Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Some discussion of Oklahoma, which is a topic I could go on at great
length about, but didn't.
James Talley? I've done everything I can to try to convince Willie
Nelson to do an album of Talley songs. Not only who could do it
better, but who could get more mileage out of "Are They Gonna Make Us
Monday, December 26, 2011
Music: Current count 19174  rated (+25), 834  unrated (+9).
- René Marie: Vertigo (2001, MaxJazz):
wrote 3 of 11 songs here. Didn't start until in her 40s, but she's
brimming with poise and savvy here, nailing down songs from "Dem
Dere Eyes" to "Blackbird" with original turns, scatting effectively,
slotting in choice bits of Jeremy Pelt trumpet, Chris Potter sax,
and John Hart guitar without losing her command. Only the title
song overreaches, otherwise you wouldn't suspect that she has any
limits. She got in trouble some years later slipping "Lift Ev'ry
Voice and Sing" into the middle of "The Star Spangled Banner" --
an idea that must have come natural after her mash-up of "Dixie"
and "Strange Fruit" here.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Ghosts of Xmas Past
Christmas Eve, already past midnight and by the time I'm done most
likely well into Christmas day. I don't write much personal stuff here:
seems unbecoming to my more serious ambitions, whether in music or in
politics. But when I stop writing about music the first thing I'd like
to throw myself into is a memoir -- not so much because I think anyone
might in the least be interested as because I have a lot of things to
My feelings about Christmas, for instance. I could probably figure
out five or six fairly distinct periods where it meant different things
in my life, but the big split was in 2000 when my parents died, and a
subtler shift circa 1970-75 as I became an adult, moved away from home,
and my first nephew was born. Before that there was a big shift in my
life as I became a teenager but I don't recall it making much difference
around Christmas time -- lost my religion, lost my expectations, lost
my marbles, but Christmas was mostly something my mother organized and
managed, and nothing I did fazed her (at least in this regard). Her
steadfastness persisted to her death in 2000, which is why what came
after seems like such a huge void.
For me, Christmas was primarily, and almost wholly, a family affair.
Early on, my parents attended church on Christmas and Easter, but I
don't recall going otherwise. Churchgoing picked up more when I was
around ten, and for a while I got so into it that I prodded them into
attendance, but that had no effect on anything we did for Christmas.
We exchanged gifts on Christmas Eve, and being materialistic baby
boomers we had high expectations -- I especially recall a top-line
Erector set, a chemistry set, a microscope, and of course there were
lots of model cars. Clothes were frowned upon, although Dad invariably
picked out a new nightgown for Mom. I don't recall any guests other
than the atomic family -- maybe the Kreutzers (at least for a while
they bought us gifts).
We'd get more gifts on Christmas morning. My mother sewed big red
stockings for each of us, hanging them on a mock fireplace for Santa's
visit. No doubt we then had a large noon meal, although I don't recall
them clearly: some years Freda would bring her family, and there may
have been others -- I doubt that my mother would ever waste a chance
to whip up a large meal. The main thing I do remember is her annual
tradition of making candy: fudge, date-nut roll, pecan roll, something
marshmallowy with coconut, something called "out of this world" (a
soft powder sugar mix with nuts and coconut dipped in chocolate).
When we were grown up, she'd pack the candy in tins and give them
to us as presents.
The following weekend we'd go to my grandparents house for a big
dinner, along with the rest of their (my father's) family (excepting
James, who was in the Air Force and usually stationed far away). I
think those dinners ended in 1964 when my grandfather died, although
George's death a couple years later also took its toll, and around
then I largely withdrew from family affairs.
When I went to university in St. Louis I always came home for
Christmas. After I moved to New York I usually did, although I got
to where I loathed the travel. Don't know when I missed my first
year, but after I moved to Boston in 1984 I missed more than not.
When I did return, I thought I'd turned into a pretty savvy gift
shopper. I was making enough money that I could afford non-trivial
presents. When I didn't return home, I cut back, rarely shipping
presents, often just settling for some cash for nephews and nieces.
(Although I do recall shipping them a computer one time back when
that cost well over $1000, and when it later died I sprung for a
couple of notebooks.)
Away from Wichita, we almost never celebrated (or even recognized)
Christmas. Rebecca had a bad habit of buying Christmas ornaments in
post-Christmas clearance sales, figuring next year would be different.
Once, when we lived at Waterside in New York, I dragged a tree home
from a stand on Second Avenue, sat it up, and put those ornaments to
use, but that was the only time. There was no real feeling, no desire
to do it again. We never talked about her Christmas experience. We
rarely saw her family, and I don't recall anything special with them
around Christmas time.
Laura, of course, could care less about it all. Her preferred "Jewish
Christmas" was a movie followed by Chinese food -- which is pretty much
all we did this year. We rarely saw Christmas decorations in Boston, but
once we moved to Wichita we became the exception rather than the rule.
My parents always had a tree, although I think it eventually gave way
to a reusable metal or plastic one -- happened sometime after I moved
east, so not something clear in my mind. My father would string some
lights around the edge of the porch, but that was about it, and pretty
much the norm for the times. Now, however, elaborate lights displays
seems to be a competitive sport in Wichita.
We got into the habit of marking Hannukah with a latke dinner, plus
chopped liver, herring, salt-cured salmon, sometimes caviar when I
could find it cheap enough. The date had no religious overtones, and
we also overlooked its affinity to modern Israeli militarism -- no
candles, none of that. Still, this year we didn't even manager to get
that organized (although the kitchen is well stocked with potatoes
and onions, and there's sour cream and applesauce in the fridge).
When we moved to Wichita in 1999, one thing I especially looked
forward to was the family Christmas. I did a dilligent job of gift
shopping, but took ill and couldn't attend. My father was showing
signs of his still undiagnosed illness -- purple petechiae on his
feet and shins which his idiot doctors guessed was a skin problem.
A month later, when I cooked dinner for my mother's birthday, he
was too sick to attend, and two months after that he died. Three
months later my mother also died, and Christmas was never the same.
Well, not quite. My brother's family moved into my parents house,
and they carried on for a few years. I bought him a smoker one year,
and he turned the annual dinner into an all-day party -- typically
he'd chop off a chunk of the apple tree and smoke a turkey, a ham,
a couple chickens, a pork loin, some fish, maybe a duck. Then, after
a couple years, he got sacked by Boeing, started doing contract work
on the road, wound up in Portland, and moved his family there.
First year later they all came back to Wichita, but for me at
least the week turned disastrous. It was the year after the robbery,
and I was haunted by various things. Don't want to go into details
here, but I became estranged from my nephew, and more or less from
everyone else. We never tried doing that again. Kathy's friends,
Matt and Carrie, moved into our parents house, inheriting Steve's
smoker, and they continued the family dinner tradition -- at least
along the lines of Steve's smoke outs, but not every year. (This
one, they spent Christmas with Carrie's family in Colorado.) I
did a dinner (or two), but they became more difficult to organize.
We gave fewer and fewer presents, finally hitting zero this year.
And that's about it.
Friday, December 23, 2011
Christgau's picks: Rihanna: Talk That Talk; and David Guetta:
Nothing but the Beat:
Like Joey, I wrote something on both of these a while back. Both
have pretty bad Metacritic scores (Rihanna 65, Guetta 60 although I
think the early returns were even worse). I rather liked them both,
but with only one play hedged a bit: Rihanna **, Guetta
*. Neither record has fared well in year-end lists: Rihanna
showed up on one (Entertainment Weekly, at 18), and on 9 minor
lists; Guetta on 2 minor lists. Beyoncé, to take the most obvious
point of comparison, shows up in 10 lists I can name (only 3 in top
10; more typical are Rolling Stone 25 and Pitchfork 27),
and 19 I merely counted -- much better than I expected (ok, I gave the
record a C): in my metafile she's currently just ahead of Kate
Bush, Black Keys, Paul Simon, The Field, and The Roots (in a clump
from 46-43; Lady Gaga is the next interesting name at 40 -- can't
accuse her of being a "critic's favorite" yet).
Monday, December 19, 2011
Music: Current count 19149  rated (+26), 825  unrated (-2).
Another week where I have no fucking idea what I'm doing, nor why.
Jazz Consumer Guide (27)
Instead of Jazz Prospecting, I'm posting my Jazz Consumer Guide:
number 27 in a mostly quarterly series since 2004. The previous one
appeared in the Village Voice on May 10. This was was finished and
handed in about August 1. The column was started after Gary Giddins
was fired by the Voice in 2004. Chuck Eddy was music section editor,
but Robert Christgau was the one directly handling the jazz pieces --
a legacy of having edited Giddins for thirty-some years. Those were
big shoes -- ones which had long established the Village Voice as
one of the world's foremost review of all things jazz -- so Christgau
decided on a team approach: Francis Davis would write a monthly feature
piece, I would crank out a quarterly Jazz Consumer Guide, and Nate
Chinen would write occasional pieces on live performances. After Eddy
and Christgau were fired, Rob Harvilla took over and continued the
basic idea -- although Davis took leave to work on a book, and Chinen
moved on to the New York Times.
Harvilla was replaced by Maura Johnston this spring. My May column
came out a few weeks into her regime, and I submitted this column on
August 1, expecting the same. Instead, she sat on it, and after much
prodding decided it was too dated. Indeed, lateness and lack of space
have been chronic problems from the beginning: after the first year
it was clear that there would be enough quality material to run every
two (as opposed to three) months, but I never pushed it hard enough,
and they never found the space. Instead, I found myself writing more
cryptically to squeeze more records into less space. Meanwhile, the
Voice keeps losing space, tightening money, and shedding its legacy:
the days when a business could provide something useful and hope to
make some profit along the way have given way to the predatory ideal
of sucking every value dry in the name of profit, and the Voice has
given up on even trying to be an exception.
When my column was killed, Johnston proposed that I write a weekly
blog entry for the Voice, covering 8-12 records. I accepted and asked
some questions, but never heard from her again, so it's not clear
whether this will or will not happen. Jazz Consumer Guide winds up
covering about 200 records per year, so that works out to about four
per week. Jazz Prospecting, on the other hand, averages 10-15 per
week, so most likely what I would do would be to try to raise Jazz
Prospecting to Jazz CG standards, which would entail not writing on
everything that comes my way, and hopefully writing better about
what I do try to cover. At first glance, I would be able to broaden
my HMs down to B+(**), although I could also start writing
about reissues and maybe even some non-jazz that strikes my fancy.
Such a blog would be more timely -- this column, even had it come
out on schedule, has a fairly large number of 2010 releases -- and
I'd have space to write more expansively.
Whether it would be worth the effort is hard to say. Seven years
of writing this column has been fun, interesting, and ultimately a
huge amount of miserably compensated work. My house has been overrun
by CDs I'm unlikely to ever play again -- good ones I'm proud to own
and would be happy to play, and less good ones I haven't figured out
how to get rid of. But I also wind up spending so much time working
on them that I have precious little time for doing other things,
including writing about things I feel a good deal more competent at
than music. I don't know how I'm going to sort this out -- although
I must admit that the most likely course is inertia.
I have a lot to do in the next week or two: a year-end jazz piece
for Rhapsody, a system to present the individual ballots in Francis
Davis's Jazz Critics Poll, a Pazz & Jop ballot, a framework for
a couple of websites. Plus more personal stuff, likely to trump
everything else. So I'm unsure how to wrap this up. My initial plan
was to hold back Jazz Prospecting this week and run it next, as a
capstone on the Jazz CG (28) cycle. Then I'll suspend Jazz Prospecting
until making a decision sometime in January. In the meantime, I may
(or may not) post a Jazz Consumer Guide (28). I never bothered to
try wrapping it up because there was never a chance of getting it
published, but I have approximately enough written to fill one out.
Depends on how much I want to save for use in a blog, although we
could do both, or I could wind up not doing the blog.
The Jazz Prospecting for this Jazz Consumer Guide ran from April
11 to August 1, 2011. The collected Jazz Prospecting notes are
here. During this time,
I made a number of decisions to not cover various records. Those
were listed in my
surplus file. This file
includes fourteen short "consolation prize" reviews, which I've
(almost certainly) posted on the blog here some time ago. The A-
records extend down into the Honorable Mentions through Conference Call --
one of my space-saving tricks.
I'm very sorry, especially to the kind publicists who gave me the
opportunity to hear so much wonderful music, that the exposure here
is likely to be far short of what the Village Voice promised. I worked
very hard to make this happen, and I'm deeply disappointd that it's
come to this. On the other hand, if you're fortunate enough to find
this page, you're in for some real treats -- all the way down to the
tiptoes of the Honorable Mentions.
Insert text from
I posted my 27th Jazz Consumer Guide column yesterday:
The previous 26, going back to July 2004, were published by The
Village Voice, approximately every three months. I posted the latest
column on my website after it was rejected by the new music editor,
Maura Johnston. As I understand it, the music section of the Voice
has had both its space and budget cut back considerably in the last
year. Francis Davis is another casualty of the cutbacks. (His annual
Jazz Critics Poll has been picked up by Rhapsody. It is scheduled
to appear on January 2, and I will have a year-end piece there, as
I have with the Voice since the inception of the poll.)
I wrapped up the new column on August 1. After a long period of
uncommunicativeness it was finally killed a couple weeks ago. At
one point Johnston suggested that I write a weekly blog instead of
the quarterly print column. This could be a big improvement in
terms of space and timeliness -- the two biggest problems I've
had in the long history of the column -- but it's been impossible
to get any further information out of her, so I doubt that it will
actually happen, but I'm open to it.
One thing that I'm proud of is the broad range of labels and
artists that I've been able to cover, including more Europeans
than hardly ever show up in the US press (not to mention more
artists from Chicago and Seattle). Reverse index by label:
- 482 Music: Mike Reed
- AUM Fidelity: David S. Ware (2)
- Auricle: Ellery Eskelin, Terrence McManus
- Ayler: Humanization 4tet, Correction
- Blue Zygo: EJ Antonio
- Bo Weavil: Decoy/Joe McPhee
- Cadence Jazz: Brian Landrus
- Clean Feed: Mostly Other People Do the Killing, Jaruzelski's Dream, Ken Filiano, Stephen Gauci, Júlio Resende
- ECM: Mathias Eick, Trygve Seim/Andreas Utnem
- Engine: Andrew Lamb
- Foxhaven: Honey Ear Trio
- High Note/Savant: Jerry Bergonzi
- High Two: Inzinzac, Sonic Liberation Front
- Hot Cup: Jon Irabagon, Jon Lundbom
- Jazzwerkstatt: Rakalam Bob Moses/Greg Burk, Gebhard Ullman/Steve Swell, Jamaladeen Tacuma
- Justin Time: The Jazz Passengers
- Leo: François Carrier
- Naim Jazz: Barb Jungr
- NoBusiness: Terrence McManus, William Hooker
- Not Two: Rodrigo Amado, Avram Fefer, Steve Swell, Conference Call, Jason Stein
- Origin/OA2: Scenes, Les DeMerle, Todd DelGiudice
- Pi: Muhal Richard Abrams
- Pine Eagle: Dan Raphael/Rich Halley
- Porter: Eero Koivistoinen
- Posi-Tone: Tarbaby
- Smalltown Superjazz: Free Fall
- Sunnyside: Abdullah Ibrahim, Harriet Tubman
- Thirsty Ear: Matthew Shipp
- Toondist (Icdisc, Vindu): I Compani, Premier Roeles
The sources would be even more diverse if I could manage to hear
more of the small labels that are producing so much interesting work
these days. The main thing I worry about in losing the Village Voice
as an outlet is that I'll lose the opportunity to cover such a wide
range of new music. For now, my intention is to plug along, somehow.
I have one more column pretty much written, and one after that well
researched, and still more worthwhile material in the queue. I'm
going to take a bit of time to try to figure out a better way to
manage this: Jazz CG would always have been better off coming out
more frequently, and in smaller doses, so I need to think through
how to make that work.
Given that I don't have the built-in traffic the Village Voice
does, anything you can do to make people aware of this column would
be most helpful. Link to it, of course. I'm also willing to let
people reprint it (in toto). If your know a publication who can use
an intrepid jazz blogger, let me know. Thanks again for your support.
Notes dump from bk-print:
- Muhal Richard Abrams: SoundDance (2009-10 , Pi, 2CD):
Chicago pianist, b. 1930, AACM founder and eminence grise,
gets more respect in polls than I'd expect although arguably should
get more. Looking back over my database, I find I'm all over the place
with him -- admiring early albums like Things to Come From Those
Now Gone (1972) and the recently reissued Afrisong (1975),
being a bit overwhelmed by his big orchestras like The Hearinga
Suite (1989), winding up pretty cautious on his recent works for
Pi. I could hedge here on these two disc-long improv duos -- they're
not compelling and I find myself phasing in and out -- but something
tells me this is the time to show some respect. The Fred Anderson set
is the easy one: he mellowed noticeably over his post-retirement
decade-plus, and has rarely sounded sweeter than here -- I'm not
the sort of person who gets all weepy over losing someone, but this
could do the trick. The set with George Lewis is more demanding,
more intellectual, as one would expect. But I do love his trombone,
and the piano goes beyond abstraction to teasing him along. Bought
a copy of Lewis's massive AACM history a while back, and hope to
find time to read it some day. Maybe then this will come clear;
until we'll just let the mystery be.
- Rodrigo Amado: Searching for Adam (2010, Not Two):
Tenor saxophonist, also plays baritone here, b. 1964, Portugal, has
put together an impressive discography since 2000, first with the
Lisbon Improvisation Players. Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet,
flugelhorn), John Hébert (double bass), and Gerald Cleaver (drums).
Bynum's ecstatic squeal on the opener kicks this off in high gear.
Cleaver is especially formidable.
- E.J. Antonio: Rituals in the Marrow: Recipe for a Jam
Session (2010, Blue Zygo):
Poet, grew up in Harlem, got
a MBA from NYIT, she doesn't dislose any timeline other than that
she first published in 2003. First album; I've seen mention of a
book but Amazon doesn't have it. Words don't strike me with the
clarity of Dan Raphael's record, but she scratches raw and her
praise song gospel whoop on "Pullman Porter" registers strongly.
Backed with bass pulse, Michael T.A. Thompson soundrhythium, and
best of all Joe Giardullo's reeds -- mostly soprano sax to my
ear. Gets better along the way, which may mean I need to give
it more time, but it already makes a terrific contrast to the
- Jerry Bergonzi: Convergence (2008 , Savant):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1947 (Wikipedia) or 1950 (AMG, AAJ), website
doesn't offer an opinion; has thirty-some records since 1983, the
ones I've heard (i.e., since 2006) consistently excellent. This one
has bass, drums, two cuts with piano, and a fair amount of overdubbed
soprano sax, a self-interaction that pushes him to new heights.
- François Carrier/Alexey Lapin/Michel Lambert: Inner Spire
(2010 , Leo):
Alto saxophonist, from Canada (Quebec actually),
b. 1961, has been on a tear since 1998. I've recommended a bunch of
his albums. Trio, with his longstanding drummer Michel Lambert, plus
pianist Alexey Lapin -- picked him up when they cut this in Moscow.
He works his usual free jazz charms; piano doesn't quite come out,
but has promising moments.
- Conference Call: What About . . . ? (2007-08 ,
Not Two, 2CD):
Quartet, on their sixth album since 2000,
the core Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet),
Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), and Joe Fonda (bass), with George
Schuller their present and most frequent drummer -- other albums
have used Matt Wilson, Han Bennink, and Gerry Hemingway. Ullmann
is very prolific, but he seems to perform best when someone else
sets the parameters, which Stevens does here -- most likely
Fonda too, as the Fonda/Stevens group goes back even further
and has been recorded even more extensively. Two live in Krakow
sets, the second a bit easier to get into -- Stevens' "Could
This Be a Polka?" had me thinking first of tango -- but both
satisfying mixes of sour and not-quite-sweet.
- Correction: Two Nights in April (2009 , Ayler):
Piano trio, from Sweden: Sebastian Bergström on piano, Jaocim Nyberg
on bass, Emil Åstrand-Melin on drums. First album, drawn from two
live sets on two consecutive nights, the piano has a hard edge that
leans free but may know a thing or two about rock.
- Decoy & Joe McPhee: Oto (2009 , Bo Weavil):
Decoy is an organ trio of sorts, with Alexander Hawkins on the B3,
John Edwards on bass, and Steve Noble on drums. The three players
otherwise show up more often in avant contexts -- I noticed Hawkins
recently playing piano in Convergence Quartet with Taylor Ho Bynum
and Harris Eisenstadt. McPhee has been an uncompromising free tenor
saxophonist for over forty years, so it's no surprise that he takes
every groove and grind the trio lays out for him and rips them to
- Todd DelGiudice: Pencil Sketches (2010 , OA2):
Highly improbable sax hero -- put more time into his classical study
than into jazz, hopped around various symphonies, wound up teaching
on the scablands of eastern Washington -- nothing sketchy to his
originals, but the bright lustre to his tone and rich ambience really
come out on the sole cover, "All the Things You Are."
- The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. One
(2008 , Origin):
Featuring Bonnie Eisele, DeMerle's better
half in all the usual senses. Both sing: she's really quite good,
a better standards stylist than most of the singers I get who hog
up whole albums; he's not bad, and while in the past he got by
with humor, he makes do with a sense of humor here. Not sure how
he conceived his version of "St. Louis Blues" -- sounds to me like
a cha-cha. He's also a drummer, and manages to work in an extended
solo: in the past I've been tempted to cast them as Louis Prima
and Keely Smith, but you know he'd rather be Buddy Rich. As for
the gypsies, that's a quartet called Gypsy Pacific, with violin,
two guitars, and bass. The instrumentals, which include one from
Django, one from Bird, and one from Newk, don't really stand out,
but they keep the program going. My guess is that they're a lot
of fun live.
- Mathias Eick: Skala (2009-10 , ECM):
also plays guitar, vibes, bass; b. 1979 in Norway; second album; about
30 side credits since 2002, including groups Jaga Jazzist (relatively
good acid jazz) and Motorpsycho (some kind of metal?). This breaks
through the Nordic chill which ECM more often intensifies. Trumpet
is warm and bright, Andreas Ulvo's piano moving shiftly through the
undergrowth. Band varies from cut to cut, often doubling up on drums
(Torstein Lofthus and Gard Nilssen), with tenor sax on one cut, harp
on another, here then gone.
- Ellery Eskelin/Gerry Hemingway: Inbetween Spaces
One of three new albums featuring drummer Gerry
Hemingway in duets -- the obvious one to play first, especially
when you're approaching year-end-list deadlines. The tenor sax
seems a little subdued at first (and I've had to crank this up
some to draw him out), but this is typical of Eskelin's patient,
edgy focus. What's distinctive here is the percussion, how tuned
in it is but also cleverly Hemingway expands the circle.
- Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor: Eliyahu
(2010 , Not Two):
Sax-bass-drums trio, with Fefer (b. 1965) playing alto and
tenor here -- a change of pace from recent albums where he's focused
more on clarinet, bass clarinet, and soprano sax. Tenth album since
1999. More tuneful and grooveful than you expect free jazz to be, but
that's largely because the rhythm section is so together.
- Ken Filiano & Quantum Entanglements: Dreams From a
Clown Car (2008 , Clean Feed):
Bassist, a guy who
has an uncanny knack of showing up on good records (John Hébert
is another one), finally turns in one of his own. Two sax quartet,
with Michaël Attias on baritone and alto, Tony Malaby on tenor
and soprano, with Michael T.A. Thompson on drums. The two horns
work in tight patterns -- not a lot of freewheeling here, but
the loopy melodies and vibrant textures are engaging.
- Free Fall: Gray Scale (2008 , Smalltown Superjazz):
Ken Vandermark's clarinet trio, modelled on Jimmy Giuffre's famous trio,
with Håvard Wiik on piano for Paul Bley and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on
bass for Steve Swallow. Fourth album for the trio. I've always found
this to be the hardest of Vandermark's groups to connect with, but then
I was mostly baffled by Giuffre's Free Fall album -- unlike the
Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd School Days, inspiration for one of his
most boisterous groups. Still, this record has slowly gained on me,
in part because the piano moves beyond prickly abstract to provide a
multi-faceted structural underpinning, partly because of the way
Vandermark can muscle up his clarinet, and partly because working
all that tension out the group can occasionally just relax and
enjoy the flow. Memo to self: should pull Free Fall out
some time and give it another chance.
- Stephen Gauci/Kris Davis/Michael Bisio: Three
(2008 , Clean Feed):
Gauci is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1966,
based in Brooklyn, leans avant, has been deserving of HM mentions
his last two times out (Nididhyasana and Live at Glenn
Miller Café) but somehow slipped through the cracks. He isn't
an especially voluble player, and subtlety can be hard to credit.
Davis is a pianist I like a lot. Her own group features the very
voluble Tony Malaby, generally a plus but he tends to overwhelm
her; she emerges here as a thoughtful counterpoint to the sax,
and for that matter to bassist Bisio, who is always engaging on
sets like this.
- Harriet Tubman: Ascension (2010 , Sunnyside):
The Harriet Tubman you've probably (but not necessarily, especially
if you've been "educated" in Texas) heard of was born in 1822, in
Maryland, into slavery. She escaped, then returned to help others
escape through the underground railroad, and helped guide fugitive
slaves to freedom in Canada. She helped John Brown organize his
ill-fated insurrection at Harper's Ferry. During the Civil War she
was an armed scout and spy for the Union. After the war she worked
for women's suffrage. She died in 1913, but was well remembered in
the civil rights and women's liberation movements more than a half
century later. A couple years ago Marcus Shelby cut a gospel-tinged
jazz album called Harriet Tubman, in her honor. But this
ain't that; this Harriet Tubman is a fusion band formed by Brandon
Ross (guitar), Melvin Gibbs (bass), and J.T. Lewis (drums). They
cut a record in 1998, another in 2000, and now a third. The new
group is billed as Harriet Tubman Double Trio, the additions Ron
Miles (trumpet), DJ Logic (turntables), and DJ Singe (turntables).
The spiritual clash they are looking for comes with the title cut,
which starts the album off with 8:09 from John Coltrane's rafter
raiser, then returns periodically for more inspiration. Coltrane's
piece is either one that moves you or not -- it doesn't bother
trying to reason with you. Tubman more than anything else was a
force for action, and that's what the band aims for -- they do
- Honey Ear Trio: Steampunk Serenade (2010 ,
Erik Lawrence (tenor, baritone, alto, and soprano sax),
Rene Hart (bass, electronics), Allison Miller (drums, percussion).
Miller had a very good record with a completely different trio last
year. Lawrence has been around since at least 1991 without making
any notable impact -- AMG lists a couple dozen side credits, none
I've heard (although I have the latest New York Electric Piano in
the queue). Evidently a lot of Lawrence's bread-and-butter work
comes from touring with Levon Helm. About all I know about Hart
is that he's married to Lawrence's sister, and was involved with
him, Miller, and Steven Bernstein in an "acid jazz" group called
Hipmotism (note to self: check that out). Originals by all three,
including one by Lawrence on Eyjafjallajokull -- last year's top
natural disaster, already so dated. Rigorous sax trio, rough and
tough, except for a touchingly tender "Over the Rainbow."
- William Hooker: Crossing Points (1992 ,
Drummer, b. 1946, has a couple dozen albums since 1982; seems like a lot
of them are ad hoc improv duos and trios, but he usually winds up with his
name on top or first -- not many side credits, although AMG lists a couple
with Lee Ranaldo. This is a duo with alto saxophonist Thomas Chapin --
Hooker's name is out front of the title, with "featuring Thomas Chapin"
following -- cut just as Chapin was hitting his stride (cf. Insomnia)
before his early death in 1998. First piece starts out tentative and ugly,
but soon enough rights itself, in large part because the drummer gets out
front and dares the saxophonist to keep up.
- Humanization 4tet: Electricity (2009 , Ayler):
Portuguese guitarist Luis Lopes has his name above the group name.
Below the group name: Rodrigo Amado (tenor sax), Aaron González (bass),
and Stefan González (drums) -- both sons of Dennis. Same group had
an album called Humanization 4tet in 2008, which struck me as
a solid HM. This one has even more juice. Lopes doesn't do a lot of
soloing, but he provides a firm metallic undercarriage for Amado to
blast away from. Lots of short repetitive figures, very solid.
- I Compani: Mangiare! (2010 , Icdisc):
group, led by saxophonist Bo van der Graaf, but they've been around
a long time, with more than a dozen albums since 1985. Early albums
were focused on the films of Federico Fellini and the film music of
Nino Rota (who resurfaces here in the first piece). Last album was
based on circus music (Circusism), and you get more than a
mere taste of that here as well, but the food theme eventually takes
over. Band mixes the leader's soprano and tenor sax, trumpet and
trombone, violin and cello, bandoneon, piano, bass, and drums --
with some diversion on synth and "cheap organ." Less avant and even
more amusing than the similar bands of Breuker and Mengelberg.
- Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: Sotho Blue
(2010 , Sunnyside):
South African pianist, b. 1934, cut his first record in
1963, titled Duke Ellington Presents the Dollar Brand Trio;
throughout his long career his trick card has always been to slip in
South African melodies, especially bits of township jive -- there are
many fine examples of this, like the 1983 album Ekaya that he
later took for his band name. Spent much of his career in exile, but
since the Apartheid regime fell he's been a national hero. This new
album lacks any trademark South African touches even though South
Africa creeps into his song titles. But it's about as Ellingtonian
as anythng he's done: with three saxes plus trombone, the horns lead,
the piano connects multilayered movements, with searching patches
and gorgeous sweeps.
- Inzinzac: Inzinzac (2010 , High Two):
trio: says they're "an improvising jazz trio playing rock music in
odd time signatures" which is about right if by rock you mostly mean
loud. Whereas guitar displaced sax in rock and roll, in what we might
call hardcore fusion the two instruments are often side-by-side, the
guitar tuned sax-like, sometimes louder but never quite as clear as
the horn. Dan Scofield mostly plays soprano here, so he consistently
come out higher and clearer, providing a sharp metallic edge to Alban
Bailly's guitar backbone. The "odd" time signatures include free.
- Jon Irabagon: Foxy (2010, Hot Cup):
slasher, has a couple albums on his own including one on Concord
that was his reward for winning a Monk prize. It was generally
dismissed as a milquetoasty sellout -- a complaint, by the way,
I don't share, but one that no one's going to make about this
one here. Sax-bass-drums trio, produced by MOPDTK leader Moppa
Elliott, who probably suggested playing off Sonny Rollins' old
sax trio record, Way Out West. Rollins' desert cover scene
has been faked on a sandy beach, the iconic figure of the sax
slinger moved to the back cover to make way for a bikini on the
front. Drummer Barry Altschul gets elevated to "with special
guest" and gets all the girls in a booklet photo, while bassist
Peter Brender gets a surfboard. Song titles: "Foxy," "Proxy,"
"Chicken Poxy," "Boxy," "Hydroxy," "Biloxi," "Tsetse," "Unorthodoxy,"
"Epoxy," "Roxy," "Foxy (Radio Edit)," and "Moxie" -- they could
all be one piece, and the end is so abrupt I checked for power
failure. One of the most intense, relentless sax records ever --
too fast to be free, too noisy to be bop, too ragged to for honk.
Despite the grade, I have reservations -- the same ones I have
not on Rollins' endlessly clever Way Out West but on his
torrential A Night at the Village Vanguard, which I've
only gradually warmed to while critics regard it as a pinnacle.
