Jazz Consumer Guide (15):

These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #15. 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 Sept. 17, 2007, to Jan. 6, 2008, 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 259. The count from the previous file was 269.

Muhal Richard Abrams: Vision Toward Essence (1998 [2007], Pi): My usual caveats about solo piano apply here, but one thing I can't complain about is lack of ideas, and another is lack of sonic depth. Abrams plays the whole piano, with the rumblings and reverberations of the box a big part of his sound. Recorded live at the Guelph Jazz Festival, this is one piece, three parts, just under an hour. A lot to take in. [B+(***)]

Muhal Richard Abrams: Vision Toward Essence (1998 [2007], Pi): An hour or so of solo piano, recorded live at Guelph in Canada, and a decade later acclaimed a masterpiece and finally released. I wax and wane on it: there are masterful bits, but an hour of nothing but piano can grow tedious, and there are also parts that seem designed to produce that effect. Abrams is an important figure, one I've long admired, but I have no way to gauge this. I guess I worry that it's over my head, or beyond my attention span, or (worse still) not quite as good as it ought to be. Could be any of those things. B+(**)

Tony Adamo: Straight Up Deal (2007, Urban Zone): Smooth jazz vocalist, or so he claims. I find he's got some grit to his voice, and his studio musicians are agreeably funky -- a couple of spots with Eddie Henderson and Ernie Watts even show some jazz cred. Could use better songs. B

Eric Alexander: Temple of Olympic Zeus (2007, High Note): A mainstream tenor saxophonist with a strong, clear tone, plenty of chops, the whole kit. I've liked most of what I've heard from him before, but this runs straight into one of my pet peeves. There must be a technical explanation for this: what happens is that when two horns -- tenor sax and trumpet or, more often here, flugelhorn -- lock onto each other they create these harmonics that sound really polluted to me. This happens a lot in postbop contexts -- seems to be something taught in jazz school nowadays -- but this yokes the horns to old-fashioned bebop, which used to know better. Still, that only explains the four of eight cuts Jim Rotondi joins in on. Alexander sounds much cleaner on his own, but he's still stuck in the same damn rollercoaster ride. A dud. C+

Postscript: Played this one more time, thinking it might make for a good dud feature. Better than I remembered it -- I still found myself indifferent, but not so deeply repulsed. Drummer Joe Farnsworth stands out, and Hazeltine has some nice moments. Nudged the grade up a bit: B-

Dave Allen: Real and Imagined (2007, Fresh Sound New Talent): Guitarist, born in Philadelphia, attended Manhattan School of Music in 1988, presumably still based in New York. AMG lists 29 Dave or David (or more famously, in bold type, Daevid) Allens, none of which appear to be him. But he does have a 2005 album, so this is probably his second. It's a quartet with Seamus Blake on tenor sax, Drew Gress on bass, and Mark Ferber on drums. Wrote all the pieces. Has a metallic tone and adept rhythmic sense that fills in well behind and beside the sax. First rate rhythm section. B+(*)

Harry Allen: Hits by Brits (2006 [2007], Challenge): Needing only ten songs, the limit doesn't cramp Allen too bad -- it means three songs by Ray Noble, including "Cherokee" and "The Very Thought of You." The others are hardly more obscure, and some, like "These Foolish Things," are even less. This is a quartet with his recent partner Joe Cohn on guitar, Joel Forbes on bass, and Chuck Riggs on drums, with John Allred's trombone added on four cuts. In his liner notes, Richard Sudhalter hedges that the album is "perhaps Harry Allen's best yet," which is certainly false. It strikes me as utterly typical. Sudhalter also likens Cohn to Wes Montgomery, but for once I'm inclined to be more generous. I'd say he's graduated into Bucky Pizzarelli territory. [B+(***)]

Harry Allen: Hits by Brits (2006 [2007], Challenge): The songbook doesn't cramp a single disc -- "Cherokee," "These Foolish Things," "You're Blasé," "A Nightingale in Berkeley Square," "The Very Thought of You" are the five most obvious of ten -- and Allen is in his usual form in high gear and in low. But the second horn, John Allred's trombone, does slow him down a bit, and the contrast is a mixed blessing. Sidekick guitarist Joe Cohn is also on hand, as are bassist Joel Forbes and drummer Chuck Riggs. B+(***)

The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Guys and Dolls (2007, Arbors): Francis Davis beat me to this in the Voice -- it seems to have slipped through the random post office filter, so I had to request a copy. For once, Davis likes an Allen album better than I do. The reason almost certainly is Frank Loesser, whose "Guys and Dolls" I've never felt any connection to. I do have a 1992 RCA CD of a Broadway revival, dutifully purchased following Robert Christgau's recommendation. Played it once or twice, got nothing, shelved it. I should probably dig it out for reference here. The quartet is often wonderful here, with Cohn's light guitar enjoying the rhythm more than Allen's luscious tenor sax. But most cuts come with vocals, with Rebecca Kilgore and Eddie Erickson in the key roles. Neither are as sharp or shrill as I recall the musical, which may be an improvement but if so is one that calls the whole project into question. No urgency on this. [B+(**)]

The Harry Allen-Joe Cohn Quartet: Music From Guys and Dolls (2007, Arbors): I'd like this better, at least would have gotten to like this quicker, if I liked Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls in the first place, but the few times I've heard it I've found much to resist. I'm still not much impressed with Eddie Erickson's half of the vocals, but I'm fine with Rebecca Kilgore, and she gets the sharper lines and the catchier melodies. Still, no vocal compares to how sublime Allen sounds, and guitarist Cohn seems to be getting better each time out, carrying the soft spots that hold the narrative together. A-

The Jimmy Amadie Trio: The Philadelphia Story: The Gospel as We Know It (2006-07 [2007], TP): A veteran pianist, Philadelphia's favorite, or so I hear. Not actually a trio record: special guests Benny Golson, Randy Brecker, and/or Lew Tabackin play on virtually every track. Amadie is a throwback to the '50s, with his trio swinging hard throughout, the horns delightful. Nothing here not to like. B+(**)

Arjun: Pieces (2007, Pheromone): Guitar-bass-drums trio, with namesake Eddie Arjun Peters playing the guitar, composing, arranging, and producing. Website features a news item announcing that Pieces "is number 14 on the Jamband Top 40!" I don't recognize most of the competitors, but those I do seem to be an arbitrary mix of rock (Wilco, Patti Smith, Son Volt) and semipop jazz (Chick Corea/Bela Fleck, Will Bernard, Bad Plus). This is rockish guitar bop, or boppish guitar rock -- at times reminds me of Cream, but then doesn't deliver much on the hint. B

Gregg August Sextet: One Peace (2006 [2007], Iacuessa): Bassist, originally from Schenectady NY, went to SUNY Albany, then Juilliard. Worked in Barcelona. Traveled to Cuba. Second album. Previous one (Late August) had more of a Latin twist; this is more straightahead postbop, mostly sextets with three horns, Luis Perdomo on piano, and EJ Strickland on drums. Myron Walden's beboppy alto sax sets the dominant tone, with tenor and trumpet for shading, a harmonic scheme much favored by postbop arrangers, one I find rather unappealing. B-

Omer Avital: Arrival (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound World Jazz): Israeli bassist, working in New York since mid-1990s, with a handful of albums -- The Ancient Art of Giving (2006, Smalls) is a personal favorite. This, however, is not. It's a very advanced, sophisticated postbop sexet, with Avishai Cohen (trumpet), Joel Frahm (saxes), Avi Lebovich (trombone), Jason Lindner (keyboards), and Jonathan Blake (drums). There is a lot of art to the layering of the horns, producing dizzying swirls of sound. It's not clear why this came out in a World Jazz series: Avital plays oud on a couple of cuts, but that doesn't fix them in any kind of world -- meaning foreign to the west -- music. Nor does the fact that the rhythm is pretty regular count for much beyond its galloping rush. So maybe he's just gotten too old to pass for New Talent? B-

Albert Ayler Quartet: The Hilversum Session (1964 [2007], ESP-Disk): This is the sort of session that would make an ideal complement to some sort of "Deluxe Edition" reissue of Ayler's 1964 landmark Spiritual Unity. The former album's trio, with Gary Peacock on bass and Sunny Murray on drums, reappear, reprising "Ghosts" and "Spirits" and adding other Ayler pieces. But this does more than reiterate: the fourth member is Don Cherry, whose cornet shadows Ayler's lines and lifts the band's spiritual exultation heavenward. A-

Jay Azzolina: Local Dialect (2007, Garagista): Guitarist, b. 1952, studied at Berklee, got an MFA at Conservatory of Music at Purchase NY. Played with Spyro Gyra, John Patitucci (present here), Tim Ries (also here) Rolling Stones Project, plus various popstars and mainstream jazzers. Third album, with Ries' sax and flute, Scott Wendholt's trumpet, Mike Davis' trombone, Larry Goldings' organ, Patitucci's bass, Greg Hutchinson's drums, a few others scattered abouts. Regarded as a fusion guitarist. I'm not so sure, but he does force the rhythm in uninteresting directions, and nothing else appeals enough to sort out. B-

Baker Hunt Sandstrom Williams: Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2005 [2007], Okka Disk): Album cover just gives last names. The details are: Jim Baker (piano), Steve Hunt (drums, percussion), Brian Sandstrom (bass, electric guitar), Mars Williams (various saxes). Order is alphabetical, with all pieces jointly credited. Needless to say, Williams makes the most noise, and he makes an awful lot of it. I find that noise oddly exhilarating -- maybe I'm relieved to hear Williams back in form after all these years trying to make a living out of acid jazz? Baker emerges in the quieter spots. Over the last decade or so, he's sort of been the Chicago avant-garde's go-to pianist, but they don't go to pianists very often. Some interesting odds and ends, too. B+(*)

Chris Barber: Can't Stop Now (European Tour 2007) (1986-2007 [2007], MVD Audio): The cover is misleading in several respects: only one cut was recorded in 2007 (although it's given two dates and locations); all but two of the rest were recorded in the UK in February and November 2006, which isn't exactly what you'd expect from a European Tour; the two loose ends date from 1988 or 1986 (one is listed both ways); Andy Fairweather Low is pictured as "special guest," but he's only appears on three songs (more/less those named on the cover, with "Worried Man Blues" advertised as "It Takes a Worried Man," and a medley with "Will the Circle Be Unbroken" reduced to "Lay My Burden Down." Barber sings two others, including "Can't Stop Now," which I originally took as Low making a joke of his foundered rock and roll career. Still, this confusion has remarkably little effect on the music. Low's "Worried Man Blues" triangulates perfectly with Barber's skiffle sideline, picking up where Lonnie Donegan left off. And Barber's trad jazz is timeless: he's done it for 53 years, so slipping a couple decades is hardly noticeable. B+(**)

Patricia Barber: The Premonition Years 1994-2002 (1994-2002 [2007], Premonition, 3CD): Jazz singer, pianist, and composer, her career forms something of an underground parallel to Diana Krall's -- her voice dusky and shrouded where Krall's is bright and articulate, her piano more substantial but still secondary, a successful niche player whereas Krall crossed over. This takes five albums and reshuffles them by category: pop songs, standards, and originals. All are slow and somber, but at least the rock-era pop songs start with some bounce as well as catchy melodies -- "Use Me," "You Don't Know Me," "Black Magic Woman," "The Fool on the Hill" are given especially learned readings. The older vintage standards are less surprising. The originals are less obvious, but thoughtful and sometimes haunting. I see little value in sorting them this way: her albums are mixes of all three -- trending toward more originals over time -- and often work just because these mulitple facets fit. A fine example is Modern Cool (1998). B+(***)

Count Basie: Basie at Birdland (1961 [2007], Roulette Jazz): This is about where Basie's "Second Testament" (as they put it here) band starts to slip, but they can still kick the old songbook into high orbit, the section work is atomic, a key tenor sax solo (Budd Johnson?) is much further out than expected, and Jon Hendricks mumbles his Clark Terry impression on "Whirly Bird." Nearly double the length of the original LP, the extra weight suits them. A-

Marco Benevento: Live at Tonic (2006 [2007], Ropeadope, 3CD): Pianist, although he's likely to play any kind of electronic keyboard. B. 1977, New Jersey. Has a couple of albums with drummer Joe Russo as Benevento/Russo Duo, which tend to get filed as experimental/instrumental rock. Involved in Bobby Previte's Coalition of the Willing and Garage A Trois, which elicit similar confusion and collectively define a niche of beatwise future fusion. This was put together from five November nights -- no date given, but presumably 2006: solo (sometimes plus Scott Metzger); duo (Mike Gordon); trio (Reed Mathis, Matt Chamberlain); quartet (Steven Bernstein, Dave Dreiwitz, Claude Coleman); and "drum night" (Previte, Russo, Mike Dillon). De trop, of course, although at $19.98 list not a ripoff. Some good things, with the second disc starting strong and ending with a striking take on "Elmer's Tune." B+(*)

Andy Bey: Ain't Necessarily So (1997 [2007], 12th Street): Recorded live at Birdland in 1997, with Bey singing and playing piano and the Washingtons for rhythm (Vito Leszak subs for drummer Kenny Washington on two cuts). Bey's a subtle, graceful singer, able to turn even "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" into seduction. The live format lets the band stretch out agreeably. B+(**)

Michael Blake Sextet: Amor de Cosmos (2005 [2007], Songlines): Saxophonist, born Montreal 1964, moved to Vancouver, then to New York, where he played in the Lounge Lizards. Here he's on a Canadian label with an all-Canadian band, playing tenor and soprano, in a sextet that includes Brad Turner (trumpet), Sal Ferreras (marimba), Chris Gestrin (piano), André Lachance (bass), and Dylan van der Schyff (drums). Played this twice. Like many parts, but can't get a grip on the whole, and wonder whether it's worth trying to figure out. B+(*)

Terence Blanchard: A Tale of God's Will (A Requiem for Katrina) (2007, Blue Note): The title strikes me as a philosophical muddle, although I suppose if you think it was a willful act of a purposeful God, His hurricane may merit some form of tribute. The title emerges chanted at the start of the first cut, "Ghost of Congo Square," and returns near the end of the piece, but doesn't break out beyond that. Congo Square was the site of the old New Orleans slave market, which back in its heyday was also felt by some to be part of God's will. Despite the words, the piece is striking, with Kendrick Scott's percussion conjuring up an African vibe, and Blanchard's trumpet clear and eloquent. Most of the deluge of post-Katrina albums pick their themes obviously -- titles here include "Levees," "The Water," "Wading Through," "In Time of Need," "Ghost of 1927," "Funeral Dirge," and "Dear Mom" -- then map out their music in predictable clichés. Blanchard doesn't escape this, but his horn stands out on record like his silhouetted images on the front and back covers. My main caveat is the orchestra that appears on several pieces, which paints a pretty backdrop while adding nothing of substance. B+(***)

Carla Bley: The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (2007, Watt): The Lost Chords was a 2004 group/album name, the group led by pianist-composer Bley and including Andy Sheppard (soprano and tenor sax), Steve Swallow (bass), and Billy Drummond (drums). Fresu is a well-regarded trumpet/flugelhorn player from Sardinia. He has a couple dozen albums since 1985, almost all on hard-to-find Italian labels -- a half-dozen filtered down to my shopping list, but I've never managed to pick up any. He fits in very nicely here, topping out Bley's melodies, including an extended meditation on bananas, and burnishing Sheppard's sax lines to a bright brassy sheen. B+(**)

Paul Bley: Solo in Mondsee (2001 [2007], ECM): Released for Bley's 75th birthday. Touted as his first solo piano on ECM since 1972's Open, to Love. He's recorded numerous solo albums elsewhere -- Penguin Guide mentions 12, most recently Nothing to Declare (2003 [2004], Justin Time), recorded after but out before this one. This one is slower, of course; per Dr. Eicher's Rx, no doubt. I also like it a shade better, although with solo piano I'm not much of a judge. Ten Roman-numeraled variations, on what I'm not sure, but consistently interesting, never dull. Bley has had quite a career, starting in 1953 with the marvelous Introducing Paul Bley, a trio backed by guys named Blakey and Mingus. A couple of years later he hired an unknown alto saxophonist, Ornette Coleman. He also married a pianist, Carla Borg; after she took his name and went her own way, he married vocalist Annette Peacock. He moved into free jazz in the 1960s, most notably with Jimmy Guiffre's trio. He has a vast discography, which I've only occasionally sampled and barely grasp, but often find intriguing. B+(**)

Bloodcount: Seconds (1997 [2007], Screwgun, 2CD+DVD): This is Tim Berne's mid/late-1990s group, a quartet with Jim Black (drums), Michael Formanek (bass), Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet), and Berne (alto sax, baritone sax). With Marc Ducret on guitar, the group recorded three CDs of Paris Concerts in 1994, which is the subject of Süsanna Schonberg's Eyenoises . . . The Paris Movie, packed in here on the DVD. The film doesn't offer much visually: black and white, tight close ups, cut between practice and concert not that it's always easy to tell, with some ambling about town here and there. Musically, it seems to pull a single piece together through multiple iterations. Watching Black, you get the sense of the rhythm working its way through his whole body. Ducret can be a potent force but he mostly holds back, and he isn't missed much on the live sets documented on the CDs. The reason is the interlocking reeds. Most two-horn free quartets use trumpet and sax not just for contrast but to set each loose on its own trajectory. Pairing two reeds -- most often alto/tenor sax, with tenor/baritone sax and clarinet/alto sax the other options -- poses a tougher challenge. Here the similar tones slip in and out of phase, never falling far apart. The result is free rhythmically, lose melodically, but tight harmonically. Although the two discs only repeat one song, the form is so dominant that effectively they are multiple views of the same thing. That may seem like too much, but I find the redundancies to be fascinating. [FYI, Berne's been down this road before, releasing a 3-CD live set from 1996, Unwound, which I haven't heard but should be much more of the same sort -- according to Penguin Guide, "raw, immediate and proudly unproduced."] A-

The Blueprint Project: People I Like (2006 [2007], Creative Nation Music): Don't have a recording date, but the liner notes are dated 2006, so that works. Group consists of three chums from New England Conservatory of Music: saxophonist Jared Sims, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, and pianist Tyson Rogers. All three write and contribute strong performances, but as a trio they'd be short on rhythm. Last time they solved that problem by adding Cecil McBee and Matt Wilson, for a tightly played, craftily thought out postbop eponymous album that made my A-list. This one is much looser and more scattered -- further out, with veteran Dutch anarchist Han Bennink on drums and whatever. Harder to get a grip on this one, although I can say that a Latin piece is fairly wonderful, and Sims aces his clarinet feature. [B+(***)]

The Blueprint Project: People I Like (2006 [2007], Creative Nation Music): Core group is a trio of college chums: saxophonist Jared Sims, guitarist Eric Hofbauer, pianist Tyson Rogers. All three write, do interesting work. Could use a drummer, and maybe a bassist. Last time out they filled those roles with Matt Wilson and Cecil McBee, and got a nice postbop album with a bit of edge. This time they went for Han Bennink, and he's already turned them into a bunch of dadaist anarchists. Can't say it's an improvement, but it's an interesting turn, with the percussion fracturing the soundscapes. B+(***)

Paul Bollenback: Invocation (2007, Elefant Dreams): Four extra names on front cover, but nothing inside provides credits. The names are Randy Brecker, Ed Howard, Victor Lewis, and Chris McNulty, which presumably means trumpet, bass, drums, and vocals, respectively. Guitarist. Originally from Illinois, but spent some eye-opening years in New Delhi as a teenager. Currently based in New York. Seven albums, starting 1995. Likes nylon strings. Don't know what he's using here, but he gets a soft, silk sound that is quite attractive. The trumpet is a nice, but somewhat rare, touch. I don't care for the scat at all, but the final cut, Coltrane's "After the Rain," holds together so nicely maybe I should give it another play. [B]

Ruby Braff and the Flying Pizzarellis: C'est Magnifique (2002 [2007], Arbors): Recorded June 2002. Braff took ill in August and died the following February, so this turns out to have been his final recording. Beats me why it took so long to get released, other than that Braff had so much in the pipeline the label was just pacing themselves. Title comes from a Cole Porter song, included here. The record isn't quite magnifique, and in some respects feels unfinished, but it's hard not to cut them some slack. Braff's cornet doesn't swing as hard as in days of yore, but it's clear and poignant. The guitars chug along amiably, with Bucky's rhythm a particularly nice foil for the cornet. John Pizzarelli gets credit for his trio, with Ray Kennedy on piano and brother Martin Pizzarelli on bass. John has a couple of nice guitar leads and sings two songs -- not necessary but nothing wrong with them. Ambles a bit at the end. B+(**)

Anthony Braxton: Solo Willisau (2003 [2007], Intakt): I need to go back and listen to For Alto again. It was recorded 35 years earlier, is legendary as the first solo saxophone record (although Coleman Hawkins and possibly a few others did solo pieces). Penguin Guide ranks it as a crown album. Last time I played it I noted that it was the ugliest thing I ever heard. I doubt that I say the same now, but you never know. To this day when my wife wishes to show extreme disgust over some quarrelsome saxophonist I'm playing, she asks if it's Anthony Braxton. That's unfair and way off base. For Alto aside, when I first started listening to jazz in the mid-1970s, the first two artists I really keyed onto were Braxton and Ornette Coleman. (I figure that's why I grew up thinking Charlie Parker was a piker.) After Lee Konitz, Downbeat's critics should give Braxton some serious Hall of Fame consideration -- although that seems a long ways away, given that he's not on the ballot and stuck down around #9 in the alto sax category. This new one isn't anywhere near the ugliest ever, but it is solo, which gives it a narrow tone range and makes it tough to sustain much rhythm. He does "All the Things You Are" and seven originals, each running 8-12 minutes. At least some of it is sustained invention of a high order, but it's abstract, difficult, tough to keep up with, and ultimately of rather marginal interest. [B+(**)]

Ari Brown: Live at the Green Mill (2007, Delmark): Chicago saxophonist, plays tenor and soprano, sometimes at the same time, also a little flute. B. 1944, came up through AACM in the 1970s, playing with Muhal Richard Abrams and Lester Bowie, more recently in Kahil El'Zabar's Ritual Trio. Third album as a leader, a sextet (mostly) with Pharez Whitted on trumpet, Kirk Brown on piano, Yosef Ben Israel on bass, Avreeayl Ra on drums, Dr. Cuz percussion. Back cover quote: "Not impossibly virtuosic or unnecessarily complex." Also on DVD with an extra cut. Played it, but can't say I actually watched it all. B

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown: Bogalusa Boogie Man (1975 [2007], Sunnyside): Texas bluesman goes native in Louisiana, creating a mess of swamp pop that is campy gumbo at best and slimy okra at worst, with "Dixie Chicken" a repast of both; five bonus cuts show off some respectable blues guitar, out of place here. B-

The John Brown Quintet Featuring Ray Codrington: Merry Christmas, Baby (2006-07 [2007], House of Swing): Brown plays bass, teaches at Duke, also has an Art Blakey tribute album out (more on that later). Codrington plays trumpet in the quintet, and gets to sing here. He's hardly special, but brings good cheer to songs that are nothing but -- God gets dutifully thanked in the liner notes, but the only song here that might upset devoted secularists is "Happy Birthday, Jesus," which reminds me more of Marilyn Monroe singing "Happy Birthday" to JFK. Frosty, Santa Claus, and Rudolph all swing like mad, and it snows all over the winter wonderland. Not even I dare rain on their parade. B+(*)

The John Brown Quintet: Terms of Art: A Tribute to Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers, Vol. 1 (2007, House of Swing): Bassist, leading a standard hard bop quintet, with Ray Codrington on trumpet, Brian Miller on saxophones, Gabe Evens on piano, Adonis Rose on drums. Most of these songs I recognize from Blakey's group -- none written by Blakey, only some by group members like Wayne Shorter and Bobby Timmons. I don't really see the point in doing such straight recreations of material that effectively consolidated bebop into mainstream. The result is less notable than Brown's Xmas record, but I wouldn't feel right to grade it lower. B+(*)

Jimmy Bruno: Maplewood Avenue (2007, Affiliated Artists): Guitarist, from Philadelphia, b. 1953, fits in the line of mild-mannered, swing-happy guitarists from the '50s; started recording in 1991 for Concord, when they were trying to corner the market for mainstream jazz guitar. This is a trio with Tony Miceli on vibes and Jeff Pedras on bass, both named on the front cover. If Bruno doesn't leave much of an impression, that's because Miceli is so entertaining. B+(*)

David Buchbinder: Odessa/Havana (2006-07 [2007], Tzadik): Canadian trumpeter, previous groups include the Flying Bulgar Klezmer Band and Shurum Burum Jazz Circus. (AMG also cites an "Arabic fusion ensemble" called Medina, but it doesn't show up in his credits or in his website bio.) Here he trades compositions with Cuban pianist Hilario Durán, who lives in Canada and has worked with Arturo Sandoval. The band is a mix of klezmer and Cuban specialists, including Quinsin Nachoff on reeds and flute, Aleksandr Gajic on violin, Dafnis Prieto on drums, and Roberto Occhipinti on bass. Actually, more klezmer than Cuban, largely because the horns and violin drown out the piano and percussion has trouble keeping up. (Contrast this with Roberto Rodriguez, who starts with Cuban rhythms and adds klezmer on top, a more effective strategy.) One slow spot works nicely. Some of the orchestration is overblown. Nachoff has some strong sax parts. B+(**) [advance]

Michael Camacho: Just for You (2003-04 [2007], New Found): Vocalist. Has a distinctive voice, soft and silky, which occasionally impresses but I don't find all that appealing. First album, Don't know anything more about him. Album appears to have been originally released in 2006 on CAP, then reissued on New Found Records -- cover is changed, but songs look to be the same. Five originals, plus standards including some basic rock ballads ("Norwegian Wood," "Spanish Harlem"). B-

François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Kathmandu (2006 [2007], FMR): Alto saxophonist and drummer, respectively, both from Quebec. They've played in a trio for much of the decade, but here, recording live in Nepal, it's just the two of them. Carrier's become one of my favorite players -- clear, liquid, almost always on edge. Lambert plays free and can mix it up. Basically what I expected, but I'll have to give it a closer listen later. [B+(***)]

