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Streamnotes: February 27, 2023
Most of these are short notes/reviews based on streaming records from Napster (formerly Rhapsody; other sources are noted in brackets). They are snap judgments, usually based on one or two plays, accumulated since my last post along these lines, back on January 31. Past reviews and more information are available here (21203 records).
Don Aliquo: Growth (2022 , Ear Up): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, sometimes goes as Jr. to distinguish from his father, another saxophonist (still active at 93, where this one is a mere 63). Teaches at Middle Tennessee, which has led him to associate with free players like Memphis pianist Michael Jefry Stevens. This is more mainstream, with Steve Kovaichek's guitar especially notable. B+(**) [cd]
Kwesi Arthur: Son of Jacob (2022, Ground Up Chale): Rapper-singer from Ghana, first album, musical flow. B+(**) [sp]
Anthony Branker & Imagine: What Place Can Be for Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (2022 , Origin): Composer and arranger, originally a trumpet player (on a 1980 album), but has only directed nine albums since 2005. Seven piece group here, all familiar names (Walter Smith III, Philip Dizack, Remy Le Boeuf, Pete McCann, Fabian Almazan, Linda May Han Oh, Donald Edwards), with a bit of spoken word (Alison Crickett) to set the direction, from which everything flows organically. A- [cd]
Iris DeMent: Working on a World (2023, Flariella): Church-trained folksinger from Arkansas, released three stunning albums in the 1990s, contributed the anchor duets on John Prine's In Spite of Ourselves (1999), has appeared only rarely since. This is her first album of new songs since 2012. The time has taken a toll on her still-unmistakable voice, and the times on her patience, but not on her fundamental decency and good sense. Hits a rough patch midway through which might tempted me to cavil, but in the end I'm just happy to hear more. A- [sp]
Margherita Fava: Tatatu (2022 , self-released): Italian pianist, studied at Michigan State (Rodney Whitaker) and U. of Tennessee (Eric Reed and Greg Tardy), based in Knoxville, first album, six originals plus "Rhythm-A-Ning" and "All the Things You Are." Quartet with Tardy never better on tenor sax and clarinet. A- [cd] [03-10]
Satoko Fujii/Otomo Yoshihide: Perpetual Motion (2022 , Ayler): Piano and guitar duo, both free, frisky, and potentially explosive. B+(***) [cd]
Skip Grasso: Becoming (2022 , Barking Coda Music): Guitarist, has a previous group album. This is a quartet with Anthony Powell (keyboards), Harvie S (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). All original pieces, pleasant enough. B [cd]
Scott Hamilton: Talk to Me, Baby (2022, Blau): Tenor saxophonist, retro-swing, many albums since 1977, this a quartet with Dena DeRose (piano), Ignasi González (bass), and Jo Krause (drums), a group he's recorded five previous albums with (from 2015). B+(***) [sp]
Thomas Heberer/Ken Filiano/Phil Haynes: Spontaneous Composition (2022, Corner Store Music): Heberer, a German based in New York, plays trumpet and piano, backed by bass and drums. B+(**) [bc]
Jo Lawry: Acrobats (2022 , Whirlwind): Standards singer from Australia, based in New York. Several albums since 2008. The secret to this one is minimal (but expert) backing, on bass (Linda May Han Oh) and drums (Allison Miller), which lets her scat and skip over the wit, especially of Cole Porter ("You're the Top") and Frank Loesser. Another standout is "Takes Two to Tango." A- [cd]
Yosef Gutman Levitt/Tal Yahalom: Tsuf Harim (2023, Soul Song): Bass and guitar duo, although it's mostly the guitarist who registers. The gentle, soothing, yet intricate pieces draw on Eli Rivkin's transcriptions of traditional Hasidic melodies. B+(***) [cdr] [03-03]
Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls (2022 , Cellar Music): Soprano/tenor saxophonist, long list of albums since 1973, plays in fast and relatively avant company here, with Peter Evans (trumpet), Leo Genovese (piano), John Hébert (bass), and Tyshawn Sorey (drums). B+(***) [cd]
Delfeayo Marsalis Uptown Jazz Orchestra: Uptown on Mardi Gras Day (2022 , Troubadour Jass): Trombonist, fourth son and third musician sired by pianist Ellis Marsalis, celebrates his native New Orleans with a big band party album, adding three originals to the standard fare, with several vocalists in the crowd. B+(***) [cd]
Jason Moran: From the Dancehall to the Battlefield (2022 , Yes): "A meditation on the life and legacy of James Reese Europe" (1881-1919), a composer and bandleader born in Mobile, moved to Washington, DC when he was 10, and on to New York in 1904, where he organized his first bands. He went on to lead a military band in WWII, touring widely and recording several songs in France. When he returned to America, he played Carnegie Hall with a 125-piece orchestra. Moran stitched this together from Europe's compositions, three W.C. Handy blues in Europe's repertoire, a couple originals, and bits of Albert Ayler and Pauline Oliveros, played by a tentet with four brass, three reeds, piano, bass, and drums. A- [bc]
Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project: A Thousand Pebbles (2023, One Trick Dog): Pianist, also plays accordion, has a couple previous albums, including one by this group: a septet with trumpet, two saxes, guitar, bass, and drums. Originals, aside from a Jobim. B+(*) [cd]
Markus Rutz: Storybook (2023, Jmarq): Trumpet player, based in Chicago, sixth album, mostly original pieces (covers of Kenny Dorham, Joe Henderson, Lil Hardin, and Mal Waldron). Quintet with Sharel Cassity (sax), piano, bass, and drums, with guitar on three tracks. B+(**) [cd]
The Dave Stryker Trio: Prime (2022 , Strikezone): Guitarist, trio with Jared Gold (organ) and McClenty Hunter (drums). Creatures of habit, starting off each year with a new album of tasty groove. B+(***) [cd]
Eldad Tarmu: Tarmu Jazz Quartet (2022 , Queen of Bohemia): Vibraphonist, born in Los Angeles, parents were Israeli, hype sheet credits this as his tenth album (going back to 1998, as far as I can tell). With alto sax (Adam Hutcheson), bass, and drums. Sax is impressive, and the vibes are nicely interlaced. B+(**) [cd] [03-01]
Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project: Mi Hogar (2022 , Outside In Music): Canadian trumpet player, from Montreal, fifth album since 2011, wrote three songs, covers include Coltrane and Gillespie ("Con Alma"), with a variable cast that always includes plenty of percussion. B+(**) [cd]
Greg Ward's Rogue Parade: Dion's Quest (2021 , Sugah Hoof): Alto saxophonist, based in New York but early connections were in Chicago. Second group album, thickly layered with bass (Matt Ulery), drums (Quin Kirchner), two guitars (Matt Gold and Dave Miller), with the sax soaring above. Such layering is common in rock, stifling here. All original pieces by Ward. Title significance unknown. B- [cd]
Alex Weiss: Most Don't Have Enough (2023, Ears & Eyes): Tenor saxophonist, albums back to 1995, postbop quintet with Dan Blake (soprano sax), guitar, bass, and drums, plus piano (Marta Sanchez) on two tracks. B+(*) [cd]
Recent Reissues, Compilations, Vault Discoveries
Walter Blanding: The Olive Tree (1999, Criss Cross): Tenor saxophonist, was one of five who recorded as Tough Young Tenors in 1991, after which he joined the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (as did Herb Harris and Todd Williams -- not a great career move for any of them). He's an impressive player every time out, but only has this one album under his name, ably supported by Ryan Kisor (trumpet), Farid Barron (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass), and Rodney Green (drums). Four originals, five standards (including Monk, Waller, and a nice "The Nearness of You"). B+(**) [sp]
