Rhapsody Streamnotes: November 18, 2015

A substantial list of albums this month as we're approaching the end-of-year, with an above-average 15 new A-list entries (from an above-average 117 "new" albums). Good chance there's some seasonal effect here, as we tend to accumulate more information toward the end of the year. This was prepared without the benefit of any actual EOY lists -- usually the first one out comes from Rough Trade in the UK, and, just rechecking, it has arrived here). As I have in the last couple years, I've split my 2015 list up into jazz and non-jazz files, not because I think they should be judged separately as because my own professional stature gives me access to a lot more jazz than non-jazz -- indeed, my share of the latter would be pathetic except for my ability to stream records on Rhapsody (and, rarely, other sources). This discrepancy is, I think, even more glaring this year than in past years. Looking at my music tracking list, I see that thus far I've rated 540 jazz records vs. a mere 249 non-jazz. More than anything else, that explains why I only have 42 A-listed non-jazz records, vs. 60 jazz.

I need to replay some records and shuffle my lists -- a lot of the ordering is pretty haphazard. The first serious deadline will be December 6, when ballots are due for Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll, sponsored again this year by NPR. I have about 40 unrated 2015 jazz records in the queue right now, so I need to focus on those. I also need to take a closer look at the music tracking list above, which currently lists over 1000 of this year's jazz releases. In past years I tried to prioritize them a bit, to come up with a search list I described as "estimated to have a 2% (or better) chance of making the A-list if/when I finally hear them." Pure guesswork, of course, but one clear example is Jack DeJohnette's Made in Chicago (ECM).

Old music is down this month (28 records vs. 122 recent releases; it was 47 vs. 77 last month; 109 vs. 70 in September). Some back catalog was suggested by current releases -- in the case of Last Exit I was vainly looking for ESP's new Iron Path reissue -- while others were arbitrary inspirations (Marty Grosz, John Law, John Tchicai).

Most of 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 24. Past reviews and more information are available here (7250 records).

Recent Releases

The 14 Jazz Orchestra: Nothing Hard Is Ever Easy (2015 [2016], self-released): Big band, arranged and conducted by Dan Bonsanti, only thirteen musicians listed (4 reeds, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones, 4 rhythm). Featuring credit for tenor saxophonist Ed Calle (strong performance), with Will Lee, Mark Egan, and Marko Marcinko listed as special guests. All cover material, Dorsey to Pastorius with Curtis Mayfield and the Beatles from the pop world. B [cd]

Laurie Anderson: Heart of a Dog (2015, Nonesuch): Christgau pegs this as her best ever, a comparison which bumps up against United States Live and Home of the Brave and Strange Angels, just to pick two albums I have at full A and a third at A+. Compared to them (especially the latter) this strikes me as short on music -- most is spoken word over some very minimally ambient electronics. Still, fascinating wordplay, on death and love and spying and a fox terrier, ending with a bit of the late Lou Reed, unplugged. A-

Dennis Angel: On Track (2014 [2015], Timeless Grooves): Flugelhorn player, third album. Scads of musicians on the back cover, including an utterly wasted "special guest" (Kenny Barron, on piano), but just below Angel you get Gottfried Stoger (tenor sax) and timeless groovmeister Jason Miles (keyboards, synths, strings, also producer). B- [cd]

ASAP Rocky: At.Long.Last.ASAP (2015, Polo Grounds/RCA): New York rapper Rakim Mayers, second album (not counting the much hyped mixtape), still preoccupied with the almighty $, although that too is an oversimplification. B+(**)

Bathysphere: Bathysphere (2015, Driff): Unconventional big band, 15 pieces (4 reeds, 6 brass including cornet and tuba, piano, 2 basses, drums, Andrew Neumann on analog electronics), jointly led by Jorrit Dijkstra (alto sax, lyricon, analog synth) and Pandelis Karayorgis (piano). Many avant luminaries, with the piano unusually prominent (more a solo than a rhythm instrument), and various bits for everyone else. B+(**) [cd]

Beach House: Depression Cherry (2015, Sub Pop): Baltimore duo, with Victoria Legrand's plain vocals over basic keyboards, a lo-fi group that's become comfortable in its surroundings -- probably not at the beach. B+(*) [Later: B]

Beach House: Thank Your Lucky Stars (2015, Sub Pop): Big improvement here, or so it seems to me -- these songs were cut about the same time as the better-reviewed Depression Cherry so they're practically outtakes, but the limited things this duo do have never meshed so effortlessly. B+(***)

Beach Slang: The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us (2015, Polyvinyl): Philadelphia post-punk band, churns up a lot of guitar slag and makes something resembling songs out of it, probably more impressive than it seems. B

Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap: The Silver Lining: The Songs of Jerome Kern (2015, Columbia): Downbeat's readers just picked Bennett for the magazine's Hall of Fame, a choice I'm not unhappy with, though not one I'd ever make myself. A glance at my database reminds me that I've never A-listed any Bennett album (though I've only rated 15, and wouldn't be surprised if I missed one). The one I had highest hopes for was The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album (1975), especially after a reviewer (in Crawdaddy, if memory serves) touted it as "the ultimate make-out album." Not really, but it did much to restore Bennett's jazz cred (his first album was called Jazz, and he worked with Basie before Sinatra did). This singer-piano pairing -- actually Charlap mostly uses his trio, and Renee Rosnes subs on a couple cuts -- will be likened to the Evans album, but Charlap is both more supportive and less distinctive, while Bennett, content to let his voice be its own reward, takes it easy even when the music dictates swing. B+(*)

Josh Berman Trio: A Dance and a Hop (2015, Delmark): Cornet player from Chicago, third album, also appears in Michael Zerang's group (below). This is a straight free-leaning trio with Jason Roebke on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums mixing it up. A- [cd]

Randy Bernsen: Grace Notes (2015, Jericho Jams): Guitarist, pop-funk-fusion guy I guess, dates back to Blood, Sweat & Tears; first own album came out in 1986, Mo' Wasabi. This features and was produced by bass guitarist Jimmy Haslip (Yellowjackets). Five originals, covers from Lennon-McCartney, Haslip-Ferrante, and Freddie Hubbard. Not bad as groove records go, mostly due to the bass support. B [cd]

Nat Birchall: Invocations (2015, Jazzman): Tenor saxophonist from Britain, has a half-dozen albums since 1999. Seems like John Coltrane is the most emulated (not to mention imitated) tenor saxophonist in the world since 1970, but no one's got the whole deal -- not just tone but flow, feel, rhythm, invention, and for that matter band -- down as pat at Birchall. If he's missing anything, it's conflict, which gives him a serenity beyond. A-

Bizingas: Eggs Up High (2015, NCM East): Second album from a group that calls itself an "art-rock, free-prog jazz quartet." I file them under trombonist Brian Drye (also credited here with synthesizer, organ, piano, and compositions), with Kirk Knuffke (cornet) a second horn, Jonathan Goldberger on guitar, and Ches Smith on drums and electronics. I wouldn't push the rock angle too hard -- they lose something when the beat straightens out. B+(**) [cd]