Altschul, by the way, is terrific throughout. Reminds me that he
is best known for his work with Anthony Braxton, whose take on
Charlie Parker is roughly comparable (though more masterful) to
- Jaruzelski's Dream: Jazz Gawronski (2008 , Clean Feed):
Italian sax trio, with Piero Bittolo Bon on alto (and smartphone),
Stefano Senni on bass, and Francesco Cusa on drums. Don't know where they
came from, what they've done in the past, or why they're obsessed with
all things Polish. I can begin to unravel such jokes as "Soulidarnosc" and
"Mori Mari Curi" (the discoverer of radioactive elements like "Polonium"
that killed her) but not "Swiatoslaw" or "Zibibboniek" or "Maria Goretti
Contro Tutti." Presumably the group name honors (if that's the word) the
last Communist dictator of Poland, Wojciech Witold Jaruzelski. Gawronski,
however, appears to be an Italian politician, prominent in Berlusconi's
Forza Italia, first name Jas, easy enough to play off. Gruff, garulous
free sax, with enough beat to keep it steady. For a while I thought "Sei
Forte Papa" was "New York, New York." I wouldn't put anything past them.
- The Jazz Passengers: Reunited (1995-2010 , Justin Time):
Group formed in late 1980s by Roy Nathanson (alto sax),
Curtis Fowlkes (trombone), with Bill Ware (vibes) a long-time member.
Cut six albums in 1990s, starting out as an avant-skronk group with
occasional novelty vocals and winding up as a showcase for ex-Blondie
Debby Harry. First new album since 1998, although Nathanson has had
several increasingly vocal albums in the meantime. Mostly new, that
is, because it ends with two live cuts from 1995 with Harry singing --
"One Way or Another" is a special treat. The other outlier is a cover
of "Spanish Harlem" with Fowlkes and Susi Hyidgaard vocals and Spanish
intro and outro chatter, cut in 2010. The rest were cut in 2009, with
guest Marc Ribot on guitar and Sam Bardfield on violin -- the 1995
cuts included a lineup credit with Rob Thomas on violin. The one
cover in that group is the title song, a 1978 hit for Peaches &
Herb, the perfect joke for breaking a decade-long hiatus. Elvis
Costello warbles another, strategically placed first.
- Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook
(2009 , Naim):
English vocalist, b. 1954, based in London, more
than 10 records since 1996, including one called Chanson and
one dedicated to Nina Simone. Every now and then a jazz singer tries
her hand at rock-based singer-songwriter fare from the 1960s and 1970s,
and the results usually range from uninspired to lame, but this is as
much of an exception as I can recall. Readings are straightforward,
and the band, with cello and flute, is unnotable, but she salvages a
couple of songs I wouldn't touch -- "My Little Town," "Wichita Lineman,"
"Once in a Lifetime" -- does a nice job of bundling "This Old Heart of
Mine" with "Love Hurts" (actually from the 1950s, unless she first
heard it from Nazareth, or as I did, from Jim Capaldi), makes good
use of Neil Diamond ("I'm a Believer" and "Red Red Wine"), and wins
my seal of approval with Todd Rundgren's "I Saw the Light" -- rivals
Bruce Springsteen's "The River" for the best thing here.
- Eero Koivistoinen & Co.: 3rd Version
(1973 , Porter):
Finnish saxophonist, b. 1946, plays soprano,
sopranino and tenor here, leading a band with Fender-Rhodes piano
(Heikki Sarmanto), guitar (Jukka Tolonen), bass (Pekka Sarmanto),
and two drummers (Craig Herndon and Reino Laine). His "selected
discography" lists 35 items going back to the Hendrix-influenced
Blues Section in 1967, including some UMO Jazz Orchestra
records. This has a fusion angle, at least in the guitar/keyb
vein, but it's much rougher and freer, even more so than the
McLaughlin-influenced English avant-garde of the period. Porter
has been reissuing a lot of rare gems from the early 1970s,
things I hadn't heard but would have latched onto instantly at
the time. Also in their catalog are three discs by the keyboard
player here, Heikki Sarmanto, clearly a SFFR.
- Andrew Lamb Trio: New Orleans Suite (2005 , Engine):
Tenor saxophonist (also credited with flute, clarinet,
and harmonica here), b. 1958 in North Carolina, grew up in Chicago
and Queens, studied with Kalaparusha Maurice McIntyre, has a handful
of records, mostly with drummer Warren Smith (e.g., The Dogon
Duo). Tom Abbs (bass, cello, didgeridoo, percussion) fills out
the trio. Smith takes charge early on with a rant about Katrina,
"Dyes and Lyes," worth featuring on your post-Brownie mix tape.
After that they settle down for some inside-out improv that won't
turn heads but will pique your interest.
- Brian Landrus: Foward (2007 , Cadence Jazz):
Reedist, b. 1978 in Reno, NV, based in New York, plays baritone sax,
bass clarinet, and alto flute here, on his first album. Most cuts
include Michael Cain (piano), John Lockwood (bass), Rakalam Bob Moses
(drums), and Tupac Mantilla (percussion), but one is solo, one each
drop Cain or Mantilla, and several add extra horns: George Garzone
(2: tenor sax), Allan Chase (2: alto sax), Jason Palmer (3: trumpet).
Avant-oriented label, but sounds pretty mainstream, with a steady
rhythm, even a bit of swing. Sole cover is T. Monk's "Ask Me Now."
- Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz
(2009, Hot Cup):
Guitarist, has a couple of previous albums including
Big Five Chord. Group here deploys two excitable saxophonists --
Bryan Murray on tenor and Jon Irabagon on alto -- Moppa Elliott on bass,
and Danny Fischer on drums. Four of five songs rock hard; the other is
a Louvin Brothers tune, "The Christian Life," best known from the Byrds
cover, which comes off as a solid and settled centerpiece.
- Terrence McManus/Gerry Hemingway: Below the Surface Of
(2008 , Auricle):
Guitar-drums duo; guitarist is from Brooklyn,
seems to have 4-6 records since 2006 -- website doesn't have dates on
anything; AMG lists one record not on website -- some solo, some in
small groups he may or may not lead. Builds his own guitars, including
the "nylon string stereo guitar" second-credited here. Has a distinctive
ring to his electric, and holds your interest all by himself. Hemingway
works around him, much as he did with Eskelin.
- Terrence McManus: Transcendental Numbers (2009 ,
With Gerry Hemingway and Mark Helias, more scattered than
his duo with Hemingway alone, more because he favors scratchy abstraction
here over the electrified chords there. That seems like a strategic
choice, not something to pin on the bassist, who is fine as always.
- Rakalam Bob Moses/Greg Burk: Ecstatic Weanderings
(2002 , Jazzwerkstatt):
Moses is a drummer/percussionist,
b. 1948, played quite young with Rahsaan Roland Kirk, moved on to
Larry Coryell and Gary Burton, cut some well-regarded albums for
Gramavision in the 1980s but has only sporadically appeared as a
leader before or since. Not sure when he picked up the Rakalam --
actually haven't paid much attention to him, although I do have
an unplayed copy of When Elephants Dream of Music around
here somewhere. Burk is a pianist, 21 years younger, from Michigan,
based in Rome with stops in Boston and Bratislava. Always struck
me as an interesting freebopper, but this is something else: a
piano-drums duo (reversing roles for 1 of 8 cuts, the most chaotic),
avant improv with African allusions -- on the percussion-led
"Primativo" anyhow, though other pieces push the piano out front
- Mostly Other People Do the Killing: The Coimbra Concert
(2010 , Clean Feed, 2CD):
Already forget where -- think it was
that Spanish poll I forgot to vote in -- but I recall MOPDTK named as
best live jazz group, something I have no opinion on not least because
I can't recall the last time I even saw a live jazz group. I suppose
I could try to form an opinion on the basis of live records, but then
you'd have to compete with something like the Vandermark 5's Live
at Alchemia -- 12-CDs that just grow and grow on you. MOPDTK sail
through the first one here in dazzling fashion, but stall a bit on
the second. And where their studio exercises are full of surprises --
and nicely documented in the liner notes so you don't miss them --
recycling their past deconstructions leaves them a bit short in their
strong suit: the unexpected.
- Premier Roeies: Ka Da Ver (2009 , Vindu Music):
Sure muddled this when I listed it for unpacking, but the cover was
far from clear and I didn't recognize Dutch bassist Harmjan Roeles.
The other credits, which are even more illegible on the card insert:
Gerard van der Kamp (alto sax, soprano sax), Nico Hixijbregts (piano),
and Fred van Duijnhoven (drums). Free jazz, nearly as muddled as the
typography and as unorthodox as the packaging, but there's something
to it -- like the early 1970s discs that John Corbett uncovered as
"lost masterpieces" for Atavistic's Unheard Music Series.
- Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue
Supermarket (2008-09 , Pine Eagle):
Raphael is a poet,
b. 1951 in Pittsburgh, changed his name from Daniel Raymond Dlugonski
(says his driver's license reads Dan Raphael Dlugonski); influenced
by the beats, studied at Cornell; moved to Portland, OR in 1977. Has
six books. I've never read him -- haven't read poetry since the late
1960s, when I read everyone he was reading, Yevtushenko included. Not
sure if he's ever been recorded before, but he's terrific here: the
phrases just shoot out, nearly every one hitting an unexpected target
somewhere beyond you. Too fast for me to scribble down -- the two I
got near the end were "because night is when we get to talk back" and
the last line, "my brain is the largest city in the world." Wish I
had a lyric sheet. Behind him is Rich Halley, a gray-haired tenor
saxophonist who spent most of his adult life as a field biologist,
and a drummer with the same last name, presumably his son. Striking
as the poetry might be on its own, the sax shadowing it heightens
every line. He has a distinctive sound and style, comparable (not
to say similar) to Von Freeman. He can't stretch out much here,
but is terrific nonetheless. My only quibble is the line equating
Kansas and Iowa: not the same at all (except in the middle of a corn
field, of course). Suggest he read Richard Manning: Grassland
and do some exploring. Not that he's wrong about Malta's low level
of coronary heart disease.
- Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and
Negotiations (2008 , 482 Music):
Personnel in this particular group has shifted around depending
on what Reed wants to focus on, but the basic theme is 1950s
proto-avant-garde jazz in Chicago, which includes pieces here
from Clifford Jordan, John Jenkins, Wilbur Campbell, Julian
Priester, and (especially) Sun Ra. Art Hoyle (trumpet) and
Priester (trombone) are featured here, as is Ira Sullivan, a
tenor saxophonist who also hails from the 1950s. The younger
set includes Greg Ward (alto sax), Tim Haldeman (tenor sax),
Jeb Bishop (trombone), and Jason Roebke (bass), so we get a
lot of horns freebopping along. Reed wrote three originals,
one for each of his featured guests. In several plays they
have yet to resolve -- when I do perk up it's invariably in
one or another of the covers.
- Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed):
Pianist, from Portugal, second album, the first (Da Alma)
a strong HM. Works especially well with horn leads, primarily Perico
Sambeat on alto sax here, with Desidério Lázaro added on tenor sax for
one cut. Covers Pink Floyd's "Shine on You Crazy Diamond" reduced to
fairly minimal piano. One vocal cut with Manuela Azevedo is neither
here nor there, but otherwise another strong, beatwise effort.
- Scenes [John Stowell/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop]: Rinnova
(2009 , Origin):
Guitar-bass-drums trio. Stowell is a subtle
craftsman, and Seattle's standard rhythm section lay out smartly
measured postbop ambience.
- Trygve Seim/Andreas Utnem: Purcor (2008 , ECM):
Norwegian saxophonist (tenor, soprano), has been on ECM since
the late 1990s. Utnem plays piano, and these are straightforward
duets, some improvised, some based on Norwegian folk songs. They
grab you right away, but the record does run a little long.
- Matthew Shipp: Art of the Improviser (2010 ,
Thirsty Ear, 2CD):
Pianist, one of the few I've spent enough time
with to be able to follow. A decade-plus ago he was talking like
he'd played everything he wanted to play and intended to stop, then
he got a job with an avant-rock label and started a remarkable series
of mash-ups and mergers between DJs and avant-jazzists -- his own
Nu Bop and Equilibrium and Harmony and Abyss
were highlights there. At his peak, Rolling Stone asked me
to write up a survey of his work for their CD guide -- one of the
very few jazz pianists to make a cut that excluded Ellington, Tatum,
Monk, Powell, Pullen, and loads more. Even though he's hardly ever
touched an electronic keyb, he started polling higher on electric
than on acoustic. Since then it's as if he's backed down, seeking
to regain his self-respect: he's mostly limited himself to trios
and solo outings, strictly acoustic, not as avant as in his early
days (although even then he was more indebted to Bud Powell than
to Cecil Taylor). This time, with a title befitting Brad Mehldau,
he gives you two live sets, one of each. The trio with Michael
Bisio on bass and Whit Dickey on drums flows swiftly, the bass
and drums heightening his own rhythmic conception, with a cover
of "Take the A Train" to help secure your bearings. The solo
takes more effort to chew, but plenty of food for thought there,
- Sonic Liberation Front: Meets Sunny Murray (2002-08 ,
Philadelphia group, led by percussionist Kevin Diehl,
who specializes in Lukumi bata drums (Afro-Cuban, more specifically
Yoruba) but has one paw rooted in the avant-garde, in no small part
due to his relationship with avant-drummer Sunny Murray. Fourth album
since 2000 -- the other three I recommend highly, especially 2004's
Ashé a Go-Go. This one sweeps up two sessions with Murray on
board, one from 2002, the other 2008. Murray's drums are worth focus,
but the band sometimes loses its focus in long ambling patches, only
to burst to life when Terry Lawson cuts loose on tenor sax.
- Jason Stein's Locksmith Isidore: Three Kinds of Happiness
(2009 , Not Two):
Bass clarinetist, one of the few specialists
around, b. 1976, based in Chicago, first showed up in Ken Vandermark's
Bridge 61 group where he was utterly demolished, but keeps plugging
away at it, and is getting better. Trio with Jason Roebke on bass and
Mike Pride on drums, a good group that keeps him up front and makes
him work. Horn doesn't have the sharp edge of a sax, but there's
nothing dull about his thinking.
- Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems
(2007 , Not Two):
Trombonist, b. 1954, didn't record his
own stuff until 1996 but has been prolific ever since. Group
named for a 2003 album, originally a quartet with Sabir Mateen
(alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, alto clarinet, flute), Matthew
Heyner (bass), and Klaus Kugel (drums), now with pianist John
Blum added. I've heard very little that he's done before --
especially missed out on a long series of CIMP albums -- and
haven't been real impressed by what little I did hear, but
this hits on every cyllinder. I'm impressed that he keeps up
on a much slower instrument with Mateen. I also love how Blum
breaks up the rhythm on piano.
- Jamaaladeen Tacuma: For the Love of Ornette (2010 ,
Bass guitarist, b. 1956 as Rudy MacDaniel in Hempstead,
NY; played on a couple of essential Ornette Coleman records -- Dancing
in Your Head (1976) and Of Human Feelings (1979) -- back when
Coleman was incorporating electric guitar and bass and putting forth his
harmolodic theories (Tacuma also appeared on James Blood Ulmer's Tales
of Captain Black. Tacuma's own records start in 1983 as he attempted
to build on his free funk patterns. AMG lists this as his 17th album,
not counting things like his Vernon Reid collaboration as Free Form Funky
Freqs. Here he returns to Coleman, or maybe one should say Coleman returns
to him -- the great man plays alto sax here, as unmistakable as ever, but
strangely subdued, with Toni Kofi's tenor sax more often up front, and
bits of piano and flute floating in the ether.
- Tarbaby: The End of Fear (2010, Posi-Tone):
Group's MySpace website explains: "We are not TAR BABY ...... JAZZ
is ..... We simply want to hug him for as long as we live." Site
lists (in this order) band members as: Nasheet Waits (drums),
Stacey Dillard (sax), Orrin Evans (piano), Eric Revis (bass),
but Dillard doesn't appear on this, the group's first record.
Instead, we have "special guests" JD Allen (tenor sax), Oliver
Lake (alto sax), and Nicholas Payton (trumpet). Two group songs,
two from Revis, one each from Evans and Waits, one from Lake,
outside pieces from Sam Rivers, Bad Brains, Fats Waller, Andrew
Hill, and Paul Motian. With Dillard this would have been a tough
postbop group, but with Lake and Allen it's something else, and
they bring out a dimension in Evans I've never heard before.
- The Ullmann/Swell 4: News? No News! (2010, Jazzwerkstatt):
There seems to be two Jazzwerkstatt labels, one
based in Vienna with artists I've never heard of, the other in
Berlin with a strong avant-garde roster and nice graphic design.
Gebhard Ullman plays tenor sax and bass clarinet; Steve Swell
trombone, Hilliard Greene bass, Barry Altschul drums. Swell has
played on a couple of recent Ullmann albums, including Don't
Touch My Music; also has a two-horn group with Sabir Mateen,
who's a bit higher strung but similar. Ullmann has been hugely
prolific since the early 1990s, but lately he's gotten much
better at fitting in and finding his niche. Some unison lines
seem like a waste, but their avant shuck-and-jive is a lot of
- David S. Ware: Onecept (2009 , AUM Fidelity):
Given a new lease on life thanks to a kidney transplant, Ware's
comeback was a solo concert album cut in October 2009. A couple
of months later he got back to the studio, with the stritch and
saxello he added to his tenor sax arsenal. The addition of bass
(William Parker) and drums (Warren Smith) fleshes out a sound
that was pretty impressive solo. At this stage he's pretty close
to automatic. I recall a while back praising Edwin Bayard as
sounding like a young David S. Ware. This record makes that
comparison seem silly, and makes me nervous having put Bayard's
record near the top of my year-in-progress list. Only one play,
so consider this grade the floor.
- David S. Ware/Cooper-Moore/William Parker/Muhammad Ali:
Planetary Unknown (2010 , AUM Fidelity):
rehab, testing out a new quartet with two subs older than the old
quartet -- no point in even thinking about replacing Parker -- with
the old fire coming back, colored a bit by switching to soprano three
tracks in, then winding up the seventh on stritch. Ware's soprano is
distinctive but wears a bit thin. Had my doubts at first about
Cooper-Moore's piano, but focusing in I hear sharp angled comping,
not as fluid as Shipp but suits the leader fine.
Notes dump from bk-flush:
- Ambrose Akinmusire: When the Heart Emerges Glistening
(2010 , Blue Note):
Trumpet player, b. 1982 in Oakland, CA; second
album after one on Fresh Sound New Talent. Mostly postbop quintet, with
Walter Smith III shagging him on tenor sax, Gerald Clayton on piano,
Harish Raghavan on bass, and Justin Brown on drums, although Jason Moran
takes two shots on Fender Rhodes. Hits quality notes over staggered
- Eric Alexander: Don't Follow the Crowd (2010 ,
Prolific tenor saxophonist, big mainstream sound, capable
on ballads, even better at speed. Quartet with Harold Mabern on piano,
Nat Reeves on bass, Joe Farnsworth on drums. Pretty much his typical
album, although Mabern is a slight shift from his usual pianists.
- JD Allen Trio: Victory! (2010 , Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1972 in Detroit, fifth album since 1999. Started
mainstream but has his own sound and a powerful presence, especially
in sax trios like this one. With Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston
- Ben Allison: Action-Refraction (2011, Palmetto):
Another one I expected to show up but didn't. Pretty good bassist,
even better composer: last three records on Palmetto scored A- here.
Only one original here. The covers start with Monk but into rock
and elsewhere: PJ Harvey, Donnie Hathaway, Neal Young, Samuel Barber,
Paul Williams. Guitarists Steve Cardenas and Brandon Seabrook are
central, with Jason Lindner on synth as well as piano, and Michael
Blake on bass clarinet and tenor sax. Sort of an instrumental prog
rock feel, but tighter, more determined.
- The Ambush Party (2008 , Doek):
Eponymous first album, group a quartet: Natalio Sued (tenor sax),
Oscar Jan Hoogland (piano), Harald Austbø (cello), Marcos Baggiani
(drums). Recorded in Amsterdam, no background on any of them. Free
improv, what they call instant composition. Rugged not rough, with
a little of that circus undertow the Dutch are so fond of.
- Bill Anschell: Figments (2010 , Origin):
Seattle pianist, AMG counts seven albums since 1997. Solo piano
this time, all covers, majority folk/rock from the 1960s (two
Lennon/McCartneys, "Alice's Restaurant," "Spinning Wheel") into
the early 1970s ("Big Yellow Taxi," "Desperado"). Nice as far
as it goes.
- Arrive: "There Was . . ." (2008 , Clean Feed):
Chicago group: Aram Shelton (alto sax), Jason Adasiewicz (vibes),
Jason Roebke (bass), Tim Daisy (drums). Same group under Shelton's
name released Arrive in 2005 (recorded 2001, so they go
back quite a ways). Good saxophonist, fast, inventive, would have
been a slick bebopper in the day; adds a little more now. Vibes add
a little fluff.
- David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone):
Drummer, from Southern California, based in New York; first
record, wrote 2 of 8 songs, adding covers from Shorter, Foster,
Lennon/McCartney, Alberstein, Frisell, McHugh (just gives last
names, only some obvious). Sax-organ-guitar quartet, usually a
soul jazz cliché, but Gary Versace is one of the few organists
working who manages to stay out of the usual ruts, and Joel
Frahm and Gilad Hekselman are also inspired choices. Strikes
me as a drummer who likes to swing as well as bop. Studied-with
list offers some hints: Jeff Hamilton, Joe LaBarbera, Peter
Erskine, Kenny Washington. Played some klezmer and reggae as
a teen, too.
- Chet Baker: She Was Too Good to Me (1974 ,
A lot of names on the front cover -- Hubert
Laws and Paul Desmond larger than Bob James, Ron Carter, Steve Gadd,
Jack DeJohnette, and "Arranged and Conducted by Don Sebesky" -- but
in the end only the matinee idol matters; aside from the occasional
Desmond solo, it's all shading and backdrop; Baker sings four tunes,
plays his charming little trumpet on all eight, has a nice outing
despite it all.
- Harrison Bankhead Sextet: Morning Sun Harvest Moon
(2010 , Engine):
Bassist, from Chicago, first album as leader
but has side-credits since 1991, mostly with Malachi Thompson, Fred
Anderson, Roscoe Mitchell, and Nicole Mitchell. Starts with a pair
of wood flutes. Picks up the bass and a beat and even dabbles in
what sounds a little like South Africa, eventually moving into more
treacherous regions, although idiosyncratic, underkeyed rhythm
pieces predominate. Two reed players, Edward Wilkerson Jr. and Mars
Williams; James Sanders on violin (all the more useful for a Leroy
Jenkins tribute); Avreayl Ra on drums and Ernie Adams on percussion.
Nothing here blows you over. It keeps returning to the center, which
is the bass.
- Banquet of the Spirits: Caym: The Book of Angels Volume 17
(2010 , Tzadik):
More John Zorn compositions, or maybe the same
old ones cut up, tossed up, and redressed with a different bunch of
musicians. Brazilian percussionist Cyro Baptista seems to be leader
here -- everything is given remarkable rhythmic twists, something that
drummer Tim Keiper helps with. The others flesh out those twists: Brian
Marsella (piano, harpsichord, pump organ) and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz
(oud, bass, gimbri). All four add vocals. Not necessarily a good idea,
but infectious here.
- Chris Barber: Memories of My Trip (1958-2010 ,
- Diego Barber: The Choice (2010 , Sunnyside):
Guitarist, b. 1978 in Lanzarote, Canary Islands; studied in Lanzarote,
Madrid, and Salzburg, before moving to New York in 2007. Second album.
Cover has small print: Featuring: Seamus Blake, Larry Grenadier, Ari
Hoenig, Mark Turner, Johannes Weidenmueller. No per track credits,
but their contribution is small too, and vanishes completely for the
final three-track "Sonata Banc D'Arguin."
- George Benson: Beyond the Blue Horizon (1971 ,
A rare album defying all expectations: the
organ is mere window dressing, and can fold up and disappear leaving
the bass line to Ron Carter; the guitarist almost never invokes Wes
Montgomery, either for better or worse; and drummer Jack DeJohnette
never boxes himself in; but this starts slow and leaves no strong
impressions, only an eclectic vibe.
- George Benson: White Rabbit (1971 ,
A few years shy of his pop breakthrough, so you can
still treat him as a Wes Montgomery wannabe, here covering one of
Montgomery's most pathetic covers ("California Dreaming"), Grace
Slick, Legrand and Villa-Lobos; Sebesky arranged, focusing on the
flutes and oboes this time which steadfastly refuse to emerge from
- George Benson: Body Talk (1973 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
Not sure whether this is better or worse for Pee Wee
Ellis's horn arrangements: the horns shag but never compete with
the guitar line, which means they make for an ordinary background,
but Benson's leads offer no surprises either -- only a better than
average phrasing of what he's been doing all along.
- Cheryl Bentyne: The Gershwin Songbook (2010, ArtistShare):
Singer, b. 1954, best known as part of Manhattan Transfer since 1979,
but has ten solo albums, most since 2002. This one is a lock, mostly
top drawer songs, given light, delectable treatments with piano (Corey
Allen or Ted Howe), Peter Gordon's flutes, and Ken Peplowski's bubbly
clarinet. Mark Winkler joins for "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off."
Only disappointment is "Summertime," which has yielded so many great
versions I've long wanted to dump them all into a mixtape. Here she
goes falsetto, with a lot of warble to the backup, which just seems
- Big Neighborhood: 11:11 (2006, Origin, 2CD):
Group: Chris Fagan (alto sax), David White (guitar, guitar synth),
Doug Miller (bass), Phil Parisot (drums). Second album. Been on
my shelf a long time. Partly I've avoided it because I rarely feel
up to tackling multi-disc sets by unknowns, although it turns out
that all this could have been squeezed onto a single CD. White and
Miller split most of the writing, with one piece by Parisot. Flows
along nicely on the guitar, the sax mostly window dressing.
- David Binney: Graylen Epicenter (2010 , Mythology):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1961, also plays soprano (especially
well on this record); AMG lists 16 albums since 1989, many more side
credits, a dozen or so as producer. This runs long (73:43), has a bit
of kitchen sink feel -- a second sax (Chris Potter), trumpet (Ambrose
Akinmusire), both piano (Craig Taborn) and guitar (Wayne Kravitz),
bass (Eivind Opsvik), two drummers (Brian Blade, Dan Weiss) sometimes
doubling up plus Kenny Wollesen (percussion, vibes), and occasional
vocals (Gretchen Parlato) mostly in spare horn mode. Postbop largesse,
plenty of dazzling passages.
- Ketil Bjørnstad/Svante Henryson: Night Song
(2009 , ECM):
Piano-cello duet. Bjørnstad was b. 1952 in Oslo, Norway;
has 30-some albums since 1989, 7 on ECM; classical training, touches
on folk-jazz and avant-classical and plays with the moderated intensity
you expect from Manfred Eicher's pianists. Henryson was b. 1963 in
Stockholm, Sweden; also moved through classical music to jazz, although
he also pops up on the occasional Yngwie Malmsteen heavy metal album.
Nice, relaxing, not too pretty.
- Ran Blake: Grey December: Live in Rome (2010 ,
Pianist, b. 1935, thirty-some albums since 1961,
many of them solo, especially recently. Difficult player for me to
get a handle on, even when he plays something as familiar as "Nature
Boy." This doesn't move much, and while the melodic motifs are not
without interest, I can't really tell you why.
- Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers: The Sesjun Radio Shows
(1978-83 , T2 Entertainment, 2CD):
The second in a series of radio
shots from Tros Sesjun in the Netherlands -- Chet Baker came out first,
last year. Blakey was in the midst of a comeback in the late 1970s: his
most famous lineup introduced Wynton and Branford Marsalis, but they're
not in any of the three sets here. Instead, Bobby Watson and Donald
Harrison play alto; David Schnitter, Billy Pierce, and Jean Toussaint
tenor; Valery Ponomarev and Terence Blanchard trumpet. The May 1980
group bops hardest (Pierce, Watson, and Ponomarev, with James Williams
on piano and Charles Fambrough on bass), their set split across the
two discs. Blakey responds as usual, playing even harder.
- Jane Ira Bloom: Wingwalker (2010 , Outline):
Soprano saxophonist, one of the few specialists; b. 1955, thirteenth
album since 1980. Quartet with Dawn Clement (piano, Rhodes), Mark
Helias (bass), Bobby Previte (drums). Eleven originals, ends with
"I Could Have Danced All Night."
- T.K. Blue: Latinbird (2010 , Motéma):
known as Talib Kibwe; plays alto sax and flute; b. in New York, mother
from Trinidad, father from Jamaica; studied at NYU and Columbia; joined
Abdullah Ibrahim 1977-80, moved to Paris for early 1980s, hooked up
with Randy Weston for a long stretch. Released three albums as Talib
Kibwe 1986-96; five now as T.K. Blue, starting in 1999. This one is
simple enough: Charlie Parker songs with Latin percussion -- Roland
Guerrero on congas, Willie Martinez on traps -- with Theo Hill on
piano and Essiet Okon Essiet on bass, plus a couple guests: Lewis
Nash takes over the drums on two cuts, and Steve Turre plays shells
and 'bone on three. Not the overpowering player Bird was, but that's
fine by me. The two originals are OK, but the one non-Parker cover
is a dead spot: "Round Midnight," which subtracts rather than adds
to the theme.
- Bones & Tones (2009 , Freedom Art):
Eponymous quartet album, everyone credited with percussion as well
as: vocals/kora (Abdou Mboup), vibes (Warren Smith), marimba/bells
(Lloyd Haber), and bass (Jaribu Shahid). The marimba-vibes stands
out in an endless African groove, not much differentiated but very
listenable as is.
- Brazilian Groove Band: Anatomy of Groove (2009, Far Out):
Leo Gandelman project. He plays sax, flute, keyboards (here at least),
has 15-20 records under his own name, the majority with obvious Brazilian
themes (Brazilian Soul, Bossa Rara, Perolas Negras,
Ao Vivo, like that). The horns are massed up like salsa, but the
guitars work Brazilian themes, and the beats feel electronic: all seems
a bit off, but not enough to be odd. Packaging at least is truthful,
including the absence of definite articles.
- Kenny Burrell: God Bless the Child (1971 ,
The guitarist can't quite escape Don Sebesky's
black-tie cello arrangements, but it helps when he accents his blue
notes, when Ray Barretto tricks up the rhythm track, and especially
when Freddie Hubbard adds a contrasting tone.
- Taylor Ho Bynum/Joe Morris/Sara Schoenbeck: Next
(2009 , Porter):
Maybe one of those records you're supposed
to play extra loud, because at my normal volume I'm not hearing much
of anything here -- scattered squiggles of Schoenbeck's bassoon,
scratch guitar, isolated bits of cornet. Doesn't jive with reviews
I've read, and doesn't seem likely to come together even if I were
inclined to give it extra effort.
- Uri Caine/Arditti String Quaret: Twelve Caprices
(2011, Winter & Winter):
Jazz pianist who has taken quite
a bit of classical music as his starting point, some of which I've
begrudgingly found interesting (e.g., Plays Mozart) and some
appalling (e.g., Robert Schumann: Love Fugue), faces off for
a set of improvs with Irvine Arditti's well established classical
string quartet. The strings are abstractly modernistic, the piano
cutting against the grain.