François Carrier/Michel Lambert: Kathmandu (2006 [2007], FMR): Alto sax/drums improvisations, recorded live in Nepal. After the first piece, someone (presumably Carrier) announces that the piece was called "Kathmandu Improvisation." He then introduces the next piece, also called "Kathmandu Improvisation." He invites people to dance to their improvs, observing that others have done so. The released album does have song titles: "White Summit," "Dancing Light," "Joyfulness and Playfulness," "Prayer for Peace," etc. Sometimes pure improv works, sometimes not so much. One part reminds me how ugly the lower range of the alto sax can be. B+(**)

Paul Chambers: Bass on Top (1957 [2007], Blue Note): One of the top bassists of the era -- AMG's credits run to seven pages, all the more amazing given that he was just 33 when he died, although I figure 1/2 to 2/3 of those are dupes for compilations. Although he did a handful of albums as a leader, this is exceptional in its focus on the bass -- or at least it starts that way, as guitarist Kenny Burrell later moves to the fore. B

Cyrus Chestnut: Cyrus Plays Elvis (2007, Koch): Presley, of course. Well, why not? It's not like he's been doing much of interest lately -- 1993's Revelation was the last time he showed anything to get excited about. It's certainly a lot more promising than another trip to church -- although he couldn't resist ending with "How Great Thou Art" (and it comes off nicely). Ballads like "Love Me Tender" always sound good, and the upbeat ones remind you that Chestnut could boogie when he wants to. But I have to wonder, why break the piano trio continuity by adding Mark Gross sax on two cuts? That sort of thing happens a lot when angling for a radio cut, which isn't impossible here, but I find it disruptive. B+(*)

John Chin: Blackout Conception (2005 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist. Born 1976 in South Korea, grew up in Los Angeles, went to Cal State when he was 14, got interested in jazz piano, graduated at 19, headed on to Rutgers, where he studied under Kenny Barron. First album. Starts as a quartet where the first thing you notice is the tenor sax: Mark Turner. He plays on the first two cuts, the fourth and sixth. The other three drop back to a trio and let the pianist stretch out. He sneaks up on you. [B+(***)]

Choro Ensemble: Nosso Tempo (2007, Anzic): Anat Cohen, on clarinet, fronts a Brazilian group, with Gustavo Dantas' 6-string guitar, Carlos Almeida's 7-string guitar, Pedro Ramos' cavaquinho and tenor guitar, Zé Mauricio's percussion (pandeiro, zabumba, surdo). Aside from the clarinet, the choro is felt and authentic. The clarinet isn't authentic, to choro at least; the exultant uplift Cohen brings to the proceedings sounds much like the stock-in-trade worldview of klezmer. B+(*) [advance]

Evan Christopher: Delta Bound (2006 [2007], Arbors): Clarinetist, b. 1974 Long Beach CA, headed for New Orleans, stopping for a three-year stretch in the Jim Cullum Jazz Band. Previous albums include two volumes of Clarinet Road: The Road to New Orleans; The Ragpickers -- half Tony Parenti in 1949, half Christopher in 2002; a Jazz Traditions Project Live at the Meridien. He dedicates this album to Lorenzo Tio Jr. (1893-1933) -- "the father of the New Orleans clarinet style and the early teacher of many of the greatest clarinetists who came from New Orleans" -- but he works the broader tradition, starting with a Parenti piece, adding originals, and checking out New Orleans nods from Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer. Quartet, with Dick Hyman on piano, although he's far less interesting than the clarinet. [B+(***)]

Evan Christopher: Delta Bound (2006 [2007], Arbors): A young student of the New Orleans clarinet tradition, starting with Lorenzo Tio Jr. and leading through Tony Parenti but with no explicit reference to George Lewis. Whereas most New Orleans jazz uses clarinet for contrast against the brass, this quartet, with Dick Hyman textbook perfect as usual, singles it out. For better or worse, without the competition Christopher never gets the chance to go wild. B+(**)

Cique (2007, Capri): Cover explains: "cique (sik) -- (n) post retro trans genre hippy trippy spank a lank; (adj) really totally happening; (adj) not at all well." Latter sounds like "sick." Denver group, with Jeff Jenkins on keyboards (rhodes, organ, synths), Bijoux Barbosa on bass (electric & acoustic), Matt Houston on drums. Steve Holloway guests on bodhran (a celtic frame drum) on one track. John Abercrombie plays guitar on four tracks, rating a "with special guest" honorific. Abercrombie's easy-going fusion is probably the main interest here, but Jenkins contributes some tasty funk as well. B

Charmaine Clamor: Flippin' Out (2007, FreeHam): Jazz singer, from Subic-Zambales in the Philippines, presumably based in the US these days, on her second album. First song is a "My Funny Valentine" spinoff ("My Funny Brown Pinay") that I found annoying, and she continued to dig a whole for herself until midway through I noticed that her take on Nina Simone's "Sugar in My Bowl" wasn't bad. That was followed by a 5-piece "Filipino Suite" that started with some interesting percussion courtesy of the Pakaragulan Kulintang Ensemble. That didn't quite sustain my interest, but her "Be My Love" ballad came off well. So I figure I should play it again, but not now. [B]

Stanley Clarke: The Toys of Men (2007, Heads Up): Bassist, mostly electric although he plays a good deal of acoustic here, as well as variants like piccolo bass and tenor bass. From Philadelphia. Made a big splash in the early 1970s (his own early 20s) with Return to Forever and on his own, but his crossover never carried much critical weight -- one result being that this is the first of his 30-some records I've heard. (Of course, I have heard other records he's played on -- AMG's list runs to four pages.) This one is an odd mix of things. The six-part title suite would be overblown arena jazz if such a thing existed. But there are also solo bass pieces (acoustic, no less), funk drums duos, keyb and guitar trios, a vocal piece with Esperanza Spalding writing and singing. Most of it is quite listenable, but I don't quite see how it adds up. B

The Nels Cline Singers: Draw Breath (2007, Cryptogramophone): The group name always throws me: there are no vocalists here, although Cline claims a credit for "megamouth" here, whatever that is. Cline plays guitar, electric more than acoustic, with or without effects. The group is what back in the '60s was called a Power Trio: guitar-bass-drums, like Cream, or the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Devin Hoff plays contrabass, which I take to be the big acoustic one. Scott Amendola is credited with drums, percussion, "live" electronics/effects. Glenn Kotche appears on one track, as if Amendola isn't enough. This is their third album, although Cline has other projects, including a rock band called Wilco -- or maybe he's just hired help there. This is as close as anyone's gotten to heavy metal jazz. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing; if I'm just not in the mood, or just got put out of the mood. I think I'll put it on the replay shelf and wait for a better time. Could be it's amazing. Could be it's not. I do recommend an earlier one called The Giant Pin (2003 [2004], Cryptogramophone). [B+(**)]

Gil Coggins: Better Late Than Never (2001-02 [2007], Smalls): Pianist, born 1924 in New York, died 2004. Played with Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, Jackie McLean, and Ray Draper back in the 1950s. Cut an album called Gil's Mood in 1990; otherwise this is it, hence the title. Sounds like a piano trio -- two drummers are credited, probably two sessions. Nice work, but hard for me to place this. B+(**) [advance]

Ryan Cohan: One Sky (2007, Motéma): Chicago pianist, b. 1971, two previous albums, has worked with Orbert Davis and Ramsey Lewis, evidently as an arranger. He does have a passion for arranging, keeping three horns busy. Indeed, he's much more likely to fall down when he cuts back to the piano setting up a theme than when he's running full bore. The saxophone is often impressive -- don't know whether it's Bob Sheppard or Geof Bradfield or both -- and Tito Carillo has good moments on trumpet. Indeed, much of this album is impressive, but I also find it annoying, pretentious, overblown, and I have no desire to try to sort it out -- it's like jazz has finally come up with its analogue to the Rachmaninoff era. If this gets hyped enough I may have to come back and decide whether to list is as a dud. It could be, but I probably won't. B

Freddy Cole: Music Maestro Please (2006 [2007], High Note): Nat's brother, 14 years younger, although he seems like a generation removed, recording his first album 13 years after Nat's death, and his second 12 years later. The latter was called I'm Not My Brother, I'm Me, and they've come out steadily ever since. He's never been in the same league, but the family resemblance is real enough -- perhaps too much so to avoid unfavorable comparison. Still, this holds up well on its own. He's older now than Nat ever got -- it moves him into new territory, and he seems comfortable there. Of course, the Bill Charlap Trio helps, a lot. [B+(***)]

Freddy Cole: Music Maestro Please (2006 [2007], High Note): A pretty good soft crooner album with Bill Charlap's trio for backup, a high class move that doesn't translate into anything fancy. He has a lock on the family sound, but has moved on to a new level of maturity. B+(**)

Richard Cole: Shade (2000-07 [2007], Origin): Saxophonist, tenor first, soprano an afterthought, based in Seattle. Third album. Name reminds one of alto saxophonist d Richie Cole, but they have little in common. This album was put together with tracks from three sessions: one from 2000, three from 2005, four more from 2007. Randy Brecker gets a "featuring" credit for the first two. The oldest track, "A Shade of Joe," is by far the most impressive -- dedicated to Henderson, Cole rises to the challenge. Becker has good spots on the 2005 tracks. The 2007 tracks feature the Bill Anschell, Jeff Johnson, John Bishop rhythm section, but Cole seems diminished, and the overall effort is rather scattered. B

Tim Collins: Valcour (2005 [2007], Arabesque): Plays vibes; also (not here but not unrelated) piano and drums. AMG lists four albums, starting in 2003, but his website describes this as his first album as a leader. Group includes alto sax (Matt Blostein), trumpet (Ingrid Jensen), piano (Aaron Parks), bass and drums. That's a lot of options, letting them navigate some tricky postbop. Sounds fine, but none of it sticks with me. B

The Cool Season: An Origin Records Holiday Collection, Vol. 2 (2007, Origin): I really wish publicists would just stop sending me Xmas music. I'm not interested in it. I can't resell it (or anything else; oh, for the days when this town still had record stores). I don't have space to shelve it, even on the dregs shelf in the basement. I can't remember ever liking it, even when Xmas still excited me. And my views got more jaundiced when I read that Xmas music outsells jazz, even though at least there are at least 10 times as many jazz records released each year. I suppose the flip side of that equation is that jazz labels, having to pay the bills to put out the underappreciated music they exist for, should get in on a bit of the Xmas action. That's all this really is. No artists put their names on the covers here, but the whole thing is done by the same quartet, featuring Origin's usual rhythm section -- Bill Anschell, Jeff Johnson, John Bishop -- with Thomas Marriott on trumpet/flugelhorn. It's utterly inconsequential, and pretty close to inoffensive. If for some reason, like you own a retail business, you feel obliged to play the stuff, this is an investment that will spare a lot of people a lot of grief. B-

Chick Corea and Béla Fleck: The Enchantment (2007, Concord): Duets, about half from each artist's catalog. The banjo often merges into the piano, producing something like a harpsichord sound, and giving the whole affair a baroque cast -- not as rigid rhythmically, of course. B- [advance]

Eddie Daniels: Homecoming: Live at the Iridium (2006 [2007], IPO, 2CD): Plays clarinet and tenor sax, much better known for the clarinet although I rather prefer the sax here -- slows down the bebop runs and feels more centered in a band that includes vibes (Joe Locke) and piano (Tom Ranier). Originally from New York but lives in Santa Fe, hence the title. B

Charles Davis: Land of Dreams (2006 [2007], Smalls): Saxophonist, plays tenor a lot here, soprano a little, but best known for his baritone. Born 1933, Goodman MI. Early on (1954-61) played with Sun Ra, Dinah Washington, Kenny Dorham, Steve Lacy, Cecil Taylor, and a fairly steady stream thereafter -- often in large groups, like Muhal Richard Abrams' Hearinga Suite, where his role isn't all that clear. Has very little under his own name -- a 1979 album is called Dedicated to Tadd, and he plays a Dameron piece here. Reminds me of Clifford Jordan with his leonine tone and foursquare phrasing. Quartet includes Tardo Hammer (piano), Lee Hudson (bass), Jimmy Wormworth (drums), but the sax is constantly front and center. Even his soprano sounds heavy, which may be why he built his career on baritone. B+(**) [advance]

Miles Davis: Evolution of the Groove (1959-72 [2007], Columbia/Legacy): Feels like an aborted project, adding up to no more than 14:40 including an unreleased, unnecessary "Freddie Freeloader" outtake, and four short remixes -- one featuring Nas, one featuring Carlos Santana, two more with no one much at all. B-

Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions (1972-75 [2007], Columbia/Legacy, 6CD): I had a day when I wasn't able to sit at the computer, so figured I'd give this a preliminary spin, just to get acquainted. I don't have notes on who played what when or anything like that. The hype sheet describes this as "the eighth and final deluxe 'metal-spine' multi-CD box set in the Miles Davis Series." This collects all of the 1972-75 studio sessions, resulting in the albums On the Corner, Big Fun, and Get Up With It, but it isn't actually the end of Davis' Columbia records -- that would be Aura, in 1985, ten years later, but evidently not part of the box plan. There are also live albums from this same period, including Dark Magus (1974), Agharta (1975), and Pangaea (1975). The group was exceptionally fluid, with bassist Michael Henderson the constant presence along with Davis. Henderson's electric buzz permeates everything, with everything else -- guitars, electric keyboards, saxes, trumpet -- stacked on top. On the Corner itself has a reputation as one of the few weak spots in the discography. My first impression doesn't find me disliking any of it, although this is certainly a mixed bag. Will work on it more later. It may come down to historical import: this is likely as far as Davis was able to push his funk-fusion aesthetic; surprisingly, no one since has managed to push it further. [B+(***)]

Miles Davis: The Complete On the Corner Sessions (1972-75 [2007], Columbia/Legacy, 6CD): The eighth, and reportedly last, of Legacy's deluxe metal-spine multi-CD box sets, which have attempted to reframe the Davis catalog in its broader studio context. While some of the earlier boxes did little more than repackag well known material, the later sets undid Teo Macero's edits, returning to the original session tracks. That hasn't always been a plus: the Bitches Brew and Jack Johnson session boxes largely vindicated the edits. But here it is a plus. On the Corner was rudely dismissed by virtually all jazz critics at the time, even those who bought into the earlier fusion albums. Indeed, by Ornette Coleman's rule-of-thumb it wasn't a jazz album at all -- Coleman argued that in rock the band plays with the drummer, while in jazz the drummer plays with the band. But rewrite that rule to make funk bassist Michael Henderson the focal point, with the drums (including congas and tabla) just the first layer of elaboration. Davis by the early 1970s was a pop star as well as a jazz legend, which led him to conceive of his evolution in terms of James Brown and Sly Stone, but unlike his fusion followers, he had no intention of watering anything down. He spent this period working with British avant-gardist Paul Buckmaster, listening to Karlheinz Stockhausen, neither offering any pop potential. What Davis learned here was to be comfortable with repetition, a very unjazzlike attitude. He let the bass line stretch out endlessly, opening up space that he could pierce at will with his trumpet. Over three years, he took various groups into the studio 16 times, releasing the edited down On the Corner and two more bundles of scraps, Big Fun and Get Up With It. The edited albums never quite let the music breathe, which turns out to be key. Until now the period was best represented by live albums, and Dark Magus is still the one to turn to first -- no doubt because audience rekindled the jazz legend's love of improvisation. But this history fleshes out the story. Those waiting for Davis to stumble will have to look further. A-

Walter Davis Jr.: Davis Cup (1959 [2007], Blue Note): A minor hard bop pianist, worked with Dizzy Gillespie, Donald Byrd, Jackie McLean, Art Blakey, Archie Shepp, Bobby Watson, a few others. This quintet was his only album on Blue Note, or for that matter under his own name until 1977. He wrote all the pieces, but he doesn't get much piano space. The album is dominated by Byrd, with McLean present but usually laying back. B

Deep Blue Organ Trio: Folk Music (2007, Origin): Chicago group, with Chris Foreman on organ, Bobby Broom on guitar, Greg Rockingham on drums. Third album; first two on Delmark. No idea where the title comes from. Nothing here suggests anything I can recognize as folk music: most of the pieces come out of hard bop, with songs from the Beatles and Ohio Players slightly more recent. Foreman doesn't strike me as a particularly imposing organ player. He tends to pad out the groove rather than drive it, letting Broom's guitar set the pace and direction. B

The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Cookin' at the Corner, Vol. 2 (2005 [2007], Origin): Drummer, sings swing tunes and jump blues in a voice that brings Louis Prima to mind, especially when he turns the microphone over to his straighter half, wife Bonnie Eisele. But the analogy held up better on Vol. 1, where he uncorked a funny story called "Bennie's From Heaven"; nothing here comes close. B+(*)

The Karl Denson Trio: Lunar Orbit (2007, Bobby Ace): From San Diego, plays sax and flute, more funk than jazz. Got his break in 1989 with Lenny Kravitz. Other credits include Fred Wesley, Blackalicious, the Allman Brothers, Steve Winwood, John Scofield, and a couple of organ grinders I like: Robert Walter and Ron Levy. The trio here is an organ-drums thing, but it's not really a trio: he uses three different organ players and three different drummers (counting Steve Haney on congas). This leads off with a flute piece, awful really, and he returns to flute several more times -- "That Other Thing" is a tolerable example, but it still seems like a pretty silly funk instrument. The sax, of course, works better -- cf. "Dingo Dog Sled," probably the most retro piece here, easily the funkiest. B-

Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (2005 [2007], Altrisuoni): Italian pianist, born Naples 1959, moved to Milano in 1979, then on to Zurich in 1989, where he's currently based -- teaching, playing with his trio and other bands, etc. Starts with a regular, upbeat original called "Latin Pendulum," followed by the first of four Monk pieces. [B+(**)]

Alessandro D'Episcopo Trio: Meraviglioso (2005 [2007], Altrisuoni): Fine piano trio, leaning hard on four Monk pieces, which set the rhythmic frame for a few originals, a trad. Neapolitan song, and the title track from Domenico Modugno. B+(**)

Ted Des Plantes' Washboard Wizards: Thumpin' and Bumpin' (2006 [2007], Stomp Off): Des Plantes is a pianist who plays stride and knows his Jelly Roll Morton. He has five albums on Stomp Off, a few more on Jazzology, going back at least to 1991. I can find very little info on the web, but turned up a photo with Dave Greer's Classic Jazz Stompers ("a territory band from Dayton, Ohio") showing a guy with a mustache and a deficit of mostly gray hair. Also found quotes from a couple of reviews he wrote for The Mississippi Rag (as in ragtime). I've heard one previous Washboard Wizards album, Ohio River Blues (1994, Stomp Off). This is a little more modern than the Yerba Buena Stompers albums, at least in two respects: the song focus is Harlem 1924-37, so it swings more, and Des Plantes wrote two new songs to slip in with the old ones. But the band lineup is similar, with banjo and tuba, and four players in common: Leon Oakley (trumpet there, cornet here), Hal Smith (drums, also washboard here), Clint Baker (tuba there, trombone here), and John Gill (banjo). The main difference is replacing the second trumpet with an alto sax -- again, a post-Oliver New York move. Five (of 17) vocal tracks: four by Des Plantes, one by Gill. Des Plantes is the more engaging vocalist, and the dollop of sax and dash of swing give this a slight edge. A-

Bob DeVos: Playing for Keeps (2007, Savant): Guitarist-led organ trio, with tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander an added attraction on four of ten songs. Don't have much bio on DeVos: four records since 1999, three on Savant, but he looks older, and has credits Richard "Groove" Holmes albums in 1977, then very little until he pops up with Charles Earland in 1997. Dan Kostelnik plays a relatively reserved and supportive organ here, letting DeVos run his long, grooveful leads. I haven't had much nice to say about Alexander lately, but he's back in full tone here, powering through the leadoff cut, and mixing it up with DeVos in the later cuts. B+(**)

Dion: Son of Skip James (2007, Verve Forecast): Nephew of Muddy Waters, cousin of Chuck Berry, both of whom figure larger here than James, but it's worth noting that the latter's comeback came after Dion's Belmonts faded into doo-wop history. At the time, Dion was refashioning himself as a folk singer, and he was remarkably good at it -- cf. Bronx Blues: The Columbia Recordings (1962-1965). He makes a pretty fair bluesman too. B+(*)

Lou Donaldson: Gravy Train (1961 [2007], Blue Note): An alto saxophonist, Donaldson got a reputation early in the 1950s as a Charlie Parker imitator, but it's hard to hear the influence, especially by the early 1960s when his easy-flowing blues style fit snugly into the soul jazz milieu. The temptation to put him down as derivative may be because he never showed any big ambitions. He was content to knock off dozens of clean toned, easy grooving albums, popular enough that Blue Note kept him employed from 1952 to 1974. This one makes the most of his limits. Two originals are small ideas worked out comfortably. The covers carry stronger melodies, which he renders with little elaboration but uncommon elegance. Herman Foster's piano is crisper than the usual organs, while Alec Dorsey's congas lighten and loosen the beat. A-

Double Duo: Crossword Puzzle (2005 [2007], Libra): Two piano-trumpet duos, one from Japan (Satoko Fujii, Natsuki Tamura), the other from the Netherlands (Misha Mengelberg, Angelo Verploegen). Not much different than a single duo would have been, given that both duos leave ample room for the other. B+(*)

Dave Douglas Quintet: Live at the Jazz Standard (2006 [2007], Greenleaf/Koch, 2CD): Working off a copy from the Wichita Public Library, which is too bad because I'll have to give it back in way before I can sort it out. The music comes from December 2006, and is part of a massive 12-hour set being sold download only. The group consists of Douglas on cornet, Donny McCaslin on tenor sax, Uri Caine on Fender Rhodes, James Genus on contrabass, and Clarence Penn on drums. In other words, it is to our era roughly what the Miles Davis Quintet was in 1965 when they recorded their 7-CD Plugged Nickel set. I don't doubt that it's good to have it all available, and as much as I dislike download-only product, I must admit it makes a lot of sense in this case. The 2-CD release is an afterthought, meant for those of us who don't have the patience to wade through the whole thing. For me it still may be too much. Douglas is way too fancy for my taste, combining amazing chops with ideas that sail way over my head. Caine is in the same league, although I find him easier to follow, and write off what I don't get to his euroclassical passions. McCaslin certainly has chops to match, but he doesn't give me the same sense of bedazzlement. In any case, this is Douglas in full command. His pieces explode, scintillate, dumbfound. I doubt that I'll ever figure them out, and certainly don't have time now. I'll resume this if/when I get another chance to listen. B+(***) [PS: I hear a copy is on the way, so I may reopen this.]