Björk: Vulnicura (2015, One Little Indian): Seems to be one of her best-regarded albums, although I've given up on trying to understand, let alone like, her. Sounds like another strings-drenched passion play, most engaging when the synth-beat breaks up, least when it all coagulates. B

Blackalicious: Amani, Vol. 1 (2015, OGM): Hip-hop group from the Bay Area (actually Sacramento), first album in 10 years and now projected to come out in three volumes. Like fellow traveler Lyrics Born's first in five years, their comeback leaps over and often stomps on the the state of the art, which has gone pretty slack. A-

Bobby Bradford-Frode Gjerstad Quartet: The Delaware River (2014 [2015], NoBusiness): Cornet and alto sax/clarinet, respectively, the quartet filled out by Ingebrigt Hĺker Flaten on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. Same formula as Bradford's great quartet with John Carter but, unfortunately, no John Carter. B+(**) [cdr]

Leon Bridges: Coming Home (2015, Columbia): Retro soul singer, b. 1989 but aims for early Sam Cooke. Doesn't hit it, but a couple songs could be passed off as obscure period gems -- not enough to make him memorable, but most weren't. B+(*)

Sarah Buechi: Shadow Garden (2015, Intakt): Swiss singer-songwriter, writes mostly in English, has several albums including one previous one on Intakt with this same piano trio -- Stafan Aeby, André Pousaz, Lionel Friedli. The songs don't fall into any tradition I recognize, but are strangely seductive. B+(***) [cd]

Sarah Buechi: Flying Letters (2013 [2014], Intakt): Earlier record by same group, the piano trio named on the cover. Steps a little more awkwardly into the songs, sometimes close to spoken word, giving them an artier air. B+(*)

Joăo Camőes/Jean-Marc Foussat/Claude Parle: Bien Mental (2015, Fou): Viola (violon alto), electronics (dispositif électro-acoustique), and accordion, respectively. Foussat has been working along these lines for a while now, but this is the most interesting sonic mix he has come up with yet. B+(***) [cd]

Joăo Camőes/Rodrigo Pinheiro/Miguel Mira: Earnear (2015, Tour de Bras): Viola, piano, cello -- Pinheiro is leader of RED Trio, whose 2010 eponymous debut made my A-list. The strings give this a "chamber jazz" feel, although it is also more abstract. B+(**) [cd]

The Chills: Silver Bullets (2015, Fire): New Zealand group, had two great albums 1990-92, and not much since, with this their first studio album since 1996 (2013's Somewhere Beautiful was a live album). This gets the sound back, maybe even pumps it up a bit (maybe too much). A-

Romain Collin: Press Enter (2013 [2015], ACT): French pianist, attended Berklee, has a couple albums. Credits organized as a trio with Luques Curtis and Kendrick Scott, plus some extras, with Laura Metcalf's cello perhaps a constant. B+(**) [cd]

Dani Comas: Epokhé (2014 [2015], UnderPool): Guitarist, splits this into three parts of three songs each, the first solo, then duo and trio with Jordi Matas (bass) and/or David Xirgu (drums). Ambient but intriguing. B+(**) [cd]

Caroline Davis Quartet: Doors: Chicago Storylines (2013 [2015], Ears & Eyes): Alto saxophonist, has a previous album, based in New York but spent eight years in Chicago and developed an interest in history there. She interviewed thirteen Chicago jazz musicians and packed their reminiscences around her original pieces -- Mike Allemann (guitar), Matt Ferguson (bass), Jeremy Cunningham (drums). Lovely pieces, interesting raps. B+(***) [cd]

Guy Davis: Kokomo Kidd (2015, M.C.): Mild-mannered gentlemanly bluesman, son of Ossie Davis, has a dozen albums since 1995. This has some interesting yarns and curious filler, not prime material but true to form. B+(*)

Deerhunter: Fading Frontier (2015, 4AD): Kind of a prog band but they've moved mainstream and have a big following -- which they mostly deserved last time out (Monomania, although their previous album, Halcyon Digest, polled better). This is less challenging than either of those, prettier actually, some kind of plateau. B+(***)

Destroyer: Poison Season (2015, Merge): Band vehicle for Canadian singer/songwriter Dan Bejar going back ten albums to 1998, although he's also part of New Pornographers and the duo Hello, Blue Roses. B+(*)

Giovanni Di Domenico/Peter Jacquemyn/Chris Corsano: A Little Off the Top (2013 [2015], NoBusiness): Piano-bass-drums trio, free jazz, a fine example of the art. The pianist has put out a lot of material over the last few years, but this is only the second disc to come my way. B+(***) [cdr]

John Dikeman/William Parker/Hamid Drake: Live at La Resistenza (2014 [2015], El Negocito): Dikeman plays alto and tenor saxophone. He was born in Nebraska in 1983, grew up in Wyoming, tried New York, then Cairo and Budapest before settling into Amsterdam. A rather squawky free player, he has a group called Cactus Truck that I've yet to be impressed by. This is a standard free sax trio cut live in Ghent, Belgium -- the sort of thing Parker and Drake could do in their sleep, but never do. B+(***) [cd]

Marcelo Dos Reis/Luis Vicente/Théo Ceccaldi/Valentin Ceccaldi: Chamber 4 (2013 [2015], FMR): Guitar, trumpet, violin/viola, cello, two credited with voice although you can't exactly say they sing -- it's more of a background effect, part of a montage which despite the joint improv doesn't really move around that much. B+(**) [cd]

Marcelo Dos Reis/Angélica V. Salvi: Concentric Rinds (2013 [2015], Cipsela): Guitar and harp, both trying their hand at prepared instruments, at least for part of this. Makes for some surprising sounds, and they keep the pace so moderate they can't possibly throw you off. B+(*) [cd]

Kirsten Edkins: Art & Soul (2013 [2015], self-released): Saxophonist (tenor, soprano, alto), first album, produced by Bob Sheppard, with Larry Goldings on organ and piano, guitarist Larry Koonse sprucing up a couple of tracks, and dabs of trumpet and trombone here and there. Mainstream, swings hard, touches on soul jazz without getting stuck. B+(*) [cd]

Empress Of: Me (2015, Terrible/XL): Lorely Rodriguez, from Los Angeles, second album, electropop, pleasurable moments. B+(*)

Robin Eubanks Mass Line Big Band: More Than Meets the Ear (2015, ArtistShare): Trombonist, ten albums under his own name, side credits include Dave Holland's groups. Got a research grant at Oberlin and used that to assemble a conventional big band (plus organ and percussion and an extra trombone): his own credits include electric trombone (presumably what we're hearing on "Blues for Jimi Hendrix") and percussion pads. B+(*) [cdr]

Carlos Falanga: Gran Coral (2014 [2015], UnderPool): Drummer, from Spain, second album, leading a guitar-piano trio, with Marco Mezquida again making a strong impression on piano (see his solo album below) and Jordi Matas adding tasty licks on guitar. B+(**)

Sergi Felipe: Whisper Songs (2011, UnderPool): Spanish tenor saxophonist, leads a quintet with Hugo Astudillo on alto sax, Alfred Artigas on guitar, plus bass and drums. The instrumentation is designed to flow together seamlessly, and that's pretty much what it does. B+(*) [cd]