- California Concert: The Hollywood Palladium (1971 ,
CTI/Sony Masterworks, 2CD):
The label's showcase group, sort of the jazz
equivalent of a package show, one where the individual stars play with
each other (mostly), with a few concessions to economic reality -- e.g.,
not cost-effective to truck around Don Sebesky or his strings and winds;
they do at least have a cohesive group sound, tied at the bottom with
Ron Carter's bass, Billy Cobham's drums, Airto Moreira's percussion,
and especially George Benson's streamlined guitar groove; Johnny Hammond
plays organ and electric piano, Hank Crawford slips in some alto sax,
but the headliners are Freddie Hubbard on trumpet and Stanley Turrentine
on tenor sax, both more than capable of warming up a crowd; with three
cuts that eluded previous 2-LP and 1-CD reissues.
- Hadley Caliman & Pete Christlieb: Reunion
(2009 , Origin):
Two tenor saxophonists. Caliman, b. 1932, had
a few albums in the 1970s, then vanished (at least as a leader)
until Origin picked him up in 2008. He titled his comeback album
Gratitude and its follow-up Straight Ahead, and
that's about all you need to know about him. Christlieb is a
bit younger, b. 1945, evidently played some with Caliman in the
late 1960s. He has a slightly more continuous career, but only
one record between 1983-98, and only one other album post-2000.
He is probably best known for a pair of duo albums with Warne
Marsh in 1978 -- at least that's where I know him from -- which,
of course, don't quite compete with Marsh's Lee Konitz duos.
Presumably Caliman's the one who wants to swing and Christlieb's
the one who's into more intricate postbop. Pretty enjoyable mix
either way. With label stalwarts Bill Anschell, Chuck Deardorf,
and John Bishop.
- Fredrik Carlquist: Playing Cool (2010 , FCJazz):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1969 in Jönköping, Sweden; based
in Barcelona; fourth album since 1999. Two originals, ten covers
intended to explore "his influences from players llike Paul Desmond,
Stan Getz and Lars Gullin." Helping with the latter is "special
guest" baritone saxophonist Joan Chamorro on three tracks; rest
is sax-guitar-bass-drums quartet. That adds up to a pretty mild
mannered sax album. One song is even called "Sweet and Lovely,"
but really they all are.
- Brian Carpenter's Ghost Train Orchestra: Hothouse Stomp:
The Music of 1920s Chicago and Harlem (2011, Accurate):
Trumpet player, from Florida, moved to Boston in 2000, starting a
band called Beat Circus, which has three albums of "Weird American
Gothic" (on Cuneiform; haven't heard them). Band here includes some
well known players: Andy Laster and Matt Bauder on saxes, Curtis
Hasselbring on trombone, Brandon Seabrook on guitar; also Dennis
Lichtman on clarinet, violin, viola, tuba, and drums. Focuses on
four bands: Charlie Johnson's Paradise Orchestra, McKinney's Cotton
Pickers, Tiny Parham and His Musicians, and Fess Williams' Royal
Flush Orchestra. Gets many of the pre-swing quirks right, but I'm
not sure that's a plus.
- François Carrier: Entrance 3 (2002 , Ayler):
saxophonist with his longtime trio -- Pierre Côté on bass, Michel Lambert
on drums, always an excellent freebop group -- recorded at the Vancouver
Jazz Festival with Bobo Stenson sitting in on piano. Stenson is excellent
here, but spreads the group out.
- James Carter: Caribbean Rhapsody (2009-10 , Decca):
Starts with "Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra," composed
by Roberto Sierra (from Puerto Rico), played by Sinfonia Varsovia
Orchestra (from Warsaw, Poland), conducted by Giancarlo Guerrero,
with Carter handling the saxophones. Then we get a "Tenor Interlude"
showcasing Carter; another Sierra composition, "Caribbean Rhapsody,"
with the Akua Dixon String Quartet, Regina Carter for a violin solo,
bass, and soprano and tenor sax; finally a "Soprano Interlude." So
this is basically a sax with strings thing, except that for the bulk
of the record the strings are in charge. Ever since Charlie Parker
saxophonists have been eager to play in front of strings, and they
haven't all been atrocious -- Stan Getz's Focus and Art Pepper's
Winter Moon are two resounding exceptions, but I can't think
of any others offhand. The "interludes," by the way, are solo; they
do help to clear out the ears.
- Ron Carter: All Blues (1973 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
Bassist, best known for his work with Miles Davis, composed 4 of 6 tracks
here but the Davis title track is the sweet spot; Roland Hanna and Billy
Cobham make it mostly a piano trio, except with Joe Henderson appears --
even then he plays along rather than taking charge.
- Rondi Charleston: Who Knows Where the Time Goes
(2009 , Motema):
Singer, from Chicago, father taught
English and played jazz piano, mother taught voice; studied at
Juilliard. Third album since 2004; starts mostly covers (Sandy
Denny, Stevie Wonder, Jobim of course), but winds down with four
songs co-written with pianist Lynne Arriale and the annoying
"Freedom Is a Voice" ("freedom is a man"; no lyric sheet but
that's what it sounds like). Best thing here is "Please Send Me
Someone to Love" -- but even there she'd rather come on strong.
- Steve Coleman and Five Elements: The Mancy of Sound
(2007 , Pi):
A sequel to last year's Harvesting Semblances
and Affinities, cut around the same time with the same band. I
didn't care much for the previous album, and was surprised to find
it polling well in year-end lists. My problem is vocalist Jen Shyu:
I find her distracting and unnecessary even when I can't understand
her (most of the time, especially on the 5-part Yoruba-derived "Odú
Ifá Suite"). The horns -- Coleman's alto sax, Jonathan Finlayson's
trumpet, Tim Albright's trombone -- weave around interestingly, and
the rhythm section is superb, again.
- Francis Coletta/Jonas Tauber: Port Saïd Street
(2010 , Origin):
Coletta plays "Godin electroacoustic guitar";
b. 1957 in Marseilles, France, also the source of the title where it
seems to have a Beale Street resonance; has at least three previous
records, not counting countless collaborations. Tauber plays cello
here, bass elsewhere; is from Switzerland, has a couple previous
albums. Intimate, chamberish, flows gently, nothing fancy.
- The Convergence Quartet: Song/Dance
(2009 , Clean Feed):
Artist names listed on front cover alphabetically:
Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Harris Eisenstadt (drums),
Alexander Hawkins (piano), Dominic Lash (bass). All write, Bynum
one song, the others two each. I filed this under Bynum, who has
a substantial discography since 1999, but early on Hawkins is
the focal interest, with his jumpy, blocky chords chopping up
time. B. 1981 in England, based in Oxford, has a new Ensemble
record I haven't heard, played organ on two Decoy albums, seems
like someone to keep an ear opened for. Lash is also from England,
"one of the busiest players on the UK scene." Album ends with a
bang-up fractured version of a South African tune, "Kudala." I'm
tempted to credit Eisenstadt, who regularly works African music
into free jazz contexts, but I also see that Hawkins has played
with Ntshuka Bonga, and has played in a trio with Louis Moholo-Moholo
and Evan Parker.
- Laurence Cook/Eric Zinman: Double Action
(2009 , Ayler):
Zinman is a pianist; Cook is credited with drums, percussion,
and Casio wk1630. Blips and bangs, broken up and swirled around, chaos
- Marc Copland: Crosstalk (2010 , Pirouet):
Real good postbop pianist, has a couple dozen record since 1988,
paired in a quartet with real good alto saxophonist Greg Osby.
Wonder why it didn't work. (Thumbing through my database, I see
they've done it before, only slightly more successfully, on
Night Call in 2003.
- Henry Darragh: Tell Her for Me (2010, self-released):
Pianist, singer-songwriter from Texas; studied at San Jacinto College
and University of Houston. First album, with six originals and five
standards. Has a soft spot for Chet Baker, especially on "Everything
Happens to Me" -- even adds some soft trumpet, by Carol Morgan.
- Mon David: Coming True (2009, Free Ham):
from somewhere in the Philippines, based somewhere in US. Second
album. Mostly standards, some (like "Footprints") jazz pieces run
through the vocalese mill. Technically impressive, and in some
ways rather likable, but I have little taste for his mannerisms --
comparisons to Mark Murphy are lavishly earned -- so in the end
I find this more annoying than not. Includes a duet with Charmaine
Clamor, another talented Filipino.
- Jenny Davis: Inside You (2009 , self-released):
Singer, from Seattle, third album. Wrote one of ten songs, the others
scattered standards with Charlie Parker's "Confirmation" and Lennon
& McCartney's "Blackbird" on the far edges. Barely backed by Chuck
Easton (guitar, flute) and Ted Enderle (bass), with Louis Aissen's
tenor sax on one cut. The boppish stuff has a touch of Sheila Jordan,
not pushed so far, but she doesn't need a lot of support. Ambivalent
about "Blackbird" -- almost invariably a disaster -- not to mention
the obligatory Jobim.
- Miles Davis: Bitches Brew Live (1969-70 ,
Something of a misnomer, combining three previously
unreleased cuts from a pre-Bitches Brew July 1969 performance
at Newport with six from an Isle of Wight set the following August.
Neither group matches the album band -- Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin,
and Joe Zawinul are among the missing -- nor do the songs line up.
The former group was stripped down with Chick Corea, Dave Holland,
and Jack DeJohnette; the latter was buffed up, adding Gary Bartz,
Keith Jarrett (on organ), and Airto Moreira. So this is basically
yet another live set from the period when Davis made his transition
from hard bop to fusion, and from dingy jazz clubs to stadia. Pretty
hot one, too; all the more confusing since I mostly recall Bitches
Brew as our favorite chill-out album of the early 1970s.
- Matija Dedic Trio: MD in NYC (2009 , Origin):
Pianist, b. 1973 in Zagreb, Croatia; studied in Austria, is based in
Zagreb, but recorded this in New York, with Vicente Archer on bass
and Kendrick Scott on drums. Second album, both trios. Rather quiet,
inside stuff. Don't have much more to say.
- Papa John DeFrancesco: A Philadelphia Story
(2010 , Savant):
Organ player, Joey's father, seventh album since
1992, which is to say he didn't really get his career going until
after Joey started recording. Mostly trio, with John DeFrancesco Jr.
on guitar and Glenn Ferracone on cover. Despite the cheesesteaks on
the front cover and the girth on the back, Papa John has a light
touch on the Hammond, and this skips along pleasantly. Three cuts
add horns: Joe Fortunato's tenor sax on "Blues in the Closet," plus
two tracks with Joey playing trumpet: doesn't stretch much but he's
actually pretty good.
- Deodato: Prelude (1972 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
Brazilian pianist, had some bossa nova records in the 1960s before
coming to America and producing this novelty fusion extravaganza,
with its opening hook a sambafied take on "Also Sprach Zarathustra";
Taylor threw everything he had into the mix: strings, brass, flutes,
two French horns, a lot of electric guitar and bass, and a gaggle
of percussionists -- Billy Cobham, Airto Moreira, and Ray Barretto;
biggest surprise is that it mostly holds together.
- Paul Desmond: Pure Desmond (1974 ,
The alto saxophonist at his most gorgeous, but hardly
pure given how much space is given over to the easy gait and shimmery
tone of Ed Bickert's guitar; Ron Carter and Connie Kay keep time,
never letting anyone break a sweat.
- Michael Dessen Trio: Forget the Pixel (2010 ,
Trombonist, also credited with electronics. Second album;
also appears in a pianoless two-horn quartet, Cosmologic, which I file
under saxophonist Jason Robinson. Here, in a trio with Christopher
Tordini (bass) and Dan Weiss (drums), just the trombone is out front,
which slows things down a bit, but the focus is useful.
- Lars Dietrich: Stand Alone (2010 , self-released):
Dutch alto saxophonist, based in New York, not to be confused with Bürger
Lars Dietrich, a German "comedy rapper and entertainer," author of albums
like Dicke Dinger. Second album. No credits given; title suggests
Dietrich plays everything, which mostly sounds to me like keyboards and
synth drums. Don't know about his previous album, but I'd file this one
under electronica: the beats are a little less mechanical than the norm,
but even when the rhythm gets slippery it's just transformed into another
species of plastic.
- Al Di Meola: Pursuit of Radical Rhapsody (2010 ,
Guitarist, b. 1954, studied at Berklee, joined Chick Corea's
Return to Forever 1974-76 as they slipped into the 1970s fusion muddle;
has 30-some albums since 1976, of which I've heard two (one with John
McLaughlin and Paco de Lucia) so I'm way behind the curve here -- never
quite convinced it's one worth learning. Pretty fancy here, with a wide
range of Latin effects from flamenco to tango to salsa, accordion and
slinky percussion (including Mino Cinelu on four cuts), bits of Gonzalo
Rubalcaba piano, three songs with dripping string arrangements, two
covers ("Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Over the Rainbow") with
Charlie Haden on bass. Like I said, fancy.
B+(*) [advance: 2011-03-15]
- Eldar Djangirov: Three Stories (2009 ,
Pianist, b. 1987 in Kyrgyzstan, then still part of the Evil Empire.
A proverbial child prodigy, "discovered" at age 9 playing in a festival
somewhere in Siberia, moved to Kansas City (supposedly to soak up its jazz
legacy, although I assure you no one will ever detect a trace of Bennie
Moten or Pete Johnson here), cut his first record in his teens, going by
first name only. First record using his last name, a welcome sign of
maturity. Solo piano. He's never tried to shake his good classical
education, featuring pieces by Bach and Scriabin alongside standards
like "Darn That Dream" and "Embraceable You" and three originals --
only "In Walked Bud" and "Donna Lee" offer the slight whiff of jazz.
- Chris Donnelly: Solo (2008 , ALMA):
has been sitting around awhile: package says 2008, artist's website
says released in September 2008; AMG says 2009 and also says 2010;
my records say 2010; can't find the hype sheet. Pianist, from
somewhere in Canada, studied and currently teaches in Toronto.
Debut record -- looks like there is a later one but I didn't get
it. Solo, like the title says. Donnelly wrote 7 of 11 tracks;
the others are Bill Evans, Bud Powell, a set of variations on
Charlie Parker's "Donna Lee," and a "Cinderella Medley." Pretty
decent as these things go, the originals well-conceived exercises,
the covers have their intrigues. Bet he'd sound even better with
bass and drums, even at the expense of some clarity.
- Dave Douglas: United Front: Brass Ecstasy at Newport
(2010 , Greenleaf Music):
Same four brass plus drums lineup as
on Douglas's Spirit Moves (2009): trumpet (Douglas), trombone
(Luis Bonilla), French horn (Vinent Chancey), tuba (Marcus Rojas),
and drums (Nasheet Waits). Repeats four songs, plus "Spirit Moves"
(which somehow missed the album it was title of) and "United Front" --
three Douglas tunes and Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry."
Redundant if you don't care, but seems like more is more to me. Too
bad I got to nag them every time out.
- Benjamin Drazen: Inner Lights (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Saxophonist, alto and soprano, from Roslyn, NY, b. 1972; studied at New
England Conservatory with George Garzone (who else?); moved back to NYC
in 1995. Debut album, quartet with piano (Jon Davis), bass (Carlo de
Rosa), and drums (Eric McPherson); seven originals plus "This Is New"
and "Polka Dots and Moonbeams." Fat pitch right down the middle.
- Kermit Driscoll: Reveille (2010 , Nineteen-Eight):
Bassist, b. 1956 in Nebraska, plays acoustic and electric; studied with
Jaco Pastorius, graduated from Berklee. First album on his own, although
he has about 60 side-credits since 1987, many with Bill Frisell (who
returns the favor here), some in groups like New and Used. With Kris
Davis on piano (sometimes prepared) and Vinnie Colaiuta on drums. Wrote
8 of 10 songs, with Trad's "Chicken Reel" offering the best Frisell
effect. (The other cover is from Joe Zawinul, also exceptional in its
power riffing.) In effect, a slightly less distinctive Frisell album.
- Lajos Dudas: 50 Years With Jazz Clarinet: The Best of Lajos
Dudas (1976-2007 , Jazz Sick, 2CD):
also some alto sax, b. 1941 in Budapest, Hungary; not sure when he
moved to Germany, evidently by 1973 when he started teaching in Neuss,
North Rhine-Westphalia. Reportedly has "over 50 Singles/LPs/CDs";
liner notes cite 17 here, plus seven cuts identified as radio shots.
Fifty years goes back to his first performances, back when he was
studying at the Bela Bartok Conservatory and the Franz Liszt Academy
of Music. His recording career is shorter, starting around 1976 with
his first Reflections on Bach -- a subject he returns to
several times later. Still, this is very much jazz, even though
he hardly fits into the trad, bop, or avant niches. Discs aren't
strictly chronolgical, but the first one leans early (1978-94)
with its Bach, Liszt, and HR Big Band (also a cut with guitarist
Atilla Zoller). Second leads off with a vigorous "Summertime,"
then more Bach before he moves into a 1995-2007 stretch and it
gets more interesting.
- Eco D'Alberi: Eco D'Alberi (2008-09 , Porter):
from Italian group: Edoardo Marraffa (tenor and sopranino sax),
Alberto Braida (piano), Antonio Borghini (double bass), Fabrizio
Spera (drums). Four pieces, two cut at Vision Festival in New York,
the others in Pisa and Zurich a year-plus later. Free jazz, improv
pieces, the longest at 32:00, with scratchy sax and crashing piano
and lots of ancillary noise from the back, much like it's been done
ever since Ayler.
- Harris Eisenstadt: Woodblock Prints (2010, NoBusiness):
This album got a lot of year-end attention last year -- I think it even
won a poll in Spain for best album of the year, so I figured I should
check it out. The drummer is barely audible, but his compositions for
nonet offer intriguing, albeit mostly plodding, moves. The group is
divided into a "brass trio" (French horn, trombone, and tuba) and a
"wind trio" (clarinet, alto sax, bassoon). Final piece ("Andrew Hill")
picks up the pace and begins to live up to the billing.
- Harris Eisenstadt: Canada Day II (2010 ,
Drummer, b. 1975 in Toronto; has been around -- New
York, Los Angeles, Gambia -- winding up in Brooklyn, where he has
close to ten records since 2002 and a growing reputation as a
composer. Same group did Canada Day in 2008: Matt Bauder
(tenor sax), Nate Wooley (trumpet), Chris Dingman (vibes), Eivind
Opsvik (bass). The horns can spin free or play postbop harmony,
but in either case the vibraphone offers both a soft sell and a
lot of open space. Full of surprises which may or may not work;
hard to tell in a single pass.
- Peter Eldridge: Mad Heaven (2011, Palmetto):
plays piano, best known as a founding member of New York Voices, also
a member of the group Moss. Third album since 2000 under his own name.
Writes a little (7 of 12, with help), leaning Brazilian on most of the
rest. Makes ample use of his background singers, or excessive may be
more what I meant. Mostly backed with guitar-bass-drums-percussion,
but a few cuts add horns, most importantly Joel Frahm (tenor sax).
I've found his tics annoying in the past, but this nearly slipped by
me, until his uncommonly warbly "The Very Thought of You."
- Shane Endsley and the Music Band: Then the Other
(2010 , Low Electrical):
Trumpet player, from Denver, studied
at Eastman, based in Brooklyn, second album, looks like 30-40 side
credits since 1998 (with Steve Coleman). Quartet with Craig Taborn
(piano), Matt Brewer (bass), and Ted Poor (drums). Good group, was
feeling kind of ambivalent about the trumpet until the sharp finale,
- Peter Erskine/Bob Mintzer/Darek Oles/Alan Pasqua: Standards 2:
Movie Music (2009 , Fuzzy Music):
alphabetical order, although the label seems to be Erskine's property,
and he's probably the most famous among near-equals -- you know, the
drummer back in Weather Report. At least I assume that ranks him above
Mintzer's long run with the Yellowjackets -- a group I've never been
fond of, but the tenor saxophonist was always the best thing they had
going. Pasqua and Oles are established pros with no tainted baggage.
They make a nice, mild-mannered group here, easing their way through
juicy themes like "Cinema Paradiso" and "Rosemary's Baby" and snagging
a couple of Cole Porter songs that have far outlived their movies.
- Orrin Evans: Captain Black Big Band (2010 ,
Judging from the credits, seems to be a very big band,
with 10 trumpets, 5 trombones, 14 saxes and a bass clarinet, 3
pianos, but I also note that it was recorded in three chunks, the
first day and track in Philadelphia, two more days (4 and 2 tracks
respectively) later in New York, so I wonder if everyone was really
everywhere all the time. (Some of the bass and drums players are
linked to specific tracks.) Pianist Evans wrote 4 of 7 pieces,
the last four. The band is crackling hot, but I'm not getting
much out of it, just a lot of drive and energy.
- Peter Evans Quintet: Ghosts (2010 , More Is More):
Trumpet player, best known for his work in Mostly Other People Do the
Killing, but has 7 albums under his own name since 2006. Most of those
have been solo or small group, nothing as big as this, literally let
alone figuratively. With Carlos Homs (piano), Tom Blancarte (bass), Jim
Black (drums), and Sam Pluta (live processing) -- the latter hard to
figure, or easy to blame. Aside from the processing, this rumbles and
roars more like MOPDTK than anything Evans had done on his own. I'm
torn here, duly impressed but not sure I really like this sort of
- Michael Feinberg: With Many Hands (2010 ,
Bassist, b. 1987 in Atlanta, "raised on hip hop,
international grooves, resurgent singer/songwriters and indie rock";
based in New York. Bio says this is his second album (looks like
first was Evil Genius in 2009). Lists a sextet's worth of
musicians on cover but no instrument credits: as best I can figure,
Godwin Louis (alto sax), Noah Preminger (tenor sax), Alex Wintz
(guitar), Julian Shore (piano), Daniel Platzman (drums). Postbop
verging on freebop: jumps around a lot, shifting times, the sax(es)
up front pushing limits.
- Oscar Feldman: Oscar e Familia (2009, Sunnyside):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1961 in Argentina, based in New York, has
one previous album in 1999. Wrote most of the pieces, one with
Guillermo Klein, one by Klein alone, and one each by Wayne Shorter,
Astor Piazzolla, and Hermeto Pascoal. Core group features Manuel
Valera on piano, John Benitez on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums,
and Pernell Saturnino on percussion, although he also taps Pablo
Aslan (bass) on four cuts, Diego Urcola (trumpet, trombone),
Mark Turner (tenor sax), Tito Castro (bandoneon), Cuartetango
String Quartet (two cuts), and others. Fierce sax and roiling
percussion will remind you of Gato Barbieri's early "chapters."
- Fernandez & Wright: Unsung (2009 ,
New Market Music):
Singer Vanessa Fernandez, guitarist Steve Wright,
home base Melbourne, Australia. First album, backed with piano,
organ, bass, drums, percussion. Wrote their own material. Has a
dark, dank sound, a resonant voice with occasional jazz fillips.
- FivePlay Jazz Quintet: Five of Hearts (2008-10 ,
Guitarist Tony Corman and pianist Laura Klein produced and
split the eleven songs 6-5 in favor of Corman. The others are Dave
Tidball (saxes, clarinet), Alan Hall (drums), and Paul Smith (bass),
listed in that order for no reason I can fathom. Second album, the
first out in 2010. Corman has previous albums as Triceratops and as
Crotty, Corman and Phipps. Klein has a previous duo with vibraphonist
Ted Wolff. Looks like they intercepted in Boston -- lots of Berklee
resumes -- although I also see a note that Tony and Laura got married
in 1984 and moved to the Bay Area. They bill what they do as "melodic
modern jazz," and that's about right. The leaders' instruments tend
to hold things together and keep them flowing, and Tidball's reeds
ride the waves instead of cutting against the grain. Not to be
confused with Sherrie Maricle's quintet, Five Play.
- Flow Trio: Set Theory: Live at the Stone (2009 , Ayler):
Louie Belogenis (tenor/soprano sax), Joe Morris (bass), Charles
Downs (drums). Pretty basic avant sax trio. Belogenis has appeared on
a couple dozen records since 1993, mostly in groups like this one. He
makes playing tenor sax a study in struggle, wrenching each note in
turn from the device. Title track runs 29:31. Other two 17:23 and 6:56,
the latter turning to soprano where he is pleasantly asured.
- Danny Frankel: The Interplanetary Note/Beat Conference
Drummer, has a couple records under his own
name, quite a few side credits since 1980 (very few jazz). Trio with
Nels Cline on guitar, Larry Goldings on organ. Guitar is distinctive,
especially for an organ trio, and the rhythm is relatively slinky,
which reduces the organ to filler.
- Bill Frisell: Sign of Life (2010 , Savoy Jazz):
Effectively a string quarter only with Frisell's guitar in place of
one of the violins -- the other is Jenny Scheinman's, with Eyvind
Kang on viola and Hank Roberts on cello, a group he calls his 858
Quartet. He used this lineup before on Richter 858 (2005,
Songlines), which I thought took the chamber jazz concept way too
far toward classical. This rarely does so, roughly splitting the
difference with his Americana-ish trio. All original pieces, unlike
recent albums where there's usually a couple covers to refer to.
- Chantale Gagné: Wisdom of the Water (2010 ,
Pianist, from Quebec, studied in Montreal, and later
with Kenny Barron. Second album, the first a trio with Peter Washington
and Lewis Nash. This adds Joe Locke on vibes. One cover ("My Wild Irish
Rose"), the rest Gagné originals (one co-credited with Locke).
- Roy Gaines and His Orchestra: Tuxedo Blues
(2009 , Black Gold):
Blues shouter, an appellation commonly used for
blues-based KC big band singers like Walter Brown, Jimmy Rushing, and
Big Joe Turner. B. 1937 in Texas, started on piano but switched to
guitar on hearing T-Bone Walker. Played in the Duke-Peacock house
band (Big Mama Thornton, Bobby Bland); worked with Rushing, Coleman
Hawkins, Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, Quincy Jones, Aretha Franklin,
Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, and T-Bone Walker. Has a dozen albums
since 1982. Not a top notch singer, but he gives a strong showing
here, an anachronism in front of a big band, but true to his calling.
- Alekos Galas: Mediterranean Breeze (2010, Ehos):
Bouzouki player. No biography, but was recorded in Laguna Beach, CA;
also in Glendale, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Debut record. Most (or all)
originals. Backed by band: usually guitar, keyb, bass, drums, some
extra percussion. Uses the word "fusion" a lot, also "smooth jazz"
and "pop"; does manage to keep it breezy.
- Laszlo Gardony: Signature Time (2011, Sunnyside):
Pianist, b. 1956 in Hungary, studied at Béla Bartók Conservatory in
Budapest, then got a scholarship to Berklee and never looked back --
teachers there now. Tenth album since 1986, a quartet with Stan
Strickland on tenor sax (and voice on one song, sort of scatting
along), John Lockwood on bass, and Yoron Israel on drums and vibes.
Wrote six of ten songs, covering "Lullaby of Birdland," Strayhorn
("Johnny Come Lately"), and two Beatles songs ("Lady Madonna" and
"Eleanor Rigby"). Straightforward, develops the melodies, puts a
little kick into the rhythm. The sax comes and goes, not essential,
but adds some depth and variety when it's there.
- David Gibson: End of the Tunnel (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Trombone player, fifth album since 2002, the first three on retro-leaning
Nagel-Heyer. Quartet, with Julius Tolentino on alto sax, Jared Gold on
organ, and Quincy Davis on drums. Strong showing for Gold, who contributes
two tunes (vs. five for Gibson, plus covers of Herbie Hancock and Jackie
McLean), and the horn pairing works out nicely, with Tolentino aggressive
and the trombone adding some much needed bottom funk.
- Tania Gill: Bolger Station (2009 , Barnyard):
Pianist, lives in Toronto; first album, also credited with organ and
voice. Group includes Lina Allemano (trumpet), Clinton Ryder (bass),
and Jean Martin (drums). I don't get a strong sense of direction
here; interesting little piano bits, some trumpet twists, two Gill
vocals, so plain that's probably her limit, but not without charm.
- Pedro Giraudo Jazz Orchestra: Córdoba (2010 , Zoho):
Argentine bassist, plays electric and acoustic, moved to New
York in 1996; fourth album since 2002. Orchestra has 11 pieces, many
New Yorkers I recognize from elsewhere but no big names: four reeds,
three brass, an extra cajón in the rhythm section. Flows elegantly,
the sort of thing that shows how jazz has supplanted classical forms
as a composing medium.
- Jared Gold: All Wrapped Up (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Organ player, fourth album since 2008, coming out fast. I was most
impressed by him on Oliver Lake's Organ Quartet album Plan.
This, like the Lake record, is a quartet with sax, trumpet, and drums,
but mainstreamers Ralph Bowen and Jim Rotondi can't cut the grease
like Lake and Freddie Hendrix. Leaves a lot of slick spots.
- Larry Goldings: In My Room (2010-11 , BFM Jazz):
Organ player, b. 1968, fourteen albums since 1991 and many more side
credits. This is a change of pace: solo piano, rather delicate and
measured. The title cut, from Brian Wilson as the Beach Boys turned
introspective, is a find, although the Lennon-McCartney that closes
the set drifts off into indeterminate space. About half originals,
half covers (mostly from the same period, with the Stephen Foster
and "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" even more venerable).
- GRASS on Fire: Gowanus Reggae and Ska Society Plays Catch
a Fire (2010 , Mightly Gowanus):
"GRASS" is an acronym for
Gowanus Reggae and Ska Society. Album is "produced by Sumo &
Natecha," which as best I can translate are bassist J.A. Granelli
and keyboardist Nate Shaw. Catch a Fire is the 1973 Wailers
album, with "Kinky Reggae" and "Midnight Ravers" turned into "Kinky
Midnight" and "High Tide or Low Tide" added from the bonus tracks
that surfaced on several of the numerous reissues. The others I
recognize are notable jazz musicians, like saxophonists Paul Carlon
and Ohad Talmor -- indeed, the saxes and Mark Miller's trombone are
the main things that distinguish this edition. No vocal credits,
but someone can't help but sing along to "Slave Driver."
- Iro Haarla Quintet: Vespers (2010 , ECM):
Plays piano and harp, b. 1956 in Finland, 5th album since 2001,
two on the Finiish label TUM, two on ECM. Quintet gives her two
horns -- Mathias Eick (trumpet), Trygve Seim (tenor/soprano sax) --
bass (Ulf Krokfors) and drums (Jon Christensen). Seems soft at
first, then chilly, then you finally notice the hidden strength
of the horns -- not surprising given that Eick and Seim regularly
produce strong albums under their own names.
- Noah Haidu: Slipstream (2009 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, from Charlottesville, VA. First record, although he's in
a group called Native Soul which has two records, one unplayed in
my queue somewhere. Post-hardbop quintet, has a front line that
should be able to generate some heat: Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, Jon
Irabagon on alto sax. They do break out on occasion, but not so
often, with the piano thickly entangled.
- Jim Hall: Concierto (1975 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
An unassuming back-to-basics guy, called his first (1957) album Jazz
Guitar, and was still trying to establish himself when Taylor handed
him this blank check; too much talent to balance, with Roland Hanna's
piano as prominent as the leader's guitar, alto saxophoist Paul Desmond
largely wasted, but Chet Baker's trumpet is memorable, a nice fit.