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters: Hope Radio (2007, Stony Plain): Winner of an honorary "shut up and play yer guitar" award. Filed under blues, although they could pass as a soul jazz organ group -- trio plus two extra bassists, one also playing a bit of piano. Earl's blues guitar is clean and fluid. Still, at its best it reminds me of the guitar breaks in blues-infatuated rock records -- like Big Brother and the Holding Company with no Janis Joplin. B

Marty Ehrlich & Myra Melford: Spark! (2007, Palmetto): One of those razor-thin slipcase specials that got lost on my shelves, discovered only when I reached for the next record over and it fell out. Duos. Melford plays piano; Ehrlich alto sax and clarinet. Both are important figures who should by now need no introduction. Pieces are evenly divided, with one extra each by Robin Holcomb and Andrew Hill. This suffers the usual duo problems -- the instrument imbalance, uncertainty and the resultant tendency to slow down, erratic flow -- but comes through often enough to suggests it may be worth the time to sort out. Hope I can find it again. [B+(**)] [advance]

Kurt Elling: Nightmoves (2007, Concord): Widely touted as the top male vocalist in jazz, a highly problematic category. I've only listened to him rarely, more often than not with much displeasure. This may reverse the ratio -- his "Undun" swings fine -- but "A New Body and Soul" brings out all the usual annoyances: the awkward forced word-fit of vocalese, the hipster posturing, the fact that his voice doesn't have a crooner's reach. Need to play it again and see which way it falls. [B]

Amir ElSaffar: Two Rivers (2007, Pi): B. 1977, near Chicago, Iraqi father, American mother, studied trumpet at DePaul, worked in classical and jazz contexts. Journeyed to Iraq in 2002, learning to sing maqam and play santoor (a hammered dulcimer), leaving before Bush brought it on. Maqam are habitual note patterns in Arabic music, based on uneven microtonal scales, hard to notate and therefore handed down from person to person. ElSaffar's santoor and vocals presumably fit the model. He says he's adapted his trumpet style as well -- at first it sounded typical hard bop, but by the end I was no longer so sure. The band spreads out between east and west: Carlo DeRosa (bass) and Nasheet Waits (drums) provide jazz rhythm, while Zafer Tawail (violin, oud, dumbek) and Tareq Abboushi (buzuq, frame drum) improvise in Arabic modes. The sixth member is Indian-American alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, who has a head start on Asian-Coltrane fusion. The piece was intended as a suite, based on the Tigris and Euphrates, from their sources to the Shatt al-Arab. But the rivers are just as aptly Iraqi and American, only played out in mutual respect, as jazz not war. B+(***)

The Engines (2006 [2007] Okka Disk): Jeb Bishop (trombone), Dave Rempis (alto/tenor/baritone sax), Nate McBride (bass), Tim Daisy (drums); i.e., the Vandermark 5 minus Vandermark with a switch at bass -- lately, McBride has been appearing on more Vandermark albums than Kent Kessler anyway. Sounded real promising: I haven't heard most of the recent work by Rempis and Daisy, but their two Triage albums were super, and Bishop's departure from the V5 signalled an interest in developing his own work. Results are, well, mixed, with pieces from all four showing their distinct talents but not jelling into anything coherent. Daisy continues to impress -- I particularly like the spots where the band lays back and lets him work out. Rempis tends to squawk, for better and sometimes for worse. Bishop paints dark, dirty swathes of sound. I'd be more impressed if I had lower expectations. B+(**)

Bruce Eskovitz Jazz Orchestra: Invitation (2007, Pacific Coast Jazz): Listed in the credits as Dr. Bruce Eskovitz. Got his Ph.D. at University of Southern California. Don't know how old he is, but he's got some grey in the beard and a discography that goes back to 1992, or maybe to 1983. Plays saxophone, mostly tenor, some soprano, some alto flute. AMG describes his early records as "crossover," but he turned around and did a Rollins tribute (One for Newk) in 1993. This is a 10-piece big band -- not huge in terms of numbers, but they play loud -- one of several things I like about them. Another is a choice cut called "Latin Fever" which Eskovitz wrote as a classroom salsa intro but kept in the book because it's "always a crowd pleaser." Reminds me of Gillespie's big band. Finally, I like it when the saxophonist takes center stage and cuts loose. Not a lot of finesse here. Maybe the academy isn't so stuffy after all. B+(**)

Exploding Star Orchestra: We Are All From Somewhere Else (2006 [2007], Thrill Jockey): This is cornetist Rob Mazurek, better known as the cornerstone of Chicago Underground Duo, Trio, and Quartet. This, his big Sun Ra move, could have been attributed to the Chicago Underground Big Band. Two multi-part pieces called "Sting Ray and the Beginning of Time" and "Cosmic Tones for Sleep Walking Lovers" and a one-part interlude called "Black Sun." Starts out in fine orbit before it cracks up a bit, then wanders off into a cloud of microscopic space dust. Eventually the cosmic tones start to emerge -- something else I guess we can blame on flutes. Not unlike the man from Saturn, the best parts sound fabulous; not so sure about the rest. [B+(**)]

Joe Fiedler Trio: The Crab (2007, Clean Feed): Trombonist. Based in New York. Third album as leader, plus a substantial sideman list, divided between salsa bands, big bands, and work with avant-gardists (Anthony Braxton, Satoko Fujii, and Chris Jonas show up repeatedly). A previous trio was called Plays the Music of Albert Mangelsdorff, also on Clean Feed, which did a good job of framing trombone as a lead instrument. This trio, with bassist John Hebert and drummer Michael Sarin, builds on that, although it also shows the basic limits of volume and dynamics. B+(**)

Scott Fields Ensemble: Dénouement (1997 [2007], Clean Feed): Actually, a double trio: two sets of guitar, bass and drums. On the left channel: Jeff Parker, Jason Roebke, Michael Zerang. On the right: Fields, Hans Sturm, Hamid Drake. Most or all Chicago musicians. Fields has a dozen or more records since 1990, maybe earlier, including a duo with Parker on Delmark. This was originally self-released on Geode Records in 1999. Fields explains: "For most of the compositions, the trios are working in different but interlocking pitch sets and compound time signatures. These structures result in pip-popping little kicks and difficult-to-pin-down harmonies." Strikes me as dabbling: a bit here, a bit there, no particular urge to pull it all together. B+(*)

Ella Fitzgerald: Love Letters From Ella (1973-83 [2007], Concord/Starbucks): I don't really know what's going on here. I just have an advance copy and a PR sheet that's more concerned with hyping Starbucks than any of the music here. Plus I figured I'd put it off until some Verve reissues showed up, but they never did. Now I'm just cleaning up. What we have here are ten previously unreleased vocal tracks from Fitzgerald's 1973-83 Pablo period. They are strong performances of familiar material. Eight are presented as featuring special guests: Count Basie, the London Symphony Orchestra, Joe Pass, André Previn, and/or Scott Hamilton. Some have been merged in the editing -- LSO and Hamilton for sure, Pass and Basie are dead although the latter retains a ghostly form, especially at Concord. I'm only partly inclined to reject such adulteration out of hand -- for instance, I don't have a big problem with remixes and mash-ups, but there the shoe is on the other foot. But I do like to know what I'm dealing with, and there's a whiff of dishonesty here that may or may not be dispelled in the final product -- the reviews I've read add some info suggesting it is, but not enough to be sure. In any case, "Our Love Is Here to Stay" with André Previn is a choice cut -- holds up even though my mind keeps interjecting snatches from her duet with Louis Armstrong. B [advance]

Wendy Fopeano: Raining on the Roses (2006 [2007], Outside Shore): Vocalist, originally from Kansas City, now based in Denver. Second album. Likes vocalese, writing her own lyrics to David Murray and Kenny Barron pieces, as well as using some of Jon Hendricks' lyrics. Likes to scat. Does two Jobim songs, several standards, one co-credit with pianist-husband Marc Sabatella. Gives one song slot up to fellow KC vocalist Carol Comer. Recorded live with a pretty upbeat group. B

Gary Foster/Putter Smith: Perfect Circularity (2006 [2007], AJI): AJI stands for American Jazz Institute. Foster is credited with woodwinds. Two booklet photos show him playing alto sax, a third a flute. Lee Konitz wrote a note also mentioning tenor sax. Foster was close to 70 when this was recorded. He came out of Kansas a little too late for the west coast cool boom of the 1950s, but he does have a connection to Warne Marsh and Konitz. He cut three albums in the 1960s, little more under his own name, but he has a substantial number of credits, including an acclaimed record in Concord's Duo Series that Alan Broadbent got top billing for. Smith is a bassist, five years younger. His credit list is much shorter, conspicuously including a half-dozen albums with Broadbent. This is a duo, with the usual limits but nicely done, with both players holding interest in their solos as well as their interplay. B+(**)

Jamie Fox: When I Get Home (2006 [2007], Rare Cat): Guitarist, from California. First album. Doesn't look to be all that young. Brief bio on website suggests a checkered career: "played lead guitar and served as Musical Director for the Joan Baez World Tour (1989-1991), . . . was lead guitarist for Blood, Sweat, & Tears (1998-2000), touring the USA and Canada." Not being much of a guitar buff, I could go up or down on his attractive mainstream guitar, but he put together a pretty good band -- four (out of five) names I recognize, the best known being pianist Kenny Werner, the most impressive saxophonist Dan Willis. His work here reminds me that I still owe Willis an honorable mention for Velvet Gentlemen. B+(*)

Von Freeman: The Best of Von Freeman on Premonition (1996-2006 [2007], Premonition, 2CD+DVD): You could call Freeman a late bloomer, but one could also argue that he's always been around but never caught a break until in his 70s. Born 1922, he played with Horace Henderson before the war, the Navy during, and the Pershing Ballroom house band when he got out. He joined Sun Ra in 1948 and hung with the AACM later, but he was also chums with Gene Ammons and Johnny Griffin, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk liked him enough to produce his debut album (1972, age 50). He had one of the most idiosyncratic, instantly recognizable tenor sax sounds ever -- he attributes some of that to being a poor boy playing cheap saxophones, and there's a legend that he built his first sax at age 7 out of a Victrola horn. But he's mellowed since he hit 80, developing a richer, cleaner sound that still falls far short of lush. He cut a couple of 1970s records for AACM-connected Nessa, and two more in 1992 for Steeplechase in Denmark, but didn't get much attention until Half Note released his 75th Birthday Celebration. Then Premonition picked up his 1996 Live at the Dakota and started recording him regularly. The material anthologizes well -- it's all quartets with piano or guitar excepting a solo and a duo with Jason Moran -- and includes a couple of previously unissued bait tracks. The DVD just shows him speaking, first in an interview and then to a street crowd at the dedication of Von Freeman Way. He's a natural comic, mature like his music, which sums up a short century of saxophone wisdom -- he reminds me of Sonny Rollins, even if at best he's more like Newk's scrawny little brother. A-

Joe Friedman: Cup O' Joe (2006, NAS Music): Guitarist, from St. Louis, now in New York. First album. Wrote two of ten pieces, claiming arrangements on a couple more, so not a big composer. Other pieces include two from Monk, one each from Horace Silver and George Benson. He's a good but unremarkable mainstream guitarist. What lifts the album above par is a band that includes George Colligan on piano and Peter Washington on bass. B+(*)

Satoko Fujii Quartet: Bacchus (2006 [2007], Onoff): There are (at least) two Satoko Fujii [-Natsuki Tamura] Quartets, one with Mark Dresser and Jim Black, and this one with electric bassist Takeharu Hayakawa and drummer Tatsuya Yoshida. This one did a record called Zephyros in 2004 which I liked enough to put on my top ten list -- a marvelous mix of fusion grooves and avant bash. However, this one strikes me as an idea gone bad. The music is rockish at the fragment level, but without much to hold it together -- the groove plodding and cartoonish when it exists at all. But there is plenty of volume, especially with Tamura splattering his trumpet uncharacteristically. Not sure if she's famous enough to spend a dud slot on, but this is a very unpleasant, disappointing record. C+

Champian Fulton with David Berger & the Sultans of Swing: Champian (2007, Such Sweet Thunder): Singer, plays piano on two tracks, would probably play more but not much point in front of a big band. Born 1985, grew up in Norman OK, then Le Mars IA, then back to Norman. Father plays trumpet, became director of Clark Terry Institute for Jazz Studies -- Terry was a household guest early on, a world-class education in itself. She graduated from SUNY Purchase, moved to New York, sings with Berger's big band. The Berger band always seemed better in theory than in practice, and are still little more than perfunctory here, but Fulton fits in nicely and brightens them up -- good examples are "He Ain't Got Rhythm" and "Just One of Those Things." B+(*)

Funky Pieces of Silver: The Horace Silver Songbook (The Composer Collection Volume 1) (1997-2005 [2007], High Note): An unnecessary label sampler, but it's hard to go wrong with Silver songs. Six of nine feature the Hammond B-3, including four by Charles Earland, three from the same album. The only surprise is that I like Joey DeFrancesco's trumpet more than his organ. Everything is tight, and funk is its own reward. B+(*)

Richard Galliano Quartet: If You Love Me (2006 [2007], CAM Jazz): Accordion, more than any other instrument I can think of, signifies a deep emotional attachment to European folk music. Galliano is regarded as a jazz musician, but first and foremost he is an accordionist, and he milks this binding for all it's worth. He takes center stage here, with first rate bass and drums support from George Mraz and Clarence Penn. Most intriguing is the fourth: Gary Burton, on vibes. His fast moves and light touch provide a fanciful contrast to the accordion. [B+(***)]

Richard Galliano Quartet: If You Love Me (2006 [2007], CAM Jazz): Gary Burton's vibes provide fast light accents to Galliano's accordion, which carries the emotional weight of pieces that are neither fast nor light. Both players have a connection to Astor Piazzolla, who wrote the majority of these pieces. When Burton played with Piazzolla back in the 1970s, he was more fan than help. Here he fits better, not least because Galliano is in a mood to woo, not race. B+(**)

Stephen Gauci's Basso Profundo: Nididhyasana (2007, Clean Feed): Gauci is a tenor saxophonist, b. 1966, based in Brooklyn, has appeared on 10+ records since 2001, mostly with bassist Mike Bisio. The group here is a quartet with two basses presumably the source of the name: Bisio and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten (of various Ken Vandermark bands). The fourth member is trumpeter Nate Wooley, which gives the group a two horn front line. No drummer, but there is some percussion, presumably from tapping on the bass. The horns split free, but they're less interested in fireworks than in coloring. [A-]

Dennis González NY Quartet: At Tonic: Dance of the Soothsayer's Tongue (2003-04 [2007], Clean Feed): Actually, only 34 minutes were recorded at Tonic in 2003; the rest comes from a later studio session, added when the label thought 34 minutes was too short to release. This is the same group that recorded NY Midnight Suite in 2003: González on trumpet, Ellery Eskelin on tenor sax, Mark Helias on bass, and Michael T.A. Thompson on what he calls soundrhythium percussionist. Each have typically strong spots. B+(**)

Brad Goode: Nature Boy (2006 [2007], Delmark): Trumpet player, from Chicago, now based in Colorado. Sixth album since 1988, when his debut was titled Shock of the New. Haven't heard that one, but I doubt that it was very shocking. Very mainstream, bright tone on the trumpet, standard quartet with Jeff Jenkins on piano. Has a nice stretch of covers early on, including "I Remember You," "Sealed With a Kiss," "Tres Palabras (Without You)." Originals more conventionally postbop. B+(*)

Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors): Marsala was a clarinetist from Chicago, 1907-78, with most of his recordings on two Classics volumes from 1936-46, plus appearances with Wingo Manone, Eddie Condon, Adrian Rollini, and many other trad jazz artists -- although Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker also pop up. Marsala wrote or co-wrote all of the songs in this tribute. Gordon was born in 1941, first saw Marsala when he was 5, and wound up not only playing clarinet but taking lessons from Marsala. Gordon has a dozen or so albums starting in 1963, including a similar Pee Wee Russell tribute. This one is a delight, with a first rate band including Randy Reinhart on trumpet and James Chirillo on guitar, with pianist Keith Ingham contributing arrangements. B+(***)

Grant Green: The Latin Bit (1961 [2007], Blue Note): The latin percussion is professional enough -- Johnny Acea on piano, Willie Bobo on drums, Carlos "Patato" Valdes on congas, Garvin Masseaux on chekere -- but they can't inspire Green to break out of his usual groove. Two later cuts with Ike Quebec on tenor sax and Sonny Clark on piano work better, with the chekere gone and the congas reduced to atmosphere. B

Onaje Allan Gumbs: Sack Full of Dreams (2006 [2007], 18th & Vine): Pianist, b. 1949 in New York, 6th album since 1990, with a long list of sideman credits going back to Betty Carter's boot camp in 1972 and Woody Shaw's Moontrane in 1974. He's always struck me as an able supporting player, but I've never gotten a sense of his own style, and this strikes me as all over the map. One vocal track, featuring Obba Babatunde, disrupts the flow, despite noble sentiments. B

Frode Haltli: Passing Images (2004 [2007], ECM): Norwegian accordionist, second album, both on ECM. This one with Arve Henriksen on trumpet, Garth Knox on viola, and Maja Solveig Kjelstrup Ratkje singing (or vocalizing -- there's not a lot of conventional singing). Songs are evidently folk based, including one by good ole' trad. Dense, dark, minimal sounds; any other trumpet player would bust out of this, but Henriksen provides little more than harmonic overtones to the accordion. Might be worth another play, but the pickings look pretty slim. [B] [advance]

Tardo Hammer: Look Stop & Listen: The Music of Tadd Dameron (2007, Sharp Nine): Pianist, from New York, on his fourth album, mostly trios -- this one with John Webber and Joe Farnsworth. Deeply rooted in bebop, all the more evident on this program of Tadd Dameron tunes. He does a respectable job, here as elsewhere, but I find this of rather limited interest. B+(*)

Herbie Hancock: River: The Joni Letters (2007, Verve): Joni Mitchell songs, plus "Solitude" and "Nefertiti" -- I'm not enough of a Mitchell scholar to explain why, but they are two of four songs done as instrumentals. The rest have vocals, a smattering of guests who get one shot each. Norah Jones leads off with "Court and Spark," affecting Joni tics and sounding like a pale imitation. Same for Corinna Bailey Rae, Luciana Souza, even Tina Turner. Mitchell sings an obscure one, allowing herself the amusement of hiding among the poseurs. Only Leonard Cohen avoids that game. One result of all these shaded stylings is to remind us that Mitchell's voice and songs were necessarily one. Tribute albums succeed or fail depending on whether they offer convincing reasons for the bother. The vocals fail that test here, and take down with them some very nice instrumental work. Hancock himself does a lovely if risk-free job tucking the melodies in. Better still is Wayne Shorter, especially his little bits on soprano. B-

Happy Apple: Happy Apple Back on Top (2007, Sunnyside): Bad Plus drummer Dave King's other trio, billed as "jazz punk," with Erik Fratzke on Fender bass and Michael Lewis on various saxophones and occasional keyboards, with their seventh album since 1997. I've only heard the last album, The Peace Between Our Companies, which made my A-list. This one is more or less as good -- having a lot of trouble making up my mind. Lewis reminds me a lot of Tony Malaby on tenor and, oh, Michael Blake on soprano -- pretty good models, but not quite distinct. Coming from Minnesota, I'm tempted to call them the Hüsker Dü of free jazz, especially when they go hard or Fratzke gets into one of his rock grooves. But they're more flexible than that, with the slow stuff retaining interest as well. [A-]

Happy Apple: Happy Apple Back on Top (2007, Sunnyside): Bad Plus drummer Dave King's other power trio, with Erik Fratzke's bass plugged in and Michael Lewis leading on one sax or another. Given their Minneapolis address, it's tempting to call them the Husker Du of free jazz, assuming you can make all the necessary translations. It is jazz, after all, and while they like rock grooves more than most, they never leave it at that. A-

Julie Hardy: The Wish (2006 [2007], World Culture Music): Vocalist, from New Hampshire, now in Brooklyn after studying in Boston. Second album, after A Moment's Notice (2005, Fresh Sound New Talent). Wrote half or a bit more, including three pieces subtitled parts of "The Wish Suite." Also does a Beatles song, some standards, and added lyrics to a Wayne Shorter piece. Band includes some minor names -- guitarist Ben Monder is probably the best known. I didn't care much for the voice or the arrangements, thought "All or Nothing at All" was especially clunky; but I was working on other stuff at the time, wasn't paying enough attention to get technical, and gave her the benefit of my doubts on the grade, seeing little prospect in pursuing this further. B-

The Harlem Experiment (2007, Ropeadope): Related, although I can't tell you how, to two previous Ropeadope releases: The Philadelphia Experiment and The Detroit Experiment. The promo cover speaks of "a quilt of sounds that speak to the real Harlem," but I suspect that has less to do with the actual Harlem of today than the mythic Harlem of yore -- a scene still haunted by Langston Hughes and Malcolm X, where "Reefer Man" is still funny, "A Rose in Spanish Harlem" is a lonely jíbaro serenade, and the Jewish past still lingers in Don Byron's clarinet lead "Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen," with token entries for funk and a plea for rhyme as serious lit. In other words, an album of distinct pieces composed into an artificial mural. Vocals by Queen Esther, Taj Mahal, James Hunter, Olu Dara. Steve Bernstein smears his trumpet over Malcolm X. DJ Arkive is credited with cuts and bruises. B+(**) [advance]

David Hazeltine: The Inspiration Suite (2007, Sharp Nine): One of the very best mainstream pianists working today, consistently engaging in his trio -- cf. The Classic Trio (1996, Sharp Nine) -- and a dependable support player. This whole group looks sharp, with Eric Alexander on tenor sax, Joe Locke on vibes, John Webber on bass, Joe Farnsworth on drums, and Daniel Sadownick on percussion (three tracks). But the first time I played it I was little more than annoyed; second time it just flopped lamely, marking time before it expired. I suppose I could give it a third spin to see whether to add it to the dud list, especially if I can figure out why. I'm not real sure why this doesn't work -- Alexander sounds thin, way off his usual game; Locke solos well but otherwise is disconnected; the 26-minute title thing straddling the middle is impossible to distinguish from the before and aft; the leader rarely gets space to stretch out -- but it probably doesn't matter much. B

The Skip Heller Trio: Mean Things Happening in This Land (2006, Ropeadope): One of those advance copies that got lost in my pile, in this case for a year or more. No big deal. Heller is a guitarist, born in Philadelphia, based in Los Angeles. Has a dozen-plus albums since 1992, drawing on blues, swing, pop, and if AMG is to be believed, Bakersfield country. The mean things include at least two obvious references to New Orleans: "Katrina, Mon Amour" and "Heckuvajob." Maybe three, given that another title is "President Nero?" There's also a song for Ani DiFranco, "The Kind of Beauty that Moves," and he follows that up with the Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl." I wish the music lived up to these titles, but it's mostly mild-mannered organ funk. Last song has a vocal, but no credit for who sang it. It's called "Aragon Mill," about the closing thereof, and is the best thing here, probably because words are sharper than guitar. B [advance]

Marsha Heydt: One Night (2007, Blue Toucan): Plays sax, flute, clarinet. Grew up in Pennsylvania Dutch country, tracing her family back to the eighteenth century. Moved to Los Angeles in 1991, then to New York in 1992. First album. Wrote four songs, including one done both as an instrumental and with a nuanced Carla Cook vocal. That's the only vocal. The rest, with the marginal exception of a Monk piece, is rather schmoozy easy listening music, often with quasi-Latin rhythms, three with a string trio, six more with Erik Friedlander's cello. Booklet doesn't specify what Heydt plays where, but her website gives the breakdown as: alto sax 6, soprano sax 3, flute 4. Heydt's alto sax sounds rather wobbly, although her "Georgia on My Mind" has some charm. In fact, quite a bit of this is likable, but it's hard to see much point to it. C+

His Name Is Alive: Sweet Earth Flower: A Tribute to Marion Brown (2007, High Two): I imagine that most readers know who Marion Brown is, but that may not be a slam dunk. He's an alto saxophonist, born 1935, made a few notable avant-garde albums starting with ESP-Disk in 1965 up through a couple of remarkable Mal Waldron duos in the 1980s, but he's recorded little since, evidently having multiple health problems. Very few of his records are in print, so if you weren't aware of him when he was active, there's not much likelihood of being reminded of him now. His Name Is Alive is more/less a front for guitarist Warren Defever. In the early 1990s he recorded quasi-rock albums with singer Karin Oliver. Robert Christgau recommended a couple of his/their albums. I bought one, made no sense of it, and never paid any further attention to him/them. Now, a few dozen mostly self-released albums later, comes this Marion Brown tribute. Three cuts were recorded live in 2004, the others undated studio cuts. The musicians mostly come from the Ann Arbor group NOMO, with Michael Herbst on alto sax, Elliot Bergman on tenor sax, Justin Walter on trumpet, Olman Piedra on congas and cajon. None of these players make much of an impression, except occasionally the guitar. Long stretches are rather fallow, occasionally dirgelike. [PS: Looks like Why Not? is available at the ESP-Disk website, as good a place to start as any.] B

Billie Holiday: Lady Day: The Master Takes and Singles (1935-42 [2007], Columbia/Legacy, 4CD): Her early Brunswick singles were credited to Teddy Wilson & His Orchestra, but only the most arcane European labels still credit them to Wilson. One proof that Holiday is the most bankable name in pre-WWII jazz is that the major label custodian of Wilson's Brunswick and Holiday's Vocalion singles, currently d/b/a Sony/BMG, has kept them consistently and extensively in print throughout the CD era, even while they've let works by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington, not to the Wilson cuts that didn't feature Holiday. The first CDs were The Quintessential Billie Holiday, released as nine separate volumes. In 2001, Sony came up with 35 unreleased alternates and packaged it all together in a 10-CD box, Lady Day: The Complete Billie Holiday on Columbia 1933-1944, which they broke down to six CDs of master takes and four of alternates. All along, they've spun off smaller samplers, which are almost impossible to screw up -- unless they drag in a 1958 Columbia horror show, Lady in Satin, where her voice is shot and drenched in dreadful strings, about the only possible complaint is that they cut her short. If the big box seems de trop and the still-in-print Quintessentials seem too arbitrary, this 80-song box is perfect. The subtitle is misleading in that it contains nowhere near all the master takes and singles, but the selection is canonical, faultless. It smoothes over the arcs of her story -- her emergence from being in the band to stardom, the wear and tear of a troubled life. On this evidence, she took charge of a band of superstars from day one and was a model of consistency at least as far as the box goes -- her voice limited in range, her technique straightforward and uncluttered, her phrasing definitive. A+

Diane Hubka: Goes to the Movies (2005-06 [2007], 18th & Vine): Singer; plays a little 7-string guitar, although most of the fine guitar here is credited to Larry Koonse. Website bio has no biographical information, and is otherwise dubious -- "arguably the biggest discovery since Roberta Gambarini"? (FYI, I've never heard Gambarini, although I recognize the name.) Looks like she came from Appalachia, worked in DC and/or NYC, has three previous albums, mostly on Dutch labels, and a favorable entry in Penguin Guide, likening her to Sheila Jordan. I don't hear that here, but haven't heard the earlier albums. She has a clear, clean, articulate voice, and gets unassuming support from a quintet led by pianist Christian Jacob, with Carl Saunders providing finish touches on trumpet and flugelhorn. Record rises and falls on the songs, which include enough melodramatic themes and noirish ballads to turn me off. Could use another play. [B+(*)]

Charlie Hunter Trio: Mistico (2007, Fantasy): Guitarist, currently plays a custom-built 7-string guitar cut down from an 8-string. Has recorded prolifically since 1993, including several albums with Bobby Previte as Groundtruther and Stanton Moore and Skerik as Garage a Trois -- including one in my replay queue. This seems about par. He is at the center of a cluster of fusion musicians that combine loping rhythms, funk, and electronics in interesting ways. [B+(**)]

Charlie Hunter and Bobby Previte as Groundtruther + Special Guest John Medeski: Altitude (2006 [2007], Thirsty Ear, 2CD): Hunter plays 7-string guitar. Previte is a drummer who dabbles in electronics. They both have notable solo careers -- Previte's a decade longer, from 1987 -- and now have three Groundtruther albums together, each named for geographical dimensions (Longitude, Latitude), each with an extra guest (or two). This one adds keyb player Medeski, of Martin & Wood fame. First disc is labeled "Below Sea Level," which lets Medeski exploit the whole gamut of bubbly burbling organ effects, a tedious onomatopoeia that ultimately fails to evolve gills and expires in the deep. The second disc is "Above Sea Level," which lets Hunter air out his guitar for some pleasant flightiness, eventually coaxing Medeski to switch to piano, which for once surprises. B

Jason Kao Hwang/Sang Won Park: Local Lingo (2006 [2007], Euonymus): Hwang is a Chinese-American violinist, who has managed to distinguish himself both in Chinese classical music and avant-jazz. Park is a Korean, born 1950 in Seoul, moved to New York in 1980. He plays ajeng (a 6-string bowed zither) and kayagum (a 12-string plucked ziter), which are capable of a rough, sour -- I'm tempted to say ugly -- sound, contrasting with the more conventional violin. Park has worked with Laurie Anderson, Henry Kaiser, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and has a solo album. Like most duo albums, this initially strikes me as limited to the sum of its parts. I have no framework for evaluating Park's mastery. Hwang is one of the most interesting violinists around, but Park controls the tempo and sound. [B+(*)]