Sergi Felipe/Whisper Songs: Bombú Es Libre En El Espacio (2013, UnderPool): Intent here is probably that the title of his first album be the group name, but might as well file it under the tenor saxophonist's name. Same lineup, again the guitar moderates the horns, not that they have any ambitions to be heard. B+(*) [cd]

Garrison Fewell: Invisible Resonance Trio (2013 [2015], Creative Nation Music): I received a copy of this album, but when I got it the disc was badly cracked, unplayable. Trio with Roy Campbell, who died in 2014, on trumpet, and Luther Gray on drums. Sadly, I just noticed that the guitarist, perhaps best known for his work with the late John Tchicai, died earlier this year. A rather relaxed session, with Campbell exploring the cosmos and the others tagging along. B+(***)

Amina Figarova: Blue Whisper (2015, In + Out): Pianist, born in Azerbaijan, based in New York, has ten or so albums since 1996. Several pieces here were commissioned by Jazz at Lincoln Center, nicely orchestrated postbop. I could do without the flutes and vocals, but she alternates between two ace tenor saxophonists: Marc Mommaas and Wayne Escoffery. B

Clare Fischer: Out of the Blue (2015, Clavo): I don't see a recording date, but pianist Fischer died in 2012 after a long career going back to the mid-1950s with close to fifty albums. This was produced and annotated by Brent Fischer, who ends his liner notes with: "I'm eagerly looking forward to showing you more new Fischer material when it appears out of the blue!" This has the range of a retrospective, including guest spots for vocalists and drummer Peter Erskine. Fischer has long struck me as peripheral to jazz, but he does have a charming way with Latin rhythms. B+(*) [cd]

Florence + the Machine: How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful (2015, Island/Republic): Brit singer/songwriter Florence Welch plus an arena-scaled band, or possibly some mechanical approximation -- I don't much care one way or the other, nor do I follow her literary appreciation. Nor do I know the Tom Hull who is co-credited with two of her songs. B

Brandon Flowers: The Desired Effect (2015, Virgin EMI): Singer for the Killers, an alt/indie band of no particular distinction, evidently still extant although three members have produced side projects. This is an impressive piece of production craft, mostly mid-tempo with hints of grandeur, the singer wrapped in background harmonies. B+(**)

Robert Forster: Songs to Play (2015, Tapete): Second post-Go-Betweens album, a solid batch of songs although they take some time to sink in, partly because they move further from the group sound than the songs on Intermission. B+(**)

Rich Halley 4: Eleven (2014 [2015], Pine Eagle): Tenor saxophonist from Oregon, has had a terrific run of albums lately, most with this same quartet: Michael Vlatkovich (trombone), Clyde Reed (bass), and son Carson Halley (drums). When he takes charge this is another one, but I have a few minor quibbles -- unison themes, slow patches. B+(***) [cd]

Tigran Hamasyan: Luys I Luso (2014 [2015], ECM): Pianist from Armenia, returns for an album of sedate piano and choral music, featuring the Yerevan State Chamber Choir, conducted by Harutyan Topikyan. B- [dl]

Alfred 23 Harth/Jörg Fischer/Marcel Daemgen: Confucius Tarif Reduit (2014 [2015], Spore Point): I'd call this a free sax trio, but instead of bass Daemgen is credited with "electronics, synthesizer," and Harth's credit reads "reeds, pocket trumpet, voice, dojirak." B+(**) [cd]

Angel Haze: Back to the Woods (2015, self-released): Rapper Raykeea Wilson, released her "major label debut" at the end of December 2013, too late to get noticed, and has to follow that up with a mixtape, not as immediately appealing, but the world's a treacherous place, and she's tough enough to get through it. B+(***)

Carlos Henriquez: The Bronx Pyramid (2015, Blue Engine): Bassist for Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, from the Bronx, first album. He doesn't have the full band here -- just Michael Rodriguez (trumpet), Felipe Lamoglia (tenor sax), Robert Rodriguez (piano), Ali Jackson (drums), lots of percussionists, and a guest vocal from Rubén Blades. B+(**)

Holly Herndon: Platform (2015, 4AD): More electronica producer than singer, first half of the album manages to juggle an avalanche of samples. She then breaks the mood with a whispered word piece before returning to the thrash, a bit more abstractly. B+(**)

Hiatus Kaiyote: Choose Your Weapon (2015, Flying Buddha): Australian "alt r&b" group, second album. Singer Nai Palm does have some diva moves, and the rhythm is so slippery they slide right past me -- neither of those are compliments, although they leave some room for disagreement. B-

Keigo Hirakawa: And Then There Were Three (2014 [2015], self-released): Piano trio, with Eddie Brookshire (bass) and Fenton Sparks (drums), plus a vocal (Wenbi Lai) on one track. The pianist teaches at the University of Dayton, and has a couple previous albums. Originals except for two closing tracks: one from Bud Powell, the other "Precious Lord." Bright, upbeat, overwhelms you. B+(*) [cd]

Mike Holober: Balancing Act (2015, Palmetto): Pianist, mostly associated with big bands like the Westchester Jazz Orchestra, has a septet-plus-singer here ranging from highly orchestrated (including flute) to monster sax solos (Jason Rigby and Dick Oatts. The vocalist is Kate McGarry. B+(**) [cd]

Hot Jazz Jumpers: The Very Next Thing (2015, On the Bol): Sounds like an exceptionally noisy trad jazz group at first, but the trad fare ranges from "You Are My Sunshine" to "Jock-A-Mo" and sometimes slips into surrealism. Two singers (Miles Griffith and Betina Hershey), Nick Russo on guitar/banjo/resonator, David Pleasant on drums, and other part-timers. Eventually the weirdness turns annoying, especially on the "Russo Griffith Free Improv." Haven't watched the Bonus DVD. B

Sam Hunt: Between the Pines: Acoustic Mixtape (2015, MCA Nashville): Nashville singer, his 2014 debut Montevallo one of the year's most overrated discs. Nice gesture that he decided to throw out this freebie, reprising some earlier songs Hunt wrote, on the anniversary of his hit. Nice, but not much better. B

Aaron Irwin Quartet: A Room Forever (2015, self-released): Fourth album, plays clarinet here although I have him listed under alto sax. With no drums this could pass as chamber jazz, but trombone (Matthew McDonald) and bass (Thomson Kneeland) give it some heft, and Pete McCann slips his guitar into the mix, tying it together. B+(*) [cd]

Janet Jackson: Unbreakable (2015, Rhythm Nation): Seven years since her last album, Discipline, one of the few I didn't bother to check out (coming as it did after the C+ 20 Y.O.). Tempting to say this rights a slumping career, but it merely doesn't wrong it further. Above all it shows that competency can be enjoyed by anyone with the budget. B+(*)

Guus Janssen: Meeting Points (1989-2014 [2015], Bimhuis): Dutch avant pianist, has had a notable career with 1997's Zwik a particular high point. This is previously unreleased material from scattered groups, although six (of nine) tracks date from 2011 or later. Two piano-drums duos, a duo with Lee Konitz, but the most interesting are four small groups with Michael Moore (clarinet or alto sax). B+(***) [cd]

Jeff Jenkins Organization: The Arrival (2014 [2015], OA2): Organ trio, with Dave Gorbus on Godin guitar and Alwyn Robinson on drums. A soul jazz throwback, pretty impeccable as those things go. B+(*) [cd]

Khat Thaleth [Third Line]: Initiative for the Elevation of Public Awareness (2013, Stronghold Sound): Arabic rappers (from all over: Lebanon to Tunisia"), lyrics (I gather) politically focused, "a third electric and energized approach to looking at politics in the Arab world." Beats are fairly minimal although the traditional tones and modes sometimes leak through, and the mixes shift around a lot -- probably a plus, since I doubt that anyone here is much of a star. A-

Martin Küchen/Johan Berthling/Steve Noble: Night in Europe (2014 [2015], NoBusiness): Sax-bass-drums trio, the leader playing tenor, alto, and sopranino, recorded live at Glenn Miller Café in Stockholm. Küchen has mostly worked in larger groups like Angles (also Exploding Customer, All Included, and Trespass Trio), so this is a chance to hear him in a relatively informal improv bash. B+(***) [cd]

Martin Küchen/Jon Rune Strřm/Tollef Řstvang: Melted Snow (2014 [2015], NoBusiness): Another Küchen sax trio, this one with locals (not that Berthling and Noble are much more famous) and short enough for a vinyl-only release. Not much reason to choose between them, unless you're some sort of vinyl junkie. B+(***) [cdr]

Nancy Lane: Let Me Love You (2015, self-released): Standards singer, first album. Mostly picks lesser-known songs, including one in French, but there's also "Cry Me a River," "All of You," and "What Is This Thing Called Love." Looks, and sounds, a bit like Diana Krall. Don't know anyone in the band, but they rotate seamlessly between piano and guitar backing, and several trumpet and sax spots are well chosen. B+(***) [cd]

Adam Larson: Selective Amnesia (2015, Inner Circle Music): Tenor saxophonist, from Illinois, based in New York, plays postbop, has a couple albums, this a quintet with guitar (Matthew Stevens), piano (Fabian Almazan), bass, and drums. B+(*) [cd]

Emma Larsson: Sing to the Sky (2014 [2015], Origin): Singer/songwriter (6 of 9 songs are originals), second album, backed by piano trio (Shedrick Mitchell, Eric Revis, Billy Drummond) and saxophonist Kenneth Whallum III. B [cd]

Ingrid Laubrock: Ubatuba (2014 [2015], Firehouse 12): Avant saxophonist from Germany, has about 15 records since 1998 and plays on a lot of other's albums, especially with Kris Davis, Mary Halvorson, and/or Tom Rainey. This group has four horns, with Tim Berne on alto sax, Laubrock moving between alto and tenor, Ben Gerstein on trombone and Dan Peck on tuba, plus Rainey on drums. B+(**) [cd]

Martin Leiton: Poetry of Sound (2014 [2015], UnderPool): Bassist, from Barcelona, has at least one previous album. This is a trio with Marcel-li Bayer (alto sax, tenor sax, bass clarinet) and Oscar Doménech (drums). Understated, crawls along at an even pace, nearly hypnotic. B+(**) [cd]

Daniel Levin/Rob Brown: Divergent Paths (2012 [2015, Cipsela): Duets, cello and alto sax, both a little abstract and dry. B+(*) [cd]

Jeffrey Lewis & Los Bolts: Manhattan (2015, Rough Trade): Comic book artist, folksinger too, although a dozen albums in he rocks harder, still crams a lot of words in, with more than a few in Yiddish. A-

John Lindberg/Anil Eraslan: Juggling Kukla (2011 [2015], NoBusiness): Well known American bassist, a founder of String Trio of New York with several dozen albums under his own name, duets with Turkish cellist Eraslan. Inevitably has some hard-to-hear spots, but also much of interest. B+(**) [cdr]

Luis Lopes/Jean-Luc Guionnet: Live at Culturgest (2011 [2015], Clean Feed): Guionnet is a prolific, fairly well known French alto saxophonist -- Discogs credits him with 35 albums since 1998, although that includes quite a few albums where, like this one, his name appears second or later on the credit line. I'm much more familiar with the Portuguese guitarist: he's come up with a distinctly non-fusion electric guitar style. Two long improvs here, much of it pretty ugly, although if you can stand it you might also find a tingle of excitement. B-

Lyrics Born: Real People (2015, Mobile Home): Tokyo-born rapper Tsutomu ("Tom") Shimura, came up through the Berkeley underground in the duo Latyrx and a handful of his own albums. This one rocks out on the title cut, then busts several of the hottest raps I've heard this year. Catchiest too. A [cd]

Roy McGrath Quartet: Martha (2014 [2015], JL Music): Tenor saxophonist, born in Puerto Rico, based in Chicago, seems to be his second album. Also plays in salsa/Latin jazz and funk groups, but this is a mainstream sax quartet -- can't read the red-on-green credits, but they're competent, and I'm a sucker for the sax leads. B+(**) [cd]

Marco Mezquida Mateos: Live in Terrassa (2015, UnderPool): Pianist, from Barcelona, has a couple previous albums as Marco Mezquida. This is solo. The cover shows him from high above at a grand piano, with no cover, surrounded on all sides by rapt listeners in uncomfortable chairs, and the recording feels that intimate. But what makes it work for me is the rhythmic undertow. B+(***) [cd]

Kristine Mills: Bossa Too (2015, InkWell Publishing): Singer-songwriter from Houston, fourth album, backed by Itaiguara Brandao (electric bass, acoustic guitar), piano, drums, some extra percussion. Slips a couple Jobims in with her originals. Appropriately light and frothy. B [cd]

Matt Mitchell: Vista Accumulation (2015, Pi, 2CD): Pianist, has built a reputation playing in key groups (Tim Berne, Darius Jones, Dave Douglas, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Claudia Quintet), now presents his third album as a sprawling double (96:10), a quartet with Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), Chris Tordini (bass), and Dan Weiss (drums). Rather dark and brooding, sorry to say, although those who stick with it will continue to be impressed. B+(**) [cd]

The Monash Art Ensemble/George Lewis: Hexis (2013 [2014], Jazzhead): Pianist Paul Grabowsky founded the Australian Art Ensemble in 1994, and added students from the Monash University of Music to form this group. Lewis is the AACM trombonist, has a mixed discography that can stray far from his instrument. The combination is a stark, radical take on third stream. B+(**)

Ŕlvar Montfort/Lucas Martinez/Jordi Matas/Abel Boquera/Pep Mula: Underpool 4 (2014 [2015], UnderPool): Trumpet, tenor sax, guitar, keys & synth, drums -- another postbop configuration (see Underpool 3). At one point Martinez tries to drag this into the avant-garde, but the group doesn't follow. B+(*) [cd]

Jack Mouse & Scott Robinson with Janice Borla: Three Story Sandbox (2015 [2016], Tall Grass): Mouse is a drummer, playing a long list of percussion instruments here. Robinson plays an equally long list of reeds, giving us a minimal but fairly varied two-man band. Borla sings. B+(*) [cd]