- Rich Halley Quartet: Requiem for a Pit Viper
(2010 , Pine Eagle):
Consistenty superb tenor saxophonist, based in Portland, OR,
has a background as a natural scientist which may make him more sympathetic
to rattlesnakes than most of us. Quartet pairs him with trombonist Michael
Vlatkovich. While the contrast and interplay is interesting, most of the
time the two play in unison, which aside from some not especially pleasing
harmonics wastes the opportunity the second horn opens up -- how much so
is clear from when it happens.
- Tom Harrell: The Time of the Sun (2010 , High Note):
Plays trumpet, flugelhorn; has close to 30 albums since 1976, a postbop
player with tricky compositions and (occasionally) brilliant runs. Best
moments here are on the simple side, squaring off against Danny Grissett's
piano. Adding Wayne Escoffery's tenor sax seems like too much trouble,
although he can impress, as always.
- Atsuko Hashimoto: . . . Until the Sun Comes Up
(2010 , Capri):
Organ player, from Osaka, Japan. Career dates from
early 1990s; recorded half an album in 1999 (5 cuts, the other 5 by
Midori Ono Trio), and five more since 2003. This one is a trio with
Graham Dechter on guitar and Jeff Hamilton on drums. That's an old
soul jazz formula, and this fits the bill nicely. Still, I wonder
how much it matters.
- Pablo Held: Glow (2010 , Pirouet):
b. 1986 in Germany; third album since 2008, after two piano trios.
This one adds trumpet, two saxes, harp, celesta/harmonium, cello,
and extra bass, but doesn't sound like a large band, a nonet or
even a septet. The extra instruments color and shade, sometimes
to interesting effect but more often they just dissolve into the
ether. Can't even complain it sounds cluttered.
- Fred Hersch: Alone at the Vanguard (2010 , Palmetto):
Pianist, of course, has close to 30 album since 1984,
cultivated his Bill Evans comparisons with 1990's Evanessence.
I thought last year's Whirl was a triumph -- best thing he's
ever done, although I'm not much of an expert. Guess that's all it
took to get him to do another solo album -- don't know how many he
has, but must be a handful (still way short of Jarrett). You know
better than I whether you're up for this. Personally, I don't buy
all of Art Tatum's solo piano albums, and he's a helluva lot sexier
than this. But there's nothing lame or disingenous here, and I'm
as happy as anyone that's he's still kicking.
- Lisa Hilton: Underground (2010 , Ruby Slippers):
Pianist, from San Luis Obispo, CA, has 15 album since 1997, most of the
early ones with titles suggesting chintzy cocktail piano and romance:
Cocktails at Eight, In the Mood for Jazz, Jazz After
Hours, Midnight in Manhattan, After Dark, all with
alluring cover photography -- My Favorite Things may be the most
alluring in that respect. I've only heard one previous album, didn't
think much of it, but this one is something else. For starters, she's
got a first rate group: Larry Grenadier on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums,
and J.D. Allen on tenor sax. Wrote all but one Bill Evans piece. Pretty
respectable outing, the piano authoritatively centered. Allen doesn't
break out, as he can, but he's an asset.
- Art Hirahara: Noble Path (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Pianist, from San Francisco Bay Area, based in Brooklyn. AMG lists
four previous records, but only one appears on his website discography.
Piano trio, with Yoshi Waki (bass) and Dan Aran (drums). Wrote 8 of
12 songs. Puts a nice spin on covers ranging from Porter to Ellington.
- Ben Holmes Trio (2009, self-released):
based in Brooklyn, first album, trio with Dan Loomis on bass and Vinnie
Sperrazza on drums. Four originals, two trad. (one Romanian, the other
Turkish, I think), plus a piece called "Lev Tov" by H. Schachal.
- Lena Horne: The Essential Lena Horne (1941-75 ,
Black-white singer-dancer-actress, a tough ten years older than
Eartha Kitt, but Horne knocked down many of the doors that Kitt walked
through. "Stormy Weather" was her big hit in 1941, and that got her
into Hollywood. Still, she was a terrific big band singer, taking firm
command on the many show tunes and standards here -- most of the cuts
date from 1957-62, with a few from 1941-44 and a couple later.
- Ron Horton: It's a Gadget World . . . (2009, Abeat):
This shows up under Ben Allison's name both in AMG and Rhapsody --
gave me a bit of a pause as it would have broke the string of A-
records mentioned in reviewing Allison's new record. Cover lists
trumpet/flugelhorn player Horton up top in caps, then "featuring
Antonio Zambrini" (piano, also wrote 4 of 9 tracks plus the liner
notes), then way down at the bottom Allison (bass) and Tony Moreno
(drums). Brisk postbop, a couple of nice piano spots, a lot of
- Freddie Hubbard: Red Clay (1970 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
Half-hearted as a fusion move -- Herbie Hancock plays
electric piano like an acoustic but the loss of resonance scarcely
matters at this pace -- but the trumpeter blasts away like hard bop
at its most hearty, and as if that weren't enough Joe Henderson is
champing at the bit, always eager to muscle his way in.
- Freddie Hubbard: Straight Life (1970 ,
Title cut picks up where Red Clay left
off with a 17:27 romp where Joe Henderson's tenor sax adds muscle to
Hubbard's brass and Herbie Hancock and George Benson keep a groove
roiling; tails off a bit after that, and gives up after the original
LP's 36:10 with no bonus tracks.
- Freddie Hubbard: First Light (1971 ,
What made Hubbard the hottest trumpet anywhere in the
early 1960s was his versatility: hard bop, avant-garde, when Herbie
Hancock wanted to cut his own Miles Davis Quintet album Hubbard not
only filled the bill, he offered a step up; so no surprise that he
is brilliant here, it what is otherwise a ridiculous set up, with
Don Sebesky's strings and winds trodding in the background to songs
as absurd as "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey"; two bonus cuts, one a
live take with a small group.
- Freddie Hubbard: Pinnacle: Live & Unreleased From the
Keystone Korner (1980 , Resonance):
- Marika Hughes: Afterlife Music Radio: 11 New Pieces for Solo
Cello (2010 , DD):
Cellist, debuts with two records, has
a couple dozen side credits since 1997, including Tin Hat, Ani DiFranco,
and various Tzadik projects. Solo cello. Eleven pieces written by other
musicians, evidently just for this project. Names I recognize (mostly
string players): Charlie Burnham, Nasheet Waits, Trevor Dunn, Jenny
Scheinman, Carla Kihlstedt, Abraham Burton, Todd Sickafoose, Eyvind
Kang. Well, you know the problem with solo anything, and this can run
thin or ragged, but she loves the sound -- story goes that she switched
from violin instantly first time she plucked the low C string. Tiny
bit of vocal on the mysterious twelfth track.
- Marika Hughes: The Simplest Thing (2010 , DD):
Plays cello, wrote most of the songs (sometimes with band help), and
sings them. Not jazz, although she draws on some jazz musicians, and
vocal jazz isn't a very useful genre these days. CDBaby is even less
helpful: they list genre as "Pop: Chamber Pop" and recommend "if you
like: Eva Cassidy, Roberta Flack." I suppose there are people who
like Cassidy and/or Flack, but that's shooting pretty low. On many
superficial points, the obvious comparison would be to Grammy-winning
bassist-singer Esperanza Spalding, but Hughes is a stronger writer,
a much better arranger, has good taste in friends (cf. "Back Home,"
with Jenny Scheinman's violin and Charles Burnham's gravelly duet
vocal), and has a lot more voice.
- Julia Hülsmann Trio: Imprint (2010 , ECM):
Pianist, b. 1968 in Bonn, Germany; sixth album since 2003, three
on ACT, two on ECM. AMG reports that she also sings, but not here.
Piano trio, very typical of Manfred Eicher's productions: clean,
poised, articulate, not too fast or too free but not predictable
- Milt Jackson: Sunflower (1972 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
The names on the front cover promise lively postbop around the vibes --
Herbie Hancock, Freddie Hubbard, Ron Carter, Billy Cobham -- but the label
promises a lot of Don Sebesky goup, sparing neither the strings nor the
woodwinds; net result is a very easy listening trumpet album, the vibes
neither cute nor schmaltzy.
- Whitney James: The Nature of Love (2009 ,
Stir Stick Music):
Standards singer, first album, no bio; has a
fairly well known band with Joshua Wolff (piano), Matt Clohesy
(bass), Jon Wikan (drums), and paired almost duet-like, Ingrid
Jensen (trumpet/flugelhorn). Attractive singer, but not distinctive
enough to retain my focus when the song isn't as ingrained for me
as "Tenderly" or "How Deep Is the Ocean."
- Billy Jenkins: Jazz Gives Me the Blues (2011,
English jazz guitarist, b. 1954, has some very interesting records
scattered about his discography -- 1998's True Love Collection,
with its bent '60s pop retroviruses is a favorite -- but lately he's
reinvented himself as a gravel-mouthed blues slinger, which is mostly
what you get here, but now and then you sense the guitar wants to
sneak out and play something fancy.
- Antonio Carlos Jobim: Stone Flower (1970 ,
Lush and dreamy at best, more often overgrown
and muddled, with Jobim's gentle voice caressed by Eumir Deodato's
unnamed strings, floating on the blips of his own electric piano,
nudged on by Airto Moreira's percussion, engaging only if you reach
out for it.
- Clarence "Jelly" Johnson: Low Down Papa (1912-20 ,
Enhanced piano rolls, second volume in Delmark's
series after Jimmy Blythe's Messin' Around Blues. Johnson
is more obscure: was in the army 1917-19, started recording piano
rolls after he got out -- no specific dates but liner notes imply
1920-23; Johnson recorded for Paramount 1923-25, but I don't know
how much. Liner notes say he moved to Detroit in late 1920s, and
died there on August 9, but don't say which year. Sounds pretty
up-to-date if these were recorded that early -- no residual traces
of ragtime which still marked most 1910's pianists. Does sound a
- Darren Johnston/Aram Shelton/Lisa Mezzacappa/Kjell Nordeson:
Cylinder (2011, Clean Feed):
No recording date given --
unusual for this label -- but songs are all copyright 2011, so this
may be the first recorded-in-2011 album I've gotten to. Familiar
names: trumpet, alto sax/clarinet/bass clarinet, bass, drums. Each
writes two songs, or three for Shelton. Free jazz, struggles a bit
here and there but has lots of fine moments, especially the trumpet.
- Etta Jones & Houston Person: The Way We Were: Live in
Concert (2000 , High Note):
Blues-based jazz singer,
aspired to Billie Holiday but reminds me more of Bessie Smith, b.
1928, cut quite a few records for Prestige 1960-65, got a second
shot with Muse in 1975 and High Note in 1997, which is to say she
owed her career to Joe Fields, an exec at Prestige and owner of
Muse and High Note, and to Houston Person, his A&R man and her
regular saxophonist. This starts with just the band for four cuts --
Stan Hope (piano), George Kaye (bass), Chip White (drums), and
Person -- starting with "Do Nothin' 'Till You Hear From Me" and
culminating in a gorgeous "Please Send Me Someone to Love." Jones
enters with "Fine and Mellow," "Lady Be Good," but doesn't really
take charge until the end, with "Ma, He's Makin' Eyes at Me" and
a "I'll Be Seeing You" that can only be described as swinging.
She died a year later, so some credit for the souvenir.
- Dave Juarez: Round Red Light (2010 , Posi-Tone):
Guitarist, from Barcelona, Spain; cut this in Brooklyn, but current base
is Amsterdam. First album, with Seamus Blake (tenor sax), John Escreet
(piano), Lauren Falls (bass), and Bastian Weinhold (drums). Juarez wrote
all of the songs, and plays a key role but Blake does his best to blow
him away, in a remarkable performance I can't quite get into.
- Stan Killian: Unified (2010 , Sunnyside):
saxophonist, from Texas, based in New York, debut album, mostly quartet
with Benito Gonzalez on piano, bass and drums split, and guest horns
featured on the cover: Roy Hargrove, Jeremy Pelt, David Binney. Postbop
to open, although when he picks up the pace he sounds more like retro
- Eartha Kitt: The Essential Eartha Kitt (1952-57 ,
Black-white-Cherokee singer-dancer-actress with a penchant for
mambos en français, mixes show tunes, standards, novelties -- her big
hit was "Santa Baby," not that it was that big -- and W.C. Handy's
blues. This six-year slice covers her commercial prime, the basis of
her future iconic status, but she reinvented herself so many times
and so effectively you're barely getting a glimpse. Still, the one
you're least likely to know, unless you're a hell of a lot older
than I am.
- Landon Knobloch/Jason Furman: Gasoline Rainbow
(2008 , Fractamodi):
Piano-drums duo, based in New York but originally
got together in Miami. Second album together. Knoblock, b. 1982, has
two other albums since 2007. Strong performance, a lot of rumble in
- Adam Kolker: Reflections (2010 , Sunnyside):
Tenor saxophonist, also credited with alto flute, bass clarinet, flute,
and clarinet here. Fifth album since 1999. Mostly a very reflective
trio with John Hébert on bass and Billy Mintz on drumss. Adds several
scattered guests: Judi Silvano and Kay Matsukawa (voice, one track
each), John Abercrombie (guitar, 2), and Russ Lossing (piano, 3), but
he guests never manage to perturb the mood much. Very seductive at
- Kathleen Kolman: Dream On (2010 ,
Walkin' Foot Productions):
Singer, from Montana, based in New England somewhere;
second album, after one in 1999 called The Dreamer. Band mates
come and go, although saxophonist Rick DiMuzio is gone after a promising
opener. Title song is from Aerosmith; one original, three from Brazil
(two Jobims, one Lins). She sings with poise and depth.
- Lee Konitz/Brad Mehldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian: Live at
Birdland (2009 , ECM):
New York Times advance, quoted
in hype sheet, promises "soft anarchy, a gig without preparation or
rehearsal," and that's pretty much it. Six standards, counting Miles
Davis and Sonny Rollins, given 10-15 minutes each. Mehldau is the
best prepared, but Konitz is the person of interest, and he's a bit
out of it, though it's hard to say why, or to dismiss what he plays,
when he plays.
- Ben Kono: Crossing (2010 , 19/8):
B. 1967, grew
up in Vermont, studied at Eastman and UNT, did a stretch with the Army's
Jazz Ambassadors, settled in New York in 1998. Plays reeds; credited here
with: oboe, english horn, flute, alto flute, clarinet, bass clarinet,
tenor saxophone, shakuhachi. Has mostly appeared in big bands: John
Hollenbeck, Chris Jentsch, Ed Palermo, Jamie Begian. First album, with
Hollenbeck (drums), John Hébert (bass), Pete McCann (guitar), Henry Hey
(keybs), and Heather Laws (voice and french horn). One thing this shows
is that not all horns are created equal: the sax sections are terrific,
the flutes and oboe superfluous (all the more so when Laws weighs in).
- Annie Kozuch: Here With You (2009 , self-released):
Standards singer, raised in Mexico City, got a Dramatic Arts degree
from Mills College in Oakland, CA; based in New York. First album.
Leads off with Jobim, but rather than getting him out of the way she
returns three songs later with one of the nicest strolls through
"Corcovado" I've heard, and later on returns with a third Brazilian
piece, this one by Pixinguinha. Spanish songs from Pedro Junco and
Armando Manzanera are less successful, but she nails English-language
songs (what she calls "jazz tracks") like "I Love Being Here With You"
and "You're Getting to Be a Habit With Me."
- Jonathan Kreisberg: Shadowless (2010 ,
New for Now Music):
Guitarist, b. NYC, grew up in Florida, came back
in 1997. AMG lists eight records since 1997. Probably too simple
to take this as a fusion play, but that's easy to do with guitarists.
With Will Vinson on sax, Henry Hey on piano, Matt Penman on bass,
Mark Ferber on drums. Sax and piano don't add much.
- Femi Kuti: Africa for Africa (2010 ,
Fela's eldest son, also plays alto sax, grew up in his
father's band and continues the Afrobeat groove, with 15 albums now
since 1989. This is close to formula: the beats, the sax, the chant
vocals, the politics (but the pidgin English remains far short of
eloquent). Fourteen moderate-length songs adds up to a long album
(total 62:56), but nothing stretches out like the old Fela albums
- La Cherga: Revolve (2010-11 , Asphalt Tango):
more like trans-Yugoslav dubstep, with its Balkan brass run through
a Jamaican sound system. Their previous, even better album (Fake
No More) featured a striking vocalist, replaced here with Adisa
Zvekic (from Bosnia) and occasional guest MCs; evolution turned
around -- maybe that's how they translate it.
- Alexey Lapin/Yury Yaremchuk: Anatomy of Sound (2010,
Russian pianist, appears with François Carrier on Inner
Spire so I thought I should check him out further. (Also has a
new solo piano album on Leo, Parallels.) Yaremchuk is from
the Ukraine; plays soprano sax (first three cuts) and bass clarinet
(two more). Last two cuts offer a solo each, with Lapin engulfed in
roiling chordal density where Yaremchuk spaces out the sounds of his
bass clarinet. The improv together is on the ugly side of free, but
picks up interest whenever they get faster and louder.
- Hubert Laws: Morning Star (1972 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
Flautist, cut a couple albums for Atlantic before Creed
Taylor adopted him; Don Sebesky goes whole hog here, including vocals
as well as strings and his bassoon fetish, although you could miss the
mild brass colorings; Laws tries to keep it tastefully cosmological,
something he wasn't always able to manage.
- Hubert Laws: In the Beginning (1974 ,
Originally a 2LP, the flautist's major league move taps
Satie and trad, Rollins and Coltrane, adding one original ("Mean Lene"),
and brings in Ronnie Laws for some tenor sax muscle behind the flute;
strings are down to one each, percussion up to Airto and Dave Friedman's
vibes, Bob James yucking it up on electric piano; still, the leads fall
on the flute, which isn't really up to them.
- Nguyên Lê: Songs of Freedom (2010 , ACT):
Guitarist, b. 1959 in Paris, France, draws on the Vietnamese music
of his ancestors, also on Jimi Hendrix. Has 17 albums since 1990.
Describes this record as "a tribute to those musicians who established
pop culture in the '70s with their mythic songs," and proclaims them
to "have truly become World Music i.e. 'music the world listens to.'"
Aside from a couple short connecting pieces, the songs come from the
Beatles ("Eleanor Rigby," "Come Together"), Stevie Wonder ("I Wish,"
"Pastime Paradise"), Bob Marley ("Redemption Song"), Led Zeppelin
("Black Dog," "Whole Lotta Love"), Janis Joplin ("Mercedes Benz"),
Cream ("Sunshine of Your Love"), and Iron Butterfly ("In a Gadda Da
Vida"). All feature guest singers I've never heard of (and don't
expect to ever again): Youn Sun Nah, David Linx, Dhafer Youssaf,
Ousman Danedjo, Julia Saar, Himiki Paganotti. (Their names strike
me as selected to illustrate Lê's world music concept.) I'd have
preferred more of the instrumental breaks, where Lê's electric
guitar powers over tinkly vibes and percussion.
- Gordon Lee: This Path (2010, OA2):
1953 in New York City; studied at Syracuse and Indiana; moved to
Portland, OR in 1977, worked 1980-85 in New York, then returned
to Portland. Seventh album since 1982. Works with two trios here,
plus a couple of solo cuts, one with Miguel Bernal on cajon.
- Okkyung Lee: Noisy Love Songs (2011, Tzadik):
from Korea, moved to New York 2000; second album on Tzadik; looks like
three or four others. With no lyrics one can argue whether these even
are love songs. That some are noisy is beyond doubt, but not many, and
not very: the cello-violin-bass can turn squelchy, but mostly plot out
sweet melodies, with piano (Craig Taborn) and/or trumpet (Peter Evans)
for occasional elaboration, and percussion (John Hollenbeck and Satoshi
Takeishi) -- lots of tinkly tones.
- Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 , Evil Rabbit):
Italian pianist, has at least 7 albums since 1991,
the first few on Splasc(H). My coverage of European jazz is hit
and miss: Norway, Netherlands, and Portugal seem to be my first
tier (and ECM, of course); Sweden, Denmark, Germany, Spain less
so; Russia, Finland, Switzerland rarely. Not much at all from
England, France, or Italy, which are all major jazz scenes --
CAM Jazz is the only Italian label I've seen in years, but
Splasc(H) is actually one of the most prolific jazz labels
anywhere, Philology is close behind, and Soul Note is still
in business (not sure about RED). One result is that someone
like Lenoci can avoid my radar for decades, until he shows up
on a Dutch label. Solo piano, all original pieces, far ranging,
dynamic, sometimes down and dirty. I'm impressed.
- Les Doigts de l'Homme: 1910 (2011, ALMA):
three guitars (Olivier Kikteff, Yannick Alcocer, Benoit "Binouche" Convert)
and acoustic bass (Tanguy Blum), dedicated to Django Reinhardt -- album
title takes the year of Reinhardt's birth. Fourth album. Two cuts add
clarinet for some welcome variation; otherwise very inside its thing.
- Daniel Levin: Inner Landscape (2009 , Clean Feed):
Cellist, sixth album since 2003, a solo, tough to do. Gets
some extra sound out early using the body for percussion, which
provides some useful variety.
- The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 , Tompkins Square):
Saxophonist, b. 1935 in Philadelphia, cut two freewheeling
1964-65 quartet albums for ESP-Disk (with Don Pullen, Eddie Gomez,
and Milford Graves), and was never heard from again -- until now.
Leaving aside co-producer Matt Lavelle for the moment, this tries
to get the old spirit back, tapping Dave Burrell, François Grillot,
and Warren Smith for piano-bass-drums. Actually, only Burrell is
really up to it -- he's worth the price of admission, especially
at a time when piano is being phased out as a backing instrument.
I take Lavelle to be the mover and shaker here, the one who put
this deal together. He expands the group from four to five, playing
bass clarinet to shade Logan's sax -- credit doesn't specify tenor
or alto; he's played both -- and trumpet for contrast although he
doesn't push it. Three covers are most amusing, especially an "Over
the Rainbow" that winds up someplace else.
- Vesa-Matti Loiri: 4+20 (1971 , Porter):
Finnish flautist, vocalist, actor; b. 1945. AMG lists 33 records,
starting in 1968, but this is the only one they've evidently heard.
It's a weird one, mostly flute and percussion, a guitar, sometimes
adding piccolo and/or soprano sax (no less than Eero Koivistoinen).
Six songs in "Mummon Kaappikello" is a change of pace, with tenor
sax and cartoonish vocals. Title cut is from Stephen Stills, not
that he'd recognize it.
- Amy London: Let's Fly (2010 , Motéma):
Standards singer, b. 1957, grew up in Cincinnati, studied opera
at Syracuse, moved to New York in 1980, worked on stage, taught
voice. Third album, including one with longtime guitarist Roni
Ben-Hur. Fancy technique, easily slips around the notes, and
gets fine support from Ben-Hur and a tag team of pianists.
Includes a tribute to Annie Ross.
- Tom Luer: Project Popular (2009 , Origin):
Saxophonist (tenor and soprano), originally from Wisconsin, studied
and taught at UNT, based in Los Angeles. First album, quintet with
piano (mostly Fender Rhodes), guitar, bass, drums. The "popular" in
the project is to mix five 1980s-vintage rock covers in with three
originals, drawing on Pearl Jam, Coldplay, Soundgarden, Audioslave,
and Prince. Only one that really registered with me was "Black Hole
Sun" -- nice to hear, holds up well.
- Steven Lugerner: These Are the Words/Narratives
(2010 , self-released, 2CD):
Reed player -- clarinet, bass
clarinet, soprano sax, alto sax, oboe, English horn -- leads a
sharp quartet (Darren Johnston, Myra Melford, Matt Wilson) on one
disc and a more sprawling mostly-European septet on the second.
Melford is sharp as ever, but doesn't get to do much as the softer
reeds tend to coalesce into fog.
- Curtis Macdonald: Community Immunity (2009 ,
Alto saxophonist, based in New York, studied at
New School, where he now teaches. First album, or as he puts it on
his website, "latest record." Quintet with a second sax (Jeremy
Viner on tenor), piano (David Virelles or Michael Vanoucek), bass
(Chris Tordini), Greg Ritchie (drums), one-shot guests on guitar,
violin, and voice (none of which I recall). The sort of tightly
orchestrated postbop that makes me worry about academia.
- Thomas Marriott: Constraints & Liberations
(2009 , Origin):
Trumpet player, from Seattle, b. 1975, fifth album
since 2005 (with a sixth one out since then). Quintet with Hans Teuber
on tenor sax, Gary Versace on piano, Jeff Johnson on bass, and John
Bishop on drums. Six originals, plus one piece by Johnson. Postbop,
probably his strongest record to date, both for the clarity of his
trumpet and an impressive performance by Versace.
- Thomas Marriott: Human Spirit (2009 , Origin):
Plays trumpet/flugelhorn. Sixth album since 2005. A variation on the
organ trio, with Gary Versace on the B-3 and Matt Jorgensen on drums.
Marriott shares the front line with alto saxophonist Mark Taylor --
by far the most aggressive player in this group, where the organ seems
an afterthought and the trumpet dressing.
- Chad McCullough & Bram Weijters: Imaginary Sketches
(2010 , Origin):
Trumpet and piano, respectively, leading a
quartet with Chuck Deardorf on bass and John Bishop on drums. Third
album for McCullough, not counting his work in the Kora Band; based
in Seattle. The pianist was b. 1980 in Belgium; looks like he has one
previous trio album, several group efforts. Pairing does a nice job
of bringing out the rich lustre of the instruments.
- John Medeski & Lee Shaw: Together Again: Live at the Egg
(2009 , ARC):
Before Shaw started recording in
her 70s, she taught pianos, and Medeski was one of her more famous
students. With Shaw's trio, Medeski doubles up on piano or plays
organ (or melodica). The piano is nice and crisp, and the organ
kicks up quite a groove.
- Brad Mehldau: Live in Marciac (2006 ,
Trifold package, with a plastic tray in the middle for the DVD, the two
CDs just slipped into the outer panels. Indeed, they plug this as DVD+2CD
rather than the other way around, so I suppose I'm remiss in not watching
the DVD, but I hardly ever bother with the things. Solo piano. My first
thought was that he's aiming for his Köln Concert, and I doubt
that he's ever rollicked more like Jarrett than on the first disc here.
But whereas Jarrett worked one long improv, this is a program -- mostly
originals on the first disc, all covers on the second (Nick Drake, Kurt
Cobain, James Alan Shelton, Lennon/McCartney, Rodgers/Hammerstein, Bobby
Timmons). Impressive, as usual.
- Eddie Mendenhall: Cosine Meets Tangent (2010 ,
Pianist, bio mangled, but "directs the jazz department"
at Monterey Peninsula College, seems to be from those parts, studied
at Berklee, spent seven years in Japan. First album. Wrote 8 of 10
pieces, with one from vibraphonist Mark Sherman, one from Rodgers
and Hart. Quartet with John Schifflett on bass, Akira Tana on drums.
The vibes dominate early on in one of Sherman's finest performances.
By coincidence I was writing something about MJQ while listening to
this. These guys are much faster, not that that was necessarily the
- Antoinette Montague: Behind the Smile (2009 ,
In the Groove):
Singer. Wrote the title cut, but the rest are more
or less standards -- Bill Broonzy, Dave Brubeck, and Marvin Gaye
are outliers. Second album. Don't see where the band is credited --
just a picture and some thank yous, but if I could line up Mulgrew
Miller, Peter Washington, Kenny Washington, and a big-toned sax
player like Bill Easley I'd brag about it. Everything here impresses
me as well done, except for the CD packaging -- very polyethelene.
- Wolfgang Muthspiel: Drumfree (2010 , Material):
German guitarist, b. 1965, frequently (in Europe, that is) compared
to Metheny and Scofield, although I like him much more -- Bright
Side was a pick hit a while back, and Black and Blue is
also on my full-A list. As the title announces, no drums this time.
Andy Scherrer shadows the guitar on various saxophones, and Larry
Grenadier plays bass, so this works within a narrow bandwidth, its
surface shimmering with little hint of depth.
- Native Soul: Soul Step (2008 , Talking Drum):
Filed this under pop jazz, a mistake I blame on the packaging --
they sure try to look like another variant of Four Play. Actually,
a mainstream postbop sax-piano-bass-drums quartet; even when they
try to go with electric bass and keyb they stay firmly rooted on
the jazz side. All four members contribute 2-3 songs -- bassist
Marcus McLaurine is the overachiever. Two covers: one from Jimi
Hendrix, the other "End of a Love Affair."
- Marius Neset: Golden Xplosion (2010 , Edition):
Saxophonist (soprano and tenor), from Norway, 25 (1985?), did a semester
at Berklee, studied more in Copenhagen, latched onto Django Bates, who
plays keyboards here. Second album. The fast stuttery sax runs are fun.
The ballads aren't. And Bates indulges in some keyboard overkill early
on, intended to crank up the energy level, which works to a point. Some
folks are blown away, but some of us are old enough to recall Bates' old
sax chum, Iain Ballamy.
- New Tricks: Alternate Side (2010 , New Tricks):
I've started referring to records by artists who can't go to the trouble
to think up a label name "self-released," but the back cover here says
"New Tricks Records" so credit where credit is due. Quartet: Mike Lee
(tenor sax), Ted Chubb (trumpet), Kellen Harrison (bass), Shawn Baltazor
(drums). Lee wrote 6 of 9 songs; Chubb the other 3. Was blogging about
Miles Davis when I put this on, so I was immediately struck by the '50s
vibe, bop only hotter and harder, with no piano to underwrite the chords
and gum things up. Second group album -- Lee also has two under his own
name; don't think any of the others do, although the bassist has some
side credits. This sort of clash is bracing, but on occasion they slow
down, yoke the horns together, and act like modern postboppers.
- New York Electric Piano: Keys to the City: Volumes 1 & 2
(2011, Buffalo Puppy, 2CD):
Pat Daugherty-led group, sixth album since
2004. He plays keyboards and sings. Split this release into two discs,
one with vocals, one instrumental. On the vocal volume he trades off with
Deanna Kirk and Ava Farber. Erik Lawrence is notable in the band, playing
various saxes and alto flute. Some nice stuff on both discs, but not
- Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big Band: Bright Future
(2009 , OA2):
Norman plays various saxophones, tenor probably
his first choice; his father, Ray Norman, played in the big bands
of Claude Thornhill and Charlie Barnet, and he played in the Army's
Jazz Ambassadors. McCarthy, a drummer, played in the Navy's Jazz
Ensemble. Second album together, both big bands, the only thing
unconventional is that they rely on guitarist Gary Malvaso for
more than rhythm.
- Hubert Nuss: The Book of Colours (2008 , Pirouet):
Pianist, b. 1964 in Germany (Neckarsulm, near Stuttgart -- interesting
to compare the bare bones English and extraordinary German Wikipedia
pages on Neckarsulm). Fourth trio album since 1998, with John Goldsby
(bass) and John Riley (drums). Rather quiet and contained.
- The NYFA Collection: 25 Years of New York New Music
(1988-2010 , Innova, 5CD):
I've been avoiding this, if for no
more reason than sheer length. NYFA is the New York Foundation for
the Arts, set up in 1983. Since then they've provided fellowships
for over 200 new music composers, and they're showing off 52 of them
in this set. They run the gamut, but have been programmed to flow
somewhat: the third disc is the most jazz-centric, with Iconoclast,
Rudresh Mahanthappa, Fred Ho, John Lindberg (sometimes d/b/a BLOB),
Newman Taylor Baker. The fourth and fifth shade more classical. The
first is more avant, mostly primitivist rhythm pieces. Packaged in
a double-width jewel case with a loose booklet for each disc packed
with lots of information in small type, and priced like a sampler.