Jason Kao Hwang/Sang Won Park: Local Lingo (2006 [2007], Euonymus): Park's zithers -- the 6-string bowed ajeng and the 12-string plucked kayagum -- and voice make up the core here. I can't decide, or even hazard a guess, whether he's playing folk or classical or some sort of avant-garde that would seem as strange in Korea as it does here. Hwang is easier: he knows his way around classical Chinese music, but he's also a remarkable jazz violinist who dances gracefully around the more static core. B+(**)

Todd Isler: Soul Drums (2006-07 [2007], Takadimi Tunes): Drummer, percussionist, seems to have special interests in Indian and African percussion, evidently based in New York. This is second or third album. Claims to have appeared on hundreds of albums. AMG counts 16. Has a book called You Can Ta Ka Di Mi This. Songs include various saxophonists, pianists, bassists. Sandwiched between are short percussion-only pieces. Covers two songs: Stevie Wonder's "Bird of Beauty" and Joe Zawinul's "Badia" -- the latter the closer, breaking the pattern with a guitar duo. The song pieces are very nice. The interludes break up the sweetness. B+(**)

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux (2001 [2007], ECM, 2CD): This trio, introduced here as The Trio, debuted circa 1983 as The Standards Trio, but has been fixed ever since, perhaps from habit, possibly, well, if you're Jarrett, who else would you rather play with? I don't know how many albums they've done together -- pretty much everything in Jarrett's catalog for the last score-plus years except for the numerous solos. Given my relatively thin and unnuanced bandwidth for processing piano trios, they've long since achieved a plateau where they all pretty much sound the same. I'm not sure whether this is the exception, or it just started off so brightly that I kicked back and let myself enjoy it. It is a standards exercise, with two Fats Waller pieces unexpected pleasures in the middle -- I'm not sure how distinctive they are, but I'm glad to have them. [A-] [advance]

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette: My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux (2001 [2007], ECM, 2CD): The dozens of albums Jarrett's "standards trio" have released since 1983 blur together, but here two Fats Waller pieces jump out, lightening the load and brightening the day. Jarrett is every bit as adept with "Four" and "Straight, No Chaser" and the inevitable ballad, and DeJohnette shows you why Jarrett has stuck in his trio rut all these years: who else would you rather play with? A-

Brent Jensen: One More Mile (2006 [2007], Origin): Saxophonist, plays soprano here but his main instrument is probably alto. Website banner touts LA Jazz Bands, but Jensen seems to have started in Idaho ("In 1986-87, Brent studied in New York City with jazz legend Lee Konitz on a grant from the Idaho Commission on the Arts") and wound up there ("Brent Jensen is currently Director of Jazz Studies and Woodwinds at the College of Southern Idaho in Twin Falls"). I have relatives in Twin (as they call it), and thought a bit about moving there once -- seems like a nice place to retreat to when all hell breaks loose. The other band members get their names on the front cover: Bill Anschell (piano), Jeff Johnson (bass), John Bishop (drums). They're strictly Seattle, for all purposes the label's house band, slightly left of mainstream, first rate players all. Johnson and Anschell contribute songs, and Anschell arranges a couple of oldies; Jensen's only writing credit is shared with Johnson and Bishop. So maybe this should be viewed as a group effort, but it's Jensen's clear, measured tone that gives it voice. Jensen's previous Trios was an HM. We'll see if this one rises higher. [B+(***)]

Brent Jensen: One More Mile (2006 [2007], Origin): Thanks to Origin Records, Seattle has one of the better documented regional jazz scenes. Their house rhythm section -- Bill Anschell on piano, Jeff Johnson on bass, John Bishop on drums -- is flexible and dependable, but that's usually as far as it goes. Jensen isn't even Seattle. He teaches woodwinds in Idaho, and doesn't write much, but he has a distinctive tone and rigorous logic on soprano sax. Studied under Lee Konitz, which probably has something to do with it. A-

Jentsch Group Large: Brooklyn Suite (2005 [2007], Fleur de Son): Led by Chris Jentsch, guitarist, based in Brooklyn. Has a couple of previous albums I haven't heard, including one called Miami Suite -- got his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from University of Miami. Group numbers 17, including conductor JC Sanford, five reeds, four trumpets, four trombones, guitar, bass, drums -- familiar names include John O'Gallagher, Dan Willis, Russ Johnson, Jacob Garchik, Alan Ferber. Big, swimming sound, but I'm not all that well disposed to the swaggering moves and the fancy orchestration. Ends with two non-Suite pieces which develop the guitar and individual horns better. B+(*)

Ellen Johnson: These Days (2005 [2006], Vocal Visions): Singer. Grew up in Chicago, teaches in San Diego. Has three albums starting with Too Good to Title in 1993, plus a couple of instructional things. This particular album puts her in line behind Sheila Jordan, who repays the compliment with two guest vocals: a duet on Jordan's "The Crossing" and background on Johnson's tribute to Jordan, "Little Messenger." Elsewhere, Johnson acknowledges such Jordan signatures as duetting with bassist Darek Oleskiewicz (Oles here) and adding words to Mingus' "Nostalgia in Times Square" reminiscent of Jordan's birdwatching. B+(**)

Sean Jones: Roots (2006, Mack Avenue): This one was released in Sept. 2006. Again, all I have is the advance. On the back it says: "Sean Jones and Roots take you from the church, to the dance hall, and through the night clubs of New Orleans." Actually, they start with "Children's Hymn" and end with "John 3:16" and "I Need Thee," stopping at "Come Sunday" and "Lift Every Voice" and similar fare along the way -- maybe Brad Leali's "Puddin' Time" counts as a change of pace? (Sounds like it.) Jones is a bright, energetic trumpet player, but he rarely picks the music to show that off. The saxophonist has some good moments; evidently that's Tia Fuller. B

Sean Jones: Kaleidoscope (2007, Mack Avenue): Trumpet player, b. 1978 in Warren OH. Fourth album, quite a few side dates, mostly with labelmates but he can also point to some notable big band work (Brad Leali, Gerald Wilson). Never got a final copy of this; for that matter, got an advance but no final of his previous Roots, which I never got to (but may be around here somewhere). This one is meant to showcase vocalists. Don't know who sings what, but the vocalists are: Kim Burrell, Gretchen Parlato, Carolyn Perteete, Sachal Vasandani, JD Walter. Most have a gospel vibe, and none strike me as the least bit interesting. But the trumpet does shine behind them, and tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III breaks loose some tough runs. Maybe I should find the old promo? C+ [advance]

Thad Jones: The Magnificent Thad Jones (1956 [2007], Blue Note): The title strikes me as a play on Jones' debut album on Debut, The Fabulous Thad Jones -- among other things it implies continued growth. The slowest great trumpet player of his generation, Jones never dazzled you with his chops, but he had an uncanny knack for finding right places for his notes, and at his moderate pace you get to savor the full beauty of the instrument. Ends with a graceful non-LP duet with guitarist Kenny Burrell. A-

Manu Katché: Playground (2007, ECM): ECM has gone to a system of distributing promos via downloads. Universal, which distributes ECM in the US, has used this for a couple of years, but I've only managed to put aside my chagrin in the last week, using it for Recycled Goods -- like Elvis Costello and Bo Diddley releases that complement ones they actually sent to me, and a Police set I knew backwards already. I haven't bothered with the ECM downloads, because I've been sitting on a pile of advances that I got before the new policy went into effect. Originally I was wating to see what would happen. This one his the shelves Sept. 25, and nothing happened. ECM has been generous in their support in the past, and would probably respond now if I made a stink. I don't mean to do that here. I'm trying to work with the new system, and explain how it works. Anything marked [advance] here with no date has already been released, but I'm working off a CDR with no booklet or cover art. At least thus far I have press releases, which with ECM have more info than the picture-oriented booklets have, and I'm trying to make up what's missing by searching the internet. (One problem with Universal's download system is that it doesn't provide useful collateral documentation -- lack of discography is a big problem, more so for Recycled Goods than ECM.) So much for that. As for this record: Katché, from France, has a handful of albums since 1992, and has done sideman work notably with Jan Garbarek. Garbarek and Tomas Stanko's band appeared on Katché's Neighbourhood, which came out in 2006 and got a Jazz CG A- rating. This one has Trygve Seim for Garbarek and Mathias Eick for Stanko -- interesting players, but they lose a lot of presence. A couple of pieces tighten up the groove to where it seems to have some potential; otherwise this is lax and fluid, attractive, but not all that compelling. [B+(**)] [advance]

Manu Katché: Playground (2007, ECM): Seductive but understated album, the big difference from his previous Neighbourhood is the presence of cleverly textured but unstriking horns (Mathias Eick, Trygve Seim) in place of ones that that force your attention (Tomasz Stanko, Jan Garbarek). Katché, a drummer who composes but doesn't make a lot of noise here, did manage to hang on to two thirds of Stanko's young Polish trio, with Marcin Wasilewski's piano the charm here. B+(*)

Bernie Kenerson: Just You & Me (2007, Bernup): Subtitled "The Art of the EWI" -- promised as the first of a number of volumes exploring the Akai EWI 4000s electronic wind instrument; i.e., a synthesizer you control by blowing into. EWI's show up on some smooth jazz records, but not often otherwise. (Sanity check: fgrep through my notebook produces: Michael Brecker, Felipe LaMoglia [w/Ignacio Berroa], Bob Mintzer, Jørgen Munkeby [Shining], Steve Tavaglione [Jing Chi], Andre Ward. That strikes me as short on the smooth side, but my note-taking isn't always up to snuff there.) Problem is that Kenerson doesn't push the instrument very far. He describes himself as "a child of funk and fusion," cites Brecker as his favorite musician, and picks Mintzer's Yellowjackets as his favorite band. Backed with keybs, bass and percussion, Kenerson mostly sticks with harmless funk and a bit of space atmosphere here. The EWI ranges from flute to sanitized alto sax tones -- it's not the problem, but not the solution either. B

Nigel Kennedy: Blue Note Sessions (2005 [2007], Blue Note): Booklet says "Kennedy may be the world's best selling classical violinist." Never heard of him, myself, but AMG lists about 110 credits going back to the early 1980s. Also says, "Kennedy" has always been a jazz player" -- mentions that he studied Stephane Grappelli as well as someone named Menuhin (no first name given; sounds vaguely familiar). He certainly got the treatment here, with classic-looking Blue Note cover art; Ron Carter and Jack DeJohnette for rhythm; Joe Lovano, Kenny Werner, and Lucky Peterson dropping in here and there; Raul Midón playing guitar and singing on one piece. Two songs credited to Kennedy -- "Stranger in a Stranger Land" is a good title. The others are mostly jazz staples like "Song for My Father," but Ivory Joe Hunter's "I Almost Lost My Mind" is especially appealing. The groups are nearly faultless, and I like the sound of his violin quite a bit. He could have a future if he decides to stick with it. B+(***)

Stacey Kent: Breakfast on the Morning Tram (2007, Blue Note): Vocalist, originally from New Jersey, studied comparative lit at Sarah Lawrence in New York, and took her degree to England, where she married saxophonist Jim Tomlinson and stepped into what's evidently a very successful singing career. Looks like she has ten records since 1997. This is the first I've heard, and it's sent me up and down. She has an attractive voice, thin, clear, with nary a hint of the mannerisms so many jazz singers cultivate. The settings are spare, mostly keyed off the guitar, with Tomlinson's sax mostly limited to breaks. Two covers -- "Hard-Hearted Hannah" and "What a Wonderful World" -- are exceptionally reserved. Four songs have lyrics by novelist Kazuo Ishiguro. Three songs are in French -- the first two especially beguiling. Penguin Guide: "Problem is, the singer has simply repeated the formula across each subsequent record, and given her temperate approach they've taken on a soundalike quality." SFFR. [B+(**)]

Carla Kihlstedt/Satoko Fujii: Minamo (2002-05 [2007], Henceforth): Violin-piano duo. Kihlstedt is best known for her work in Tin Hat, although she's shown up in a number of contexts, including ROVA's latest assault on Ascension. The first three tracks, totalling 20 minutes, were recorded as an opening act for a ROVA concert in San Francisco. The final 28:40 tracks was recorded at Wels in Austria. The latter set meshes better, probably because the violinist is more aggressive. The pianist can brawl with the best of them, but she tends to hold back when not provoked. Which is OK too, in the limited way of duos. [B+(**)]

Meinrad Kneer/Albert van Veenendaal: The Munderkingen Sessions: Part 1 (2004 [2007], Evil Rabbit): This predates Predictable Point of Impact, a trio with percussionist Yonga Sun that made my last Jazz CG column. The drums keep things moving, or at least provide a welcome distraction. Cutting back to just bass and piano inevitably slows things down, and this is no exception. Kneer is the bassist. Van Veenendaal plays more or less prepared piano, which offers some surprises, but more often than not the pair get bogged down in minute abstractions. I find this somewhat fascinating, but don't expect many others will. B+(*)

Lee Konitz-Ohad Talmor Big Band: Portology (2006 [2007], Omnitone): Konitz came in #3 in Downbeat's Hall of Fame ballot last year, behind recently deceased Andrew Hill and Michael Brecker (who got in on the popular ballot) and ahead of still ticking (actually, like Konitz, still working) Hank Jones. Unless someone important dies, he should be next in line. (Jackie McLean, embarrassingly, wasn't even on the ballot when he died, then lept to the top of the list.) It's taken him a long time, but he's never been anywhere near the mainstream. Early on he was way ahead of his time -- looking back I'm tempted to call his 1949-50 Subconscious-Lee the first great postbop album -- and even when time caught up he remained sui generis. Even in the middle of a big band built for camouflage it's trivial to pick him out. On the other hand, don't know much about Ohad Talmor, who is here billed as conductor, arranger, musical director, and co-composer. He was born in France of Israeli parents, grew up in Switzerland, moved to New York in 1995. Plays tenor sax in his own groups, but works more as arranger/director in projects with Konitz and Steve Swallow. I dudded his Swallow project record. Haven't heard his previous work with Konitz. This one makes use of an extant big band from Portugal, Orquestra Jazz de Matosinhos, which I've previously on an album with Chris Cheek that I also disliked. So I'm inclined not only to credit this to Konitz but to give him extra credit for degree of difficulty. Or maybe I should save it for another spin. [B+(**)] [advance]

Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor (2006 [2007], Chamsa): Credits are listed from drums forward with the leader last, rather than the convention of starting with the horns or the leader, in this case both. At first I wondered whether that was because I had heard of Aaron Alexander and Reuben Radding but not Brandon Seabrook (guitar, banjo, tapes) or Kontorovich (clarinet, alto sax), but then I figured that's cutting the market research pretty thin. Kontorovich was born in Russia, lives in New York, is 26, is working on a PhD at Columbia, in math. He has an interest in klezmer, but also wrote a "New Orleans Funeral March" and a "Waltz for Piazzolla." Solid record; first one this cycle I want to hear again. [B+(**)]

Alex Kontorovich: Deep Minor (2006 [2007], Chamsa): Some more biographical notes: born 1980, in Russia, don't know where, or when he came to US -- no later than 1999, although he was a research fellow in Israel 2000-02. Got his Ph.D. in math at Columbia 2007, and now teaches at Brown in Rhode Island. Research interests include analytic number theory, stochastic processes, and game theory -- studied the latter at Princeton with John Nash, better known as A Beautiful Mind. Plays clarinet and alto sax, mostly in klezmer groups, some with ska angles -- The Klez Dispensers, KlezSka, Frank London's Klezmer Brass Alltars, Aaron Alexander's Midrash Mish Mosh, King Django's Roots and Culture Band. Also reports playing with the Klezmatics and Boban Markovic. This is a jazz quartet with a lot of klezmer input, but he also offers "Waltz for Piazzolla," "New Orleans Funeral March," and "Transit Strike Blues," and rolls up a bit of infectious fusion called "AfroJewban Suite." Brandon Seabrook sets most of these pieces up with guitar, banjo, and tapes. A-

The Very Best of Diana Krall (1995-2006 [2007], Verve): The most successful jazz vocalist of her generation, her precise, practiced control of nuance is evident in every note, sometimes so conspicuously that she stretches slow songs out to imponderable lengths. Still, she has no hit parade, no canon -- the selection here seems arbitrary, favoring her least graceful albums making the songs seem unnecessarily difficult. I imagine that other selections are equally viable -- had I started from scratch to make up my own mix tape, I doubt I would have picked as many as two of these songs. B+(**)

Jonathan Kreisberg: The South of Everywhere (2007, Mel Bay): Guitarist, from New York, has several albums since 1996. This is a quintet with alto sax (Will Vinson), piano (Gary Versace), bass (Matt Penman), and drums (Mark Ferber). Some cuts drop down to a trio. The sort of record I find appealing while it's playing but can't remember much of afterwards. There are dozens and dozens of good jazz guitarists these days, and he's certainly one of them. B+(*)

Joachim Kühn/Majid Bekkas/Ramon Lopez: Kalimba (2006 [2007], ACT): Drummer Lopez has his name on the spine, but on the cover he's listed "with" below the title, while Kühn and Bekkas are in larger print above. He's a useful guy, but the action here is between the top-liners. Bekkas is a gnawa guy from Morocco. He plays guembri ("a bass-like lute"), oud, and kalimba, and sings, more like a stiff chant. I'm not sold on the latter, but I'm not turned off either. He makes for an interesting counterpoint to Kühn, who is dazzling as usual on piano, and surprisingly assured on alto sax. [B+(***)]

Joachim Kühn/Majid Bekkas/Ramon Lopez: Kalimba (2006 [2007], ACT): Musically you can attribute this to Bekkas, a Moroccan whose voice, guembri, oud, and kalimba provide the core of an intriguing world music album. Kühn adds the note of jazz improv that kicks it up a level. While he mostly plays piano, his Ornette-ish alto sax is more than respectable. B+(***)

Steve Kuhn/Steve Swallow: Two by Two (1995 [2007], Owl/Sunnyside): Piano/electric bass, two longtime masters, trading songbooks as well as lines. Played it with pleasure three times and have no idea of how to write about it: intimate, understated, seductive, but too respectful to shake much of anything loose. B+(*)

Mário Laginha Trio: Espaço (2007, Clean Feed): Not living anywhere near a decent record store, I've never been able to figure out whether the new format Clean Feed promos are the same packaging as their released albums or something especially cheap just for the writers (like their old promos obviously were). The new ones at least give me a package that I can file on a shelf and identify by reading the spine. I've never seen that sort of package in the stores, but it matches the album covers I see, and it comes close enough to my requirements that I've stopped flagging them as advances. I mention that here because this came in much better packaging: three-fold cardboard, a plastic tray glued down in the middle, and a separate booklet that slips into a slot. Clean Feed mostly releases American avant-gardists, but every now and then they come up with some local (Portuguese) talent that they like, even if far removed from the edge. Laginha plays piano, and this is a standard piano trio. Website is in Portuguese, so I'm not really sure what he's saying there about Deep Purple and Jethro Dull -- probably that he liked them before he discovered Powell, Evans, and Jarrett. B. 1960 in Lisbon. Has a discography going back to 1983, mostly accompanying singer Maria João -- the later records often list both names -- but also including a duet album with pianist Bernardo Sassetti. This may be his first trio album. It has a quietly understated eloquence, deft but not too flashy. B+(**)

Sinikka Langeland: Starflowers (2006 [2007], ECM): Norwegian father, Finnish mother, sings the Norwegian words of lumberjack-poet Hans Børli -- like Langeland, hailing from the Finnskogen, the "Finnish Woods" of northeast Norway -- while playing santele, a Finnish table harp. She has several previous albums, probably more authentically folkish. For ECM, Manfred Eicher hooks her up with his favorite Nordic jazzers, most notably Trygve Seim on sax and Arve Henriksen on trumpet -- his third appearance in this batch, finally making a memorable appearance. Most of this is slow, cold, a little arch, but now and then they crank up the tension, and interest. B+(*) [advance]

Jon Larsen: Strange News From Mars (2007, Zonic Entertainment): Norwegian painter-guitarist, traces his inspirations back to Salvador Dali and Django Reinhardt and is able to confuse them. The Reinhardt connection is presumably developed fully in his Hot Club de Norvège group, which has 17 albums going back to 1981. Add another half-dozen under his own name, which look to be scattered all over the map, with a string quartet on one end and this piece of sci-fi fusion on the other. Jimmy Carl Black narrates short bits like "Unwanted Sexual Attention in Space." The music is spacey, racey keybs, marimba, guitar, and trombone -- amusing stuff. B+(*)

Timo Lassy: The Jazz and Soul of Timo Lassy (2007, Ricky Tick): Finnish saxophonist, tenor and baritone, plus a little show-off flute. Looks like his first album, a sextet with trumpet and trombone shagging his flies; piano, bass and drums for rhythm. Website suggests: "He is the perfect melting of diverse characteristics triggering a likeness to Willis Jackson and Pharoah Sanders in one's mind." I can't say that he sounds like either, although the juxtaposition is bizarre enough that it helps locate where he'd like to be. He's not there -- simply doesn't have the sound or authority. But his band is happy playing soul jazz, and trombonist Mikko Mustonen, who also works with UMO Jazz Orchestra, earns a shout out. B

Steve Lehman Quintet: On Meaning (2007, Pi): First artist website I've bumped into since I got rid of Flash that has zero non-Flash info. Life without Flash has been swell: no browser hangs or crashes since I removed the plug-in. What brought this on was that AMG was serving Flash-based ads that wrecked my browser. But even benign ads can achieve high levels of annoyance when implemented in Flash. Glad to be rid of it. Lehman's not unfamiliar. Plays alto sax, which he studied under Jackie McLean and Anthony Braxton. This is his 5th or 6th album. First I heard was Artificial Light, a quintet I didn't care for, and probably missed a lot in. Next was Demian as Posthuman, a mix of smaller groups including duos which were simple enough to give his abstractions recognizable shape. This one is a quintet again, with Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Chris Dingman on vibes, Drew Gress on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Hype sheet says: "Each of On Meaning's eight compositions addresses the challenge of creating fresh environments for modern vision of compositional form, harmony, rhythm, and orchestration" and describes Lehman's sax as "combining a highly advanced harmonic language, microtonal playing, extended techniques, and a deeply rooted rhythmic sense." I don't know what most of that means, but I do hear it in the music, especially the rhythmic sense, which gives his complex abstractions a jingle-jangle quality. Sorey continues to impress, too. B+(***)

Steve Lehman Quartet: Manifold (2007, Clean Feed): First, apologies to Nasheet Waits, who has no problems with Lehman's difficult music, and whose assertive free drumming makes the opener, "Interface D." Lehman plays alto and sopranino sax, the latter on an exercise titled "For Evan Parker" which I can't swear isn't a parody, although I doubt it. Jonathan Finlayson's trumpet adds a freewheeling second horn, and John Hebert is expert as usual on bass. Recorded live in Brazil, this is more off the cuff than Lehman's Pi albums. B+(***)

João Lencastre's Communion: One! (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Portuguese drummer, don't have much to go on, but MySpace page lists "Jazz/Drum & Bass/Experimental." His group here is a quintet with Phil Grenadier (trumpet), Bill Carrothers (piano), André Matos (guitar), and Demian Cabaud (bass). For a quintet this is a rather lean and mean group with a very spare sound -- the trumpet is lean with no other horns to harmonize, and Carrothers is an edgy pianist. Matos is also Portuguese, although he lived in Boston for a few years, studying at New England Conservatory. [B+(**)]

Alison Faith Levy & Mushroom: Yesterday, I Saw You Kissing Tiny Flowers (2002-05 [2007], 4Zero): Levy is a San Francisco singer-songwriter, with credits going back to a 1994 EP -- only one I've heard before is a bit part on Mushroom's Glazed Popems. AMG classifies her as Alternative Pop/Rock and Indie Rock. AMG classifies Mushroom as Experimental Rock, Prog-Rock/Art Rock, Kraut Rock, Instrumental Rock, Jazz-Rock, Avant-Prog, Psychedelic, and figures their influences to have been Herbie Hancock, King Crimson, Caravan, Can, and Gong. The group has a dozen or so records, but once more, I've only heard Glazed Popems (although I do have a new one with Eddie Gale in the queue), which is some sort of '60s London tribute. Among the others are titles that suggest they're a real critics band, like Mad Dogs and San Franciscans and Foxy Music. I haven't tried to work out the comings and goings, but aside from Levy, the only constant on the four sessions here is drummer Pat Thomas. Maybe it's the band vibe, but Levy reminds me enough of Grace Slick to make this sound like a postmodern, not to mention postrevolution, Jefferson Airplane -- certainly a more interesting tangent than Paul Kantner's Starship. [B+(**)]

Alison Faith Levy & Mushroom: Yesterday, I Saw You Kissing Tiny Flowers (2002-05 [2007], 4Zero): See what I mean about Mushroom: this seems like a throwback to San Francisco in the late '60s for no better reason than that Levy does a fairly decent Grace Slick impression -- except in presence, since she never really takes control of the album. That gives it a certain anonymous quality. But while the evoke Jefferson Airplane, they do so with more flexibility and wit. And their polymorphuousness continues unabated and unapologetic. Inspirational title: "Kraut Mask Replica." B+(**)

Amy London: When I Look in Your Eyes (2005 [2007], Motéma): Can't glean much from her bio: born somewhere in Ohio, got a BA from Syracuse, been in New York since 1982 (at least), took time from her career for children -- presumably she's recovered from that. Discography shows nine albums: this one, a duo with guitarist Roni Ben-Hur (who plays here), the rest without her name on the cover -- Broadway cast recording City of Angels, movie soundtrack Radioland Murders, something based on Rainer Maria Rilke, Tom Browne's Funkin' for Jamaica, more Ben-Hur. She has a Broadway voice: precise control, projects well, able to exploit a nuance to tell a story. She's also managed to assemble an admirable band, including the late John Hicks on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, Richie Vitale on trumpet, and Chris Byars on sax, as well as Ben-Hur and others -- they don't stand out so much as they fit in. Choice cut: "The Best Is Yet to Come." Evidently she's taught voice for quite a while; she does a whole textbook on that one. B+(**)

