Jazz Consumer Guide (11):

These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #11. The idea here was to pick an unrated record from the incoming queue, play it, jot down a note, and a grade. Any grade in brackets is tentative, with the record going back for further play. In some of these cases there is a second note, written once I've settled on the grade. These were written from July 25 to October 30, 2006, with non-finalized entries duplicated from previous prospecting. The notes have been sorted by artist. The chronological order can be obtained from the notebook or blog.

The number of records noted below is 255.

Note: The Impulse Story is a series of eight single-artist samplers from the Impulse Records story, plus a best-of and a 4-CD box -- although I didn't get the latter. There's also a book, The House That Trane Built, by Ashley Kahn. Don't have it either, but I've thumbed through it in the bookstore, like the discography, and generally figure it to be useful but inessential. In the following reviews, sometimes I name an "alt-choice": this is an A- or better album, on Impulse if not listed otherwise, which I offer as an alternate choice to the compilation. Recycled Goods will also have an "Other Impulses" section, listing recommended records not by compilation artists.

Note: All of the Milestone Profiles come with a second "bonus disc," a 44:57 various artists label sampler -- same one with each package. As far as I'm concerned, it's worthless, but with the packages priced at $11.98 list it arguably costs nothing -- assuming, of course, that a $10.98 or less list price is inconceivable, even though such a price is obviously possible given the label's costs in packaging this excess. So I'm simply ignoring it below -- not even marking the packages as 2CD.

Anders Aarum Trio: First Communion (2005 [2006], Jazzaway): Norwegian pianist, odds that he'll show up on ECM some day are way better than 50-50. I regret not having cited his Absence in Mind (Jazzaway) as an Honorable Mention back in the JCG that featured that Sonny Simmons + strings record, one Aarum contributed so much to. Only reason I didn't was that I got tongue-tied, as often happens with piano records -- I do know when I like one, but still have a lot of trouble explaining why. This one is less muscular, more contemplative, which probably means it's even more likely to slip through the cracks. Talks, or groans, a bit like Jarrett. Plays a bit like him too. [B+(***)]

Anders Aarum Trio: First Communion (2005 [2006], Jazzaway): I'm convinced that this Norwegian is a terrific pianist, but I can't find the words to say why. Fans of ECM piano should check him out -- he even vocalizes a bit like Keith Jarrett, and that's not the only thing they have in common. At least worth an honorable mention, if not quite a tour de force. Good title: "Let's Put Fun Back in Fundamentalism." Maybe I can use that. B+(***)

Rez Abbasi: Bazaar (2005 [2006], Zoho): Guitarist, born in Karachi, grew up in California, lives in New York, drawing on each, as well as more extensive Indian studies, for his work. I liked his earlier Snake Charmer quite a lot, but find this one hard to sort out. The core is an organ trio, with Gary Versace at the Hammond, but two songs add saxophones, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Marc Mommaas; three feature Kiran Ahluwalia's "Indian vocals"; extra Indian effects, hand drums, tabla, something he calls a sitar-guitar. The organ is grooveful. The horns amplify the groove rather than play against it. The vocals don't do much for me. And I wish the guitar was clearer. Seems like too many ideas, but at least that beats the opposite. B+(*)

Mario Adnet: From the Heart (2006, Adventure Music): A Brazilian guitarist, but more notable as an arranger -- he passed his last album off as the work of studio legend Moacir Santos, orchestrating his "things" for something like a big band. He works outward from the supple sweetness that has long been samba's soft spot, layering on various combinations of piano, accordion, brass, vocals -- sounds progressive rather than folkloric, but here and there works like magic. B+(**)

Geri Allen: Timeless Portraits and Dreams (2006, Telarc, 2CD): The second "special bonus" CD is one song, 3:52 long, "Lift Every Voice and Sing," with the Atlanta Jazz Chorus. Total playing time is 62:22, so it could have fit on the first CD, which already has four songs with the Chorus on them. The vocal cuts have gospel themes, although the one called "Well Done" makes me wonder what it is about Christianity that dumbs people down so. Wallace Roney appears twice on trumpet, and that I have no problem with. Allen's piano is hard to follow, and her trio mates are nearly inaudible -- all the more surprising since their names are Ron Carter and Jimmy Cobb. Big change, given that last time out Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette put her over the top. Not sure how bad this really is, but thus far it's pretty annoying. [B-]

Geri Allen: Timeless Portraits and Dreams (2006, Telarc, 2CD): Here she moves beyond her initial interest in Mary Lou Williams to something like the court historian of Afro-American musical culture. She pays tribute to Charlie Parker, Billy Holiday, and Louis Armstrong's better half, but the center of gravity falls on gospel, with Carmen Lundy, George Shirley, and the Atlanta Jazz Chorus providing most of the dead weight. This isn't all old or backwards, but seeking respectability traces just one thread in a struggle for freedom and equality that contributed much else to both. She has great skill and learning, considerable pride in her accomplishments. In some ways it's a mark of her success that I find this so thoroughly uninteresting. The thick frosting of sanctimoniousness doesn't help either. B-

Ben Allison: Cowboy Justice (2006, Palmetto): Don't have recording dates -- one of those little details squeezed off the cheapo promo Palmetto hands out. The group here is a quartet with Allison on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums, Steve Cardenas on guitar, and Ron Horton on trumpet. Two takes on "Tricky Dick" -- that would be Cheney -- frame the album, while "Midnight Cowboy" was plucked from the movie soundtrack and given new significance. As a politico, Allison isn't as far out as Charlie Haden, but as a bassist and composer he's very much in the game. Cardenas is especially fine here, and Horton is terrific, especially on the chatter-happy "Talking Heads." [A-]

Ben Allison: Cowboy Justice (2005 [2006], Palmetto): When he got ticked off, Mingus used to slap political slogans onto his pieces, figuring that -- this was the pre-Braxton era -- the titles had to be words and if he had to use words he might as well say something, like "Remember Rockefeller at Attica" or "Free Cell Block F, 'Tis Nazi U.S.A." Reading Allison's notes -- photocopied, because Palmetto pioneered the slipcase promos I've ragged on Clean Feed over -- I'm reminded of Mingus, and of course of Charlie Haden -- perhaps a more immediate model for Allison, both as bassist and as composer. But I'm also impressed by Allison's analysis. A sample: "The title of the tune 'Tricky Dick' was inspird by the misdeeds, lies and manipulations of Dick Cheney. Tricky Dick was originally a nickname given to Richard Nixon, who was brought down by a crime that was comparatively benign by today's standards. Now there's a new dick in town. It's amazing to me how so many shadowy figures from the past have reemerged and risen so far in contemporary American politics." The music comes from somewhere else, including his choice of instrumentation -- trumpet, guitar, bass, drums -- which he justifies by saying, "I wanted to rock." "Tricky Dick" moves swiftly on Steve Cardenas's guitar roll, then Ron Horton kicks in with high notes on trumpet. "Talking Heads" intensifies the pace and the punch, something like a mariachi. "Emergency" works a variation on W.C. Handy -- "nothing to do with love lost, but instead is an expression of the anger and frustration I feel as a result of the way the Bush administration responded to the terrorist attacks of 9/11" -- with trumpet seething. Midway, the opener reprises with "Tricky Rides Again" -- so infectious it stands out on an album where everything stands up. The bassist is never conspicuous here, but Cardenas and especially Horton have never had so many good lines to play. If I had to pull the CG together right now, this and Lane would be my pick hits, and the column title would be something like "Bass Instincts." A-

Lynne Arriale Trio: Live (2005 [2006], B'Jazz): Piano trio with Jay Anderson on bass and Steve Davis on drums. They've been together since 1993 (the booklet says) or 1997 (as the discographies of six albums confirm), in either case an exceptionally long time. I don't know her work, so I'm inclined to be cautious, but she has a stellar reputation, and nothing here argues otherwise. Comes with a DVD, which I haven't gotten to, and may never. [B+(***)]

Lynne Arriale Trio: Live (2005 [2006], In+Out/Motema): Of all the recent piano trios I like -- Anders Aarum, Dave Burrell, Frank Hewitt, Enrico Pieranunzi, John Taylor, I'm probably leaving someone out -- this strikes me as the strongest crossover prospect. Part of this is that she picks standards that are recognizable and easy to hook into: "Iko Iko" and "Come Together" are two pop songs here, with "Bemsha Swing" and "Seven Steps to Heaven" working the jazz tradition the same way. Her originals, at least here, tend to be genre studies -- "Braziliana," "Flamenco." And she plays with them much like you expect jazz to work, tearing the songs down, rearranging them, teasing new melodies offset from the old. Or I should say they: Jay Anderson and Steve Davis have played in this trio for over a decade now, and the tightness pays off. Recorded at a jazz festival in Germany, with a matching DVD for the audio CD. I actually watched -- or mostly listened to -- the DVD for once. One thing I was struck by was how often all three played with eyes closed. B+(***)

Art Ensemble of Chicago: Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at Iridium (2004 [2006], Pi, 2CD): Recorded a couple of months after bassist Malachi Favors passed, this selection from a long stand at New York's Iridium is intended as rebirth, renewal, survival. Jaribu Shahid, from James Carter's old Detroit quartet, is Flavors' replacement. Corey Wilkes does a pretty good job of plugging the other hole, left by the irrepressible, but evidently not irreplaceable, Lester Bowie. Roscoe Mitchell is more clearly the leader than before, but that's not such a bad thing. Not sure how high this should rate, but it's sure good to hear them. [B+(**)]

Art Ensemble of Chicago: Non-Cognitive Aspects of the City: Live at Iridium (2004 [2006], Pi, 2CD): Continuing on after the deaths of Lester Bowie and Malachi Favors. The replacements are trumpeter Corey Wilkes and bassist Jaribu Shahid. They won't be a ghost band as long as Roscoe Mitchell is ticking. He seems more than ever the dominant player here -- the newcomers may have the chops to move in here, but they aren't shaking things up. I never had a very good feel for this group, but this strikes me as about par. B+(*)

Available Jelly: Bilbao Song (2004 [2005], Ramboy): This is at least the fifth album since 1984 for this group. Michael Moore is the constant and mainstay, with cornetist Eric Boeren also contributing songs. The group's signature is many horns playing in free orbits. Four is the number this time, with Toby Delius joining Moore on various saxes and clarinest while Wolter Wierbos adds his trombone to Boeren's cornet. Frequent Moore collaborators Ernst Glerum and Michael Vatcher fill out the group, on bass and drums respectively. Too much going on here for me to get good focus on it yet, but I especially like the parts where the rhythm coheres, and the feature for Wierbos. [B+(**)]

Available Jelly: Bilbao Song (2004 [2005], Ramboy): This is Michael Moore's label and mostly his compositions, even if he doesn't take full responsibility for the group. Ernst Glerum and Michael Vatcher, bass and drums, are frequent collaborators, but the group is defined more by the horns: two brass, two reeds, in all sorts of fruitful combinations. B+(**)

Omer Avital: The Ancient Art of Giving (2006, Smalls): After Frank Hewitt, Israeli bassist Avital is the second little-known Smalls regular Luke Kaven has set out to document. Volume 1 was compiled from 1996 tapes and released earlier this year as Asking No Permission. It featured a long list of post-Branford saxophonists -- the best known being Mark Turner. I found it hard to sort the compositions out from the clutter, but a decade later he's got it nailed down. The quintet features Turner on tenor sax, Avishai Cohen on trumpet, Aaron Goldberg on piano, and Ali Jackson on drums. Avital's pieces set the horns free -- neither Turner nor Cohen have pronounced avant leanings, but they enjoy the freedom. Jackson avoids the hard bop clichés, playing light and letting the rhythm slosh around a bit. Piano gets a few nice runs too. Recorded live on two nights at Fat Cat. Seems like I've been complaining about applause a lot recently, so I should note that there is some here, but unlike the Jarrett record, it's proportional, often coming at opportune moments -- always a good sign when the audience swings with the band. A-

Albert Ayler: The Impulse Story (1965-69 [2006], Impulse): The patron saint of the avant-garde, a fearsome saxophonist invoking the holy ghost. Earlier work on ESP, like Spiritual Unity, is essential. This is for the curious a useful sampler into his last scattered years, including his discoveries of bagpipes and the healing force of the universe. B+(**)

Baby Loves Jazz (2006, Verve): This looks like the first installment of a series that has Baby Loves Disco and Baby Loves Hip Hop on its tail, and Baby Loves Reggae somewhere in the pipeline, as well as a book deal with Penguin. I have no idea what the intended audience might think of this -- looks to me like Sex Mob trying to corrupt the youth of tomorrow, and I wish them the best of luck. In addition to Steven Bernstein's crew, we have John Medeski's keyboards, Lonnie Plaxico helping out on bass, and vocals by Sharon Jones and Babi Floyd. The vocals are prominent -- maybe loud is the more apt term. The songs are mostly standards, widely recognized by the age of 10 if not necessarily 3 -- "Old MacDonald" isn't all that jazzable, but "Banana Boat Song" is a treat. Includes a "Lullabye" to chill down after the workout. B+(**)

Luis Bacalov: Il Postino (1994-2000 [2006], CAM Jazz): This is mostly the original motion picture soundtrack, composed and conducted by Bacalov, plus a later version of the title track done up by the Giovanni Tommaso-Enrico Rava Quartet. The soundtrack won the Oscar for best original score in 1996, as well as numerous other awards. It's a lovely piece of work, with clarinet and bandoneon straddling the boundaries between folk and jazz. One vocal piece, sung by Alma Rosa. Rava's trumpet at the end is subdued but sweet. B+(**)

Lucian Ban & Alex Harding: Tuba Project (2005 [2006], CIMP): Well, if you're going to do a tuba project, the go to guy is Bob Stewart, so at least they got that part right. I can see why Ban, a New York-resident pianist from Romania, might want to do such a thing, but I don't quite get the point of adding two saxophones -- Harding's baritone and J.D. Allen's tenor. The fifth member of the group is drummer Derrek Phillips, so Stewart winds up stuck with the bass parts. Way way back when tuba was sometimes used in place of bass, and some pieces like "Cajun Stomp" suggest that, but "Muhal' Song" (for Abrams) is off in another direction.l But the main problem I have is hearing just what's going on. Maybe that's because I don't have the audiophile equipment producer Robert Rusch sells. Or maybe I just don't have the ears. Will try it again. [B+(*)]

Lucian Ban & Alex Harding: Tuba Project (2005 [2006], CIMP): Never figured out what the purpose of the project was, other than to replace the bass in a piano-two sax quintet and get a chance to employ Bob Stewart. The two saxes are Harding on baritone and J.D. Allen on tenor, so the group keeps to the lower registers. Ban composed all but one of the pieces and plays them with roughly structured block chords. Most tuba moves are meant to be retro, but it's hard to tell here. B+(*)

Bang on a Can/Don Byron: A Ballad for Many (2004-06 [2006], Cantaloupe): Byron just plays clarinet on three songs here -- the Bang on a Can All Stars have a regular clarinet player, Evan Ziporyn, who handles the balance. Byron wrote most (all?) of the music, produced the album, and wrote the liner notes you have to go to the website to read. So, effectively, this is Bang on a Can Plays Don Byron, much like they previously played Eno or Terry Riley. I tend to think of Bang on a Can as natural successors to the Kronos Quartet: a classical-rooted repertoire group that crosses over into semipopular waters to show that their own chosen style needn't be hopelessly academic. But Kronos was/is a stock concept -- the string quartet. Bang on a Can seems more like a production company, with a lineup that shifts according to the project instead of forcing the project to conform. In this case, the lineup is clarinet, guitar, piano, cello, bass, drums. The cello is the main difference from Byron's own orchestrations, and it dominates here. Not sure what I think of this: strikes me as stiff and heavy, unjazzlike, but otherwise hard to classify. [B]

Bang on a Can/Don Byron: A Ballad for Many (2004-06 [2006], Cantaloupe): Effectively, this is Bang on a Can plays Byron, with the clarinettist supervising but only making only a brief cameo. There is still some clarinet, by Evan Ziporyn, but piano and strings are more dominant, and they give the compositions a chunky, clunky feel. "Eugene" was written for a silent Ernie Kovacs piece. "The Red-Tailed Angels" was a soundtrack for a documentary on the Tuskegee Airmen. Both lose their utilitarianism in this chamber music setting. On the other hand, the band sharpens up the angles, giving this an edge that would be obtrustive for a soundtrack. Still, it sounds euroclassical to me, a sort of third stream backwash, where conservatory-trained jazz musicians return to the roost. B

Patricia Barber: Mythologies (2006, Blue Note): Advance, not out unti Aug. 15, but after a string of vocalists I thought I'd play one I might like. (Never got the Cassandra Wilson, but maybe they knew better?) This is a song cycle based on Greek mythology, with a bit of "Whiteworld" stuffed into "Oedipus." Back when I was a philosophy major the main thing I learned was that every dumb idea in western civilization was first thought up by one damn fool Greek or another. Played this once while working on other stuff, but all I discovered is that it doesn't register unless you're listening. Then there's something to it: rousing sax, a little hip-hop, a mess of background vocals from the ominously named Choral Thunder. Some pluses and minuses -- might come together, but I have my doubts about the chorus. [B+(*)]

Patricia Barber: Mythologies (2006, Blue Note): Most of the song titles I recognize from Greek mythology, not that I know or care much about that. "Whiteworld" has been to fit the series, and remains most striking. Other than "The Hours" at the end, which the chorus runs away with, the music is striking, and the vocals distinctive. Don't know what it means. B+(**)

Gato Barbieri: The Impulse Story (1973-75 [2006], Impulse): Argentine tenor saxophonist, emerged in the '60s on ESP and Flying Dutchman, which has some classic examples of his whirling dervish style. This excerpts four albums of Coltrane-ish powerhouse sax over roiling Latin beats. Alt-choice: Latino America (1973-74 [1997], 2CD), his first two chapters. B+(***)

Sam Bardfeld: Periodic Trespasses (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Aka "The Saul Cycle": Bardfeld narrates Saul's story in seven chapters, with pieces of music in between, the structure reminding me "Peter and the Wolf" -- I'm most familiar with Eno's version, but there's also a variant called Pincus and the Pig. I don't have the story straight, so that will take some further investigation. The group features Bardfeld's violin, Ron Horton's trumpet, and Tom Beckham's vibes, with Sean Conly and Satoshi Takeishi rounding up the rhythm. The violin has a little boogie in it; the trumpet is further out, and the combination is more than a little askew. Still working on it. [B+(**)]

Sam Bardfeld: Periodic Trespasses (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Subtitled "The Saul Cycle," with Bardfield's narration slipped into a "Peter and the Wolf" flow. I can't say as I get, let alone care about, the story. The music seems to pursue flow for its own sake, with bass and drums pushing violin and vibes along. So it helps when Ron Horton's trumpet occasionally disrupts the flow, as on "Harry's Mambo" -- a choice cut. B

One O'Clock Jump: The Very Best of Count Basie (1936-42 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): Basie's Columbias have never gotten much respect -- after all, his 1937-39 Decca recordings represent the full fury of the territory band storming through New York; but Lester Young, for one, peaked here with "Lester Leaps In" and "Taxi War Dance," and padding with the early Jones-Smith Inc. spinoffs and later live shots doesn't hurt; a useful primer for anyone who doubts the 4-CD box. A

Sathima Bea Benjamin: Song Spirit (1963-2002 [2006], Ekapa): A 70th birthday retrospective for a South African singer who got her first break in 1963 when Duke Ellington recorded her Morning in Paris. Her voice remained remarkably consistent over forty years, as did her ear and charm for pianists: she married Abdullah Ibrahim, but he only plays one track here -- the others include Ellington, Kenny Barron, Larry Willis, Onaje Alan Gumbs and Stephen Scott. Three cuts are Africa-themed originals, with "Children of Soweto" by far the happiest. But most of the songs are old standards. "Careless Love," with Barron, Buster Williams and Billy Higgins, is a highlight. [B+(***)]

Sathima Bea Benjamin: Song Spirit (1963-2002 [2006], Ekapa): Forty years and an extraordinary run of pianists for the South African singer, more at home in the jazz tradition -- "Lush Life" and "Careless Love" are choice cuts -- than in her Africa-themed originals, which tend to be anthemic. Anyone tempted by Madeleine Peyroux should give her a chance. B+(***)

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: MTO Volume 1 (2005 [2006], Sunnyside): This group has been gigging around New York since 1999, so I've heard a lot about them over the years, and any record by them would be welcome -- if nothing else, just a way to map the reports to a sound. The idea came out of Robert Altman's Kansas City film, which Bernstein did research for -- listening to tapes from the old territory bands that toured around Kansas City in the late '20s and early '30s. This follows the sound a lot more closely than, say, Ken Vandermark's Territory Band, but it doesn't stop there, pulling in Prince's "Darling Nikki," Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed and Delivered," and something from Sly Stone I don't recognize -- Bernstein says, "I made Sly Stone sound like an early Bennie Moten thing." (The notes leave something to be desired; blind faith in the ability of live music to overcome critical facilities isn't all that popular a position among us critics.) Two vocals threw me at first, Matt Munisteri's more old-timey "Pennies From Heaven" kicking in first, Doug Wamble's Wonder tune slowly getting there. Working on it. [A-]

Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra: MTO Volume 1 (Sunnyside): Robert Altman's film Kansas City made you want to know more about the city's jazz and less about its mobsters. The featured music stars got a package tour out of the deal before returning to contemporary postbop, but lowly associate music producer Bernstein actually put his research to work. He takes the idea of barnstorming territory bands and time travels to and from his home base in downtown New York, treating Prince and Stevie Wonder songs to 1928-style arrangements, while adding postmodern quirks to Count Basie staples. It works not because the transformations are clever, but because he's one of the few who believe that jazz can become popular again by making it fun rather without dumbing it down. The first album by a group that has been playing regularly since 1999, an incubation period that roughly matches Basie in Kansas City. Coincidence? [Francis Davis just reviewed this in the Voice] A-

Ignacio Berroa: Codes (2005 [2006], Blue Note): Cuban drummer, moved to New York in 1980, working with Dizzy Gillespie for a decade. He's done quite a bit of session work over the last 25 years, but this is his first album, produced by Gonzalo Rubalcaba. The rhythm pieces jump out at you first, but there are quieter spots, where piano by Rubalcaba or Ed Simon and/or sax by David Sanchez or Felipe LaMoglia come to the fore. Impressive work. Need to spend more time with it. [A-]

Ignacio Berroa: Codes (2005 [2006], Blue Note): Following in Chano Pozo's footsteps, Berroa moved to New York in 1980 and found a job in Dizzy Gillespie's band. But his Afro-Cuban roots were attenuated -- he blames Castro for suppressing Yoruba religion and restricting his schooling to the Euroclassics. Even here, the most characteristic Cuban rhythms come not from trad percussion but from Gonzalo Rubalcaba's piano and Felipe LaMoglia's saxophones. He plays traps, but has mastered the coding to produce an effective pan-American synthesis. A-

The Andy Biskin Quartet: Early American: The Melodies of Stephen Foster (2000 [2006], Strudelmedia): Biskin is a clarinettist, originally from Texas, studied at Yale, worked for Alan Lomax, now in New York. The quartet gets an old-fashioned sound from Chris Washburne on trombone and tuba; Pete McCann plays banjo as well as guitar, and John Hollenbeck drums. Biskin slips four originals in with the Foster tunes. The latter strike me as sounding ancient and fragile, at points awkwardly so. Not sure to what extent this is deliberate, or matters. [B]

The Andy Biskin Quartet: Early American: The Melodies of Stephen Foster (2000 [2006], Strudelmedia): The old melodies benefit from oldish instrumentation -- despite its recent comeback, Biskin's clarinet still sounds like a refugee from the depression, especially when paired with trombone or tuba; guitarist Pete McCann resorts to banjo on occasion, and drummer John Hollenbeck takes the most diehard Foster melody on jingly bells. Still, everything here is more than a little bent. No point making a jazz record unless you take some liberties. B+(***)

Andy Biskin: Trio Tragico (2005 [2006], Strudelmedia): The contrast to Biskin's clarinet comes from Dave Ballou's trumpet. The third wheel is bassist Drew Gress, who provides background and some pulse, but has neither the ability to drive nor accent that has made drummers the norm in two-horn trios. It also seems like the two horns play in unison a lot, which puts the focus back on the composer and his clarinet. He's doing some interesting things here -- possibly building on his evident interest in early Americana. [B+(*)]

Andy Biskin: Trio Tragico (2005 [2006], Strudelmdia): Biskin's clarinet is paired with Dave Ballou's trumpet, more often in unison than not, which keeps the focus on the tricky compositions. The third member is bassist Drew Gress, who adds depth without having much effect on the general drift. This lack of democracy can get tedious over the long haul, and this does run long. But it's interesting when it's working. B+(*)

Willie Bobo: Lost and Found (1969-78 [2006], Concord Picante): Dates are approximate -- not specified per cut, they're gleaned from a booklet that really requires better eyes than mine. Born in Spanish Harlem, played congas and timbales, made his reputation in the '60s recording for Verve. These odds and sods come from after he moved to L.A., where he had a role on Bill Cosby's show; the finds are scattered and discrete, of minor interest to non-specialists. B