- Bill O'Connell: Rhapsody in Blue (2009 , Challenge):
Pianist, b. 1953 in New York, got a rep for Latin jazz
working for Mongo Santamaria. AMG lists 7 records since 1978. Mostly
originals, the title bit from Gershwin, "Bye Bye Blackbird"; has
a few Latin flourishes, especially Richie Flores percussion on two
tracks, but is mostly straightforward, ebullient mainstream jazz,
with Steve Slagle on alto and soprano sax.
- Mark O'Connor Quintet: Suspended Reality (2007 , OA2):
Saxophonist, lists alto first but all the pics I see show him
with a tenor. Originally from Austin, TX; studied at UNT; now based in
Chicago, writing a doctoral dissertation on Joe Farrell. Second album.
Quintet includes trumpet (Victor Garcia), piano (Ben Lewis, or Mark
Maegdlin on one track), bass (Jonathan Paul), and drums (Tom Hipskind).
Wrote 8 of 10 tracks, all but "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square"
and a Johnny Griffin tune ("A Monk's Dream"). A mixed bag. At first I
was impressed by the sax tone and presence, but the trumpet detracts
from that. Then I noted the complex Afro-Cuban rhythms of "Cady's
Groove," but those too were a passing fancy. Some real talent at play
here; just not sure for what.
- Mark O'Leary/Peter Friis-Nielsen/Stefan Pasborg: Støj
(2008 , Ayler):
Guitar-bass-drums, respectively. O'Leary is a
guitarist from Ireland, has over a dozen albums since 2005 (although
recording dates go back to 2000). I've heard very few of these, and
don't have a good sense of what he's up to. The sound of the guitar
seems unnaturally constrained, muffled even on stretches where the
moves are dense and muscular; in comparison, Pasborg's drums are
always sharp and clear.
- Lutalo "Sweet Lu" Olutosin: Tribute to Greatness
(2010, Sweet Lu Music):
Singer, from Gary, IN, based in DC after
passing through Atlanta and the military. He grew up on gospel,
but found his calling in vocalese, drawing on King Pleasure and
Jon Hendricks and writing a little himself. Don't recognize the
band, but Winfield Gaylor's sax helps.
- Open Graves with Stuart Dempster: Flightpatterns
(2010 , Prefecture):
Sometimes I think it might be interesting
to expand my niche a bit and try to cover anything that shows up in
the post-classical contemporary composition whatever-you-call-it
grabbag -- something that the Voice covered extensively for
many years under Tom Johnson and Kyle Gann -- but then I remember
that I don't know very much about the subject and I haven't followed
it at all closely for a good twenty years. Still, I do recognize
Dempster: trombonist, b. 1936, specializes in long, slow drone
pieces done in huge, echo-laden chambers. Open Graves is Jesse
Olsen ("multi-instrumentalist") and Paul Kikuchi (percussionist),
from Seattle. This is typical of Dempster, but unless you listen
to it in your own sensory-deprivation chamber you're unlikely to
get much more than tinkles and faint echoes out of it.
- Operation ID: Legs (2011, Table & Chairs):
group, or as they put it, "Seattle's (the world's?) only minimalistic,
avant-garde, electro-pop, noise-cluster, synth-rock, free-jazz, experimental,
dance-prog band": Ivan Arteaga (sax), Jared borkowski (guitar), Rob Hanlon
(synthesizers), David Balatero (bass), Evan Woodle (drums). Hard to keep
all those genre-fucks coexisting, so they tend to rotate from one to the
other. Would be eclectic if they could space them out a bit and make at
least some seem unexpected.
- Orchestre National de Jazz: Around Robert Wyatt
(2009 , Bee Jazz, 2CD):
This looks to have been one of Daniel Yvinec's
first projects on becoming artistic director of ONJ. The songs are all
by Robert Wyatt, arranged by Vincent Artaud. The eleven songs on the
first disc all have vocals, rotating between seven guests, including
Wyatt himself on four cuts; only other guest I recognize is Rokia
Traore. The band does a nice job of straddling jazz and prog idioms.
Second disc adds four Bonus Tracks, totalling 21:37, only one repeat
from the first disc: two more Wyatt vocals, one by Traore, and a
particularly luscious one by Yael Naim.
- Orchestre National de Jazz: Shut Up and Dance
(2010 , Bee Jazz, 2CD):
ONJ was founded in 1986, a legacy of Miterrand's
socialism, or more specifically Culture Minister Jack Lang. AMG lists
seven records since 1996, including a Led Zeppelin tribute called Close
to Heaven. Various artistic directors came and went, currently Daniel
Yvinec, managing the current ten-piece band: most notable trait here is
the large number of people with at least some use of electronics. Program
here was written by percussionist John Hollenbeck. Not my idea of dance
music, but rich in percussion and electronics, scaled between his big
band and his Claudia Quintet.
- Matt Panayides: Tapestries of Song (2010 ,
Pacific Coast Jazz):
Guitarist, b. in Cincinnati, raised in Indianapolis; been
in New York "for more than 10 years." First album, all originals; in a
quartet with Rich Perry (tenor sax), Steve LaSpina (bass), and Dan Weiss
(drums). Liquid tone with a slight metallic sheen, remains clear even
with the sax running over it.
- Evan Parker & Konstrukt: Live at Akbank Jazz Festival
(2010 , Re:konstrukt):
Two solo shots on soprano sax (14:07 and 8:50),
done as only Parker can do them, the first with a lot of circular breathing,
the second less tricked up. Followed by two "collective improvisations"
with Parker sparring with a Turkish group, including a second soprano sax
(Korhan Futaci), guitar, drums, percussion. These average 22 minutes of
engaging noise, the sort of contretemps that Parker can conjure up any
time he has the inkling.
- William Parker & the Little Huey Creative Music Orchestra:
For Percy Heath (2005 , Victo):
A record on my
wish list for quite a while now; finally broke down and bought a
copy. Parker's liner notes recall two times he ran into the late
MJQ bassist Percy Heath: the first Heath greated him as "Mr. Iron
Fingers"; the second Parker asked if he could do anything for Heath,
who replied, "No, just keep playing your music." One long piece
here, in four parts. Parker's big band can get pretty unruly, but
a lot of focus on the bass helps rein in the excesses. And when,
as for much of "Part One" they do break out they're ordered enough
to be awesome.
- Rich Pellegrin Quintet: Three-Part Odyssey
(2010 , OA2):
Pianist, first album, wrote three of eight pieces,
drawing on band members R. Scott Morning (trumpet, flugelhorn),
Neil Welch (tenor sax), and Evan Flory Barnes (bass) for all but
one of the rest -- the odd piece out is "Piano Phase" by Steven
Reich. The other quintet member is drummer Chris Icasiano -- odd
enough, the one name I'm most familiar with. The eight pieces are
organized into three parts, hence the title. Postbop, but the
horns can get pretty aggressive, and the piano blocks well.
Rather like the Reich intermission too.
- Ken Peplowski: In Search of . . . (2007-10 , Capri):
Plays clarinet and tenor sax; b. 1959, AMG lists 33 albums
since 1987, plus numerous side credits, a very steady, unspectacular
retro swing player. This pads a quartet session -- Shelly Berg on
piano, Tom Kennedy on bass, Jeff Hamilton on drums -- with three
cuts from 2007 with Greg Cohen (bass) and/or Joe Ascione (drums)
and Chuck Redd (vibes) on one cut. Best when it gets lively, as in
"Peps"; otherwise this shades into prettiness, which isn't so bad
- Alex Pinto Quartet: Inner State (2010 ,
Guitarist, b. 1985 in Silver Spring, MD (near DC);
father from Mangalore, Karnataka, India, worked for World Bank
which moved the family around, including a stint in Russia; mother
from Wisconsin. Studied at McGill (in Montreal), wound up in San
Francisco. First album. Quartet includes Jon Armstrong (tenor sax),
Dave Tranchina (bass), Jaz Sawyer (drums). Pinto wrote all the
pieces, working in some Indian tunings and breaking out on his
solos, although Armstrong comes off even more muscular.
- Pitom: Blasphemy and Other Serious Crimes
(2010 , Tzadik):
Guitarist Yoshie Fruchter's group, adopting the
name of their possibly eponymous first album, as seems to happen
over and over and again. With Jeremy Brown (violin, viola), Shanir
Ezra Blumenkranz (bass), Kevin Zubek (drums). Evidently has to do
with Yom Kippur, attonement, and "punkassjewjazz." Heavy guitar
riffs with dense metallic filler over Jewish riddims. No vocals,
so they neither make nor break it.
B+(**) [advance: Feb. 22]
- Debbie Poryes/Bruce Williamson: Two & Fro
(2010 , OA2):
Piano-sax duets. Poryes, based in San Francisco area,
cut an album in 1982, only a couple since. Williamson plays alto sax,
soprano sax, clarinet, bass clarinet, and flute. Also infrequently
recorded, his debut in 1992, one more since, plus a couple dozen side
credits. Wrote one song each, plus do seven covers, jazz (Shorter,
Coltrane, Davis), standards, Beatles, closing with a long, slow "Ol'
Man River" that is particularly nice.
- Tobias Preisig: Flowing Mood (2009 , ObliqSound):
Violinist, b. 1981 in Zurich, Switzerland; studied in Paris and at the
New School in NYC. Looks like his second album; also has a couple with
pianist George Gruntz and a few group records. Quartet with piano, bass,
and drums. Title is appropriate, especially the sense of flow. Especially
striking when the violin is clear and sharp.
B+(**) [advance: 2010-06-01]
- Q.E.D. [Ben Thomas/Chris Stover/Alex Chadsey]: Yet What Is
Any Ocean . . . (2010 , Origin):
Seattle trio; all three
write songs (Thomas 4, Chadsey 3, Stover 2). Thomas plays vibes, cajon,
bandoneon, percussion; has three previous albums. Stover plays trombone;
Chadsey piano. Makes for a nice combination of sounds, especially when
they work up a groove.
- Django Reinhardt: The Essential Django Reinhardt
(1949-50 , RCA/Legacy, 2CD):
A thin slice from Reinhardt's underappreciated
postwar period, sets by two quintets with local rhythm sections
recorded in Rome. The former returns to the Hot Club formula with
old hand Stéphanne Grappelli on violin; the latter ditches the
violin in favor of clarinet and alto sax played by André Eryan.
Both work nicely, especially given a familiar tune that responds
to a little gypsy swing.
- R|E|D|S: Sign of Four (2009 , Origin):
first group record, an anagram of initials, although the order given
on the back cover and inside is: Ed Epstein (baritone sax), Bjarne
Roupé (guitar), Göran Schelin (bass), Dennis Drud (drums). Epstein
was born in El Paso, TX; studied at University of Oregon, and played
around the west coast before relocating to Sweden in early 1970s. Has
one album, a couple dozen side credits, most notably with Johnny Dyani.
Rest of the group is Danish, lightly recorded as far as I can tell --
Schelin has one album, Roupé some credits with Michael Mantler. Only
birth date I could find is Drud in 1967, and he seems to have the
least gray hair. Understated but moves smartly, the baritone a nice
contrast to the guitar.
- Michel Reis: Point of No Return (2009 , Armored):
Pianist, b. 1982 in Luxembourg, studied at Berklee and
New England Conservatory -- about the two-thousandth musician I've
seen to mention George Garzone on his resume. Based in New York.
Third album, with flugelhorn (Vivek Patel) and soprano sax (Aaron
Kruziki) adorning what's at heart a piano trio album. (The horns
appear on 3 of 9 cuts, together on the first, just flugelhorn on
the other two.)
- Júlio Resende Trio: You Taste Like a Song (2010 ,
Portuguese pianist. Two previous albums were
HMs, lifted by bravura saxophone performances. This one is just
piano trio, which also does the trick. Two covers: one I don't
recognize from Radiohead, one I do from Monk.
- Matana Roberts: Live in London (2009 ,
Alto saxophonist from Chicago, always identifies herself as
a member of AACM even though the Association was founded forty years
before she came up -- kind of like growing up in a union family. With
Robert Mitchell (piano), Tom Mason (bass), and Chris Vatalaro (drums).
First song runs 27 minutes, everything skewed at odd angles, just like
in the good old days.
- Matana Roberts: Coin Coin Chapter One: Gens de Couleur Libre
(2010 , Constellation):
Young alto saxophonist from Chicago, has
the AACM thing going, a couple of good records under her belt. This is
an ambitious dive into black history, a large band with three saxes,
trumpet, piano, guitar, some strings, two bassists, drums, various odds
and ends, many pieces with vocals. A lot of rage, understandable enough,
but hard to follow. "I Am," for instance, starts with screams, which out
of context are faintly ridiculous, then segues into a singsong rap odd
but not untouching or uninteresting. There's something here, probably
more than just catharsis.
- Jochen Rueckert: Somewhere Meeting Nobody
(2010 , Pirouet):
Drummer, b. 1975 near Köln, Germany; moved to New
York in 1995. Second album, the first dating from 1998; AMG lists
30 side credits. Wrote 9 of 11 pieces here, adding one each from
Herbie Hancock and Martin Gore (Depeche Mode). Group looks superb
on paper -- Mark Turner (tenor sax), Brad Shepik (guitar), Matt
Penman (bass) -- but the guitar doesn't pop out, and the sax just
glides along, making few waves.
- Sanda: Gypsy in a Tree (2010 , Barbes):
Vocalist, Sanda Weigl, evidently her first album. Don't know how old
she is, but she's been around: born in Romania, fled for political
asylum in East Germany, then after 1968 decided that wasn't so great
either. Wound up in New York, singing traditional gypsy songs in
front of a band of Japanese expat jazz musicians: Shoko Nagai (piano,
accordion, farfisa), Stomu Takeishi (electric bass), and Satoshi
Takeishi (percussion). Also picked up some help from Doug Weiselman
(guitar, clarinet) and Ben Stapp (tuba). Picked up some Brecht-Weill
influence, but that only seems to have made the album even darker.
- Scanner with the Post Modern Jazz Quartet: Blink of an Eye
(2010, Thirsty Ear):
Scanner is Robin Rimbaud, b. 1964 in London, producer,
AMG credits him with 38 albums since 1992. The PMJQ advances on the classic
Modern Jazz Quartet lineup: Khan Jamal on vibes, Matthew Shipp on piano,
Michael Bisio on bass, Michael Thompson on drums. It's been several years
since Shipp worked with a DJ, so it's nice to get some of the mechanistic
beats back in play -- best part is the tail end where that's about the only
thing going. Harder to read Jamal here. He's an innovative player, even
further removed from Milt Jackson than Shipp is from John Lewis, but I'm
having trouble picking him out. If I get a real copy I'll give this another
- Don Sebesky: Giant Box (1973 , CTI/Sony Masterworks):
Arranger, came up through the Stan Kenton band, hooked up with Creed Taylor
at Verve where he dropped Don Sebesky and the Jazz-Rock Syndrome,
then moved on to CTI where he had a hand in a couple dozen records; this
originally came out in a 2-LP box, not so giant then and less so neatly
fit onto a single CD; cover lists a dozen featured artists, with Freddie
Hubbard listed first and the standout; music from Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff,
Joni Mitchell, John McLaughlin, and Jimmy Webb (trying his hand at gospel),
plus three Sebesky originals; a mixed bag, with sublime stretches and odd
patches -- at least here he's taking credit instead of messing up someone
else's record, and stuck with the credit he's on his best behavior.
- Avery Sharpe: Running Man (2010 , JKNM):
Bassist, plays electric 6-string as well as acoustic, had a long
association with Yusef Lateef and McCoy Tyner, has 10 records
on his own since 1988, picking up the pace around 2005. Pianist
Onaje Allan Gumbs is a credible Tyner clone. Craig Handy plays
a lot of soprano sax and some tenor sax, does a nice job with
the former. Maya Sharpe sings a couple songs. Gumbs, Handy, and
drummer Yoron Israel write one each, leaving Sharpe eight.
- The Lee Shaw Trio: Live at Art Gallery Reutlingen
(2009 , ARC):
Pianist, b. 1926 in Oklahoma, switched from
classical to jazz after meeting Count Basie, married drummer Stan
Shaw and moved to Albany, NY, a good place to remain obscure.
First record was 1996 on avant-garde label CIMP; second came after
Stan Shaw died in 2001, and now she has eight. Not really a trio
record: first four cuts add baritone saxophonist Michael Lutzeier,
three of the last four tenor saxophinist Johannes Enders, both
impressively out front on covers like "Falling in Love Again,"
"Body and Soul," and "Stella by Starlight."
- Matthew Shipp/William Parker/Beans/Hprizm: Knives From Heaven
(2011, Thirsty Ear):
Basically, an Antipop Consortium joint, with Beans
(Robert Stewart) rapping over High Priest (Kyle Austin, here dba Hprizm)
electronics, with Shipp's piano and Parker's bass keeping it real. (Also
seem to have cornered the publishing.) Would go further with better rhymes,
although most of the parts without lyrics are intriguing synth fragments,
the piano a plus, the bass hard to sort out.
- Liam Sillery: Priorité (2009 , OA2):
player, from New Jersey, studied at Manhattan School of Music. Fifth
album since 2004, mostly quintets with sax-piano-bass-drums (one with
organ-guitar instead of piano-bass). With Matt Blostein (alto sax)
and Vinnie Sperrazza (drums), who have their own band, plus Jesse
Stacken (piano) and Thomas Morgan (bass). Postbop sophistication,
everyone fitting in nicely, doing the things well schooled groups
do these days.
- Blaise Siwula/Nobu Stowe/Ray Sage: Brooklyn Moments
More background. Siwula plays alto and tenor sax, bass
clarinet, bamboo flute; Stowe piano; Sage drums. Siwula was b. 1950 in
Detroit; has a couple dozen albums (AMG's discography starts in 1994,
which strikes me as late). All improv, rough to start although they
mix it up, and the bass clarinet part softens the blows. First record
by Siwula I've heard, so I'm way behind here.
- Blaise Siwula/Dom Minasi/Nobu Stowe/Ray Sage: New York
Moments (2006, Konnex):
Siwula plays soprano, alto, and
tenor sax here -- no bass clarinet; Minasi guitar; Stowe piano;
Sage drums. More spontaneous composition, group improvs, twice
dropping down to trio strength. At times it all works, but often
it feels a bit crowded, or cramped.
- Sean Smith Quartet: Trust (2011, Smithereen):
Bassist; bio says he "has been an integral part of the international
jazz scene for more than 20 years" but what if anything does that mean?
AMG lists about 15 Sean Smiths; turns out he's the one listed under
Folk, where he's described as "one of the busiest young players on the
international jazz scene." Looks like he has a handful of previous
records going back to 1999, a good deal of side credits -- website
claims over 100 but lists under 20. Wrote all the pieces here. Quartet
includes John Ellis (tenor and soprano sax), John Hart (guitar), and
Russell Meissner (drums). Light and elegant postbop, tasty even.
- Wadada Leo Smith: Lake Biwa (2002-04 , Tzadik):
Well-regarded album featuring Smith's Silver Orchestra. Can't find
any track credits, so presumably the whole group plays everywhere,
but I have my doubts about the three pianists, two bassists, and/or
three drummers. The other slots include alto sax (John Zorn), tuba
(Marcus Rojas), violin (Jennifer Choi), and cello (Erik Friedlander),
as well as Smith's trumpet. Four long pieces (11:14 to 23:50), dense,
cluttered, sometimes gets under your skin, then something amazing
- Jim Snidero: Interface (2010 , Savant):
saxophonist, b. 1958, eighteen records since 1987. I missed his early
stuff on Criss Cross, RED, and Double-Time; finally caught up with
Savant -- thought Crossfire was exceptional. Quartet with
bass, drums, and Paul Bollenback on guitar (always a nice touch).
Often sounds terrific, but this seems a bit cryptic.
- The Rossano Sportiello Trio: Lucky to Be Me [Arbors Piano Series,
Volume 22] (2010, Arbors):
Pianist, b. 1974 in
Vigevano, Italy. Plays old fashioned stride with a light touch.
Joined Dan Barrett at a festival in Switzerland in 2002, and has
increasingly worked himself into the Arbors swing network: second
album on his own, two more charming duos with bassist-singer Nicki
Parrott, side credits especially with Harry Allen. This is a trio
with Frank Tate (bass) and Dennis Mackrel (drums), old standards
which increasingly includes the 1950s (Thad Jones, J.J. Johnson,
Bill Evans, Tommy Flanagan), light and mostly delightful. Closes
with something by Bach, no doubt part of his education, just not
something I ever learned to care for.
- Nick Stefanacci Band: 26 Years (2010, NS):
(alto, tenor, soprano), also plays flute and keybs; based in New York;
first album, not much of a bio but he could be doing one of those Adele
things with his title. What throws you at first are the vocals: Kenny
Simmons, reminds me of Blood Sweat & Tears, which I don't regard as
damning although you might. (Still, what they mostly remind me of is a
relative who confided in me that she didn't like them at first until
she saw them on TV and realized they were white). Stefanacci sings some
too. I find it all rather corny, and a bit sweet, but don't expect
anyone else to.
- Storms/Nocturnes [Geoffrey Keezer/Joe Locke/Tim Garland]: Via
(2010 , Origin):
Second album for the trio --
previous one recorded in 2002, released with Garland's name first
and Keezer's last (UK label then, US label now). Respectively:
piano, vibes, saxophones/bass clarinet. Garland, as I said, is
British, b. 1966, has about ten albums, plays a lot of soprano
as well as tenor, was prominent enough he got "featuring" credits
while he was with Bill Bruford. Keezer, b. 1970, was Art Blakey's
last pianist. Has a dozen-plus albums since 1989 including major
labels Blue Note and Columbia. Locke you know. Aside from the
previous group album they've played around with each other. Still,
I'm surprised at how little chemistry there is. The pieces don't
mesh, and Garland and Locke are pretty unassertive.
- Subtle Lip Can (2010, Drip Audio):
Isaiah Ceccarelli (percussion, piano), Bernard Falaise (guitar),
Joshua Zubot (violin, low octave violin). Falaise is the best known:
b. 1965, has three records under his own name since 2000, plays in
various borderline rock/jazz groups, notably Miriodor. Zubot is
presumably related to violinist and label head Jesse Zubot (who
is credited here with mastering the disc). He also plays in a
bluegrass group called The Murder Ballads. Ceccarelli also seems
like a familiar surname, but the only jazz Ceccarellis I've been
able to find (two of them) are firmly rooted in Europe. First
group record. Fractured, somewhat random noise, quasi-industrial
with the strings and percussion. Striking at first, but doesn't
grow into something you want to spend much time with.
- Helen Sung: (re)Conception (2009 , SteepleChase):
Pianist, from Houston, TX; fifth album since 2004. Piano trio, with the
stellar mainstream rhythm section of Peter Washington and Lewis Nash.
She doesn't write much -- one song here, not unusual although her debut
was about half originals; picks two Ellingtons, Shearing's title cut,
Monk, Bacherach, Loesser, others more obscure.
- Sunny Voices (1981-2008 , Sunnyside):
sampler, from a perennial contender for best jazz label of whatever
year. Founded in 1982 by François Zalacain and Christine Berthet,
the label's taste has always been eclectic, sometimes influenced by
its ability to pick up records stranded in France. However, this
sampler is limited to vocal tracks, where eclectic tastes turn into
pretty idiosyncratic ones. Meredith D'Ambrosio has been on board
from the beginning, and they picked up Jay Clayton in the mid-'90s;
Jeanne Lee and Linda Sharrock appear via opportune reissues; most
of the later tracks come from Europe or Latin America, and two (Ana
Moura and Milton Nascimento) are picked up from Tim Ries' Stones
World. I've heard slightly more than half of the albums (10 of
17) and don't especially recommend any. They flow rather painlessly
here, but this isn't very useful.
- Jacqui Sutton: Dolly & Billie (2010,
Toy Blue Typewriter):
Singer, from Orlando, FL; fifty-something, first album.
The Dolly Parton-Billie Holiday concept is only explicit on the
first ("God Bless the Child") and last ("Endless Stream of Tears")
songs. In between there's a piece from Porgy and Bess, two
from BeTwixt, BeTween, & BeTwain, some more show tunes
I don't quite get. Band is called the Frontier Jazz Orchestra, led
by pianist-trombonist Henry Darragh, with Paul Chester on bango,
Max Dyer on cello, Aralee Dorough on flute, Alan Hoff on accordion,
some others. It's meant to be a little corny, and Sutton's voice
careens recklessly through the maze, scattering hay bales hither
- The Sway Machinery: The House of Friendly Ghosts Vol. 1
(2010 , JDub):
Brooklyn collective centered around Balkan Beat Box
guitarist-vocalist Jeremiah Lockwood, "inspired by ancient Jewish Cantorial
music, bluels, afro-beat and rock," goes to Mali's Festival in the Desert
and comes back with featured singer Khaira Arby and such guests as Djilmady
Tounkara and Vieux Farka Touré, mixing it up with horns from Antibalas.
Sounds interesting, and is, but the parts clash more than mesh, and much
of the interest comes from the wreckage.
- Craig Taborn: Avenging Angel (2010 , ECM):
Pianist, from Detroit, made his first impression in James Carter's
quartet. Has a half dozen records under his own name, starting with
a trio in 1994 and picking up the pace after 2001, and has done a
lot of session work lately. In particular, he's played a lot of
Fender Rhodes and is one of the few pianists who seem to improve
on it. This, however, is acoustic piano, solo: figure it as a move
to establish his bona fides as a real jazz pianist, and it mostly
does just that.
- Taeko: Voice (2009-10 , Flat Nine):
full name Taeko Fukao, born and raised near Kyoto, Japan; based in
New York, not sure how long. Second album. Wrote one song, picks
two more from Japanese sources, picks others from Ellington to Monk
to Hancock and Shorter to Marvin Gaye and Sly Stone. Scats quite a
bit early on.
- Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost
Birdsongs (2005 , Prefecture):
and Vittum are credited with compositions, percussion, and
electronics. Kikuchi is from Seattle, drummer for Empty
Cage Quartet, has another collaborative record -- with
Jese Olsen as Open Graves -- in my unplayed box. Vittum
is based in/near San Francisco. Doesn't seem to have any
other credits. This was recorded live in Seattle with a
group of musicians: Daniel Carter (alto sax, flute, trumpet),
Brian Drye (trombone), Matt Goeke (cello), Matt Crane
(percussion), Sam Weng (percussion). CDBaby page describes
this as "Milford Graves meets Aphex Twin meets Konono #1."
Graves is wishful thinking, but the other two bracket the
percussion range, and from the "Recommended if you like"
list we can throw in Harry Partch for orientation. Package
I got is a clear plastic sleeve with a folded print insert.
I'm tempted to treat it as an advance, but if you pay cash
you'll probably get the same.
- Stanley Turrentine: Sugar (1970 ,
Soul jazz man, cut his best records with cheezy organ
and down-home grit, gets a little fancy this time -- electric piano
and Ron Carter bass along with the organ, congas in addition to the
drums, some of George Benson's tastiest guitar and the extra spit
and polish of Freddie Hubbard's trumpet, which ultimately puts the
record over the top -- also the bonus cuts, since this is music
that needs to stretch out.
- Stanley Turrentine: Salt Song (1971 ,
The excess -- banks of strings, a chorus on the gospel
"I Told Jesus" -- doesn't help but hurt much either: all you need to
do is focus on the tenor sax, which is all you will be doing anyway;
the title cut is from Milton Nascimento, authenticated by Airto Moreira
and Eumir Deodato, and they spliced a second Nascimento tune on as a
bonus, which keeps the undertow light and frothy.
- Stanley Turrentine: Don't Mess With Mister T. (1973 ,
More strings, extra horns, organ along
with keybs, Eric Gale guitar, Bob James doing the arranging, but the
material sticks to blues basics, and the tenor sax is rarely anywhere
but front and center; reissue adds four bonus tracks, as have several
previous iterations; title cut, by the way, credited to Marvin Gaye.
- Jeremy Udden's Plainville: If the Past Seems So Bright
Saxophonist, from Plainville, MA, the town name he
took for his second album and kept for his group on this his third.
Studied in Boston, played in Either/Orchestra, now based in Brooklyn.
Credit here read alto sax, soprano sax, and clarinet. Group includes
Brandon Seabrook on guitar, Pete Rende on keyboards (Fender Rhodes,
pump organ, Wurlitzer), Eivind Opsvik on bass, R.J. Miller on drums.
He seems to be seeking out plainness, hiding behind nearly transparent
electronic chimes, a strategy that turns out to be rather winning in
spite of itself. Two songs have vocals, as understated as everything
- Diego Urcola Quartet: Appreciation (2010 , CAM Jazz):
Trumpet player, b. 1965 in Argentina, fourth album
since 2003. Fronts a very capable group with Luis Perdomo on
piano, Hans Gawischnig on bass, and Eric McPherson on drums --
those name "featuring" on the front cover, plus Yosvany Terry
is credited with chekere. All originals, each dedicated to
- Nicholas Urie: My Garden (2010 , Red Piano):
Composer, b. 1985, listed as conductor here. Second album. Music for
poems by Charles Bukowski, the lyrics sung by Christine Correa, who
always strikes me as a tad operatic. Attractive packaging, but the
light blue type on off white is too subtle, downright unreadable.
The music itself has numerous interesting passages, the group only
slightly below big band weight (4 reeds, 3 trumpets, 2 trombones,
piano-bass-drums), mostly names I recognize including John Hébert,
who usually lifts everything he touches. Problem here is a common
one: the curse of trying to wrap music around words meant to stand
on their own.
- Colin Vallon Trio: Rruga (2010 , ECM):
b. 1980 in Lausanne, Switzerland; based and teaches in Bern; third album
since 2004. Piano trio with Patrice Moret on bass and Samuel Rohrer on
drums, both contributing songs. Played it three times. Not much snap,
mostly quiet majesty.
- John Vanore & Abstract Truth: Contagious Words
(2010 , Acoustical Concepts):
Trumpet player, composer, arranger,
leader of the big band he calls Abstract Truth. About the only bio I
have on Vanore is that he played for Woody Herman in the 1970s, and put
the first edition of his band together in 1981. Last year he reissued
a 1991 album called Curiosity. This one is new, cut in June and
December of 2010. Not very well defined in the early going, but sneaks
up on your and closes very strong, getting a lot out the guitar and
slipping a French horn into the brass.
- Johnny Varro: Speak Low (2011, Arbors):
Pianist, b. 1930,
cites Jess Stacy and Teddy Wilson as influences, came up with Buddy Hackett,
played for Eddie Condon; not much discography as a leader until he hooked
up with Arbors in 1992, but this is his 11th album with them (side credits
go back to 1954 with Phil Napoleon). Standards, with Warren Vaché (cornet)
and Harry Allen (tenor sax) vying to see who can be the most debonair,
with Nicki Parrott (bass) and Chuck Riggs (drums). Maybe a little too
- Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 , Origin):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1982, from the Poconos, based in/near Miami,
latched onto Dave Liebman, adopting not just his sound but his look
as well, and more importantly a big chunk of his band for his debut
album: Vic Juris on guitar, Tony Marino on bass, Michael Stephans
on drums, Liebman himself on soprano and tenor sax. Paired the saxes
tend to run in boppish chase sequences, light-footed and fleet. A
couple of change of pace pieces show nice form and tone. Juris gets
in some tasty solos, too.