Los Angeles Guitar Quartet: LAGQ Brazil (2007, Telarc): Four guitarists: original members John Dearman, William Kanengiser, and Scott Tennant, plus Matthew Greif, who joined in 2006 replacing Andrew York. Group began at USC in 1980 under Pepe Romero, although York didn't join until 1990 and I can't find any discography that goes back further than 1993 (Dances From Renaissance to Nutcracker, although an album called Recital evidently precedes it). An album called Labyrinth featured "Zeppelin to Sousa, Basie to Copland." One called Air & Ground included Afro-Cuban, Macedonian, Native American, Brazilian, and Celtic pieces. So they're used to exotic repetoire, but they aren't specialists. Brazilian music is friendly, perhaps inevitable, guitar ground. This is pleasant and unchallenging. Guests pop in on a couple of songs: Kevin Ricard percussion, Katisse Buckingham flute and soprano sax, Luciana Souza vocals (two songs; she's never been a plus on anything I've heard, and ranks as a minor irritant here). B

Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble: Expectations (2007, Kind of Blue, CD+DVD): Looks like another attempt to hide one of those unpronounceable Polish names. The leader here is bassist Darek Oleszkiewicz, who's also recorded as Darek Oles, and has four albums from 1994 on listed under Los Angeles Jazz Quartet. He was born 1963 in Wroclaw in Poland; moved to Krakow in 1983, and on to Los Angeles in 1988, studying with Charlie Haden, and teaching currently at UC Irvine. The Ensemble is a quintet with vocalist Janis Siegel added on four tracks. Guitarist Larry Koonse is a holdover from the Quartet. Bob Sheppard and Peter Erskine take over sax and drums, respectively, while the added position goes to Alan Pasqua on organ. The songs are a mix of pop and jazz standards -- Tom Harrell's "Sail Away" is the only latecomer. Oleszkiewicz arranged them, and they flow with marvelous ease, with Koonse and Pasqua taking especially attractive turns. I'm not so pleased with the vocals, which might have benefitted from a lighter voice. Haven't watched the DVD, but might. [B+(***)]

Los Angeles Jazz Ensemble: Expectation (2007, Kind of Blue, CD+DVD): A set of pop and jazz standards, given attractive, respectful, easy going treatments. The leader here is Darek Oleskiewicz, who's expanded his Los Angeles Jazz Quartet for the occasion: Bob Sheppard (sax), Alan Pasqua (organ), Larry Koonse (guitar), Peter Erskine (drums), and Janis Siegel (vocals on 4 of 12 pieces). DVD captures a bit more than 30 minutes of studio time, with everyone working in separate rooms. B+(**)

Allen Lowe: Jews in Hell: Radical Jewish Acculturation (2004-06 [2007], Spaceout, 2CD): Actually, the title goes on: Or: All the Blues You Could Play By Now If Stanley Crouch Was Your Uncle; and on: Or: Dance of the Creative Economy: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Space Gallery and Love the Music Business. Lowe wrote in suggesting that if I made this a Dud he could market around that. I doubt that he'll get that particular wish, although the record is a huge mess, a lot of things that fit oddly if at all. Next step is RTFM: Lowe may not be much of a musician -- his alto sax is fine, but he mostly plays guitar here along with banjo, bass, and synth -- and he certainly isn't much of a singer -- but he's a good writer and an exceptional musicologist, and the manual (err, booklet) looks to be as important a part of the package as the discs. All I can really say thus far is that this shatters expectations. [B]

Allen Lowe: Jews in Hell: Radical Jewish Acculturation (2004-06 [2007], Spaceout, 2CD): I've played this half a dozen times, and read the book, and I'm still not clear what Hell is -- maybe it's somewhere in Maine, where Lowe lives? Or maybe the in suburbs of Long Island, where Jews ate pork and embraced postmodernism, putting Lowe on a path where his radical Jewish impulses were acculturated (or is it pickled?) in Americana? (Compare to city boy John Zorn, who kept his Radical Jewish Culture free of American trash, probably because urban life reinforced community while suburban life stripped it bare.) Or maybe the whole thing is much more metaphorical than a pragmatist like myself can imagine. One reason it's hard to tell is that Lowe doesn't seem to be completely honest here. One of the alternate titles he offers is, "Dance of the Creative Economy: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About the Space Gallery and Love the Music Business." The Space Gallery is a music joint in Maine that Lowe can't get a job at, and there's little evidence here that he's stopped fretting, not to mention bristling, at that. As for his love of the music business, he certainly hasn't adjusted to its first principles -- money and glamour. On the other hand, he does have friends on the fringes of the business. He touts their names on the cover -- Marc Ribot, Erin McKeown, Matthew Shipp, Randy Sandke, Lewis Porter -- and he keeps their features in the mix no matter how tenuous their connection to his themes may be. First few times through I was irritated by his unwillingness to edit, condense, throw anything away. Lowe plays assured, fluid alto sax, but features it rarely here, but spends most of the record playing grungy guitar, overdubbing keybs, and singing stuff he has no voice for. (There is some dazzling guitar here, but credit that to Ribot.) In the end I stopped worrying: "Lonesome and Dead" should be ugly, and "Suburban Jews," "Where's Lou Reed?" and "Jews in Hell" are hard to ruin. First disc holds closer to concept ("Tsuris in Mind," "The Old Stetl (Where I Was Bonr)," "Oi Death"). Second is more scattered and scrapbooky. B+(**)

Raymond MacDonald/Günter "Baby" Sommer: Delphinius & Lyra (2005 [2007], Clean Feed): MacDonald is a alto/soprano saxophonist from Scotland. Has a group called the Burt-MacDonald Quintet ("one of the most adventurous jazz groups in Scotland"; Burt is guitarist George), and plays in the Glasgow Improvisers Orchestra, a/k/a GIO. MacDonald is pretty obscure, but Sommer has been one of the main drummers of Europe's avant-garde over the last three decades, despite spending much of that time in the GDR. His own discography is thin, but includes a number of notable duos, especially with Cecil Taylor and Irène Schweizer. He brings a lot to this duo, even when the main thing you hear is MacDonald's piercing squall. One section erupts in shouts. These guys are having a blast. [B+(***)]

Robert MacGregor: Refraction of Light (2006 [2007], Black Tri): Young (b. 1983) tenor saxophonist, from Los Angeles, part Chinese, studied at Manhattan School of Music under Steve Slagle and Dick Oatts. In a quartet here with folks I don't know, with trumpet and flute added for one song. I didn't expect much, but he's got a distinct sound, and maneuvers easily around tricky postbop. Pianist Miro Sprague holds his own as well. [B+(**)] [Aug. 1]

Tony Malaby: Tamarindo (2007, Clean Feed): A trio, with Malaby playing tenor and soprano sax, William Parker on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums. Malaby owns all the song credits, but it has a loose improv feel. Parker gets quite a bit of space, and his arco work is spectacular. But the album doesn't quite click for me: maybe too much soprano, or maybe there's a mismatch between Parker and Waits -- the latter is best known for his work with Jason Moran and Fred Hersch. Malaby is remarkably adaptable at playing with both types, but not quite forceful enough to lead them. B+(**)

Rafi Malkiel: My Island (2006 [2007], Raftone): Latin jazz, with all the bells and maracas, the songs conscientiously broken down by style (bolero, guajira, bomba, danzon-cha, etc.) and country (Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia, Brazil, with New Orleans listed for Duke Ellington's "Black and Tan Fantasy." Malkiel is originally from Israel, now based on New York. He plays trombone and euphonium, composed the majority of the pieces, arranged the rest. I suppose I'll get flack for favoring this over the natives, but I love the light touch and imaginative arrangements -- even the old-fashioned vocals -- and I do enjoy good trombone. [A-]

Rafi Malkiel: My Island (2007, Raftone): Latin jazz, with all the bells and maracas and a few old fashioned vocals, the songs broken down by style and country, ranging from Brazil to New Orleans, with Cuba predominant. The leader is an Israeli trombonist, and occasionally a klezmer vibe slips in. His island is Manhattan. A-

Harry Manx & Kevin Breitt: In Good We Trust (2007, Stony Plain): Two guitarists, with occasional variants -- banjo, mandolin, mandola, bazouki, slide mandocello, lap slide guitar, national steel guitar, etc. Manx reportedly "fuses south Asian music with the blues" -- I can't really attest to either, nor can I see much reason to file this as folk or country or jazz but at least it's better than new age. Manx also sings, starting with Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," taken at a past that doesn't risk combustion. B+(*)

Roger Mas 5tet: Mason (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent): Spanish (or, more precisely, Catallan) pianist, although his favored instrument here is Fender Rhodes. Quintet includes tenor/soprano saxophonist Jon Robles, guitarist Jaume Llombart, no trumpet, but the group is augmented with "special guest" Enrique Oliver on tenor sax. Two covers, one from John Coltrane, the other from Antonio Carlos Jobim. The record has a slick postbop feel, the saxophones omnipresent, the guitarist taking more solos than the leader. B+(*)

Bennie Maupin: The Jewel and the Lotus (1974 [2007], ECM): Plays "reeds" which sounds like a sneaky way to slip the flute in, although soprano sax and bass clarinet are also featured in his toolkit; best known for headhunting fusion with Herbie Hancock, who returns the favor here, but this is an early exercise in ECM pastorale, what New Age would be if brains or guts were required. B

Bill McHenry: Roses (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Tenor saxophonist, born 1972, originally from Maine, moved to Barcelona in 1996, returning to New York. Has 6-8 albums as leader -- the range depends on how you count albums with pianists Ethan Iverson and Ben Waltzer listed first -- mostly on Fresh Sound. Sort of fits in the Chris Potter-Donny McCaslin line, but rougher than either, which comes in handy in this quartet -- I'm surprised to hear guitarist Ben Monder come out so aggressively, but Reid Anderson on bass and Paul Motian make for a curiously unstable rhythm section. [B+(**)]

Bill McHenry: Roses (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Tenor sax quartet with guitar, bass, drums. I'm tempted to say that Ben Monder and maybe Reid Anderson want to rock, but Paul Motian won't give them a steady rhythm. McHenry stradles this tension, often inventively, but he's not as slick or as self-assured as a Chris Potter or Donny McCaslin, which if anything helps to open up the interplay. B+(**)

John McLean: Better Angels (2004 [2007], Origin): Guitarist, based in Chicago, with Berklee and University of Miami in his background, a 25-year career, three records under his own name, a couple dozen more working with others. Like many people who record infrequently, this record has a kitchen sink quality. Pop songs with vocals, original pieces with little song structure, covers that are interesting in their own right but which scarcely fit or flow, a septet that obscures the leader more often than not. That lets McLean's guitar appear multi-faceted, but also leaves you wondering why not develop it one way or another -- like the electric squawk on "Airmail Special," or completely different, the quiet, organ-backed "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)." Grazyna Auguscik's two song vocals -- Janis Ian's "Ready for the War" and you-know-who's "Blackbird" -- are OK, but her vocal texturing elsewhere is unappealing, unnecessary whitewash. B

Trio M [Myra Melford/Mark Dresser/Matt Wilson]: Big Picture (2006 [2007], Cryptogramophone): Another slipcover deal which took a lot of shuffling and scanning to dig up, although here at least it's still in advance of the release date. Melford's combos all have names, and this one isn't hard to decipher. Three songs for Melford; two each for Dresser and Wilson. Without paying close attention, I'd guess that the complex ones are Melford's, the bouncy ones are Wilson's, and the weird arco stuff is Dresser's. No need to sort it all out now. Very interesting stuff. [B+(***)] [advance: Oct. 23]

Trio M [Myra Melford/Mark Dresser/Matt Wilson]: Big Picture (2006 [2007], Cryptogramophone): Taking a clue from first names, they call themselves Trio M, but are established enough to keep their names on the spine. I figure the complex cerebral stuff is pianist Melford's and credit the bouncy bits to drummer Wilson. There's no doubt that the weird arco bass is Dresser's. He has a huge reputation, but rarely makes albums you can kick back and enjoy. This is the exception. A-

Memphis Slim: Boogie Woogie (1971 [2007], Sunnyside): I'm no aficionado of boogie woogie records, and I've never been much impressed by the former Peter Chatman, but this late arrival covers all the ground worth covering, and makes up in grace what it sacrifices in speed. No vocals (that I recall). Just lots of piano, accompanied by drummer Michel Denis, who I scarcely noticed but must have made a difference. A-

Memphis Slim & Roosevelt Sykes: Double-Barreled Boogie (1970 [2007], Sunnyside): Two old blues pianists, shooting the shit between singing and playing old blues songs, some with stories. Neither are noteworthy singers, but both can boogie, and the history is good for something. B+(*)

Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble: Black Unstoppable (2007, Delmark): Young flutist, based in Chicago, has mostly avant-garde connections, but has all the marks of stardom, at least at the sort of level Regina Carter enjoys. Won Downbeat's Rising Star category three straight years -- admittedly not a lot of competition, but it hasn't been close either -- and likely to bump James Moody from the top spot in a year or two. Not just involved in AACM, she's co-president. I've noticed her on various projects, including a live trio that made my HM list, but missed her main vehicle, the boisterous Black Earth Ensemble, which has three previous albums. She wrote and arranged everything on the new one. I find it maddening, with stretches of marvelous music -- e.g., Jeff Parker's guitar, a funk vamp topped by David Boykin's honking -- and bits I can't stand, starting with the gospel vocals. Played it twice, and haven't tried to diagram the ups and downs, which I suppose I should if I decide to make this my featured dud. Flute's not an instrument I much care for, but it's not the problem here. No jazz flutist has done more since Robert Dick came on the scene. (Also available on DVD, which I have but haven't watched.) B-

MI3: Free Advice (2004 [2007], Clean Feed): Boston group, consisting of pianist Pandelis Karayorgis and two-thirds of Ken Vandermark's Boston trio, bassist Nate McBride and drummer Curt Newton. Karayorgis' website lists 18 records going back to 1989, and I'm way behind the learning curve on them. MI3 was formed to play in Boston's Abbey Lounge, a bar usually featuring rock bands. On their previous album (We Will Make a Home for You) Karayorgis played Fender Rhodes and featured pieces by Monk and Dolphy, while McBride recycled his Spaceways Inc. funk grooves. This is more conventionally an avant-garde piano trio, with acoustic piano and bass, more originals, but also pieces from Sun Ra and Ellington -- the latter filtered through Steve Lacy. The result is one of the more satisfying piano trios I've heard lately, a mix of strong rhythms and surprising offsets. A-

Postscript: Played this a bunch more times, and it's turning into one of my favorite piano trio records of recent history. The rhythm holds together, especially when McBride borrows a riff from Ellington or Sun Ra, but even on his own he keeps developing into a subtle as well as grooveful bassist. At times I think Karayorgis is calm and logical, and at times I find him pushing limits, flying off on dazzling tangents. Actually, he often manages to do both at the same time. A

Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana: Miren (A Longing) (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Indian percussionist, based in New York. Did a previous Trio Tarana album I liked a lot, called Climbing the Banyan Tree (Clean Feed), with Jason Kao Hwang and Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz. The group has changed this time, with Sam Bardfeld replacing Hwang on violin, Brandon Terzic replacing Blumenkranz on oud. Neither strikes me as an improvement -- the Chinese twang of Hwang's violin is particularly missed -- but the riddim rolls on just fine. [B+(***)]

Ravish Momin's Trio Tarana: Miren (A Longing) (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): There's a disquieting moment here where violinist Sam Bardfeld breaks into some sort of Scottish march, reminding me that not all world musics are equally worthy of fusion. Changing oud players from Shanir Ezra Blumenkranz to Brandon Terzic may not have had much effect, although they did lose the bass option in the deal. But Bardfeld isn't nearly as interesting, at least in this context, as Jason Kao Hwang, who brought a rich but little known Chinese classical expertise into the mix. Still, the basic idea remains, which is Momin's Indian percussion in a non-Western string context, and much of this is as mesmerizing as its predecessor. B+(***)

Jane Monheit: Surrender (2007, Concord): Didn't bother asking for this, so I can't complain that they only sent me an advance with no credits or hype sheet. Three songs credit guests: two in Portuguese cite Ivan Lins and Toots Thielemans; the third, "So Many Stars," was done with Sergio Mendes. She's 30 this month, with six albums going back to 2000. This one debuted at #1 on Billboard's Jazz Chart, not that that gives her any jazz cred. She has a striking soprano voice, capable of precisely detailed innuendo. The music, on the other hand, is swathed if not drowned in strings; given how stiff the Yankee stuff is, the tinkly Brazilian percussion is almost daring. Best song is the Jobim without the guests, "Só Tinha De Ser Com Você." Runner up is "Moon River," which is buried in goop and doesn't mind. B- [advance]

Térez Montcalm: Voodoo (2005 [2006], Marquis): One thing rock and roll did was make life tough for interpretive singers. Before, songwriters spread their wares like spores, and natural selection favored singers with voice, nuance, and payola. After, most singers hawked their own songs, and those that didn't have them seemed somehow deficient, regardless of vocal skills. It got so bad that good singers wound up stuck in jazz. I bring this up because even though Montcalm wrote three songs here and picked a couple that qualify as pre-rock (although not by much), what grabs me here are her striking reworkings of rock-era pop, especially Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child." Don't know much about her. Hails from Canada. Only address I've seen was Alberta, but she wrote one song in French. Don't know her age, but it says something that she introduces "How Sweet It Is" by talking about how she discovered James Taylor. Plays guitar. Has a voice that beats you into submission, not unlike Annette Peacock. Maybe there's a future for rock-era standards after all. [B+(***)]

Térez Montcalm: Voodoo (2005 [2006], Marquis): She has a voice that's one half whisper, kind of like her fellow Canadian Leonard Cohen back when he was young, although she's more adept at singing with it. Wrote three songs, but they're much less striking than her covers: especially "Love," "Sweet Dreams," "I Want to Be Around," "Voodoo Child," but others make you wonder about her judgment -- she may be young enough to have learned "How Sweet It Is" from James Taylor but that doesn't make it right. Plays guitar, which gives this all a rockish cast, but puts her ahead of the game for interpretive jazz singers. B+(**)

Lee Morgan: Indeed! (1956 [2007], Blue Note): The 18-year-old trumpet whiz's first studio experience, cut one day before the Hank Mobley session that Savoy rushed into print as Introducing Lee Morgan, this is as interesting for the presence of rarely-recorded Clarence Sharpe on alto sax and the way Horace Silver's piano jumps out at you; Morgan still had a ways to go, but the excitement around him was already palpable. B+(***)

Lee Morgan: Volume 2: Sextet (1956 [2007], Blue Note): Less than a month after Indeed!, Morgan is sounding even more confident in a larger, more daunting group featuring Hank Mobley on tenor sax and little known Kenny Rodgers on alto sax, with Horace Silver again providing his inexorable bounce. B+(***)

Lee Morgan: Volume 3 (1957 [2007], Blue Note): Still 18, at the helm of a subtler, more sophisticated sextet, and even more clearly the star, despite the estimable talent around him -- saxophonists Benny Golson and Gigi Gryce, pianist Wynton Kelly, bassist Paul Chambers, drummer Charlie Persip. Golson wrote the whole program, spreading out the complexity, while Kelly holds it all together. B+(**)

Lee Morgan: Candy (1957 [2007], Blue Note): Still in his teens, but at last out front alone, leading a quartet with the redoubtable Sonny Clark on piano, running through a mix of standards, including a couple he reclaims from the pop/r&b charts -- "Candy" and "Personality"; he's bursting with energy and ideas, still finding himself, but completely in control. A-

Mörglbl: Grötesk (1999-2006 [2007], The Laser's Edge): French fusion group, a trio consisting of Christophe Godin (guitar), Ivan Rougny (bass), Jean Pierre Frelezeau (drums). Third album, including one released in 1997 as Ze Mörglbl Trio. No idea what the name and/or title mean, but it reminds me of a French rock group from the 1970s named Magma that invented their own language to sing in. All three are credited with vocals, but they've managed to keep them discreet enough I didn't notice. One song from 1999; the rest from two sessions in 2006. Fairly innocuous fusion, dependable beat, one slow one has a sweet tone and feel. There's probably a whole minor genre/cult for what they do, especially in Europe, where instrumental rock was a common response to the English language problem (damned if you do, especially if you wind up sounding like Abba; damned if you don't). Filed them under Pop Jazz, where they kick ass. B+(*)

Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Shamokin!!! (2006 [2007], Hot Cup): Quartet led by bassist Moppa Elliott, originally from Scranton PA, now in New York. Elliott wrote all of the pieces except "A Night in Tunisia," the closer they hack up into extended solos -- blurb calls it a "twenty-one minute jazz orgy [including] references to the majority of recorded sound of the last century." Most of the noise comes from the two horns: Peter Evans on trumpet, Jon Irabagon on alto sax. This strikes me as "free bop" -- more tethered to the jazz tradition than similarly configured avant groups, but unruly, eager to break loose, clash, get down and dirty. Might have cracked my Top Ten list had I gotten to it earlier. A-

Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], Winter & Winter): The trio consists of Motian, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Chris Potter on tenor sax; the "plus two" are Masabumi Kikuchi on piano and Greg Osby on alto sax. Played this twice, think it's marginal, and want to move on, but will give it another chance later. Motian is habitually slippery, and that's rubbed off on his usually more straightforward bandmates, especially Potter. [B+(*)]

Paul Motian Trio 2000 + Two: Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1 (2006 [2007], Winter & Winter): The Trio has Chris Potter on tenor sax and Larry Grenadier on bass. The "+ Two" are Greg Osby on alto sax and Masabumi Kikuchi on piano. Smells like a quintet to me, but there is probably some arcane logic in the division -- e.g., Motian, who made his reputation backing pianists, for a long time avoided pianists in his own groups, but this isn't the first time Kikuchi has appeared as an add on. Motian is a slippery drummer, and he often throws the saxes off their stride. They deserve credit for keeping their composure and making something of the tricky terrain. B+(**)

Mr. Groove: Little Things (2007, DiamondDisc): Contemporary jazz group: their words, I've never been sure what they mean by that, and find the practical distinctions between Billboard's Jazz and Contemporary Jazz charts to be impossible to discern, probably just a branding issue. Formed sometime in the 1990s by brothers Tim Smith (electric bass) and Roddy Smith (guitars), currently at six with two keybs (Mark Stallings and Steve Willets), sax (Tim Gordon), and drums (Donnie Marshall). Also numerous guests, including original drummer Tony Creasman on the majority of tracks. Four vocal tracks: one by Willets, the other three by guests (Tim Cashion, Daryl Johnson, Ron Kimball). Record ends with two "radio edits" of vocal pieces. Band has also worked with Bonnie Bramlett and the late Boots Randolph. They groove agreeably, and have fun with "Papa Was a Rolling Stone," but the guests and programming suggests that even under their own name the can't help being a backup band. B-

Dave Mullen and Butta: Mahoney's Way (2006, Roberts Music Group): You must know by now that I hate Flash websites, but Mullen's is annoying enough to spur me into reiterating the obvious. Mullen is a saxophonist. Don't know where he comes from or when, but he's spent time in Boston and New York, and he's one of the hundreds or maybe thousands who have studied with George Garzone. Claims he was inspired by his father's record collection, accumulated as a DJ in the '50s/'60s, with honking sax the standout trait. He means to update that, with synth beats, guitar (including Nile Rodgers on one track, Marc Ribot on three), raps, and a chorus of True Worship Ministries Singers (three tracks). I'm not sure that any of that works, but I got up in a real foul mood this morning, heard most of it under that haze, and need to move on. Two cuts where he kicks back and plays sax ballads are quite nice. Don't know about the one called "For Rashaan" -- there's a picture of Mullen playing soprano and tenor at the same time so most likely he is thinking of Kirk, but is the typo deliberate or just sloppy? AMG likens him to Kirk Whallum, but I suspect he has a more determined vision -- could even be an American Courtney Pine, a concept I'll have to put off thinking about. [B] [Oct. 1]

Sunny Murray (1966 [2007], ESP-Disk): The problem with adding interview segments to CDs is that no matter how interesting the interview may be to hear once, its long-term value diminishes faster than the music. Even if you figure out how to program the buttons, the interviews wind up being annoying make-work. On the other hand, do you suppose the folks at ESP-Disk figured you'd only want to play the music once, too? This is Murray's eponymous first album, cut with a loud quintet with Alan Silva on bass and relative unknowns -- Jacques Coursil's trumpet is the only real point of interest, when he's able to break loose from the two alto saxes (Jack Graham and Byard Lancaster). Murray mostly sticks to his martial beats, rapid machine gun bursts where he's neither playing with the band nor they with him. It's not without interest, but you have to scratch and dig for it. The interviews are much easier: 23 minutes up front of name-checking "Early History"; some short bits in the middle, one a "Recap Session" by someone else; and a closing segment on magic and musicians getting screwed by record companies. Seems like I've heard that one before. One point of interest is that Murray describes his own music as avant-garde -- a phrase that most musicians seems to be at pains to avoid. B

Mushroom With Eddie Gale: Joint Happening (2007, Hyena): No recording date info -- lack of documentation is Joel Dorn's characteristic contribution to the dark ages -- but at least we have personnel information, which helps sort out who is in Mushroom. Pat Thomas (drums), Ned Doherty (bass), and Matt Cunitz (keyboards) are on all cuts, with Thomas production supervisor and Cunitz cited for production assistance. Four cuts add Tim Plowman (guitar) and David Brandt (vibes, percussion). The other three use Erik Pearson (guitar, flute, sax) and Dave Mihaly (marimba, percussion), to similar effect. Gale is guest and headliner. He produced two terrific avant-funk albums for Blue Note in the late '60s, then largely disappeared until Water Records reissued them in 2003, followed by a nice new groovefest, Afro-Fire, on subsidiary label Black Beauty. Both labels were handled by Runt Distribution, whose publicist at the time was Pat Thomas, q.v. Together, the obvious reference point becomes Miles Davis, although the groove's spacier, and the trumpet brighter and more loquacious. [B+(***)]