Ray Brown: The Best of the Concord Years (1973-93 , Concord, 2CD): Bassist (1926-2002), probably held a record for most album appearances (according to a Penguin Guide count; the current leader is almost certainly Ron Carter). He was in Oscar Peterson's trio (1951-65), which was effectively Norman Granz's house band, and recorded extensively in the Poll Winners (with Barney Kessel and Shelly Manne). He was a natural for Concord, where he led his piano trios, and helped out everywhere (piano trios, mostly with Gene Harris and Jeff Hamilton or Mickey Roker, account for 14 of 25 tracks here). B+(**) [r]
Terri Lyne Carrington/Adam Rogers/Jimmy Haslip/Greg Osby: Structure (2003 , ACT): Drums, guitar, bass, alto sax. Everyone brought songs, plus they cover one by Joni Mitchell ("Ethiopia," which Carrington sings). B+(***) [sp]
Betty Carter: Look What I Got! (1988, Verve): Jazz singer (1929-98), started in ill-fitting big bands -- Lionel Hampton reportedly fired her seven times -- kicked around various labels before she finally took charge of her own (Bet-Car), which after 1976 was distributed by Verve, giving her the autonomy she demanded and the exposure she craved. She won a Grammy for this one, although it strikes me as a bit of a muddle -- despite an interesting "The Man I Love," highlighted by Don Braden's sax. B+(*) [sp]
Ron Carter/Jim Hall: Telephone (1984 , Concord): Bass and guitar duo, did a previous album (Alone Together) in 1973, as well as Alive at Village West in 1982. This one was also recorded live. B+(*) [sp]
Soesja Citroen: Soesja Citroen Sings Thelonious Monk (1983 , Timeless): Dutch jazz singer, early album, backed by trio or larger groups up to octet led by pianist Cees Slinger. Various lyricists, mostly Citroen (5/8 tracks). B+(**) [sp]
Soesja Citroen: Songs for Lovers and Losers (1996, Challenge): Smaller but still significant credits on the cover for Louis van Dijk (piano) and Hein Van de Geyn (bass), then "special guest" Ack van Rooyen (flugelhorn on three tracks). Standards, most common, some special. B+(**) [sp]
The Johnny Coles Quartet: New Morning (1982 , Criss Cross): Trumpet player (1926-97), mostly remembered for his one album on Blue Note (Little Johnny C, from 1963), only led a few more dates, plus several dozen side credits (notably with Gil Evans and Charles Mingus). Quartet with Horace Parlan (piano), Reggie Johnson (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), playing three originals, three covers (Mingus, Wayne Shorter, Charles Davis). B+(***) [sp]
George Colligan: Agent 99 (1999 , SteepleChase): Pianist, debut 1999 (title: The Newcomer), trio with Doug Weiss (bass) and Darren Beckett (drums). Two originals, various jazz tunes and standards (including a Jobim). B+(**) [sp]
Eddie Condon: 1928-1931 (1928-31 , Timeless): Swing guitarist (1905-73), played banjo on these 22 early tracks, starting with two from Miff Mole's Molers, followed by eight for Condon-led groups (a quartet with Frank Teschemacher and Gene Krupa, two sextets called the Footwarmers and Eddie's Hot Shots, both with Mezz Mezzrow and Jack Teagarden, with Condon sometimes singing), and the rest with the Mound City Blue Blowers (led by vocalist Red McKenzie, with various lineups at times including Coleman Hawkins, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, and/or Muggsy Spanier). Condon's networking skills, which crossed racial lines, defined his later career: numerous jam sessions, including the 1944-45 Town Hall Concerts (radio shots which Jazzology eventually released in eleven multi-CD volumes), and many more recordings from his New York City jazz club. B+(**) [r]
Eddie Condon: The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six (1944, Jazzology): The first half (two of four concerts) excerpted from Volume Two of the Jazzology series. Concert Five was a tribute to Fats Waller, who had died six months earlier, with James P. Johnson on piano and Pee Wee Russell on clarinet. The sixth concert is joined by Willie "The Lion" Smith" and Hot Lips Page. Some spectacular music, but also lots of talk, not least about war bonds. B+(***) [sp]
Eddie Condon's All-Stars: Jam Session Coast-to-Coast (1954, Columbia, EP): Four tracks, 23:16, although most editions in Discogs add on another six tracks (24:12) by Rampart Street Paraders (a totally different band, with George Van Eps instead of Condon on guitar). The All-Stars include Wild Bill Davison (cornet), Edmond Hall (clarinet), Gene Schroeder (piano), Walter Page (bass), and Cliff Leeman (drums), plus Dick Cary (trumpet and piano) on two tracks. Opens with "Beale Street Blues," ends with the 10:40 "Jam Session Blues/Ole Miss." B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: Bixieland (1955, Columbia): Full subhed: "in which Eddie Condon and his All-Stars jam on a few of Bix Beiderbecke's favorites." With Pete Pesci or Wild Bull Davison (as he's credited here) on trumpet, Edmond Hall on clarinet, and other lesser stars, spiffing up that old-time sound. A- [r]
Eddie Condon: Eddie Condon's Treasury of Jazz (1956, Columbia): Cover notes: "Eleven musical portraits of Eddie's friends in the jazz world." Another batch of what Louis Armstrong (who wrote one song here) used to call the "good ol' good 'uns." Names dropped: Fats Waller, Lee Wiley, Turk Murphy, Duke Ellington, Armstrong, Wild Bill Davison, Pee Wee Russell, Bix Beiderbecke, Red McKenzie, Benny Goodman, The Chicago Rhythm Kings. B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: Bixieland/Treasury of Jazz (1955-56 , Collectables): Nice twofer rated **** in Penguin Guide, digitally reverts to its constituent albums, no doubt a bargain if you can find it. I'm only hedging because I haven't. B+(***) [r]
Eddie Condon: In Japan (1964 , Chiaroscuro): Trad jazz guitarist takes his act on the road, introducing his stars through featured songs: Dick Cary (piano/alto horn), Pee Wee Russell (clarinet), Buck Clayton (trumpet), Vic Dickenson (trombone), Bud Freeman (tenor sax), and eventually Jimmy Rushing sings a few. The 1977 LP picked 11 songs, which the CD reissue expands to 15. B+(***) [sp]
Chick Corea: Rendezvous in New York (2001 , Stretch, 2CD): Also released on SACD, so the regular CDs were some kind of afterthought. Opens with three Bobby McFerrin duets, then scattered combos recapitulating much of his career: a trio with Miroslav Vitous and Roy Haynes; his Bud Powell band with Terence Blanchard and Joshua Redman; a duet with Gary Burton; his Akoustic band with John Patitucci and Dave Weckl, Origin, a duet with Gonzalo Rubalcaba, a New Trio with Avishai Cohen and Jeff Ballard, and a Quartet with Michael Brecker. I tend to favor the horn groups, and could do without McFerrin, but the piano is superb throughout. B+(**) [r]
Johnny Costa: Classic Costa (1990-91 , Chiaroscuro): Pianist (1922-96), original name Costanza, recorded a couple albums in the mid-1950s, more in the 1990s, but spent most of his career as music director for Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. This is solo, 18 standards, distinguished for his speed, dexterity, and (when he slows it down) touch. Ends with an interesting memoir. B+(***) [sp]
The Sonny Criss Orchestra: Sonny's Dream (Birth of the New Cool) (1968, Prestige): Alto saxophonist (1927-77), born in Memphis but moved to Los Angeles when he was 15, was a fiery bebop player, recording for Prestige 1966-72. This tentet, with three brass (Conte Candoli on trumpet, plus trombone and tuba), four saxophones (including Teddy Edwards on tenor), and Tommy Flanagan on piano, is exceptional, notably for then-unknown Horace Tapscott as arranger-conductor. B+(***) [yt]
Meredith D'Ambrosio: It's Your Dance (1985, Sunnyside): Jazz singer, plays piano (on 6/14 songs here, with Harold Danko on the others), writes some (4/14 here, counting her lyrics to "Giant Steps"). Fourth album, starting from 1980, also with Kevin Eubanks on guitar, very nicely done. B+(***) [r]