Larry Ochs/Don Robinson Duo: The Throne (2011 [2015], Not Two): Sax-drums duo, Ochs playing tenor and sopranino. The latter if piercingly ugly but strangely captivating. The tenor also pushes the limits of avant-ugly, but most often is invigorating, and the stretches where they slow down are most captivating. The drummer doesn't play off the riffs so much as roll with them. A-

Paris: Pistol Politics (2015, Guerrilla Funk, 2CD): Oscar Jackson Jr., rapper from San Francisco, dropped his first album in 1990 and has always worn politics on his sleeve. I should make a point of checking out his early albums when he had major label deals, but the first I heard was 2003's Sonic Jihad on his own label, then even better his "featuring" role on Public Enemy's Rebirth of a Nation (2006). This is his first album in six years, and he's got a lot to talk about, with a natural flow meant to make his words clear, and perfunctory beats to keep it moving. A- [cd]

Peaceful Solutions: Barter 7 (2015, self-released): Kool A.D. (originally of Das Racist) and Kassa Overall (originally a jazz drummer), aka Kool & Kass, now dba the title of their first album together. The title is presumably a play on Young Thug's Barter 6, itself a play on the still-unreleased Tha Carter V. Obviously, "the world's greatest rapper" (these days "the real one") doesn't spend a lot of time on titles. Nor on rhymes, although he lands a few anyway, and the beats render even the groaners amusing. A- [bc]

Pol Pedrós/Noč Escolŕ/Albert Cirera/Rai Paz/Paco Weht/Ildefons Alonso: Underpool 3 (2014, UnderPool): Barcelona-based jazz label. I originally figured this for a sampler, but while the writing credits are scattered, it seems to be the same group on all tracks. Respective instruments are: trumpet, alto sax, tenor sax, guitar, bass, and drums. Seems like a formula for postbop, and is. B+(*) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp: Complementary Colors (2015, Leo): Tenor sax and piano duo, two avant players with intertwined histories going back at least to 1996. The focus on color keeps this on the quiet side, which is not really what either player is known for. B+(***) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Mat Maneri/Tanya Kalmanovitch: Villa Lobos Suite (2015, Leo): Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887-1959) was a famed Brazilian composer, the inspiration for but not the author of this music. The credits here are shared by the trio, with the tenor sax receding behind the two violas. Interesting music, but the tone does rub me the wrong way. B+(**) [cd]

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey: Butterfly Whispers (2015, Leo): Avant tenor sax-piano-drums trio, one that previously cut 2012's The Clairvoyant -- one of the Brazilian saxophonist's finest albums. This struggles a bit to reach that level, but eventually cranks it up a notch from the Perelman-Shipp duo, which is what adding a good drummer should do. A- [cd]

Oscar Perez: Prepare a Place for Me (2015, Myna): Pianist, from Queens, played in church and listened to Cuban folk music, studied under Danilo Perez and Sir Roland Hanna, has a couple previous albums. Piano trio with a Latin lilt, plus alto saxophonist Bruce Williams on five (of nine) cuts: a nice addition but you don't notice his absence. B+(**) [cd]

Roots Manuva: Bleeds (2015, Big Dada): Brit rapper Rodney Smith, seems to have lost the grime/dub beats he started out with a decade-and-a-half ago. B

Michael Sarian & the Chabones: The Escape Suite (2014-15 [2015], self-released): Trumpet player, from Canada, second album, septet with two saxes, trombone, electric piano and bass -- allows a lot of texturing with little open space. B+(**) [cd]

Maria Schneider Orchestra: The Thompson Fields (2014 [2015], ArtistShare): A protégé of Gil Evans, she very quickly grew into damn near every critic's favorite composer/arranger (except, I guess, mine). Probably my bad, not that I'm in any hurry to go back. But this is so richly layered, so sumptuous, I feel like there should be some dazzling visuals to subsume this into the background -- probably a nature doc, since that seems to be her thing. B+(**) [cd]

Matthew Shipp Trio: The Conduct of Jazz (2015, Thirsty Ear): Piano trio, with Michael Bisio on bass and Newman Taylor Baker on drums. Shipp seems to have lost interest in his jazztronica phase, but he draws on that experience when he breaks out the heavy, tumbling rhythmic runs that set the pace here. A- [cd]

Herb Silverstein: Younger Next Year (2015, self-released): Otolaryngologist, actually more of an otologist, based in Sarasota, Florida, also plays piano, writes his own songs, and has close to a dozen albums. Quintet with sax and guitar, seems like the sort of music you could hear in his waiting room. B [cd]

Slobber Pup: Pole Axe (2015, Rare Noise): Avant-noise group, second album, Jamie Saft (organ, keyboards) and Balasz Pandi (drums) also in the similar Metallic Taste of Blood, joined here by Joe Morris (guitar) and most importantly saxophonist Mats Gustafsson (a newcomer to the group). B+(**) [cdr]

Spanglish Fly: New York Boogaloo (2015, Caco World Music): New York group dedicated to reviving boogaloo, a funk-novelty variant (simplification?) of salsa that broke some hits in the 1970s. Still, not purists, as indicated by a preponderance of English lyrics. B+(*)

Speedy Ortiz: Foil Deer (2015, Carpark): Guitar band from Northampton, MA, the female singer (Sadie Dupuis) offerng a bit of pop glow even while the jerky rhythm undermines it. B+(*)

Martin Speicher/Peter Geisselbrecht/Jörg Fischer: Spicy Unit (2014 [2015], Spore Print): Reeds (alto/sopranino sax, clarinet), piano, drums. Fischer has been sending his records in regularly, mostly engaging avant encounters, but this is the first one that really clicked -- mostly thanks to the pianist's own higher order percussion. Never noticed Geisselbrecht before, but he makes a huge impression here, which Speicher's coloring complements. A- [cd]

Spinifex: Veiled (2015, Trytone): Dutch quintet, has been around ten years but I'm not finding a discography -- one previous album was Hipsters Gone Ballistic (2013). Despite the presence of two horns -- Gijs Levelt on trumpet and Tobias Klein on alto sax -- the sound is dominated by guitars: Jasper Stadhouders plus Gonçalo Almeida on bass. Fusion closer to punk: if McLaughlin's goal was beyond, these guys are in your face. B+(**) [cd]

The Spook School: Try to Be Hopeful (2015, Fortuna Pop): Scottish garage pop group, upbeat, like group harmony and that old rock and roll romp. B+(**)

Chris Stapleton: Traveller (2015, Mercury Nashville): Has a fledgling rep as a tunesmith but picks two drinking songs off the rack and had help on most of the rest. Mid-tempo with the weight of the world on his shoulders, much of which he put there. B+(**)

Statik Selektah: Lucky 7 (2015, Showoff/Duck Down Music): Patrick Baril, DJ/producer from Boston, parades a couple dozen rappers past you, not that they sound different enough to county. B+(**)

Ike Sturm + Evergreen: Shelter of Trees (2014 [2015], Kilde): Bassist, from Wisconsin, third album, serves as Music Director for the Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan. Evergreen seems to refer to the whole band, including three female singers for a bit of choral effect. Loren Stillman's alto sax is a bright spot. B- [cd]

Sun Ra Arkestra Under the Direction of Marshall Allen: Babylon Live (2014 [2015], In+Out): A ghost band, but dedicated not so much to a songbook as to an attitude and some spectacle, which may be why the vocals loom larger than on Sun Ra's own albums. Overseeing the effort is the 90-year-old saxophonist, the last living link to the '50s Arkestra, maybe even the '80s one. B+(**)

Survival Unit III: Game Theory (2010 [2013], Not Two): Joe McPhee on alto sax and pocket trumpet, backed by two Chicagoans: Fred Londberg-Holm (cello, electronics) and Michael Zerang (percussion). Third of four recordings since 2006, they've survived longer than McPhee's early Survival Unit II (1971; I haven't found any evidence of a Survival Unit I, with McPhee's earliest recordings in 1968). McPhee speaks out in the final piece, breaking the mood to add a political dimension to the struggle. B+(**)

Survival Unit III: Straylight (2014 [2015], Pink Palace): Fourth group album, a live set at Krannert Art Museum in Chicago, with two 20+ minute pieces and a 6-minute closer. Two surprises: one is that Joe McPhee plays soprano instead of tenor sax, and that his pocket trumpet is listed first; the other is Fred Lonberg-Holm playing some very aggressive guitar in addition to his usual cello and electronics. B+(***) [bc]

Total Babes: Heydays (2015, Wichita): Four blokes from Ohio -- what did you expect? A punkish group that doesn't neglect the hooks or the grind ("Circling" is an example of both). But then they let up on the gas. B+(**)

U.S. Girls: Half Free (2015, 4AD): Only "Girls" band I've run across with actual females in it -- at least leader Meg Remy. Dense and rather erratic art-pop, playing it after Björk makes me see that source but that's only part of an approximation. Impresses me a bit, but I can't say as I like it. B

Manuel Valera & Groove Square: Urban Landscape (2015, Destiny): Cuban-born pianist, more than ten albums since 2004, has a New York band that expertly mixes postbop with Cuban touches: John Ellis (reeds), Nir Felder (guitar), John Benitez (bass), either E.J. Strickland or Jeff "Tain" Watts (drums), plus some guests. B+(**) [cd]

Jacob Varmus Septet: Aegean: For Three Generations of Jazz Lovers (2013 [2015], Crows' Kin): Trumpet player, fourth album, songs commissioned by Apostolos Georgopoulas, who recapitulated the history of the post-WWII jazz mainstream in his liner notes -- the model for the songs themselves. Group includes Hashem Assadullahi on alto/soprano sax, Pete McCann on guitar, two pianists (although it isn't clear they ever play together, bass, and drums. Has a nice flow and spots that stand up to its models. B+(**) [cd]

Luke Vibert: Bizarster (2015, Planet Mu): British electronica producer, has also worked as Plug and Wagon Christ and a few less common names. This has a nice snap to it and amuses me, which is about all the sense I can hope to make out of this kind of music. B+(***)

Lou Volpe: Remembering Ol' Blue Eyes (Songs of Sinatra) (2015, Jazz Guitar): Guitarist, first record looks to be 1985's Easy Jammin, and that's pretty much what you get here -- except that by combing through Sinatra's songbook he came up with a fine list of songs. Done with keyboards, bass, drums, and percussion -- no horns or vocals -- this work as elevator music but is much better. B+(**) [cd]

Doug Webb: Triple Play (2014 [2015], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, studio guy from Los Angeles who moved up front around 2009 and now has six albums for this mainstream-oriented label. A fast bebop joust with Joel Frahm also playing tenor, with Brian Charette avoiding any hint of soul jazz on organ, and Rudy Royston on drums. I've considerably softened my distaste for bebop from twenty years ago, but this threatens to bring it all back. B-

Carrie Wicks: Maybe (2015, OA2): Singer, third album, mostly co-writes originals but covers three standards here. Backed by piano trio: Bill Anshell, Jeff Johnson, Byron Vannoy. Interesting nuance to her voice -- "Ghost of a Perfect Flame" hits the spot. B+(**) [cd]

Webb Wilder: Mississippi Moderne (2015, Landslide): Roots rocker, grew up in Mississippi listening to the Brit Invasion, has bounced around between Austin and Nashville, recording close to a dozen albums since 1986. Perhaps he's getting some Grammy notice now because he's gotten to be as old as his music. B+(*)

Patrick Williams: Home Suite Home (2015, BFM): A composer-arranger, studied at Duke and Columbia, moved to Los Angeles in 1968, "wrote the scores for over 60 feature films and countless television assignments," cut a big band album in 1973 and has ten (or so) more since. This is another big band, many familiar names from the LA session world, with the title three-part suite, two vocal features (one for Patti Austin, a duet for Frank Sinatra Jr. and Tierney Sutton), and a couple titles I'm fond of: "A Hefti Dose of Basie (to the Memory of Neal Hefti)" and "That's Rich (for Buddy)." B+(*) [cd]

Dave Wilson Quartet: There Was Never (2015, Zoho): Tenor saxophonist, based in Lancaster PA, has a handful of albums, this a quartet with Bobby Avey (piano), Tony Marino (bass), and Alex Ritz (drums). Six originals plus "Cassidy" (Grateful Dead), "God Only Knows" (Beach Boys), and "Summertime" (everyone). Plays fast with a commanding tone, the sort of thing that usually blows me away but somehow this doesn't. Runs a business buying and selling brass instruments -- clearly something he loves. B+(*) [cd]

Michael Zerang & the Blue Lights: Songs From the Big Book of Love (2014 [2015], Pink Palace): Chicago drummer, played in Ken Vandermark's pre-5 Quartet and shows up on a lot of important albums. This group recalls the early V5 with two saxophonists: founder Mars Williams and his replacement Dave Rempis, plus V5 bassist Kent Kessler and cornetist Josh Berman for extra sparks. Terrific sax runs. A- [bc]

Michael Zerang & the Blue Lights: Hash Eaters and Peacekeepers (2014 [2015], Pink Palace, EP): Billed as a "companion release to Songs From the Big Book of Love, a bit long for as EPs go (six cuts, 33:51, but released on cassette and discounted). Heavier on themes, which beefs them up and slows them down a tad, but they do impress. B+(***) [bc]

Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries

John Carter: Echoes From Rudolph's (1976-77 [2015], NoBusiness, 2CD): Clarinet and soprano sax, mostly trio with Stanley Carter on bass and William Jeffery on drums. The first disc offers a pretty good sample of Carter as improviser. Seems like much of the second disc is given over to bass solo, which is interesting in its own right. Maybe Carter did need Bradford? B+(**) [cd]

Hamid Drake/Michael Zerang: For Ed Blackwell (1995 [2015], Pink Palace): One 42:46 composition for two drum sets, in honor of the late drummer (1929-92), best known for playing in Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet from 1960, a lineup later resurrected as Old and New Dreams (with Dewey Redman instead of Coleman). This goes well beyond drum solos, almost to a system. B+(***) [bc]