Mushroom With Eddie Gale: Joint Happening (2007, Hyena): It's probably misleading to start with Gale, given that any lead trumpet in a fusion context is going to evoke Miles Davis. The rhythm is different, less funk, more spaciness. My impression is that Mushroom doesn't have a single aesthetic; rather, they draw from multiple sources, definitely including Anglo prog-rock à la Gong. AMG also suggests kraut rock, but that's harder to detect; in honor of Gale most likely they did bone up on Miles Davis. It's hard to say whether the spaciness is a good idea. Other '70s fusion bands did go in that direction, usually far less successfully than here. B+(**)

Zaid Nasser: Escape From New York (2007, Smalls): Alto saxophonist, on his first album, but evidently he's played around Smalls for quite a while. Father is bassist Jamil Nasser (né George Joyner), who played with BB King and numerous beboppers from the 1950s forward. The father provides the context for Zaid working with such old timers as Bill Doggett and Panama Francis, although I have to wonder about: "As a young saxophonist, he often spent his days with Papa Jo Jones, getting lessons in jazz and life from Father Time himself." Very young, I figure -- Jones died in 1985, when Nasser was unlikely to be more than 17. In any case, Nasser's references are bebop, which he plays with a freshness and eloquence that was rare in its heyday. The quartet, with Sacha Perry on piano, Ari Roland on bass, and Phil Stewart on drums, is more conventional, setting a pace that keeps things interesting. [B+(***)] [advance]

Nanette Natal: I Must Be Dreaming (2005-07 [2007], Benyo Music): Jazz singer, with a dark, smoky voice, and deft feel for the beat. Bio says her career started in 1962 singing classical, then moved through blues and rock -- AMG gives two stars to a 1971 recording on Evolution called The Beginning -- before settling into the jazz lofts. Launched her own label in 1980, releasing an album every few years since -- I've counted 8, with 6 in print, but have only heard 2004's It's Only a Tune. This one has politics, and could use a lyric sheet -- "here living's hard if it doesn't come easy" and "the jails are filled to capacity/in the land of the brave and the free" are two lines I jotted down. Next time around I'll probably find more. [B+(***)]

Josh Nelson: Let It Go (2007, Native Language): Young (28?) pianist, born in Long Beach, attended Berklee, now based in Los Angeles. Cites Bill Cunliffe and Alan Pasqua as mentors. Looks like his second album, after Anticipation (2004). Seems to me that the label specializes in pop-jazz -- I don't normally get their records -- but this is thoughtful, smartly composed and arranged postbop. (Nelson's lists Rhodes and Hammond C3 among his credits, but acoustic piano dominates.) Much of the credit goes to a first-rate band: Seamus Blake on tenor sax, Anthony Wilson on guitar, Derek Oleskiewicz on bass, Matt Wilson on drums. Two cuts add a string quartet -- one also pitching singer Sara Gazarek. She's unnecessary here, but not unfortunate. (Evidently Nelson also runs a promo company, and she's a client, as well as a label-mate.) [B+(***)]

Steve Nelson: Sound Effect (2007, High Note): Vibraphonist, from Pittsburgh, only has a half-dozen albums since 1987, but has a huge list of side credits -- AMG's count is 134 albums, including compilations I wouldn't normally count, but for the list stops in 2003, surely a glitch; it's safe to say he pops up on 6-8 albums per year, sometimes more. That means he doesn't write much -- three tracks here. But this quartet is a marvelous way to frame his work. Vibes often mesh well with piano, and pianist Mulgrew Miller gives Nelson a lot to bounce off of. The bass-drums combo: Peter Washington and Lewis Nash. [B+(***)]

Steve Nelson: Sound Effect (2007, High Note): The sort of album that sounds like you expect jazz to sound like, almost stereotypically so -- the fuzzy flutter of bebop, stretched out into healthy doses of group interplay and improv. Five covers, including a Jobim. Three originals from the leader, a well-established vibraphonist who doesn't write or lead much. The vibes are fleshed out by voluble pianist Mulgrew Miller, and the bass-drums combo is the always superb Peter Washington and Lewis Nash. B+(**)

Alípio C. Neto Quartet: The Perfume Comes Before the Flower (2006 [2007], Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, from Pernambuco in northeast Brazil, studied in Portugal. Not sure where he's based now, but this was recorded in Brooklyn. Pianoless, Herb Robertson's trumpet is the other slash and burn horn, Ken Filiano plays bass, and Michael T.A. Thompson does his soundrhythium percussionist thing. Three (of five) numbers also pick up Ben Stapp on tuba, which adds a bubbly bounce to the otherwise free rhythm. B+(*)

The New Percussion Group of Amsterdam: Go Between (1986 [2007], Summerfold): A/k/a Nieuwe Slagwerkgroep Amsterdam, founded in 1980 by Jan Pustjens and Niels Le Large. The roster varies somewhat among the four pieces, including: Johan Faber, Toon Oomen, Peter Prommel, Herman Rieken, Steef Van Oosterhout, and Ruud Wiener. English prog/fusion drummer Bill Bruford and Japanese marimba player Keiko Abe also appear on the cover and on one piece each. The album originally appeared on EG Records in 1987, and is now reissued on Bruford's label. It reminds me a bit of the percussion ensembles Max Roach and Art Blakey tried to put together c. 1960, but it's much more worldwise, especially cognizant of Japanese percussion. The emphasis on marimba and related instruments is also appealing. B+(***)

New York Voices: A Day Like This (2007, MCG Jazz): Vocal group, obviously. They formed in 1987 with original members Darmon Meader, Peter Eldridge, and Kim Nazarian still together, and Lauren Kinhan since 1992. Meader also plays tenor sax, and Eldridge piano. This is their tenth album, including featured appearances with the Basie Orchestra, Paquito D'Rivera, and something involving chants. It is the first I've heard, and hopefully the last. Dynamically they borrow from vocalese, but they lay it on much thicker, with nothing that suggests humor. C-

Normal Love: 2007 (2007, High Two): Inscrutable record, not much helped by the lack of information -- I'm not even sure I'm parsing the title correctly. Group consists of violin (Carlos Santiago Jr.), two guitars (Alex Nagle and Amnon D. Freidlin), bass (Evan Lipson), and drums (Eli Litwin). No vocals. Rough sound, sort of a postpunk fusion that might turn interesting but never quite coheres. B

Vince Norman/Joe McCarthy Big Band: Words Cannot Express (2005-06 [2007], OA2): These guys, recording in Springfield VA, I don't recognize at all. The big band plays on seven cuts, including a 3-part suite. The other three cuts are done by a sextet, with Norman moving from piano to reeds and Harry Appleman taking over at piano. McCarthy plays drums on both. He's based in DC, teaching at Georgetown. Has two more records listed under Afro Bop Alliance. Norman wrote everything here except the Tadd Dameron opener. His father played sax with Claude Thornhill, Charlie Barnett, and Bob Wills in the late 1940s/early 1950s. He was schooled in Oklahoma, currently works on the "arranging staff for the U.S. Army Field Band," "as well as playing drums at church each week." This has all the basic virtues of modern big band recordings -- the warm bath of overtones, the feeling of completeness, that everything is taken care of, nice and secure. Doesn't have much beyond that, to make it stand out in a niche that has been overdone, that requires a lot of skill but doesn't offer much inspiration. B

Arturo O'Farrill: Wonderful Discovery (2007, MEII): The spine actually credits this to Eugene Marlow, who is listed as producer, composer (with a couple of exceptions, like "Summertime"), arranger, but isn't listed as a performer. He also seems to be the controlling interest in the label, which has released three other albums of his music. Front cover expands to: "Virtuoso Pianist Arturo O'Farrill & Friends Play the Music of Eugene Marlow." The Friends, including four percussionists, give Marlow's music the Latin treatment, which is pretty exhilarating early on, most of all when Luis Bonilla's trombone bowls its way to the fore, but runs down toward the end, especially once the flutes take over. As for the virtuoso, I find his networking more impressive than his piano. But this is a big improvement over the two previous albums I've heard. B+(*)

Mark O'Leary: On the Shore (2003 [2007], Clean Feed): Irish guitarist, based in New York. Has a half-dozen albums since 2000 on Leo, mostly well regarded, some with interesting names (Tomasz Stanko, Matthew Shipp, Mat Maneri, Uri Caine, Cuong Vu, Tom Rainey), none that I've heard. This one looks to have been on the shelf for a while. It was recorded in California with percussionist Alex Cline and a couple of trumpets. Hard to get a handle on it: mostly atmospheric, but not so consistently so that you can be sure of his intent. One note says this was influenced by Arvo Part, but also by Edward Vesala. Don't know what to make of that either. [B+(*)]

Alan Pasqua: The Antisocial Club (2007, Cryptogramophone): Pianist, b. 1954 in New Jersey, studied with Jaki Byard and George Russell (one song here is titled "George Russell"). Has nine albums since 1993, which seem to be rather scattered stylistically, with one foot in postbop and the other in fusion -- played in Tony Williams' Lifetime early on and has had a long relationship with Weather Report drummer Peter Erskine. This one is squarely in the fusion camp, tied most closely to early-1970s Miles Davis. Pasqua mostly plays electronic keyboards. The lineup closely follows the Davis groups, with Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Jeff Ellwood on sax, Nels Cline on guitar, Jimmy Haslip on bass, Scott Amendola on drums, and Alex Acuña on percussion. A lot of déjà voodoo. B+(*)

Ben Paterson Trio: Breathing Space (2007, OA2): Chicago pianist. Website bio provides no useful info, unless you're impressed that he recently played two months in a Taipei jazz club. Presumably his first album. Trio includes Jake Vinsel on bass, Jon Deitemyer on drums, both also unknown to me. Straight mainstream player. Wrote two of nine pieces, the others mostly bop era, none too obvious. Good touch, good taste, pleasing, respectable. B+(**)

Sacha Perry: Not Brand X (2006 [2007], Smalls): Pianist. Don't have any bio, but he's obviously based in New York, regularly featured on Smalls albums. This is his second trio album with Ari Roland on bass and Phil Stewart on drums. Underground bop, or postbop, or something like that: thoughtful, well organized, pleasant, not all that memorable. B+(*) [advance]

Houston Person: Thinking of You (2007, High Note): Eddie Allen plays trumpet on four cuts. Unlike Alexander-Rotondi, he plays clean and distinctly, even though he has little to add. Person is aging beautifully -- the more he slows down, the better he sounds. [B+(***)]

Houston Person: Thinking of You (2007, High Note): Lovely, as usual. He gets a little more help this time than usual, with James Chirillo's guitar on ten of eleven tracks and Eddie Allen's trumpet on four. He certainly doesn't need the extra horn, although it does little damage. B+(**)

Leslie Pintchik: Quartets (2007, Ambient): Pianist, based in New York, bios don't provide any early dirt until she put aside her English lit studies to form a piano trio in 1992 -- bassist Scott Hardy is still with her. This is her second album, following a good piano trio from 2004 called Glad to Be Here. This one has Mark Dodge on drums, with the trio augmented by Satoshi Takeishi on percussion (five tracks) or Steve Wilson on alto/soprano sax (four tracks). Takeishi had been the drummer on the first album. He fits in tightly here. In fact, I find myself preferring his tracks to Wilson's, at least on soprano, even though he does his usual fine job. B+(**)

The Pizzarelli Boys: Sunday at Pete's (2007, Challenge): The senior figure here is listed as John "Bucky" Pizzarelli. Somehow I never noticed before that père et fils were Sr. and Jr. The father was always just Bucky, which seems like a natural nickname for a natural rhythm guitarist. John, on the other hand, could be a matinee idol. I never heard the well-regarded guitar duos they did in the early 1980s, before John started his singing career, but lately they've returned to the format -- cf. Generations (Arbors). The marquee is different here to accommodate a third Pizzarelli, bassist Martin, plus drummer Tony Tedesco, but the sound and feel are the same: old songs, tight leads accented by rhythm chords and a bit more. B+(*)

Michel Portal: Birdwatcher (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): French, born 1935, has an extensive discography, mostly plays bass clarinet here, with one song each on clarinet, alto sax, and soprano sax. He has experimented with world rhythms in the past, and they reappear here mostly in Airto Moreira's percussion (7 of 11 tracks). Other musicians shuffle in and out, with tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby making predictably large waves. I'm somewhat at a loss here: some of this sounds terrific, but there's so much going on I can't get a handle on it. Will hold it back. [B+(**)]

Michel Portal: Birdwatcher (2006 [2007], Sunnyside): Parts of this record sound terrific but it doesn't quite add up or hang together. Portal mostly plays bass clarinet, with one song each on clarinet and alto sax. He mostly adds subtle coloring and comping, but every now and then his stunt double, Tony Malaby, takes over and sets the house on fire. The rhythm section works in shifts, with Happy Apple bass guitarist Eric Fratzke trading with acoustic François Moutin while other cuts team Jef Lee Johnson and Sonny Thompson on electric guitar and bass. Portal has a longstanding fascination with African rhythms, which are sometimes approximated by Airto Moreira. B+(**)

Chris Potter Underground: Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (2007, Sunnyside): Easily the top regarded tenor saxophonist of his generation -- Sonny Rollins and Joe Lovano still get more votes in polls, but that's it. I resisted for a long time, but his Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard won me over with its quartet simplicity and high energy. The lineup was typical sax-piano-bass-drums, with peers Kevin Hays, Scott Colley, and Bill Stewart. In 2005 Potter recorded Underground with a funkier quartet: Craig Taborn on Fender Rhodes, Wayne Krantz on guitar, Nate Smith on drums, with no bass. The new Village Vanguard record takes that group with Adam Rogers instead of Krantz into the spotlight and turns up the heat. The highlight is called "Pop Tune #1" as if jump, jive and wail were just an exercise, but all save one of the cuts are like that, at least once they warm up. The slow change of pace is nice too, and he left the soprano in the hotel. This may just go to show that his postbop stuff critics and fans adore is too fancy for me. [B+(***)]

Chris Potter Underground: Follow the Red Line: Live at the Village Vanguard (2007, Sunnyside): Adam Rogers' guitar snaking over Craig Taborn's blippy Fender Rhodes and Nate Smith's drums makes for a fresh update on the old organ trio -- especially when the pace slows, Taborn looks to be as far ahead of the field as Jimmy Smith was in 1958. Potter can play soul jazz, but he's most impressive when he kicks out the jams, raising r&b honking to a higher plane, or maybe bringing Pharoah Sanders down to the grease. A-

Bud Powell: Live at the Blue Note Café, Paris 1961 (1961 [2007], ESP-Disk): Powell's standard Paris trio with Pierre Michelot on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums, plus a visiting Zoot Sims on tenor sax on some of the cuts. Mostly Powell's standard bebop fare, with a couple of cuts each from Gillespie and Monk, but "There Will Never Be Another You" and "Lover Man" are done especially well. I've never really understood the tendency to dismiss Powell's later work. He may have been inconsistent in person, but the few dates that do crop up on record are often superb, even when they break little new ground. B+(**)

Putumayo Presents: New Orleans Brass (1989-2006 [2007], Putumayo World Music): Jazz may have originated in the Crescent City, but by 1930 virtually every great jazz musician who grew up there had moved on to Chicago, New York, California -- hell, Sidney Bechet went all the way to Paris; 70 years later you can hear the same songs the town couldn't support back when it had musicians who could play them and make them sound fresh. B

Quartet San Francisco: Whirled Chamber Music (2007, Violin Jazz): Classical string quartet format, with two violins, viola, cello, no bass. Group formed in 2001. Now has three albums. This one is long on Raymond Scott, but not quite a tribute (7 of 18 pieces), with no other source used more than once -- not even group member Jeremy Cohen, who penned the sole original. They do manage more of a jazz than a classical sound, and the good humor in the Scott pieces helps, but the choice cut is "The Mooche." B+(*)

Ike Quebec: Bossa Nova Soul Samba (1962 [2007], Blue Note): Or something sorta like that, although Soul is the only part of that title Quebec's all that conversant with; the rhythm team leans Hispanic rather than Brazilian, and may have meant the lazy riddims as satire, but the tenor saxophonist took them as an excuse for a shmoozy ballads album, which is his forté. B+(**)

Dewey Redman Quartet: The Struggle Continues (1982 [2007], ECM): With Ed Blackwell on drums, Joshua's esteemed father can work Ornette Coleman territory at will; with Charles Eubanks on piano, he can take a break, and occasionally wax lyrical on his tenor sax; with Mark Helias on bass neither impulse strays far from the edge. B+(*)

Júlio Resende: Da Alma (2007, Clean Feed): Portuguese pianist, don't know much about him other than that he studied in France. Leads a quartet here with either Alexandra Grimal or Zé Pedro Coehlo on tenor sax, João Custódio on bass, and either João Lobo or João Rijo on drums. I'm not familiar with any of these names, and have very little to go on, other than the music, which is attractive postbop with a free edge. Label website claims: "The future of jazz in Portugal will come from here." I'm not convinced they're wrong. [B+(**)]

Kim Richmond Ensemble: Live at Café Metropol (2006-07 [2007], Origin): Alto/soprano saxophonist, based in Los Angeles, with eight albums since 1988, three in a group co-led by Clay Jenkins, plus several dozen side appearances, especially with Bob Florence's big band. This group is a sextet, with three horns (John Daversa trumpet, Joey Sellers trombone), piano, bass, and drums. The horns mesh very cleanly, and Daversa is consistently impressive with his leads. One thing this shows is that it's possible to do sophisticated postbop without falling into the traps that seem to snag especially those just out of college. So in many ways this is masterful -- although not quite enough to shatter my resistance. B+(**)

Claire Ritter: Waltzing the Splendor (2006 [2007], Zoning): Pianist, long-based in Boston, but currently teaching in Charlotte NC. Has 8 or 9 records, only four listed at AMG. Website describes what she does as "American/New Music" -- studiously avoiding the J-word. With its waltz moves and string suites, this sounds more classical than jazz. I'm inclined to dislike it, but don't. The early going, including the suite inspired by Georgia O'Keefe, is quite charming, with Jon Metzger's vibraphone a nice plus. Some solo piano later on strikes me as roughly sketched. B+(**)

Herb Robertson NY Downtown Allstars: Real Aberration (2006 [2007], Clean Feed, 2CD): Trumpeter, from New Jersey, attended Berklee, settled into New York's downtown avant-garde scene in the early 1980s, where he's a steady performer who's never garnered much attention. The other stars are Tim Berne (alto sax), Sylvie Courvoisier (piano), Mark Dresser (double bass), Tom Rainey (drums). I don't know much about the pianist -- AMG files her work under Avant-Garde, not Jazz, not that those distinctions are all that trustworthy -- but she seems the odd one out. Also odd is Dresser, who starts each discs/piece with bass solo, but I rarely have any idea what he's up to. The music has no casual utility, just more or less interesting effects -- the trumpet, for one. B

David Rogers Sextet: The World Is Not Your Home (2007, Jumbie): AMG lists 12 Dave or David Rogers, plus 3 more Rodgers. There are probably some duplicates in there, but there's still too much noise to find much out. This one is from Missouri; lived in Ghana, where he picked up an interest in talking drums; lives now in New York; plays tenor sax. It's hard to get a good take on this. Starting out awkwardly, he seems to be having a tough time getting the sax and the African percussion to mesh. Later on, especially on "Mobius Trip," the sax comes alive, but the Africana has vanished -- replaced by capable support work from pianist Craig Taborn and drummer Gerald Cleaver. B+(*)

Louise Rogers: Come Ready and See Me (2007 [2008], Rilo): Singer, originally from New Hampshire, in New York since 1997. Three previous albums include two jazz-for-kids things and a duo with husband/bassist Rick Strong. This is a good sample of her range: scoring a Nikki Giovanni poem, adding lyrics to pieces by Mike Mainieri and Jerry Bergonzi, arranging a trad folk song, reworking an original from 1991, sailing through a couple of standard standards. She scales the high notes, scats, swings, gets a song and some nice sax from Gottfried Stoger. The ballads drag a bit, but "The Song Is You" is a choice cut. B+(*) [Feb. 1]

Ari Roland: And So I Lived in Old New York . . . (2007, Smalls): Bassist. Can't find any bio that goes any deeper than: "Bassist Ari Roland grew up inside the New York underground bop scene." That amounts to about ten years at Smalls, starting with his first appearance on Impulse's Jazz Underground: Live at Smalls. This is his second album as a leader. Other credits include Chris Byars, Frank Hewitt, Zaid Nasser, Sacha Perry, and Nellie McKay -- the only non-Smalls artist. This is a quartet with Byars (tenor/alto sax), Perry (piano), and Phil Stewart (drums). The idea of an "underground bop scene" is worth dwelling on for a bit. Bebop has been jazz orthodoxy ever since Charlie Parker routed the dancehalls and juke joints and made heroin king. Today, minus the scag, it's respectable enough for Lincoln Center. But Parker also started an undergrounding trend that led to discovery of numerous new things far beyond his revelations -- the 1960s avant-garde and all that's flowed out of it, about as uncommercial as music can get. So "bop underground" strikes me as an oxymoron. Smalls label mogul Luke Kaven has tried to explain this to me: in technical terms way over my head, but I know that it is possible to make new music out of old forms -- for example, there are still people making brilliant new contributions to trad jazz -- and I can hear a freshness in the best of these records despite knowing that they're breaking no bounds. Underground also seems to be a self-fulfilling commercial prophecy for Kaven, but that strikes me as contingent. Whereas many avant-garde artists can never break out of their narrow commercial niche, the Smalls records should be much more broadly accessible. This is one of the better ones, in large part due to Byars, but I'm also partial to the fat bass mix that's the leader's prerogative. Still need to go back and compare it against Byars' own Photos in Black, White and Gray -- slated for the next JCG, but still unwritten, even though it's one of my favorites this year. [A-] [advance]

Wallace Roney: Jazz (2007, High Note): I should be better prepared for this, but will need more time to think about it, or at least to average it out. Strikes me as Roney's archetypal album, at least since he discovered turntables and keybs as a way of jacking up the funk quotient, all the time making his family -- brother Antoine Roney on various saxes and bass clarinet, wife Geri Allen on piano and various keyboards -- pull their weight. Where it all comes together, as on the opening "Vater Time" and the closing "Un Poco Loco," it's a lot of fun, not least because the trumpet soars high in the mix. [B+(**)]

Wallace Roney: Jazz (2007, High Note): If jazz were a popular music, this would be a hit record. The brothers, including the invaluable Antoine on saxes and bass clarinet, offer the same mix of bold moves and accessibility that the Adderleys offered back when real jazz still had the public's ear, Geri Allen's piano insinuates a subtle edge (alternatively, Robert Irving III's Fender Rhodes fattens the funk), while turntablists DJ Axum and Val Jeanty contribute something fashionably novel. On the other hand, with jazz so thoroughly consigned to margins, one wonders why work so hard to make it easy, especially when they can't heat "Stand" up much past tepid. B+(**)

Josh Roseman: New Constellations: Live in Vienna (2005 [2007], Accurate): Trombonist, originally from Boston, based in New York since 1990, has a long list of side credits ranging from Either/Orchestra to Lester Bowie Brass Fantasy to Dave Holland Big Band to the Roots. Third album under his own name. Calls his 7-piece (trumpet, trombone, tenor sax, keybs, guitar, bass, drums) group the Constellations -- only one I recognize there is saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum; the bass and keyb players are from Groove Collective. Starts with a rarefied reggae groove on "Satta Massagana," credited to a different lineup with Will Bernard on guitar, although only one date is given. Shifts after that to postbop with an undertow of bent funk, but returns to Jamaica periodically -- Don Drummond song; another one credited to Drummond and the rest of his band, the Skatalites; John Holt song; also includes a Roseman dedication to Drummond; and, apropros of nothing I can tell, a Beatles song, ending with a live remix of same. Recorded in Joe Zawinul's playpen, so figure him as an influence. Interesting attempt to put something together that breaks ground both as improv and riddim. [B+(**)]

Josh Roseman: New Constellations: Live in Vienna (2005 [2007], Accurate): Funk bent severely enough to qualify as avant-garde, mostly generated from the Jamaican crucible of Don Drummond and "Satta Massaganna. B+(***)

Barbara Rosene and Her New Yorkers: It Was Only a Sun Shower (2007, Stomp Off): Singer, from Ohio, specializes in pop songs from the 1920s/1930s. Has three previous albums on Stomp Off, each with 20+ songs, and one normal-sized album on Azica. She's been appearing lately with the Harry James ghost band, as well as Kevin Dorn's Traditional Jazz Collective and Mike Hashim -- both Dorn and Hashim appear here. One of the Stomp Offs was a tribute to Ruth Etting and Annette Hanshaw. She picks more songs from that era here, few I recognize -- one from Etting, one from Clarence Williams, one rescued from Tiny Tim. The band is superb, with old-timey banjo and tuba, cornet, and deftly deployed fiddle. Long at 76:35, but only two of the 23 songs top 4 minutes. Two are instrumentals, but they slip by rather than stand out. Rosene gets two credits for whistling, and they do stand out. [B+(***)]

Frank Rosolino/Carl Fontana: Trombone Heaven (1978 [2007], Uptown): Two of the better bebop trombonists to follow in JJ Johnson's wake. Both came up in big band, notably playing with Stan Kenton at different points. The group here includes Elmer Gill on piano, Torban Oxbol on bass, and George Ursan on drums. It was recorded live in Vancouver a few months before Rosolino's tragic death -- he shot his two young sons, killing one, blinding the other, then killed himself. Fontana recorded less frequently as a leader, but has if anything the stronger reputation. The two trombone leads are delightful on a mixed bag of swing and bop standards. B+(**)

Doug Beavers Rovira Jazz Orchestra: Jazz, Baby! (2006 [2007], Origin): Or just Doug Beavers. Bio is very hard to parse, and I have no idea what his discography looks like -- his website has a long list of pieces and arrangements but it isn't clear how they map to records, or if they do. Has worked with or for Eddie Palmieri and Conrad Herwig -- salsa arrangements seem to be a specialty -- and maybe Rosemary Clooney and/or Mingus Big Band. Plays trombone, but employs five other trombonists, crediting himself with one solo. First album, I guess. Concept is to take old children's songs -- e.g., "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," "Shortnin' Bread," "Comin' Round the Mountain," "Hush Little Baby," "Workin' on the Railroad" -- and punch them up with 1950s-style big band arrangements. Matt Catingub and Linda Harmon sing. I figure it for a novelty and wonder how well it will wear, but it's a lot of fun first time through. [B+(***)]

Doug Beavers Rovira Jazz Orchestra: Jazz, Baby! (2006 [2007], Origin): Children's songs, sung by Matt Catingub and Linda Harmon, punched up with big band arrangements. Can't say whether your kids will get off on it, but at least you won't be bored shitless playing this for them. You may even figure it's good for all concerned. B+(**)

Poncho Sanchez: Raise Your Hand (2007, Concord Picante): Conga player, from Laredo TX, seems to have inherited Ray Barretto's lock on the percussionist category in Downbeat's Critics Poll. Long list of albums, but this is only the second I've heard. I can't see much point to it. The first and last cuts are Memphis soul with Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, and Eddie Floyd singing. Two in the middle feature Maceo Parker: "Maceo's House" and "Shotgun." The congas do little for any of those covers. Two more guest vocals go to Andy Montañez and José "Perico" Hernández. They don't stick with me either, but at least they don't have memories to compete with. B

Santos Viejos: Pop Aut (2007, Cacao Musica): Some fancy packaging here, a fold-out wallet with the disc slipped into a slot on the right panel, and a spiral bound booklet on the left. A lot of words, too, even with half or more in Spanish. The label is Venezuelan, flush perhaps with petrodollars? The group is Venezuelan too, described initially as Venezuelan Rock, then as Pop Autóctono, or native pop. In any case, it isn't jazz. And it doesn't have enough force to overcome the language barrier, although the booklet may give them a chance to recover. I have four more records pending with the same packaging. No need to dig deeper right now. [B]

Joe Satriani: Surfing With the Alien (Legacy Edition) (1986-88 [2007], Epic/Legacy, CD+DVD): A signature album for a rare rock guitarist working without vocals, the title presumably referring back to surf guitar, Hendrix, and possibly points even further out. Although rhythmically straighter than McLaughlin, a first I figured this might have some fusion potential, and was taken enough to rate it B+(*). "Legacy Edition" is usually a 2-CD set, remastering a notable album with a second disc of extras: sometimes useful, more often redundant or superfluous -- live concerts are handy sources of both. This is the first time I've seen them do the extra live concert as a DVD. (Dirty Dancing came with a DVD of videos.) I have next to no interest in DVDs, but seeing that this one was recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, I figured it might be enlightening. One thing clear is that he has no jazz potential. B-

Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 [2008], Plunk): Plays banjo, sings; originally from Massachusetts, now in New York. Resume spotlights 10 years with Woody Allen's New Orleans Jazz Band, and soundtrack work on Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo and with Marvin Hamlisch on Sophie's Choice, but I'm more curious about "The New Spike Jones Show." Several albums, starting with The Jazz Banjo of Cynthia Sayer, which I don't have a date on. That one had "featuring" credits for Dick Wellstood and Milt Hinton. This one features Bucky Pizzarelli, but aside from a duet he hardly stands out beyond a superb trad-oriented band, with Scott Robinson (saxes, clarinet), Randy Sandke (trumpet), Jim Fryer (trombone), Sara Caswell (violin), Greg Cohen (bass), and Joe Ascione (percussion). Half vocals, starting with Sidney Bechet's reefer song "Viper Mad" and Hank Williams' "Half as Much," and winding on through "Romance Without Finance" and "You Are My Sunshine" and "Aba Daba Honeymoon." Liszt's "Hungarian Rhapsody" is reduced to a banjo feature, which is fine with me. B+(***) [Mar. 1]

Christian Scott: Anthem (2007, Concord): New Orleans trumpet player. Young -- don't have a birthdate, but website claims he's 22, Wikipedia says he graduated from Berklee in 2004, something doesn't add up. Nephew of alto saxophonist Donald Harrison. Second album. First one came out last year in a cluster with pianist Taylor Eigsti and singer Erin Boheme which tempted me to label them the Mod Squad. Scott had the most talent then, and he has more now, but first pass through I don't care for this record at all. Seems to me like he's invented the jazz analogue to heavy metal. Aside for "Like That" near the end, the music here is all heavy sludge: loud drums, immobile bass, keyb gumbo. The only saving grace is that it provides deadened surfaces to scratch with his trumpet or cornet or soprano trombone or flugelhorn. Part of this may be explained by his Katrina theme, which may have brought sludge and waste and decay to mind. Still, I should hold this back for another play. "Like That" lightens up and is rather pleasant. And the closing, "post diluvial" version of the title track, features a biting tirade from Brother J of X-Clan. He's reaching, and my initial distaste may not be the final word. [B-]

Secret Oyster (1973 [2007], The Laser's Edge): The first of five 1973-76 albums by a Danish instrumental group. AMG files them as "prog-rock/art rock," but they sound like a perfectly typical fusion group to me -- if anything, better than average, a credit to keyb player Kenneth Knudsen, who manages to avoid the cheesy funk clichés that plagued the instrument back then. B+(*)

Secret Oyster: Straight to the Krankenhaus (1976 [2007], The Laser's Edge): So this is where they finally go prog, with arty arena intros to build up the dramatic tension. But when they do break loose, the jacked-up tempos have some urgency, and saxophonist Karl Vogel turns out to have something to say. B

Linda Sharrock/Eric Watson: Listen to the Night (1994 [2007], Owl/Sunnyside): Singer, married to guitarist Sonny Sharrock, who featured her on his 1969 album Black Woman -- as I recall, she appeared as something of a banshee, a limited role on a good album with some tremendous avant power riffing. They did two more albums together -- haven't heard either -- then divorced in 1978. She moved to Austria, popping up on the occasional Wolfgang Pushnig album; also appeared with the Korean group Samul Nori. On the other hand, this is a quite conventional jazz vocal album, with Watson's attentive piano the only backing, and Sharrock's rich, dusky voice fit securely in a line that extends from Sarah Vaughan to Cassandra Wilson. Three originals are hit and miss, but the lead-off "Lover Man" is especially striking, a choice cut. B+(**)

The Adam Shulman Quartet: On Second Thought (2007, Kabocha): Pianist, based in San Francisco, studied in Santa Cruz, cites second generation beboppers (Barry Harris, Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans) and their followers (Fred Hersch) as influences. First album. Wrote all the sounds. Quartet features a soft-touch tenor saxophonist named Dayna Stephens. Also John Wiitala on bass and Jon Arkin on drums. Very nice, but nothing more. B

Marlon Simon and the Nagual Spirits: In Case You Missed It (2006 [2007], Jazzheads): Drummer, percussionist, originally from Venezuela, moving to US in 1987, studying in Philadelphia, then New York. Brother of pianist Edward Simon and trumpeter Michael Simon, both present here. No idea what the band name signifies, but the music has a deep Afro-Cuban vibe, with bata drums on several cuts, Roberto Quintero's congas on more. Three cuts add a string quartet, more for color than anything else. The horns are lively, with Alex Norris playing trumpet, Peter Brainin sax, mostly tenor. B+(*)

Frank Sinatra: A Voice in Time (1939-1952) (1939-52 [2007], Columbia/RCA Victor/Legacy, 4CD): Sinatra is as great a singer as Billie Holiday, and for many of the same reasons: the precise control and authority of his phrasing. Both were born in 1915, but he got off to a slow start -- so much so that he seems like a generation behind, missing the swing era peak, hanging on with straggling bands that were passé before he turned forty. Holiday attracted great jazz musicians who often backed her with hushed reverence -- I'm reminded of a perfect little curlicue of clarinet in "Pennies From Heaven," delivered by Benny Goodman, who could just as well have been showboating in front of the most popular band in America. Sinatra had to make do with Tommy Dorsey early, and went on to even more anonymous bands with Capitol in the 1950s, but in between he was treated even worse at Columbia -- Axel Stordahl? Mark Warnow? Harry Sosnick? At least I've heard of Percy Faith. Compared to this company, one cut with Harry James blows through like a tornado. The Sony-BMG merger has managed to unite the first two segments of Sinatra's career, but it hasn't improved them. Even careful selection only goes so far: the 5-CD box with Dorsey is reduced to one here, and the 12-CD Columbia box is cut down to three. Still, this is spotty. There are points where Sinatra overcomes the orchestra, and there are odd numbers out like the one with James. But you have to work to get down to the Voice. That was never a problem with Holiday. B+(*)

Gino Sitson: Bamisphere (2007, 18th & Vine): Vocalist, from Cameroun, based in New York, but still sings mostly in his native Medumba. Third album. Claims four octaves, "the only vocalist who is incorporating African polyphonic techniques into the improvisational jazz vocalese tradition." Hard for me to tell. He does work quite a bit in falsetto registers, with a lower range that sounds more spoken. He does his own backing vocals, and has credits for "vocal instruments" and "miscellaneous vocal effects." Opening track reminded me of mbube, but styles vary a lot after that. He does have a reputable jazz group backing him: Helio Alves on piano, Ron Carter or Essiet Essiet on bass, Jeff Watts on drums. They don't get to do much, and while I don't doubt his virtuosity, I don't get it either. Kind of like Cameroun's answer to Bobby McFerrin. B

Slow Poke: At Home (1998 [2007], Palmetto): This is a 1998 album with Michael Blake (sax, keyb), David Tronzo (slide and baritone guitar), Tony Scherr (electric and acoustic bass, guitar), and Kenny Wollesen (drums and percussion). The original release label was Baby Tank. This release is remixed with two additional cuts. The press release describes this as Palmetto's "first digital only release." It's not clear what that means. Palmetto's website offers something for $10.99 and an MP3 version for $6.99, but it's not in Palmetto's normal distribution. My copy is a promo in a jewel box with one-sheet, one-sided inserts. Anyhow, we'll pretend this is a real release. The interesting point would be Tronzo's slide guitar, which manages to stay well outside any jazz guitar idiom I can think of -- sometimes even sounds Hawaiian. [B+(**)]

Daniel Smith: The Swingin' Bassoon (2004 [2007], Zah Zah): Plays bassoon, obviously. Born 1939, has a reputation in classical music, including a 6-CD set of 37 Vivaldi bassoon concertos. Over the years he's tried a lot of unconventional things with bassoon -- English folk songs, Scott Joplin rags, a Jazz Suite for Bassoon -- and now bebop, with this record the follow-up to last year's Bebop Bassoon (also Zah Zah). Listening to things like "Scrapple From the Apple" and "St. Thomas" makes it pretty clear why jazz musicians favor saxophones over bassoon: it just doesn't have the speed, clarity, nuance, and power that we're used to. The band's a quartet, and Martin Bejerano's piano sounds like the real thing. B-

Jim Snidero: Tippin' (2007, Savant): Alto sax player, has a bunch of records since 1987, hard bop or postbop, of varying levels of ambition. He takes it easy with this organ quartet, letting Mike LeDonne and guitarist Paul Bollenbeck do the heavy lifting, topping it off with his exquisite riffs. Evidently there's a market for this sort of thing, and this is much better than par for the course. B+(**)

Solar Fire Trio: Rise Up (2006 [2007], Foreign Frequency): English group, based in Liverpool, with two saxophones -- Ray Dickat on tenor, Dave Jackson on alto -- plus Steve Belger on drums. Website describes their "mission to combine the no-holds-barred improvisational ethos of free jazz with the exuberance and rebellious spirit of rock music." Dickaty has played in Spiritualized, and all three have more rock bands in their resumes thay jazz -- Jackson is the most likely to list an Eddie Prevost or Paul Rutherford or Lol Coxhill among his references. The saxophonist play unreconstructed '60s avant-noise, mostly on top of rock beats. It's fairly limited, and not pleasant. I'm not sure whether I've gotten immune to it, or there's something interesting buried in the mix, but it's probably not cost-effective to try to find out. B

John Stein: Green Street (1996-98 [2007], Whaling City Sound): Guitarist, originally from Kansas City, MO; now based in Boston, teaching at Berklee. Has a half-dozen albums starting in 1995. This was his second, released in 1999 on A Records (or Challenge; sources differ, but if I recall correctly Challenge is the parent label). It's a fairly conventional organ-guitar-drums trio with guest tenor sax on 5 of 12 cuts. Stein's guitar and Ken Clark's organ hit the right notes, but the real soul jazz comes from Fathead Newman's tenor sax. Wish there was more of it. B+(**)

Curtis Stigers: Real Emotional (2007, Concord): Singer, originally from Idaho, moved to New York before he started recording in 1991. Don't know his early work -- only heard one unremarkable album from 2005. Didn't ask for this one either, but it's good they sent it. Don't know whether he has much of a style, but this makes a case for him in the Mose Allison school, at least on Allison's "Your Mind Is on Vacation" -- tunes by other singers who, by jazz standards at least, trend in that direction, follow their models more closely (Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Stephin Merritt, Bob Dylan). Larry Goldings co-produced, plays lots of keybs -- organ and piano are most prominent -- as well as accordion and vibes. Four songs are just Stigers and Goldings, and the latter proves to be a tasteful accompanist. The band pieces are similarly loose, with John Sneider's trumpet a nice touch. B+(*)

Marcus Strickland Twi-Life Group: Open Reel Deck (2007, Strick Muzik): Should have mentioned Strickland in my Downbeat poll comments. He's one of the best young tenor saxophonists around -- had I mentioned him, he would have been the only one under-30. He gets a lustrous sound with consumate ease and grace, and has a supporting group that merits the marquee -- especially E.J. Strickland, a drummer as telepathic as an identical twin should be, but Mike Moreno on guitar and Carlos Henderson on electric bass redefine how to put a postmodern sax quartet together. Still, the band spends a good deal of time backing guests -- trumpeter Keyon Harrold I'm undecided about, but Malachi's spoken word exploits are riveting. Jon Cowherd also appears on piano leading into his "Subway Suite 2nd Movement" which the band really builds on. Still working on this. [B+(***)]

Marcus Strickland Twi-Life Group: Open Reel Deck (2007, Strick Muzik): I think he's a tremendously exciting young saxophonist, and his quartet, with electric guitar and bass and equally talented brother E.J. on drums, is state of the art. But there are points here where this drags, and not just the guests -- actually, Malachi Rivers' spoken word act focuses the mind, even if it distracts from the music. B+(***)

John Surman: The Spaces in Between (2006 [2007], ECM): Started recording for ECM in 1979, which by now makes up the bulk of his career. The more I listen to his pre-ECM stuff, the more I wonder about why he wound up dedicating himself to intricate, composerly postbop chamber music when he seemed early on to have both fusion and avant-garde by the balls. With a full string quartet, known as Trans4mation, plus bass (Chris Lawrence) as the sole accompaniment to his bass clarinet, baritone and soprano sax, this seems more chamberish than ever. But all the strings do is flesh out the reeds, which intrigue and never lose interest. [B+(**)]

Koko Taylor: Old School (2007, Alligator): Allen Lowe starts his book That Devilin' Tune with a set of quotes, including this from Julius Hemphill: "Mostly playing the blues got you more work playing the blues. I don't think playing the blues encouraged anybody to do anything different." Taylor is past 70 now, and this is her first record in 7 years. She hasn't done anything new since she started in the early 1960s, and back then the only thing that set her apart was that she sang louder than anyone else. On the other hand, the fact that blues singers can keep doing the same thing on and on and on suggests not only that they were on to something pretty timeless in the first place, the more interesting point is that blues performers, almost uniquely, get stronger as they get older. If blues is about anything, it's survival, and it takes some aging to build up credibility. But nothing proves the point like virility, which is why Muddy Waters called his comeback album Hard Again. Taylor's comeback is like that: loud, aggressive, in your face, up your ass. She may settle for that "piece of man," but you know she'd rather have the mule. A-

Tom Teasley: Painting Time (2007, T&T Music): DC-based percussionist, composer, educator -- the latter two are pretty standard self-descriptions, but Teasley takes his educator roll public, presenting solo concerts called "The Drum: Ancient Traditions Today" and producing videotapes. He has a half-dozen previous records, mostly with titles like Global Standard Time, Global Groovilization, and World-Beat: The Soul Dances. Haven't heard them, but I reckon this to be some sort of advance, at least in titling. Teasley plays several dozen percussion instruments here, not least of which is the standard drum kit. The pieces are groove-based, but they also have some meat on them -- mostly John Jensen's trombone, which takes the leads even when trumpet and sax/flute are available. A surprisingly seductive album; will give it some more time. [B+(***)]

Tom Teasley: Painting Time (2007, T&T Music): One thing that has changed in jazz, and probably in all other art forms, is that way back when way back when musicians sought to develop distinctive trademark sounds, whereas many now are happy to sound a little bit like lots of people. This has something to do with postmodernism, in particular the idea that we've run out of new ideas so the best we can do now is to recycle old ones. But some of it's just education: musicians grow up knowing much more about the music that came before them so they inevitably find themselves working within those traditions. Economics may even select for such education -- it's certainly the case that many jazz musicians stress their teaching and it's evidently a big part of their incomes. Teasley is a drummer/educator who doesn't sound like anyone in particular but does a good job of synthesizing beats from everywhere, producing sinuous, enticing rhythms, which he then dresses up with various horns, including a healthy dose of trombone. I suppose if I attended his class he'd point out the bits from Africa, India, Brazil, the Middle East, and so forth, not to mention the "searing bop-informed flute solo" that somehow slipped by me. Still, it seems to me that something this catchy should be pop jazz, but isn't because it's deemed excessively knowledgeable. B+(***)

Joe Temperley/Harry Allen: Cocktails for Two (2006 [2007], Sackville): Bought this used in Detroit, not even realizing that it's recent -- cover is old-fashioned, and Allen's so baby-faced you don't recognize him as 40. No new ground here, but Temperley's baritone sax makes a fine foil for Allen's tenor, and the rhythm section -- stalwarts John Bunch and Jake Hanna, Ornette bassist Greg Cohen -- do everything right. I know I'm a sucker for sax that swings this hard, but I could give in and grade this up. [B+(***)]

Joe Temperley/Harry Allen: Cocktails for Two (2006 [2007], Sackville): Baritone saxophonist Temperley earns top billing on this sunny set of standards, recorded at Sunnie Sutton's in Denver with a notable band -- John Bunch on piano, Greg Cohen on bass, Jake Hanna on drums. Temperely sets the leisurely pace, and his husky tone leads. Allen's tenor sax fills in and sweetens the mix. He's always been one who shows respect for his elders. B+(***)

Jacky Terrasson: Mirror (2006 [2007], Blue Note): German pianist, b. 1966, won the Thelonious Monk Piano prize in 1993, has nine albums on Blue Note or EMI, maybe a couple more, which should put him somewhere in the forefront of jazz pianists of his generation. I can't second that opinion. I've heard very little, and never been impressed enough to seek him out over dozens of other similar postbop players. This one is solo -- aficionados love the intimacy and/or freedom of the format, but I usually find solos underdressed, not to mention underdeveloped. This is no exception. B

Territory Band-6 With Fred Anderson: Collide (2006 [2007], Okka Disk): Ken Vandermark's big band, originally formed to spend some of his MacArthur Genius Grant money. Original concept seems to have had something to do with the 1930s territory bands, but it's always been hard to hear that in the records. Now, in his liner notes Vandermark explains that his original idea was centered around Fred Anderson, and that he got distracted when he couldn't schedule Hamid Drake for the first session and wound up using Paul Lytton instead, which led to a transatlantic meeting of the avant-gardes, which led to the first five Territory Bands. This isn't far removed: Lytton is still on board, as are the usuals from Europe: Axel Doerner (trumpet), Per-Åke Holmlander (tuba), Lasse Marhaug (electronics), Paal Nilssen-Love (drums), Fredrik Ljungkvist (baritone/tenor sax), and newcomer David Stackenäs (guitar). In fact, they outnumber the Chicago crew: Anderson, Vandermark, Jim Baker (piano), Dave Rempis (alto/tenor sax), Kent Kessler (bass), Fred Lonberg-Holm (cello). That makes for a big, sprawling group, and it's hard to keep it all straight. In particular, I can't disentangle the saxes -- Vandermark, Rempis, and Ljungkvist compete with Anderson at tenor, although each plays a second instrument as well. And tenor sax isn't all that prominently featured here, even if it produces most of the wind in the occasional squalls. Marhaug's electronics have gotten to where they register as integral to the music, and Doerner's trumpet stands out. The five-part piece hold together nicely, and Anderson gets his props at the end. B+(***)

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History Volume 1 (1895-1927 [2007], WHRA, 9CD): Allen Lowe turned his 1997 book American Pop: From Minstrel to Mojo: On Record 1893-1956 into a remarkable 9-CD box set that jumped effortlessly among what we subsequently decided were genres, providing us the the most comprehensive general survey of early American music (recorded, anyway). His follow-up is That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History, 1900-1950, published in 2001, but only converted to CD form in late 2006. The tighter focus of the book is amplified by expanding the CD set to 36 discs, split into four compact boxes each with 9 discs and nearly a quarter of the book. It's a daunting task just to play the discs, and I haven't had time to do more than thumb through the book, so this is very preliminary. But I've played all of the first box at least once -- several discs twice -- so I figure I can at least note this. The first nine discs only bring us up to Louis Armstrong's "Hotter Than That" in 1927 -- the first Armstrong title, although he appears a couple of times, starting with King Oliver in 1923 on disc five. Lowe works his way into recognizable jazz slowly, not getting to the Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1917) until the third disc, offering one song each by Ethel Waters and Mamie Smith (both 1921) on the fourth, introducing Jelly Roll Morton (1923) on the fifth; he sprinkles in early bits by Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Bennie Moten, but holds Bix Beiderbecke off until the second box. One result is that the first two or three discs don't sound much like jazz at all; while the last three clearly do sound like jazz, they are still much cruder than your average New Orleans retro band today. I haven't studied this, but it also looks like Lowe has avoided duplicating standard anthologies you're likely to have -- no "Tiger Rag," no "Dippermouth Blues," no "Cake Walking Babies From Home"; the only "St. Louis Blues" is a 1917 version by Ciro's Coon Club Orchestra. But maybe that's not a hard and fast rule. I see two dupes from The Smithsonian Collection of Classic Jazz: "Hotter Than That" and Morton's "Grandpa's Spells." Another curiosity is the lack of anything by Scott Joplin here. Guess I'll have to read the book to figure that out, as well as how all the vaudeville fits in. [A-]

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History: Volume 1 (1895-1927 [2007], WHRA, 9CD): Whereas Martin Williams, in his canonical The Smithsonian Collection of Classical Jazz disposes of where jazz came from by juxtaposing two versions of "Maple Leaf Rag," one by composer Scott Joplin and the other by Jelly Roll Morton, compiler Allen Lowe digs deep into many roots besides ragtime -- minstrels, songsters, march bands, James Reese Europe's orchestra. The Original Dixieland Jazz Band (1917) doesn't appear until the 3rd disc. Ethel Waters and Mamie Smith (1921) make the 4th, and Jelly Roll Morton (1923) the 5th, but the series doesn't start to sound predominantly jazzy until the 6th or 7th disc. While he sprinkles in early bits of Fletcher Henderson, Duke Ellington, and Bennie Moten, he holds Louis Armstrong back until the last cut -- maybe top play down the notion that Armstrong invented jazz, or just because he couldn't find anything to follow "Hotter Than Hot" with. A-

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History: Volume 2 (1927-34 [2007], WHRA, 9CD): Bix Beiderbecke leads off with 3 of the first 9 tracks, contrasting with 2 cuts by obscure trumpeter Louis Dumaine. The book takes on the always annoying question of race in jazz, plugging numerous whites -- including an argument that Beiderbecke was the first cool jazz proponent -- without ceding any arguments to Richard Sudhalter's Lost Chords. The records wend their way through numerous intimations of swing to come, punctuated by occasional blues and country tunes that are hardly less jazzy. A-

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History: Volume 3 (1934-45 [2007], WHRA, 9CD): Swing is here, announced by Jimmie Lunceford, Red Norvo, Chick Webb, Fletcher Henderson, Benny Goodman, and Ray Noble on the first disc. Second disc tees off with Bob Wills, a westerner who swings too, and moves on to Count Basie. The most consistently satisfying of the boxes, at least until 1940 (disc 7) when Lowe starts looking for premonitions of bebop -- Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie show up on disc 8, but disc 9 (1944-45) is a broad smorgasbord of retro dixieland (Kid Ory, Bunk Johnson), elegant Ellington, singers like Billie Holiday and Nat Cole, saxophonists like Coleman Hawkins and Don Byas. A

That Devilin' Tune: A Jazz History: Volume 4 (1945-51 [2007], WHRA, 9CD): Bebop takes over, but of course it isn't that clean a cut. Disc 4, for instance, starts with Bing Crosby and Al Jolson singing "Alexander's Ragtime Band" -- the fourth take, following Collins and Harlan (1911), Louis Armstrong (1937), and Bunk Johnson (1945). Then, after Sidney Bechet, comes Chano Pozo's "Ritmo Afro Cubano." That disc wanders especially wide: Art Tatum, Ella Fitzgerald, Lenny Tristano, Mutt Carey, Astor Piazzolla, Hank Penny, Nelly Lutcher, Buddy Rich, Benny Goodman, Charlie Parker. But before long bebop has driven most of the other contenders from the depopulated clubs -- exceptions are the occasional throwback like Kid Thomas, and an especially ugly bit of projectile vomit from Stan Kenton. I suppose there's a lesson there: I would have picked something listenable, but if you have to acknowledge Kenton, why whitewash him? A-

Postscript: I wound up treating all four boxes to a single Pick Hit review. Graded it A, contrary to my usual practice of settling on the lowest grade. Anyone who wades through it all deserves extra credit.