Lars Danielsson Quartet: Poems (1991, Dragon): Swedish bassist, debut 1986, quartet with David Liebman (soprano sax, composer of three tracks to go with the leader's five), Bobo Stenson (piano), and Jon Christensen (drums). I've never been a big fan of Liebman's soprano, but the pacing here is so expert he can do no wrong. A- [r]
Stefano D'Anna Trio: Leapin' In (1991 , Splasc(H)): Italian saxophonist, mostly plays tenor, b. 1959, possibly his first record, a trio with Enzo Pietropaoli (bass) and Fabrizio Sferra (drums). Strong sax runs, probably worth a closer look. B+(***) [r]
Stefano D'Anna Quartet: Carousel (1998, Splasc(H)): Originals, with guitar (Fabio Zeppetella), bass (Pietro Ciancaglini), and drums (Roberto Gatto). Another strong outing. B+(***) [r]
Stefano D'Anna: Runa (2003 , Splasc(H)): Another saxophone trio, this one with Pietro Ciancaglini (bass) and Mimmo Cafiero (drums). A bit sweeter than the debut, but every bit as solid, maybe even better. B+(***) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato: Ankara Twist (1989 , Splasc(H)): Italian clarinet and saxophone (tenor/baritone) player, debut 1985, this is the first of a series of albums that keyed their titles to an exotic city (Delhi Mambo, which I haven't found yet, is the Penguin Guide favorite). Quartet with saxophonist Piero Ponzo (alto, baritone, clarinet, flute), Enrico Fazio (bass), and Fiorenzo Sordini (drums). I'm a bit thrown by the vocal bits, which play almost like skits, but the quirky instrumentals are much fun. B+(***) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Bagdad Boogie (1992, Splasc(H)): Same Quartet, several members credited with "voices, noises." B+(**) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Blue Cairo (1995 , Splasc(H)): Same quartet, less vocal interference (although they sampled some street voices on a side trip to Nepal), but also a bit less persuasive rhythm. B+(**) [r]
Carlo Actis Dato Quartet: Istanbul Rap (2002 , YVP): Same quartet, cover image brandishing a bass clarinet and a fez, album opens with a lively mambo, and rarely lets up. A-
Wolfgang Dauner/Charlie Mariano/Dino Saluzzi: Pas De Trois (1989, Mood): German pianist (1935-2020), early on played in fusion groups like United Jazz + Rock Ensemble. This is a trio with alto sax and bandoneon. B+(**) [r]
Iris DeMent: The Trackless Woods (2015, Flariella): After the eight-year gaps preceding 2004's Lifeline and 2012's Sing the Delta, she tossed this off rather quickly, probably because she picked all the lyrics up from Anna Akhmatova poems. She plays piano and sings, and gets some help from Richard Bennett and Leo Kottke. B+(*) [sp]
Danny D'Imperio: Blues for Philly Joe (1991 , V.S.O.P.): Drummer, started in 1970 with the Glenn Miller ghost band, moved on to other big bands (Maynard Ferguson, Woody Herman, subbed for Buddy Rich). First album as leader, appears to be a tribute to bebop drummer Philly Joe Jones, pieces from that era including the title song penned by Sonny Rollins. Mostly sextet with trumpet (Greg Gisbert), saxes (Gary Pribek and Ralph Lalama), piano (Hod O'Brien), and bass, plus guitar on two tracks. Bebop dynamics with attention to harmonic layering. A- [sp]
Danny D'Imperio: Hip to It (1992 , V.S.O.P.): Pretty much the same group -- Andy Fusco takes over at alto sax, and guitarist Steve Brown plays more, and arranges six of the bebop-era pieces. Still, feels more like a big band outing. B+(**) [sp]
Johnny Dodds: The Chronological Johnny Dodds 1927 (1927 , Classics): Clarinet player from New Orleans, started with Kid Ory (1911-16), moved to Chicago 1920, playing in King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band, Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five, and Jelly Roll Morton's Red Hot Peppers. His second volume in this French archival series, includes groups he led, a duo with Tiny Parham, and other groups led by Jasper Taylor, Jimmy Bertrand, and Jimmy Blythe (including State Street Ramblers and Dixie-Land Thumpers). This intersects with a couple equally recommended compilations: Blue Clarinet Stomp (RCA Bluebird) and Johnny Dodds and Jimmy Blythe (Timeless). A- [r]
Arne Domnérus Quartet: Sugar Fingers (1993, Phontastic): Swedish alto saxophonist (1924-2008), also played clarinet, a major figure from his 1949 debut. Quartet with Jan Lundgren (piano), Sture Åkerberg (bass), and Johan Löfcrantz (drums), plus Lars Erstrand on vibes (tracks 8-12). B+(***) [sp]
Kenny Drew Jr.: Third Phase (1989, Jazz City): Pianist (1958-2014), as was his namesake father, seems to have lived his whole life in the US, while his father moved to Paris in 1961, then on to Copenhagen three years later. Impressive command here, playing standards, backed by Buster Williams (bass) and Marvin "Smitty" Smith (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Dutch Swing College Band: Live in 1960 (1960 , Philips): Traditional Dixieland jazz band founded in 1945 by Peter Schilperoort (clarinet/sax), who led the band (aside from a 1950s sabbatical) until his death in 1990, with the band continuing to the present. They have a lot of albums, with this being one of two singled out by Penguin Guide. B+(***) [sp]
Billy Eckstine: Everything I Have Is Yours: The MGM Years (1947-58 , Verve, 2CD): Jazz singer and pop crooner, led a big band in the 1940s which was an important bebop incubator, where he shared vocal duties with Sarah Vaughan. That big band appears four cuts in with "Mr. B's Blues," leaving one to wonder why so much of the rest of the set consists of string-backed ballads. The early ones are rather starchy, and his voice is one that must have seemed more impressive in the early 1950s but has aged like opera. Still, give him some jazz to work with, and he may surprise you. B+(**) [r]
Marty Ehrlich: Pliant Plaint (1987 , Enja): Alto saxophonist, also plays clarinets and flutes, originally from St. Paul, studied at New England Conservatory, moved to New York in 1978. Early album, a quartet with Stan Strickland (soprano/tenor sax, flute), Anthony Cox (bass), and Robert Previte (drums). B+(**) [r]
Marty Ehrlich: New York Child (1995 , Enja): Quintet, with tenor saxophonist Stan Strickland complementing the leader), and first-rate backing from Michael Cain (piano), Michael Formanek (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson: With Eddie Locke and His Friends Feat. Budd Johnson, Tommy Flanagan, Major Holley: Recorded in Concert at St. Peter's Church, NYC, May 20, 1978 (1978 , Storyville): I hate having to parse title and credits like this, as I could have sliced it up many ways. Note that "Roy Eldridge & Vic Dickenson" is the only fragment that appears on the spine, though whether that's artist credit, title, or both is up for grabs. Everything else is on the front cover. Back cover reveals that drummer Locke is the leader, and it would literally make more sense to credit this to Eddie Locke and His Friends, given that the whole band ("his friends") got listed sooner or later, but why title an album for its stars then not credit it to them? Vintage (rather than retro) swing, but you knew that. You may have even known that Johnson would be the real star. B+(**) [r]
Ethnic Heritage Ensemble: Three Guys From Chikago (1981, Moers Music): Chicago percussionist Kahil El'Zabar, first album, introduces a trio that with various personnel have released 16 albums through 2019. With two saxophonists, Henry Huff (tenor, soprano, bass clarinet) and Edward Wilkerson (alto, tenor, baritone, flute), both also credited with "small instruments." Horns strike me as harsh and unsteady at first, but group gets steadily better, especially on the closer ("Brother Malcolm"). B+(**) [yt]
Bill Evans: The Brilliant (1980 , Timeless): Piano trio, with Marc Johnson (bass) and Joe LaBarbera (drums), from a week at Keystone Corner in San Francisco, less than a month before the pianist died at 51. While he suffered from multiple ailments, in the wake of drug abuse, this particular trio was one of his best, and much of what he recorded in 1980 merits this title. The full stand was later released as The Last Waltz (8-CD, in 2000) and Consecration: Part 2 (8-CD, in 2002), but non-obsessives should be happy with this fine sampler. Timeless went on to release two further volumes under Consecration, which was also the title of an 8-CD box on Alfa Jazz. A- [r]