- Roseanna Vitro: The Music of Randy Newman
(2010 , Motéma):
Standards singer, b. 1951 on the Texas side of
Texarkana. Eleventh album since 1982. Leans too hard on Newman's
movie music, not trusting his biting wit or irony -- you'd hardly
recognize what "Sail Away" is about. Also leans too hard on Sara
Caswell's violin. The extra sincerity does offer some returns on
"In Germany Before the War."
- Cuong Vu 4-tet: Leaps of Faith (2010 , Origin):
Trumpet player, b. 1969 in what was then called Saigon, in Vietnam.
Came to US in 1975, grew up in Bellevue, WA; studied at New England
Conservatory; spent some time in New York, then moved back to Seattle,
teaching at UW and having a pretty significant impact on the area. He's
long had a fusion focus, and I haven't been much impressed by what he's
come up with, but this is an advance: adding a second electric bassist
(Luke Bergman) to his trio (Stomu Takeishi on electric bass and Ted Poor
on drums) adds a lot to what I reckon you can call the grunge factor --
all the more amusing when burying standards like "Body and Soul" and
"My Funny Valentine" but it neatly sets off the trumpet.
- Giancarlo Vulcano: My Funny Detective
(2008 , Distant Second):
Guitarist, grew up and is based in New York, second
album, the soundtrack for a movie that doesn't exist (a film noir,
no less). Credits include working as music director for the TV show
30 Rock. This has some of the usual traits of soundtracks:
short vignettes (6 of 12 finish in less than two minutes), fill up
space, don't leave much aftertaste. Most distinctive thing is the
use of two trombones (Brian Drye and Ryan Keberle) as the only horns.
- Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans: Electric Fruit
(2009 , Thirsty Ear):
Drums, guitar, trumpet, respectively -- no
credits on cover or insert, but someone plays drums. Evans and Halvorson
are famous names by now -- Halvorson more like infamous, since I keep
missing out on what are supposed to be her best records. Took some more
effort to dig up the dirt on Walter: b. 1972 in Rockford, IL; given name
Christopher Todd Walter; Hal Russell protege, although he couldn't have
been more than 20 when Russell died, but that left him in the company of
Mars Williams and Ken Vandermark. Formed the Flying Luttenbachers by
1994: AMG lists them as Jazz, but under Styles they're Math Rock and
Grindcore and Black Metal as well as Avant-Garde Jazz, so you tell me.
AMG list 7 albums under Walter's name, plus he has various other groups
and projects, including Lake of Dracula, Burmese, XBXRX, Hatewave, and
Zs (albeit more recently than the one impressive record I've heard).
Abstract and gravelly, with Halvorson's note-bending guitar tricks and
the trumpet blasts shooting past each other, the drums off enough to
give it all some coherence.
- Cedar Walton: The Bouncer (2011, High Note):
b. 1934, has a ton of records since 1967, this one being typical, both
in his lyrical runs and in the way he handles horns -- Vincent Herring
(alto sax, tenor sax, flute) on 5 cuts, Steve Turre (trombone) on two.
Wrote six of eight cuts, adding one from bassist David Williams, recalling
one from J.J. Johnson.
- Marcin Wasilewski Trio: Faithful (2010 , ECM):
Piano trio, with Slawomir Kurkiewicz on bass and Michal Miskiewicz on
drums, first came to our attention as Tomas Stanko's "young Polish band"
a few years back. Third album together, growing ever more refined, and
perhaps as a result less interesting.
- Christian Weidner: The Inward Song (2010, Pirouet):
Alto saxophonist, b. 1976 in Kassel, Germany; studied in Hamburg,
Stockholm, and Berlin, where he is currently based. Second album.
Quartet with Colin Vallon on piano (Vallon has a new ECM album in
my queue), Henning Sieverts on bass, and Samuel Rohrer on drums.
All originals. Light, delicate sound, almost lurks behind the
piano, giving it all an ECM-lite feel.
- Bastian Weinhold: River Styx (2010 , self-released):
Drummer, b. 1986 in Germany; studied at Conservatory of Amsterdam, New
School, and Manhattan School of Music; based in New York. First album,
quintet with tenor sax (Adam Larson), piano (Pascal Le Boeuf), guitar
(Nils Weinhold), bass (Linda Oh), and drums. Very postbop, lots of time
shifts and slippery harmony, all quite fancy.
- Mark Weinstein: Jazz Brasil (2010 , Jazzheads):
Flautist, plays an alto flute on the cover pic, credits also specify
concert and bass flutes. Has about 15 records going back to 1996,
mostly Latin-themed although one early title is Shifra Tanzt,
and a more recent one leaned on Monk for Straight No Chaser.
The Brazilian twist here comes from the rhythm section -- Nilson
Matta on bass and Marceito Pellitteri on percussion -- and they
come alive on the few Brazilian tunes, especially Ary Barrosa's
"Brazil." Their treatment is more cautious on two Monks, "Nefertiti,"
pieces by Herbie Mann and Joe Henderson. Kenny Barron plays piano.
- David Weiss & Point of Departure: Snuck Out
(2008 , Sunnyside):
Trumpet player, b. 1964 in New York City but studied
at NTU. Fourth album, first two on Fresh Sound New Talent 2001-04, third
last year called Snuck In. State of the art postbop quintet, with
Nir Felder's guitar in the middle, J.D. Allen's tenor sax the contrasting
horn, and the rhythm (Matt Clohesy on bass and Jamire Williams on drums)
slipping and sliding every which way.
- Neil Welch: Boxwork (2009 , Table & Chairs):
Tenor saxophonist, b. 1985, from Seattle, studied at University of
Washington, has a couple of albums. This one is solo, something that
often has the air of practice exercises. He takes this slow and soft,
with gentle sonic modulation, more atmospheric than anything else.
Still, the low pitch keeps you from getting too comfortable.
- Max Wild: Tamba (2008 , ObliqSound):
saxophonist, from Zimbabwe; second album. "Tamba" means dance in
Shona, probably the language of most of the lyrics here -- sung
by various people, primarily Sam Mtukudzi. Has a joyous township
vibe to it.
- Jessica Williams Trio: Freedom Trane (2007 , Origin):
Pianist, b. 1948, has close to 40 records since 1976, a
lot of solos, many more trios. Four Coltrane songs here, plus four
originals. Impeccable, as usual.
- Anthony Wilson: Campo Belo (2010 , Goat Hill):
Guitarist, b. 1968, son of big band arranger Gerald Wilson, has ten
or so albums since 1997. This is a quartet with a Brazilian rhythm
section: André Mehmari (piano, accordion), Guto Wirtti (bass), and
Edu Ribeiro (drums). Not stereotypically Brazilian, but light and
- Curtis Woodbury (2010, Jazz Hang):
and tenor sax, impressive on both but plays much more violin here.
Eponymous debut album. Don't have any bio, but album was recorded
in Utah, seems to be where he's from. Group includes another
Woodbury, Brian, on trombone, plus piano, bass, and drums. Two
originals, six covers -- Scott Joplin, Astor Piazzolla, Sonny
Stitt, Michel Camilo, Dave Holland, "You Are My Sunshine." Nice
- Nate Wooley Quintet: (Put Your) Hands Together
(2010 , Clean Feed):
Trumpet player, not a lot under his own name but
a couple dozen side credits since 2002. Group spread out with Josh
Sinton on bass clarinet, Matt Moran on vibes, Eivind Opsvik bass, and
Harris Eisenstadt drums. Not much chemistry between the horns, and
the vibes seem like an afterthought. "Elsa" has an appealing Monkish
jerikness to it.
- John Zorn: Nova Express (2010 , Tzadik):
Zorn compositions, played by a piano-bass-vibes-drums quartet: John
Medeski, Trevor Dunn, Kenny Wollesen, Joey Baron. Takes a book title
from William S. Burroughs -- song titles include "Dead Fingers Talk"
and "The Ticket That Exploded." Nothing MJQ-ish. The vibes add an
electric ring to the piano, but compete in the same space, and both
can clash fiercely. Does tail off into a nice groove-laden thing at
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Chris Floyd: War Without End, Amen: The Reality of America's Aggression
Against Iraq: I might cavil and quibble a bit on the intro here, but
it is fundamentally correct, and worth saying as forcefully as possible:
In March 2003, the United States of America launched an entirely
unprovoked act of military aggression against a nation which had not
attacked it and posed no threat to it. This act led directly to the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. It drove millions
more from their homes, and plunged the entire conquered nation into
suffering, fear, hatred and deprivation.
This is the reality of what actually happened in Iraq: aggression,
slaughter, atrocity, ruin. It is the only reality; there is no other.
And it was done deliberately, knowingly, willingly. Indeed, the
bipartisan American power structure spent more than $1 trillion to
make it happen. It is a record of unspeakable savagery, an abomination,
an outpouring of the most profound and filthy moral evil.
[ . . . ]
And so Barack Obama, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, the
self-proclaimed inheritor of the mantle of Martin Luther King and
Mahatma Gandhi, went to North Carolina this week to declare the act
of aggression in Iraq "an extraordinary achievement." He lauded the
soldiers gathered before him for their "commitment to fulfil your
mission": the mission of carrying out an unprovoked war of aggression
and imposing a society-destroying occupation that led directly to the
deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. These activities --
"everything that American troops have done in Iraq" -- led to "this
moment of success," he proclaimed.
This gets to the heart of what I feel even sadder about than all
the senseless destruction: that we haven't, and most likely will not,
learn anything from our mistakes; that we won't recognize our crimes,
and won't take measures -- least of all punishment of those culpable
for the entire war -- to make sure anything like this can never happen
again. There was a report last week about how half of our schools get
failing grades. One tends to assume that the political campaign to
starve the public sector is mostly responsible, but what Iraq shows
is that we have a nationwide blindness to learning, something which
politicans cater to even when they don't have to. Throughout the 2008
presidential election process, many (and ultimately most) Americans
sought out the most utter rejection of the Bush administration they
could find. Yet the change Obama promised turned out to be an empty
promise, covering up the crimes of his predecessors, turning a blind
eye to the scams of the banks, pretending all is right with a nation
that is sick to its soul.
Alex Pareene: When Hitch Was Wrong:
Somehow, I missed the whole period when the late Christopher Hitchens
was regarded as some kind of leftist, so it's never been clear to me
what we lost when he turned into a Muslim-hating warmonger. But we
didn't lose much more by him dying.
Upon the death of the unlamented Earl Butz, Hitchens excoriated editors
who published sanitized obituaries of a man remembered solely for a
vulgar racist remark made in public. Hitchens leaves a rather more
varied legacy, but it's just as important not to whitewash his role
in recent history.
There was no more forceful intellectual voice in support of the
Iraq War than Hitchens. There were others who were more prominent,
more influential or more persuasive, but Hitchens was the perfect
shill for an administration looking to cast its half-baked invasion
plans as a morally righteous intervention, because only he could call
upon a career of denunciations of totalitarianism and defenses of
human rights. (The fact that the war was supposed to be justified
by weapons Saddam was supposedly developing didn't really matter
And so we had the world's self-appointed supreme defender of
Orwell's legacy happily joining an extended misinformation campaign
designed to sell an incompetent right-wing government's war of choice.
The man who carefully laid out the case for arresting Henry Kissinger
for war crimes was now palling around with Paul fucking Wolfowitz.
Once he became an unpaid administration propagandist, Hitchens,
formerly a creature of left-wing magazines whose largest mainstream
exposure was in Vanity Fair and occasionally on Charlie Rose, was
suddenly on TV rather a lot. The lesson there, I think, is that the
popular American mass media will make room for even a booze-swilling
atheist Trotskyite if he's shilling for a the latest war.
Glenn Greenwald: Christopher Hitchens and the Protocol for Public Figure
Corey Robin wrote that "on the announcement of his death, I think it's
fair to allow Christopher Hitchens to do the things he loved to do most:
speak for himself," and then assembled
two representative passages from Hitchens' post-9/11 writings. In
the first, Hitchens celebrated the ability of cluster bombs to penetrate
through a Koran that a Muslim may be carrying in his coat pocket ("those
steel pellets will go straight through somebody and out the other side
and through somebody else. So they won't be able to say, 'Ah, I was
bearing a Koran over my heart and guess what, the missile stopped halfway
through.' No way, 'cause it'll go straight through that as well. They'll
be dead, in other words"), and in the second, Hitchens explained that his
reaction to the 9/11 attack was "exhilaration" because it would unleash
an exciting, sustained war against what he came addictively to call
"Islamofascism": "I realized that if the battle went on until the last
day of my life, I would never get bored in prosecuting it to the utmost."
Hitchens, of course, never "prosecuted" the "exhilarating" war by
actually fighting in it, but confined his "prosecution" to cheering for
it and persuading others to support it. [ . . . ]
Hitchens was obviously more urbane and well-written than the average
neocon faux-warrior, but he was also often more vindictive and barbaric
about his war cheerleading. One of the only writers with the courage to
provide the full picture of Hitchens upon his death was Gawker's John
Cook, who -- in an
extremely well-written and poignant obituary -- detailed Hitchens'
vehement, unapologetic passion for the attack on Iraq and his dismissive
indifference to the mass human suffering it caused, accompanied by petty
contempt for those who objected (he denounced the Dixie Chicks as being
"sluts" and "fucking fat slags" for the crime of mildly disparaging the
Commander-in-Chief). As Cook put it: "it must not be forgotten in mourning
him that he got the single most consequential decision in his life
horrifically, petulantly wrong"; indeed: "People make mistakes. What's
horrible about Hitchens' ardor for the invasion of Iraq is that he clung
to it long after it became clear that a grotesque error had been made."
Jon Wiener: David Montgomery, 1927-2011:
A name from my distant past, one of the radical historians who had a
large impact on my intellectual development in the late 1960s. I read
his major book at the time, Beyond Equality: Labor and the Radical
Republicans, 1862-1872, published in 1967, and regarded it as one
of the essential books in American labor history, but I lost track of
him after that, and am unfamiliar with his other work:
I've taught Montgomery's Fall of the House of Labor (1987) many
times, and it remains a rich and compelling work. While most of us
preferred to focus on the glory days of the labor movement in the 1930s
and 1940s, David looked long and hard at its defeat between the 1890s
and the 1920s. He started here with a vivid picture of the variety of
workplace experiences in America at the turn of the century, from
unskilled workers on the docks to the elite iron makers; he showed how
these diverse groups united to form the Socialist Party of 1912, which
won a higher proportion of the presidential vote (for Eugene Debs) than
any left-wing party before or since; and he asked why this immense and
powerful organization did not survive the repression of the Red Scare
and return to life in the 1920s.
David was always an organizer for labor and civil rights groups.
When Yale's clerical workers went on strike in 1984 for union recognition,
"he was the inspirational leader for faculty supporting locals 34/35
before, during, and after the strike," says Jean-Christophe Agnew of
the Yale history department. "David's firmness about solidarity and
the honoring of picket lines emboldened many faltering colleagues,
especially the more vulnerable junior faculty. He was a rock."
Saturday, December 17, 2011
I noticed that Alex Pareene had been pretty quiet the last couple
weeks, but it turns out he was just working on his end-of-year list --
not records or movies or such like, but a very useful compilation of
the worst hacks working in media these days. The run-down:
Mark Halpern: "the world's laziest dispenser of conventional wisdom."
Jennifer Rubin: "hateful and repetitive."
Bernard-Henri Levy: "a living parody of a blowhard foreign intellectual."
Erin Burnett: "a relic of a bygone age . . . still
surviving on our airwaves as a zombie idea."
Katie Roiphe: "not just a one-note anti-feminist hack, no!"
Erick Erickson: "combines vitriol with stupidity."
Robert Samuelson: "can't stop rehashing ancient, discredited Reagan-era
dogma" (e.g., "super rich people are in fact hard-working small
business-owning job creating Regular Americans").
Piers Morgan: "alternates between fawning sycophancy and obvious
Mike Allen: "trades in meaningless minutiae and serves the Beltway
Naomi Wolf: "feminist intellectual keeps downplaying serious rape
Bill Keller: "the former Times editor isn't sorry enough about his
warmongering to stop writing his awful column."
David Brooks: "hides appalling opinions behind 'reaonsable' language."
Megyn Kelly: "Fox's perpetually outraged anchor will sell any dubious
talking point with a sneer."
Joe Scarborough: "a chauvinist 'civility' crusader with a badly inflated
Wolf Blitzer: "watching closely and thinking rarely."
Andrea Peyser: "saps the fun out of scandals with her toxic
John Stossel: "the worst of simple-minded sensationalist television
news masquerading as maverick because he's 'politically incorrect' (a
term that when self-applied invariably means 'an asshole')."
Jon Meacham: "for a political aficionado, he's remarkably dim on
Ruth Marcus: "makes up for her bland liberalism with her unquestioning
fealty to authority."
Brian Williams: "an annoying throwback to the outdated newsreaders of
Wolf seems to be on the list exclusively for her defense of Julian
Assange against extradition to Sweden on rape charges. Seems to me that
Pareene's being a little squeamish in this case. Maybe also that he's
looking to create a sense of being above the fray by finding someone on
the left to knock. Assange did the world (and the American public) a
huge favor in making so many secret documents public. This doesn't give
him carte blanche to behave badly, but it does mean that one should be
exceptionally skeptical when some government tries to prosecute him --
a point underscored by the persecution of Bradley Manning (no other word
comes close to describing what's happened to him).
Only 20 slots this year versus
30 in 2010.
My guess is the the drop represents limited time/patience/stomach on
Pareene's part rather than a diminished round of candidates. Indeed, he
added a brief update,
Hack List Alums: Where Are They Now? to account for the missing
(Tina Brown, Pat Cadell, Tucker Carlson, Thomas Friedman, Jonah Goldberg,
Mickey Kaus, Bill Kristol, Marty Peretz, Marc Thiessen, George Will.)
How Friedman, Goldberg and Kristol (and for that matter Kaus and Will)
avoided repeating is still mysterious.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Scattered thoughts while collecting end-of-year lists:
The Wire: Not on line, so we only have secondary reports to go
from, and at present these are limited to the top 50 albums with
none of the usual genre lists. Most notable thing here is how far
the publishers will go to find records. I count no less than 17
records on their list of 50 that I had to add to my list of 4001.
Moreover, most of those records failed to appear at Amazon: many
were limited edition vinyl, some on labels from Japan and Poland,
a couple December 2010 releases (one a 4-CD set, the other 10).
A couple were typos (probably the list copier's fault): Toad
Blinker is evidently by Sculpture, not Structure; the Hype
Williams is more likely One Nation than One Motion;
and it's Garten der Unbewusstheit, not Unberwusstheit.
Their picks lean heavy toward electronica with eclectic exceptions:
The Smile Sessions box, two Michael Chapman reissues, Lou Reed
& Metallica. Last year's fave Oneohtrix Point Never dropped to 14.
The only other contending records are PJ Harvey and Radiohead; further
down Tim Hecker, the Miles Davis Bootleg, Balam Acab, Zomby,
Sun Araw, Peaking Lights, Frank Ocean, and that's about it.
Gigwise: Top 50 for UK pub I've barely tracked during the year,
favors electro-pop (top pick: Metronomy: The English Riviera)
and features a strong home-field advantage (7 UK acts in top 10).
Spin: Top 50, topped by Fucked Up, a nice touch, but the most
unusual thing is that I count 11 hip-hop albums, most free mixtape
downloads, plus one black pop (Beyoncé) and two near kin (Britney
Spears, Lady Gaga). Also three albums more/less country (Hayes Carll,
Eric Church, Gillian Welch). Moreover, they were self-conscious enough
they spun off a "40 Best Rap Albums" list -- most of which didn't
get reviewed (high enough) during the year to be noted (and I have
an exceptionaly low threshold for Spin -- adding up to 445
Amazon: I stick with the corporate picks and ignore the customer
favorites, even though it's always mysterious where they come from.
Of the 100 best albums, 15 were new to my list -- a good deal more
than I expected from a company whose interest is to sell what sells.
A second list of 100 "albums you might have missed" duplicates most
of those 15, plus it adds a further 19 records. The highest rated
records on this list are by Nicolas Jaar, Josh T. Pearson, and
Tennis -- the first two are intense cult items.
Prefix: Similar top-50 list to Spin, including Danny Brown
at 3, Fucked Up at #4. Winner: Shabazz Palaces, one of four hip hop
albums in top ten -- the others are West-Z and Drake. Tune-Yards and
Bon Iver also made top-10 (6 and 8). Matana Roberts an outside jazz
pick at 43.
I've been up forty-seven hours straight, and I'm putting together
preliminary versions of my top twenty-five albums list that will be
published early January. And I need to ask my fellow listmakers
. . .
Are you ever uncomfortable with just how much Xgau correlates to
your year-end lists? I mean, we've probably had that demonstrated
over and over again with PTB's polls, but Jesus Christ. I mean,
at first I looked at it and panicked until I saw that only fifteen of
twenty-five of the albums I put on my list had an Xgau A- or greater,
although that goes up one if you count B+'s and up another if you
count odds and ends. I'm pretty okay with that figure, but start to
look at it in terms of Xgau A's and **** gets weird. Six Xgau A's are
in my top twenty-five. Five Xgau A's are in my top fifteen. Four Xgau
A's are in my top ten. Three Xgau A's are in my top five.
You'll all probably assure me that it's silly to worry that my
sensibilities skew too Xgauvian or too Pitchforkian or too Rolling
Stonian or whatever the hell, but I absolutely do fret! Even with some
of the more obviously independent and brilliant minds here, you
sometimes can't help but get that feeling that you guys would hate
The E-N-D and love Aeroplane without him, and my tastes
are younger and probably far more suspect thanks to their lack of
decades of development. I'm not saying any of us are guilty of that
sort of thing, but it's tricky when we're a community so united under
one man and his taste.
So I sometimes do worry that my lists display not me but the
websites I visit and the critics I read, although maybe displaying
those things is a bit like displaying me, yeah?
So I did another calculation that put me at rest. I figured out how
many albums I would have failed to discover if Xgau hadn't come back
last year. Of those twenty-five albums, there are only two that I
would not have found and one that I probably would have failed to
investigate properly. Sure, the old man and I have a lot in common,
but I'd say that seems pretty self-sustainable. And now I'll breathe
easy again. And now I'll resume studying. That's a lie.
Joey's "forty-seven hours" post has left me with a lot of thoughts
rolling around in my head. I can't straighten them all out, so this
will be rather scattershot. I was slightly bothered a
few years back when Glenn McDonald computed that my P&J ballot
was most similar to Christgau's -- as I recall, a strange convergence
of Lily Allen, Leonard Cohen, Willie Nelson, Loudon Wainwright III,
Oumou Sangare, and K'naan. But the correlation slipped the next year,
and looking at Christgau's full A list this year it is unlikely that
our ballots will share a single album -- Frank Ocean probably has the
best shot, or maybe Teddybears.
On the other hand, if you go down to a top-50 or top-100, you'll
find a lot of overlap. Maybe less this year than usual because I've
been much more proactive about searching out things -- the metacritic
file, working with Tatum, writing up my Rhapsody streamnotes. (From
the latter, non-EW A-list albums: Bibio, Class Actress, Bootsy Collins,
Cornershop, Beth Ditto, Fucked Up, Jimmie Dale Gilmore, Girls, G-Side,
Hail Mary Mallon, Lydia Loveless, Lupe Fiasco, Mekons, 9th Wonder,
Scroobius Pip, Connie Smith, Swollen Members, Viceversah, William
Elliot Whitmore.) I think I've listened to about 1000 records this
year, so the breadth spreads things out (as well as limits the time
spent on each). Back in the 1980s when I only heard what I bought
and only bought what I expected to like my lists trailed Christgau
more closely. Back when I ran those two year-end polls, the voters
split cleanly between informed consumers (who picked Xgau-approved
albums 95% of the time) and crazed critics (who came up with much
longer lists based on their own resources, where Christgau was
nonetheless hugely influential).
Joey's rationalization that he would have found 23-of-25 records
obscures something important. Between one-quarter and one-third
of the new records in EW this year weren't anywhere on my radar --
and note that my metacritic file has topped 4000 records, so I'm
impressed when anyone comes up with good records I haven't heard
of, let alone does so consistently. But I also have a way to map
his picks against metacritic file rank, and the distribution
there is almost perfectly uniform, which is to say that he is
almost completely free of critical consensus.
Joey's worry that "my lists display not me but the websites
I visit and the critics I read" is healthy. Everyone works from
imperfect information, and coping with that is a full time job --
it helps to question everything, and insist on your own ears.
Later I thought I'd mention Matt Merewitz's email response to
my pan of Anthony Wilson's Seasons:
Got this from a publicist today -- actually, one of the better ones
I work with, and not a guy with a history of going knee-jerk over
anything like this -- in response to something I wrote in yesterday's
Jazz Prospecting. Thought I'd throw it out here, since I'd like to
think I write for you all and not for publicists or musicians:
You really write some negative shit man. My clients have gotten
very upset with some of th[e] stuff you've written over the years.
Aside from the B- grade (well, actually including it), I thought I
was going rather mild. (One line I thought of but didn't use: "I guess
the great thing about a commission is getting the cash up front.")
Don't have any big point here. Guess this is just an occupational
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Something on EOY lists:
Catching up: Joey notes how many items on Pitchfork's EOY list
weren't graded high during the year. This is true for virtually every
EOY list I've seen. Presumably the difference is that the individual
reviewers grade the records during the year, but the EOY lists are the
result of some aggregate process. You can track this with my
metacritic file: just look for xx:(#). If the
record had a high grade (usually 80+) that will appear before the
paren; if not, it won't. (I could have missed the grade, but in most
cases I think not.) Pitchfork is not at all unusual in this regard.
There's no reason to beat around the bush. I prefer happy music to
sad music, because I think happy music takes more strength--what
Albert Murray says about the blues, which is that it's not about
sadness but about triumphing over sadness in what he calls "the
Saturday night function" if I have the phrase right. The problem is
that fools equate sadness with seriousness when in fact they're far
from identical, because sadness is weak more often than not. BUT
CERTAINLY NOT ALWAYS. Layla's not such a good example because it does
exactly what Murray's talking about--it's a transmutation. But My Life
sure is. After the Gold Rush sure is. Don't Leave Just Now on FDII
sure is. And I suppose younger people with those different histories I
was talking about in re Abebe might argue that Bon Iver's sadness
speaks precisely to their historical condition. For all I know that's
exactly what P4K will say about it. But somehow I doubt I'm gonna be
convinced. I'm not even convinced by Adele.
I want to go to bed, so let me be brief. Justin Vernon doesn't
impress me very much (if at all). But as the parent of a 26-year-old
who's taught aspiring music professionals in college since 2005, I
want to say that this is one shitty time to be growing up. My
generation's self-pity was more or less a total crock. Self-pity in
the wake of the War on Terror, the return of the Republican Party to
the great tradition of John Calhoun, and especially the Great
Recession is far more reality-based--although in the end pretty much a
crock as well.
Monday, December 12, 2011
Music: Current count 19123  rated (+30), 827  unrated (-4).
Monthly rollover completed with Recycled Goods and Rhapsody Streamnotes
posted. Trying to push as much Jazz Prospecting through as possible, but
running out of gas. Next week need to work on my EOY jazz piece, plus
the ballots (don't have them yet).
- Julius Hemphill: Julius Hemphill Big Band (1988,
Nonesuch): A rigorous avant-garde alto saxophonist, best known as
founder of World Saxophone Quartet, run as a lab in harmonics;
somehow got a major label to give him a stab at a big band, and
came up with a typically cantankerous mix of stuff that coheres
elegantly and drives you to the edge; for me, the power cut backs
K. Curtis Lyle's spoken word rant.
- Michael Howell: Looking Glass (1973, Milestone):
Guitarist, cut a couple albums in the 1970s and not much else till
I ran across him in a sideman role; thought he has poise and taste,
already evident here both in the horn-studded grooves and in his
more intimate moments trading thoughtful lines with pianist Hampton
B+(**) [download: ile oxumare]
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 17)
I keep procrastinating, holding off on publishing Jazz CG (27)
and stretching out Jazz Prospecting. Looks like it'll be another
week for both. Also, I need to write an end-of-year jazz piece for
Rhapsody to go along with the Jazz Critics Poll, and figure out
how to organize a jazz blog -- as well as pick off the more
promising looking prospects from the pending file.
Meanwhile, I keep adding to the
metacritic file, both
catching up on this year's reviews and factoring in a few end-of-year
lists as best I can. One thing I can say is that the album-of-the-year
winner in UK publications is exceptionally clear cut: it's PJ Harvey:
Let England Shake. The record clearly signifies there in ways
that don't translate well over here, where it's taken as a second tier
good record, along with Radiohead, Wilco, and TV on the Radio.
On the other hand, there is no clear leader among US polls -- and
by the way, Pazz & Jop is on at the Village Voice, with ballots
due December 23 to be published January 18. At present I'd say the
contenders are: Bon Iver: Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar); Tune-Yards:
Whokill (4AD); Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub
Pop); and St. Vincent: Strange Mercy (4AD). (My grades for
them are, respectively: *, *, B-, and **,
so one thing I don't have is a rooting interest.) Still, Metacritic
only credits Bon Iver with topping two polls so far -- same as better
albums by Shabazz Palaces, The Weeknd, and Girls. Harvey has won 7
polls (all UK, I think), and Adele 3 (includingRolling Stone,
never a bellweather). Fleet Foxes won at PopMatters (whose risk-free
list hit all of my file's top ten, and 33 of the top 40). Tune-Yards
and St. Vincent haven't won yet.
Of course, if I was really interested in what other people think,
I'd take the Grammys seriously, but I don't. I use these lists for
prospecting, in which case the more idiosyncratic the better.
Jason Adasiewicz's Sun Rooms: Spacer (2011, Delmark):
Vibraphone player, based in Chicago, the one guy everyone out there
goes to for the craft. Trio with Nate McBride (bass) and Mike Reed
(drums). First-rate musicians, but the effort is a little thin all
Mario Adnet: More Jobim Jazz (2011, Adventure Music):
Jobim orchestrated for a not-quite big band -- runs 7 to 11 pieces --
which clears up Jobim's characteristic lightness, adding not just
density but sumptuous warmth. A sequel to Adnet's 2007 Jobim
Jazz, with a Baden Powell tribute in the meantime.
Stefano Battaglia Trio: The River of Anyder (2009
, ECM): Pianist, b. 1965 in Milan, has 30 albums since 1986,
four on ECM -- two early ones tied explicitly to Bill Evans. Has a
knack for impressing me without offering a hook on which to hang a
Dan Blake: The Aquarian Suite (2011, Bju'ecords):
Saxophonist (doesn't specify further), based in New York. Has a
previous, self-released record called The Party Suite. This
is a two-horn quartet, with Jason Palmer on trumpet, Jorge Roeder
on bass, and Richie Barshay on drums. Vigorous, expansive postbop,
grabs you at high speed, loses a bit when they slow it down.
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: All Out
(2011, FMR): Alto sax-drums-piano trio, the first two long-time chums
from Quebec, Lapin a Russian pianist who joined them for a slightly
earlier album on Leo, Inner Spire. The two records are roughly
equivalent: open-ended free improvs, more group than individuals, the
piano adding something but rarely distinctive.