Dave Tofani Quartet: Nights at the Inn (2007, SoloWinds): Saxophonist, from Williamsport PA, moved to New York to attend Juilliard, and stuck around. Evidently does a lot of studio work -- website claims over 600 albums, including over 100 soundtracks; Donald Fagen's The Night Fly stands out among the website's "small sampling"; this is reportedly his fourth release on SoloWinds, although I can only identify three. Mainstream tenor sax quartet, with standards from Ellington, Kern/Hammerstein, Porter, Thad Jones, "I Hear a Rhapsody," and originals to match. Nice tone and range. A real pro. B+(*)

The McCoy Tyner Quartet (2006 [2007], Half Note): This may be the least ambitious album of Tyner's career: just a set from his huge songbook, done live, in a standard quartet with nothing to prove. Just talent: Jeff Watts on drums, Christian McBride on bass, Joe Lovano on tenor sax. Only reservation is that they make it look too easy. [B+(***)]

McCoy Tyner: Quartet (2006 [2007], McCoy Tyner Music/Half Note): The Coltrane Quartet pianist's first investment in his own label is both low budget and surefire: a live album with a new quartet that rivals the old one but fits a little more comfortably around his own substantial songbook. Tenor saxophonist Joe Lovano rises to the occasion, but Tyner can still muscle in to make a point. A-

Gebhard Ullman: New Basement Research (2005-06 [2007], Soul Note): German, b. 1957, plays tenor sax and bass clarinet here, soprano sax and various flutes elsewhere. Claims 40 albums as leader/co-leader going back to 1985. This is the fifth I've heard, all in the last 2-3 years. The title refers back to a 1995 two-horn album he did with Ellery Eskelin. This time he's escalated to three horns, with Julian Argüelles on soprano and baritone sax and Steve Swell on trombone. The sound is loud, discordant, boisterous. I found it to be fun, but Laura made a point of how much she hated it, and I have to admit that it's unlikely to travel well, or to convince anyone lacking commitment to old-fashioned free jazz. B+(*)

Upper Left Trio: Three (2007, Origin): Third album. Three players: Clay Giberson on piano, Jeff Leonard on bass, Charlie Doggett on drums. All three contribute songs, with Giberson enjoying a slight plurality. Group based in Portland, I think. Giberson has three previous albums under his own name, all on Origin. An early review, posted on their website, tries to triangulate them: "Bad Plus wannabe"; "midpoint between the Oscar Peterson Trio and Medeski, Martin, and Wood"; Giberson "crosses Horace Tapscott with Tommy Flanagan." I don't hear any of that, but I'm hard pressed to peg them. B+(*)

Albert van Veenendaal/Fabrizio Puglisi: Duets for Prepared, Unprepared and Toy Pianos (2004 [2007], Evil Rabbit): Van Veenendaal is a Dutch avant-garde pianist, likes to work with prepared piano, has an interesting body of work over the last decade, including one album (Predictable Point of Impact, on Evil Rabbit) that I especially like. Puglisi is an Italian pianist I've never run into before. He was born 1969, describes himself as "self-taught" but workshops with Franco D'Andrea and Enrico Rava, a course with George Russell and Mike Gibbs, and a study of Cecil Taylor. His Dutch connections include work with Ernst Reijseger and Han Bennink. I'm hard pressed to think of any piano duet albums I've liked, but this one is interesting, with its odd prepared sounds, rhythmic machinations, and the contrasting timbre of Puglisi's toy. B+(**)

Miroslav Vitous: Universal Syncopations II (2004-05 [2007], ECM): All this shares with its precedessor is title, bassist, and painstaking assembly. But what made Universal Syncopations remarkable was the individuality of its superstars' performances -- Jan Garbarek, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette. They're replaced by a committee here, maybe several, but this could just as well have been assembled from Vitous's legendary library of digital samples -- indeed, the sole voice credit, one Vesna Vasko-Caceres, only hints at how he uses voice to whitewash a heavenly aura over what sounds like a throwback to the Czech's Communist (err, classical) education. The funk horns and multiple drummers only exist on paper. Their syncopations are anything but universal. B- [advance]

Christian Wallumrød Ensemble: The Zoo Is Far (2006 [2007], ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1971, has four albums now, all on ECM. This is a sextet, but it seems much more minimal, with percussion, baroque harp, cello, violin (viola, Hardanger fiddle), and Arve Henriksen's vanishing trumpet. Some of the piano fragments remind me of Another Green World, with acoustic instruments somewhat complicating the sound and the melodies. The string bits are scarcely more complex, but don't have the same elegance. Textures mostly, probably related to Norse folk and baroque and such. Small pleasures, or maybe just pleasantries. B+(*) [advance]

The War (A Ken Burns Film): The Soundtrack (1938-2005 [2007], Legacy): Don't bother filing this under Wynton Marsalis. He wrote a couple of connective background pieces, and may have had a hand in selecting the standards (Basie, Ellington, Goodman, Crosby; best of all Kay Starr with a band featuring Benny Carter, Coleman Hawkins, and Nat King Cole) and classical filler. It seems slight for 15 hours of film, but at least omits the shots and explosions that fill as much screen time as the voiceovers. Further proof that war is bad for music. B

The War (A Ken Burns Film): Deluxe Edition (1930-2005 [2007], Legacy, 4CD): The soundtrack plus two CDs of Sony/BMG catalog music to flesh out the period (most actually prewar) and one CD of the dull classical music that saws along backgrounding the voiceovers. The first three discs -- not sure about the fourth -- are available separately, packaged same as here: in shrink-wrapped jewel boxes with short credits-only booklets. The extra box booklet adds nothing on the music -- just more on the film(s). The catalog sets are quality samplers, with the "dance hits" (I'm Beginning to See the Light) predictably better than the plain "hits" (Sentimental Journey), although the latter has such must-have items as Teddy Wilson's (i.e., Billie Holiday's) "Pennies From Heaven" and Coleman Hawkins' "Body and Soul." Still, anyone looking for a thematic meditation on WWII and popular music should look elsewhere -- Rhino's Songs That Got Us Through WWII (two volumes, II better) and Smithsonian's We'll Meet Again: The Love Songs of World War II are the obvious ones, with Proper's Swing Tanzen Verboten! a shot from right-field. B

Eberhard Weber: Stages of a Long Journey (2005 [2007], ECM): German bassist, been with ECM since The Colors of Chloe in 1973. Most of his albums are fairly minimal, but this is a live recording built around the SWR Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra -- the group pictured on the cover is massive, with Gary Burton (vibes), Jan Garbarek (soprano and tenor sax), Rainer Brüninghaus (piano), Marilyn Mazur (percussion), and Weber added to the Orchestra. The Orchestra itself takes a background role, sloshing back and forth like an uneasy sea, while the group vies for your attention. The saving grace, unsurprisingly, is Garbarek. B+(*) [advance]

Mark Weinstein: Con Alma (2007, Jazzheads): Flute player, got into Latin jazz in Larry Harlow's orchestra in the late 1960s -- Harlow wrote the liner notes here. Other credits include Herbie Mann, Cal Tjader, Eddie Palmieri, Maynard Ferguson, Alegre All Stars. Also has some Jewish and/or Balkan music in his resume. This is a quintet with piano, bass, drums, and congas, with the flute and congas providing the Latin gloss on what's mostly a set of bop standards -- Coltrane, Shorter, Hutcherson, Monk, Gillespie's title piece. I was more impressed by Weinstein's previous Algo Más, which showed real Cuban roots. This, in comparison, seems superficial. B

Ezra Weiss: Get Happy (2006 [2007], Roark): Pianist, under 30, grew up in Phoenix, studied in Oberlin and Portland, wound up in New York. Has a couple of albums. Tends toward complex postbop arrangements, which here include a range of horns and three singers. Even with the familiar Arlen-Koehler title cut, nothing here strikes me as all that happy. Or all that interesting, but tenor saxophonist Kelly Roberge makes the most of his spots. B

Westchester Jazz Orchestra: All In (2007, WJO): First time through I liked this relative no-name unit, presumably based in the Westchester suburbs although most likely there are a few ringers from the city present, more than I do Gerald Wilson's (not to mention Maria Schneider's) expensive all-stars. (For the record, I recognize 7 of 17, some barely.) So maybe it doesn't just come down to money (except come Grammy Time). Music director here is Mike Holober, who turned in a nice big band record a few years back called Thought Trains (Sons of Sound). But the arrangements come from all over, including non-members, and the one cut I don't care for is Holober's Beatles arrangement ("Here Comes the Sun"; hard to imagine that one ever working). Otherwise, the horns snap, the band swings, they have a lot of fun. [B+(**)]

Harry Whitaker: Thoughts (Past and Present) (2007, Smalls): Pianist, born 1942 Pensacola FL, played in early '70s with Roy Ayers, Eugene McDaniels, Bobbi Humphrey, Roberta Flack, Alphonse Mouzon; has scattered credits since then -- Randy Crawford, Carmen Lundy, John Stubblefield. This seems to be the second album under his name, after The Sound of Harry Whitaker (2002, Blue Moon), with the possible exception of a 1976 recording Black Renaissance: Body, Mind & Spirit, issued (or reissued?) in 2002 by Luv N' Haight and given 5 stars by AMG. (Haven't heard it.) This is a piano trio with Omer Avital on bass, Dan Aran on drums. The songs are listed with dates from 1970-93, but these appear to be new recordings. Seems like a strong mainstream piano trio date; certainly doesn't live up to the hype, but nice enough. B+(*) [advance]

Howard Wiley: The Angola Project (2006 [2007], CDBaby): Young tenor saxophonist. Second album, a rather ambitious one that takes its prison setting and old-time gospel graces and tries to turn them into something magnificent. I'm impressed, but can't say as I like it -- especially the vocals, which raise the rafters when they're not trying to paint the pearly gates. Many cuts also have a pair of violins, another obvious angelic effect. David Murray guests on one song, an overly complicated original called "Angola." While Murray's the superior saxophonist, Wiley holds his own. B

Baby Face Willette: Face to Face (1961 [2007], Blue Note): Organ man, church schooled, natch, cut two albums in 1961 with guitarist Grant Green and drummer Ben Dixon, then for all intents and purposes disappeared; this one adds Fred Jackson on tenor sax, whose skill set is summed up in the title of his one album, Hootin' 'N Tootin'; still, it's hard not to enjoy their gutbucket soul jazz. B+(***)

Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Monterey Moods (2007, Mack Avenue): I suppose Gil Evans got there first, but Wilson seems like the founder of the post-big-band modern jazz orchestra, centered on an arranger, assembled from time to time from spare musicians, often of stellar quality. Wilson got his break long ago, replacing Sy Oliver as Jimmie Lunceford's arranger, but he didn't emerge in his own right until the early 1960s, when he cut a series of albums for Pacific Jazz, drawing on west coast musicians who were particularly adept at carrying big band harmony into the bebop era. He vanished during the 1970s, but in the 1980s came back and has come up with commissions and albums every few years, lately with some really high-powered bands, peaking well into his 80s with In My Time. This one is less immediately persuasive, and there are still things I'm unclear about, and don't feel like forcing right now. [B+(**)]

Robert Wyatt: Comicopera (2007, Domino): He has straddled the jazz and rock worlds for 35+ years, remaining so unique in both that nobody knows where he fits. His barely controlled high-pitched voice is unprecedented and unlikely to be followed, yet he has produced such compelling vocal albums as The Hapless Child (under Michael Mantler's name). He has a few more scattered masterpieces, but also quite a lot that is barely (if at all) listenable. Few artists take more risks. None that I know of put less ego on the line. I was a fan early on, but couldn't handle many of his recent, even highly touted, records (e.g., Shleep). This seemed like another at first, with his vocals fitting awkwardly over odd melodies and fractured rhythms, but the record is sprinkled with wondrous instrumental bits -- Gilad Atzmon sax, a piece with vibes and electronics, Eno keybs, something Latin, bits of cornet. Several plays later it's filling out. [B+(***)]

Robert Wyatt: Comicopera (2007, Domino): I used to think I was one of his biggest fans, but I'm not able to come up with the enthusiasm of more than a few bigger fans who've posted this on their year-end lists. (In fact, The Wire has given their top spot to his last two albums.) The album does have its moments, including "Hasta Siempre Comandante," his best Che Guevara song since "Song for Che" on Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard. I like the duet on "Just as You Are," the sax and vibes, his less-than-virtuosic trumpet/cornet, and a few other things. But I also find it awkward and ungainly, difficult and inaccessible -- things that the real fans are able to overlook. I must not be one anymore, which saddens me. B+(**)

Yerba Buena Stompers: Duff Campbell's Revenge (2005, Diamondstick): A little background here: Stomp Off is a modern day trad jazz label run out of a post office box in Pennsylvania by Bob Erdos. I like a little trad jazz, and the dozen or so Stomp Off albums I'd picked up over the years -- not the easiest things to find -- generally impressed me. So when I started Jazz CG, I figured it would be good to mix in some trad jazz but I never managed to make contact. Closest I came was a dealer near St. Louis who runs a website in their name but doesn't do any press publicity. On occasion, when I found out about a new release, I'd try to track the artist down. Most proved as elusive as the label, but when I wrote to the Yerba Buena Stompers, Michael Custer offered to send me everything. I keep a huge shopping list including pretty much everything recommended by the Penguin Guide, and it had all of the Stompers' Stomp Off records, so I welcomed him. So now I have a bunch of them. I'll work through them in the next few weeks. The main risk, I suspect, is that they'll all wind up sounding much the same. If so, it may be hard to pick, but also hard to go wrong. This is a live record tossed off on the side of their main line of albums on Stomp Off. It caught the band at a 90th birthday bash for Charles Campbell, an art gallery owner who was a longtime patron of the trad jazz scene in San Francisco. The title comes from a piece that Turk Murphy wrote in Campbell's honor. The Yerba Buena Stompers are an 8-piece band led by John Gill, who plays banjo and sings on occasion. Gill is a New Yorker, b. 1951, started out in dixieland bands, moved to San Francisco to play with Murphy, then on to New Orleans, back to SF, and finally back to Brooklyn. The band name invokes Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, formed in 1939 as one of the first bands to consciously attempt to revive traditional jazz up to King Oliver's Original Creole Jazz Band -- tight ensemble work, a deep brassy sound with tuba instead of bass. Watters was early enough that he was able to work with folks like Bunk Johnson who pre-dated Louis Armstrong. Murphy played in Watters' band and carried on the flame, passing it on to Gill. (Who, by the way, should not be confused with another John Gill, an English pianist who also plays old timey jazz. AMG is careful to make the distinction, then totally messes up their discographies.) The live record is probably as good a place to start as any: the intros provide some context, and the selection tends to repeat their signature tunes where they're more likely to seek out obscurities for the studio albums. A lot of classics, broken in like old leather -- "Gut Bucket Blues," "Tiger Rag," "Milenburg Joys," "Maple Leaf Rag," "Hesitating Blues." Their one concession to the postwar period is "Blue Moon of Kentucky," which they frame as a tribute to Elvis Presley, probably less of a reach for Gill's gruff voice than Bill Monroe would have been. Grades are more provisional than usual, subject to change as I sort through the pile. But if I don't start tacking them down I won't feel like I'm getting anything done. B+(***)

Yerba Buena Stompers: Dawn Club Favorites (2001, Stomp Off): This is the first of five albums John Gill's group has done on Stomp Off, and it starts off on square one, reviving and revitalizing Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band with the same spirit Watters took on King Oliver's Original Creole Jazz Band. San Francisco's Dawn Club was home base to Watters from the band's formation in 1939 until the leader got drafted in 1942. The lineup features two trumpets (Leon Oakley and Duke Heitger), trombone (Tom Bartlett), clarinet (Larry Wright), piano (Pete Clute), banjo (Gill), tuba (Ray Cadd), and drums (Clint Baker). The album is dedicated to Clute, a ragtime specialist, mainstay of Turk Murphy's bands, and a direct connection to Watters, who died at 67 a month after this was recorded. The most striking thing about the album is the tremendous uplift of the soaring trumpets and clarinet, pulling away from a rhythm that sometimes still slips into step with ancestral marches and rags. One vocal, by Bartlett, on "St. James Infirmary." A-

Yerba Buena Stompers: Barbary Coast Favorites (2001 [2002], Stomp Off): Second album, with Marty Eggers taking over the piano bench for the late Pete Clute, which means a small step away from ragtime and into the early 20th century. I expect that the whole series match up pretty evenly, so the distinctions will be marginal. The liner notes don't explain where this title came from, but Barbary Coast is a neighborhood in San Francisco, and could very well be another Lu Watters watering hole. The artwork is almost the same as Dawn Club Favorites. The songs are similar but with a few exceptions ("St. Louis Blues," "Jelly Roll Blues") a shade more obscure. Two vocals this time: one each by Tom Bartlett and John Gill, with the latter's "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee" a choice cut. Otherwise, it doesn't pick me up the way the first one did, although it goes through the same motions with comparable aplomb. B+(**)

Yerba Buena Stompers: New Orleans Favorites (2002, Stomp Off): Starts with "Tiger Rag" and "Tin Roof Blues;" ends with "Panama" and "Dipper Mouth Blues," with plenty more you'll recognize along the way -- "Doctor Jazz," "Ory's Creole Trombone," "Muskrat Ramble," not to mention "When the Saints Go Marching In." But you might not exactly recognize them because they're tuned back to the pre-swing era, and with their lack of solo power one can even say pre-Armstrong. The lineup again: two trumpets, trombone, clarinet, piano, banjo, tuba, drums. Echoes of Lu Watters; reverberations of King Oliver. They do "play that thing." A-

Yerba Buena Stompers: San Diego Favorites 2002-2003 (2002-03 [2004], Diamondstack): Live tidbits from the San Diego Dixieland Jazz Festival. The songs all show up elsewhere in their catalog, and the studio versions usually have more polish and often a bit more bounce. Also short on vocals. This only pales in comparison. B+(*)

Yerba Buena Stompers: San Francisco Bay Blues (2005, Stomp Off): Wasn't looking, so I got this one out of order. Real New Orleans jazz, as rediscovered in San Francisco in the 1940s -- yep, another Lu Watters tribute. One thing to note is that John Gill is singing better (3 songs) than on the early records, especially on "Take Me to the Land of Jazz." Trombonist Tom Bartlett still takes one tune, "Trouble in Mind," and also shows improvement. This is a very consistent band. B+(***)

Yerba Buena Stompers: The Yama-Yama Man (2007, Stomp Off): A couple of personnel changes in what has been a pretty stable lineup: Orange Kellin replaces Evan Christopher on clarinet (before Christopher, Larry Wright played clarinet); Clint Baker moves over from drums to tuba, replacing Ray Cadd, and Hal Smith joins on drums. Until now they've evidently kept close to the arrangements worked out by Lu Watters' Yerba Buena Jazz Band, which includes a few originals by Watters and Turk Murphy as well as old songs they brought back in the 1940s Dixieland revival. Here they start to move on, picking old songs Watters missed and treating them accordingly. The title song, for instance, dates back to 1908, although Murphy had done it in 1957. Several songs come straight from King Oliver, which matches the orchestration to a tee. Others come from the Red Hot Peppers, which is about as modern as they get. Locking onto their fixed reference points, they freeze history, foregoing the sense of progress that even then was all the rage. That should make them dry, but their chosen moment is hard to resist: it was a point when the excitement of jazz jumped out of the horns and off the stage. Playing through the whole set of five studio albums shows two things that are rare in any such sequence: remarkable consistency and no sense of progress or evolution whatsoever. Both may be attributed to lack of individuality, which may have something to do with the fact that leader John Gill plays the most unprepossesing of instruments: the banjo. These are unjazzlike traits, but the music is primevally jazzy. A-

Pablo Ziegler-Quique Sinesi: Buenos Aires Report (2006 [2007], Zoho): Artist credit includes, in smaller type, "with Walter Castro." Castro plays bandoneon. Haven't found much on him; he's the youngest of the trio, but due to his instrument is a large part of the group's sound. Ziegler and Sinesi hail from Buenos Aires. Ziegler was born in 1944, plays piano, and was part of Astor Piazzolla's group from 1978-89. He composed all but two of the pieces here. Sinesi was born in 1960, plays guitar, composed one song. The last is by Piazzolla, and it seems significant that it is a much livelier, more fully realized piece. By comparison, the others feel like sketches -- maybe studies is the better word. 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. Ralph Alessi & This Against That: Look (2005 [2007], Between the Lines) B+(***)
  2. Rodrigo Amado/Kent Kessler/Paal Nilssen-Love: Teatro (2004 [2006], European Echoes) B+(**)
  3. "Killer" Ray Appleton/Melvin Rhyne: Latin Dreams (2004 [2006], Lineage) B+(**)
  4. Carlos Barretto Trio: Radio Song (2002 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  5. Richie Barshay: Homework (2004-05 [2007], AYVA) B+(***)
  6. Jerry Bergonzi: Tenorist (2006 [2007], Savant) B+(***)
  7. Michael Bisio Quartet: Circle This (2006 [2007], CIMP) B+(**)
  8. Rob Brown Trio: Sounds (2006 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  9. Dave Burrell: Momentum (2005 [2006], High Two) B+(***)
  10. Chris Byars: Photos in Black, White and Gray (2006 [2007], Smalls) A-
  11. Chicago Underground Trio: Chronicle (2006 [2007], Delmark) B+(**)
  12. Joe Cohn: Restless (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  13. Jacques Coursil: Clameurs (2006 [2007], Sunnyside) B+(**)
  14. Lars Danielsson & Leszek Mozdzer: Pasodoble (2006-07 [2007], ACT) B+(***)
  15. Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski: Dialogues (2005 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  16. Ernest Dawkins' New Horizons Ensemble: The Messenger: Live at the Original Velvet Lounge (2005 [2006], Delmark) B+(***)
  17. Tony DeSare: Last First Kiss (2006 [2007], Telarc) B+(***)
  18. Wayne Escoffery: Veneration (2006 [2007], Savant) B+(***)
  19. John Ettinger: Kissinger in Space (2006, Ettinger Music) B+(***)
  20. Alan Ferber Nonet: The Compass (2006 [2007], Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  21. Alvin Fielder Trio: A Measure of Vision (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  22. Erik Friedlander: Block Ice & Propane (2005 [2007], Skipstone) B+(***)
  23. Joan Hickey: Between the Lines (2006, Origin) B+(**)
  24. Hiromi's Sonicboom: Time Control (2006 [2007], Telarc) B-
  25. John Hollenbeck & Jazz Bigband Graz: Joys & Desires (2004 [2006], Intuition) B+(***)
  26. Lauren Hooker: Right Where I Belong (2006 [2007], Musical Legends) B+(***)
  27. Jon-Erik Kellso: Blue Roof Blues (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
  28. The Ray Kennedy Trio: Plays the Music of Arthur Schwartz (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(***)
  29. Omer Klein/Haggai Cohen Milo: Duet (2006, Fresh Sound New Talent) B+(**)
  30. Steve Kuhn Trio: Live at Birdland (2006 [2007], Blue Note) B+(***)
  31. Steve Kuhn: Pastorale (2002 [2007], Sunnyside) B+(***)
  32. David Kweksilber + Guus Janssen (2003-06 [2006], Geestgronden) B+(***)
  33. Steve Lacy-Roswell Rudd Quartet: Early and Late (1962-2002 [2007], Cuneiform, 2CD) A-
  34. Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love: 4 Corners (2006 [2007], Clean Feed) A-
  35. Brad Leali Jazz Orchestra: Maria Juanez (2004 [2007], TCB) B+(***)
  36. George Lewis: Sequel (For Lester Bowie) (2004 [2006], Intakt) B+(***)
  37. Lisbon Improvisation Players: Spiritualized (2006, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  38. Mat Marucci-Doug Webb Trio: Change-Up (2006 [2007], CIMP) B+(***)
  39. Barney McClure Trio: Spot (2006 [2007], OA2) B+(**)
  40. Kate McGarry: The Target (2007, Palmetto) B-
  41. Francisco Mela: Melao (2005 [2006], AYVA) B+(***)
  42. Roscoe Mitchell/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble: Composition/Improvisation Nos. 1, 2, and 3 (2004 [2007], ECM) B+(**)
  43. William Parker/Raining on the Moon: Corn Meal Dance (2007, AUM Fidelity) A-
  44. Nicki Parrott and Rossano Sportiello: People Will Say We're in Love (2006 [2007], Arbors) B+(**)
  45. Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. 1: The Complete Abashiri Concert (1981 [2007], Widow's Taste, 2CD) A-
  46. Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. II: The Last Concert (1982 [2007], Widow's Taste) A-
  47. Chris Potter 10: Song for Anyone (2006 [2007], Sunnyside) B
  48. Alvin Queen: I Ain't Looking at You (2006 [2007], Enja/Justin Time) A-
  49. Enrico Rava: The Words and the Days (2005 [2007], ECM) B+(***)
  50. Antonio Sanchez: Migration (2007, CAM Jazz) B+(**)
  51. Bernardo Sassetti: Unreal: Sidewalk Cartoon (2005-06 [2007], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  52. Maris Schneider Orchestra: Sky Blue (2007, ArtistShare) B
  53. Matt Shulman: So It Goes (2006 [2007], Jaggo) B
  54. Golda Solomon: Word Riffs (2006, JazzJaunts) B+(**)
  55. The Stryker/Slagle Band: Latest Outlook (2006 [2007], Zoho) B+(***)
  56. Billy Taylor & Gerry Mulligan: Live at MCG (1993 [2007], MCG Jazz) B+(***)
  57. John Taylor: Angel of the Presence (2004 [2006], CAM Jazz) B+(***)
  58. Tyft: Meg Nem Sa (2005 [2006], Skirl) B+(**)
  59. Frank Vignola: Vignola Plays Gershwin (2006 [2007], Mel Bay) B+(***)
  60. Dan Willis: Velvet Gentlemen (2003 [2006], Omnitone) B+(***)
  61. Abram Wilson: Ride! Ferris Wheel to the Modern Day Delta (2007, Dune) B+(**)
  62. Saco Yasuma: Another Rain (2006 [2007], Leaf Note) B+(***)