John Fedchock: New York Big Band (1992 , Reservoir): Trombonist, learned his big band craft with Woody Herman and others, leading to this debut. One thing about staging a big band in New York is that it's easy to find lots of solo talent. Five original pieces, six covers, most easily recognized would be "Caravan" but for "Flintstoned." B+(***) [sp]
Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band (1956 , Vik): Big band conducted by Canadian trumpet player Maynard Ferguson (whose name doesn't appear on the cover, but shows up on Volume 2), who had moved to the US in 1948 and played in Stan Kenton's Innovations Orchestra 1950-53, followed by a stint playing on Paramount soundtracks. Morris Levy organized this 15-piece band to play at his Birdland club in New York. Ferguson's high notes towered above a brass section that included trombonists Eddie Bert and Jimmy Cleveland; the saxophonists were Al Cohn, Budd Johnson, Herb Geller, and Ernie Wilkins; and the rhythm section: Hank Jones, Milt Hinton, and Jimmy Campbell. B+(***) [r]
Maynard Ferguson: Birdland Dream Band: Volume 2 (1956 , Vik): Twelve more tracks from later in September, personnel varying a bit but the essentials are in place: Al Cohn and Budd Johnson in the sax section, and the leader's stratospheric trumpet. [Both volumes later collected by Fresh Sound as Maynard Ferguson and His Birdland Dream Band.] B+(**) [r]
Free Jazz Quartet: Premonitions (1989, Matchless): One-shot British group (although a second 1992 tape finally appeared in 2009), with Harrison Smith (tenor/soprano sax, bass clarinet), Paul Rutherford (trombone), Tony Moore (cello), and Eddie Prévost (drums). B+(***) [yt]
Chico Freeman: Chico (1977, India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist from Chicago, as was his father Von Freeman, who started out with Horace Henderson in the 1940s, had a band with two brothers that backed visiting acts including Charlie Parker, played with Sun Ra, but didn't really get much attention until after his son broke out. Second album, with Muhal Richard Abrams (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), Steve McCall (drums), and Tito Sampa (percussion). B+(***) [sp]
Chico Freeman: Kings of Mali (1977 , India Navigation): Reaches back to the Mali Empire (c. 1230-1672) for inspiration. Freeman plays some flute in addition to his tenor and soprano sax, riding on piano (Anthony Davis) and bass (Cecil McBee), with vibraphone (Jay Hoggard) and all manner of percussion (Famadou Don Moye). B+(**) [yt]
Chico Freeman: The Outside Within (1978 , India Navigation): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, with a really superb rhythm section of John Hicks (piano), Cecil McBee (bass), and Jack DeJohnette (drums). Liner notes by Amiri Baraka. [NB: This appears to be the same album I had listed as Chico Freeman Quartet, a Penguin Guide **** from 1978.] A- [yt]
Chico Freeman Quartet: No Time Left (1979, Black Saint): Recorded in Milano, with Jay Hoggard (vibes), Rick Rozie (bass), and Famadou Don Moye (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Chico Freeman/Von Freeman: Freeman & Freeman (1981 , India Navigation): Tenor saxophone duo, son and father, recorded live at the New York Shakespeare Festival, with piano (Kenny Barron, spelled by Muhal Richard Abrams on the 20:38 second cut), bass (Cecil McBee), and drums (Jack DeJohnette). Starts with a joust and there's plenty more (ending with one called "Jug Aint Gone" -- the elder certainly knew Gene Ammons), but they also slip in "Lover Man" and "I Remember You." B+(***) [sp]
Chico Freeman: You'll Know When You Get There (1988 , Black Saint): With his father Von Freeman also on tenor sax ("Feat." credit on cover, allows the son to diversify with alto and soprano sax, bass clarinet, and synths). With Eddie Allen (trumpet), Geri Allen (keyboards), bass, and drums. Choice cover of "Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)." B+(***) [sp]
Don Friedman: My Romance: Solo Piano (1996 , SteepleChase): Pianist (1935-2016), originally from San Francisco, moved to New York in 1958 and started recording for Riverside about the same time as Bill Evans (they shared bassists Scott LaFaro and Chuck Israels). This is solo, well-known standards, smartly done. B+(***) [sp]
Richard Galliano: Concerts Inédits (1996-98 , Dreyfus, 3CD): French accordion player, father from Italy, grew up in Nice, debut 1982, draws on forms like tango (he has recorded a couple albums with Astor Piazzolla). This collects three concerts: a solo from the Umbria Jazz Winter Festival, a duo with Michel Portal from NDR in Germany, and a trio with Jean-François Jenny-Clark and Daniel Humair from Montreux, each on its own disc. The accordion in his hands is surprisingly sufficient, probably thanks to the rhythmic intensity. Portal's clarinet adds a bit of harmony, the bass and drums accents. A- [r]
Vincent Gardner Quintet: Elbow Room (2005, SteepleChase): Trombonist, Penguin Guide likes the first of his three The Good Book volumes, each steeped in the bebop/hard bop era, but hard to find. This is slightly earlier, with four originals, a couple standards, a Monk, and Parker and Coltrane to close. With Walter Blanding (tenor/soprano sax), piano (Aaron Goldberg), bass, and drums. B+(**) [r]
Charles Gayle Quartet: More Live at the Knitting Factory: February, 1993 (1993, Knitting Factory Works, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist from Buffalo, also plays bass clarinet and violin here (and piano, quite impressively, elsewhere). In a nutshell, he's the second coming of Albert Ayler, but after a rocky start has proven much more durable. Quartet with two bassists (Vattel Cherry and William Parker, the latter also on cello and violin) and drums (Marc Edwards on the first disc, Michael Wimberly on the second -- the recording spans three dates). B+(***) [r]
Michael Gibbs: Michael Gibbs (1970, Deram): Born in colonial Rhodesia in 1937, moved to Boston in 1959 to study music, and thence to England, where he was one of several composers who broke radical new ground in the late 1960s. This was his first album, a big band extravaganza, with 38 credits, ranging from Cream bassist Jack Bruce to the avant-fringe, in a record that's too big to fit into anyhone's pigeonhole. A- [yt]
The Mike Gibbs Orchestra: Big Music (1988-90 , ACT): Another big band extravaganza, originally released in 1988, the reissue adding a later bonus track. I'm counting 22 musician credits, plus a lot of engineering support -- I won't try to list them all, but the guitar roster is: Bill Frisell, John Scofield, and Kevin Eubanks. B+(***) [yt]
Jon Gordon: The Things You Are (2005 , ArtistShare): Alto saxophonist (also soprano), born in New York, albums from 1989. With Ben Monder (guitar), Joe Martin (bass), and Billy Drummond and/or Bill Campbell (drums). B+(***) [sp]
Stéphane Grappelli/Michel Petrucciani: Flamingo (1995 , Dreyfus): Two French musicians with Italian names: the violinist (1908-97) nearing the end of a long career that goes back to the 1930s with Django Reinhardt in the Hot Club de Paris, and the diminuitive pianist who only lasted a couple more years (1962-99). Also named, in smaller print, on the front cover: George Mraz (bass), and Roy Haynes (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Benny Green/Russell Malone: Jazz at the Bistro (2002 , Telarc): Piano and guitar duo, picking their way through jazz and pop standards, with one (relatively short) original by each. B+(**) [sp]