Free Jazz Group Wiesbaden: Frictions/Frictions Now (1969-71 [2015], NoBusiness): Early free jazz quartet from the center of West Germany, no one who later became famous although each of the players has 5-10 other credits -- Michael Sell (trumpet), Dieter Scherf (alto sax, oboe, piano, exotic flutes and such), Gerhard König (guitar, flute), Wolfgang Schlick (drums). They cut two albums which sound like they could have come much later, perhaps because Americans don't appreciate how early a linkage was established between European free jazz and "third world musics" -- perhaps because Europeans were more conscious of their states' colonial legacies. B+(***) [cd]

Erroll Garner: The Complete Concert by the Sea (1955 [2015], Columbia/Legacy, 3CD): A fine pianist from Pittsburgh, fast and idiosyncratically unique, he became a popular celebrity when his 1956 Concert by the Sea album went gold. Cut live in Carmel, CA, heavily edited to 41:19 LP length, Garner led a trio with Eddie Calhoun on bass and Denzil Best on drums, the album seemed to have a magic lift. Sixty years later, the label has stretched it out, offering the unedited concert, with 11 extra tunes on two discs, plus a third disc remaster with a 14:10 post-concert interview. It's all rather redundant, but I like the raw concert at least as much as the tailored product -- indeed, I can't imagine how they could have left "Caravan" off the latter. A- [cd]

Sun Ra: The Magic City (1965 [2015], Enterplanetary Koncepts): Billed as "Full Stereo Edition," I doubt this exists in anything but digital form. Indeed, a lot of old and obscure Sun Ra has been coming out in digital-only releases -- the original LPs were very limited runs, and the CDs that Evidence releasec c. 1993 are becoming hard to find. Some of their furthest out space shit, only intermittently connecting with terrestial like myself. B+(**)

Old Music

The Chills: Kaleidoscope World (1982-84 [1989], Homestead): Early singles compilation, well before Martin Phillips' group's 1988 debut (but compiled a year later). Pop gems in the rough, but very rough -- interesting that the catchiest track is the instrumental. B+(*)

Guy Davis: Juba Dance (2013, M.C.): Cover adds "featuring Fabrizio Poggi" -- an Italian harmonica player who inspires Brownie McGhee rhythms in Davis even when he's playing higher and sweeter than Sonny Terry. B+(**)

Robert Forster: Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997 (1990-97 [2007], Beggars Banquet): The Go-Betweens broke up in 1989 and regrouped with 2000's The Friends of Rachel Worth. In between principal songwriters Grant McLennan and Robert Forster released four albums each. The idea of compiling best-ofs came after McLennan's death in 2006, before Forster could resume his solo career. It's possible to find a package with one CD by each, but in the digital world they're separate. While McLennan's albums were more immediately appealing, this adds up to a good solid half a Go-Betweens album (maybe more). Maybe I should reconsider the source albums? A-

Erroll Garner: Body & Soul (1951-52 [1991], Columbia): Twenty songs collected from three piano trio sessions with John Simmons on bass and Shadow Wilson on drums. The times are uniformly within the range for 78s (2:21 to 3:45). Mostly standards, bright and fast, sometimes een showing his tenuous link to Art Tatum. B+(***)

Erroll Garner: The Erroll Garner Collection, Vol. 2: Dancing on the Ceiling (1961-65 [1989], Emarcy): The second slice of a five-volume compilation of previously unreleased performances by Garner's piano trio, with Eddie Calhoun and Kelly Martin. B+(**)

Marty Grosz and His Honoris Causa Jazz Band: Hooray for Bix! (1957 [1958], Good Time Jazz): An old-fashioned rhythm guitarist and sometime singer, born in Berlin in 1930 but escaped the Nazis as a toddler -- his father was famed caricaturist Georg Grosz -- and grew up as a devotee of trad jazz. First album, in fact his only one until 1983, and it's a delight. Cornetist Carl Halen gets a "featuring" notice on the front cover, although clarinetist Frank Chace is equally worthy. Songbook honors Beiderbecke, the songs as sweet as ever. A-

Marty Grosz with Destiny's Tots: Sings of Love and Other Matters (1986, Jazzology): One of several group names he's used -- the Orphan Newsboys is probably the best known -- but some of the key players (especially pianist Keith Ingham) are frequent associates. Grosz sang a bit on his debut, but this is where he learns how to make his rather ordinary voice work (good example: "Until the Real Thing Comes Along"). He also does a little stand up with his tale of how Edward Elgar discovered "The English Blues." A-

Marty Grosz: Songs I Learned at My Mother's Knee & Other Low Joints (1992 [1994], Jazzology): This comes from three sessions with as many groups, though they're all pretty much equivalent. B+(**)

Marty Grosz and the Collectors Items Cats: Thanks (1993, Jazzology): New band name but mostly the same cats -- Keith Ingham on piano, Peter Ecklund on cornet, Dan Barrett on trombone, Bobby Gordon on clarinet and Scott Robinson on reeds. B+(**)

Marty Grosz: Keep a Song in Your Soul (1994, Jazzology): Again split between two sessions/bands, but brighter from the start, often delightful. B+(***)

Marty Grosz and His Sugar Daddies: On Revival Day: Live at the Atlanta Jazz Party! (1995, Jazzology): Another fine trad jazz group, with Peter Ecklund (trumpet), Bobby Gordon (clarinet), Ingham, and others. On the other hand, this seems rather subdued, especially on the usually rousing Andy Razaf title song. B+(**)

Marty Grosz Quartet: Just for Fun! (1996, Nagel Heyer): Recorded live in Hamburg with what looks like a Brit trad jazz pickup group: Alan Elsdon (trumpet), John Barnes (clarinet), and Murray Wall (bass). Nothing special, but the record does pick up as the leader's tongue loosens up. [PS: Wall, b. 1945 in Australia, has played on at least two other Grosz albums. Elsdon and Barnes are English.] B+(*)

Marty Grosz: Left to His Own Devices (2000 [2001], Jazzology): With Randy Reinhart on cornet, Scott Robinson and Dan Block on clarinet and sax, Greg Cohen on bass, and Mike Peters on guitar. Relatively tame, perhaps because the obscurities aren't up to it. B+(*)

Marty Grosz & His Hot Puppies: Rhythm Is Our Business (2000-01 [2003], Sackville): A quintet with Randy Reinhart on trumpet and Frank Roberscheuten on clarinet (and various saxes), with the leader's trademark strum and sly vocals, more small group swing than trad, climaxing in a 10:17 medley: "Rhythm for Sale/He Ain't Got Rhythm/I Got Rhythm." B+(***)

Last Exit: Last Exit (1986, Enemy): Normally when I see an eponymous group album with the individual musician names on the cover, I list it under them, but this was such a unique group I prefer to keep their albums together. The musicians: Sonny Sharrock (guitar), Peter Brötzmann (saxes), Bill Laswell (electric bass), and Ronald Shannon Jackson (drums). Laswell's rockish beat keeps it all on an even keel. Sharrock can not only joust with the sax, he often comes out on top. A-

Last Exit: Köln (1986 [2005], Atavistic): A live set on saxophonist Brötzmann's home turf, which may help explain why he comes out swinging. Still, he doesn't dominate this like he does his own albums, probably because the guitar both competes and undercuts the sax. B+(***)

Last Exit: The Noise of Trouble: Live in Tokyo (1986, Enemy): Another live one, another continent, the added treats including a Jimmy Reed blues sung by Shannon Jackson, and a couple of gate crashers: Japanese alto saxophonist Akira Sakata, who knows his way around the avant-garders, and pianist Herbie Hancock, who doesn't. B+(**)

John Law Quartet: Exploded on Impact (1992 [1993], Slam): British avant pianist, with Alan Wilkinson (alto/baritone sax), Roberto Bellatalla (bass), and Mark Sanders (drums). Rhapsody only has two (of five) cuts (and the shorter ones at that: 19:17/55:47), so I probably shouldn't bother, or at least I should hedge a bit. A volatile combination, one that (here at least) ends much too soon. B+(***)

John Law: Extremely Quartet (1996 [1997], Hat Art): British pianist, trained to play baroque but broke free in the mid-1980s and has thirty or so albums -- well regarded in Penguin Guide but hitherto someone I've missed out on. Very strong group here -- Paul Dunmall (tenor and soprano sax), Barry Guy (bass), and Louis Moholo (drums) -- and the saxophonist manages to play with some restraint, not obliterating the fascinating piano runs. A-

John Law Quartet: Abacus (2000 [2001], Hatology): Pianist, with Jon Lloyd (alto/soprano sax), Tim Wells (bass), and Gerry Hemingway (drums). The first cut delivers the off-kilter thrash you expect, but then they try to show their flexibility and resourcefulness, including some slow melodic stuff that's nice and all that but detracts from the rush they're capable of. B+(***)

Grant McLennan: In Your Bright Ray (1997, Beggars Banquet): Final album, distilled essence of his Go-Betweens sound but none of the songs really jump out, like they're supposed to. B+(*)

Grant McLennan: Intermission: The Best of the Solo Recordings 1990-1997 (1990-97 [2007], Beggars Banquet): Like Robert Forster, McLennan released four solo albums during their break from the group they'll always be remembered for, the Go-Betweens. But McLennan was the more natural songwriter, and he was the one I followed, A-listing two of these four albums. Not sure this is better, but "Lighting Fires" tops Fireboy, and two cuts I missed from In Your Bright Ray above made the grade this time. A-

John Tchicai: Cadentia Nova Danica (1968, Freedom): Danish alto saxophonist, father from Congo, first album but he had previously appeared with New York Art Quartet and on Albert Ayler's New York Eye and Ear, and also in 1968 he appeared on the first Instant Composers Pool album. I count nine musicians, with Karsten Vogel joining Tchicai at alto sax (and composing two of the pieces; Tchicai wrote two, and arranged a South American folk song), three percussionists (Giorgio Musoni on African drums), and Max Bryel switching between piano and baritone sax. Rough and tumble, but when it all connects pretty amazing. A-

John Tchicai and Cadentia Nova Danica: Afrodisiaca (1969, MPS): A year later Tchicai's group peaked out at 26 musicians for the 21:45 title cut, written by trumpeter Hugh Steinmetz, part of the sudden explosion of avant-orchestras in Europe (starting with Globe Unity and ICP in 1967, plus LJCO in 1970. One of those glorious messes some people remember as stone classics. Still, the musicians thin out on the back side, and with them the excitement. B+(**)

John Tchicai-Irene Schweizer-Group: Willi the Pig: Live at the Willisau Jazz Festival (1975 [2000], Atavistic): Quartet with Buschi Niebergall on bass and Makaya Nishoko on drums backing alto (or soprano) sax and piano for one long improv, originally split over two LP sides. Fine outing for Tchicai, but it's the pianist who makes it special. A-

John Tchicai & Strange Brothers: Darktown Highlights (1977, Storyville): Quartet live from Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen, with Simon Spang-Hanssen (tenor sax), Peter Danstrup (bass), and Ole Rřmer (drums). Stretches out a bit more than in the earlier albums. B+(***)

John Tchicai: Put Up the Fight (1987, Storyville): Another quartet, but a very different with more of a groove focus, Brent Clausen playing vibes/guitar/synth, Peter Danstrup on bass guitar/synth, and Ole Rřmer drums. The regular beat does let the sax soar, and the vibes provide some sparkle. B+(*)

John Tchicai: Darktown Highlights/Put Up the Fight (1977-87 [2012], Storyville, 2CD): Only print on the cover is "John Tchicai" but the best available discography settled on this title, one disc each for two Storyville albums, per above. B+(**)

Additional Consumer News:

Previous grades on artists in the old music section.

  • The Chills: Brave Worlds (1988, Homestead): B+
  • The Chills: Submarine Bells (1990, Slash): A
  • The Chills: Soft Bomb (1992, Slash): A
  • The Chills: Somewhere Beautiful (2011-12 [2013], Fire): B+(**)
  • Guy Davis: Call Down the Thunder (1996, Red House): B+
  • Guy Davis: You Don't Know My Mind (1998, Red House): A-
  • Guy Davis: Butt Naked Free (2000, Red House): A-
  • Guy Davis: Give in Kind (2002, Red House): A-
  • Guy Davis: Chocolate to the Bone (2003, Red House): B+
  • Robert Forster: The Evangelist (2008, Yep Roc): A-
  • Erroll Garner: Long Ago and Far Away (1950-51 [1987], Columbia): B
  • Erroll Garner: The Original Misty (1954 [1988], Mercury): B
  • Erroll Garner: Concert by the Sea (1955 [1987], Columbia): A-
  • Erroll Garner: The Erroll Garner Collection Vol. 1: Easy to Love (1961-65 [1988], Emarcy): B+
  • Marty Grosz: Swing It! (1988, Jazzology): B+
  • Marty Grosz/Keith Ingham: Unsaturated Fats (1990, Stomp Off): A-
  • Marty Grosz: Ring Dem Bells (1995, Nagel Heyer): B
  • Marty Grosz: Marty Grosz and His Hot Combination (2005 [2006], Arbors): B+(**)
  • Marty Grosz: Hot Winds, the Classic Sessions (2008 [2009], Arbors): B+(***)
  • Marty Grosz: The James P. Johnson Songbook (2010 [2012], Arbors): A-
  • Marty Grosz and the Fat Babies: Diga Diga Doo (2013-14 [2015], Delmark): A-
  • Last Exit: Iron Path (1988, Venture): B+
  • G.W. McLennan: Watershed (1991, Beggars Banquet): A-
  • Grant McLennan: Fireboy (1994, Atlantic): B+
  • Grant McLennan: Horsebreaker Star (1991-94 [1994], Beggars Banquet): A-
  • John Tchicai: Real Tchicai (1977, Steeplechase): B+
  • John Tchicai/Garrison Fewell/Tino Tracanna/Paolino Dalla Porta/Massimo Manzi: Big Chief Dreaming (2003 [2005], Soul Note): B+
  • John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell: Good Night Songs (2003 [2006], Boxholder, 2CD): B+(**)
  • John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell/Cecil McBee/Billy Hart: Tribal Ghost (2007 [2013], NoBusiness): A-


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