Mike Boone: Yeah, I Said It . . . (2005 [2006], Dreambox Media): At the end of this record, Boone says, "I guess one of the advantages of doing your own CD is that you can put on it whatever you want." That about sums this up: a personal memoir of a bassist who's been around at least since the early '70s but never moved into the spotlight. Twenty-two pieces here, many not much more than fragments. Eight are stories narrated by Boone, including three or four about Buddy Rich, with samples of Rich Big Band or Rich cussing in the background. The music is scattered all over the map. No band: I count sixteen different musicians on drums or percussion, none appearing more than twice, rarely two or more at once. One story about a pianist named Barry Kiener has Uri Caine tinkling in the background. The record is more interesting than good -- so much so I'm not done with it. [B]

Mike Boone: Yeah, I Said It . . . (2005 [2006], Dreambox Media): An aural scrapbook, with a touching remembrance of mom and the golden rule; a discourse on swing and the electric bass; stories of Barry Kiener, Ben Vereen, and most importantly Buddy Rich. The music itself is widely scattered, the narration holding it together, like the thread of a life. B+(**)

Boxhead Ensemble: Nocturnes (2006, Atavistic): Don't know much about this group, other than that the central figure is guitarist Michael Krassner. The other figure above the "with" is cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. Below the "with," as best I can make out given the badly registered pink type on the tan background, is someone on prepared piano and someone else on percussion -- both limited contributions, but plusses nonetheless. Sonic wallpaper -- tasteful, fractally intriguing, barely on the substantial side of ambient. B+(**)

Sneakin' Up Behind You: The Very Best of the Brecker Brothers (1975-81 [2006], Arista/Legacy): I remember being nothing less than shocked when I was reading a history of jazz in the '80s a few years back and found out that Michael Brecker was considered the most influential tenor saxophonist of the decade. I barely knew who he was: a lot of session work, a fusion band with his trumpeter-brother Randy, and a small number of albums that never sounded interesting enough to check out. Of course, I've heard a good deal more since then. I'm less shocked now, but I can't say as I'm much more impressed. Michael Brecker has some impressive chops, and he cuts loose with some scarifying runs here, but I still wonder to what purpose. Like so many fusion bands, this one has problems with the beat, even when Marcus Miller lays out a gold-plated funk groove. Only on the closing live cut does the band hold interest without the horns. But with the horns you can sort of hear what folks hoped for from fusion. B

Jim Brickman: Escape (2006, SLG): Pianist, usually filed under New Age for the usual reasons: no swing, no stride, no rock chords, no atonality, no smoke stains or dirt under the fingernails, yet for such static music no intimations of classicism either. Still, I find it hard to fault his piano. He describes his music as "about relaxation, reflection and tranquility," and the tonic is functional, even when he dabs on the string synths. On the other hand, the featured vocals veer into Barry Manilow territory, reminding me that he has no kitsch either. B-

Bridge 61: Journal (2005 [2006], Atavistic): Another Ken Vandermark joint, with Jason Stein on bass clarinet, Nate McBride on bass, and Tim Daisy on drums. Vandermark plays tenor and baritone sax as well as a little clarinet. Nice artwork but no info in the booklet. Don't know anything about Stein, and I'm having some trouble figuring out what he's doing here. The Boston bassist and Chicago drummer fit well, and Vandermark gets to flex some muscle on tenor sax. [B+(***)]

Alan Broadbent: Every Time I Think of You (2005 [2006], Artistry): Actually, they don't give a recording date -- 2005 is a previous copyright date, which presumably gets us a bit closer to the correct answer. Piano trio with Brian Bromberg on "wood bass" -- seems to be an early 1700s Matteo Guersam double bass or reasonable facsimile thereof -- and Kendall Kay on drums, backed by the otherwise unidentified Tokyo Strings. Not the sort of thing I often like: the strings fit the lushly romantic mode, similar to what Broadbent did for Quartet West, but it was easier to think that the cheesiness was ironical there. Broadbent's piano tends toward lushness as well, but compared to the strings it is a disciplinary force. By the end it wears on me, but early on it had me wondering whether lushness is such a bad thing after all. B+(**)

Scott Burns: Passages (2005 [2006], Origin): Young tenor saxophonist, originally from Ohio, now in Chicago. Mainstream, but he can pull some emotion under pressure, and I like his sound. Quartet, with Ron Perrillo helping out on piano. Was tempted to blow this off, but "Eddies in the Stream" made that hard to do. B+(*)

Dave Burrell: Momentum (2005 [2006], High Two): Piano trio with Michael Formanek on bass and Guillermo E. Brown on drums. One thing I've long loved about Burrell is how hard he plays, especially with his left hand -- Pete Johnson was once described as having the left hand of God, and Burrell fits in that tradition. Formanek also puts a lot of muscle into his bass, and Brown managed to hold his own in David S. Ware's Quartet for a few years. First cut, "Downfall," comes roaring out of the box, all rough angles and flying gears. The slower pieces following don't compress as firmly, but I'm still working on them. [B+(***)]

Don Byron: Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker (2006, Blue Note): This is self-explanatory, especially once you know that most of the cuts have vocals -- four each by Chris Thomas King and Dean Bowman. Also note that Byron's main credit is tenor sax, with only one cut each on clarinet and bass clarinet. He's played a bit of tenor lately, and has some baritone credits, but for years he steadfastly promoted the clarinet and did more than anyone to bring the instrument back into prominence. He also has a soft spot for jump blues and jive, much as he has for klezmer. But still I don't get why he's doing this. And while it's a bump up in sophistication from the originals -- much cleaner sound too -- I'm not sure that's the right idea. [B]

Don Byron: Do the Boomerang: The Music of Junior Walker (2006, Blue Note): No doubt this is better played than the original. Details like David Gilmore's guitar, George Colligan's organ, and Rodney Holmes' drums are cleanly, sharply articulated. They crank up the funk quotient, at points suggesting James Brown. Byron own role is less clear: he plays tenor sax here -- the exceptions are one cut on clarinet and one on bass clarinet -- without much grit or grime. The vocals are another matter. Neither Dean Bowman nor Chris Thomas King offer much of interest, although they do an adequate job of going through the motions. It's interesting Byron still cares about the motions -- I'd say this is populism more than pop. B+(*)

Ann Hampton Callaway: Blues in the Night (2006, Telarc): In front of Sherrie Maricle's Diva Jazz Orchestra, which happens four times here, she reminds me a bit of Sinatra -- not the voice, of course, but the brassy big band singer, at least until she tries to scat. In front of her usually impresive trio -- Ted Rosenthal on piano, Christian McBride on bass, Lewis Nash on drums -- the limits of her voice become more of a liability. The song selection makes me wonder, too. B-

Santi Careta Group: Obertura (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, Spanish (or Catallan) I would assume, although the first website I found anything about him on appears to speak Basque (Euskaraz) as a first language. I've also heard his duo with Sergi Sirvent, but haven't heard the organ trio he plays in, something called Asstrio. The Group here is a guitar-bass-drums trio plus moody tenor sax on four cuts and a singer on one more. The trio is itself rather slight, but Careta's guitar has a nice ring. But the add-ons don't add much, and are somewhat in the way, although I'm not quite sure of what. B

Carneyball Johnson (2006, Akron Cracker): Led by Tin Huey saxophonist Ralph Carney, guitarist Kimo Ball and drummer Scott Johnson contribute parts of their names, while Allen Whitman just offers up his bass. For those who missed it, Tin Huey was one of a half-dozen or so new wave bands to come out of Akron in the late '70s -- Pere Ubu and Devo were better known; the Bizarros, Rubber City Rebels, and the Numbers Band were more obscure; the Waitresses were a spin-off from Tin Huey's Chris Butler -- with a 1979 album fondly remembered for the Ubu-ish "I Could Rule the World If I Could Only Get the Parts" (cf. Alfred Jarry's plays more so than the band). I hear they still play together. Haven't heard Carney's other albums, but saxophonists tend toward jazz -- after all, that's where the models come from. He plays Monk and Sun Ra here, which I haven't digested yet. But the loose and trashy pop singalongs based on the Yardbirds and Demond Dekker grabbed me immediately. [B+(**)]

François Carrier/Dewey Redman/Michel Donato/Ron Séguin/Michel Lambert: Open Spaces (1999 [2006], Spool/Line): Several years old, presumably pulled off the shelf as a memorial on Redman's death. Otherwise, this is Carrier's trio, working out free improvs on two nights with different bassists -- Donato on the first 20:57 cut, Séguin on the other two (12:54 and 19:27). I don't have the ears to sort out the two saxes, but I like how they pull together, and the overall energy level. Good date for the drummer, too.. B+(***)

Regina Carter: I'll Be Seeing You: A Sentimental Journey (2006, Verve): Cut after her mother's death, Carter describes this as "a life saver"; after her Paganini album, I'd say it's more like a career saver. Old songs, sentimental songs, ancient amusements, one original. The number of things that violin can do in jazz seems to be limited, but includes swing à Grappelli and the elegiac take on the title song. Guest vocalists appear: I'm not so sure about Carla Cook's three spots, but Dee Dee Bridgewater's two are choice cuts. [B+(***)]

Thomas Chapin Trio: Ride (1995 [2006], Playscape): One of the most influential forces in the downtown resurgence of avant-jazz in New York in the early '90s, Chapin died young, age 40, leukemia. One measure of the respect accorded Chapin is the amount of live material that has been released since his death, including a massive 8-CD box from Knitting Factory defiantly titled Alive. Another is Michael Musillami's Playscape label, which is more or less the house organ of Chapin's former bandmates. So it's fitting that one more piece pop up here. The trio joins Mario Pavone and Michael Sarin. The record starts harsh before they ease off, find a groove, then tear it up and blare some more. Chapin plays flute as well as alto and sopranino sax, well enough I can't complain. Sarin takes a long drum solo -- I enjoyed every moment. Pavone plays some heavy duty bass. The set closes with a "Ticket to Ride" that made my day. [B+(***)]

Thomas Chapin Trio: Ride (1995 [2006], Playscape): Wish he had kept to the alto sax, as the warbly stuff -- flute and sopranino sax -- tones down what otherwise is a vigorous live set, from the North Sea Jazz Festival. Chapin died young in 1998, and is so revered that his live scraps have become a cottage industry. More often than not, this one shows you why. Title comes from a Beatles song, and he's definitely got the ticket there -- a choice cut. B+(***)

Fay Claassen: Sings Two Portrait of Chet Baker (2005 [2006], Jazz 'N Pulz, 2CD): Recorded by a Dutch singer and group in remembrance of what would have been Baker's 75th birthday -- Baker spent his last years in Europe, dying in Amsterdam when he fell, or was pushed, out of a window. The second disc/portrait is the most straightforward, with Claassen singing from Baker's songbook with Jan Wessels' trumpet and Karel Boehlee's piano the key accompaniment. She's a more conventional singer than Baker, but captures some of his brittleness. The first disc refers back to Baker's legendary quartet with Gerry Mulligan, with Jan Menu playing baritone sax, and the singer scatting around where the trumpet might have been. Don't have much of a feel for that part yet. [B+(*)]

Nels Cline: New Monastery: A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill (2006, Cryptogramophone): Another advance, due out Sept. 26. Technical problems prevent me from quoting the bit in the liner notes where Cline describes his idea of augmenting his trio -- the so-called Nels Cline Singers -- with Ben Goldberg's clarinets and Andrea Parkins' accordion to play a batch of some modern master's music, and how it took him three or four seconds to settle on Andrew Hill. He wound up adding Bobby Bradford's cornet as well, which provides a bright contrast to what is otherwise a rather murky set of instruments. No verdict as yet, but it has moments of promise. [B+(*)]

Nels Cline: New Monastery: A View Into the Music of Andrew Hill (2006, Cryptogramophone): This takes Hill's compositions and substitutes Cline's guitar for Hill's piano, giving them a steely resonance and more of a rock kick -- which pays off especially well on the closing "Compulsion." But Hill himself rarely wrote just for piano, so Cline augments his usual trio -- Devin Hoff on bass, Scott Amendola on drums -- with cornet (Bobby Bradford), clarinet (Ben Goldberg), and accordion (Andrea Parkins). Each of these have their moments when you think it's all coming together, but overall this is a mixed bag, interesting ideas that are hard to sort out. B+(**)

Club D'Elf: Now I Understand (1998-2006 [2006], Accurate): I can't say as I understand, but at least I'm intrigued. This is a Boston-based group, with a core membership of one (bassist Mike Rivard), three (website also lists drummer Erik Kerr and oudist Brahim Fribgane), four (website photo) or five (insert photos, none identified). The website also lists lots of "special guests" and "rotating cast" and "occasional conspirators" -- some of each show up now and then, plus there are a few others on the record but not on the website lists (complain to the webmaster; especially the two Kerr girls who make the irresistible closer "Just Kiddin"). Name droppers will recognize John Medeski, Billy Martin, Mat Maneri, DJ Logic, and maybe the Your Neighborhood Sax Trio. Jere Faison, Jerry Leake, Jay Hilt, Randy Roos, and Mister Rourke appear with some frequency, and the writing credits include a name that doesn't show in the performing credits: Jeff Misner (I suspect turntablist Mister Rourke). The music is long on world fusion grooves, layered pretty thick, with "Vishnu Dub" typically self-explanatory and exemplary. Jenifer Jackson gets a feature song. The brief "Introduction" could be by MF Doom. It took them eight years to record all this, so I'm not about to sign off on one play. [B+(***)]

Club D'Elf: Now I Understand (1998-2006 [2006], Accurate): Never did manage to figure out who's who and what's what, other than that bassist Mike Rivard is at the center of this amorphuous group and that damn near anyone is likely to show up as a guest. The machine beats recall Nils Petter Molvaer circa Khmer, but conventional drums also appear, probably Erik Kerr. While Rivard's bass grooves are critical, they tend to be thickened up with keyboards -- mostly John Medeski -- and turntables -- someone d/b/a Mister Rourke. Plenty of guitars, too. There's also a strain of mostly middle eastern exotica, which oudist Brahim Fribgane has something to do with. Several songs have vocals -- Jennifer Jackson's "A Toy for a Boy" is a marginal novelty, but the kiddie sample reggae romp "Just Kiddin'" is on my first ever year-end song list. There are also skits and raps, and if MF Doom isn't in the house, his doppelganger ist. If none of this sounds much like jazz, that's just too bad. It doesn't sound like world-techno-fusion either, because they fuck with it like jazzbos junk up pop songs. Besides, Mat Maneri's on the guest list. A-

Come On-a My House: The Very Best of Rosemary Clooney (1951-60 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): In the late '70s she made a comeback as a standards singer, which moved her into the jazz shelves, but back in the '50s she started recording pop junk for Mitch Miller -- inspired sometimes, but the ballads and novelties, duets with Bing Crosby, big band bashes with Billy May and Nelson Riddle, not to mention Pérez Prado go every which way but together; she was a trooper, and this is a valuable reference. B+(***)

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (Verve Forecast): Peddled as a soundtrack to Lian Lunson's film, actually just a Hal Wilner-produced tribute album, recorded live at festivals in Brighton and Sydney. Wilner's Monk, Mingus and Kurt Weill albums offered fresh perspectives by crossing lines -- mostly by turning rockers loose outside their genre. Here he has less to work with: Cohen's grip on his songs is more secure, and the performers are narrowly cast, with McGarrigles and Wainwrights out in force, and the range no wider than Antony to Nick Cave. Messages: the future is murder, and by its omission I guess we have to conclude that democracy is no longer coming to the USA. Steven Bernstein leads the band. Cohen appears on one song to close, sounding more worn than ever. B+(*)

Brazilian Girls: Talk to La Bomb (2006, Verve Forecast): Not sure what this is. When singer Sabina Sciubba breaks into German she reminds me of Kid Creole, but that's on the superficial side -- I'm also reminded of a bull session in my college German Department, when one grad student asked what good a German degree might be, and another replied that he could become a German factory worker. On the other hand, they do get an enjoyably angular beat out of their continent-hip-hopping, and I've always been a sucker for Deutschsprechen, even if my own skills are hopelessly stunted. B+(*)

Tom Cohen: The Guitar Trio Project (1999-2001 [2006], Dreambox Media): Cohen's a drummer. He's lined up six guitarist and six bassists for trios -- not exactly six trio combinations, but close. One odd thing is that I can't tell much difference between the guitarists, even though I know most of them from elsewhere. Songs are standards, starting with "Caravan" and "Cherokee" -- gets this off to an overly familiar start. Not bad, but I'm having trouble figuring out the point. B

Freddy Cole: Because of You: Freddy Cole Sings Tony Bennett (2006, High Note): Nat's little brother, 14 years younger, but seems like another generation 40 years after Nat's death. His voice bears a family resemblance, but is far from a carbon copy. Since it's hard to describe him without reference to Nat, he inevitably gets the short end of the stick. Comparing him to Bennett may or may not help: Tony has a lushness to his voice that Freddy can't match, but Freddy can handle the phrasing well enough. The songs avoid the most obvious ones -- I'm not at all expert on Bennett, so that's all that my lack of recognition reveals. The band, of course, is much better than Bennett's usual backing, with Peter and Kenny Washington on bass and drums and Houston Person on tenor sax. B+(*)

Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (2005 [2006], Sound Grammar): The publicity writeup has three pages of bio, as if Ornette wasn't recognizable by the second note. But it doesn't begin to answer the basic questions: why this, and why now? It's been ten years since Coleman's deal with Verve netted four quick albums, and eighteen since Virgin Beauty, his one-shot on Portrait, appeared. This one's just a live set recorded in Germany last year, with Denardo and two bassists. All but two of the songs are new, but how big a deal is that? After all, he's had a decade or two to work on them. One effect of recording as rarely as he does is that I don't get back to him as often as I should. This sounds utterly brilliant, but how does it stack up against his past? Against, say, In All Languages, Of Human Feelings, Dancing in Your Head, At the Golden Circle, The Shape of Jazz to Come? Those are reference points I should know well enough to poll them in my mind. It's going to be fun answering those questions. But in the meantime: the bassists are busy beavers, worth focusing on; doubling them up keeps the rhythm shifting without sacrificing their harmonic undertow; Coleman's typically sour and shrill alto sax is rendered all the more so by the extremely bright live sound; he's also credited with violin and trumpet, which I haven't noticed yet, although there is quite a bit of arco which I initially attributed to the basses. [A]

Postscript: Two readers wrote in to point out that the Ornette Coleman has three -- not two -- older songs. The third is "Sleep Talking," reworked from "Sleep Talk" on Of Human Feelings. And yes, the press release missed that, which is why so many reviewers went astray. One reason it's fair to point that out is that "Turnaround" is similarly renamed and reworked from "Turnabout" on Tomorrow Is the Question, and that's in the press release.

Ornette Coleman: Sound Grammar (2005 [2006], Sound Grammar): Nothing for ten years, then he repeats a scam he pulled twenty years ago with Opening the Caravan of Dreams: launching a new label with a live album named for the label, or vice versa. Seems cheap, but when sounding like no one else has been your shtick for fifty years, absence makes his returns sound even fresher, and live heightens the suspense of his inventions. Actually, he's changed little over the years, still pouring out the same sour, shrill, piercing notes. What's new here is his use of two bassists, which keeps the contrast between Greg Cohen plucking and Tony Falanga bowing in the same register. It also doubles the chaos, which is what Ornette thrives on. A

Alice Coltrane: The Impulse Story (1968-2000 [2006], Impulse): Née Alice MacLeod, plays piano and harp, married the tenor sax great in 1965, recorded seven albums 1968-73 after her husband's death, then a comeback with son Ravi Coltrane after a long hiatus, developed a major interest in Eastern spirituality that themed her music. Two trio pieces with Rashied Ali -- one on harp, the other on piano -- are most striking here, with her larger groups spacier, and a slab of Stravinsky a little heavy-handed. Don't know her albums, other than the comeback, but this seems like a useful sampler, with subjects for further research. B+(*)

John Coltrane: The Impulse Story (1961-67 [2006], Impulse): So influential we might as well call the last forty years the post-Coltrane era, but far less so before he moved to Impulse -- his earlier Atlantics are respected, as are his sessions with Miles and Monk, but a lot of his early work is so-so. This has to cover a lot of ground, some pretty far out, most worth exploring as much greater length. Alt-choices: The Complete Africa/Brass Sessions (1961, 2CD); The Complete 1961 Village Vanguard Recordings (1961, 4CD); Ballads (1962); Live at Birdland (1963); Crescent (1964); A Love Supreme (1964); Plays (1965); the complete quartet studio recordings are also in the giant The Classic Quartet (1961-68, 8CD). A-

Mary Foster Conklin: Blues for Breakfast (2004-05 [2006], Rhombus): Her voice takes a bit to get used to, but gains on you over time. That's not unusual for jazz singers -- if they had ordinary voices, they'd be doing something else. How much she might gain is something I'm unlikely to find out. This strikes me as marginal, especially given that the slow stuff she favors can be turgid, but her "Let's Get Away From It All" is a choice cut. Dedicated to Matt Dennis, who co-wrote the songs. B

Joyce Cooling: Revolving Door (2006, Narada Jazz): My editor thinks I'm some kind of expert on smooth jazz just because I've been a good enough sport to listen to what I've been sent. But I get less and less of it, especially when guys like Anthony Braxton score Pick Hits. Also when I review records like this one. Cooling's a so-so guitarist who can handle a mid-tempo blues or maintain a shallow groove. Her voice isn't bad but it's even less capable of redeeming a bad song than her guitar. Typical here is "Cool of the Night," which even with vocal oodles isn't a cheesy enough cliché for disco. Still, this is a big improvement over her last one. B-

Elvis Costello Live With the Metropole Orkest: My Flame Burns Blue (2002-04 [2006], Deutsche Grammophone, 2CD): My copy is a large square booklet with two discs on little foam buttons, but it looks like the more pedestrian jewel box version contains all the same music, including the bonus CD "Il Sogno Suite." The live album is bracing, with the Metropoles moving boldly out front both on string and brass fronts, and Costello crooning in the tradition to which he was born. Also helps that he's kept old songbook standbys like "Clubland" and "Watching the Detectives." The bonus suite is classical music in the vein I learned to hate as a child, with no vocals, no song structure, but a smattering of tympani. I have no idea how it compares with its models, nor do I care, but I found it unannoying enough that I didn't feel compelled to cut it short when I played it a second time. That's at least one definition of a B record. B

Elvis Costello & Allen Toussaint: The River in Reverse (2005 [2006], Verve Forecast): Mostly Toussaint songs, mostly Costello singing -- all things considered, a reasonable division of labor. Starts real strong with "On Your Way Down," which sets us up for a level of message that may or may not be delivered, but certainly doesn't kick in clearly. B

Crimetime Orchestra: Life Is a Beautiful Monster (2004 [2005], Jazzaway): Veteran bassist Bjørnar Andresen gets a "featuring" credit here -- he passed away three weeks after this session, but to say he was featured is a misnomer. The group is large -- ten pieces, including three saxes, two brass, guitar, keyboards, both electric and acoustic bass, and drums. The title cut -- in seven parts, most of the album -- is straightforward in its aim to create beauty out of monstrous sound, and in that it mostly succeeds. The group is mostly -- maybe all -- Norwegian, with tenor saxophonist Vidar Johansen first listed and perhaps most important. B+(**)

Stephan Crump: Rosetta (2005 [2006], Papillon Sounds): Bassist, originally from Memphis, now in New York. Didn't recognize the name, but should have: credits include two previous albums, Vijay Iyer, Liberty Ellman, and a Memphis r&b band called Big Ass Truck. This one lines him up with two guitarists -- Ellman on acoustic, Jamie Fox on electric, both sticking tight to the game plan, producing an exceptionally intimate, quite charming little album. [B+(**)]

Stephan Crump: Rosetta (2005 [2006], Papillon Sounds): Another low key guitar album -- even more so because the leader plays bass, and nobody plays drums. The guitar is acoustic by Liberty Ellman and/or electric by Jamie Fox. B+(*)

Meredith d'Ambrosio: Wishing on the Moon (2004 [2006], Sunnyside): Writing about Peyroux, I almost threw in some lines about the tattered state of vocal jazz -- aside from the narrow cabaret niche, it seems like an arbitrary decision who to throw at the jazz markets versus wherever else they may try to ply their wares. It's hard to know what to do with most of the so-called jazz singers that come my way -- makes me wonder if there is any such thing these days, but this one clears up all my doubts. Only a name to me until now, so I have no idea where this fits among the dozen-plus albums she's released. She writes her songs, has a voice with a lot of presence and nuance even though she keeps it toned down, has a small band that swings lightly -- the bass as audible as the piano, brushes on the drums, Don Sickler's muted trumpet and flugelhorn a comforting second voice. [B+(***)]

Meredith d'Ambrosio: Wishing on the Moon (2004 [2006], Sunnyside): Seems like a fine example of what a jazz singer should be -- her voice fine tuned and personable, an innate musicality to everything she does, presence, nuance, the skill and control to play, the discipline not to get off on pointless tangents. All that puts her ahead of about 85% of the field without breaking a sweat. She has a dozen-plus albums, but this is the only one I've heard. I'd be surprised if it wasn't typical. B+(**)