Cinque: Catch a Corner (2011, ALMA): I filed this
under organ player Joey DeFrancesco, but closer examination would
have given it to bassist-producer-arranger Peter Cardinali -- the
songs are attributed to the group (with Robi Botos on piano/fender
rhodes, John Johnson on saxes, and Steve Gadd on drums) except for
two covers at the end, one each from Cedar Walton and Paul Simon:
"Still Crazy After All These Years" -- they wish.
Lajos Dudas/Hubert Bergmann: What's Up Neighbor?
(2011, Jazz Sick): Clarinet-piano duets, writing credits evenly
distributed, although much of this feels improvised. Leans a bit
toward the wayward abstract, not unlike the 1960s work of Jimmy
Giuffre and Paul Bley.
Volker Goetze Orchestra: NY 10027 (2011, G*Records):
Trumpeter, from Germany; has a previous album with kora player Ablaye
Cissoko listed first. This is a big band, recorded in New York, with
modern tendencies, not afraid to get a little mussed up, noisy even.
Mary Halvorson and Jessica Pavone: Departure of Reason
(2011, Thirsty Ear): Guitar-viola duo: Halvorson is a frequently
astounding young guitarist, Pavone an erratic violist, both sing
some, and together they trend towards folk music, or anti-folk,
or something slightly stranger.
Denman Maroney: Double Zero (2008 , Porter):
Plays hyperpiano, his term for a piano that is played not just from
the keyboard but by using various implements to strike, bow, or
otherwise agitate the strings. The effect is to add elements of
bass (or higher-pitched string instruments) and percussion, some
in combination with the conventional piano sounds, some instead of.
Solo hyperpiano here, one titled piece in nine parts; runs on and
doesn't sustain interest although it has its moments, especially
when the inner and outer approaches work in tandem.
Wynton Marsalis & Eric Clapton: Play the Blues: Live
From Jazz at Lincoln Center (2011, Reprise, CD+DVD): The
guitarist picked the tunes, anticipating that this would turn out
to be a jazz album based on blues rather than a blues album with
some extra horns. I suspect his early exposure was to British trad
stalwarts -- Chris Barber, Ken Colyer, Humphrey Lyttelton and their
kin -- although he's enough of an Americaphile that he must know
when he's treading on Louis Armstrong, and maybe even George Lewis.
Marsalis arranged the pieces and went for a King Oliver front line --
two trumpets (Marcus Printup), trombone (Chris Crenshaw), clarinet
(Victor Goines) -- forgoing the tuba for Carlos Henriquez's bass,
adding Don Vappie's banjo, Dan Nimmer on piano, and Ali Jackson on
drums and washboard. Clapton, in turn, brought along his old keyb
player, Chris Stainton. Clapton has often been nicked for his lack
of blues voice, but he's plenty strong here -- while managing to
duck the last three songs, one going to Crenshaw, the last two to
guest Taj Mahal. Can't claim that the DVD is worth the extra $6-9
it will cost you: it's a straight concert film, a bit more patter
and some shots of rehearsing, all of which helps.
Nicolas Masson: Departures (2010 , Fresh Sound
New Talent): A prodigious, important label; unfortunately, I've only
gotten their work via artist publicists for the last couple years.
Masson is from Switzerland, b. 1972, plays tenor sax here, and bass
clarinet elsewhere. Fourth album since 2001, a quartet with Ben
Monder (guitar), Patrice Moret (bass), and Ted Poor (drums). Postbop,
sophisticated and slippery, as is Masson's tenor tone, the steel
framework provided more by Monder's guitar.
Marilyn Mazur: Celestial Circle (2010 , ECM):
Percussionist, born in US, raised in Denmark, assembled this group as
artist-in-residence at Norway's Molde Jazz Festival in 2008: Josefine
Cronholm (voice), John Taylor (piano), Anders Jormin (double bass).
Mazur's percussion is delicate and tends to get lost, although the
vocals and everything else compete to be unobtrusive.
Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: MSMW Live: In Case the
World Changes Its Mind (2011, Indirecto, 2CD): I don't see
much evidence of minds changing, here or elsewhere. John Medeski,
Chris Wood, and Billy Martin were probably more responsible than
any other group for the resurgence of groove-heavy funk in the 1990s.
True, if you listen to Martin's percussion discs and follow Medeski's
side projects you'll run into some more adventurous music, but they
always seem to return to form together. Guitarist John Scofield is
a natural fit: he gives them an elegant lead instrument, and they
rival his best organ groups from the 1980s. Plus, going live means
you get to recycle.
Martin Moretto: Quintet (2009 , self-released):
Argentine guitarist, based in New York. First album, a quintet with
Bill McHenry (tenor sax), Phil Markowitz (piano), Santi Debriano (bass),
and Vanderlei Pereira (drums). The guitar is elegant and seductive.
Not sure what it means that I can't recall the sax.
Anthony Wilson: Seasons: Live at the Metropolitan Museum
of Art (2011, Goat Hill): The title cut is a four-part
song cycle commission for guitar quartet -- Steve Cardenas, Julian
Lage, and Chico Pinheiro help out -- running Winter to Autumn.
After that each guitarist gets a solo piece, then one last group
piece. The quartets sound like soft solos to me, with a slight
Spanish/classical feel. The solos have about half the presence.
Didn't watch the DVD.
Andrea Wolper: Parallel Lives (2011, Jazzed Media):
Singer, AMG says b. 1950 (but I don't quite believe that), from
California, based in New York, has three albums since 2005, two
books (one called Women's Rights, Human Rights: International
Feminist Perspectives). I had little to say about her previous
album, but looking back at my notes I'm struck by the musicians
she lined up -- Ron Affif on guitar, Victor Lewis on drums, Frank
London on trumpet -- but this time even more so. In fact, her
website has a daring quote from yours truly arguing that any
album with bassist Ken Filiano and/or drummer Michael TA Thompson
"is practically guaranteed to be superb." So she's hired Filiano
and Thompson, added Kris Davis (whom I've praised repeatedly) on
piano, and Michael Howell on guitar -- didn't know him, but he's
a Kansas City guy, has a couple of long-forgotten 1970s records,
was a sideman on Art Blakey's Buhaina and Dizzy Gillespie's
Bahiana in 1973-75. She doesn't push this band very hard,
but they are impossible to fault, with Howell proving to be a
tasty soloist. Wolper wrote 3 of 12 songs, one more than Joni
Mitchell, one from Buffy Sainte-Marie (maybe she is my age), only
a couple safely wedged in the canonical songbook. Her originals
are more interesting than the covers, and while she doesn't blow
you away as a singer, she carries the songs.
These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming
records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype,
often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra
rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with
a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go
into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception
for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the
Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/Christian Scott: Ninety Miles
(2011, Concord Picante): Three mainstream jazz stars, more or less,
visit Cuba, hooking up with two local "piano-led Cuban jazz quartets"
(meaning piano-bass-drums+percussion), one led by Rember Duharte, the
other by Harold López-Nussa. The visitors have some trouble finding
their bearings (especially the vibraphonist), but once Scott rips off
a blistering trumpet solo the tide turns, and the percussion carries
Kidd Jordan: On Fire (2011, Engine): Avant saxophonist
from New Orleans, b. 1935, has recorded infrequently because there's
no market for avant-garde in New Orleans. With Harrison Bankhead, who
grew up under Fred Anderson's wing, on bass and cello, plus Warren
Smith on drums and vibes. Starts off squawky -- always a risk with
Jordan -- but steadies on slower fare, a superb bass solo, and
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last week:
- Aimtoronto Orchestra: Year of the Boar (Barnyard)
- The Ames Room: Bird Dies (Clean Feed)
- Baloni: Fremdenzimmer (Clean Feed)
- Carlos Bica: Things About Carlos Bica & Azul (Clean Feed)
- Bobby Bradford/Mark Dresser/Glenn Ferris: Live in LA (Clean Feed)
- Marty Ehrlich's Rites Quartet: Frog Leg Logic (Clean Feed)
- Dennis González/João Paulo: So Soft Yet (Clean Feed)
- Lama: Oneiros (Clean Feed)
- Metta Quintet: Big Drum/Small World (Jazzreach/The Orchard)
- Evan Parker/Wes Neal/Joe Sorbara: At Somewhere There (Barnyard)
- Rampersaud Shaw Martin Neal Krakowiak: Halcyon Science 130410 (Barnyard)
- Mike Wofford/Holly Hofmann Quintet: Turn Signal (Capri)
Sunday, December 11, 2011
Before I get to the "scattered links I squirreled away during
the previous week," three pieces from the Wichita Eagle this morning:
Rick Plumlee: The Big Question: Was Iraq Worth It?: Front page lead
article, does a good job of mapping the costs back to Kansas, including
a full page of pictures of 50 dead Kansas soldiers:
Kansans have sacrificed for Iraq. Their bodies have been broken -- 409
have been injured. And 50 have died.
Now nearly nine years of war in Iraq is ending for the United States.
Only 12,000 troops remain, down from a peak of about 170,000 at the war's
height. Virtually all are expected to be gone by the end of the year,
except for about 200 attached to the U.S. embassy. The end comes with
a high price tag: nearly 4,500 American dead, a bill approaching $1
Was it worth it? No one knows better than those who sacrificed in
some way. Their feelings are mixed.
This is, of course, a most minimal accounting. The tally of soldiers
doesn't include the mental stress and fractures. The cash accounting
doesn't anticipate future care costs for those soldiers, let alone the
interest due on the debts for financing the war without taxes. Neither
begins to contemplate the opportunity costs: what could have been done
with the money and people had we not squandered it in Iraq. Let alone
the political rot: would Bush and the Republicans have won the 2004
election without the war? If not, would the economy have been spared?
Moreover, the article makes no mention of how the war affected the
Iraqi people, as if no Iraqis were killed, none displaced, no property
destroyed, no damage to their economy. Nor did the author make any
efforts to find pluses to balance off the negatives. All you get is
the occasional mother's sentiment that her dead son must have meant
to do something good, or the conviction of a "lifer" that her "passion
runs so much deeper after going over there."
And the article draws no conclusion. It's easy to accept ambivalence
because history itself is always fraught with trade-offs, but doing so
means learning nothing and allowing past mistakes to be reiterated time
and again in the future. But this isn't an unanswerable question: even
if you factor in every positive you can imagine, it is clear that this
war was wrong from the start, a disaster that could never be spun into
something worth the price. Failure to acknowledge that lets those who
launched it off the hook, and makes it all the more likely that such
mistakes will be reiterated in the future.
Douglas Birch: U.S., Iran Locked in Secret War: The web article
has a less provocative title -- "Loss of plane peels back layer in
US-Iran spying" -- but the paper title makes the key point: we have
locked ourselves into a long-term, self-escalating war with Iran,
for no particular reason other than a clash of attitudes. The US
feels no compunction about flying spy aircraft anywhere over Iran.
Iran, on the other hand, feels that its sovereignty is violated by
such flights. (The US would no doubt feel the same if the shoe were
on the other foot; thankfully, "American exceptionalism" exempts
the US from the notion that etiquette and ethics should bind any
two countries equally.)
Iran has charged the U.S. or its allies with waging a campaign of
cyberwarfare and sabotage, and of assassinating some Iranian scientists.
The U.S. has accused the Iranian government of helping kill U.S. troops
in Afghanistan and plotting to murder the Saudi ambassador in Washington.
"It's beginning to look like there's a thinly-veiled, increasingly
violent, global cloak-and-dagger game afoot," Thomas Donnelly, a former
government official and military expert with the American Enterprise
Institute, said at a Washington conference.
The covert operations in play are "much bigger than people appreciate,"
said Stephen Hadley, former national security adviser under President
George W. Bush. "But the U.S. needs to be using everything it can."
Hadley said that if Iran continues to defy U.N. resolutions and doesn't
curb its nuclear ambitions, the quiet conflict "will only get nastier."
[ . . . ]
Iran protested Friday to the United Nations about what it described
as "provocative and covert operations" by the U.S. The Tehran government
called the flight by the drone a "blatant and unprovoked air violation"
that was "tantamount to an act of hostility."
American officials said Friday that U.S. intelligence assessments
indicate that Iran played no role in the downing, either by shooting
it down or using electronic or cybertechnology to force it from the sky.
They contended the drone malfunctioned. The officials spoke on condition
of anonymity in order to discuss the classified program.
US-Iranian hostility dates back to the 1979 revolution against the
Shah, or more properly back to the 1953 CIA coup that overthrew a
democratic Iranian government installed a dictatorship under the Shah.
To prevent the CIA from fomenting a countercoup, Iranian students
took over the US embassy and held its staff hostage for over a year --
a rather embarrassing moment for the world's great superpower. Ever
since then the US has carried a grudge, but what's made it worse has
been Israel's decision to target Iran as its great existential threat,
beginning in the late 1990s -- way after the revolution, and indeed
much after the revolution started showing signs of moderation -- with
a series of faulty predictions that Iran would develop nuclear arms
"within five years." Israeli pressure stepped up considerably in 2009
when Obama took office and promised to work on a peace settlement
between Israel and the Palestinians. Since then Obama caved in to
Israeli demands, aided by an election (probably fraud-influenced) in
Iran that found anti-American rhetoric to be politically convenient.
So now, with hard-liners secure in Tehran, Jerusalem, and Washington,
we see this "cold war" redux. (If only some journalist had the
gumption to decry it as farce instead of tragedy!) Comparisons to
the U2 shot down over Russia in 1960 are à propos, but Iran doesn't
have the resources (or most likely the desire) to reply by stationing
missiles in Cuba. Indeed, Iran's relative vulnerability is what makes
this situation so dangerous: if only they did have nuclear weapons
Washington's warmongers wouldn't be bragging that "all options are
on the table."
Erica Werner: Obama Makes His Move to the Middle: Original title:
"Obama decides high-profile issues ahead of 2012."
On issues from air pollution to contraception, President Barack Obama
has broken sharply with liberal activists and come down on the side of
business interests and social conservatives as he moves more to the
political middle for his re-election campaign.
Without a Democratic challenger who might tug him to the left,
Obama is free to try to neutralize Republican efforts to tar him as
a liberal ideologue by taking steps toward the political center.
That, of course, is where he's always wanted to be. Werner, like
the Republicans, tries to make something of the decision to delay
the Canadian shale oil pipeline until after the election as some
sort of way of triangulating pro-environment interests, but misses
the most important point. Had Obama approved the pipeline, Bill
McKibben and company would still be protesting, and not just in
some general sense against the oil lobby but specifically against
Obama. In many ways Occupy Wall Street works in Obama's favor in
that it focuses attention on the banks' ability to manipulate
polticians of every stripe, making Obama's own exceedingly modest
gestures as reform seem downright reasonable. But the pipeline
was too clear cut an issue, and McKibben is so convinced of the
utter folly of digging up the world's largest shale oil deposit
and converting it to atmospheric carbon dioxide that he was never
going to drop the issue, least of all for the convenience of
Obama's reëlection campaign -- so the real story here is score
one for the protesters.
While we're still on the Eagle, here's Richard Crowson's editorial
cartoon this week (more on Gingrich below):
Mike Konczal: Frank Luntz, Occupy and the Battle for Economic Freedom:
Last week, Republican strategist and wordsmith Frank Luntz shared his
concerns about the Occupy movement with a group of Republican governors
in Florida. "I'm so scared of this anti-Wall Street effort. I'm frightened
to death . . . They're having an impact on what the American
people think of capitalism." Chris Moody wrote a
must-read article on the matter, including the ten dos and don'ts
that Luntz suggested to his audience.
As Seth Ackerman
pointed out, there's an entire industry around Democrats and liberals
trying to get an edge on Luntz with even more carefully polled wordplay.
However, by talking directly about the power of the 1 percent over our
lives, the broken political process, burdensome debts, and a collapsed
labor market, the Occupy movement has gotten Luntz's attention in a few
short months. As Ackerman puts it:
For twenty or thirty years, Democratic politicians . . .
have been paying what must amount to billions of dollars by now to
consultants, pollsters, and think tank gurus to tell them how to talk
to the public about inequality in some way that might spark sustained
public engagement . . . Then the Occupy movement comes
along and after two and a half months shifts the national consciousness
so palpably that Republican governors are scrambling to ask their
Rasputins how capitalism can be defended to their constituents back
Luntz suggests 10 sets of words, phrases, and concepts to abandon
and has some easily defended ones to use instead. "Jobs" and "entrepreneur"
are out. "Careers" and "job creators" are in.
[ . . . ] Luntz suggests retreating to "economic
freedom" as an easily defensible phrase conservatives can use to
describe the economic status quo. This is astute, as there's been a
long, 30-year conservative project to locate freedom in the laissez-faire
It hasn't always been this way. [ . . . ]
Economic freedom as freedom from coercion was once a core part of
progressive thought. Economic freedom as economic security was a
central part of the New Deal and Roosevelt's four freedoms. And
economic freedom as freedom from domination in the workplace is
a central aspect of what unionization brings to the country. This
was thought of as essential to the lives of the individuals and
democracy itself -- as Samuel Gompers said, "Men and women cannot
live during working hours under autocratic conditions, and instantly
become sons and daughters of freedom as they step outside the shop
Paul Krugman: Things That Never Happened in the History of Macroeconomics:
Mark Thoma, David Warsh
finally says what
someone needed to say: Friedrich Hayek is not an important figure in
the history of macroeconomics.
These days, you constantly see articles that make it seem as if there
was a great debate in the 1930s between Keynes and Hayek, and that this
debate has continued through the generations. As Warsh says, nothing like
this happened. Hayek essentially made a fool of himself early in the Great
Depression, and his ideas vanished from the professional discussion.
So why is his name invoked so much now? Because The Road to Serfdom
struck a political chord with the American right, which adopted Hayek as
a sort of mascot -- and retroactively inflated his role as an economic
thinker. Warsh is even crueler about this than I would have been; he
compares Hayek (or rather the "Hayek" invented by his admirers) to Rosie
Ruiz, who claimed to have won the marathon, but actually took the subway
to the finish line.
Paul Krugman: Send in the Clueless:
On the Republican presidential race:
So what kind of politician can meet these basic G.O.P. requirements?
There are only two ways to make the cut: to be totally cynical or
Mitt Romney embodies the first option. He's not a stupid man; he
knows perfectly well, to take a not incidental example, that the Obama
health reform is identical in all important respects to the reform he
himself introduced in Massachusetts -- but that doesn't stop him from
denouncing the Obama plan as a vast government takeover that is nothing
like what he did. He presumably knows how to read a budget, which means
that he must know that defense spending has continued to rise under the
current administration, but this doesn't stop him from pledging to
reverse Mr. Obama's "massive defense cuts."
Mr. Romney's strategy, in short, is to pretend that he shares the
ignorance and misconceptions of the Republican base. He isn't a stupid
man -- but he seems to play one on TV.
Unfortunately from his point of view, however, his acting skills
leave something to be desired, and his insincerity shines through. So
the base still hungers for someone who really, truly believes what
every candidate for the party's nomination must pretend to believe.
Yet as I said, the only way to actually believe the modern G.O.P.
catechism is to be completely clueless.
And that's why the Republican primary has taken the form it has,
in which a candidate nobody likes and nobody trusts has faced a series
of clueless challengers, each of whom has briefly soared before imploding
under the pressure of his or her own cluelessness. Think in particular
of Rick Perry, a conservative true believer who seemingly had everything
it took to clinch the nomination -- until he opened his mouth.
As for Newt Gingrich, he seems to be able to weather his insincerity
better than Romney while making more of his cluelessness than Perry.
(Krugman: "And my sense is that he's also very good at doublethink --
that even when he knows what he's saying isn't true, he manages to
believe it while he's saying it.") So he may be not so much what the
party faithful desires as the best they can do.
Also see Krugman's
All the G.O.P.'s Gekkos (as in Wall Street's "greed is good"
Gordon Gekko), although the only real contender there is Romney:
The Los Angeles Times recently surveyed the record of Bain Capital, the
private equity firm that Mr. Romney ran from 1984 to 1999. As the report
notes, Mr. Romney made a lot of money over those years, both for himself
and for his investors. But he did so in ways that often hurt ordinary
Bain specialized in leveraged buyouts, buying control of companies
with borrowed money, pledged against those companies' earnings or assets.
The idea was to increase the acquired companies' profits, then resell
them. [ . . . ]
So Mr. Romney made his fortune in a business that is, on balance, about
job destruction rather than job creation. And because job destruction hurts
workers even as it increases profits and the incomes of top executives,
leveraged buyout firms have contributed to the combination of stagnant
wages and soaring incomes at the top that has characterized America since
Now I've just said that the leveraged buyout industry as a whole has
been a job destroyer, but what about Bain in particular? Well, by at least
one criterion, Bain during the Romney years seems to have been especially
hard on workers, since four of its top 10 targets by dollar value ended up
going bankrupt. (Bain, nonetheless, made money on three of those deals.)
That's a much higher rate of failure than is typical even of companies
going through leveraged buyouts -- and when the companies went under,
many workers ended up losing their jobs, their pensions, or both.
For more on Gingrich, see
Alex Pareene: Newt Gingrich Will Babble His Way to the White House:
What Newt is good at -- and it's the exact thing Romney is awful at --
is defending himself against charges of apostasy. Gingrich has been all
over the political spectrum during his career, but when you try to nail
him on some sort of offense against conservative orthodoxy, he talks
his way out of it. Glenn Beck says Gingrich compared himself to Teddy
Roosevelt, lately a "Progressive" villain. Gingrich responds with a
history lesson and a defense of very basic public safety regulations
that no one would argue with. Beck criticizes Gingrich's support for
ethanol subsidies, Gingrich responds with crowd-pleasing nationalism
about competitiveness with Saudi Arabia and Venezuela and a bit of
When directly confronted with his attack on Paul Ryan's Medicare
plan, an attack that almost ended his campaign before it began,
Gingrich defended himself by saying that he was right and also he'd
vote for Ryan's plan.
Saturday, December 10, 2011
Rhapsody Streamnotes (December 2011)
Pick up text here.
Thursday, December 08, 2011
A Downloader's Diary (17): December 2011
Insert text from here.
This is the 17th installment, monthly since August 2010, totalling
428 albums. All columns are indexed and archived
here. You can follow A Downloader's
Facebook, and on
Wednesday, December 07, 2011
Jazz Critics Poll Ballot
Due tomorrow, December 8. I always put this off, thinking I'll find
something new -- I inevitably do, but on average it takes me two weeks
or so, so I'm doomed to failure, but might as well go ahead.
Your name and primary affiliation(s) (no more than two, please):
Tom Hull (tomhull.com, Village Voice)
Your choices for 2011's ten best new releases (albums released
between Thanksgiving 2010 and Thanksgiving 2011, give or take), listed
in descending order one-through-ten.
- Dan Raphael/Rich Halley/Carson Halley: Children of the Blue Supermarket (Pine Eagle)
- Avram Fefer/Eric Revis/Chad Taylor: Eliyahu (Not Two)
- Allen Lowe: Blues and the Empirical Truth (Music & Arts)
- Muhal Richard Abrams: SoundDance (Pi)
- Matt Lavelle: Goodbye New York, Hello World (Music Now!)
- Abdullah Ibrahim & Ekaya: Sotho Blue (Sunnyside)
- Sonny Rollins: Road Shows Vol. 2 (Doxy/Emarcy)
- Ellery Eskelin Trio: New York (Prime Source)
- Ted Rosenthal: Out of This World (Playscape)
- De Nazaten & James Carter: For Now (Strotbrocck)
Your top-three reissues, again listed in descending order
- Duke Ellington: Meets Coleman Hawkins/And John Coltrane (1962, Impulse)
- Archie Shepp: For Losers/Kwanza (1968-69, Impulse)
- Billy Bang's Survival Ensemble: Black Man's Blues/New York Collage (1977-78, NoBusiness, 2CD)
Your choice for the year's best vocal album
- Charles Lloyd Quartet with Maria Farantouri: Athens Concert (ECM)
Your choice for the year's best debut CD
- Carlo De Rosa's Cross-Fade: Brain Dance (Cuneiform)
Your choice for the year's best Latin jazz CD
- Alexis Cuadrado: Noneto Ibérico (Bju'ecords)
I feel the usual problems with the specialty categories. I assume
Farantouri is eligible (and appropriate), despite Lloyd's name first.
Otherwise: Eliane Elias: Light My Fire (Concord), or
Deborah Pearl: Souvenir of You (Evening Star). De Rosa's
debut relies heavily on veterans Mark Shim and Vijay Iyer. For a
fresher debut, try Andrew Atkinson: Live (self-released),
or Pearl, or Inzinzac (High Two). And once again
I've ducked real Latin jazz, going for the Spanish Cuadrado
(over the Brazilian Elias). For real Latin jazz I'd have to dip
into the B+ range to pick Mambo Legends Orchestra: ¡Ten
Cuidado! Watch Out! (Zoho), barely over Bobby Sanabria:
Tito Puente Masterworks Live!!! (Jazzheads).
I'll also note that Bang wasn't really my 3rd highest rated
reissue, but I didn't feel like going for a third Impulse twofer
(Sonny Rollins: On Impulse/There Will Never Be Another You
is the one that got bumped, which actually I have above Shepp). For one
thing, it exposes how few reissues I get these days. But also the early
Bang material is what compilers should be looking for.
Tuesday, December 06, 2011
Recycled Goods (92): December 2011
New Recycled Goods: pick up text
Total review count: 3120.
Christgau reviewed the Roots: Undun -- nice to get that out
on release day, but only a B+.
For what little it's worth, I just folded metacritic.com's data for
this weeks releases into my file, and Black Keys edged The Roots 20-17
(including the B+ here but not yet there). These are most likely the
last releases this year likely to make any sort of run at the
already-appearing end-of-year lists, and they certainly don't have the
uplift that Kanye West had last year. (The West-Z record sits at 42 on
my list, just ahead of Wild Flag and Girls.) Black Keys and Roots
wound up 8 and 21 last year, and will probably suffer for their late
releases this year.
Looks like there is virtually no crossover hip-hop this year:
Shabazz Palaces and Beastie Boys in top 20, Watch the Throne
and Undun might crack top 40, maybe Drake too. Of course, most
of the fun stuff is way down the list, surrounded by stuff that's no
fun at all. Hottest new record I've noticed from the lists (but
haven't heard yet) is ASAP Rocky: Liveloveasap (with $
scattered liberally therein).
Monday, December 05, 2011
Music: Current count 19093  rated (+32), 831  unrated (-9).
Some of this, some of that. Can't remember, really.
Jazz Prospecting (JCG #28, Part 16)
Still don't have much of anything fit to print about the status
much less future of Jazz Consumer Guide. The Village Voice did finally
cough up a kill fee for not running the 27th column, which they have
been sitting on since June. I'm thinking I'll post it sometime in
the next week or so, but I also have a lot of more timely posts to
clean up: December's Recycled Goods and A Downloader's Diary, plus
a relatively short but year-end timely Rhapsody Streamnotes. I also
have to write a year-end piece for Rhapsody to post along with the
Jazz Critics Poll that Francis Davis is continuing despite the
disinterest of the Village Voice. I will also, once again, collate
and host the individual critics ballots, and that's another sizable
chunk of work on my plate.
I was thinking I'd suspend Jazz Prospecting, but as I think
about it that doesn't seem possible either. I'm late posting today
because I've been trying to squeeze in notes on more records --
if not for Jazz CG, for the year-end piece -- and I got more to
go, and I've yet to figure out how to manage my post Jazz CG work
for some sort of blog. So I'll have to keep doing what I've been
doing until I figure out some better way to do it. Ugh!
Did find some relatively good records over the last two weeks.
Geri Allen: A Child Is Born (2011, Motéma Music):
Solo piano/organ/clavinet/Fender Rhodes, plus "vocal soundscape
engineering and design" on one track, other voices on two more.
Christmas music more or less, mostly attributed to Trad. with
two originals added. Sometimes the mind drifts aimlessly, but
it's hard to disguise pieces like "We Three Kings" and "Little
Harry Allen: Rhythm on the River (2011, Challenge):
Thirteen "river" songs, two by Hoagy Carmichael, the only one without
"river" in the title is "Roll On, Mississippi, Roll On" although the
musty old Stephen Foster "Old Folks at Home" had to reach into the
parents for "Swanee River" -- wonder how they missed "Old Man River"?
The band gets such a charge on the four songs joined by Warren Vaché
and his cornet that Allen's quartet sounds down at first. Eventually
that pays off in drawing out the tenor saxophonist's sumptous balad
Charlie Apicella & Iron City: Sparks (2009
, Carlo Music): Guitar-organ trio, with Apicella on guitar,
Dave Mattock on organ, and Alan Korzin on drums. Second album.
He's studied with Dave Stryker, but he's basically a Grant Green
guy -- wrote 3 of 8 tunes, covering Green, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Lou
Donaldson, Steve Cropper/Don Covay, and Michael Jackson -- he's
a lightweight, but the latter was tastier than anything on Joey
DeFrancesco's Jackson tome. Five cuts add Stephen Riley on tenor
sax, to little effect. Two cuts add a violinist (John Blake or
Amy Bateman), and that's something worth exploring further.
The Dave Brubeck Quartet: Last Time Out: December 26,
1967 (1967 , Columbia/Legacy, 2CD): Unofficial tape,
probably off the soundboard, found in a closet and dusted off.
Brubeck had announced his brief retirement to start at the end
of 1967, but in most regards this just extended the hundred-plus
concerts the Quartet had given during the year. A long running,
immensely popular group, With Paul Desmond, the alto saxophonist
who had given the Quartet its signature sound since 1951, drummer
Joe Morello and bassist Eugene Wright, who had joined in 1956 and
1958 respectively. Lots of interesting stuff, ending in a "Take
Five" that leaps right off the stage.
Bryan and the Haggards: Still Alive and Kickin' Down the
Walls (2011, Hot Cup): Second group album, not what I'd
call enough longevity to justify the title. Two saxophonists --
Bryan Murray and Jon Irabagon, doubling up on tin whistle and
penny whistle respectively -- plus John Lundbom on guitar (and
banjo), Moppa Elliott on bass, and Danny Fischer on drums. Six
songs written by Merle Haggard, plus two he's sung a lot ("San
Antonio Rose" and "Sing a Sad Song"), with avant vamps -- the
opening "Ramblin' Fever" is a real workout; great shtick, but
"If We Make It Through December" gets stuck on Irabagon's
clarinet and wobbles on for 10:05, making one doubt that we will.
Dead Cat Bounce: Chance Episodes (2010 ,
Cuneiform): Basically, a saxophone quartet (Matt Steckler, Jared
Sims, Terry Goss, Charlie Kohlhase) plus bass (Dave Ambrosio)
and drums (Bill Carbone). Fourth album since 1998. The quartet
are just creditd with saxophones and woodwinds, and I don't
know them well enough to pick them out from the photo (except
that I figure Kohlhase for the baritone). Steckler wrote all
the pieces, liner notes too. I've always had problems with the
monophonic tones and limited harmonics of sax quartets, but the
bass seems to tie them all together, as well as pick up the pace,
and this group is really impressive when they pick up a full head
Dave Douglas: Rare Metals [Greenleaf Portable Series Volume
1] (2011, Greenleaf Music): One of three new albums, each
with different groups pursuing different facets of Douglas's art.