Bobby Hackett and His Jazz Band: Coast Concert (1955 , Capitol): Cornet player (1915-76), started in big bands of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman, was featured on Jackie Gleason's 1950s albums, but mostly stuck with Dixieland, as is the case here. Band includes trombonist Jack Teagarden, who sings "Basin Street Blues." B+(**) [r]
Bobby Hackett/Jack Teagarden: Jazz Ultimate (1957 , Capitol): Trumpet and trombone, still rooted in the trad jazz of New Orleans but smoothes out the polyphony, with Ernie Caceres and Peanuts Hucko on sax and clarinet, plus guitar (Billy Bauer), piano (Gene Schroeder), bass, and drums. B+(**) [r]
Bobby Hackett: Hello Louis: Bobby Hackett Plays the Music of Louis Armstrong (1964, Epic): It's tempting to say that every album Hackett records is a tribute to Armstrong, but this one goes a step further in its focus on Armstrong writing credits, as opposed to the standards that have been part of both's sets forever. Discogs doesn't offer musician credits, but here's what I've gleaned from the back cover: Steve Lacy (soprano sax), Sonny Russo (trombone), Harvey Phillips (tuba), Roger Kellaway (piano), Al Chernet (banjo), Ronny Bedford (drums). Even though it's more explicitly connected, this is also subtler, sounding less like second-tier Armstrong than Coast Concert above. B+(***) [r]
The Bobby Hackett Quartet Plus Vic Dickenson: This Is My Bag (1968 , Project 3): Starts out sounding like one of the trombonist's typically fine albums, then goes soft on the back side. Hackett, you may recall, had a side line adding romantic solos to Jackie Gleason albums, and he slips all too easily into that here. Picks up a bit when Dickenson figures out the game. B+(**) [r]
Charlie Haden/Egberto Gismonti: In Montreal (1989 , ECM): Bassist (1937-2014), started in Ornette Coleman's legendary quartet, branched out enough so broadly that he wound up hosting an "Invitation" series of concerts in 1989 at the Montreal Jazz Festival. Six appeared as The Montreal Tapes 1994-2003. This duo with the Brazilian guitarist/pianist looks a bit different, but belongs in the same series. B+(**) [r]
Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Magico (1979 , ECM): American bassist, Norwegian saxophonist (tenor and soprano), and Brazilian guitarist/pianist, met in Oslo for five songs (two by Gismonti, one each by the others, a Brazilian cover to open). B+(*) [sp]
Charlie Haden/Jan Garbarek/Egberto Gismonti: Folk Songs (1979 , ECM): A second session, five months later, also in Oslo. Only one song ("Folk Song") was actually traditional. Gismonti wrote three songs, the others one each. B+(**) [sp]
Charlie Haden/Billy Higgins/Enrico Pieranunzi: First Song (1990 , Soul Note): Title and two more songs written by the bassist, with pianist Pieranunzi contributing two songs, and covers from Charlie Parker, Lennie Tristano, and Jimmy Van Heusen ("Polka Dots and Moonbeams" and "All the Way"). B+(***) [sp]
Jim Hall: Jazz Guitar (1957, Pacific Jazz): Guitarist (1930-2013), was part of the generation that moved jazz guitar from swing to bebop. First album, trio with piano (Carl Perkins) and bass (Red Mitchell). Still draws more heavily on swing, with pieces by Ellington and Goodman, standards like "Stella by Starlight" and "Stomping at the Savoy." B+(**) [sp]
Jim Hall: Dialogues (1995, Telarc): Guitar duets, two each with Bill Frisell (guitar), Gil Goldstein (accordian), Tom Harrell (trumpet), Joe Lovano (tenor sax), and Mike Stern (guitar), most with bassist Scott Colley (6) and/or drummer Andy Watson (8). All original pieces, except for "Skylark." B+(***) [sp]
Bengt Hallberg: Time on My Hands (1994-95 , Improkomp, 2CD): Swedish pianist (1932-2013), alone with Arne Domnérus and Lars Gullin one of the first important jazz musicians to emerge in Sweden in the 1950s. Swedish intros. Solo, bright takes on many standards. [Note: Digital split into two volumes.] B+(***) [sp]
Scott Hamilton: From the Beginning (1977-78 , Concord, 2CD): Retro swing tenor saxophonist, originally from Rhode Island, quickly found a home at Concord and recorded regulary for them up to 2008. This collects his first two albums, the marvelous Scott Hamilton Is a Good Wind Who Is Blowing Us No Ill and the somewhat less imaginative 2. The only lineup difference is the addition of Scott Berry (trumpet) on the first disc. Both have the rhythm section of Nat Pierce (piano), Cal Collins (guitar), Monty Budwig (bass), and Jack Hanna (drums). A- [sp]
Scott Hamilton: Tenorshoes (1979 , Concord): Third album, quartet with Dave McKenna (piano), Phil Flanagan (bass), and Jeff Hamilton (drums; no relation, but famous in his own right). B+(***) [sp]
Lionel Hampton: Ring Dem Bells [Bluebird's Best] (1937-40 , RCA Bluebird): Vibraphonist (1908-2002), started playing drums for Louis Armstrong, played with Benny Goodman in the 1930s, led a famous series of all-star studio sessions which were collected on three CDs (I've heard two and recommend them: Hot Mallets and Tempo and Swing), distilled here to a brief 16 tracks -- part of a series of 30 CDs RCA released in 2002-03. A- [sp]
Lionel Hampton: Vol. 2: The Jumpin' Jive: The All-Star Groups: 1937-39 (1937-39 , RCA Bluebird): The middle of three CDs RCA released in 1990, following Vol. 1: Hot Mallets, with Vol. 3: Tempo and Swing wrapping up. Too bad Discogs doesn't list credits, as there are terrific players everywhere. A- [sp]
Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra: Midnight Sun: The Original American Decca Recordings (1946-47 , MCA): Hampton's 1940s big band had some significant jukebox hits (e.g., "Flying Home"). Various groups here, mostly big bands but some cuts drop down as far as quartet. B+(**) [r]
George Haslam: Duos East West (1997 , Slam): British baritone saxophonist, also plays tarogato, albums go back to a duo with Paul Rutherford in 1989, when he founded this label. More duos here, with piano, the first five with Vladimir Solyanik in Kyiv, the last five with Ruben Ferrero in Buenos Aires. B+(***) [sp]
George Haslam/Paul Hession: Pendle Hawk Carapace (2002, Slam): Duo, baritone sax/tarogato and drums. B+(**) [sp]
George Haslam/Borah Bergman/Paul Hession: The Mahout (2003 , Slam): Last album's duo joined by the pianist, on five (of seven) tracks, two of his own songs, the other three joint iimprovs. B+(**) [sp]
Jon Hazilla Trio: Tiny Capers (2001, Double-Time): Drummer, teaches at Berklee, had a couple albums in the 1990s on Cadence/CIMP, also has a book on Mastering the Art of Brushes. I was searching for his 1999 album with three saxophones and a trombone (group name: Saxabone), but all I could find is this trio with Bruce Barth (piano) and John Lockwood (bass). B+(**) [sp]
Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: Chicago Breakdown: The Music of Jelly Roll Morton (1989 , Jazz Haus Musik): German duo, trumpet and bass, the six old tunes are rendered more distant and more disturbing by the starkly minimal treatment. B+(***) [bc]
Thomas Heberer/Dieter Manderscheid: What a Wonderful World (2001 , Jazz Haus Musik): Another trumpet-bass duo, this time with Louis Armstrong songs. As with the Morton album, they're always a bit off-center. B+(**) [bc]
Peter Herborn: Large One (1997 , Jazzline): German big band arranger, originally a trombonist, recorded this stellar 17-piece group in Brooklyn. B+(**) [sp]
Fred Hersch/Jay Clayton: Beautiful Love (1994 , Sunnyside): Piano and voice duo, standards, the singer very precise, with considerable nuance; the pianist equally precise, doesn't overstep his role. Reissue prominently marked as "remastered." B+(**) [sp]
John Hicks: Live at Maybeck Recital Hall, Volume Seven (1990 , Concord): Pianist (1941-2006), joins the label's series of solo piano performances. B+(***) [sp]