The Miles Davis Quintet: The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions (1955-58 [2006], Prestige, 4CD): The back story is well known. Davis signed with Columbia and organized a quintet to record 'Round About Midnight. The rhythm section was Red Garland, Joe Chambers, and Philly Joe Jones. After Davis' first saxophonist, someone named Sonny Rollins, refused to tour, Philly Joe brought in one of his homeboys, someone named John Coltrane. But Davis had a problem: he still owed Prestige a bunch of albums. They cut one quick in late 1955, then wrapped up with two long days, one on May 11, the other on Oct. 26, 1956. Prestige carved those sessions up by mood to get four albums: Cookin', Relaxin', Workin' and Steamin', but held them back to cash in on Columbia's publicity. The quintet only cut the one album for Columbia, so Prestige's quickies came to represent what was eventually recognized as Davis' First Great Quintet. The five albums fill three discs here, with 36-minutes worth of previously unreleased bait on the fourth, including three cuts with Bill Evans replacing Garland. The remarkable thing about the music is how natural it all sounds. The scion of East St. Louis has given us a near-perfect synthesis of West Coast cool and East Coast hard bop, as if it was the easiest thing in the world to do. A-

Miles Davis: Cool & Collected (1956-84 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): Cool wasn't a defining attribute for Davis, but assembling a superb compilation of his slow stuff from 1956-65 is a no-brainer, as three-fourths of this one proves. But pushing the Gil Evans angle to 1984 turns the ice to slush, and the remix is even more plastic. B+(*)

Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (2005 [2006], Delmark): Dawkins plays alto and tenor sax. The group includes trumpet and trombone, bass and drums. Don't see a credit for vocals, but there are quite a few -- blues shouts, hip-hop, and various hollers, not to mention the patter. Dawkins himself seems to be more out than in, but the ensemble is out for party more than art. A good time, for sure, but I don't have it calibrated yet. [B+(**)]

Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (2005 [2006], Delmark): This is Chicago's answer to a traditional New Orleans tailgate party, with Maurice Brown's trumpet to shine up Dawk's sax, and Steve Berry's trombone to get it dirty again. No one is credited with vocals, but that doesn't stop the shouts, hollers, whelps and raps, let alone the patter. B+(***)

Hamilton de Holanda Quintet: Brasilianos (2006, Adventure Music): De Hollanda plays a 10-string mandolin. Backed with acoustic guitar and electric bass, this group has a dense string sound, which they crank up on the fast ones. Instead of horns, the topping comes from Gabriel Grossi's harmonica, adding sweet and sour notes on top of the propulsion. B+(**)

Deep Blue Organ Trio: Goin' to Town: Live at the Green Mill (2005 [2006], Delmark): Organ-guitar-drums trios were far from mbitious even back in their '60s heyday, so groups like this don't promise much today. Small pleasures, maybe. This one definitely has more than its predecessor, Deep Blue Bruise (2004). Mostly from guitarist Bobby Broom, who holds the lead more often than not. B+(*)

Papa John DeFrancesco: Desert Heat (2006, Savant): Joey's father. Although he started earlier, his recorded career has followed in his son's footsteps. Joey helps out here, producing and playing otherwise undefined keyboards. Bass and drums fill out the group, so the organ dominates, the whole thing depending on how much you like the grinder's groove. I like it fine on "Cold Duck Time" and I'm surprised I can't complain about "House of the Rising Sun." But I also don't see much point, especially given that the groove doesn't always hang tough. B

Jon De Lucia Group: Face No Face (2005 [2006], Jonji Music): Leader plays alto and soprano sax. Group includes guitar, piano, bass and drums, as well as one guest spot on kato and shamisen. Pieces are longish, except for the Japanese one. Rhythm is loose and ragged, sax postbop, arrangement postmodern. Fresh Sound releases a lot of stuff like this, and I'm familiar with several of the players here from releases there. Not bad, but not much that distinguishes it either. B+(*)

Andrey Dergatchev: The Return (2006, ECM): Music for a film by Andrey Zvyagintsev. Don't know when this was recorded, but the film is from 2003 or before. Usual soundtrack ambience, haunting tones, very minimal, with splotches of dialog, words, whatever. One called "Titles-run" is more upbeat, very attractive. B

Denis DiBlasio: View From Pikes (2006, Dreambox Media): Leader plays baritone sax. Never heard of him before, but a little digging tells me he played with Maynard Ferguson in the '80s, teaches at Rowan College, and has a handful of his own albums starting in 1998. He has a trio here with piano and bass, takes most of the pieces at a leisurely pace, and lets the instruments enjoy their natural sounds. Plays a little flute too, which is more upbeat. Recorded at Maggie's Farm, with Matt Balitsaris getting an engineer credit. Not much to it, but it's a lovely album. B+(**)

Whit Dickey: Sacred Ground (2004 [2006], Clean Feed): Best known as one of the series of drummers in the David S. Ware Quartet, Dickey has emerged as an interesting free jazz leader. But regardless of what he writes, or how he centers his drums, the fireworks come from the horns, with Rob Brown's alto sax fleet and rough, and Roy Campbell's trumpet his perfect foil. The fourth member of the quartet is Joe Morris, playing double bass instead of his usual guitar -- although there's at least one spot where he sure fooled me. B+(***)

Al Di Meola: Consequences of Chaos (2006, Telarc): Starts off as a nice groove album, and stays there. Just dropped this in for a stretch when I was preoccupied so couldn't follow it closely. Don't know his work, didn't expect much, but enjoyed what I could follow. [B+(*)]

The Diplomats: We Are Not Obstinate Islands (2004 [2006], Clean Feed): Money's tight everywhere -- certainly in the jazz business, but all the more so in the jazz writing business, especially given that all I'm guaranteed for the next Jazz CG is a kill fee. When I'm deluding myself that writing this column is something other than economic suicide, I often comfort myself by thinking that at least I'm building up an amazing reference collection -- in my no doubt even more impoverished retirement I'll have plenty to listen to. To paraphrase Fat Freddie, music will get you through times of no money better than money will get you through times of no music. But what used to be my favorite European label has come up with two ways of saving money that make my life more difficult, not to mention what I just mentioned. One is that they're shipping out cardboard sleeve promo copies instead of something resembling the actual product. The other is that they ship the promo lit in PDF files via email -- well, don't get me started on the evils of PDF. So to review one of these records I have to dig back through my email and save off the attachment and bring up xpdf, at which point I discover that they're probably cutting some more costs on their liner note writing. I hope that at least they'll put some of that money back into the music, but it's hard to tell from this one. The Diplomats is a meaningless name. The band consists of Rob Brown on alto sax, Steve Swell on trombone, and Harris Eisenstadt on drums. The music is free improv from a gig in Rochester -- not much, although I'm always glad to hear from these guys, especially Brown. One thing I've always liked about Pedro Costa is his willingness to pick up a tape that makes no business sense and put it out just because he likes it. At least that much hasn't changed. B

DJ Logic: Zen of Logic (2005 [2006], Ropeadope): Just have an advance here, although the record has been out for months. DJ Logic (Jason Kibler) is the most likely turntablist to show up on a jazz album, partly because he's able to draw so much music out of his scratches, but also because his interests in Miles and Trane led him into various jazz circles -- especially those with an interest in bridging from the jazz end. Not sure who all does what here, but the guest list includes John Medeski and Charlie Hunter. Still, despite namechecking Coltrane, this is very much on his home turf: hip-hop beats, lots of scratches, a few raps. My only complaint is that I can't find the hook; otherwise I like this kind of thing a lot. B+(*)

Chet Doxas Quartet: Sidewalk Etiquette (2004 [2006], Justin Time): Tenor saxophonist from Montreal, with his drummer brother in the group, as well as a nicely developed keyboard player named John Rooney -- plays Fender Rhodes as well as piano. Mainstream stuff -- Doxas sounds fine on the hard swinging stuff, but I find some minor tics annoying when he slows it down. B

Ismael Dueñas: Mirage (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish piano trio, damn good one, even if I'm at a loss of words to describe them. Same thing happened with Dueñas's previous album, La Tiranía de la Cosa. [B+(**)]

Ismael Dueñas: Mirage (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): This is the second piano trio I've heard from Dueñas -- liked the first one, like this one a bit more. Still, this is a tough one for me to write about -- that Guillermo Klein's liner notes are in Spanish is more an omen than an excuse. What I like is that this has some crunch to it, that it turns in unexpected ways then nails the deal down with a strong chord. B+(***)

Vicente Espí Quartet: Tras Coltrane (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent): Any time a group covers A Love Supreme -- three-fourths of it, anyway -- they're begging for comparison with the original, which is to say they're boxing way out of their weight class. The four earlier tracks are more interesting, in large part because they have more leeway on them. But any way you look at it, the group here is pure tribute. The leader plays drums. Jesús Santandreu gets the starring role. Albert Bover plays McCoy Tyner. Paco Charlín gets the great Jimmy Garrison lines. They had fun, and if it sounds a bit old, it's just because Trane was actually a lot heavier than his postbop followers. They got that right. B+(*)

Geoff Farina/Luther Gray/Nate McBride: Out Trios Volume Four (2004 [2006], Atavistic): Electric guitar, drums, acoustic bass, respectively. Not as far out as I figured, but I haven't heard any of Atavistic's Out series. A tight, chunky, rhythmic section is particularly appealing, while the slower, sparser sections are merely suggestive. B+(*)

Barbara Fasano: Written in the Stars (2005 [2006], Human Child): Can't go wrong with Harold Arlen. As I recall, the Arlen records stand out in Ella Fitzgerald's songbook series. I even picked out Carrie Smith's Arlen tribute in my first Jazz CG. I never tire of "Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea" or "Come Rain or Come Shine" or "One for My Baby" and have no complaints about the versions here. A couple of the more obscure songs may drag a bit, but Fasano has a serviceable voice and a viable band, including Joel Frahm on tenor and soprano sax, and this is a fine survey. B+(*)

Kali Z. Fasteau/Kidd Jordan: People of the Ninth: New Orleans and the Hurricane 2005 (2005 [2006], Flying Note): Drummer Michael T.A. Thompson is the third name on the cover, but not the spine. He has as much to do with this as anyone, but that's because he adds a balance to the leaders. Floods excavate as well as bury, and one of the few positive effects of Katrina has been the emergence of Kidd Jordan as the avant-garde's honorary Mardi Gras master. I've always found him a bit difficult, but Kali Z's goofiness lets him be the focus without getting overly serious. She plays her usual smorgasbord of instruments: piano, cello, soprano sax, nai flute, something called an aquasonic that I'll have to look up some day. While Jordan's the star, he sits out on my favorite track here, pitching Kali's nai against Thompson's balafon. [B+(***)]

Kali Z. Fasteau/Kidd Jordan: People of the Ninth: New Orleans and the Hurricane 2005 (2005 [2006], Flying Note): Presumably Jordan makes his living trad jazz back home in New Orleans, but driven away by the flood, he's become the Crescent City's unofficial ambassador to New York's jazz underground. A good record with familiar faces William Parker and Hamid Drake resulted -- the Kidd was on his best behavior and the tag team was typically brilliant. Here Jordan helps to steady Kali Z's inveterate eclecticism, providing a consistent sonic center for her piano, cello, and soprano sax. Drummer Michael T.A. Thompson's name didn't fit the spine, but he referees here, and switches to balafon for a duet with Kali's nai flute -- the most attractive cut here. B+(**)

Mark Feldman: What Exit (2005 [2006], ECM): Most of the time I play the stereo at moderately low volume, often opposed to those annoying "play it loud" instructions some labels like to affix. One consequence of this is that I've developed a pet peeve over faintly recorded segments which tend to disappear under the hum of the computer fans, not to mention the notorious Kansas wind and the occasional tornado siren. This got off on the wrong foot with a segment long enough I wound up checking the health of the equipment. When I went back and turned it up, I found interesting composerly moments, with Anders Jormin's bass reinforcing Feldman's violin, and pianist John Taylor taking scenic sidetrips. They can generate some momentum when they want, but not much volume. The sort of record that gains stature the more you get into it, but for my purposes, at 70+ minutes, it's more work than it's worth. B

Ken Filiano/Steve Adams: The Other Side of This (2002 [2006], Clean Feed): Filiano is a bassist I run across with some frequency, and his presence on an album is always a good sign. Adams I didn't recognize, although after throwing out some false leads, I find that I should have known better. He plays all sorts of woodwinds, with sopranino sax an evident favorite. Past credits include Composers in Red Sneakers, Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Your Neighborhood Saxophone Quartet, Rova Saxophone Quarter, various Vinny Golia projects, and at least three previous albums with Filiano. These are just duets: 2-3 cuts each on sopranino sax, alto sax, tenor sax, flute, and bass flute. They are interesting in their detailed interplay, but not the sort of thing that might known anyone's socks off -- the sort of thing I like when I manage to pay sufficient attention, but I'd rather recommend records you don't have to pay attention to in order to like. B+(*)

Mitchel Forman: Perspectives (2005-06 [2006], Marsis Jazz): Pianist, including electronic keyboards. Not familiar with his own albums. Most of his side credits seem to be fusion (starting with John McLaughlin) and pop jazz (Chuck Loeb, Rick Braun, Jeff Golub, Najee, list goes on), but two early credits were with Gerry Mulligan and Stan Getz. This is half acoustic, half synthesized, often with sequenced percussion. Two originals, two Beatles songs, various covers which most likely represent a personal view of the tradition -- Hancock, Corea, McLaughlin, Shorter, Ron Carter, Russell Ferrante, and most importantly two from Keith Jarrett. Coming after Jarrett in my queue, this popped my ears right up. Will have to play it some more. [B+(***)]

Mimi Fox: Perpetually Hip (2005 [2006], Favored Nations, 2CD): Jazz guitarist, on her seventh album since 1987. Nickname is Fast Fingers -- she doesn't strike me as particularly fast or fancy, but she does pick out a strong line and she keeps her balance rhythmically. First disc is a small group -- piano, bass, drums, extra percussion on two cuts -- and it hums along nicely. Second disc is solo, and it holds together as well. Don't know her earlier work, and I'm not quite sure what to make of this, but won't mind studying it further. [B+(**)]

Von Freeman: Good Forever (2006, Premonition): At 84, he's been good a long time, but he's never sounded this relaxed before. The quartet with Richard Wyands on piano, John Webber on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums is impeccably mainstream, with a rich ensemble sound. Freeman still has that scrawny, constricted, wheezy tone that makes him instantly recognizable, although it only becomes conspicuous when he reaches for a note that isn't there. Otherwise, he reminds you that the loveliest thing in the world is to hear a tenor saxophonist stretch out on a ballad. [B+(***)]

Von Freeman: Good Forever (2006, Premonition): He's always had a distinctively thin, fragile sound, so the surprise here is how well he keeps it hidden. At 84, he may have slowed down, but that's possibly because this mainstream quartet never pushes him. Even so, sometimes he does reach for notes that aren't there, slipping into a muffled screech. Only then does his sax balladry reverts to form. B+(***)

Fred Fried: The Wisdom of the Notes (2006, Ballet Tree): The name always throws me. Presumably it's pronounced "free-d" but as a rock critic I can think of several artists who adopted past tense verbs as surnames, like Michelle Shocked. His bio doesn't mention anything about having been a short-order cook, but it does emphasize his debt to George Van Eps. Following Van Eps, Fried plays a nylon 7-string guitar. Last time I heard him accompanied with strings I'd rather do without, but this trio, with Michael Moore on bass and Tony Tedesco on drums, serves him especially well. [B+(***)]

Fred Fried: The Wisdom of the Notes (2006, Ballet Tree): He plays a nylon 7-string guitar, folowing the model of George Van Eps. Just bass and drums serves him well, delivering an elegant low key guitar album. B+(**)

Mike Frost Project: Comin' Straight At Ya' (2006, Blujazz): A Chicago group, led by the two Frost brothers -- Mike on tenor/soprano sax and Steve on trumpet/flugelhorn. With organ and guitar, they lean toward soul jazz, but the brothers keep returning to classic bebop. The two percussionists don't resolve this one way or another, and the fact that one is ex-Vandermark Five drummer Tim Mulvenna means nothing. A likable record, but not much to it. B

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Kobe Yee!! (2006, Crab Apple): I need to pace myself here. This is one of four new live big band recordings, differentiated by city -- don't know what else, at least not yet. Just some random notes for now. The baritone sax honks set the tone. Second cut erupts in blares that remind me of the Batman theme -- such humor, inadvertent or not, recurs periodically. Title track is leaner and stronger than the rest, something for her "best of" anthology. The piano stands out more than on her other big band albums -- at least the ones I've heard so far. Three more to go. [B+(**)]

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Kobe: Kobe Yee!! (2006, Crab Apple): Comparably loud to the Nagoya outfit, especially with Fujii playing piano here, and similar in other respects, but not as consistently interesting or as humorous. I wonder whether the horn blares in the second cut cry out "Batman!" in Japan like they do here -- at least for reviews of a certain age. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Maru (2006, Bakamo): Fujii only conducts -- no piano on this one. Program has three of her pieces, two by husband-trumpeter Natsuki Tamura, one by guitarist Yasuhiro Usul. Band has five reeds, seven brass, guitar, bass, drums. The arrangements are very tight, and the integration of the horns is very effective, so you get the volume you expect plus nimbleness. The guitarist gets some space, and is a plus. This could go higher, but length and distractions caution me. The parts I managed to follow closely are quite impressive. [B+(***)]

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya: Maru (2006, Bakamo): Probably the pick of the four Fujii big bands, even though she only conducts, leaving the orchestra without her explosive piano. But the arrangements gain along the way. The mountains of brass move nimbly, the soloists squawk amiably, and guitarist Yasuhiro Usul gets some well-used space. Much good humor, almost corny in spots. In many ways this is more remarkable than the Junk Box record, which I picked over it -- not least because it was easier to grasp and I settled on it first. If Basie's big band was atomic, this one's thermonuclear. B+(***)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra NY: Undulation (2005 [2006], PJL): This is more what I expected from Fujii's big band, probably because I've heard this group before, and I'm familiar with most of the NY-based players. They're loud. Sometimes the sheer power delivers the message. Sometimes it just overwhelms you. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Live!! (2005 [2006], Libra): The Kobe and Nagoya Orchestras are brand new, but Fujii has worked with the Tokyo and New York groups for some time now, as they represent her two bases. The New York group seems more of a free for all, whereas this group seems tighter, even when they play as loud. Avant-big band rarely works -- it's just awfully tough to keep all the freedom from canceling each other out -- but Fujii is remarkably adept as keeping her hordes together. Only the NY album strikes me as having peaked. The Japanese groups open up some interesting prospects for large scale arrangement. Comes with a DVD, which I haven't gotten to. [B+(**)]

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Live!! (2006, Libra): I hate to admit this -- it runs counter to my sense of how the world should work, and especially to how I want to do my job -- but the DVD saved the bacon here. It helps to be able to map sounds to the fifteen faces squeezed onto a small-looking stage. The sheer amount of paper on the stands in front of all the musicians and their concentration in following it all speaks volumes about how all this noise is assembled. It also let me note some uncredited flute-like instruments Kunihiro Izumi used for a solo, and seeing often helps clarify bass and drums. But one shouldn't get carried away: the music itself is often on a cusp between interesting and annoying. While focus helps tilt it over the top, I can't get all that excited about music that makes me work so hard. But I did find the DVD take of "Bennie's Waltz" exhilarating, and most of the time I had my head turned the other way. B+(*)

Charles Gayle Trio: Consider the Lilies . . . (2005 [2006], Clean Feed): Gayle sounds like no one else. But he sounds so much like himself that his albums melt together into an indistinguishable mass. It makes little difference whether he plays alto sax, as he does here and on Live at Glenn Miller Café (Ayler; released earlier but recorded later), or tenor, as on Shout! (his previous Clean Feed release). Only his solo piano album Time Zones is off in a different world -- he's a distinctive and rather remarkable pianist, but not even Cecil Taylor can pound a piano with the fury and urgency of Gayle blowing sax. As his trio albums go, this one strikes me as better than average: more in control, perhaps because the alto is easier to handle; his one cut piano break fits in nicely, without losing much of the energy level; and Jay Rosen makes a heroic contribution on drums. B+(**)

Night in Tunisia: The Very Best of Dizzy Gillespie (1946-49 [2006], Bluebird/Legacy): Three small group cuts with Milt Jackson and Al Haig lay out the principles of bebop, with the rest of the disc devoted to Dizzy's big band, including six key cuts with Cuban percussionist Chano Pozo. A narrow slice of a brilliant career, not the "very best" so much as the truly momentous. A

Dave Glasser: Above the Clouds (2006, Arbors): Mainstream alto saxophonist, has a bit of Paul Desmond's tone sandwiched between slightly more vintage concepts of swing and bebop. Plays here with a piano-bass-drums quartet, on a program that's half original, half standards -- the former are minor exercises, while the latter offer instant gratification. B+(*)

Marcus Goldhaber: The Moment After (2006, Fallen Apple): In effect, a cabaret singer, although it's noteworthy that he learned as a child with his mother playing piano and pitching him songs. He has a light, thin voice that works best on equally light fare -- "Walking My Baby Back Home," "Old Cape Cod." Also helps that mom was a Fats Waller fan. B+(*)

Dennis González Boston Project: No Photograph Available (2003 [2006], Clean Feed): Recorded live in Boston on a sidetrip with a quickly assembled group of locals: Either/Or Orchestra saxophonist Charlie Kohlhase, bassists Nate McBride and Joe Morris, and a teenaged Morris student named Croix Galipault on drums. The basses are central, slipping into scratchy duets when the horns back off, or more often setting up a pulse which the horns mimic and amplify. González had largely slipped off the radar playing with his Dallas band Yells at Eels, but this started an outreach that led to a remarkable series of albums: NY Midnight Suite, Nile River Suite, and especially Idle Wild. Compared to them, this is rough and a bit tentative. B+(**)

Ayelet Rose Gottlieb: Mayim Rabim (2006, Tzadik): These notes are necessarily quick reactions, as opposed to fully considered reviews, so sometimes my reactions stray from the text. Sometimes I bring up aspects of the process, like when I complain about having to work off slipcase promos -- by the way, I always get fan mail when I do that. This isn't even that: just a CDR in a purple plastic wrapper, stapled to a relatively fancy press kit. I assume this is all John Zorn's fault, but let me explain. When I started this column, Tzadik was very high on my label wish list. I was told that they never send promo copies out, but that as a press person I could buy discounted copies at the same price they sell copies to their artists. Now, if you're a consumer, that's a good deal -- I've bought a couple of things on my long-term wish list, and should buy some more if/when I ever find the time/money. But it's way too expensive to go fishing. And while Tzadik produces some of the most interesting records around, they also put out some very strange, even unlistenable, shit. So the writer economics are, to say the least, dicey, but the "artist price" bothers me too. I do manage to get a few Tzadik records in the mail, either directly from the musician or through a publicist the musician hired, and every time that happens Tzadik's cash register rings in my head. Gottlieb figured a way around that -- while I don't like working off this, I can't say as I blame her. As for the music, she seems to see herself as a jazz singer, but this is something else. She's taken texts from the "erotic biblical love poem Song of Songs." Sung in Hebrew, I suspect the translations lose something -- "My beloved stretched forth his hand from the hole/And my insides beat wildly"? The voices radiate over clever arrangements of clarinet, piano, cello and percussion, unpeeling the popular artifacts of Jewish music to reveal roots that sound timeless. B+(*)

Lou Grassi's PoBand: Infinite POtential (2005 [2006], CIMP): Avant quintet, with three horns up front -- Herb Robertson's trumpet, David Taylor's bass trombone, Perry Robinson's clarinet -- with Adam Lane's bass all led by the drummer. Don't have a good fix on this yet, but the drums strike me as central, heavy pummelling that lifts up the brass. [B+(**)]

Gordon Grdina/Gary Peacock/Paul Motian: Think Like the Waves (2006, Songlines): Motian and Peacock need no further introduction here. Grdina is a young guitarist from Vancouver -- also plays oud in a group called Sangha. Also seems to be involved in other groups: Loose Acoustic, Box Cutter, Maqam. There's a low key, somewhat rough, somewhat abstract feel here -- Peacock is a mentor to Grdina, so they play particularly close, while Motian is all misdirection, as usual. B+(**)

George Gruntz Concert Jazz Band: Tiger by the Tail (2005 [2006], TCB): Swiss pianist and big band arranger, Gruntz is in his 70s now, and his Concert Jazz Band dates back to the '70s. I've missed his records up to this one, so I have no idea how this fits in, but a glance through the Penguin Guide indicates that the size and personnel are highly volatile. He travels a lot and records with musicians he finds along the way -- this was recorded in NYC, hence a conspicuous number of Americans, several bringing their own music. And clearly he prefers unleashing the musicians to see what they come up with to trying to tame them in pursuit of some artistic vision of his own. This blows up pretty quickly, with six trumpets leading the charge, but settles down for some more intricate stuff before the program ends. If someone like Pierre Dørge is trying to project a postmodern Ellington orchestra, Gruntz's analog would be to Woody Herman -- not so far out, but raucous, rowdy, a platform for soloists and rough-hewn teamwork. B+(**)

Chico Hamilton: Juniflip (2003-05 [2006], Joyous Shout): The legendary cool jazz drummer turns 85 this September, and he's got four new albums to celebrate with. That's quite a lot to deal with, especially from a guy I've never paid much attention to -- only have two of his albums in my database, both unrated Soul Notes from the early '90s, although I must have a big pile of records he's played drums on over the last 50+ years. (Well, small pile, anyway. Looks like most of his session work goes back past Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker to Lester Young and Billie Holiday.) All four albums have the same core group: Cary Denigris on guitar, Paul Ramsey on Fender bass, Evan Schwam and Andrew Haddo on flute and reeds, and Jeremy Carlstedt on percussion. Some have an extra flute/reeds player -- Karolina Strassmayer here, Geoffrey Countryman on two others. Most have guests: trombones here, plus vocals by Bill Henderson (two cuts) and Arthur Lee (one). But that's all set up. The record does little for me, although there are things I like fine. The drummer has a nice swivel, a little too fleeting to be called swing. The guitar and drums amplify that, but also color it, and I don't much care for their tones. The reeds provide more bulk, but as color they are strictly pastel, and none are able to take command. So picture them as grasses or flowers shuffling to and fro, swivelling from the drums. That's fair enough as to represent Hamilton, but I'm looking forward to four 70-minute albums of the same. The vocals at least break things up a bit, and they're the best things here. Not sure I've ever said that about Henderson before, so not sure that's much of a compliment. B-

Chico Hamilton: Believe (2005 [2006], Joyous Shout): This seems to be a little more forthright than Juniflip, both in the guitar and the saxophone. Nothing strikes me as bad, annoying, or even boring, although at 72:47 it is plenty long. Fontella Bass guests, singing three pieces. She never gets much traction, even on her bread and butter gospel, and not just because Chico chills out. B

Chico Hamilton: 6th Avenue Romp (2006, Joyous Shout): Just have advances of the last two releases in Hamilton's quadfecta, so I don't have session info. Hype sheet says this is, "an elegy to '60s era L.A. which moves from Motown covers to a song entitled 'Elevation' that sounds like Coltrane sitting in with WAR (guitarist Shuggie Otis, son of the great Johnny Otis, guests here)." Actually, the credits put Otis on a different cut, but they're probably wrong. But any case I'd worry more about Evan Schwam as Coltrane than anyone as WAR. While "Ain't No Sunshine" is the theme here -- at least it gets a reprise -- "Take the 'A' Train" isn't exactly a '60s L.A. theme song. It turns out that "Elevation" ain't bad, but the sax influence appears to be Wayne Shorter rather than Coltrane, and it's a soprano. "'A' Train" is done with the vocal -- presumably Brenna Bavis, the cut credits are screwed up here too -- and it ain't bad either. But the only thing here that moves beyond "not bad" is a guest shot on trumpet -- Jon Faddis. B

Chico Hamilton: Heritage (2006, Joyous Shout): I've played each of these albums twice, which means I've put about ten hours into the series. A third pass might lead me to appreciate the subtleties of Hamilton's art more, although I don't doubt that I get the basic idea: he's always been a slippery fellow, and his post-cool just scales his approach up through the band. He brings a long history of references into the mix, but in the end they're so uniformly integrated that everything reduces to consistency. A third pass might just as well drive me to a pique of downgrading. But neither is all that likely -- there's very little to dislike even if there's also very little to get excited about. This last volume is meant as an homage to Gerald Wilson, who wrote three of the pieces. That means more texturing, which is not something this doctor would prescribe. Two vocals by Marya Lawrence are the high points. A third by Hamilton is a throwaway. B-

Herbie Hancock: Jazz to Funk (1966-69 [2006], Aim, 2CD): The booklet describes these as "some of Herbie Hancock's rarest and most interesting recordings from the 1960s," but doesn't give much more than hints about who did what when and where. As near as I can tell, the first disc reproduces a 1969 album originally released as Kawaida under drummer Albert "Tootie" Heath's name. The dominant personality on the album is Don Cherry, who springs Jimmy Heath into a free frenzy on soprano and tenor sax -- a dimension I've never heard before. Tootie is also working way outside his normal bounds, with Ed Blackwell and James Mtume adding to the percussion. Hancock and Buster Williams hold their own in this group. Billy Bonner plays flute, and there are chants and the like, giving this a period feel, not far removed from what Pharoah Sanders was doing at the time. The other disc appears to be outtakes from the 1966 sessions for the Blow Up soundtrack. This is more conventional fare, with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson standing out in a group reportedly including Freddie Hubbard, Joe Newman, Phil Woods, Jim Hall, Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette. But, as is often the case with soundtrack music, pieces vary: one called "Far Out" sounds like electric bass, vibes, congas, and flute, none of which are documented. Nice minor groove piece, as is the flute-dominated closer "Hot and Heavy." B+(**)

Scotty Hard's Radical Reconstructive Surgery (2004 [2006], Thirsty Ear): AMG files him under rap, but most of the credits on Scott Harding's resume are for producer, engineer, and/or mixing. His credit here is for drum machines, samplers, optigan, and percussion. Keyboardits John Medeski and Matthew Shipp get second billing, followed by William Parker, Nasheet Waits, DJ Olive, and Mauricio Takara. Basically, this is what you get when you shuffle Shipp's jazztronica with Medeski's organ grind. [B+(**)]

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella (2006, Blue Note): This seems at first like it may make it on concept: the subtitle is "Dances With Duke" and the pieces come from Ellington suites. The first three come from The New Orleans Suite, and a bit of Steve Turre trombone near the top sounds promising. But it turns out to be the only instrument in the group with any bite to it -- the others are flute, clarinet, piano, viola, cello, bass, drums, and the leader's mallets, and the combination bogs down when the music slows up. [B]

Stefon Harris: African Tarantella (2005 [2006], Blue Note): I've never been much impressed with the highly touted vibraphonist, but these "dances with Duke" at least show conceptual daring. And when Steve Turre uncorks his trombone for some much needed brass, the opening movements from "The New Orleans Suite" come to life. But Turre provides the only whiff of brass here, leaving the suites mired in soft colors -- flute, clarinet, piano, strings, nothing that might compete with the leader's mallets. As long as the composer is named Ellington, this is an interesting twist. But when the composer's name is Harris, the fluff has a harder time standing on its own. B+(*)

Billy Hart: Quartet (2005 [2006], High Note): Hart's a drummer with a handful of albums under his own name and something like 500 working for other people. I won't bore you with a list, other than to note that it starts with Jimmy Smith in 1963, and while it's more mainstream than not, the range is pretty wide. Hart wrote four songs here, but he's more the honored leader than the auteur here. The frontline players are saxophonist Mark Turner and pianist Ethan Iverson, and this album has their sound(s) and sense(s) all over it. Obviously some significant talent here, but I'm not quickly tuning into the postbop whatever. Francis Davis will review this for the Voice. I'm holding off. [B+(**)]

Billy Hart: Quartet (2005 [2006], High Note): The veteran drummer wrote four of nine songs, versus two for the pianist and one for the saxophonist, so his leadership isn't exactly honorary. But the group's sound flows from Ethan Iverson's piano and Mark Turner's tenor sax, and fits squarely in their generation of postbop. B+(***)

Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy Band: Maximum Firepower (2006, Savant): After breaking in with Yusef Lateef and Horace Silver, Hayes played drums in Cannonball Adderley's Quintet from 1959-65. That covers their heyday, giving him as much right as anyone to go back to the well. Still, this wouldn't work without horn players who matched up well with the Adderley brothers. Vincent Herring fits in nicely on alto sax, both in terms of speed and tone on the rare occasions when this slows down a bit. Jeremy Pelt, if anything, kicks brother Nat's trumpet role up a notch -- you can tell why he's winning all those polls. Piano set is split between Rick Germanson and Anthony Wonsey. Bass is Richie Goods. I started pretty skeptical, but this is gaining on me. [B+(***)]

Louis Hayes and the Cannonball Legacy Band: Maximum Firepower (2006, Savant): Bright, brassy hard bop, pretty much like the model. Vincent Herring is a fair approximation of Cannonball, and if anything Jeremy Pelt kicks Nat up a notch. Hayes has been there and done that -- he played with the Adderleys in their 1959-65 heyday. He's entitled, but the difference now is that the popular moves back then still had an audience. This may sound the same, but it misses that connection. B+(**)

Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid: The Exchange Session Vol. 1 (2005 [2006], Domino): Hebden usually does business as Four Tet, with a couple of the better electronica albums I've heard in the last few years. Reid is a drummer who can list James Brown, Fela Kuti, and Martha and the Vandellas on his resume, but I know him best for a self-released 1976 album with Arthur Blythe called Rhythmatism (reissued in 2004 on Universal Sound). The purported model here was a 1972 sax-drums album called Duo Exchange with Rashied Ali and Frank Lowe (reissued in 1999 by Knitting Factory, and well worth searching out), but the match isn't all that close. Reid enjoys a good beat more than Ali, while Hebden's electronics are more diffuse than the solitary point of Lowe's sax. Three pieces, just 36:45 long, recorded live with no overdubs or edits -- about right for an early '70s vintage Impulse, but they keep their spiritual concerns wrapped up in dense layers of sound. A-

Kieran Hebden and Steve Reid: The Exchange Session Vol. 2 (2005 [2006], Domino): Three more pieces from the same sessions, slightly longer (53:30). Not as compelling, not because they're longer but because the initial ideas just didn't work out as well. That happens sometimes -- more often than not -- when you try live improv. Not superfluous either, but check out Vol. 1 before you spring for the leftovers. That's why they packaged them this way. B+(**)

Gilad Hekselman: Split Life (2006, Smalls): Guitar-bass-drums trio, led by a young Israeli guitarist, with Joe Martin on bass and Ari Hoenig on drums, recorded live at Fat Cat in NYC. Similar to a piano trio, although jazz custom tends more toward improvising single-note lines. Nice record, similar to another half-dozen I've heard, mostly on Fresh Sound. B+(*)

Anke Helfrich Trio: Better Times Ahead (2005 [2006], Double Moon): Pianist, German I think, although her website bio only starts in 1989 with studies in the Netherlands. This appears to be her second Trio recording, both with featured guests -- Mark Turner on 2000's You'll See, Roy Hargrove here. Hargrove plays on three of nine cuts, including one of two Monk covers. The byword here is lively: everything comes up bright, shiny, vibrant. Even Hargrove, who sounds like he's having a lot more fun than he has on his own records lately. B+(**)

Mark Helias' Open Loose: Atomic Clock (2004 [2006], Radio Legs Music): This one's so directly up my alley I'm a little suspicious, or maybe just extra cautious. Aside from one cut, this is a trio with Helias on bass, Tom Rainey on drums, and Tony Malaby on tenor sax. Anyone who likes Tim Berne's records with Rainey will have no trouble tuning in this one. All three are often terrific, but I find myself nitpicking on the slower ones, where there's a slight stall risk. The other cut adds Ellery Eskelin for a second tenor sax, but it's one of the slow ones, more contrasting harmony than joust. [B+(***)]

Mark Helias' Open Loose: Atomic Clock (2004 [2006], Radio Legs Music): Bassist-led sax trio, with Tony Malaby taking charge, and Tom Rainey on the drums. Not sure how much to credit the composition here, since the hard chargers are the ones that work best. B+(***)

Joe Henderson: Milestone Profiles (1967-75 [2006], Milestone): One of the all-time great tenor sax soloists, Henderson is famed for his early Blue Notes and his big comeback on Verve in the '90s, but he wasn't marking time in between. His Milestone records may have been inconsistent -- haven't checked the 8-CD box, but surely it's de trop -- but he's in top form on this wide-ranging selection. A-

Frank Hewitt: Fresh From the Cooler (1996 [2006], Smalls): Rules of thumb: I know what I like in a piano trio, but I rarely know how to explain just why one is able to pique my interest while so many others just sound like, well, so many others. It's certainly important that the bass and drums stay in the game. Ari Roland and Jimmy Lovelace qualify here, but barely -- aside from some heavy-handed drums on "Tenor Madness," Hewitt's piano is key throughout. He just seems right on the mark. Need to check it again, but my first impression is that this may top his first posthumous album -- Hewitt was one of those guys who played for decades but never made a record, at least before his death at 66 in 2002. [A-]

Frank Hewitt: Fresh From the Cooler (1996 [2006], Smalls): Hewitt was a bebop pianist who almost slipped through 66 years of life without leaving a trace. But he built a cult during an eight year residency at Smalls jazz club, inspiring a label to no small degree dedicated to his legacy. This makes four posthumous albums, with more on the shelf -- at least one more from this date, a trio with Ari Roland and Jimmy Lovelace. The songs are jazz standards, but there's nothing overly familiar about them -- even "Cherokee" and "Monk's Mood" skirt the melodies for hidden nuances. A-

Joan Hickey: Between the Lines (2006, Origin): Despite the song selection -- I can't say as I've ever wanted to hear "Black Magic Woman" or "Bridge Over Troubled Water" again -- this is an exceptionally engaging middle-of-the-road jazz album. She's a Chicago pianist, working since 1980, but as far as I can tell only has one previous album. This drops down to a trio, as on the Bud Powell closer, which she explains thus: "Everybody got to play some bebop!" But most cuts are amply filled out with Tito Carillo's trumpet and/or John Wojciechowski's sax. [B+(***)]

Maurice Hines: To Nat "King" Cole With Love (2005 [2006], Arbors): Singer tribute albums usually beg the question, why not the original? I predict that once my original surprise and delight wear off, this will wind in the Honorable Mentions, but right now the only similar album I can think of that I find this charming is Roseanna Vitro's Catching Some Rays -- as in Ray Charles, and obviously there the vocal comparison was less in lay, so the music took over. Hines is Gregory's older brother. He has the same talent set -- dancer, actor, singer, in roughly that order -- but never got so famous. The songs are the ones you know. Hines' voice is damn close to Cole's, so he depends on ticks and nuances for variation. The band is first rate -- some real swing, especially the Tommy Newsom arrangements. [A-]

Maurice Hines: To Nat "King" Cole With Love (2005 [2006], Arbors): Gregory's big brother comes close enough to the mark to beg the question, why pick this over originals that still sound as great as ever. Hines is a smooth, agile singer, but can't touch Cole's voice. But the band consistently spans Cole's career, with more muscle than the Trio and none of the dross of Cole's orchestras. And the songs live on: Cole was the hippest of the pre-rock pop stars, by a margin that has only grown since. A-

God Bless the Child: The Very Best of Billie Holiday (1935-42 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): Minor nitpick: the booklet has a page with a short bio and some cross-references: influenced by, influenced, musical associations. The latter list is: Lester Young, Buck Clayton, Roy Eldridge, Oscar Peterson, Barney Kessel, Benny Goodman, Count Basie. The latter is well known trivia: Basie gave Holiday a job, but never bothered to record her -- something he may have regretted the rest of his life, if you can imagine Basie ever regretting anything. Basie doesn't appear here, nor do Peterson and Kessel, who didn't meet up with Holiday until the '50s. The others are fair choices, but the main thing is the one who's missing: Teddy Wilson, who appears on 8 of 14 cuts here, many originally released under Wilson's own name. This collection splits roughly in half between Wilson's all-star groups, where Holiday was just one of the greats, and Holiday's own much more anonymous orchestras. The former are a lot more fun -- that guy who sounds so much like Benny Goodman is, after all, Benny Goodman, and that game goes on and on: Ben Webster, Lester Young, Johnny Hodges, Bunny Berigan, Buck Clayton, Artie Shaw, a whole lot of Roy Eldridge, and an all-time great on the piano. But Holiday own half holds up just as well: her orchestras closed ranks behind her, and no one ever sang songs like "Body and Soul" and "Solitude" like her. Of course, you don't need this: it's pulled from nine CDs anyone who cares about not just jazz but any kind of American music should already own -- unless you sprung for the 10-CD box instead. A

Dave Holland Quintet: Critical Mass (2005 [2006], Dare2/Sunnyside): I've played this four or five times, always thinking that for such an obviously important record I shouldn't comment until I'm able to say something deeper than "it has some good moments, but it's awful goddamn long." Will keep it open, not so much because I have hopes that it will eventually cohere, much less attain critical mass; more like I might finally figure out what's wrong with it and nab Chris Potter with that Dud he's been dodging ever since he got unexpectedly strong. Not that I expect it's going to be his fault -- he has as many good moments as anyone. More likely the auteur, which is what makes it difficult. [B+(*)]

Dave Holland Quintet: Critical Mass (2005 [2006], Dare2/Sunnyside): My idea of doing a bass special with Allison and Lane as pick hits and Holland bring up the rear is officially dead: this has managed to escape the dudhouse. Holland just has too much firepower and too many options in his book to completely slip up. Two cuts are choice here, excepting the closing bars of the latter -- "Lucky Seven" and "Full Circle" -- and it's Robin Eubanks on trombone who put them over the top, although he couldn't have done it without the leader's bass moving things along. You don't hear much trombone period these days, let alone a guy who can run off with the lead without even cheating like J.J. used to do. Vibraphonist Steven Nelson is another guy here who plays a strong hand from a weak suit. Drummer Nate Smith can jump in and out of time with the best of them. And Chris Potter wouldn't be so overrated if he wasn't so damn talented. What threw me off at first is shrinking, but still present -- little bits that seem off color or out of place, plus the suspicion that this is just too damn fancy. But I guess those who can like to flaunt it. B+(***)

John Hollenbeck & Jazz Bigband Graz: Joys & Desires (2004 [2006], Intuition): There's too much going on here for me to wrap my brain around. The big band can function as one instrument or many, but rarely as a set of individuals, even the ones noted for their solos. Part of the complication is Theo Bleckmann, credited with electronic effects as well as vocals. The first piece is his show: he recites a Wallace Stevens poem with little more than his effects for background. He appears several times after, notably in the first and third parts of the title set. The latter starts out in slow church mode, but eventually shifts into something far more joyous. The middle piece is an ecstatic dance, thoroughly delightful. But that's only some of what's going on here. I may never get it all, but this is one of the more remarkable discs I've heard recently. [B+(***)]

Mike Holober: Wish List (2004-05 [2006], Sons of Sound): A pianist I've been consistently impressed by, although I'm a little slow on the uptake here. Wolfgang Muthspiel's guitar gives this a shiny allure -- always good to hear him. I'm less sure about Tim Ries, credited with "saxophones" -- something for further study. [B+(*)]

Wayne Horvitz Gravitas Quartet: Way Out East (2005 [2006], Songlines): This sounded horrible at first then started to kick in, rather strangely. The lineup has no bottom, no beat, no propulsion: the leader's piano, Peggy Lee's cello, Ron Miles' trumpet, and Sara Schoenbeck's bassoon. It has a studied, rather stately chamber music feel, appealing in a rather abstract way. [B+(*)]

Wayne Horvitz Grativas Quartet: Way Out East (2005 [2006], Songlines): Horvitz has been gravitating toward classical music for a while now, and this comes close without going over the deep end line his string quartets. The pieces exhibit swingless chamber music, often with sudden shifts of time -- "Ladies and Gentleman" is an extreme example -- or with simple rhythmic motifs that provide a backdrop for shmears of sound -- see "Berlin 1914," which is the piece that ultimately won me over. The instrumentation is unusual: bassoon for the bottom, trumpet for the top, cello for the meat, piano for the dressing, electronics for the hell of it. It's not the sort of thing I normally like, which may mean it's even better than I think. B+(***)

Wayne Horvitz: Whispers, Hymns and a Murmur: Music for a String Quartet (2006, Tzadik): Limited info from a CDR -- cf. previous gripes about Tzadik for whys and wherefores. Horvitz has a sideline in classical chamber music, which is what this is, more or less. Not much I can do about it. I learned from an early age to hate the sound of violins, viola and cello. While I can think of exceptions -- Bob Wills, Joe Venuti, Stuff Smith, Billy Bang, John Cale, Charlie Burnham -- it's usually because they play alone rather than in consort. This isn't an exception -- the sound grates on me, but the stately music isn't without its charms. Your mileage is likely to vary. B-

Hot Club of Detroit (2006, Mack Avenue): Founded by lead guitarist Evan Perri, this is more explicitly Django-inspired than the other "Hot Club" bands I can think of -- six of thirteen songs were penned by Reinhardt. In addition to Perri, the group has two rhythm guitarists, bass, clarinet and accordion. The guitars sound is intriciate, meticulously precise, but the clarinet and accordion soften the background and add a European, or perhaps specifically Gypsy, folk flavor. But no Grappelli. Wouldn't be a bad idea to invite Aaron Weinstein in for a session. B+(*)

The House That Trane Built: The Best of Impulse Records (1961-76 [2006], Impulse): I don't know how to rate something like this, where the choices are so broad and arbitrary one might as well be listening to the radio; nine songs, all also on the 4-CD box, five also on the artist comps, two more on my Other Impulses list (Oliver Nelson, Earl Hines), which leaves nice work by Art Blakey and John Handy -- the latter funktoon is actually a clever finale. Don't have the box, or the book, but just reading the credits suggests that it's somewhat more mainstream than the artist comps. Also looks to be chronological, which won't help the flow of the music even if it does benefit the book. A-

HR-Bigband: Once in a Lifetime (2003 [2006], TCB): HR, usually lowercased, stands for Hessische Rundfunk; i.e., Hessian Radio. Based in Frankfurt, the group dates back to 1946, with Jörg Achim Keller the director since 2000. Which makes it an example of the sort of cultural institution that Europe does a much better job of supporting than the US does -- just not a very inspiring one. It does offer the usual big band virtues. And this record has slots for two guests: organist Joey DeFrancesco and drummer Jeff Hamilton. The former is conspicuous and often entertaining, providing a useful contrast to the brass. I'd give you an analogue to Dørge-Ellington and Gruntz-Herman if I could think of one. B-

Solomon Ilori: African High Life (1963-64 [2006], Blue Note): A Nigerian -- sings, drums, plays pennywhistle -- who came to the US in the late '50s with the thought of introducing African music to a nation that only knew it as a deep memory, Ilori hooked up with Art Blakey on The African Beat, and got this album as an afterthought. This is neither as high nor as lively as the later, intensively guitar-charged highlife I'm familiar with, and I wonder if the drummers were really on top of their game. But the reissue has three long cuts from a later, much jazzier session, with Donald Byrd, Hubert Laws, Bob Cranshaw and Elvin Jones jamming with the drums and pennywhistle. They're fascinating, both on their own and for the suggested dialogue that rarely followed. But then who knew? Blue Note shelved them, until now. B+(**)

IMI Kollektief: Snug as a Gun (2005 [2006], Clean Feed): If Afro-Brazilian music is typified by its rhythms, what happens when you try to transform it into free jazz? Is it still in any meaningful sense Afro-Brazilian? That question comes more from the PDF file than from the music, which has a streak of good humor but nothing much that nails it down. Brazilian saxophonist Alípio Carvalho Neto is the is the leading voice here, but the group is international -- French, Belgian, Portuguese -- with trumpet and vibes complementing the sax. B

D.D. Jackson: Serenity Song (2006, Justin Time): The core trio here looks promising, with bassist Ugonna Okegwo and drummer Dafnis Prieto joining the pianist. Jackson was a student of Don Pullen, and every now and then you hear something that only comes out of Pullen's bag -- rare and welcome sounds. But most of the pieces have something more: Sam Newsome's soprano sax on four, Christian Howes's violin on five, Dana Leong's trombone on one and cello on two, with some duplicates along the way. I'm never one to complain about trombone, but the others are mixed blessings. The strings add little more than a glistening thickener, but the sax takes over -- once to impressive effect, but I'm less sure about the others. [B+(**)]

D.D. Jackson: Serenity Song (2006, Justin Time): A good piano trio owing something to Jackson's mentor, the late great Don Pullen. But it doesn't stop there: most cuts add strings and/or soprano sax -- a stereotypical way to set up the serenity theme. I don't much care for the sound of either, which turns this into a bag of mixed blessings. No complaints about the trombone on the Mingus-theme piece. B+(*)

Javon Jackson: Now (2006, Palmetto): I slammed him with the featured dud spot last time, and here he bounces back with the exact same God damn album. Mediocre soul vocalist Lisa Fischer repeats. So does Dr. Lonnie and funk bassist Kenny Davis. The new guitarist and drummer make no appreciable difference. Lame funk. Lazy soul. Clearly, that's all he intends to do with his talent. C

Paul Jackson: Funk on a Stick (2005, Backdoor): Headhunters-era Herbie Hancock bassist. Funk is its own reward, and pretty much the limits of this album's ambitions. Calls in a few chits, even getting Hancock to guest on one track, and Ernie Watts on another. Sings some, not great, but okay. Tony Adamo isn't much better. Someone named Jorge Guerrero raps on two cuts. Miscellaneous credits include Char, Shakara, and Big Boy -- allusions to folks you may have heard of purely coincidental, I'm sure. B+(*)

Keith Jarrett: The Impulse Story (1973-76 [2006], Impulse): The most productive years of Jarrett's career, with eight albums by his American quartet -- Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian -- on Impulse, plus his European quartet and marathon solos on ECM. This sampler should provide a useful distillation given that most of the Impulses are only available on two boxes adding up to nine CDs, but a better one would focus more squarely on the tenor saxophonist, who sounds great when he gets the chance. B+(***)

Keith Jarrett: The Carnegie Hall Concert (2005 [2006], ECM, 2CD): I don't dislike Jarrett. I wouldn't argue with anyone who ranked him as one of the most important jazz pianists of the forty years he's been recording. Beyond that it's hard to say. Few people have recorded as much, as long, at such a high level -- Cecil Taylor is one that jumps to mind, but that's a tough comparison to make; looking through my lists, I'd say the most comparable pianist to Jarrett is Abdullah Ibrahim, and that's high praise. Nonetheless, I get a little tired with the constant volley of trio and solo albums that are about all Jarrett has done over the last twenty-plus years. This one is a solo. The booklet lists all of Jarrett's ECM solos. How many? Counting this one, 24, including 11 doubles and one 6-CD set -- 40 discs in all. The few I've heard, excepting The Köln Concert, all tend to blur together for me. This doesn't strike me as exceptional, but two notes: I thoroughly enjoyed "True Blues," but then I have Otis Spann albums that are at least as true; and I find the applause distracting and ultimately annoying, partly because it makes me wonder what he get to elicit that applause. Maybe it was just being so good for so long? B

Raúl Jaurena: Te Amo Tango (2005 [2006], Soundbrush): Tango may have originated in the brothels of Buenos Aires, but these days it extends from popular dance to classical music. This sounds more classical than most, thanks to the Sinopus String Quintet, the operatic singer Marga Mitchell on four tracks, and to the slow grind of bandeonist Juarena's dense melodies -- an intensity that works, up to a point. B+(**)

Jazzmob: Infernal Machine (2005 [2006], Jazzaway): The nominal similarity between Jon Klette's Norwegian band and Sex Mob seems to be based on a shared desire to advance jazz popularity by simply juicing it up -- especially as opposed to waterng it down. In flow and dynamics, this sextet sounds like a swing band, but the tone is avant, and fusion is skipped over completely. They do this with two saxes and trumpet, which play together less for harmony than for comradeship -- pretty much the same reason people drink together. Anders Aarum spends most of the record on Rhodes, which qualifies as the avant-sounding successor to the B3. I don't quite buy it all, but it makes for a good time anyway. B+(*)

Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Palm of Soul (2005 [2006], AUM Fidelity): The lonesome legend of the New Orleans underground finally gets a fair hearing. I've heard Jordan a couple of times before without ever managing to get past the caterwaul, but he seems calm and thoughtful here. Drake and Parker indulge in their usual bag of tricks -- guimbri and gongs, tablas and frame drum, Hamid chants along with one -- as well as their usual genius. [B+(**)]

Kidd Jordan/Hamid Drake/William Parker: Palm of Soul (2005 [2006], AUM Fidelity): Homeless after Katrina, Jordan fled to Brooklyn and networked with his old chums. Drake and Parker do their usual thing, and then some: not content to be the world's best at bass and drums, they drag out the tablas, guimbri, and miscellaneous percussion exotica. Drake even chants, reducing Jordan to comping. I'm not sure whether Jordan is mellowing, as septuagenerians often do, or is just delighted to be there. A-

Junk Box: Fragment (2004 [2006], Libra): Another Satoko Fujii album -- she's working at a rate that rivals Vandermark or Braxton back in the '70s. This one is a trio with sidekick Natsuki Tamura on trumpet and John Hollenbeck on drums, but the pianist wrote all the pieces. Most are pounded out in thick chords, with trumpet for tension and growl -- the drummer is there mainly for accents. Nothing lets up even when they slow down. [B+(***)]

Junk Box: Fragment (2004 [2006], Libra): Satoko Fujii's four new big band albums, like Ken Vandermark's recent pair of two-disc Territory Band sets, are overwhelming: in such big universes, anything can happen, everything does, and fatigue sets in long before one can sort out so many marginal treats. At least with this trio you can keep the players straight. She pounds out thick piano chords, while sidekick Natsuki Tamura's surly trumpet adds tension and growl, and drummer John Hollenbeck referees. This is basic Fujii -- everything else is elaboration. A-

The Roger Kellaway Trio: Heroes (2005 [2006], IPO): No drums, just Bruce Forman on guitar and Don Lutz on bass. If that's not enough to remind you of Oscar Peterson, note that the fifth song is "Night Train." A look at the notes cinches it: they start with an interview where Peterson pays tribute to Kellaway. Nice touch. Well earned, too. B+(**)

David Krakauer: Bubbemeises: Lies My Grandma Told Me (2006, Label Bleu): Front cover credits also include Socalled and Klezmer Madness. Socalled is credited with samples and sequences. Klezmer Madness is the band. Socalled was around for Krakauer's 2004 Live in Krakow, but fits in much tighter here -- in many cases the tracks begin with the samples, beats and a bit of rap, which sets up a contrast that Krakauer's manic tendencies have long needed. [B+(***)]

Diana Krall: From This Moment On (2006, Verve): I going to have to do some comparison listening before I make this official, but my instant impression is that the sweepstakes is over: John Pizzarelli, Tony DeSare, not to mention Michael Bolton, can all pack it up and head home -- she's the new Sinatra. And I'm not talking about some distaff version or whatever. There's nothing markedly feminine either in her voice or demeanor. She's simply in total control, both of the Clayton-Hamilton Big Band and of the small subset that keeps the record from overheating. [A-]

Steve Lacy Quintet: Esteem (1975 [2006], Atavistic): Following Lacy's death, his widow Irene Aebi started sorting through over 300 private recordings for a series called "The Leap: Steve Lacy Cassette Archives." This is Volume 1, and it's easy to see why it leapt to the head of the list. It is raw and deliciously noisy, old sounding, yet so far out it's more shocking now than when it came out. Steve Potts' alto sax provides a second horn. Kent Carter's bass is plug ugly, and Kenneth Tyler is credited with percussion because he's hitting things beyond his drum kit. But the revelation is Aebi herself. I can't stand her singing -- if you go through my database you may notice that Lacy's records get docked about a notch for each song she sings on -- but she sticks to cello and violin here, and you can hear why he fell in love with her. The notes say "The Uh Uh Uh" was Lacy's tribute to Jimi Hendrix. I'll have to listen again to see what that means. A-

Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: New Magical Kingdom (2001-04 [2006], Clean Feed): Looks like Lane's a guy worth keeping tabs on. This is one of several groups/configurations he runs -- the only one I've heard before is a trio with Vinny Golia, but their first record has made my A-list, and I'm ticked off that CIMP didn't send the follow-up as well. This particular group appears to be six pieces, more or less: trumpet, two saxes, electric guitar, bass and drums. They have a previous album on Cadence called No(w) Music, which I haven't heard. This one was pieced together from two sets of sessions, with Lynn Johnston's baritone sax replacing Jeff Chan's tenor sax on the latter. Lane plays bass, and it's safe to say he's studied his Mingus -- for his bass, of course, but also for his compositional approach, and perhaps even more importantly for his skill at taking a mid-sized group and making them sound monstrous. One play doesn't begin to reveal everything that's going on here -- thus far the only track that's sunk in is the last one, something called "The Schnube." Will get back to it in due course. [B+(**)]

Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra: New Musical Kingdom (2001-04 [2006], Clean Feed): I've only heard two of Lane's albums, and he only has a half-dozen or so, so it may be premature to annoint him as the new Mingus, but that there's even a contender for such a unique role is quite a surprise. That he plays an imposing bass, he composes pieces that are rooted in the tradition but fly off in the most improbable of directions, and he runs a six piece band at its advertised full throttle. A-

Adam Lane Trio: Music Degree Zero (2005 [2006], CIMP): The other half of the two-day sessions that previously yielded Zero Degree Music (CIMP), one of my favorite records this year. Both have bassist Lane writing and arranging for drummer Vijay Anderson and soprano/tenor saxophonist Vinny Golia. This doesn't quite measure up. The first one picked the pieces with the most powerful pulse, in turn propelling Golia to some of the most inspired work of his long career. The leftovers are more complex, more varied, more typical. B+(***)

Jay Lawrence Trio: Thermal Strut (2006, OA2): Drummer-led piano trio. Don't know why Lawrence gets top billing. Pianist Tamir Hendelman co-produces, writes one of three originals, and arranges most of the covers. Actually, the name I'm familiar with is bassist Lynn Seaton, though I'd have to look him up to tell you why. Nothing much wrong with this, but it's hard to see much reason why we should care about what's merely one more good mainstream piano trio. B

Mike LeDonne: On Fire (2006, Savant): Live at Smoke, NYC. LeDonne plays Hammond B3, with a good group for this sort of thing: Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Joe Farnsworth on drums. Seems like a throwaway concept-wise, but they all have fun, and Alexander is in especially potent form. B+(*)

George Lewis: Sequel (For Lester Bowie))(2004 [2006], Intakt): Mostly electronics, with "laptop" the most common instrument, but guitar (Jeff Parker, Ulrich Müller), bass (Siegfried Rössert), drums (Guillermo E. Brown), and the leader's trombone make occasional appearances -- the latter most welcome. A lot of quiet spots and odd, abstract, disconnected sounds. Somehow I think Lester Bowie would have preferred something a bit funkier, but this might have piqued his sense of humor. I wish it did more for mine. [B]

George Lewis: Sequel (For Lester Bowie) (2004 [2006], Intakt): The most common instrument here is "laptop," followed by "electronics," with an assist from DJ Mutamassik's turntables. It's hard to listen to this sort of thing without thinking back to George Russell's electronic sonatas, in part because the random drift they share leaves one's mind plenty of time to wander. Lewis is a trombonist and I'd love to hear him play some -- it's the best part of this album, although the percussive later parts of the 33:46 title piece are marvelous. This doesn't strike me as any closer to Bowie than Homage to Charles Parker was to Bird -- in particular, it lacks the trumpeter's exuberance and folly. On the other hand, if you can give it the attention it doesn't demand, like Russell at his most abstract this offers some remarkable collages of sound. B+(***)

Dave Liebman & Bobby Avey: Vienna Dialogues (2005 [2006], Zoho): On principle I hate this music, although this makes me wonder whether I'd be so militant had Mr. Pankratz -- my intermediate school music teacher, the only one I ever had -- presented 19th century art song with such simple and inoffensive instrumentation. Avey plays piano, Liebman soprano sax. Calm, stately, or as Liebman puts it, "like clockwork." B

Lisbon Improvisation Players: Spiritualized (2006, Clean Feed): No booklet. Not even a goddam PDF. So here's what I know: The leader is alto/baritone saxophonist Rodrigo Amado, who loves Ornette and set this group up for pure improv, often with whatever guests are in town and up for the sport. This is the second LIP album. Bassist Pedro Gonçalves was also on the first, and he makes a strong impression here. Drummer Bruno Pedroso is new, but probably part of the core group. The trumpet is Dennis González is a guest, although this isn't his first meeting with Amado. He adds a low-key lyricism, stabilizing Amado's tendencies to go over the deep end. The title cut, like everything else, is jointly accredited, but seems very much his thing -- measured, meditative, lovely but not in the conventional ways. Cellist Ulrich Mitzlaff is another guest, limited to the last two cuts. Wish I knew more. [A-]

Joe Lovano: Streams of Expression (2006, Blue Note): Advance copy, store date Aug. 1, so no urgent need to sweat details like two of the piece-sets being called "Steams of Expression Suite" -- probably just a typo. Or how many of ten hornsmen are used how often. Or why three groups of pieces are blocked out as suites, leaving three other pieces as stragglers. Or what Gunther Schuller is doing here -- why he's involved in "The Birth of the Cool Suite" and not the others. Or how much of the piano is provided by the late great John Hicks. Later for all that. For now, note that there's an awful lot going on here, and that some of it is quite remarkable. I've always preferred Lovano as the sole horn in small groups, and I haven't cared for his previous work with Schuller, especially Rush Hour, but this can't be dismissed out of hand. Could rise or fall, but this is likely to wind up on quite a few critics' year end lists. [B+(***)]

Paul Lytton/Ken Vandermark/Phillip Wachsmann: CINC (2004 [2006], Okka Disk): Wachsmann's violin and electronics are central, which makes this an alternate version of Evan Parker's Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, with Vandermark in Parker's shoes -- at least that was my thought on "Ljubljana 2," where his chosen reed instrument is in the soprano sax range (although I suppose it could be a clarinet, which he plays much more frequently). On tenor sax he beefs up the rough sound. But the group as a whole is much leaner, so the reeds matter more.j B+(*)

Rudresh Mahanthappa: Codebook (2006, Pi): Whereas Mother Tongue looked to natural languages for tricks of transformation, this one moves on to ciphers and encodings, as when the group members sign their names in Morse code. Either way, the alto saxophonist's true Rosetta Stone is John Coltrane, and what lifts him above dozens of others is his association with pianist Vijay Iyer, who starkly frames his music, and who picks up the place when he lays out. Still, if that was all it took, you'd expect more from Raw Materials, a duo album from earlier this year that never quite stuck together. A-

Tania Maria: Intimidade (2004 [2006], Blue Note): A Brazilian jazz singer-pianist with roots in the bossa nova of the '60s, I'm struck first by the depth of her voice -- don't know how much is age as she approaches sixty -- then by the lithe ease of the percussion. Hard to tell at this point what distinguishes her, as this fits the expectations so nicely. B+(**)

Marguerite Mariama: Wild Women Never Get the Blues . . . Well, Not Anymore! (2006, PowerLight Media): Don't have a recording date, but pianist Jimmy Sigler offers a dedication here dated 2004, then evidently died later that year. He plays on all but two cuts -- no piano on one, a different group on "Goin' to Chicago." Mariama signs her liner notes Ph.D. -- the hype sheet describes her as "a triple threat (music, dance, theatre)." She surveys Afro-American song expertly from Ida Cox to Stevie Wonder, has a voice that commands attention, and runs a tight band. Jury's still out on how wild she is, or whether that really shields her from the blues. B+(*)

Branford Marsalis: Braggtown (2006, Marsalis Music/Rounder): A note in the booklet: "This album is dedicated to the memory of Jackie McLean, John Hicks, Hilton Ruiz, Rosalie Edwards, Stan Chin, Joyce Alexander Wein, Shirley Horn, John Stubblefield, Don Alias, Ray Barretto, Roy Brooks, Keter Betts, Lucky Thompson, Percy Heath, Arnie Lawrence, Jimmy Smith and Benny Bailey." A couple of names there don't ring a bell for me, and others could have been added, but it's been a brutal year. Good, therefore, that Branford seems to be back in his game. This is his working quartet -- pianist Joey Calderazzo gets some flashy solo spots, while Eric Revis and Jeff Watts hold things together. The credits don't specify which "saxophones" Branford uses, but he tends to charge hard on tenor and wax eloquent on soprano -- not clear if there's an alto or any other sax in his kit. Just played this while multitasking, so I don't have any idea whether the booklet references to Chopin-like nocturnes and Messiaen-like piano solos are just bullshit, I'm pleased enough to keep it in play. [B+(**)]

Delfeayo Marsalis: Minions Dominion (2002 [2006], Troubadour Jass): A long time between records, and this one has been in the can for a while -- so long that drummer Elvin Jones passed away in the meantime. I guess the family's allotment of ego got sucked up by the older brothers. Meanwhile, this is as good natured a mainstream hard bop album as I've heard in a long time. Branford and Donald Harrison alternate on their respective saxes. Mulgrew Miller plays piano. Terrific drummer. And I always enjoy a lead trombone. B+(**)

Billy Martin: Starlings (2006, Tzadik): He's the Medeski-Wood drummer, but this is something else -- not even as close as the many percussion-centric albums he's released on his Amulet label. "Starlings" and "Metamorphosis" began life as mbira pieces in 1991, but are resurrected here in Anthony Coleman's orchestral arrangements. They've assumed a euroclassical shape, especially in the horns, and I find them rather annoying. Two more pieces are played by Sirius String Quartet -- the second one, a somber piece called "Strangulation," is more interesting. Two pieces with a group called Whirligig Percussionists are more like what I'd expect, drawing on Martin's strengths rather than his ambitions. Some of the sounds remind me of Harry Partch. The final piece is a short solo of Martin on mbira, the primitive core of the album. That adds up to a score by conductor of 4-0 for Martin, 0-3 for Coleman. B

Pete McCann: Most Folks (2005 [2006], Omnitone): Guitarist, with two previous albums on Palmetto and sideman credits going back to 1990 -- the booklet claims fifty albums, but AMG only lists about half that. I didn't recognize the name, but I've heard two of his credits, both A- albums: Tom Varner's The Window Up Above and Matt Wilson's Going Once, Going Twice. His website plays up his flexibility: "Pete's playing encompasses a wide variety of musical styles and genres -- Straight-ahead, Post-Bop, Avant-Garde, Latin, Jazz-Rock Fusion." The booklet puts it this way: "From gentle nylon acoustic guitar sounds to sinewy and intricate jazz guitar runs to roots-of-grunge Jimi Hendrix inspired hooting." I'll have to listen further to see if I can sort out this variety, but this strikes me as tight and focused -- whatever the opposite of eclectic is. The most immediate appeal is John O'Gallagher, whose alto sax is always on edge. But McCann plays distinctively around the sax, and holds the focus on his own, even when the going gets quiet. Also on board are bass-drums I trust -- John Hebert, Mark Ferber -- and pianist Mike Holober, who I only know from one of the better big band records I've heard in the last few years. [A-]

Pete McCann: Most Folks (2005 [2006], Omnitone): A guitarist who has a knack of showing up on good albums but not showing off, McCann delivers a lesson on what he can do ("straight-ahead jazz, post-bop, Latin, and creative improvised music") and how he can do it ("gentle nylon acoustic guitar sounds to sinewy and intricate jazz guitar runs to roots-of-grunge Jimi Hendrix-inspired hooting"). Even so, he often yields the spotlight to his band, especially saxophonist John O'Gallagher and pianist Mike Holober -- also sidemen skilled at making their leaders look good. The only nick is that the eclecticism leaves you without a thematic thread or a good sense of where he wants to go -- although that assumption may merely be our problem. B+(***)

McGill Manring Stevens: What We Do (2001-04 [2006], Free Electric Sound, 2CD): What I think of, referring back to Cream, as a Power Trio -- electric guitar, electric bass, drums -- but no vocals, minimal blues, a lot of jazz movement. The latter is more clear on the studio disc, a collection of jazz standards that they don't really murder, despite their liner notes: "Quick! Somebody call the JAZZ POLICE! Where's STANLEY CROUCH when you need him?" The second disc is a live set from 2001, mostly originals -- a bit more power there, a bit cruder. I like what they do soundwise, but find it a bit unadventurous at such length. B+(*)

John McLaughlin: Industrial Zen (2006, Verve): I was originally scheduled to write up an entry on McLaughlin for the Rolling Stone Guide, but it got scrubbed when we ran into a disagreement about some early records I hadn't been able to dig up. I did manage to get all of his Verve records, which carry on from 1986, but in the rush I never got around to playing, much less digesting, all of them. This one makes me wish I had those records under my belt, but I'm not sure it's going to inspire me to do the research. I'm also not sure they'd help much. Despite a couple of nods to India -- specifically, two vocals by Shankar Mahadevan that actually seem a bit out of place, and two more cuts with Zakir Hussain on tabla -- this is a heavy-duty fusion album, much heavier than anything I've heard him do since the early '70s. The difference from the '70s is more programming, and I'm not sure that that's a plus. Nor does the spot sax from Bill Evans and Ada Rovatti, mostly soprano, help much. When he cranks it up it sounds good but not all that interesting. That's always been a risk with fusion. [B]

John McLaughlin: Industrial Zen (2006, Verve): For the most part, a pretty straightforward fusion album -- what he's best known for, but not what he's mostly done in the last couple of decades. He can still impress when he cranks it up, but it's mostly the guitar and drums -- the spot sax doesn't help much. Oddly enough, what does help is his Indian interests: Zakir Hussain's tabla, Shankar Mahadevan's two vocals. B+(*)

Scott McLemore: Found Music (2000 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Drummer, originally from Virginia, now makes his home in Iceland, which I suppose could be described as equally inconvenient to everywhere. He wrote all of the pieces here, providing a near-perfect left-of-mainstream postbop textbook. The band is equal to the task, with Tony Malaby on tenor sax, Ben Monder on guitar, and Ben Street on bass. Sounds a little scrawny for something so near-perfect, but maybe I'm just a bit jaded these days. B+(**)

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: Out Louder (2006, Indirecto): Although he's no doubt capable of interesting straight jazz guitar, as on 1996's Quiet, Scofield's best records have often been groove jobs -- 1994's Groove Elation is one that stands out. Here at least he's in the right company for that sort of thing, and he contributes. However, first pass through the beats seem a little squarish, and the "Julia" cover is an odd change of pace. [B+(*)]

Medeski Scofield Martin & Wood: Out Louder (2006, Indirecto): MMW did a credible job of updating '60s soul jazz organ combos to the techno era, but after a decade-plus they wandered off into spinoffs and solo projects, letting their main ride coast. Scofield's done his share of coasting as well, adding bright splashes of guitar to other folks' albums while his own grow empty and listless. So this seems like an ideal pairing, a useful jolt for all concerned. And to some extent it is, but I wonder about their Beatles cover, "Julia" -- is it an off note, or a necessary change of pace that just comes too late? B+(*)

Myra Melford/Be Bread: The Image of Your Body (2003 [2006], Cryptogramophone): Looks like another slipcase promo, with the press doc buried in MS Word files -- ugh! even worse than PDF! -- on a website, but this is an advance and I'm likely to see the real thing before I finalize. Melford is one of the major pianists of her generation, dazzling when she goes outside, delightful on the soft inside fills. She likes to name her groups, even though this quintet has three-fifths in common with last album's quintet, the Tent. This starts off with her on harmonium, a hand-pumped organ she's studied in India and Pakistan, although she returns to piano for most of the album. Interesting group mix: trumpeter Cuong Vu and bassist Stomu Takeishi lean toward fusion on their own; guitarist Brandon Ross has some hip-hop on his resume as well as work for Butch Morris and Henry Threadgill; drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee was last seen working with Vijay Iyer and Steve Lehman in Fieldwork. Lot of intriguing stuff here to sort out. [B+(***)]

Mike Melvoin Trio: You Know (2006, City Light): Website says he's been playing piano since he was three, so that gives him 66 years of practice. Mainstream -- so mainstream I was surprised to count five originals wedged in among the obvious standards. I was further surprised to find myself enjoying such straightforward music. And I was further surprised when I went back to the database and found I had given his last album a B+. I notice now that the black and white cover on the self-released album has a thin gold border, just like his black and white website, so it would appear that he has an aesthetic beyond DIY. It's too subtle to sink in, but too elegant to ignore. B+(**)

Misja Fitzgerald Michel: Encounter (2005 [2006], No Format/Sunnyside): Guitarist, French I think, plays acoustic and electric, 6- and 12-string. The latter reminds me of one of the first reviews I wrote, where I lampooned Leo Kottke for sounding like he had too many strings on his guitar. But the density works better here, especially since he has a first rate bassist in Drew Gress. Nine of eleven pieces are trios, with Jochen Rueckert on drums. Two songs each from Coleman and Coltrane, one from Shorter, one from Bill Stewart, the rest originals. The trio pieces are dense and meaty. The other two songs feature Ravi Coltrane on tenor sax. He sounds terrific, but putting him on the opener is a bit of misdirection. [B+(**)]

Misja Fitzgerald Michel: Encounter (2005 [2006], No Format/Sunnyside): The first cut throws you off the game plan, for while guitarist Michel romps along to an Ornette tune, the tenor saxophonist is the one who grabs your attention. He's Ravi Coltrane, every bit as impressive as on his own albums. But after taking charge, he vanishes until the ninth cut -- a Michel original that sets up closers penned by Wayne Shorter and an elder Coltrane. The rest is guitar-bass-drum trio, moving smartly with a sound much denser than the norm for postbop jazz guitar. But then why would Michel bother playing 12-string if all he wanted to do was pick out hornlike single-note lines? B+(**)

Harry Miller's Isipingo: Which Way Now (1975 [2006], Cuneiform): A South African bassist who moved to England in the early '60s, Miller was the glue that held together an unusual juncture of English avant-gardists and South African exiles. Here the former are Keith Tippett, Mike Osborne and Nick Evans, while Mongezi Feza and Louis Moholo fill out the band. In other groups, the range expands to Elton Dean on one end and Dudu Pukwana on the other -- Miller plays on the latter's In the Townships, the quintessential township jazz album. Despite founding Ogun Records, very little of Miller's own work came out before he died in 1983. A couple years ago Cuneiform delved into this circle and recovered some old radio tapes of Chris McGregor's Brotherhood of Breath, where township jive and avant-thrash seemed to be locked in a death struggle. In this group they tend to cancel each other out, resulting in a surprisingly mainstream flow. Still, it has much of interest -- especially Tippett's piano and Feza's trumpet. [B+(***)]

Harry Miller's Isipingo: Which Way Now (1975 [2006], Cuneiform): A sextet, half South African exiles including the leader-bassist, half English avant-gardists, with neither half playing to type on this 75-minute Radio Bremen air shot. Rather, they play like a more mainstream jazz band, but uncommonly full of fire and spirit as they stretch out on four long tracks. Trombinist Nick Evans is especially noteworthy: he comes first in the alphabetical credits, but earns top billing throughout, frequently battling number two man, trumpeter Mongezi Feza. Keith Tippett's piano also gets a good hearing. But most of the interest here will be focused on Miller and Feza -- both died tragically young, leaving only a few intriguing recordings. This is a significant discovery for both. A-

Charles Mingus: Thrice Upon a Theme (1954-57 [2006], Aim, 2CD): More profiteering in obscurities, but this time the discs aren't so obscure they pose any problems tracking down. In fact, they're already on my shelves. The 1954 session originally appeared on two 10-inch Bethlehem releases, which are combined -- different song order from here -- in Rhino's 1999 The Jazz Experiments of Charlie Mingus. They're a fascinating set of orchestral sketches, seeds that Mingus developed over the following decade. The second disc is a Hampton Hawes piano trio originally on Roulette originally released as Mingus Three, reissued in 1997. For packaging, and for that matter for documentation, I prefer the separate discs. Two arguments for this one are that the aforementioned reissues are out of print, and list price here isn't exorbitant at $16.98. Still, I feel like docking it a notch for discographical confusion. B

Charles Mingus: The Impulse Story (1963 [2006], Impulse): A case of doing what you can with what you got, which ain't much; Mingus cut three albums for Impulse in 1963: one was difficult and challenging but brilliant, another was typically first rate, and one solo piano -- not bad if you're curious. This gives you a bit of each, making it useless. Alt-choices: The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady (1963); Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus (1963). B-

Charles Mingus: At UCLA 1965 (1965 [2006], Sunnyside, 2 CD): Alternate title, which didn't fit on the spine: Music Written for Monterey 1965 Not Heard . . . Played Live in Its Entirety at UCLA. The music went unheard at Monterey when Mingus got squeezed down to a 30-minute set. This was recorded a week later at a jazz workshop, and retains the flavor of his early experimental workshops, as he lectures, hectors, moves people around, and talks to the audience. As with the workshops, it doesn't feel quite sorted out, and the penchant for long, intricate orchestration isn't my favorite Mingus facet. The recordings have been remastered from limited edition vinyl, which leaves some question about the sound -- I have trouble following the patter, but the music is in pretty good shape. Still working on it. [B+(**)]

Charles Mingus: At UCLA 1965 (1965 [2006], Sunnyside, 2CD): Mingus wrote some new music for the Monterey festival, but got stiffed, and wound up performing it a week later at UCLA. "Played live in its entirety," as the cover says, this feels like a workshop, with Mingus moving musicians in and out, lecturing, and hectoring. Not all of the music is new -- he covers his own "Don't Be Afraid, the Clown's Afraid Too," and rips loose on "Muskrat Ramble." The group has three trumpets, french horn and tuba, versus just Charles McPherson on alto sax, so it's brassy, but also a bit ornate. Historically valuable, of course. B+(*)

Mingus Big Band: Live in Tokyo (2005 [2006], Sunnyside): Nothing new here: a thirteen-piece band trying to hold its own on a repertoire made famous by groups half that size, and struggling in the process -- I swear, the half-sized groups had twice the muscle, no doubt because Mingus himself wouldn't accept anything less. I'm sure it's fun to play this music, but mostly we just get are shadows and reverberations of past glory. Maybe that's the point of ghost bands, but it's been 24 years since Mingus Dynasty rose and 13 since the Big Band debuted -- hasn't the novelty worn off? Midway through I started thinking this might be my next dud, but then I remembered I've already so honored a Mingus big band, and this is nowhere near as lame as the Marsalis record. But it pulls its punches, and not just on stage, as when they dropped off the second half of the title to "Free Cell Block F, 'Tiz Nazi USA." I mean, do you really think that Mingus himself would be less inclined to apply that title to America today than he was in 1975? [B-]

Mingus Big Band: Live in Tokyo (2005 [2006], Sunnyside): My usual complaint is that the big band sounds puny compared to Mingus' own much smaller groups, but this starts off in such good spirits that maybe I should give that line a rest. The music must be great fun to play, and that much comes through here. The ending of "Ecclusiastics" calls forth the great man's spirit as emphatically as the band has done in quite a while. Still, I wonder what he would have thought of them chopping off that last half of the title to "Free Cell Block F" -- never has it been more valid to point out, "'Tis Nazi USA." B+(*)

Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane: The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings (1957 [2006], Riverside, 2CD): The recently discovered 1957 Monk with Coltrane At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note) swept nearly all jazz critics lists of 2005's best records. Previously known recordings of the two together were limited to a cruddy Live at the Five Spot tape (released by Blue Note) and parts of three studio albums on Riverside. This reshuffles the Riversides to cash in on the interest, weeding out cuts without Coltrane, adding false starts and a beside-the-point Gigi Gryce blues with Coltrane, sprucing up the documentation. Whether this is a good idea may depend on your level of interest. The June 25-26 septet sessions appear on Monk's Music, an indispensible item in Monk's catalog -- more impressive as was than split up over two discs here, larded with less essential music. Most of the extra previously appeared well after the fact as Thelonious Monk With John Coltrane, while the trio version of "Monk's Mood" previously ended the otherwise solo Monk Himself. I'm ambivalent myself, but it's hard to dock the music. A-

Michael Moore Quintet: Osiris (2005 [2006], Ramboy): Only one previous Moore Quintet album in the catalog, cut in 1988 with a crew of Americans who read like an all-star team right now (Robertson, Hersch, Helias, Hemingway). This has the same instrument lineup, but mostly Dutch musicians -- trumpeter Eric Vloeimans is the best known, followed by pianist Marc van Roon. The lineup suggests hard bop, but this plays more like chamber music, mostly soft and silky. Not sure what to make of it. [B]

Michael Moore Quintet: Osiris (2005 [2006], Ramboy): Not a repeat of Moore's 1988 quintet, the only other time he's used that lineup. This one's a Dutch group, with Eric Vloeimans on trumpet and Marc van Roon on piano, but closer to chamber music -- soft and silky -- than classic hard bop. It has some moments, and may pan out if you put the time into its postbop intricacies. B+(*)

Stanton Moore: III (2006, Telarc): Personnel credits don't list Moore, but he's the drummer. He was probably the main guy in Garage A Trois, whose Outre Mer ranks as my favorite pop-jazz-fusion album of the Jazz CG era -- not that it has a lot of competition. The key there was that they kept the mix lean and the groove sharp. This is even leaner, a bare bones organ trio, at least when the two guests -- Skerik on tenor sax, Mark Mullins on trombone -- don't weigh in. It no doubt helps that Moore's two bandmates have produced memorable albums on their own -- specifically, ones that impressed me more for their instrumental prowess than their overall achievement. The Hammond guy is Robert Walter. The guitarist is Will Bernard. First cut is just the three of them, something called "Poison Pushy," and it clicks. Beyond that I'm less certain, but for now it's worth noting that Skerik earns his keep. He's carved out a niche for himself as a postmodern honker -- a Joe Houston for Coltrane's kiddies. [B+(***)]

Jason Moran: Artist in Residence (2006, Blue Note): It must be hard thinking up new things to do each time out. Five cuts here build around Moran's trio -- bassist Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits -- plus guitarist Marvin Sewell. One of those adds Ralph Alessi on trumpet and Adou Mboup on African percussion for an ensemble I'd like to hear more of. The other start with Moran solo, in one case an intense dialog with percussionist Joan Jonas -- another idea that could be explored further. Less successful are the voice pieces: two cuts with samples of Adrian Piper have some hip-hop airs, while the soprano of the suspiciously named Alicia Hall Moran moves into aria territory. The only thing that holds it together is the piano, and Moran's about as good as that gets these days. [B+(**)]

Jason Moran: Artist in Residence (2006, Blue Note): He's brilliant, but his record is pretty scattered, opting for a hip-hop sample on one track, an aria on the next. I'm tempted to say I wish he'd slim this down to focus on his piano, but two of the experiments make me want to hear more: the percusion duet with Joan Jonas, and a rough piece of free jazz with Abdou Mboup's djembe and Ralph Alessi's trumpet joining the trio. B+(**)

Frank Morgan: Reflections (2005 [2006], High Note): I suppose if I was real conscientious about this, I'd revisit his discography and try to ascertain whether this is an exceptionally good record for him or a merely typically good one. But I don't have either the records or the time for that. In the pecking order of Bird's children, Morgan ranks somewhere above Lou Donaldson but way below Jackie McLean, and very likely below Phil Woods as well. Where that puts him viz. Gigi Gryce is a question that requires more precision than I can muster. But on its own terms, this is an exceptionally elegant and mature slice of the bop -- not frantic like in the '50s, but Morgan's past 70 now, more than entitled to slow down and smell them roses. Nice, brisk start on "Walkin'"; two Monk songs that he wouldn't have tackled in the old days; gorgeous closer on "Out of Nowhere." Quartet with Ronnie Mathews on piano, Essiet Essiet on bass, and Billy Hart on drums. Lovely tone throughout. B+(***)

Rob Mullins: Standards & More (2005 [2006], Planet Mullins): I reckon every jazz musician wants to take a swing at "Giant Steps." Put that together with "In a Sentimental Mood," "Moanin'," "When I Fall in Love," and something by a guy named Beethoven, and you get a standards album. Write yourself a samba, a blues, and something called "Bb Major Etude" and you got your more. Record it all in a club in Fullerton CA. Put it out on your own label -- it's got no commercial promise anyway, at least compared to your day job, hacking smooth jazz. I don't know much about that day job: I haven't heard any of his eleven other albums, but I don't recognize anyone on his credits list who doesn't walk on the pop side -- well, Spike Robinson, but their album together was called Odd Couple. Still, this is a fun album: Mullins impresses on piano, but the guy I like even better is his tenor sax man, Jimmy Roberts. As best I can figure out, he grew up in Virginia; cites Maceo Walker, Stanley Turrentine, Junior Walker, and Grover Washington Jr.; has worked with Etta James, Rod Stewart, various smooth jazzers; has an album called Bless My Soul that I'd like to hear someday -- most likely he'll turn out to be just a very good soul jazz man, which is an honorable trade in my book. B+(**)

Charlie Musselwhite: Delta Hardware (2006, Real World): Not as old as he looks, let alone sounds, not that that's the problem -- age reinforces the blues, both by the accumulation of suffering and by its survival. But his claim to fame used to be his harp, and he needs to air it out more. He's too ordinary a singer to get by on that alone. B

Ted Nash & Still Evolved: In the Loop (2006, Palmetto): Another album name reiterated as group name: Still Evolved is Nash's postbop quintet, with Marcus Printup on trumpet opposite Nash's tenor sax, and a rhythm section that frequently works together: Frank Kimbrough on piano, Ben Allison on bass, and Matt Wilson on drums. In many ways, this is the ideal postbop group. Certainly there's much to admire here, but I find the fancy harmony and slippery rhythm indecisive, when they're probably just too subtle. B+(**)

Sebastian Noelle Quartet: Across the River (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, based in Brooklyn, don't know much more. Quartet has Ben Street on bass and Ari Hoenig on drums, with the fourth member a saxophonist, either Javier Vercher or Donny McCaslin. Based on past experience, I assume that McCaslin is the slicker, more voluble one, but I didn't check the tracks for sure. As befits a leader, Noelle is much more prominent here than Ben Monder is on Scott McLemore's similar record, and his guitar gives this a luxurious sheen. [B+(**)]

Sebastian Noelle Quartet: Across the River (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Two quartets, actually. Bassist Ben Street and drummer Ari Hoenig are constants, but the tenor sax spot is split evenly between Javier Vercher and Donny McCaslin. Noelle's guitar shapes the compositions, but either way your ear gravitates toward the sax. While Vercher tends to play within the guitar lines, McCaslin can easily jump the rails. B+(**)

Ollabelle: Riverside Battle Songs (2006, Verve Forecast): Five vocalists with a fondness for old-time music, as opposed to the more recent old-timey variety, even when they write it themselves. But their arrangements of old fare, including one by namesake Ola Belle Reed, are easier to gauge. Especially striking is "Riverside" -- as in "down by the" and "ain't gonna study war no more" -- both for its complex layering and its weariness. B+(**)

One for All: The Lineup (2006, Sharp Nine): This group has been recording since 1997, with five albums on Criss Cross and now three on Sharp Nine. Haven't checked all of the rosters, but five of six players here were on the 1997 album -- only change is John Webber on bass in lieu of Peter Washington. The group is an all-star throwback to a common '60s hard bop lineup, with sax (Eric Alexander), trumpet (Jim Rotondi), trombone (Steve Davis), piano (David Hazeltine), bass (John Webber) and drums (Joe Farnsworth). The arrangement allows for plenty of solo moments, and it's rare to focus on one and not notice what fine musicians these guys are. But it doesn't add up to much: conservative, in the decent, unadventurous sense; skillful, of course. B

Michael O'Neill: Ontophony (2005 [2006], Songlines): A remarkable record, but the key question remains: how much bagpipe music can you stand? The booklet has a photo that explains better than I can what the concept is here: it shows three highland pipes players in kilts on a rock on the right side, and three Japanese taiko drummers on the field on the left side, each with one arm raised high above the head. That pipes and percussion go together is a thesis we can grant. On the other hand, my tolerance level does not look forward to a replay. Your mileage may vary. B

One More: The Summary: Music of Thad Jones, Vol. 2 (2006, IPO): Another one, with the same all-star band as the first round: brother Hank on piano; Jimmy Owens on Thad's trumpet; John Mosca on trombone; Benny Golson, James Moody, Frank Wess, and Eddie Daniels on sax, flute and/or clarinet; Richard Davis on bass; Kenny Washington on drums. These aren't session scraps. They were recorded in a second session three months after the first, but as is often the case with volume twos, the concept has lost a bit of its edge, and the songbook may have slipped a bit. Thad was a bebopper who nonetheless thought that big bands were the natural forum for the music, so this nine-piece group is about right. After I played this, I noticed that the street date isn't until Feb. 13, 2007, so I guess I jumped the gun on this one. B+(**)

Charlie Parker: The Genius of Charlie Parker (1944-49 [2005], Savoy Jazz, 2CD): I have a confession or two. I've always been turned off by the extreme adulation accorded Parker. He was an exceptionally charismatic person, in his early death as much as his fast life, and he had a huge, almost immediate impact on the music. But encountering him late, after I had absorbed Ornette Coleman and Anthony Braxton, it took me a long time to hear how anything in Parker matched up with the hype. For one thing, Parker's regarded as jazz's quintessential modernist, but already by the late-'70s, when I first heard him, he sounded old -- his innovations so commonplace they'd become mainstream clichés. He never made it to the LP era: his records were short 78s -- head, flashy solo, reprise -- but too arty for the jukebox. He was the pied piper who led jazz away from its swing-era popularity, making up in intensity what he lost in numbers. His cult was such that every scraps of live recording, regardless of how crappy the sound, has been added to the canon -- more clutter for us to sort through. But after having listened to all the Parker regarded as great, the case comes down to the Savoy and Dial singles and the Royal Roost live shots collected here -- not that there isn't more: the title is actually recycled from an old 14-cut Savoy LP, but only three songs are duplicated here. Some of the fast ones, like his solo on Dizzy Gillespie's "Shaw 'Nuff" or his "Bird Gets the Worm" are remarkable lines of improvisation. At a more moderate pace, his tone and poise shines through on pieces like "Yardbird Suite." No doubt Bird deserves at least some of his reputation. A

Kat Parra: Birds in Flight (2006, JazzMa): I get nervous when I read about a singer's 3 octave range. For one thing, I'm not technical enough to know whether I should be impressed. (I do recall reading about Minnie Ripperton's 5 octave range, but I was never impressed by her singing in any of them.) But the main thing is that it suggests a preoccupation with voice over music, a dubious and sometimes dangerous choice. That's unfair given how much care she puts into chosing her music -- mostly Cuban, even when the originals come from Jorge Ben or Duke Ellington -- but is still a recurring thought when I hear her modulate. Where she comes from and how she got here are probably interesting stories, but not ones I've been able to find out much about. Evidently she spent some time in Chile when she was young, now works mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area, and studied with Patti Cathcart. A couple of interesting songs here -- in particular, the Ben opener, which starts in serious trouble and works its way out, eventually dropping in a rap by someone named Pat Parra. Probably an untold story there too. B

Houston Person/Bill Charlap: You Taught My Heart to Sing (2004 [2006], High Note): Naked duets. I keep wishing a bass would enter and scurry these two along a bit, but when I focus I don't mind so much. Need to focus more, but it's safe to say that the individual talents you expect are present and accounted for, and both musicians are mature enough to work together. Person continues to sound fabulous. [B+(***)]

Houston Person/Bill Charlap: You Taught My Heart to Sing (2004 [2006], High Note): Lovely, of course, with scant room for nitpicking, but perhaps a bit too much of a mutual admiration society, especially where the saxophonist makes way for the pianist. I keep wishing a bass would enter and scurry them along a bit. B+(***)

Oscar Peterson/Ella Fitzgerald: JATP Lausanne 1953 (Swiss Radio Days, Vol. 15) (1953 [2006], TCB): The pianist gets top billing for endurance. He backs Ella on the first eight numbers, then leads his trio with Ray Brown and Barney Kessel for the last five. On one track, closing Ella's set, Lester Young leaps in and Charlie Shavers piles on. Nothing here you haven't heard elsewhere, except maybe Ella's short scat intro to "Lester Leaps In." Still, Ella's "Lady Be Good" and OP's "The Surrey With the Fringe on Top" are stellar. B+(**)

Madeleine Peyroux: Half the Perfect World (2006, Rounder): As I recall, this debuted at #1 on the jazz charts, and no doubt broke onto the pop charts as well, where she's been before. This tones down the Billie Holiday vibe that I found distracting on her previous albums, but also because it moves away from the jazz tradition of Careless Love and into what's called chanson because it's mostly French, in spirit if not necessarily in tongue -- a Serge Gainsbourg song appears, but also two by Leonard Cohen, one each by Joni Mitchell and Tom Waits. She's a featherweight singer, and the arrangements are correspondingly light. This is marginal, but pleasantly appealing, ending with a winning "Smile." B+(*)

Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Ballads (2004 [2006], Cam Jazz): What a lovely album! As the notes say, the band needs no introduction. Title's pretty much to the point, too. [B+(***)]

Enrico Pieranunzi/Marc Johnson/Joey Baron: Ballads (2004 [2006], CAM Jazz): I suppose one could carp, something to the effect of why on earth would anyone need another straight piano trio rendition of "These Foolish Things" -- let alone "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" -- but obviousness isn't a crime, or even a sin when it's done this tastefully. B+(***)

The John Popper Project Featuring DJ Logic (2006, Relix): I've gone back and forth on how to file this, finally opting for the literal, although the grammar would make more sense if Popper were the object of DJ Logic's project. Doesn't really belong under jazz, but sometimes I have trouble telling until I listen -- Logic does hang out in our neighborhood quite often. Popper is a blues-rock guy -- sings, plays harmonica in a band called Blues Traveler. He's out front here, and OK until Logic gooses him, at which point this this starts to get interesting and turn into fun. Choice cut: NOLA tribute "Louisiana Sky," which has someone named Greenweedz as a guest vocalist. B+(*)

Philippe Baden Powell: Estrada de Terra/Dirt Road (2006, Adventure Music): The son of legendary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell, Philippe plays piano and composes elegant pieces that don't fit into any concept I have. Four pieces are trios. Others bring in an isolated guest -- bass flute, trumpet, guitar, mandolin, strings. Some are quite appealing, like the one with Myke Ryan's trumpet. I suppose that lack of a conceptual hook is why I find myself feeling so ambivalent about this, especially given that the skills and evident intelligence make it so hard to critique. B

Roger Powell: Fossil Poets (2006, Inner Knot): His main claim to fame was playing synths in Todd Rundgren's space group Utopia, adding resonances to the etymology of the word. Other credits include Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell and David Bowie's dreadful Stage album. He's older now, evidently wiser as well. He styles this as "retro-future" music, meaning electronic, but toned down and dialed back for oldsters. His beats are dependable: they hold the music together without crossing either into dance or ambient -- chill might be the right word, but not too cold. Simple enough I'm not sure it'll sustain interest. I'd be tempted to classify it as New Age, but it's much better than that neighborhood. [B+(**)]

Les Primitifs du Futur: World Musette (1999 [2006], Sunnyside): Knowing that R. Crumb is involved in this project -- the cover art, of course, but he also plays mandolin and banjo -- makes it all the easier to imagine this as what happens when the Cheap Suit Serenaders go to seed in Paris. Guitarist Dominique Cravic is the leader and principal songwriter. Daniel Huck sings scat, and a cast of dozens play instruments my French isn't good enough to translate. Starts out sounding old-timey, but before long the accordions overwhelm the ukuleles and the musette takes over -- still old-timey, but European, even when they fake a Chinese waltz. A-

Re-Bop: The Savoy Remixes (1945-59 [2006], Savoy Jazz): Seems like every major jazz catalog company has set up deals with DJs to reprocess their wares -- I guess Fantasy (err, Concord) is the holdout, but they packaged all the old soul jazz they could find as The Roots of Acid Jazz, so I wouldn't bet against they following this trend. Whether this works or not depends more on the DJs than on the venerable master sources, and any time you mix a dozen of each you're likely to get hits and misses. (Which contrasts to matching Jazzanova with the Mizell Brothers, pretty much guaranteed to miss all the time.) The simplest approach here is to take a sample -- a bit of Dizzy Gillespie trumpet or Milt Jackson vibes -- and rep it until you can dance to it. Slightly more complicated is gussying up Sarah Vaughan's "Lover Man" or rewiring Charlie Parker's "Koko." Still, what's preserved from the jazz is incidental: my favorite here is Boots Riley's cartoonish remix of "Shaw 'Nuff," even though it leaves out one of Parker's all-time great solos. B+(**)

Re-Bop: The Savoy Originals (1945-59 [2006], Savoy Jazz): Existing only for neophytes to map the remixes back, these songs were selected for their parts, which makes them an exceptionally arbitrary label sampler -- how else do you explain two cuts from a Curtis Fuller album, or three cuts with mallets? Still, the selections can surprise, as when Herbie Mann turns out to be Phil Woods, or when Dizzy Gillespie gives way to Stuff Smith. B

Bob Reynolds: Can't Wait for Perfect (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Young saxophonist, mostly tenor but one cut on soprano, graduated summa cum laude at Berklee, so his disavowal of perfectionism may have come harder than for most. He fits pretty tightly into a set of mainstream saxophonists like Bob Berg, Benny Wallace, Steve Grossman, Bob Rockwell -- a rich, full-bodied tone that suggests that's what tenor sax was always meant to sound like, a taste for music that's neither old nor new but something hoping for timeless, plenty of chops that rarely get stressed. No doubt he's a tremendous student. Not sure yet where else he's going. [B+(***)]

Bob Reynolds: Can't Wait for Perfect (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): I have a few nits to pick: I wish he'd lose the soprano sax (one cut), and don't care much for his synth programming (two cuts). What makes them minor blemishes on this debut album is that his tone and poise on tenor sax is so superb you wonder why he'd try to dilute it. Youth, I guess. He projects to earn his place in the Budd Johnson-Ben Webster line, which among other things means he very likely has a great ballad album in his future. We remember those guys from when they were old and slow, but once they were young, and Webster wasn't called "the brute" only because he started out in boxing. Reynolds' band is rooted in funk not swing, and that seems fair to me. One he shouldn't lose is drummer Eric Harland. A-

Sonny Rollins: The Impulse Story (1965-66 [2006], Impulse): Another slim slice from an all-time great, three albums in the gap between his sporadic '60s work at RCA and his long tenure with Milestone, but useful -- two good albums not real high on the pecking order, and 25 minutes of East Broadway Run Down, his most avant album ever; alt-choices: On Impulse (1965), and the Oliver Nelson-arranged Alfie (1966), where a relatively large band lets Newk call all the shots. A-

Sonny Rollins: Milestone Profiles (1972-2001 [2006], Milestone): The first half of Newk's career was turbulent, with several gaps when he broke off and regrouped, including six years from when he left Impulse to his signing with Milestone. He spent the second half touring, where he was notoriously hot and cold -- breathtaking one night, unsettled the next. His albums, roughly one per year, were quickly tossed off, inconsistent with flashes of brilliance. Gary Giddins tried to point these out in a review of a mix tape he imagined. Milestone wanted to release a set to honor Rollins' 25th anniversary with the label, so they compiled Giddins' list as Silver City -- as magnificent as Saxophone Colossus or Way Out West or any of his other classics. Which should make this single redundant, but Rollins never rests on his past: three of nine songs appeared in the decade after Silver City, and they fit in seamlessly. No surprise really. Rollins is easy to anthologize: his sound is unique but consistent across decades, he totally dominates everyone he plays with, and his refuses to fall back on himself, so he never slips to cliché. A

Sonny Rollins: Sonny, Please (2005-06 [2006], Doxy): Having played out his contract at Milestone, Rollins is a free agent now, which for jazz legends these days means he's rolling out his own label. He's been selling this on his website for a while, so presumably that's where to go. Press release says it's been licensed to JVC in Japan and Universal in US and Europe, and they'll roll out their "traditional CD release" on Jan. 23, 2007, but will have a digital release on Nov. 21. The album holds no real surprises: the six piece band is more help than he needs but not good enough to compete, although there's nothing wrong with spots of Bobby Broom guitar or swashes of Clifton Anderson trombone; on the other hand, Rollins sounds fabulous, which is all you really need to know. A-

Michele Rosewoman & Quintessence: The In Side Out (2004 [2006], Advance Dance Disques): "Recorded September 26/27/28" -- but, like, what year? Can't be this year, since that would be today. Probably last year, but that guess will be harder to establish over time. The music is hard to pin down, ranging from slippery free bop to funk and Afro-Cuban grooves. The core group has two saxes: Mark Shim on tenor and Miguel Zenón on alto or soprano. Bassist Brad Jones plays electric as well as acoustic. For that matter, Rosewoman plays electric keyboards (mostly Fender Rhodes) more than acoustic. Guitarist Dave Fiuczynski joins on half of the cuts, occasionally out in front. Vocal on the last song, presumably by Rosewoman. Normally, I would say this is too much, too scattered, but she's been around long enough to have grown out of the kitchen sink syndrome. More likely it's coming from alternate universe I just have trouble grokking. B+(**)

PS: Rosewoman wrote in, setting the date in 2004, and taking credit for the last vocal, a Marvin Gaye song.