This is Brass Ecstasy -- four brass horns, Vincent Chancey on French
horn, Luis Bonilla on trombone, Marcus Rojas on tuba, and Douglas
on trumpet, along with Nasheet Waits on drums. Third recent album
by the group. Five originals, starting with a piece called "Town
Hall" that brings the old brass band era back to life, but even
more striking is the lone cover, a decidedly ascetic "Lush Life."
Dave Douglas: Orange Afternoons [Greenleaf Portable Series
Volume 2] (2011, Greenleaf Music): Postbop quintet, with
stars Ravi Coltrane on sax and Vijay Iyer on piano, rising stars
Linda Oh on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums. All Douglas originals.
The sort of thing Douglas did a lot of a decade ago -- and which
I found annoying more often than not, ultimately throwing my hands
up and figuring I'm just not smart enough to follow him. Not sure
which of us is mellowing out, but I will note that neither Coltrane
nor Iyer break out, which must mean they're pinned down by the
Dave Douglas/So Percussion: Bad Mango [Greenleaf Portable
Series Volume 3] (2011, Greenleaf Music): So Percussion is
a quartet -- Josh Quillen, Adam Sliwinski, Jason Treuting, and Eric
Beach -- postclassical in orientation (Steve Reich's Drumming
was their second album), although like Kronos Quartet they like to
circulate. Ten or more albums since 2004. This is their most obvious
jazz connection, and their group dynamics are so tight I'm tempted
to call this a trumpet-percussion duo. Good spot for Douglas to let
it fly, and the opening "One More News" makes good of that.
Werner Hasler/Karl Berger/Gilbert Paeffgen:
Hasler/Paeffgen/Berger (2010 , NoBusiness):
Hasler plays trumpet and dabbles in electronics; b. 1969, based
in Switzerland, has a couple previous records. Berger plays vibes;
he goes back a long ways (b. 1935 in Germany). Paeffgen is a
drummer, b. 1958 in Germany, based in Switzerland. The vibes
gives this a light and slippery background, against which the
trumpet is meticulously etched. The electronics helps, too.
Kieran Hebden/Steve Reid/Mats Gustafsson: Live at the
South Bank (2009 , Smalltown Superjazz, 2CD):
Hebden does laptronica under the name Four Tet, and is something
of a star as those things go. Somehow he hooked up with Reid --
a drummer, had a couple of obscure but quite good 1970s avant
records, plus a resume that includes Motown, James Brown, and
Fela Kuti; sadly, Reid died in 2010, a couple years into a very
productive comeback. Gustafsson is a Norwegian saxophonist --
plays tenor and baritone, not specified which here but sounds
like mostly bari -- has a group called the Thing, plays a lot
with Ken Vandermark and a little with Sonic Youth. He can be
unbearably noisy, but holds to an interesting range here,
adding soulful depth to the blips and beats. Length 82:55.
Julius Hemphill/Peter Kowald: Live at Kassiopeia
(1987 , NoBusiness, 2CD): New old music from two dead guys,
likely to be missed if you have any idea who they are, and all the
more poignant for being so intimate. Kowald is the German
bassist of the 20th century, always intriguing, not least solo --
his solo Was Da Ist is a Penguin Guide crown album. Hemphill
was an alto saxophonist, best known for his harmonic explorations
with the World Saxophone Quartet and Five Chord Stud, which
left him underappreciated as a solo player. First disc here is all
solo: three 6-8 minute ones by Hemphill, a 32:20 by Kowald. They
feel like studies, something slightly above practice, nice examples
of each one's art. Second disc brings them together in three duos,
where they start out distinct and gradually merge. I'm sentimental
enough to be tempted to rate this higher, but Hemphill plays a lot
of soprano sax here, I haven't compared this to such similar fare
as his duo Live in New York with cellist Abdul K. Wadud,
and I'm unlikely to return to the solos -- although Kowald's is
probably a better intro than the daunting Wa Das Ist.
Ig Henneman Sextet: Cut a Caper (2010 ,
Stichting Wig): Dutch viola player, b. 1945, from Haarlem. Her
website lists 15 albums since 1981 -- the first two as FC Gerania,
two more as Queen Mab Trio. The Sextet has no drums, giving it a
chamber feel, but lots of options: Ab Baars (tenor sax, clarinet,
shakuhachi), Axel Dörner (trumpet), Lori Freedman (bass clarinet,
clarinet), Wilbert De Joode (bass), and Marilyn Lerner (piano).
Difficult terrain, but Baars is as sure-footed as I've ever heard
him, and Lerner's piano themes always get your attention, perhaps
to regroup from the horns.
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (2008 , ACT):
Alto saxophonist, grew up in US, picked up his Indian roots on the
rebound, as is so often the case. Cites Charlie Parker as influence,
of course, but also Grover Washington, David Sanborn, the Brecker
Brothers, and the Yellowjackets -- guess you had to be there, but he
does try to fold his more complex ideas back into neatly accessible
packages. Also credited with laptop here. Band includes electric
guitar, electric bass, and drums, giving him a slicked back fusion
sound, but also "Anand" Anantha Krishnan on mridangam and kanjira,
reminding you how he's different.
Joe McPhee/Michael Zerang: Creole Gardens (A New Orleans
Song) (2009 , NoBusiness): Another case where one's
reaction to the Katrina catastrophe was to keep doing what one does
anyway, although one could credit the tragedy with moderating McPhee,
keeping his tone in check, somber and studied. He is brilliant both
on alto sax and pocket trumpet. Zerang drums along, accenting and
encouraging, doing all he needs to do.
Wadada Leo Smith's Mbira: Dark Lady of the Sonnets
(2007 , TUM): For such an uncompromising avant-gardist, Smith
has been remarkably catholic recently, working in all sorts of combos
and forms. No mbira here (although it's a song title): trio consists
of Min Xiao-Fen, from Nanjing, China, who plays pipa, and Pheroan
akLaff on drums. Min has several albums -- traditional Chinese and
classical, I gather. She provides an exotic twist here, but doesn't
settle into a consistent role, so she mostly serves to set Smith
Jason Stein Quartet: The Story This Time (2011,
Delmark): Bass clarinetist, b. 1976 in Long Island, studied at
Bennington (Charles Gayle, Milford Graves) and Michigan, wound
up in Chicago where he hooked into one of Ken Vandermark's less
successful projects (Bridge 61). Has three trio albums as Locksmith
Isidore, each step showing growth, and a Solo that ain't
bad for that sort of thing. Adds a second, sharper horn to get
a quartet -- Keefe Jackson on tenor sax and contrabass clarinet --
along with Joshua Abrams on bass and Frank Rosaly on drums. The
sax works with and against the bass clarinet.
John Surman: Flashpoint: NDR Workshop - April '69
(1969 , Cuneiform, CD+DVD): The middle of a very rich period
for the 25-year-old soprano/baritone saxophonist, coming out of
Mike Westbrook's group, leading The Trio (with Barre Phillips and
Stu Martin), his first album under his own name just out and his
big band Tales of the Algonquin in the near future, and
(this and) other projects falling through the cracks. His NDR
workshop assembled four reeds (Surman, Alan Skidmore on tenor sax
and flute, Ronnie Scott on tenor sax, Mike Osborne on alto sax),
Kenny Wheeler (trumpet, flugelhorn), two trombones (Malcolm Griffiths
and Eric Kleinschuefer), piano (Fritz Pauer), bass (Harry Miller),
and drums (Alan Jackson). Five pieces: the two featuring Surman's
soprano are irresistible vamps, as is the closer after they get
past their everyone-raise-hell patch at the beginning. The slower
pieces have more trouble gaining traction, although there are
crackling solos here and there. The DVD is a straight b&w
take of the album -- probably a rehearsal but close to the final
These are some even quicker notes based on downloading or streaming
records. I don't have the packaging here, don't have the official hype,
often don't have much information to go on. I have a couple of extra
rules here: everything gets reviewed/graded in one shot (sometimes with
a second play), even when I'm still guessing on a grade; the records go
into my flush file (i.e., no Jazz CG entry, unless I make an exception
for an obvious dud). If/when I get an actual copy I'll reconsider the
Søren Kjaergaard/Ben Street/Andrew Cyrille: Femklang
(2011, ILK): Pianist, b. 1978 in Denmark; co-founded the label, has
a dozen or so albums since 2001. This is the third with Street (bass)
and Cyrille (drums).
Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris: Broken Partials (2010 ,
Not Two): Piano-bass duo. Shipp is one of the few pianists I can follow
all the way down to solo, probably because his attack remains so sharp,
but also the flow of his lines makes sense. Morris is best known as a
guitarist, but is warm and supportive on bass, and shows more edge
than I expected when he gets the lead.
Sonore: Cafe Oto/London (2011, Trost): Free sax trio:
Peter Brötzmann (alto/tenor sax, clarinet, tarogato), Ken Vandearmark
(tenor sax, clarinet), Mats Gustafsson (baritone sax). Fourth album
for group, although each has played with one or both of the others
many times. Each wrote one piece; the fourth is jointly attributed,
which usually means improvised on the spot. Even at 38:42 the noise
can be wearing, especially since each horn has the same palette to
Miguel Zenón: Alma Adentro: The Puerto Rican Songbook
(2011, Marsalis Music): Alto saxophonist, MacArthur Fellowship genius,
seventh album since 2002, third specifically targeting the music of his
native Puerto Rico. Tremendous player, his sax repeatedly soaring above
his fine quartet -- Luis Perdomo (piano), Hans Glawischnig (bass), and
Henry Cole (drums). I'm less pleased with the 10-piece wind ensemble
conducted by Guillermo Klein -- flutes, clarinets, oboe, bassoon, both
French and English horns -- that sometimes broadens the sound sweep
and sometimes just warbles in the interstices.
No final grades/notes this week on records put back for further
listening the first time around.
Some corrections and further notes on recent prospecting:
Freddy V: Easier Than It Looks (2008 , Watersign):
Two mistakes here: I associated Fred Vigdor's old Average White Band
with the Southern rock of the 1970s when in fact the band hailed from
Scotland. I also misidentified Mo Pleasure as the name of another Vigdor
band; actually, Mo[rris] Pleasure started out playing bass for Ray
Charles, and has since worked with Earth Wind & Fire and Michael
Jackson -- well, also Najee.
For this cycle's collected Jazz Prospecting notes to date for this
round, look here.
Unpacking: Found in the mail over the last two weeks:
- Harry Allen: Rhythm on the River (Challenge)
- Gerry Beaudoin: The Return (Francesca): Jan. 30
- Tim Berne: Snakeoil (ECM): advance, Feb. 7
- Marco Cappelli: In the Shadow of No Towers (Mode)
- François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin: All Out (FMR)
- The Descendents [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack] (Sony Masterworks)
- Joe Fielder Trio: Sacred Chrome Orb (YSL)
- Danny Fox Trio: The One Constant (Songlines)
- Volker Goetze Orchestra: NY 10027 (G*Records)
- Aaron Goldberg/Ali Jackson/Omer Avital: Yes! (Sunnyside): Jan. 17
- Taylor Haskins: Recombination (19/8)
- In One Wind: How Bright a Shadow! (Primary)
- Rudresh Mahanthappa: Samdhi (ACT)
- Youn Sun Nah: Same Girl (ACT)
- Sam Pannunzio: Goin' Home (Eastside Jazz)
- Dan Tepfer: Goldberg Variations/Variations (Sunnyside)
- Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: Frère Jacques: Round About Offenbach (ECM)
- Anne Walsh: Go (self-released): Jan. 3
Sunday, December 04, 2011
Some scattered links I squirreled away during the previous week:
Steve Benen: Pick a Wet Blanket:
Quotes from an op-ed by the "six Republians from the failed super-committee,"
John Boehner, Susan Collins, and George Allen, all referring to the "wet
blanket" any increase in taxing the rich would place on the economy. It's
one of those focus-group-tested phrases that Republicans seem to have an
instant ability to align with. On the other hand, failing to extend Obama's
payroll tax cut, which would actually give hard-strapped workers more
spending cash, doesn't seem to merit a focus group. Benen sees this as
The Looming GOP Tax Hike:
The White House is eager, if not desperate, for the payroll break to
go through 2012, with projections showing weaker economic growth next
year without it. Republicans have balked and said they want taxes to
go up on practically all American workers in January because, well,
they haven't exactly explained why they want this. (To see how much
your taxes would go up if Republicans succeed, the White House has
put together an online calculator.)
And that leaves GOP lawmakers in an interesting position. On the
one hand, they're killing a super-committee deal because they refuse
to raise taxes on the wealthy in 2013. On the other hand -- indeed,
at the exact same time -- the identical Republicans have no qualms
about supporting a tax increase on practically every American who
earns a paycheck, which would kick in on Jan. 1, which is just six
Adam Davidson: The Dwindling Power of a College Degree:
Print version had the more evocative title: "When Did the Rules Change?"
And subhed: "It used to be that if you worked hard, you were guaranteed
a certain kind of life. There are reasons success is no longer a straight
shot." Of course, such rules never really existed, and they were never
applied universally. Still, this is enough part of conventional wisdom
that Davidson can start his article off quoting Obama and Romney speaking
in almost identical terms. What Davidson doesn't explain was that these
"old rules" were effectively a social contract, which not only promised
success to those who followed the regime but which limited the definition
of success to something most people could realistically aspire to: the
middle class, compared to which both upper and lower classes could be
considered freak occurrences, not quite real Americans. This was undone
in several assaults: first by the cult of the rich and famous (with its
attendant "greed is good" ideology) which ended the idolization of the
middle class, then by the economic strategies -- what Davidson calls
"the new rules" -- that picked apart the middle class, elevating some
and depressing most. The concept of education as a social escalator was
one such strategy. What made the concept plausible was the role that
expanding educational opportunity (e.g., through the GI bill) during
the post-WWII period of intense growth had on social mobility. But the
middle class was built from more basic stuff: the ideals of equality
and economic freedom promoted by the New Deal and WWII, and on a more
practical level, by the unionization of relatively uneducated workers.
The "new rules" didn't grow out of the diminishing returns of higher
education but the loss of commitment to living in an egalitarian,
economically just society. The "new rules" are the direct result of
finding ourselves in a world which celebrates the 1% while condeming
the 99% for whining. Davidson puts it this way:
A general guideline these days is that people are rewarded when they
can do things that take trained judgment and skill -- things, in other
words, that can't be done by computers or lower-wage workers in other
countries. Money now flows around the world so quickly, and technology
changes so fast, that people who thought they were in high demand find
themselves uprooted. Many newspaper reporters have learned that their
work was subsidized, in part, by classified ads and now can't survive
the rise of Craigslist; computer programmers have found out that some
smart young guys in India will do their jobs for much less. Meanwhile,
China lends so much money to the United States that mortgage brokers
and bond traders can become richer than they ever imagined for a few
years and then, just as quickly, become broke and unemployed.
One of the greatest changes is that a college degree is no longer
the guarantor of a middle-class existence. Until the early 1970s,
less than 11 percent of the adult population graduated from college,
and most of them could get a decent job. Today nearly a third have
college degrees, and a higher percentage of them graduated from
nonelite schools. A bachelor's degree on its own no longer conveys
intelligence and capability. To get a good job, you have to have
some special skill -- charm, by the way, counts -- that employers
value. But there's also a pretty good chance that by some point in
the next few years, your boss will find that some new technology or
some worker overseas can replace you.
Davidson writes like this is normal and inevitable, but in fact
it is political. The bottom line is that the owners don't need you,
and don't want you: you are replaceable. Sixty years ago was a very
different story: the elites couldn't fight and win WWII without you,
they couldn't grow the economy out of the Great Depression without
you, and as a result they felt obliged to treat you better, to make
you feel important, like you were part of a great national community.
They don't feel that anymore, and they don't care if society unravels
under their indifference. They have their gated communities, their
private security, their private schools, their police state, their
media control, a government bought and paid for. They don't need
you, and they don't want you, except maybe to grovel at their feet.
And if you don't like it, study more, and learn to grovel better.
Maybe they'll throw you a bone.
Mike Konczal: Unemployment Dips, but That Hardly Makes Up for a Lost
Year: The official unemployment rate dropped from 9 to 8.6 percent
while adding 120,000 new jobs. This sounds like good news, but the
numbers don't add up, as more and more people disappear from the
unemployment registers (as I did, quite some time ago).
In fact, over the past year, employment-to-population has stayed
consistently depressed. Every indicator we look at -- job openings,
the rate at which people quit their jobs for new opportunities, the
number of hours worked in the economy -- has stayed weak during 2011.
With job growth failing to exceed population growth each month, and
with no serious increase in the percent of Americans working, 2011
was a lost year for the economy.
Lost years for the economy have major consequences. Beyond the
human misery that results, they put the entire project of liberal
governance at risk. Choices made early by this administration
resulted in no advancement on three fronts that could bolster the
struggling economy: fiscal policy (increasing the deficit through
spending on investment and temporary tax cuts), monetary policy
(increasing the money supply to stimulate growth), and dealing
with the problems in the housing market.
Why? Konczal goes into fiscal policy at some length, but says
less about the other points. The big problem with the
Fed is that it's only structured to give money to banks, and has
(or takes) very little responsibility over what the banks do with
the money. (Mostly they've reverted to pre-crisis form, which is
good for their profit levels but bad for everyone else.) Housing
is also a problem that runs square up against the banks: writing
down underwater mortgage debt reflects badly on their balance
sheets, but targeting higher inflation to reduce the overhang
hurts them even worse. One of Obama's main failures is his
inability to imagine a world where the banking industry works
differently than it did pre-crisis -- or even to imagine a world
where the management of those banks has been rolled over.
Starting in late 2009, the Obama administration started framing our
economic crisis as a "dual deficit problem." In other words, the
administration wouldn't push for a larger short-term deficit --
spending more money to stimulate the weak economy, a key tenet of
Keynesian economics -- without also cutting the long-term deficit.
[ . . . ] So the administration spent much of
2011 engaging in the wrong analysis of the economy, one that looked
like that of the far right. Early in the year the administration
brought in new advisers, notably Bill Daley as chief of staff, in
order to repair relationships with business in the wake of financial
reform. This incorrectly diagnosed the problem as a liberal government
beating up on unappreciated job creators, instead of weak income and
mass unemployment among workers. In his 2011 State of the Union address,
Obama argued that we needed to "win the future" by investing in education
and bringing "discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy
since Dwight Eisenhower was president." Recent college graduates are
suffering from high unemployment and there's no real reason to worry
about government debt levels, but you wouldn't understand that from
During the debt ceiling showdown this past summer, when the
administration was trying to drum up support for long-term deficit
reduction, economic advisors like Gene Sperling argued that new
confidence in deficit reduction itself would help the economy,
ignoring the fact that the markets, with negative real interest
rates, were screaming for the government to run a bigger deficit.
Meanwhile, President Obama made references to "structural" issues
in the labor market, as if the pain of unemployment wasn't shared
broadly across all occupations, industries and types of workers.
Andrew Leonard: How Wall Street Occupied the Fed:
Bloomberg's fabulous report on the Federal Reserve Bank's
"secret" bailout of U.S. banks is an example of dogged enterprise
journalism at its very best. The Fed fought Bloomberg's Freedom of
Information Act requests to get details of its huge loan program all
the way to the Supreme Court. But Bloomberg prevailed, and on Sunday
night, the news organization published its long-awaited findings,
making it abundantly clear just how much the U.S. banking system --
and in particular, the six largest banks -- benefited from the Fed's
Just to put things in perspective, the Fed "committed $7.77 trillion
as of March 2009 to rescuing the financial system, more than half the
value of everything produced in the U.S. that year." That's also more
than 10 times the size of TARP -- the bailout administered by the U.S.
Treasury. It's no wonder that a long line of banking spokespeople and
financial institution CEOs refused to comment to Bloomberg for the
That $7.7 trillion figure is worth repeating again. I've read several
big estimates of how much money was lent out -- Nomi Prins had one of
the highest estimates, but if memory serves reality trumped her by more
than two times. Leonard continues:
The report is must reading for followers of the emerging history of the
financial crisis for obvious reasons. But tracking the reaction to the
revelations from some liberal commentators to the news has been intriguing.
Paul Krugman, Matthew Yglesias (newly ensconced at Slate), Mother Jones'
Kevin Drum and Mike Konczak at Rortybomb are all singing the same tune:
The problem, they say, is not that the Federal Reserve moved
heaven and earth to shovel trillions of dollars at the banking industry --
that, in fact, is exactly what you want the central bank to do in
the middle of a banking panic. That's how Great Depressions are prevented.
The outrage, they all agree, is that the same determination and all-in
blitzkrieg wasn't aimed at unemployment and the foreclosure mess and the
myriad woes affecting the rest of America. The 1 percent got a gift-wrapped
bonanza, while the 99 percent got the shaft. As soon as the financial panic
subsided and stock prices started to rise, policymakers started worrying
far more about inflation and deficits than actual human suffering.
Andrew Leonard: Are U.S. Corporations Good Citizens:
Starts with Milton Friedman in 1970, arguing that the only social
responsibility of corporations is to raise profits -- a sentiment
that sought to free corporations from public obligations, like
respect for the environment, their workers, their consumers, or
the nation as a whole.
What are our ethics? How do we want our corporations to behave? And
shouldn't we take our business elsewhere if we feel our values are
being trampled? Legally speaking, the corporation is an "artificial
person." The Supreme Court obviously believes that these artificial
people are true citizens insofar as their right to free speech -- in
the form of political advertising -- is concerned. But if corporations
are people too, with the rights that pertain thereto, shouldn't they
also bear some responsibility?
Alex Pareene: Newt Gingrich Talks About Inventive New Ways to Punish
Drug Users: This is the first thing I've read that makes me think
Gingrich might actually win the Republican nomination:
The thing reporters always loved about Newt Gingrich -- and the thing
that led many of them to mistake his free-associative rambling for
intellect -- is that he will just babble, at length, on any given
topic, to any reporter who'll listen. So Yahoo's Chris Moody chatted
with the unlikely GOP nomination front-runner at a Books-a-Million
in Florida, and Moody got Gingrich to go on for a while about drugs,
for some reason, which I'm guessing is not at the top of the Gingrich
campaign's list of issues to hit in interviews. (At the top of that
list is actually The Battle of the Crater, a powerful Civil
War historical novel by Gingrich and William F. Forstchen, available
now at fine booksellers everywhere.)
Here are Newt Gingrich's nuanced, compassionate drug policy ideas:
Constant drug testing for everyone (especially poor people) and stiff
"economic penalties" for use. (Yes, obviously, what poor people need
are more ways to incur economic penalties and more barriers to either
aid or employment. Newt Gingrich has so many IDEAS.) Also, the U.S.
should be more like Singapore, where people carrying enough drugs to
qualify for "trafficking" charges are put to death.
[ . . . .]
This self-contradictory word-salad leads Mike Riggs to call Newt
Gingrich a "nitwit," which seems unfair to perfectly harmless nitwits
After all, the last Republican the press was so in love with was
John McCain, and for much the same reasons: access and pseudo-candor
is all the press really demand (well, maybe a bit of entertainment
value). Past frontrunners like Trump and Cain were beneficiaries of
this same effect, but were intrinsically marginal and wore out their
welcome pretty fast. Most observers figured it's only a matter of
time before Gingrich hangs himself up saying something blindingly
stupid, but McCain and Bush did that regularly, and somehow never
had to pay for it.
On the other hand, when the media turns on you it's easy enough
to dig up embarrassing quotes and moments. The destruction of Howard
Dean in 2004 was tragic. Mopping up Herman Cain's campaign is much
more amusing -- see
Steve Benen: Don't Go Away Mad, Herman, Just Go Away.
Saturday, December 03, 2011
Ran across this today and it pinched a nerve:
Emma Mustich: Round Table: Are There Too Many "Best Of" Lists?
A couple paragraphs each from: Andrew O'Hehir (Salon: film), Robert
Christgau (rock), Rob Sheffield (rock), Jason Dietz (Metacritic),
Will Hermes (rock), Pamela Paul (books), Simon Reynolds (rock). The
rock critics all agree as to the usefullness of the aggregate results
of Christgau's Pazz & Jop Critics Poll, and they all testify to
their interest in what specific critics think. Sheffield points out
that the year-end lists are the one forum which forces critics to
think about the lasting value of records: "What I care about is how
it sounds to you in time, which is where music happens.
Sheffield sounds like he's happy to see the better lists; Christgau
is more inclined to bitch about the bad ones. He name checks me here --
not sure whether for better or worse, but at least he spelled my name
The only individual top 10s that interest me especially as a listener
and reviewer are by major critics, by the diminishing cohort whose tastes
run the way mine do, and by those with specialties in world music and
hip-hop, where I often run behind the curve. Aggregated lists -- notably
the Pazz & Jop Critics' Poll I started 40 years ago -- are of more
significance and use. I find the Pazz & Jop consensus, which sticks
to critics with recognizable gigs, more reliable than the online aggregates
compiled by my list-loving webmaster Tom Hull and now apparently Metacritic,
too. But it's usually in the lower reaches of the polls that I occasionally
For whatever it's worth, my main list is
Metacritic has collected, weighed, and aggregated grades longer than
I have, making some sort of business out of it. I draw on their data,
but also collect a lot more. Even in the case of their data I present
it differently, because my interests are somewhat different, and also
because I don't quite agree with their methods. I'm less interested
than they are in the opinions of others -- not completely uninterested,
because I'm not completely uncurious about popular sensibilities, but
I mostly use the lists to find prospects, and as such it's tweaked a
bit toward finding things I want to find. I do, for instance, follow
everything Metacritic follows, but I also add in a few jazz sources,
plus some other roots, hip-hop, and electronica sources (but not much
metal, which has at least as narrowly developed genre following). In
practice, this doesn't have much impact on the top 100-200 records
on the list, but it does cause names to register further down that
Metacritic never gets to.
Also, my system is a practical compromise. It would work better
if I kept much more data -- especially per-reviewer as opposed to
just per-publisher -- but that would be a lot more work. If I had
such data we could start running similarity comparisons between
reviewers, making it easier to discover affinity networks -- you
probably know a few reviewers you find useful, as many panelists
noted. I don't weigh my data; I simply establish cutoff grades per
publication and count everything above that threshold. Weighted
data would probably be more useful for predicting weighted polls
like Pazz & Jop. P&J predictability would also improve
if my sample more closely matched their sample -- we know, for
instance, that my list is more UK-oriented, and also that it
tends slightly to underrate black music (relative to P&J,
which arguably underrates it even more).
Many other programmatic things could be done to make the file
more useful. It would be nice to be able to select a set of pubs
and thereby recalculate the file. Or labels. Drop the EPs or
present only them. If you grab the
raw data file you shouldn't
have too much trouble loading it into a relational database where
you can make ad hoc queries. (For that matter, you might get more
flexibility loading it into a spreadsheet.) I've done a little bit
of programming to select genre-specific sublists, but not much. I
thought about hiding the backup data and making it visible on demand,
but never worked out the coding to do so. Maybe later.
Actually, the line that cut closer to home was Sheffield's:
"I really don't give a giraffe's nads what anyone, even myself,
thinks of a new album after one listen, or half a listen, or a
third of a listen." That seems like qualified data to me -- not
what you'd get with multiple careful listens, but snap reactions
often prove right, and I'd rather have more data than less --
at least that's why I'm (usually) willing to commit myself after
a single play. (I almost never stop early, although I was sorely
tempted by a Bill Orcutt solo guitar album last night.)
My basic answer to the title question is: well, sure, if you
count all the bad ones; throw those out and one can argue that
there aren't enough. I find that there are three major problems
with year-end music lists: 1) they come out too soon to really
align with the year's production -- I'd wait until March, maybe
April to start tallying; 2) they're too short -- since my main
interest is in prospecting for good records, I'd like to see
all the records a critic feels like recommending (in rank, even
if somewhat arbitrary, order); 3) I'd like to see an indication
of how broad the critic's record sample is -- how many records
did one hear, and what was the genre (or better still, label)
breakdown? As for Christgau's beloved "recognizable gigs" I've
often wondered how those people stand up against serious independent
bloggers. Those "recognizable gigs" should offer more access, but
it's often hard to tell just from their ballots.
For whatever it may be worth, this is how my metacritic file ranks
the top twenty albums of 2011. Ties (e.g., Bon Iver and PJ Harvey)
are resolved alphabetically. Harvey has a pronounced UK bias, so I'd
expect her to slip in P&J. I also expect TV on the Radio and Paul
Simon to move up there. Tune-Yards is a contender for the top slot.
I don't much care for the record (tried to beg a copy but couldn't),
but most of the people who do like it love it a lot. St. Vincent and
Wilco are probably undercounted here (late releases); same for Tom
Waits just shy of the list. The new Roots album is way down, not out
until next week.
- Bon Iver: Bon Iver (Jagjaguwar)
- PJ Harvey: Let England Shake (Vagrant)
- Fleet Foxes: Helplessness Blues (Sub Pop)
- Tune-Yards: Whokill (4AD)
- James Blake: James Blake (Atlas/A&M)
- Destroyer: Kaputt (Merge)
- TV on the Radio: Nine Types of Light (Interscope)
- Fucked Up: David Comes to Life (Matador)
- Shabazz Palaces: Black Up (Sub Pop)
- Beastie Boys: Hot Sauce Committee Part Two (Capitol)
- Wild Beasts: Smother (Domino)
- Lykke Li: Wounded Rhymes (Atlantic)
- St Vincent: Strange Mercy (4AD)
- Yuck: Yuck (Fat Possum)
- Battles: Gloss Drop (Warp)
- Radiohead: The King of Limbs (XL)
- Paul Simon: So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music)
- Wilco: The Whole Love (Anti-)
- Gang Gang Dance: Eye Contact (4AD)
- Iron and Wine: Kiss Each Other Clean (4AD)
Again, as Christgau said, the real finds are way down. I have
no idea how to do the math, but you can look at the data. His A-list
records are pretty much randomly distributed over the entire list.
Mine too, although the large concentration of jazz albums may be
concentrated a bit toward the bottom.
At present I've only factored one year-end list into the file
(Mojo). More will follow, but I doubt if I'll grab as close
to everything as I did last year.
Friday, December 02, 2011
Christgau reviewed The Sway Machinery's The House of Friendly
Ghosts, Vol. 1, writing: "This strange record would mean less
without the bound booklet written by guitarist-vocalist, cantor's
grandson, and transcultural seeker Jeremiah Lockwood." Reminded me
that I had reviewed the record without the benefit of the booklet:
Was struck by Bob's comment about the value of the booklet, since
my Sway Machinery copy was an advance, reviewed without benefit of
such. From back in June (RG):
The Sway Machinery: The House of Friendly Ghosts
Vol. 1 (2010 , JDub): Brooklyn collective centered
around Balkan Beat Box guitarist-vocalist Jeremiah Lockwood, "inspired
by ancient Jewish Cantorial music, blues, afro-beat and rock," goes to
Mali's Festival in the Desert and comes back with featured singer
Khaira Arby and guests like Djilmady Tounkara and Vieux Farka Touré,
mixing it up with horns from Antibalas; sounds interesting, and is,
but the parts clash more than mesh, and much of the interest comes
from the wreckage. B+(*) [advance]
That's one reason I flag advances. (Don't know whether it annoys
publicists, but that may be another reason.) By the way, Tatum flagged
this at *** back in April -- presumably without even the aid of
a hype sheet.