John Hicks: Impressions of Mary Lou (1998 , HighNote): Piano trio with Dwayne Dolphin (bass) and Cecil Brooks II (drums), playing seven Mary Lou Williams compositions, including some where she really hits her stride, and five pieces by Hicks. B+(***) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Grass Roots (1968, Blue Note): Pianist (1931-2007), recorded a brilliant series of albums for Blue Note 1963-69, some of which were only released much later. This one came out in 1968, five tracks with Lee Morgan (trumpet), Booker Ervin (tenor sax), Ron Carter (bass), and Freddie Waits (drums). Seems to have been aiming for the soul jazz groove the label had started to favor -- probably why they released it, while shelving superior albums like Passing Ships (2003), Dance With Death (2004), and Change (2007). B+(*) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Grass Roots [Connoisseur Series] (1968 , Blue Note): CD reissue adds five extra tracks (most previously unissued) from earlier in 1968, including three first takes of songs that appeared on the album. The bonus features a different band, with Woody Shaw (trumpet), Frank Mitchell (tenor sax), Jimmy Ponder (guitar), Reggie Workman (bass), and Idris Muhammad (drums). The extra tracks neither add nor detract. B+(*) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice (1969 , Blue Note): Some brilliant instrumental work here, especially from Woody Shaw (trumpet) and Carlos Garnett (tenor sax), backed by Richard Davis (bass) and Freddie Watts (drums). Only problem, for me anyhow, is Lawrence Marshall's choir, which probably have gospel roots (like the title song), but just chirp along. B [r]
Andrew Hill: Lift Every Voice [Connoisseur Series (1969-70 , Blue Note): CD reissue adds six previously unissued tracks from 1970 with a different group: Lee Morgan, Bennie Maupin, Ron Carter, and Ben Riley, and mostly new singers, although still directed by Marshall. It only gets sillier with length. B- [r]
Andrew Hill Trio: Invitation (1974 , SteepleChase): After parting from Blue Note, Hill -- like many others -- had trouble finding labels. He managed to get this piano trio, with Chris White (bass) and Art Lewis (drums) -- picked up in Denmark. [Originally released 1975. CD adds an alternate take of the opener, "Catfish."] B+(**) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Spiral (1974-75 , Arista/Freedom): And this one by Freedom, a free jazz subsidary of the British label Black Lion, which by this point was distributed by Arista in the US, giving it rare prominence. Pieced together from two sessions, with Ted Curson (trumpet) and Lee Konitz (alto sax) on one (along with Cecil McBee and Art Lewis), the other with Robin Kenyatta (alto sax), Stafford James, and Barry Altschul. A- [r]
Andrew Hill: Divine Revelation (1975 , SteepleChase): Album cover says "Quintet"; spine says "Quartet"; CD itself just credits Hill. Lineup is: Hill (piano), Jimmy Vass (alto sax/flute), Chris White (bass), Leroy Williams (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Andrew Hill Trio: Strange Serenade (1980, Soul Note): Italian label, Hill recorded two albums there in 1980, two more in 1986 -- a big portion of his 1980s output, until Blue Note welcomed him back in 1989. This a trio with Alan Silva (bass) and Freddie Waits (percussion). B+(***) [sp]
Andrew Hill: Faces of Hope (1980, Soul Note): Four solo recordings (41:59) from the same sessions. B+(*) [sp]
Dave Holland Quintet: Points of View (1997 , ECM): British bassist, played everything with everyone in the late 1960s, got the invite to replace Ron Carter in Miles Davis Quintet, was in turn replaced by Michael Henderson when Davis went fusion. Soon developed into a top postbop composer, especially with his Quintets, starting in 1983. This one has Steve Wilson (soprano/alto sax), Robin Eubanks (trombone), Steve Nelson (vibes/marimba), and Billy Kilson (drums). They make for a very meticulous balance of sounds, but not a big deal. B+(**) [r]
Dave Holland Quintet: Not for Nothin' (2000 , ECM): Two albums later, only change is Chris Potter at saxophone (adding tenor to soprano and alto) -- a stronger player, but tucked in neatly. B+(**) [r]
Yuri Honing: Seven (2001, Jazz in Motion/Challenge): Dutch tenor saxophonist, fifth album by my count (including two Trio albums, plus two with Misha Mengelberg), but I could be low, or maybe it's just because it has seven songs. Rhythm section needs no intro: Paul Bley, Gary Peacock, Paul Motian. B+(**) [sp]
Tristan Honsinger: A Camel's Kiss (1999 , ICP): Cello player, born 1949 in Vermont, studied at New England Conservatory, moved to Canada to avoid the draft, then on to the Netherlands, where he joined ICP in 1977, along with many other groups. Mostly duos under his own name, but this is solo. B+(***) [bc]
Elmo Hope Ensemble: Sounds From Rikers Island (1963 , Fresh Sound): Bebop pianist (1923-67), a childhood friend was Bud Powell, debut a trio from 1953, leads a sextet here, with Lawrence Jackson (trumpet), John Gilmore (tenor sax), Freddie Douglas (soprano sax), Ronnie Boykins (bass), and Philly Joe Jones (drums), with one vocal each from Earl Coleman and Marcelle Daniels. B+(***) [r]
Shirley Horn: May the Music Never End (2003, Verve): Standards singer (1934-2005), played her own piano and was good enough she sometimes got gigs backing other musicians. Debut 1960, struggled to find labels between 1965 and 1987, when she returned on Verve for a remarkable series of albums. This was her last album, the title a final wish, and she ceded the piano to Ahmad Jamal and arranger George Mesterhazy. But her vocals were as crisp and precise as ever -- even on "Yesterday," a song I thought no less than Ray Charles butchered. Slows down a bit much toward the end, but her poise remains remarkable. A- [sp]
Wayne Horvitz: 4 + 1 Ensemble (1998, Intuition): Pianist, albums back to 1979, composed everything, group starts with a delicate chamber jazz feel before revealing considerable strength. With Julian Priester (trombone), Eyvind Kang (violin), Reggie Watts (keyboards), and Tucker Martine ("processing"). B+(***) [sp]
Dick Hyman & John Sheridan: Forgotten Dreams: Archives of Novelty Piano (1920's-1930's) (2001 , Arbors): Piano duets. Hyman (b. 1927) established himself in the 1950s as an encyclopaedist of early jazz piano styles, then took a detour toward synths in the 1990s, only to return to his calling. Sheridan (1946-2021) is more strictly a trad jazz guy. These are old tunes, with multiples by Willie "The Lion" Smith, Rube Bloom, Zez Confrey, and Bob Zurke, plus a couple more. B+(***) [sp]
Abdullah Ibrahim Trio: Yarona (1995, Tiptoe): South African pianist, originally Dollar Brand, many albums since Duke Ellington discovered and presented him in 1963. Trio with Marcus McLaurine (bass) and George Johnson (drums). Recycles some of his old township jazz classics, like "African River" and "Tintinyana," and that always helps. A- [sp]
Abdullah Ibrahim: Cape Town Flowers (1997, Tiptoe): Another trio album, with Marcus McLaurine (bass) and George Gray (drums). B+(**) [sp]
Albert King: The Very Best of Albert King [Blues Masters: The Essential Blues Collection] (1960-73 , Rhino): Got this as a birthday present: always a risky proposition, but I didn't happen to own it, although I had an overlapping comp -- Rhino's The Ultimate Collection (2CD, A-) -- as well as two of his best-regarded albums (both A-): Born Under a Bad Sign (1967) and King of the Blues Guitar (1969). It occurs to me that I should note the series along with the title, given how generic the title is, and how valuable the series was. A- [cd]
Dave Liebman: Drum Ode (1974 , ECM): Early record, plays soprano sax, tenor sax, and alto flute, blows free over fusion (electric guitar-piano-bass) and/or worldbeat (drummers Bob Moses and Jeff Williams, Barry Altschul and Steve Sattan just credited with percussion, plus a mix of tablas, bongos, and congas) or sometimes fills in. One vocal by Eleana Steinberg is neither here nor there. A- [sp]
David Liebman/Richard Beirach: Double Edge (1985 , Storyville): Sax and piano duo, better known as Dave and Richie, no idea how many records they recorded together but the first was in 1975 and they go up to 2018. B+(**) [sp]