Nick Russo + 11: Ro (2005-06 [2006], On the Bol): Ambitious debut project. Russo plays guitar, and in simple contexts, like just bass and drums, can be quite engaging. He also plays a little tenor banjo, a very different sound that leads into his world, or at least Indian, music interests. There are pieces with horns, most notably Mark Turner. Pandit Samir Chatterjee plays tabla. At least three tracks have Miles Griffith vocals, mostly scat effects. Some of this swings easily, some breaks free, some just sort of scratches along. I'm duly impressed, but don't see how it all adds up. B+(**)

Saborit: Que Linda Es Mi Cuba (2006, Tumi): Campesino music from east Cuba -- at one point they translate "campesino" as "peasant," at another they extrapolate: "This is Cuba's answer to country music." Country, sure, like jibaro is Puerto Rican country, but this isn't an answer to anything. The group is named in honor of Eduardo Saborit, who long ago wrote the title song. The group has been around since the early '80s, but this is their first recording. Coming from the Cuban Oriente, this is less Afro and more Spanish -- more guitar and voice, less percussion -- than the urban music of Havana; as such, it travels easily across the Caribbean, mixing son and guaracha with cumbia. Not jazz, but too infectious not to note. I have a pile of Cuban classics on my shelf. I wonder if this will sound so good after I work through the masters. [A-]

Samo Salamon Quartet: Two Hours (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): The leader is a young guitarist from Slovenia, who worked his way through Austria to New York where he moved in with John Scofield. Doesn't sound much like Scofield, nor like Bill Frisell -- to whom he dedicates a tune -- nor to anyone else I can think of. But then I'm having some trouble hearing him around the other three-quarters of his quartet. That's because they're, well, it should suffice just to list them: Tony Malaby, Mark Helias, Tom Rainey. Awesome was the word I was fumbling with, but I need to sort this out further before I go that far. [B+(***)]

Samo Salamon Quartet: Two Hours (2004 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Easily the best of a fairly sizable crop of guitarist-sax quartets this year, and it's easy to explain why: the other three players work regularly as Mark Helias' Open Loose trio. They're more avant than the norm for this label -- rougher, more muscular, but then so is the Slovenian guitarist, who has an edge here he couldn't have learned from mentors John Scofield or Bill Frisell. B+(***)

Pharoah Sanders: The Impulse Story (1963-73 [2006], Impulse): Coltrane's first important disciple, reflected in sound and style, but more importantly in direction, which deflected from out only to orbit the earth, taking particular interest in Africa and Asia. Four cuts may not seem like much of a selection, but "The Creator Has a Master Plan," all 32:45, the ugly along with the transcendent, is in better company here than on Karma. A-

Daniel Santiago: On the Way (2005 [2006], Adventure Music): Three-fifths of Hamilton de Holanda's Quintet, the energy level tuned down without the mandolin and harmonica, and with the bassist going acoustic. Still, there is considerable bite in his strings -- no nylon here -- even when he takes it slow, which isn't all the time. I wonder how real aficionados of Brazilian guitar will react -- I'm not one, but this strikes me as a notable example. B+(*)

Vittor Santos: Renewed Impressions (2005 [2006], Adventure Music): It's very rare to hear a Brazilian record with a lead horn of any sort, much less trombone. Santos doesn't do anything very fancy: his tone is somewhat muted, just short puffs leading the piano-bass-drums (or in two instances Hamilton de Holanda's mandolin). But in the context of this relaxed samba that's definition enough. A Mario Adnet tune, "An American in the Samba," is especially delightful. [A-]

The Matt Savage Trio: Quantum Leap (2006, Savage): The leader is a 14-year-old pianist and this is his seventh album, mostly trios with John Funkhouser on bass and Steve Silverstein on drums -- the latter two reportedly "adults." He's got fans and hyperbole -- Dave Brubeck called him "another Mozart" -- and has a deal with Palmetto to distribute this self-released album. He's credited with writing 11 of 15 songs. I sort of like one called "Curacao," and don't mind the rest -- but he doesn't have much of a sound, and the pieces mostly feel like exercises. The covers, on the other hand, are real songs. His "All the Things You Are" is quite nice, but he has trouble with "Monk's Dream," then tries to force his way out and leaves it rather bruised. He's competent enough you can see why people are impressed, but it's impossible to extrapolate what he does at 14 into a career, and even if it was possible you'd still have to compare what he's doing now vs. what everyone else is doing now. C+

Savoy on Central Avenue (1941-52 [2003], Savoy Jazz, 2 CD): Though based on Newark, Savoy seemed to have a pipeline into Los Angeles. Just how this worked isn't clear from the scanty doc. This mingles locals like Johnny Otis and Harold Land and visitors like Charlie Parker, while running the gamut of '40s r&b and jazz -- often the same thing. B+(**)

Anton Schwartz: Radiant Blue (2005 [2006], Anton Jazz): AMG describes Schwartz as "influenced by Wayne Shorter, John Coltrane and Joe Henderson as well as Dexter Gordon." That's nicer than saying he was influenced by Bob Mintzer, but that's about what it adds up to. He's breaks no new ground, but is so centered in the tradition the old ground he covers reminds you of everyone. He has trouble establishing his own sound, although I suspect the recording has something to do with that. The group includes guitar and piano, bass and drums. Guitarist Peter Bernstein is a definite plus. Pianist Taylor Eigsti doesn't make much difference one way or the other. Not inconceivable this could gain a notch if I gave it a chance. B

Irène Schweizer: First Choice: Piano Solo KKL Luzern (2005 [2006], Intakt): The first record by the Swiss pianist since I made her 25-year Portrait a pick hit. This one is solo -- no opportunity for interplay, like I saw so impressed with, and a greater demand for inventiveness, which she more/less achieves. Don't have it calibrated yet. [B+(**)]

Irène Schweizer: First Choice: Piano Solo KKL Luzern (2005 [2006], Intakt): Solo piano -- not something I care all that much for, but this is thoughtful, cautiously elaborate, at times bracing. After Portrait I hoped to be blown away, but I'm hard pressed to think of any solo piano albums that move me that way -- even Art Tatum or Cecil Taylor. Solo piano isn't as limited as one hand clapping, but it's missing something, even when it's as thoughtful, vigorous, and inventive as this. B+(**)

Jimmy Scott: Milestone Profiles (2000-01 [2006], Milestone): The little guy still sounds weird to me -- why is it that male jazz singers, soul men and blues shouters excepted, always sound so mannered? -- but the four albums he cut in this 75-year-old comeback burst are gorgeously appointed -- the musicians include Fathead Newman, Hank Crawford, Eric Alexander, Grégoire Maret, Cyrus Chestnut, and Wynton Marsalis (one cut only). B+(*)

Sex Mob: Sexotica (2006, Thirsty Ear): Figured I should play this next after MTO, since this is another Steven Bernstein group. Or at least was: working off an advance (release date Aug. 1) here which comes with no info on who plays what, or who wrote what, or when it was recorded, or any of that. Thirsty Ear has been one of the most consistently interesting jazz labels of the new century, but they've never gotten their basic bookkeeping down. What the hype sheet says is: "Sex Mob and Good & Evil present an electro-acoustic fantasy inspired by Martin Denny." I have to admit I'm not down with Denny -- as best I recall, what made his exotica exotic was liberal use of bird calls. These guys are clever enough to do a bit of that with acoustic horns, but this time maybe they got too clever? Not clear where the sex is. [B]

Sex Mob: Sexotica (2005 [2006], Thirsty Ear): The final copy at last has some useful information in the booklet: who plays, what, when. Why's still an open question. About all I've figured out about Martin Denny's music is that when bongos don't suffice for exotica, he brings in the bird whistles. They're here too, but less conspicuously. The group was as expected, but the whole thing appears to have been further processed by Goodandevil, thickening up the electronic undertow. This has grown on me a bit, but still seems like a marginal idea, too inside a joke -- if that's what it is -- for someone not in on it. B+(*)

Elliott Sharp: Plays the Music of Thelonious Monk (2004 [2006], Clean Feed): Solo guitar. Don't know whether that's normal for him -- he's put out several dozen albums, but this is my first. But the cover art raises questions, with four lines, punctuation significant: "Sharp?/Monk?/Shark!/Monk!" Actually, it's pretty straightforward, with the familiar melodies at their familiar paces, the guitar not far removed from solo piano, or more like solo prepared piano. He makes it look difficult, which it no doubt is. B+(*)

Archie Shepp: The Impulse Story (1964-72 [2006], Impulse): Aside from Coltrane, Shepp was the most important figure to emerge on Impulse. More orthodox than Pharoah Sanders, possessing an authoritative but unpretty tone, he worked the inside of the avant-garde, and cultivated a black power consciousness leading to attempts to bridge gospel, soul and free jazz; the best disc in this series, because it pulls his disparate pieces together as a whole in a way that the albums don't. Alt-coices: Four for Trane (1964); Fire Music (1965), Attica Blues (1972). A-

Sonny Simmons: I'll See You When You Get There (2004-05 [2006], Jazzaway): The first of a planned three Sonny-goes-to-Norway records matched the veteran avant saxophonist with a sharp trio and a bank of strings. Now the second one goes to the other extreme, giving him ten duets: six with bassist Mats Eilertsen, two with pianist Anders Aarum, two with drummer Ole Thomas Kolberg. The drums have the most immediate appeal, probably because they add some snap, but the others are fine accompanists. I'm less certain what I think of Sonny in this setting -- not used to him playing so alone. Wonder what's next -- maybe like the three bears the third will be just right.. [B+(*)]

Edward Simon: Unicity (2006, CAM Jazz): Piano trio with John Pattitucci and Brian Blade. Simon was born in Venezuela, came to the US to study, was tutored by Harold Danko, hooked up with Kevin Eubanks and Greg Osby, had something to do with M-Base, has half a dozen albums, including a couple on Criss Cross. I've bumped into him as a sideman, especially with Bobby Watson, but I can't say I'm familiar with him. My bottom line on piano trios is that I know what I like even if I can't tell you why. This one is especially hard for me to pin down, but I like it enough to keep it in the queue. [B+(*)]

Edward Simon: Unicity (2006, CAM Jazz): This is a hard piano trio for me to pin down, but in the end it's either too subtle for me to appreciate or too lackluster for me to care. Simon plays with expertise and finesse, but little surprise. John Patitucci and Brian Blade provide competent support, but don't manage any heavy lifting. B

Sonny Simmons: I'll See You When You Get There (2004-05 [2006], Jazzaway): Minimal Sonny, not solo but in duets that only marginally frame his solos -- six with bassist Mats Eilertsen, two with pianist Anders Aarum, two with drummer Ole Thomas Kolberg. The drums hold up best because they clearly add something, whereas the bass and piano are more like admiring reflections. Solo sax tends to slow down because nothing else pushes it along. That can be a plus for an ex-Firebird. B+(**)

Jimmy Smith: Milestone Profiles (1981-93 [2006], Milestone): His Blue Notes, starting in 1956, made the Hammond B3 the fulcrum of soul jazz, as well as setting the standard against which Larry Young and others would develop. But he settled into a groove which sustained him at Verve, later at Milestone, and on to the day he died. Nothing new here, most songs are live remakes of earlier hits, some even with Stanley Turrentine and Kenny Burrell. B+(*)

Casually Introducing Walter Smith III (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): The artwork, especially the type on the back, recalls Blue Note's '60s work, most explicitly Sam Rivers' debut, Fuschia Swing Song -- a record that also contributes the first song here. Beyond that the relationship stretches thin, as does the tone of Smith's tenor sax. (He also plays soprano, and sometimes it takes a while to figure out which is which.) Still, there's something likable about this record. The keyboard work stands out -- mostly Aaron Parks, but Robert Glasper takes the cake for his Fender Rhodes cheese whiz on "Kate Song." The Mingus piece is lovely as usual. And the saxophonist finally connects with his "Blues" routine, even if it's a bit textbook. Smith's still young enough -- born in the '80s as near as I can tell -- that his resume's still in pursuit of his education. Don't think this is very good, but I do feel like hearing it again. [B+(*)]

Walter Smith III: Casually Introducing (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): A young second-generation tenor saxophonist looks back to Sam Rivers' Fuschia Swing Song for artwork but he's more postmodern than that -- plays soprano too, like damn near everyone since Coltrane and Shorter, while his pianists double on Fender Rhodes; shuttles musicians in and out; recycles classics that seemed like a good idea, while writing and borrowing originals that reach out to Africa. In short, this dwells more on his breadth than his depth, which he hasn't reached yet. But there's something to be said for breadth. B+(*)

Soft Machine Legacy: Live at the New Morning (2005 [2006], Inakustik, 2CD): Half of the '70s lineup, with Hugh Hopper on bass and Elton Dean on alto sax or saxello, but the reunion group sounds much tougher with guitarist John Etheridge replacing Mike Ratledge's keybs. Too bad that Dean died shortly afterwards. His avant-riffing over steady grooves is a fine solution to the fusion puzzle. B+(***)

So Percussion: Amid the Noise (2002-06 [2006], Cantaloupe): Three percussionists, schooled on Cage and Reich -- a previous recording is of the latter's Drumming. Not much in the way of a jazz feel: they like chime-like sounds which retain discreteness and definitely do not swing. Back in the '70s I had a minor interest in minimalism like this as well as more arcane forms of post-classical music, but lost the thread and never picked it up again. Thus far I'm ambivalent about this, but since it refers to something out of my experience that, at least in principle, I might pursue further, I'll keep this open, albeit far back on the burner. [B]

So Percussion: Amid the Noise (2002-06 [2006], Canteloupe): Group name has a macron accent over 'o' in "So" -- don't know what that's meant to signify. Maybe it's an omen that I need to move from ISO-8859-1 to Unicode. It wouldn't be the first time I found myself stuck on the losing side of a technology divide. The group consists of three guys who play percussion and synths. An earlier record tackled Steve Reich's Drumming, which gives you some context, but the minimalism here is much less dense, and the percussion is less dependably rhythmic. Didn't sound like much at first, but it's grown on me a bit. B+(*)

Sound in Action Trio: Gate (2003 [2006], Atavistic): Ken Vandermark, just credited with reeds, squares off against two drummers: Robert Barry, from Sun Ra Arkestra, and Tim Daisy, from Triage and numerous Vandermark projects, including the flagship 5. The trio had a previous album on Delmark, Design in Time -- Daisy replaces Tim Mulvenna from then, as he replaced Mulvenna in the Vandermark 5. Doubling the drums doesn't have a real pronounced effect, although there is often something interesting going on back there. But it puts Vandermark on the spot constantly, Vandermark wrote about half of the pieces; the others are mostly avant-jazz classics, including a Dolphy piece for Clarinet, and a Coltrane that shows off his tenor sax. [B+(***)]

The Source (2005 [2006], ECM): This Norwegian group dates back to 1993 when three of four members were students at the Trondheim Conservatory of Music. They recorded an album in 2000 with Cikada string quartet -- haven't heard it, but it got a favorable nod from Penguin Guide. ECM didn't list the group members on the cover, as they often do. The name, and probable leader, is saxophonist Trygve Seim, with trombonist Øyvind Braekke providing a second horn. Mats Eilertsen, the non-Trondheimer, plays bass. (The original bassist was Ingebrigt Håker Flaten, best known for his work with Ken Vandermark.) Per Oddvar Johansen drums. The lineup recalls groups with Roswell Rudd and Albert Mangelsdorff, but toned way down in ECM's customary way, jazz that is free but without offense. Takes a while to sort it out, but this is promising. [B+(**)]

The Source (2005 [2006], ECM): Norwegian quartet, led by saxophonist Trygve Seim, with Øyvind Braekke's trombone as the second horn. I'm reminded of an argument that Ken Vandermark made in introducing Mats Gustafsson's Blues record: that American and European players have a fundamental disconnect in their sense of what blues is, the Americans tuned to the sonic signatures, the Europeans more formal, more abstract. Same sort of thing happens here, only viz. swing. This doesn't swing, but it does everything else you expect of a swing record -- while staying what seems to me at least unnaturally upright. Francis Davis wrote about this in the Voice already, which sort of gets me off the hook. A fascinating record I haven't managed to figure out. I do think that Seim will wind up regarded as important, and this won't be the last time I revisit this. B+(***)

Tomasz Stanko: Chameleon (2006, TC Music): Recorded in Athens, no date given, in a trio heavily biased toward synthesizers: Janusz Skowron plays keyboards, while Apostolis Anthimos switches between drums, guitar, and their electronic equivalents. That works only a small fraction of the time, and some of the keyboards are so cheesy they'd take Chick Corea aback. The trumpeter does his best, triumphing here and there. B-

Tomasz Stanko Quartet: Lontano (2005 [2006], ECM): Too early to tell whether a record so understated and so subtle will develop into something wondrous or fade into oblivion, but I expect to stick with it. The Wasilewski-Kurkiewicz-Miskiewicz rhythm section deserve to be household names even though the odds against that are as long as their names. [B+(***)]

Tomasz Stanko Quartet: Lontano (2005 [2006], ECM): I'm not if I've ever seen an ECM album cover look so bleak and featureless, even though such landscapes seem to be the art director's default. The music is neither bleak nor featureless, but it is slow and subtly arranged -- haunting and lovely, but it does take its toll in attention. Pianist Marcin Wasilewski is a master of understatement, one more trait he's picked up from the leader. B+(***)

Billy Stein Trio: Hybrids (2005 [2006], Barking Hoop): Debut album by a guitarist who "has been working in New York for the best 30 years, continually honing his style." Stein played in Milt Hinton's Jazz Workshop in the mid-'70s, in a class that produced Sam Furnace and Kevin Norton. Don't know much more than that, but by the time Norton finally recorded Stein his guitar style was about as honed as you can get. He dances adroitly on a surface of bass and drums, always keeping a step ahead of your expectations. The trio is ably filled out by Rashid Bakr, who's played for William Parker, and Reuben Radding, the guy you call when Parker doesn't answer his phone. The bass-guitar interplay here is particuarly sweet. [A-]

Billy Stein Trio: Hybrids (2005 [2006], Barking Hoop): He's a guitarist no one would have ever heard of had Kevin Norton not urged him into the studio. He played with Norton and Sam Furnace back in the '70s, but with endless refinement this is his debut. He works in subtle harmonic shadings rather than the melodic lines that dominate the craft, so this tends to vanish in its subtleties. But he gets exceptionally sympathetic support from drummer Rashid Bakr and bassist Reuben Radding -- the latter a near-perfect match. B+(***)

Jamie Stewardson: Jhaptal (2003 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, first attracted to rock, then to John McLaughlin. Moved from Colorado to Boston in 1984 to attend Berklee. Later studied with John Abercrombie, Joe Maneri, Mick Goodrick. Doesn't have much of a discography: as far as I can tell, this is first album, with one other appearance. He wrote all of the songs here, but first time through here his guitar is relatively invisible -- at least compared to Alexei Tsiganov's vibes and Tony Malaby's tenor sax. Quintet also includes John Hebert and George Schuller -- all things considered, a terrific band. Need to go back again more closely and focus on the guitar. [B+(**)]

Jamie Stewardson: Jhaptal (2003 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent): I'm less impressed by the leader-guitarist than by the company he keeps: especially Tony Malaby, who again somehow manages to keep his tenor sax toned down but still quietly carries the day, but also Alexei Tsiganov on vibes, John Hebert on bass, and George Schuller on drums. But it's hard to evaluate postbop composers -- Stewardson wrote all of the pieces here, evidently passing his best lines to his band. B+(**)

Stompin' at the Savoy: The Original Indie-Label (1944-61 [2004], Savoy Jazz, 4CD): Herman Lubinsky launched his record label in 1942, but between the war and the recording ban didn't release regularly until 1944. A notorious skinflint, or perhaps just a cheat, he managed to keep his label in business until his death in 1974. His early records were mostly jazz, and later on he gravitated toward gospel, but this box focuses on r&b singles. Early on he had hits with novelties like Dusty Fletcher's "Open the Door Richard" and dance grooves like Hal Singer's "Cornbread" and Paul Williams' "The Hucklebuck," but they trail off over time, and only two songs on the fourth disc cracked the r&b charts -- Big Maybelle's "Candy" is the best known, and Nappy Brown his most consistent performer. Which means that as the period's r&b labels go, little here is essential. Nonetheless, it is remarkably consistent within its limits. B+(**)

Marcus Strickland Quartets: Twi-Life (2006, Strick Muzik, 2CD): Tenor saxophonist from Miami, plays a little soprano as well. Two previous albums in Fresh Sound's New Talent series, plus he's starting to get some prime sideman work -- Jeff Watts, Roy Haynes, Dave Douglas, Marsalis Music Honors Michael Carvin, another record I like by Metta Quintet. Each disc here is a quartet: the first a conventional sax-piano-bass-drums, the second with guitar and electric bass. I can't say as I noticed the much hyped Robert Glasper on the former, but Lage Lund makes a large contribution to the latter. On both, Strickland is both typical and exemplary of mainstream saxophonists: he can ace any dissertation, but I'm not sure how much of his own style he's developed. His twin brother E.J. plays drums in both groups, and he's definitely arrived. [B+(***)]

Marcus Strickland: Quartets: Twi-Life (2005-06, Strick Muzik, 2CD): Minor bookkeeping change here: I've decided to treat "Quartets" at part of the title, not part of the artist designation. Makes more sense that way, even though the typography suggests otherwise. Two discs, two distinct quartets. Both have Marcus on tenor and soprano sax and his twin E.J. on drums. One has piano and acoustic bass, the other guitar and electric bass. The latter has two advantages: one is that guitarist Lage Lund makes much more of a contribution than pianist Robert Glasper; the other is that the electric bass seems to free up the sax, although Marcus is voluble and pungent on both discs. He's one of the brightest mainstream tenor men I've heard in years, and his brother is equally terrific. Grade tracks the weaker disc, which is in the ground rules, but the stronger one isn't all that far ahead. B+(***)

Dave Stryker: Big City (2004 [2005], Mel Bay): Guitarist, active since the late-'80s; always sounds good, never quite convincing me that guitar is the future of postbop. This is a quartet with fleet-fingered Dave Kikoski on piano, Ed Howard on bass, and Victor Lewis on drums. Got it as background to the new one, up next. B+(*)

Dave Stryker: The Chaser (2005 [2006], Mel Bay): This one's an organ trio, with Jared Gold and Tony Reedus. Gold does a good job of keeping things pumped up, and Stryker slides right along. I thought I might have more to say about his guitar, but that's clearer on Big City, or his numerous albums with saxophonist Steve Slagle. But he spent much of his early career playing with organists, starting with Jack McDuff, so this is a return to form . . . or norm. B

Stephen Stubbs: Teatro Lirico (2004 [2006], ECM New Series): Actually classical music -- sonatas and dances from 17th century Italy and Slovakia -- but as long as ECM sends these I'll take a shot at prospecting them. Stubbs plays baroque guitar and chitarrone in a quartet with violin, viola and harp, or at least period variations on those instruments. I'm finding this quite lovely, although the calm veneer and lack of beat -- or should I say, the stately pulse? -- eventually dull my interest a bit. B+(***)

Ralph Sutton: At St. George Church, Brandon Hill, Bristol, England (1992 [2006], Arbors, 2CD): Solo piano. I turned the volume up to better follow Alyn Shipton's introduction -- the two discs correspond to two BBC broadcasts -- and that helps. He recorded a lot of solo piano over five decades, and I can't begin to comparison shop, but this seems relatively informal, an old master more at play than at work -- rearranging and transposing, stringing medleys together, breaking for the odd story. B+(**)

David Taylor-Steve Swell Quintet: Not Just . . . (2005 [2006], CIMP): Interesting instrumentation: two trombones, from the leaders with Taylor playing bass, plus three strings: Ken Filiano's bass, Tomas Ulrich's cello, and Billy Bang's violin. But I'm not sure what's going on here, possibly because I haven't been able to focus through the label's notorious acoustics, but it may just be that no one steps up to the plate. [B]

John Taylor: Angel of the Presence (2004 [2006], CAM Jazz): English pianist. Been around since 1969, but mostly in the background, working with the likes of John Surman (contributes a quote on the back cover), Kenny Wheeler (wrote two songs), Jan Garbarek, and Norma Winstone. Always seemed like a good guy, but I never checked out his own records before. So this piano trio, with Palle Danielsson on bass and Martin France on drums, caught me by surprise. Fully engaged, relentlessly pushing both the instrument and the ideas. [A-]

John Taylor: Angel of the Presence (2004 [2006], CAM Jazz): Piano trio, with Palle Danielsson and Martin France. I associate Taylor with Kenny Wheeler -- they both have played extensively with the British avant-garde, but tend toward more moderate engagements on their own, or together. This one struck me as exemplary on first listen, but shaded back a bit into the ordinary at spots. B+(***)

The Taylor/Fidyk Big Band: Live at Blues Alley (2005 [2006], OA2): Taylor is Mark, who composed some of this, and arranged all but one song of the rest. Fidyk is Steve, the drummer and bandleader. Taylor learned his craft from Stan Kenton, and there's some of that here. The band is big and dramatic, but can manage a light touch when called for. B+(*)

Territory Band-5: New Horse for the White House (2005 [2006], Okka Disk, 3 CD): Satoko Fujii still isn't the most exhaustively documented jazz artist, even in the big band division. Her four large orchestra discs are marginally outnumbered by Ken Vandermark's Territory Band, with two releases this year totalling five discs. I never got Territory Band-4 -- an oversight, I'm sure, although I wasn't all that kind to Territory Band-3. This one is in the same vein. It's difficult to distinguish between the ones I've heard, as they all offer mixed bags of astonishing improv and unfathomable noise, some of which is exhilarating anyway. Part of the setup here is the use of electronics, but they still haven't emerged from the background. Two studio discs, with two two pieces each ranging from 16:43 to 25:30. The third disc is a live one, with all four pieces reprised in only slightly shorter versions -- the short one actually gained a minute. [B+(**)]

