mild singer-songwriter from northern Michigan, transplanted to New Orleans, but he's also studied Czech music in Prague and worked with Blue Gene Tyranny, so the idea that he's gone over to jazz strikes me as a stretch. B+(*)

Jason Yeager Trio: Affirmation (2014, Inner Circle Music): Piano trio, second album, with Danny Weller (bass) and Matt Rousseau (drums) plus "special guests" on five (of twelve) cuts -- saxopohonist Noah Preminger looms large, especially on the cut trumpeter Jean Caze joins in. On the other hand, Aubrey Johnson sings two -- have I mentioned recently how much I detest "Julia"? B [cd]

Yelle: Complčtement Fou (2014, Kemosabe): French singer Julie Budet, assumed the name of her dance-pop group. Not as crazy as she thinks. B+(**)

Peter Zak Trio: The Disciple (2013 [2014], SteepleChase): Pianist, has a dozen albums since 1989, in a trio with Peter Washington on bass and Willie Jones III on drums. Three originals, seven covers, the latter all notable pianists (well, I'm not so sure of Alexander Scriabin), with Horace Silver and Thelonious Monk the standouts. B+(***)

Miguel Zenón: Identities Are Changeable (2014, Miel Music): Alto saxophonist, from Puerto Rico, won a MacArthur "genius" grant and scaled his superb quartet up to a slick big band, cutting their lush melodies with samples of Puerto Rican New Yorkers trying to sort out their identities (although their later stories are more interesting). For a musician in a postmodern world identity can provide a distinct flavoring even when it has to be recovered (e.g., Jason Kao Hwang, Rudresh Mahanthappa). Zenón's 2005 quartet album Jíbaro got the mix right, but since then identity has become something of a rut, even dressed up with big band and dialogue (here) or strings (elsewhere). [My CD has a weird repeating glitch after the last listed song -- presumably a defect -- so I rechecked on Rhapsody.] B+(*)

Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

Peter Brötzmann/Sonny Sharrock: Whatthefuckdoyouwant (1987 [2014], Trost): Live improv sax-guitar duets -- the former playing alto, tenor, and bass saxes as well as tarogato. Fans of Sharrock's legendary solo Guitar will find much of interest here, although this is predictably rougher-going: when you come to play with Brötzmann, expect to bring the noise, otherwise it'll just be handed to you. B+(**)

Illinois Jacquet/Leo Parker: Toronto 1947 (1947 [2013], Uptown): Tenor and baritone sax, respectively, combining r&b fire without conceding the aesthetic high ground to bebop -- trumpet players Joe Newman and Russell Jacquet could swing or bop as long as they broke through, while bebop pianist Sir Charles Thompson wouldn't dream of playing anything else. Sound quality is variable, but the intensity isn't. B+(***)

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Knox Phillips Sessions: The Unreleased Recordings (1970s, Time-Life): Cut in the late 1970's for Sam Phillips' son Knox -- you'd think something that recent could be dated more precisely -- ten cuts, 43:11 thanks to a long, sloppy "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown" and a Chuck Berry medley. A-

Howard McGhee: West Coast 1945-1947 (1945-47 [2013], Uptown): An early bebop trumpeter, featured on live shots from a club in Hollywood and Philo and Dial studio sessions, with a band including saxophonists Teddy Edwards and Sonny Criss and pianist Hampton Hawes. McGhee had headed west with Coleman Hawkins and was present when Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker swung through LA, and he added "A Night in Tunisia" and "Ornithology" to his repertoire. B+(**)

Hailu Mergia and the Walias: Tche Belew (1977 [2014], Awesome Tapes From Africa): Keyboard player from Ethiopia -- I think he wound up driving a cab in BC -- offers very enchanting if slightly cocktail-ish grooves, the simplicity all the more charming. The label released a slightly later (1985) tape last year and it's every bit as enjoyable. A-

Old Music

Club Ska '67 (1967 [1980], Mango): Thirteen-cut LP back when Island was filling in historical gaps, having cornered the US market for 1970s reggae with Marley, Toots, Burning Spear, and many others. Most songs are classics, although this is less canonical than Music Club's This Is Ska! or the first disc of Island's indispensible 4-CD box Tougher Than Tough: The Story of Jamaican Music, or as deep as Sanctuary/Trojan's Rough and Tough: The Story of Ska 1960-1966 or Heartbeat's Ska Bonanza: The Studio One "Ska" Years. For that matter, Island/Mango issued at least two more comparable LPs: Intensified: Original Ska 1962-1966 and The King Kong Compilation: The Historic Reggae Recordings. A- [dl]

Ross Johnson: Make It Stop!: The Most of Ross Johnson (1979-2006 [2008], Goner): A drummer, his credits going back to Alex Chilton's 1979 Like Flies on Sherbert. Over the years he played with Tav Falco, Monsieur Jeffrey Evans, and led a band called AMF (for Adolescent Musical Fantasy). A perpetual sideman, his jokes a little too obvious and a little two crude, his voice better suited to talk and that's how he walks through songs that become jokes just by association. B+(***)

Jinx Lennon: Know Your Station Gouger Nation!!! (2006, Septic Tiger): A spoken word album from Ireland, although like the best of the genre it's the music -- sometimes fractured, sometimes busy, sometimes basic (as with the hymn that goes, "you're not a scumbag" -- that carries the album along, but whereas singing necessarily simplifies what can be said, talk is rapidfire, sometimes scabrous. Started here because this is reportedly his best, and so far, so good. A- [bc]

Jinx Lennon: Live at the Spirit Store (2000, Septic Tiger): Early on he tried harder to sing but wasn't very good at it, the words overrunning the rhymes except when he falls into broken record mode, repeating a line for what seems like way too long. Nor does the music go much beyond hard-strummed guitar. B+(*) [bc]

Jinx Lennon: 30 Beacons of Light for a Land Full of Spite, Thugs, Drug Slugs, and Energy Vampires (2002, Septic Tiger): Few of the 32 cuts run long -- one at 4:46, five more top 3:00 -- but most plant a thought and grind it into the dirt. Cumulatively, they add up to a worldview. B+(**) [bc]

Jinx Lennon: Trauma Themes Idiot Times (2009, Septic Tiger): Backup singer Paula Flynn helps smooth out the rough spots, not that the roughness doesn't still scratch through -- the songs need that. A- [bc]

Jinx Lennon: National Cancer Strategy (2010, Septic Tiger): More focus on the songs, perhaps because they're so traumatic, but they lift the music a notch. B+(***) [bc]

Fred McDowell: Amazing Grace (1966 [1994], Shout!/Testament): Subtitle: "Mississippi Delta Spirituals by the Hunter's Chapel Singers of Como, Miss." McDowell tends to sink in the vocal mix but his guitar is the only accompaniment here, both pacing and accenting the women as they work their way through mostly traditional tunes -- McDowell claims three of them, and they sound as venerable as the rest. A-

Bette Midler: Live at Last (1977, Atlantic): Her first live album, with a lot of stage shtick plus a wide range of songs. B+(*)


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