Dave Liebman Group: Miles Away (1994 , Owl): Before his own records, Liebman spent a couple years in Miles Davis's early-1970s fusion group: something he looks back on here, with five Davis songs in play, also tunes penned by Gil Evans, Wayne Shorter, Joe Zawinul ("In a Silent Way"), Charles Mingus, and a couple others. He plays soprano sax here, with Phil Markowitz on keyboards, Vic Juris (guitar), Tony Marino (bass), and Jamey Haddad (drums). B+(**) [r]
Bobby Marchan: There's Something on Your Mind: The Greatest Hits (1960-72 , Fuel 2000): Originally from Ohio, was working as a drag queen in New Orleans when he joined Huey "Piano" Smith & the Clowns, before going on to record a couple hits and a few more interesting songs. The big ones ("There's Something on Your Mind," "The Things I Used to Do") came as two-part singles. Mixed bag, but such a character one hopes for better. B+(**) [sp]
The New York Allstars: Oh, Yeah! The New York Allstars Play More Music of Louis Armstrong (1998, Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player Randy Sandke's touring revival group, kicked off the The Bix Beiderbecke Era in 1993, recorded an Armstrong tribute in 1995, two Count Basie tributes in 1996, returns with more Armstrong songs here. Septet, with a second trumpet player (Byron Stripling, also a canny but not overused vocalist), trombone, clarinet (Allan Vaché), piano, bass, and drums. Album is dedicated to photographer Nancy Miller Elliot (1940-98), pictured on cover with Armstrong (as she was on the first volume, We Love You, Louis! B+(***) [sp]
The New York Allstars: Hey Ba-Ba-Re-Bop!: The New York Allstars Play Lionel Hampton: Volume One: (1998 , Nagel Heyer): Trumpet player Randy Sandke's retro-swing large group (9 pieces) revive the vibraphonist's big band, opening with "Air Mail Special" and closing with "Flying Home." Antti Sarpila's clarinet and alto sax get a workout, Lars Erstand adds the tinkle, and the rhythm section (including James Chirillo on guitar) do what they should. A- [r]
Return to Forever: The Anthology (1973-76 , Concord, 2CD): Chick Corea's mid-1970s fusion group, named for his actually-pretty-good 1972 album (with saxophonist Joe Farrell, bass guitarist Stanley Clarke, drummer Airto Moreira, with Flora Purim singing). Only Clarke returned for this period, along with Bill Connors (later Al Di Meola) on guitar, and Lenny White on drums. This picks up most of four albums: Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy (1973), Where Have I Known You Before (1974), No Mystery (1975), and Romantic Warrior (1976). I could credit their energy and drive, but their only knack is to make speed even more oppressive than tedium. C [cd]
Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Hymn to the Seventh Galaxy (1973, Polydor): Complete in The Anthology, so let's assign it a grade. (Also complete is Romantic Warrior, previously graded at C+, which I don't care about enough to lower. By the way, Robert Christgau's grade was D+; this one, citing its "spirit energy," Christgau graded B). C [cd]
Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: Where Have I Known You Before (1974, Polydor): Four short pieces were omitted from The Anthology, so pretty much as expected (although the 2:09 title piece is rather nice). Al Di Meolo takes over on guitar, with Corea on keyboards, Stanley Clarke on bass and organ, and White drums and percussion (including congas and bongos). C [sp]
Return to Forever Featuring Chick Corea: No Mystery (1975, Polydor): Same group, Corea claims most of the songs but everyone chips in, and Lenny White's "Sofistifunk" is entertaining while it lasts (3:20). Still the combination of heavy riffs and relentless drumming wears down fast. C- [sp]
Return to Forever: Musicmagic (1977, Columbia): After Romantic Warrior (1976), the lineup broke in half, with Corea (keyboards) and Clarke (bass) staying, Di Meola and White split. Joe Farrell (flute/sax) returned, leading a horn section, Gerry Brown took over at drums, and Corea's wife Gayle Moran sang and played keyboards. It's different, but no better. C- [sp]
Huey "Piano" Smith & His Clowns: Having a Good Time (1957-58 , Ace): New Orleans piano player, recorded a few of the most infectious hits to come out of New Orleans in the late 1950s, most collected here ("Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu," "Little Liza Jane," "Don't You Know Yockomo," "Don't You Just Know It," "High Blood Pressure"). Several of those I first heard elsewhere, only to discover how much more fun the originals were. Of course, there are other compilations that pack more value -- my intro was Rhino's Serious Clownin' (1986) -- but the essential core is here, and the filler fits even if it don't always click. A- [sp]
Huey "Piano" Smith: That'll Get It: Even More of the Best (1956-62 , Westside): This is the third helping Westside scraped together in the late 1990s -- after The Very Best Of in 1997, recycling the Having a Good Time cover, and Havin' Fun (More of the Best) in 1999 -- all drawing from Smith's brief tenure on Ace, but how should you figure that? Smith left Ace for Imperial in 1959, but Ace recycled his rhythm tracks under other names for some time after that, and the majority of these songs are attributed to others. Eleven (of 24) tracks were previously unissued. Most are minor, but then you run across a track like "Blow Wind Blow" (Junior Gordon in 1956), and wonder how they missed that. B+(**) [sp]
Tough Young Tenors: Alone Together (1991, Antilles): Group name, which probably refers back to a 1960 album by Johnny Griffin and Eddie "Lockjaw" Harris, has stuck with me as a catch all for all the mainstream tenor saxophonists who emerged in the 1990s, but here it refers to just five -- Walter Blanding (age 20), James Carter (22), Herb Harris (23), Tim Warfield (26), and Todd Williams (24) -- backed by piano (Marcus Roberts), bass (Reginald Veal), and drums (Ben Riley), on this one album. Not much of a joust: they're well behaved, and a highlight is a lovely "You Go to My Head" by just one of them. I don't know who. Carter is by far the best remembered now, but he was still three years shy of his debut (JC on the Set, 1994). B+(***) [r]
Junior Wells & the Aces: Live in Boston 1966 (1966 , Delmark): Chicago bluesman, up from Memphis, sang and played harmonica, first recordings 1953 but breakthrough was with Hoodoo Man Blues in 1965, the first of many pairings with Buddy Guy. The Aces were a Chicago blues band -- Louis Myers (guitar), Dave Myers (bass), Fred Below (drums) -- that recorded with various guests, notably Robert Jr. Lockwood. This appeared well after Wells' death in 1998. Takes a bit to get going, but eventually gets that mojo working. B+(**) [r]
Junior Wells: Live at Theresa's 1975 (1975 , Delmark): Eleven tracks from January 13, with Byther Smith and Phil Guy on guitar, plus nine more from three days earlier, with Guy and Sammy Lawhorn. B+(***) [r]
Records I played parts of, but not enough to grade: -- means no interest, - not bad but not a prospect, + some chance, ++ likely prospect.
Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 12.5: Compilation II for Improvisers, Jazz Ensemble and Electronics (1990 , Bruce's Fingers): British bassist (1959-2020), three dozen albums starting in 1984. This was originally released in 1990 as Compilation II and on cassette as Composition II. Ten-piece group, including violin and cello, Fell also playing keyboards and electronics. [3/9 tracks] ++ [bc]
Simon H. Fell: Composition No. 30: Compilation III: For Improvisers, Big Band and Chamber Ensemble (1998, Bruce's Fingers): Massive piece, with 42 musicians playing for 125 minutes. [3/15 tracks] + [bc]
Paul Hession/Alan Wilkinson/Simon H. Fell: Foom! Foom! (1992, Bruce's Fingers): Penguin Guide filed this under the bassist, but the cover order (last names only) starts with drums then sax (soprano/alto/baritone). [2/6 tracks] + [bc]
Music: Current count 39680  rated (+146), 40  unrated (+1).