Territory Band-5: New Horse for the White House (2005 [2006], Okka Disk, 3CD): The third disc is a live concert at Donaueschingen of the first two discs' music. Given a little more budget, the logical thing would have been to provide it as a DVD, which might be as useful as the Fujii Tokyo one. I imagine the group more spread out and less tightly scripted, but with 12 musicians there tends to be a lot going on. Somehow I missed out on Territory Band-4, but the series as a whole has struck me out more often than not. This one strikes me as relatively solid, and offers some hope that the electronics will eventually pan out. Plenty of hot spots, just hard to follow, and there's a lot of it. B+(*)

Third World Love: Sketch of Tel Aviv (2005 [2006], Smalls): This merits further listening, especially a comparison with the Omer Avital record -- the bassist reappears here, along with trumpeter Avishai Cohen, the leader of this Israeli quartet. Also need to look further into whatever it is that "third world love" means. Avital's closer, "Three Four (Not a Jazz Tune)" has a pronounced affinity with Abdullah Ibrahim. [B+(**)]

Tone Collector (2004 [2005], Jazzaway): The group here is Tony Malaby on tenor sax, Eivind Opsvik on bass, Jeff Davis on drums. The record was recorded live in Stockholm at the Glenn Miller Café. I filed it under Malaby, but further research suggests Opsvik may be, if not the leader, at least the guiding light. Malaby doesn't even mention the record on his website. Opsvik lists a dozen or more groups and projects, describing Tone Collector as "Mostly free improvising trio, debut cd released on jazzaway records in 2005." That holds out the prospect for more, but this just seems to have been one of those night when the group met, improvised something, had it recorded, and let it out. Malaby is rougher and more forthright than elsewhere -- a frequent sideman, he tends to fit in rather than stand out. But Opsvik is equally conspicuous -- his bass has real presence here, often setting not just the pace but the tone as well. Davis does what most drummers do in these free-for-alls, which is to maintain a parallel commentary. B+(**)

Trio East: Best Bets (2005 [2006], Origin): Clay Jenkins on trumpet, Jeff Campbell on bass, Rich Thompson on drums. Trumpet trios are rare, mostly found on the avant side. Jenkins isn't all that far out, but the horn's necessary sparseness leans that way. Good group, well balanced, interesting approach. Liked their previous album, and this one is more of the same. [B+(**)]

Trio East: Best Bets (2005 [2006], Origin): Trumpet-bass-drums trio, not a lot of those out there, with those that do exist tending toward avant-obscurity. Clay Jenkins plays the trumpet, making him the presumed leader, so going with the group name advances him toward his own kind of obscurity. What he gets for it is an exceptionally well-balanced group effort. They did an equally good album called Stop-Start (Sons of Sound) last year, which languished on the cusp of the HM list until this one arrived to take its place. B+(**)

Stanley Turrentine: Flipped Out on Love (1971-72 [2006], Aim): Again, only bare hints in the doc. The first eleven cuts come from Flipped, an album originally released in 1971 on Canyon, and reissued on CD in 1995 on Drive Archive. That would place it between his tenures at Blue Note and CTI. The idea seems to be to go pop, with covers like "Brown Eyed Woman" and "Let It Be" and a couple of Stevie Wonder tunes. With his creamy tone, He sounds light and happy on those. The album closes with three songs from a 1972 Gloria Lynne album, also on Canyon, presumably with Turrentine in the mix somewhere, but he's obscured by the big production, the backing singers, and the general blight of ordinariness. B

McCoy Tyner: The Impulse Story (1962-64 [2006], Impulse): The pianist was 21 when he joined Coltrane, shortly before Coltrane signed with Impulse. His first records under his own name were the piano trios that figure large here, but this is also fleshed out with cuts from other folks' records -- Coltrane, Elvin Jones, Art Blakey. Not all that well balanced, but it has some moments, including quite a bit of piano. B+(*)

McCoy Tyner: Milestone Profiles (1972-80 [2006], Milestone): This was his third label period, following stints on Impulse and Blue Note, the '70s consolidated his reputation both as a star pianist and as a composer with broad interests. What's most striking here is how hard the piano sounds -- one solo and two trio pieces are crashingly loud, while the horns on the rest are hard pressed to keep up, even when they go into late-Coltrane overload. It's like he's trying not to do fusion but to beat it to death. B+(*)

Adam Unsworth: Excerpt This! (2006, Adam Unsworth): Young French horn player, hangs with the Philadelphia Orchestra and has some sort of association with Temple University. This is his first album, reportedly assembled from ten years of compositions. His dilligence is clear enough, but his decision to mix solo and sextet settings breaks the flow and feels like two distinct things. Not so much the problem as the limit to both parts is the horn, a rather awkward if not exactly ugly thing. The solo pieces can get tedious even when you don't doubt his skill or dexterity. But the sextet is much livelier. Les Thimmig plays bass clarinet and flutes -- contrasting horns with well-matched limits. With neither horn player overpowering, the field is rather open for someone else to stand out, and both Diane Monroe on violin and Tony Micelli on vibes make the best of their opportunities. B+(*)

The Vandermark 5: A Discontinuous Line (2005 [2006], Atavistic): Two changes. The first is replacing trombonist Jeb Bishop with cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm. This reduces the options for the spin-on-a-dime horn arrangements that dominated recent albums like Elements of Style. I don't have a good fix on what the cello does instead, other than that it provides a lower volume contrast to the horn leads. The second change is that Vandermark has ceded the tenor sax ground to Dave Rempis -- Vandermark plays baritone sax and clarinets. The effect there is to lower the sax range, to go deeper and dirtier -- the emphasis more on rough improv than on fancy arrangement. Remarkable on any account. [A-]

The Vandermark 5: A Discontinuous Line (2005 [2006], Atavistic): The initial effect of Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello replacing Jeb Bishop's trombone is to move the group from tight horn arrangements back into rough and ready free jazz. The other change is that the saxes have moved down a notch -- Dave Rempis to tenor and Ken Vandermark to baritone -- filling the bottom Bishop vacated while kicking up the dirt. The result is a slimmed down, fired up Territory Band, a wild west bar band for bruised brains. A-

Send in the Clowns: The Very Best of Sarah Vaughan (1949-87 [2006], Columbia/Legacy): One of the most incredible voices ever, but her records are extremely spotty, with adoring arrangers putting her on pedestals of statuesque music. Unlike past Sony comps, this limits her 1949-53 period, which I've always found overbearing, to two cuts. For the rest, it jumps to 1973 for five from Live in Japan, then finishes with massive orchestras that do her no favors. She's always been a difficult project for me. I've listened to about ten records, and found things I'm impressed with -- even some jazz settings I like. You'd think someone would issue a comp that would consolidate her pluses, but I've yet to see one that does. They all hew to a different siren. B-

Vision Volume 3 (2003 [2005], Arts for Art, CD+DVD): Just played the CD with nine excerpts from the 2003 Vision Festival, an annual showcase for avant-garde music (and dance, I guess) run by Patricia Nicholson (dancer) and her husband William Parker (bassist extraordinaire). Haven't worked through the DVD yet, but unlike most cases this time I intend to. Also got an 80-page book called Vision Festival Peace, a collection of poetry, pictures and manifestos that I also haven't come close to digesting. The nine pieces provide more variety and less continuity than is usually the case with these musicians, which has its good and bad points. Roy Campbell, Daniel Carter, and Rob Brown all make impressive splashes. Fred Anderson sounds a bit thin with just bass behind him, and Kidd Jordan is ugly as ever, but only for a manageable 7:25. The big surprise is that three pieces focus on vocals: Thomas Buckner's is the sketchiest; Patricia Nicholson's is the most striking, as she declaims agitprop over Joseph Jarman reeds and Cooper-Moore's bass-like diddley-bo; Parker's Jeanne Lee Project combines four singers and a big band in a piece that threatens to overwhelm everything. Still need to sort this out better, play the DVD, factor in the various tradeoffs, etc. But for those of us who can't get to the Festival this is a most welcome taste. [B+(***)]

Vision Volume 3 (2003 [2005], Arts for Art): Excerpts from the 2003 Vision Festival, which William Parker and Patricia Nicholson organize each year. I've had this on the shelf a long time, figuring that this was one case where I wanted to take a look at the DVD before signing off on the CD, but never finding the time or inclination to do so. Finally took a look at it today. It's poorly shot and badly edited, with lots of double exposure shots. The sound is sometimes out of sync, and there is a formatting problem that keeps it from returning to the menu after playing a section. On the other hand, the dance pieces by Nicholson and Maria Mitchell (accompanied by Kali Z. Fasteau) lose out otherwise, and seeing helps explain Joseph Jarman's two-horn act. Otherwise, a mixed bag: the experiments at best suggest directions to follow further, and the variety ends them as quickly as it moves past ones that are less interesting. B+(**)

Fats Waller: If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It (1926-43 [2006], Bluebird/Legacy, 3CD): Thomas Waller was a dazzling stride pianist, an enduring songwriter, and one of the funniest singers and showmen ever. Anthologists have been tussling over these attributes ever since Fats, a round man with a narrow mustache and an irrepressibly sweeping grin, died, just short of his 40th birthday. With Solomonic wisdom, producer Orrin Keepnews has given us one disc of each. Of course, one can nitpick further -- no "Black and Blue," which might have spoiled the jovial mood, and the "Strictly Instrumental" disc moves too quickly into the band pieces, including a couple of emphatically vocal jive-alongs. But if God had meant you to choose, she would have restored the entire catalog, which since RCA deleted their six box, 15-CD almost complete works have been in embarrassing disarray -- not even the bottom-feeding reissue labels in Europe have been able to put him back together again. Meanwhile, this one's a good-enough chance to get acquainted, and entertained. A

Cedar Walton: One Flight Down (2006, High Note): One thing that throws me off here is starting with two quartet tracks with Vincent Herring on tenor sax, then dropping down to a trio for the remainder. Liner note scribe Thomas Conrad tries to work his way around this: "It is rare for an album to lose a hot tenor saxophonist and become a piano trio date and immediately escalate in intensity." Can't say as I noticed that shift -- maybe it's not as intense as advertised -- but contrary to my prejudices the trio strikes me as sharper. Still, this feels like two ideas for albums shotgunned together. B+(**)

The David S. Ware Quartet: BalladWare (1999 [2006], Thirsty Ear): This was recorded in summer 1999, after Ware. Don't know what the details were, why it's being released now, why it wasn't released then, but it fits in between Surrendered and the two albums Ware released on AUM Fidelity. Seven songs: three standards, four originals, including "Dao" and "Godspelized" -- album title songs from Ware's earthshaking DIW period. These are measured only by Ware's previous standards -- muffled perhaps, never pushed to extremes, but still embroiled in deep tension. Pianist Matthew Shipp is notable throughout, especially on "Godspelized." [A-]

Florian Weber/Jeff Denson/Ziv Ravitz: Minsarah (2006, Enja/Justin Time): Normally I know what I like in a piano trio, but have trouble describing it. Played this one at a time when I couldn't write about it at all, but at least it passes the "like" test. Minsarah is probably the group name, but as a first album with the individual musician name above the line, I'd rather file it that way. Denson and Ravitz both contribute compositions, three and two to Weber's four. Reminds me a bit of E.S.T. [B+(***)]

Florian Weber/Jeff Denson/Ziv Ravitz: Minsarah (2006, Enja/Justin Time): A piano trio, a bit more conventional than E.S.T., but similar in touch, feel, dynamics. Minsarah is probably meant as a group name -- i.e., it will probably recur on subsequent records. Bassist Denson and drummer Ravitz write, only slightly outnumbered by the pianist's compositions. B+(**)

Mort Weiss Meets Sam Most (2006, SMS Jazz): Title could be extended: "Recorded live at Steamers Jazz Club & Cafe"; perhaps also "With Ron Eschete', Roy McCurdy and Luther Hughes." Most is a name associated with bebop flute, although his earliest credits suggest earlier sources -- Don Redman, Tommy Dorsey, Boyd Raeburn -- and even later on he worked with older guys -- Teddy Wilson, Red Norvo, Louie Bellson. That suggests he's ancient, but 75 is more like it. He recorded several mid-'50s albums with Debut and Bethlehem, then a few more in the late-'70s with Xanadu. Most also plays a little tenor sax here, which is a plus, and sings one, which isn't. Weiss plays clarinet. A bit younger, he started with trad jazz, but fell for Charlie Parker and Buddy DeFranco, then dropped out of music in the '60s, only picking it up again when he reached the usual retirement age. This is minor, but charming, with Escheté's guitar the secret ingredient. B+(*)

Kenny Wheeler: It Takes Two! (2005 [2006], Cam Jazz): Guitarists, that is: John Abercrombie and John Parricelli. And two more: Wheeler on flugelhorn and Anders Jormin on bass. I'm not all that clear on how the guitars sort out -- there are fairly detailed notes here, but I've been listening in passing. Wheeler has recorded a pile of records recently for this label, all slight, intricate, intriguing, indecisive. This is one more I don't quite know what to do with. [B+(**)]

Kenny Wheeler: It Takes Two! (2005 [2006], CAM Jazz): Not a duo. Actually a quartet with two guitars -- John Abercrombie and John Parricelli. The fourth is bassist Anders Jormin, all of which suggests a low key album. The guitarist work out most of the pleasing textures, to which Wheeler's flugelhorn adds highlights. Can't say much about it, but I'm struck by how consistent Abercrombie has become. B+(**)

Wesla Whitfield: Livin' on Love (2005-06 [2006], High Note): Standards singer, has recorded extensively since 1987. This was recorded in two sessions, one with an octet, the other with a quartet, both arranged and led by longtime collaborator Mike Greensill, both featuring Gary Foster on various saxes and flutes. The difference between the two groups is a set of four French horns. I think she's a good singer, and I like Foster, at least on tenor sax, but I don't see much value here -- although the only real annoyance is the hoked up version of "Alfie" with all the French horns. B

Nancy Wilson: Turned to Blue (2005-06 [2006], MCG Jazz): The first thing to say is that she is in fine voice. That isn't new, but it's rarely been sufficient. The second thing is that the arrangements, except for the closer with Dr. Billy Taylor and a gaggle of strings, are pretty clean and unobtrusive -- even the All Star Big Band, which swings three cuts. Each of the cuts have featured soloists, mostly making their only appearance. By far the best combination is James Moody and the big band on "Taking a Chance on Love," but Tom Scott has a good turn as well. The title cut was stitched together from a Dr. Maya Angelou poem -- the honorific makes a nice bookend with Dr. Billy -- but it's of below average interest. Toyed with the idea of leaving this open, but realistically it's never gonna lift those strings very high, nor that poetry, and if Tom Scott's a plus the average ain't all that high. But she does sound good, and checking my database -- not all that deep on her -- this is her best record yet. B

Winds of Brazil (Um Sopro de Brasil) (2004 [2006], Adventure Music): Eleven songs, each a feature for a notable Brazilian wind musician -- flutes, reeds, brass, harmonica, backed by a large strings and percussion orchestra. This is classical music in attitude if not necessarily form, something safely removed to the concert hall where proper folks give it proper respect. C+

The World's Greatest Jazz Band: At Manchester's Free Trade Hall, England, 1971 (1971 [2006], Arbors, 2CD): The group name is functional in several respects. For one thing it cautions you that "great" and especially "greatest" are limits as well as superlatives. There is, after all, a limit to how much greatness any of us can really stand, beyond which the great become targets for revolution. On the other hand, if you're Yank Lawson or Bob Haggart -- two journeymen from the swing era, playing trumpet and bass, respectively -- you can see that the prospect of assembling a band with legends like Bud Freeman and Vic Dickenson and such relatively young masters of the trad jazz craft as Bob Wilber and Ralph Sutton might justify such hyperbole. Lawson and Haggart kept the name going for a ten-year stretch (1968-78), shifting lineups around along the way. This group includes Billy Butterfield, who gets most of the trumpet features, Ed Hubble on trombone, and Gus Johnson Jr. on drums. In the past, concerts like would have been edited down to sharpen the impact, but at this late date they go for history, keeping all the intros and applause, calling out features for the stars. Sutton's stand out. B+(*)

Otomo Yoshihide's New Jazz Quintet: ONJQ Live in Lisbon (2004 [2006], Clean Feed): One thing I don't know much about is Japanese noise bands -- the few I've heard have been such an automatic turnoff that I've had no interest in making marginal distinctions. Another is Kaoru Abe, a legendary Japanese alto saxophonist who died young in 1978, but I imagine that Tsugami Kenta here has some if not all of Abe's records. Yoshihide plays electric guitar, which can be a powerful noisemaker in its own right. Two more Japanese names play bass and drums, suggesting that ONJQ is normally a quartet. But the saxes are dominant here, with the margin coming from guest Mats Gustafsson. He's a slowly acquired taste, but at least I have some practice there, and his baritone is hard to mistake. Starts with a "Song for Che" that's hard to recognize. Ends with "Eureka," a Jim O'Rourke song also on their previous OJNQ Live (2002, DIW). The latter almost starts to make sense, suggesting that further study may help. But I'd rather cut them some slack on the grade and cut my losses. B

Pete Zimmer Quintet: Judgment (2006, Tippin): Drummer-led group. Seven credits for this "quintet": two bassists alternate, except on two cuts that are just duos; the other extra is tenor saxophonist George Garzone, who gets a "featuring" plug on the front cover. Garzone's name usually pops up these days as an educator -- seems like every saxophonist who's ever been to Boston has stopped in for some pointers. He doesn't record much, but has a distinctively muscular sound that is the main reason for tuning in here. He also wrote four of nine, but only plays on six. The other tenor saxophonist is Joel Frahm, who tends to fit in neatly while Garzone stands out. Don't know pianist Toru Dodo, but he does some nice work here. B+(*)

Carry Over

The following records, carried over from the done file at the start of this cycle, were also under consideration for this column.

  1. Susanne Abbuehl: Compass (2003-04 [2006], ECM) B+(**)
  2. Arild Andersen Group: Electra (2002-03 [2005], ECM) B+(**)
  3. Fred Anderson: Timeless: Live at the Velvet Lounge (2005 [2006], Delmark) A-
  4. "Killer" Ray Appleton/Melvin Rhyne: Latin Dreams (2004 [2006], Lineage) B+(**)
  5. Ab Baars Quartet: Kinda Dukish (2005 [2006], Wig) B+(**)
  6. The Heckler by Juan Pablo Balcazar Quartet: Heckler City (2005, Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(***)
  7. Michael Bates' Outside Sources: A Fine Balance (2004 [2006], Between the Lines) B+(**)
  8. Jim Black/AlasNoAxis: Dogs of Great Indifference (2005 [2006], Winter & Winter) B+(**)
  9. Michael Blake: Blake Tartare (2002 [2005], Stunt) B+(***)
  10. Michael Blake Trio: Right Before Your Very Ears (2004 [2005], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  11. Theo Bleckmann/Fumio Yasuda: Las Vegas Rhapsody: The Night They Invented Champagne (2005 [2006], Winter & Winter) B+(***)
  12. Neal Caine: Backstabber's Ball (2005, Smalls) B+(***)
  13. François Carrier: Travelling Lights (2003 [2004], Justin Time) B+(***)
  14. François Carrier: Happening (2005 [2006], Leo, 2CD) A-
  15. The Serge Chaloff Sextet: Boston Blow-Up! (1955 [2006], Capitol Jazz) A-
  16. Nels Cline/Wally Shoup/Chris Corsano: Immolation/Immersion (2005, Strange Attractors) C+
  17. George Colligan Trio: Past-Present-Future (2003 [2005], Criss Cross) B+(***)
  18. Conjure: Bad Mouth (2005 [2006], American Clavé, 2CD) B+(**)
  19. The Crimson Jazz Trio: The King Crimson Songbook Volume One (2005, Voiceprint) B+(***)
  20. Pierre Dørge & New Jungle Orchestra: Negra Tigra (2005 [2006], ILK) B+(**)
  21. Liberty Ellman: Ophiuchus Butterfly (2005 [2006], Pi) B+(**)
  22. Maurice El Médioni Meets Roberto Rodriguez: Descarga Oriental: The New York Sessions (2005 [2006], Piranha) A-
  23. Fattigfolket: Le Chien et la Fille (2005 [2006], ILK) B+(**)
  24. Pierre Favre/Yang Jing: Two in One (2005 [2006], Intakt) B+(**)
  25. The Fonda/Stevens Group: Forever Real (2005, 482 Music) B+(***)
  26. Charles Gayle Trio: Live at Glenn Miller Café (2006, Ayler) B+(***)
  27. Herb Geller/Rein de Graaff: Delightful Duets 2 (2002 [2005], Blue Jack Jazz) B+(**)
  28. Gold Sparkle Trio With Ken Vandermark: Brooklyn Cantos (2002 [2004], Squealer) B+(***)
  29. Groundtruther: Longitude (2004 [2005], Thirsty Ear) B+(***)
  30. Steve Heckman Quartet: Live at Yoshi's (2001 [2005], World City) B+(***)
  31. Jason Kao Hwang: Edge (2005 [2006], Asian Improv) B+(**)
  32. Instinctual Eye: Born in Brooklyn (2005 [2006], Barking Hoop) B+(**)
  33. Vijay Iyer & Rudresh Mahanthappa: Raw Materials (2005 [2006], Savoy Jazz) B
  34. Ingrid Jensen: At Sea (2005 [2006], ArtistShare) B+(**)
  35. Hank Jones/Frank Wess: Hank and Frank (2003 [2006], Lineage) B+(**)
  36. Tom Lellis: Avenue of the Americas (2004-05 [2006], Beamtide) C
  37. Dave Liebman/Steve Swallow/Adam Nussbaum: We Three: Three for All (2005 [2006], Challenge) B+(**)
  38. Liquid Soul: One-Two Punch (2006, Telarc) B+(**)
  39. Michy Mano: The Cool Side of the Pillow (2003 [2006], Enja/Justin Time) B+(***)
  40. Donny McCaslin: Soar (2005 [2006], Sunnyside) B+(**)
  41. Jay McShann: Hootie Blues (2006, Stony Plain) B+(**)
  42. Metta Quintet: Subway Songs (2005 [2006], Sunnyside) B+(**)
  43. Mi3: We Will Make a Home for You (2002-03 [2005], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  44. Nils Petter Molvaer: An American Compilation (2001-06, Thirsty Ear) A-
  45. Marc Mommaas with Nikolaj Hess: Balance (2005 [2006], Sunnyside) B+(**)
  46. Paal Nilssen-Love: Townorchestrahouse (2005, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  47. Odyssey the Band: Back in Time (2005 [2006], Pi) A-
  48. Matt Renzi: The Cave (2003 [2005], Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(***)
  49. Jason Rigby: Translucent Space (2005 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  50. Roundtrip: Two Way Street (2005, Jazzaway) B+(***)
  51. Rutherford/Vandermark/Müller/van der Schyff: Hoxha (2004 [2005], Spool/Line) B+(**)
  52. David Sills: Down the Line (2005 [2006], Origin) B+(**)
  53. Soft Machine: Grides (1970-71 [2006], Cuneiform, CD+DVD) A-
  54. Martin Speake: Change of Heart (2002 [2006], ECM) B+(**)
  55. Bobo Stenson/Anders Jormin/Paul Motian: Goodbye (2004 [2005], ECM) B+(**)
  56. Mike Stern: Who Let the Cats Out? (2006, Heads Up) B-
  57. Thomas Strønen: Parish (2005 [2006], ECM) B+(**)
  58. Lew Tabackin Trio: Tanuki's Night Out (2001 [2006], Dr-Fujii.com) B+(**)
  59. John Tchicai/Charlie Kohlhase/Garrison Fewell: Good Night Songs (2003 [2006], Boxholder, 2CD) B+(**)
  60. Yosvany Terry Cabrera: Metamorphosis (2004 [2005], Ewe) B+(**)
  61. Thomas Storrs and Sarpolas: Time Share (2005 [2006], Louie) B+(***)
  62. Toph-E & the Pussycats: Live in Detroit (2004 [2006], CD Baby) B+(**)
  63. Gianluigi Trovesi/Gianni Coscia: Round About Weill (2004 [2005], ECM) B+(***)
  64. Jeremy Udden: Torchsongs (2003-05 [2006], Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  65. Lars-Göran Ulander Trio: Live at the Glenn Miller Café (2004 [2005], Ayler) B+(***)
  66. Warren Vaché and the Scottish Ensemble: Don't Look Back (2005 [2006], Arbors) B-
  67. Larry Vuckovich Trio: Street Scene (2005 [2006], Tetrachord) B+(***)
  68. The Chris Walden Big Band: No Bounds (2005 [2006], Origin) C+
  69. Jabbo Ware/The Me We & Them Orchestra + Strings & Horns: Vignettes in the Spirit of Ellington (2001 [2005], Y'all of New York) B+(***)
  70. Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz, Michal Miskiewicz: Trio (2005, ECM) B+(**)
  71. Jessica Williams: Billy's Theme: A Tribute to Dr. Billy Taylor (2006, Origin) B+(***)
  72. Cassandra Wilson: Thunderbird (2006, Blue Note) B
  73. Nils Wogram & Simon Nabatov: The Move (2002 [2005], Between the Lines) B+(***)
  74. Eri Yamamoto: Cobalt Blue (2006, Thirsty Ear) B+(**)