Excerpts from this month's Music Week posts:
February 6, 2023
Music: Current count 39555  rated (+21), 48  unrated (+9: 20 new, 28 old).
Took a break after the excesses of last week and last month. I spent two days on a fried chicken dinner, during which I only played old favorites. Finally, over the weekend (while writing Speaking of Which), I finally dug up my unplayed Penguin Guide 4-star list, and started up in the 'C' section. (I'm deleting as I knock items off.)
Lots of items from that list aren't on streaming (probably most of them). I've also generally skipped over compilations from familiar artists, especially material I've heard elsewhere (e.g., a lot of Louis Armstrong). And sometimes I've had to make adjustments, like with Eddie Condon's The Town Hall Concerts, where 2-CD sets have recently (hard to tell how recently) been broken up into pieces for download/streaming. (For example, The Town Hall Concerts Five and Six are the first half of the previous Vol. 3. Also, the Condon twofers on Collectables have been split up, with one piece of one of them reduced to EP-length). When I get into an artist like Condon, it's tempting to go deeper, but for now I've mostly restrained myself -- I did substitute the Timeless 1928-1931 for the similar Classics set, and added the 3.5-star In Japan.
Once again, I've neglected my paperwork, including the indexing for recent Streamnotes files. I also haven't frozen the 2022 list. (Started to, then noticed that I didn't freeze 2021 until February 28, so I might keep that consistent this year.) I think I added one set to the EOY Aggregate (from Christian Iszchak, although I should also add the latest from Phil Overeem).
The 12th Annual Expert Witness Poll Results have been turned into a web page. The Expert Witness Facebook group boasts 371 members, but only 43 voted. Would be nice to have the individual ballots collected (and I don't mean in a Google spreadsheet, like PJRP uses). I included the ones I found in my EOY Aggregate (looks like I got 19 of them, plus a few more that I tracked from independent lists, like: Sidney Carpenter-Wilson), Chuck Eddy, Christian Iszchak Brad Luen, Chris Monsen, and no doubt others.
We had a small disaster at the Robert Christgau website, when a software change made by the ISP broke the database access code. They fixed the problem fairly quickly, but it shows that I need to upgrade the code to play nice with PHP 8 (since not breaking websites seems to be beyond the ken of the PHP developers). I've been thinking more lately about a revision of the now-22-year-old website code, and may finally have some time to work on it. We've long needed to migrate to the UTF-8 codeset, and to make everything HTML5 proper (about half of the pages are). There is also a lot of dead PHP 5 code to be cleaned out (PHP 7 broke it, especially the database code). Also need to fix the viewport for cell phones, and that probably means redoing the navigation menus, and replacing the table layout code with divs and spans and more CSS.
Functionality-wise, the main thing I'd like to do is to put all the page metadata into the database (I'm ok with leaving the page text in flat files), so the 2001 Voice-centric directory structure is, if not gone, purely atavistic. This would help make browsing more flexible. I'd also like to add a category/keyword system, which again would add many more dimensions for browsing. Plus I need to do a better job of documenting everything, so the next poor sod who has to maintain the site has some clue as to how it works. None of these things, at least codewise, are very difficult, but there's a ton of data to run through the wringer. That's probably what's been daunting me for years now.
I've also started to think about rebuilding my website. The idea here is to create a new directory structure alongside the old "ocston" framework, then start moving content into it. The new structure would also be build mostly out of flat files, but would have a database to index the files, and possibly manage some structured content (like album grades and/or book blurbs). I've collected lots of content in LibreWriter files, but that hasn't made it any more accessible. So maybe the best solution is to bust it up again? As I want to eventually organize some of this writing in book form, a flexible website configuration might be a useful path forward.
I have an email list for discussing my website plans. If you're interested in the gritty technical details, let me know and I'll sign you up. Traffic on the list has been very light, but would pick up if I ever got my ass in gear.
February 13, 2023
Music: Current count 39593  rated (+38), 42  unrated (-6: 14 new, 28 old).
Rated count is high enough, but since I decided not to keep a tracking file (like I've done for many years, including 2022 with 5046 albums) I've been blissfully unaware of new non-jazz releases. On the other hand, there is a long list previously unheard music in my Penguin Guide 4-star list, and that suffices for now.
The latest plan is to suck up the recent music reviews into the book drafts, then empty them out into a redesigned website, so I figure anything that helps patch up old gaps is probably worthwhile. On the other hand, I've given up on trying to stay current. Maybe I'm still enough of a jazz critic to play catch up later on, but that'll depend on what else I manage to get going.
This week it's all been catch up. I finally added my Oct. 22 Book Roundup blurbs to my Book Notes compendium (beware: count is now 6145 books, 340k words, a file that should be broken up and stuffed into a database). I've also finally done the indexing for the December and January Streamnotes files, including the Music Weeks roll ups.
I'm still planning on doing the frozen snapshot of the 2022 list by the end of February, although I haven't actually added anything to the list this week (or last, as best I recall).
Incoming mail has been relatively high the last few weeks, so the drop to zero this week probably means little.
February 20, 2023
Music: Current count 39638  rated (+45), 42  unrated (-0: 14 new, 28 old).
I wrote quite a bit of Speaking of Which yesterday. When I got up today, I noticed I still had a tab open to an especially deluded Washington Post op-ed called How to break the stalemate in Ukraine, so I added a couple paragraphs on it. By "breaking the stalemate" they basically mean blowing it up and risking WWIII. Of course, they assume that won't happen. Even though they start from characterizing Putin as a psychotic tyrant set on empire expansion, they assume he is still sane enough to accept the humiliation of defeat (and that he doesn't dare offend China).
Wichita Eagle had an article today denying that Biden would visit Kyiv after Warsaw. Of course, he did land in Kyiv, on his way to Warsaw. I don't mind the security-directed deception. I won't even mind the sabre rattling if it's followed up with serious attempt to settle the war. I understand the logic, but I'm still skeptical that the hot air helps in any way.
Apologies for not relegating the politics to the bottom of this post, after the notes on the music. But no notes this week. I need to get this out of the way so I can get to dinner tonight, and don't have much to say anyway.
Playing The Best of Ace Records Volume 2: The R&B Hits as I post this. Five songs there by the late Huey "Piano" Smith.
February 27, 2023
Music: Current count 39680  rated (+42), 40  unrated (-2: 12 new, 28 old).
I'm growing weary of writing about music, so I'll let these reviews post without introduction. As you can see, I'm still enjoying what I listen to for background, even if my engagement is more limited, and the notes more cryptic.
On the other hand, I put quite a bit of effort into yesterday's Speaking of Which, and I've added a couple more notes today. A cursory glance at the news today shows a torrent of demented thinking. Just in the New York Times, ranging from Damon Linker: My Fellow Liberals Are Exaggerating the Dangers of Ron DeSantis (it "almost certainly would not be worse than Mr. Trump"; my emphasis on his slender thread of hope; but note that he's still upset that LBJ "exaggerated" Goldwater's inclination toward nuclear annihilation with the 1964 "daisy ad"; Goldwater never aired a comparable scare ad about how Johnson would lead us into a quagmire in Vietnam, because he was totally on board with escalating the war there), to Ross Babbage: A War With China Would Be Unlike Anything Americans Faced Before (he wants us to rise to the challenge, largely by obscuring what the real risks may be; 20 years ago Chalmers Johnson explained how easily an adversary like China could destroy America's satellite capability, which is useful for GPS and phone calls, but essential for targeting advanced weapons, and that's just one example Babbage doesn't think to consider).
I will note that I've cached a frozen copy of my 2022 list. The latter will still be updated, at least through the end of 2023, as I find more things, but I haven't been looking very hard of late. The EOY jazz and non-jazz lists will also be updated as needed, but perhaps not that long. Also got my indexing for February Streamnotes out of the way.
Everything streamed from Napster (ex Rhapsody), except as noted in brackets following the grade: