Jazz Consumer Guide (24):

These are the prospecting notes from working on Jazz CG #24. 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. Brackets are also used for qualifying notes: "advance" refers to a record that was reviewed on the basis of an advance of special promo copy, without viewing the final packaging; "Rhapsody" refers to a record that was reviewed based on streaming the record from the Rhapsody music service; in this case I've seen no packaging material or promotional material, except what I've scrounged up on the web. In some of these cases there is a second note, written once I've settled on the grade. Rarely there may be an additional note written after grading.

These were written from June 1, 2010 to August 30, 2010, 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 218 (plus 96 carryovers). The count from the previous file was 207 (+125). (before that: 219, 225, 226, 230, 293, 291, 240, 259).

Tony Allen: Secret Agent (2009 [2010], World Circuit/Nonesuch): Nigerian drummer, b. 1940, learned his craft listening to Art Blakey and Max Roach records, hooked up with Fela Kuti early on and put the beat in Afrobeat. Since Fela died in 1997, Allen carries the flame, laboriously making a pretty fair approximation of the sort of album Fela knocked off his cuff. A little short in vocals, sax, and political rants, all of which were the master's edge. B+(***)

Remi Álvarez/Mark Dresser: Soul to Soul (2008 [2010], Discos Intolerancia): Saxophonist, lists soprano first but cover pic features tenor -- website also lists alto and baritone up front, perhaps alphabetically -- from Mexico City. Website shows this as fifth album since 1996, although it's only the second with his name first. Duet with the veteran bassist, very solid and relatively straightforward here, with the sax working cautiously around the edges. B+(***)

Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets (1975-78 [2010], ECM, 3CD): Norwegian bassist, one of several now-prominent musicians spawned by George Russell and Don Cherry during their late 1960s move to Scandinavia. Has a dozen-plus albums under his own name, the first three returned to print here. These are all sax-piano-bass-drums quartets, with flush flowing rhythms that highlight the leader's bass. Pĺl Thowsen is on drums on all three. The debut album, Clouds in My Head, features Kurt Riisnaes on tenor sax, soprano sax, and flute, with Jon Balke on piano. Balke would have been close to 20 at the time, but he already has a tough approach, and makes a much stronger impression than Lars Jansson, who replaced him on the other two albums. Riisnaes is superb throughout, but was also replaced on the later albums, Shimri and Green Shading Into Blue, by Juhani Aaltonen, who is riveting on tenor sax but plays a lot more flute, an instrument that he gives a dry, cerebral tone -- fascinating as such things go, but it's still flute, and it shifts the records toward the airy side -- Shimri has a slight edge of joyous discovery, but the two are very closely matched. B+(***)

Dave Anderson Quartet: Clarity (2009 [2010], Pony Boy): Saxophonist, lists soprano first, alto second (but shows a tenor on his website); based in Seattle; first album, a conventional quartet with piano, bass and drums, with Thomas Marriott's flugelhorn added for one cut. Nice mainstream group, nothing exceptional. B

Laurie Anderson: Homeland (2010, Nonesuch): A rather dreary album, at least partly by intent, which raises such big and serious questions I'm tempted to grade it up if only to get a hearing. Some songs are worth hearing more for didactic purposes than listening enjoyment -- "Another Day in America" and "Dark Time in the Revolution" are two. Only one is flat-out brilliant: "Only an Expert" is not only deep but quickens the pace to drive its points home. Others I'm likely to remain unsettled over, including four murky ones at the beginning. Ambitious, distinctive, thoughtful, clever, unique; still, I find it sitting on my year-end list right below Kesha, its polar opposite. B+(***) [advance]

Angles: Epileptical West: Live in Coimbra (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Sextet, haven't tracked every member down but safe to say Scandinavian. Leader is Swedish alto saxophonist Martin Küchen, b. 1966, nothing under his own name but also works in Exploding Customer (which has scored a couple of HMs here), Trespass Trio, and Sound of Mucus. Second album for group, with Magnus Broo (trumpet), Mats Älekint (trombone), Mattias Stĺhl (vibes), Johan Berthling (bass), and Kjell Nordeson (drums). Big beat, roiling horns, scattered tinkles from the vibes, loud and propulsive. Makes me smile all over. [was: A-] A

Ab Baars/Meinrad Kneer: Windfall (2008 [2010], Evil Rabbit): Tenor sax-bass duets, although Baars occasionally lightens up with clarinet, shakuhachi, or noh-kan (a "high pitched Japanese bamboo transverse flute commonly used in traditional Imperial Noh and Kabuki theatre"). One of Baars' more appealing, more charming efforts, although the real test here is following the bass, which demands and rewards concentration. B+(**)

Jim Baker/Steve Hunt/Brian Sandstrom/Mars Williams: Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2005 [2007], Okka Disk): Couldn't recall playing this before, so put it on by accident. Played it twice before I went to write it up, then found that I had already (mis)rated it. Baker is a Chicago pianist who works in an avant-garde scene that doesn't find much use for pianists. Hunt plays drums, and Sandstrom plays bass and electric guitar. They each make interesting noise, helping out in all sorts of ways. Still, this is mostly about Williams, who initially emerged as Hal Russell's heir apparent, played second sax in the original Vandermark 5, then took his chances with acid jazz. He's back in full bloom here, fierce, rough, raunchy. Played it a third time thinking I should dial back toward my original grade. Nah. [was B+(*)] A-

Billy Bang: Prayer for Peace (2005 [2010], TUM): No idea how this set, recorded in New York half a decade ago, came to this Finish label, but the packaging, artwork, and full biographies are all pluses. The group has an interesting balance, with pianist Andrew Bemkey and trumpeter James Zollar as prominent as the violinist -- also with Todd Nicholson on bass and Newman Taylor-Baker on drums. Starts off with a sprightly Stuff Smith piece, a mood that returns with the only other non-Bang cover, an Afro-Cuban piece from Compay Segundo. Title track seems to drag a bit, but before long its slow build turns elegiac. Not at his strongest or most consistent, but a thrill nonetheless, with Zollar more than picking up the slack. [was: A-] A

Niklas Barnö/Joel Grip/Didier Lasserre: Snus (2009 [2010], Ayler): Trumpet-bass-drums trio, respectively; Barnö and Grip from Sweden, Lasserre from France. Snus may or may not be group name; also is some kind of tobacco product in Sweden, banned in the EU. Rough free jazz -- the drummer definitely has a knack for it, the bassist harder to hear at all clearly. Barnö goes for a gutbucket sound, more like a trombone, no less dirty but higher and faster. B+(**)

Carlos Barretto Lokomotiv: Labirintos (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Bassist, from Portugal; website "complete biography" is nothing more than lists of people he has played with, countries he has played in, and records he has played on. Recording career starts around 1991, with a half-dozen or so albums under his name since 1997. One, cut in 2003, was called Lokomotiv, which is either the trio name or part of the title depending on how you parse it. Group includes Mario Delgado on guitar and Jose Salgueiro on drums and percussion. Takes a lot of concentration to draw much out of this. B+(*)

Jamie Begian Big Band: Big Fat Grin (2008 [2010], Innova): Guitarist, studied at Hartt School of Music, Manhattan School of Music; started teaching at Western Connecticut State University in 1991. Interest in big band led him to Bob Brookmeyer. Second Big Band album, the first coming out in 2003. Group is seventeen strong, conventional big band size and shape except second guitar instead of piano. Draws on New Yorkers, only a few that I recognize. Some terrific passages scattered about. B+(**)

Judith Berkson: Oylam (2009 [2010], ECM): Vocalist -- "soprano" is how she puts it -- plays piano and various keybs here, accordion elsewhere; studied at New England Conservatory; based in Brooklyn; cantor at Old Westbury Hebrew Congregation Kehilat Shir Ami; also has a band named Platz Machen into Hebrew liturgy. Second album. I've heard the first, Lu-Lu, and, well, didn't like it. This was headed the same way, but little bits started to connect -- fragments of Porter and Gershwin, a slice of German (OK, very probably Yiddish), some piano. Very spare and rather arty. B+(**)

Carlos Bica + Matéria-Prima (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): Bassist, from Portugal, based in Germany, has a half-dozen or more records since 1996, four with his trio Azul (Frank Möbius on guitar, Jim Black on drums). Not sure if Prima-Matéria is a distinct group -- doesn't show up on Bica's website project list nor on trumpeter Matthias Schriefl's MySpace page (Schreefpunk, European TV Brass Trio, Brazilian Motions, deujazz, 2 Generations of Trumpets, United Groove-O-Rama, Schmittmenge Meier, Mutantenstadt). Group also includes Mário Delgado on electric guitar, Joăo Lobo on drums and percussion, and Joăo Paulo on piano, keyboards, and accordion. Assembled from three concerts -- the one patch of applause comes at a bit of surprise, even if well earned. Rather patchy, the main shift turning on Paulo's accordion, which puts the band in a mood for tango or something folkloric; otherwise they have a tendency toward soundtrack, with three placenames in the titles. Still, Schriefl is a smoldering trumpet player, and this never settles into the ordinary. B+(***)

Ketil Bjřrnstad: Remembrance (2009 [2010], ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1952, has recorded with ECM at least since 1994. Leads a trio here, with Tore Brunborg on tenor sax and Jon Christensen on drums -- all three were previously in Masqualero, along with Arild Andersen and Nils Petter Molvaer if memory serves. One title piece in eleven parts. B+(***)

Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Out of the Shadows (2009 [2010], Red Piano): Internet down as I play/write this, so research is limited (and error-prone). Blake, of course, is the well known pianist, b. 1935, with at least 35 albums since 1961, including collaborations with vocalist Jeanne Lee -- Short Life of Barbara Monk is one of his (and their) best-known albums. Correa is a vocalist I've bumped into a couple of times, mostly with pianist Frank Carlberg (if memory serves, her husband). Rather difficult on both ends, with Blake's blockish piano interesting but providing little support, leaving Correa to wing it, which she does with admirable gusto. B+(*)

Ran Blake/Christine Correa: Out of the Shadows (2009 [2010], Red Piano): I erroneously identified Jeanne Lee as singing on Blake's Short Life of Barbara Monk. She sang on Blake's You Stepped Out of a Cloud. The pairing had stuck in my mind, and looking through my list of Blake's albums I pulled out the one I liked best. Turns out there was no singer on that album, and Ricky Ford played tenor sax. B+(*)

Ran Blake/Sara Serpa: Camera Obscura (2009 [2010], Inner Circle Music): Another Ran Blake piano-vocal duo. Serpa was born in Lisbon, Portugal; studied at New England Conservatory, where she ran into Blake; based in New York now. More songwise than Blake's album with Christine Correa; Serpa seems to draw out Blake's support, where Correa was more intent on challenging him. B+(**) [Sept. 1]

Theo Bleckmann/Fumio Yasuda: Berlin: Songs of Love and War, Peace and Exile (2007, Winter & Winter): Twenty-three songs, most Weill-Brecht or Eisler-Brecht, the few others including several I'm equally familiar with, like "Lili Marleen" and "Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe eingestellt." Yasuda, Bleckmann's partner in Las Vegas Rhapsody, plays piano and arranges string quartet for that Weimar feel. Bleckmann is German, gay, possesses remarkable facility in the upper registers. This is, in short, his patrimony. One play can't possibly do it justice, but will have to do for now. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Theo Bleckmann: I Dwell in Possibility (2009 [2010], Winter & Winter): Vocalist, b. 1966 in Dortmund, Germany. Has a rather high voice, which he supplements with various toys to produce odd sounds. Francis Davis raved about him in a recent Village Voice column: "Beckmann is the most startlingly original male vocalist since Bobby McFerrin" -- then thinking further insisted that Bleckmann's "more rigorous intellect" will help him avoid "the same slippery slope into feckless novelty" McFerrin was prone to. This is the most hard core of Bleckmann's records, a solo effort, but not exactly acappella -- his credits read "voice, autoharp, chime balls, chimes, finger symbals, flutes, glass harp, hand-held fan, Indonesian frog buzzer, iPhone, lyre, melodica, miniature zither, nut shell shakers, rotary pan flute, shruti box, tongue drum, toy amp, toy boxes, toy megaphones, vibra tone, water bottle." The songs include James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Kurt Schwitters, Meredith Monk, "I Hear a Rhapsody" and "Comes Love," plus original music to lyrics from Emily Dickinson, Euripides, and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. Rather difficult to hear and/or to pick up on, sometimes cute, no doubt brilliant. B+(*)

Eric Boeren 4tet: Song for Tracy the Turtle: Live at Jazz Brugge 2004 (2004 [2010], Clean Feed): Dutch cornet player, quartet includes Michael Moore (alto sax, clarinet), Wilbert de Joode (bass), and Paul Lovens (drums). Radio shot, tape discovered (or brought to Boeren's attention) only recently. Rough to start, interesting free play, don't get much sense of Moore although he's in the thick of it. B+(*)

Bona: The Ten Shades of Blues (2009 [2010], Decca): No indication of first name on cover, but he's generally gone as Richard Bona. Born 1967 in Cameroon, moved to Germany, France, New York; main instrument is electric bass, although he's also credited with guitars, keyboards, drums, percussions, and samples here, and he sings on all tracks. Has eight (or more) albums since 1999. The blues concept here makes for a grand tour of world music, with various combinations of Indian, African, European, and American musicians, including bits of Bailo Baa fula flute, Niladari Kumar sitar, Jojo Kuah drums, Gregoire Maret harmonica, Jean Michel Pilc piano, Christian Howes violin, Ryan Cavanaugh banjo, and Bob Reynolds sax. Mildly spiced, gently groveful. B+(**)

The Britton Brothers Band: Uncertain Living (2009 [2010], Record Craft): John Britton plays trumpet; Ben Britton tenor sax. Also on hand: Jeremy Siskind on piano, Taylor Waugh on bass, Austin Walker on drums. First album. The brothers wrote three tracks each, plus one by Siskind. Name recalls the Brecker Brothers, but they are more into aggressive postbop and less into skunk funk. Chris Potter guests on two tracks, and turns it up a notch. B+(*)

Peter Brötzmann/Paal Nilssen-Love: Woodcuts (2008 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz): Sax-drums duo, or when Brötzmann decides to cut your ears some slack he switches to bass clarinet or Bb-clarinet (but no tarogato this time). Nilssen-Love has a bunch of these duos in his discography now, including a previous one with Brötzmann (Sweet Sweat), others with Joe McPhee, John Butcher, Hĺkon Kornstad, Mats Gustafsson, and especially Ken Vandermark. Seems about par for the course, noisy, exciting, wearing. B+(**)

Bryan and the Haggards: Pretend It's the End of the World (2010, Hot Cup): Bryan Murray, tenor saxophinist, from WV, now in NY, natch, hooking up with bebop terrorists Jon Irabagon (alto sax) and Moppa Elliott (bass) and fellow travelers Jon Lundbom (guitar) and Danny Fischer (drums), playing four Merle Haggard originals and three more from Hag's songbook. "Silver Wings" is done bebop-style, with the straight theme followed by working the changes, but it gets trickier after that, especially with the Ornette-ish "Lonesome Fugitive." Then someone uncredited goes Bob Wills on "All of Me Belongs to You," leading into a comic scat over bass and drums. Then there is the closer, "Trouble in Mind," done as ear-splitting dirge, channeling the ghost of Rashied Ali on drums. Not sure whether this is just an inspired joke or something more, and if the former not sure we don't need more inspired jokes. But I do want to note something in Leonardo Featherweight's liner notes, a story I hadn't heard: "During the performance, [Lefty] Frizzell noticed Haggard singing along with his songs and invited him up on stage to sit in with the band. The crowd's appreciation of his brief performance convinced him that music was to be an important part of his life, and perhaps his career." Reminds me that hardly anyone earns his ticket but for the grace of someone who has gone before. [A-]

Bryan and the Haggards: Pretend It's the End of the World (2010, Hot Cup): Four of seven songs written by Merle Haggard, a couple more that I was surprised to find credited elsewhere. The band is a second cousin to Mostly Other People Do the Killing, with Moppa Elliott and Jon Irabagon common denominators, guitarist Jon Lundbrom useful for music that originally guitar-dominated, and Bryan Murray the nominal leader, not just because his tenor sax looms the largest. Like MOPDTK, they know their history and run it through hoops, starting with Bird and skittering through Ornette until "Trouble in Mind" bears the holy ghost of Albert Ayler, which frees drummer Danny Fischer to rip off a pretty good Rashied Ali impression. B+(***)

Buselli-Wallarab Jazz Orchestra: Mezzanine (2010, Owl Studios): The biggest band in Indianapolis, or at least Bloomington, where this was recorded and Brent trombonist-conductor Wallarab teaches. I thought their previous album, Where or When, was a terrific territory band throwback, but they get all orchestral here, and while arranger fans will find bits to admire, this doesn't really get going until third cut from the end, where they take a break from Wallarab's book. Even then, how often are you tempted to call "Stompin' at the Savoy" and "Cherokee" dainty? B

Steve Cardenas: West of Middle (2009 [2010], Sunnyside): Guitarist, from Kansas City, based in New York; third album since 2000; lots of side credits since 1991, notably with Ben Allison and Paul Motian. Trio here, with Allison returning the favor at bass, and Rudy Royston on drums. Nice leads, but still strikes me as a first rate sideman. B+(**)

Frank Carlberg/John Hebert/Gerald Cleaver: Tivoli Trio (2009 [2010], Red Piano): Piano-bass-drums trio, respectively. Pianist Carlberg hails from Finland, studied at Berklee and New England Conservatory, settled down in Brooklyn. Has at least eight records since 1992. Dense, full of intrigue and pleasure. I'm tempted to give Hebert a good deal of the credit; he always seems to show up in the right places. B+(***)

Paul Carr: Straight Ahead Soul (2010, Paul Carr Jazz): Texas tenor, b. 1961, studied at Texas Southern University and Howard, based in DC. Got his blues tone but doesn't indulge in much honking, and plays a little soprano which doesn't sound Texas at all. With Bobby Broom on guitar, Allyn Johnson on piano, Michael Bowie on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums, all filling the straight ahead formula, plus a little Chelsea Green viola that goes somewhere else. Willard Jenkins wrote the notes, bringing up Arnett Cobb. For what it's worth, Cobb's Party Time has been stuck in my bedroom machine for the last month or two: a wonderful record, never fails to pick me up. B+(**)

Bill Carrothers: Joy Spring (2009 [2010], Pirouet): Pianist, b. 1964 in Minneapolis; fourteenth album since 1999 according to AMG, but they really mean 1992, and they've only rated three, and haven't bothered with a bio. So while I was tempted to say that he's one of those guys with a sterling rep that I haven't managed to appreciate, probably because I just don't seem to hear piano trios all that clearly -- Walter Norris, Harold Danko, Marc Copland are other names that pop into my head -- he probably isn't well enough known for that. (And actually I did love his 2005 album Shine Ball, but that was goosed up with prepared piano, which I've been a sucker for ever since I first heard David Tudor playing John Cage.) This is a trio, with Drew Gress on piano and Bill Stewart on drums -- names that could someday rival Peacock-De Johnette or (in my mind) Johnson-Baron. Mostly Clifford Brown songs, like the title track, plus three from Richie Powell, one each from Duke Jordan and Victor Young, and, of course, Benny Golson's "I Remember Clifford." Interesting idea I don't understand well enough, and don't feel like digging into right now. Will play it again. [B+(***)]

Regina Carter: Reverse Thread (2010, E1 Entertainment): Violinist, got a major label break when cousin James Carter was on Atlantic, and proved popular enough to stick in the big leagues, even winning a MacArthur "genius grant." This troll through Afropop may be a genius concept but it's no genius execution. A lot of sawing on top of guitar (Adam Rogers) or kora (Yacouba Sissoko), accordion (Will Holshouser or Gary Versace), bass (Chris Lightcap or Mamadou Ba), and drums (Alvester Garnett), does develop some rhythmic roll, but seems to come from neither here nor there. Might get better with more exposure, or might seem even more misaprised. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Cedar Chest: The Cedar Walton Songbook [The Composer Collection Volume 6] (2000-08 [2010], High Note): This follows compilations based on Silver, Coltrane, Ellington, Davis, and Monk. Walton moves into a slightly younger generation -- he started recording when Coltrane checked out -- and it's gotten much rarer for jazz musicians to cover more recent composers. The label has released six albums by Walton since 2001 -- Seasoned Wood is my pick -- but they must have considered that too easy. Still, they wound up with Walton playing piano on 4 of 10 tracks, and he sets a high standard for the others. Still, the selections are spotty, with two Larry Coryell treats, two by Fathead Newman, two by Sammy Figueroa. B

Bill Charlap/Renee Rosnes: Double Portrait (2009 [2010], Blue Note): Two pianists; you know that. Husband and wife as of 2007; I didn't know that, and having also not known that vocalist Sandy Stewart is Charlap's mother, I'm glad not to have missed that. Rosnes is four years older, from Canada, more of a modernist and more of a composer -- albeit only one song here among a batch of eight covers -- where Charlap is more retro and more of an interpreter. I have them down for one A- each, out of six Charlap records and three by Rosnes -- both have comparable discographies, but Charlap has been more active lately. Just piano here, sounds more like solo than duets, can't tell you who does what. Attractive, of course, but nothing really enticing. B [Rhapsody]

Corey Christiansen Quartet: Outlaw Tractor (2008 [2010], Origin): Guitarist, b. 1971, father taught guitar at Utah State for many years; moved to St. Louis where he was AR director at guitar-oriented Mel Bay for seven years, then eventually moved back to Utah, where he is Director of Curriculum for The Music School. Third album since 2004. Guitar-sax-organ-drums quartet. I run across a dozen-plus such albums every year and usually have little trouble dismissing them, but this is one of the better ones, and surprisingly it's not David Halliday's sax that stands out but Pat Bianchi's organ -- by now, surely the most clichéd of all instruments. Guitar grooves too. B+(**)

Retta Christie: With David Evans & Dave Frishberg, Volume 2 (2009 [2010], Retta): Singer, b. 1959 in Astoria, OR. Second album, following Volume 1 all the way down to the cover art, given a different tint here. Standards, but not too standard: notes place most of them in the 1920s and 1930s with a Mills Brothers hit from 1944 not so far an outlier. Evans plays sax and clarinet; is a treat on both, especially the latter. Frishberg limits himself to piano -- he's a notable singer in his own right, but plays this one close to the vest. B+(**)

The Stanley Clarke Band (2010, Heads Up): Bass guitarist, b. 1951, came out of Chick Corea's Return to Forever and established a fusion rep in the 1970s, which I can't say I paid any attention to. This is only the second of 30+ albums under his name that I've heard. The album is a mess, with Ruslan Sirota's keybs and Charles Aluna's guitar standard pieces, along with a lot of guests -- Hiromi gets a shout out on the cover, and her piano does stand out, if garrishly. Some funk, one cut dedicated to Zawinul, one cut is called "Sonny Rollins" but gives you Bob Sheppard instead, some vocals. Hard to sort it all out; not awful, but little reason to. Nor am I sure if the "global warming" song is as dumb as it seems, but could be. B-

The Claudia Quintet + Gary Versace: Royal Toast (2009 [2010], Cuneiform): Last three Claudia Quintet albums rated A- in Jazz CG although they've all been sort of marginal: soft sounds (Chris Speed's clarinet, Ted Reichman's accordion, Matt Moran's vibes, Drew Gress's bass) floating on John Hollenbeck's quirky rhythms. This one is much like those, with Gary Versace's piano adding one more soft touch -- he does take one cut on accordion, but after Reichman that's anticlimactic. But it also slips a bit when soft gives way to slow, and I think that tips this just a bit under. Still a fascinating group. B+(***)

Billy Cobham/Colin Towns/HR-Bigband: Meeting of the Spirits: A Celebration of the Mahavishnu Orchestra (2006 [2010], In+Out): Songs originally from John McLaughlin, with Mahavishnu Orchestra drummer Cobham employed for quality control. Arranged for big band, directed, and mixed by Towns. HR-Bigband is one of two major outfits in Germany -- WDR Bigband Köln is the other -- that record prolifically under the names of their guest stars. Martin Scales plays guitar, but most of the lines have been shunted off to the horns. The music holds up pretty well, and the drum solos are solid. B+(**)

Avishai Cohen: Aurora (2008 [2010], Blue Note/EMI Music): Israeli bassist, b. 1970 (many sites say 1971, but Cohen's own say 1970), established his jazz career in New York but seems to be based in Israel now. Eleventh record since 1998, carries a small Blue Note label as well as EMI Music, but was recorded on France and isn't on Blue Note's US schedule -- hype sheet gives April 27 as release date. Plays electric as well as acoustic, has a piano credit and sings most of the songs, with Karen Malka joining in here and there. Band includes Shai Maestro on piano/wurlitzer, Amos Hoffman on oud, and Itamar Doari on percussion. Several songs derive from Ladino folk sources, although most are originals. Vocals are slight, amateurish; arrangements are slow, with a baroque feel -- hype sheet cites Bach counterpoint, as well as pointing out that his Ladino was sharpened playing in New York latin ensembles. B+(**)

Freddy Cole: Freddy Cole Sings Mr. B (2010, High Note): Nat's baby brother recalls Billy Eckstine. Makes me wonder how many people today can recall sauve Nat, much less the debonair Eckstine, let alone relate to him. He had a deep, rich baritone, an exceptional example of a style that many 1940s singers aspired to, but which seems old fashioned, stuffy even, today. Nat, on the other hand, sounds as hip today as he did before rock and roll, and Freddy had the same voice, at least until he aged enough to differentiate it. But in applying the old/new Cole treatment to Eckstine's songbook, he achieves a remarkable synthesis. Houston Person joins in on 7 of 12 songs, lifting each, not that Cole can't get by on John Di Martino's piano and Randy Napoleon's guitar. A-

Steve Coleman and Five Elements: Harvesting Semblances and Affinities (2007 [2010], Pi): Sextet, aside for a little extra percussion on one cut. Thomas Morgan and Tyshawn Sorey make a superb rhythm section. Coleman's alto sax is smothered in brass: Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet and Tim Albright on trombone. Then there is vocalist Jen Shyu, who fills the role Cassandra Wilson had in Coleman's M-Base collective and adds a little Betty Carter but with more normal vocal range. Played this three times: first time I was totally lost, and two subsequent spins brought me to the point of not caring. All the interest is in the quirks, which turn out to be fleeting and insubstantial. B

Commitment: The Complete Recordings 1981/1983 (1980-83 [2010], No Business, 2CD): Bassist William Parker was less than 30 when he formed this group, with one self-released album (released 1981; reissued as Through Acceptance of the Mystery Peace by Eremite in 1998), side credits with Frank Lowe and Billy Bang, with Cecil Taylor still in his future. Violinist Jason Kao Hwang was less than 25. The senior member was Will Connell, Jr., b. 1938. He turned to music after an accident in the Air Force nearly blinded him. In Los Angeles in the 1960s he fell into Horace Tapscott's circle, then moved back to New York "because I wanted to be a hermit." He plays flute, alto sax, bass clarinet, wood flutes here. I haven't found any other credits for him, unless he's the "Will Connell" playing bass clarinet on a a 2007 Bill Dixon album -- would have been close to 70, still 13 years younger than Dixon. Fourth member is drummer Zen Matsuura, who went on to play with Billy Bang and Roy Campbell -- not a long credit list, but he's on Campbell's 2007 Akhenaten Suite, deserving of another plug. Parker recorded a piece called "Commitment" in the late 1970s, but the piece doesn't appear here. What we get is the 1981 Commitment Ensemble album (recorded October 13-14, 1980; 36 minutes on the first disc) and a long live set from Germany in 1983 (38 minutes on the first disc and 48 more on the second). One of those records that would have sounded interesting but unfocused at the time, but sounds prophetic now. Hwang, who was born in Waukegan, IL, had yet to develop his mastery of Chinese classical music, so he sounds more like Leroy Jenkins here -- a pretty good deal. Connell is plug ugly on alto, but his flutes hit the right notes in contrast to the violin. Parker and Matsuura keep it all moving at breakneck speed. A-

Conference Call: What About . . . . ? (2007-08 [2010], Not Two, 2CD): Quartet, on their sixth album since 2000, the core Gebhard Ullmann (tenor sax, soprano sax, bass clarinet), Michael Jefry Stevens (piano), and Joe Fonda (bass), with George Schuller their present and most frequent drummer -- other albums have used Matt Wilson, Han Bennink, and Gerry Hemingway. Ullmann is very prolific, but he seems to perform best when someone else sets the parameters, which Stevens does here -- most likely Fonda too, as the Fonda/Stevens group goes back even further and has been recorded even more extensively. Two live in Krakow sets, the second a bit easier to get into -- Stevens' "Could This Be a Polka?" had me thinking first of tango -- but both satisfying mixes of sour and not-quite-sweet. A-

Contact: Five on One (2010, Pirouet): Not what you'd call a supergroup, but well-established veterans -- bassist Drew Gress is the youngest by more than a decade, drummer Billy Hart the elder by much less -- the front-line players easily recognized, each with sweet spots that are undeniably theirs, the rhythm section impeccable, pianist Marc Copland playing both roles. Most prominent, of course, is the sole horn, Dave Liebman on tenor and soprano sax. I've never been a fan of his soprano, but he works it in nicely here -- a sinuous interweaving that is likely inspired by the master of the art, guitarist John Abercrombie. B+(***)

The Convergence Quartet: Song/Dance (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Artist names listed on front cover alphabetically: Taylor Ho Bynum (cornet, flugelhorn), Harris Eisenstadt (drums), Alexander Hawkins (piano), Dominic Lash (bass). All write, Bynum one song, the others two each. I filed this under Bynum, who has a substantial discography since 1999, but early on Hawkins is the focal interest, with his jumpy, blocky chords chopping up time. B. 1981 in England, based in Oxford, has a new Ensemble record I haven't heard, played organ on two Decoy albums, seems like someone to keep an ear opened for. Lash is also from England, "one of the busiest players on the UK scene." Album ends with a bang-up fractured version of a South African tune, "Kudala." I'm tempted to credit Eisenstadt, who regularly works African music into free jazz contexts, but I also see that Hawkins has played with Ntshuka Bonga, and has played in a trio with Louis Moholo-Moholo and Evan Parker. B+(***)

Chick Corea: Solo Piano: Improvisations/Children's Songs (1971-83 [2010], ECM, 3CD): Three solo piano albums find Corea in an exploratory mood. The first two came from a 1971 session, when Corea was working with Miles Davis on the one hand and Anthony Braxton on the other, before he took off on Return to Forever. Aside from pieces by Monk and Shorter on Vol. 2, everything was improvised, with the melodies on Vol. 1 especially charming. Children's Songs came twelve years later, all improvised, nothing childish about it other than that he tries working from elements. Final cut adds violin and cello, a nice little piece of chamber jazz. B+(*)

Rich Corpolongo Trio: Get Happy (2009 [2010], Delmark): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1941 in Chicago, parents from Italy. Third album on Delmark, the first two dating from 1996 and 1998 with Corpolongo playing alto and soprano sax but no tenor. All three have upbeat titles -- Just Found Joy and Smiles -- but his playing is serious, sober mainstream, spare and muscular with just bass (Dan Shapera) and drums (Rusty Jones), with Charlie Parker tunes fore and aft, standards in between including the title tune, "Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," and "Body and Soul." B+(**)

Correction: Two Nights in April (2009 [2010], Ayler): Piano trio, from Sweden: Sebastian Bergström on piano, Jaocim Nyberg on bass, Emil Ĺstrand-Melin on drums. First album, drawn from two live sets on two consecutive nights, the piano has a hard edge that leans free but may know a thing or two about rock. B+(***)

Prime Picks: The Virtuoso Guitar of Larry Coryell (1998-2003 [2010], High Note): Robert Christgau once wrote: "Larry Coryell is the greatest thing to happen to the guitar since stretched gut." But looking through his Consumer Guides, I don't see any Coryell albums that Christgau actually liked much -- unlike John McLaughlin, Sonny Sharrock, and James Ulmer -- and he seems to have given up listening shortly after 1979. This samples five 1998-2003 albums, with two solo cuts and several small groups that hop around randomly -- two with trumpet, two with vibes, four with John Hicks on piano, two "Power Trio" cuts with bass and drums. Best thing is the guitar, as silvery as Coryell's hair. B+(*)

Mirio Cosottini/Andrea Melani/Tonino Miano/Alessio Pisani: Cardinal (2009, Grimedia Impressus): This will take a while to sort out. Impressus Records is Miano's label. I added this to my "wish list" after Stef Gijssels reviewed it favorably. Miano noticed and offered to send a copy. GRIM is an acronym for Music Improvisation Research Group (or a reverse acronym for the English translation). Not clear what that means or who is involved -- can't access the website listed in the inset. Cardinal could be the group name, album title, or both. Impressus has four records, the first three Miano duos. Miano plays piano. I assume he's Italian ("obtained a degree in musicology from the University of Bologna with a thesis on J. Cage" [1993]), but he's based in New York, where he's pursued a physics degree. Cosottini plays trumpet, graduated Academy of Music of Florence (1992), played in the first of Miano's duos, also in EAQuartet. Pisani plays bassoon and contrabassoon. His website has some lovely astronomical photos and a tantalizing series on assembling a 14-inch telescope. Melani plays drums; is based in Prato, Italy. Enigmatic music. The bassoon tends to slow things down and fade into atmospherics. Otherwise, with trumpet leading you get something like Chicago Underground; with bassoon, more of a chamber jazz effect. B+(***)

Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg: One Night I Left My Silent House (2008 [2010], ECM): Another record that should be out by now but hasn't arrived: one that I've been anxious to get to, as Crispell is one of the most interesting pianist working today, and Rothenberg -- oops, I must have been thinking about Ned. David Rothenberg also plays clarinet and bass clarinet, has ten albums I haven't heard since 1992, describes himself as a "philosopher-naturalist," with many of his records tuned into the sounds of nature -- Why Birds Sing (also a book title), Whale Music, etc. This is quiet and thoughtful; could perhaps use some more thought on my part. [B+(**)] [advance]

Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio: Reclamation (2009 [2010], Sunnyside): Bassist, from Memphis, mother "an amateur pianist from Paris," father "an architect and jazz drummer"; studied at Amherst, based in New York, plays in Vijay Iyer's piano trio. Fourth album since 1997; third was called Rosetta with same lineup here, the bass flanked by guitarists Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox. Seems slight at first, the guitars tuned down to adorn the bass, a balance that lets you enter the framework. Didn't get much out of the previous record, but this one draws me in every time. A-

Jamie Cullum: The Pursuit (2009 [2010], Verve): Released Mar. 2. Never got a real copy, just this "watermarked" advance with my name ominously stamped onto it, and no info on credits -- big band, string orchestra, banks of backup singers, no doubt a cast of thousands. Maybe then got confused about the packaging -- AMG lists eight editions, including packages with bonus tracks, a "deluxe edition," variants with DVDs, and the "Barnes & Noble Exclusive." With so much marketing, you'd might think he was popular, but as far as I can tell he remains a Harry Connick wannabe, handicapped by writing slightly over half of his songs. On the plus side, he's managed to shed most of the tics that made Catching Tales so annoying. That leaves him with . . . uh, nothing. C [advance]

Kris Davis/Ingrid Laubrock/Tyshawn Sorey: Paradoxical Frog (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Not familiar with Laubrock, although she also appears on the Tom Rainey record still awaiting my attention. Tenor saxophonist, b. 1970 in Germany, based in London and/or Brooklyn; five albums since 1997 by most counts, which file this one under Davis, a pianist from Canada who specializes in fast and furious saxophonists -- Rye Eclipse with Tony Malaby is my top recommendation. Sorey is a drummer, plays in Fieldwork and has a couple albums on his own that are more focused on his composition than his percussion. This should click in interesting ways, but Laubrock isn't that fleet and that seems to slow down the others. Also a queer stretch of silence (or very low volume) creates a false ending -- not sure what's going on there. B+(*)

Steve Davis: Images (2009 [2010], Posi-Tone): Trombonist, b. 1967 in Binghampton, NY, studied with Jackie McLean, who steered him to Art Blakey. Looks like he has about 18 records since 1996 (mostly for Criss Cross; his MySpace page says 13, AMG lists 17 and misses this), more than 100 side credits. This is a sextet, three horns (Josh Evans on trumpet/flugelhorn, Mike DiRubbo on alto sax) with piano, bass, and drums. Big, brash postbop outing, a lot of bounce to it. Not sure why I don't find it more appealing: too bright? not enough trombone? Don't think the problem is DiRubbo, who's choice for an album dedicated to Jackie McLean. B+(*)

Steve Davis Quintet: Live at Smalls (2009 [2010], Smalls Live): Similar to Davis's Images studio disc -- bright, energetic, straightforward hard bop -- but cut down a bit with just trombone and Mike DiRubbo's alto sax up front, and an upgrade on piano to Larry Willis. The live album artifacts help out, like the short playlist (four songs) padded out with more improv, or don't much hurt, like the extended bass solo and the patter. DiRubbo takes at least one song at Parker speeds -- he's always impressive -- and I like Davis's slow intro to "Day Dream." B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Dawn of Midi: First (2010, Accretions): Piano trio: Pakistani percussionist Qassim Naqvi, Indian contrabassist Aakaash Israni, and Moroccan pianist Amino Belyamani. Based in New York and/or Paris. First album. Evenly balanced group, the piano more rhythm than melody, especially setting out various minimalist lines, while the bass covers the whole gamut. Got stuck playing this too many times today, which makes me want to force the grade and move on. Agreeable as background, but really appreciates your full attention. B+(***)

Hamilton de Holanda Quintet: Brasilianos 2 (2007 [2010], Adventure Music, CD+DVD): Brazilian mandolin player, b. 1976, father a choro guitarist, caught the ear of bluegrass-turned-choro mandolinist Mike Marshall, who's tapped de Holanda repeatedly for his label. Has a bit of bluegrass sting, nothing you'd call "high and lonesome," but with ten strings backed by guitar and bass has a lot of resonance. Better still is Gabriel Grossi's harmonica, which functions as a horn without being easy to peg. Haven't got to the DVD. B+(**)

Dither (2010, Henceforth): Interesting concept, an electric guitar quartet, similar in principle to sax quartets but with chords and electronics thickening the sound. Guitarists are Taylor Levine, David Linaburg, Joshua Lopes, and James Moore. Starts off very quiet as if they're daring you to turn it up, although they can and do get plenty loud when they want. Played it once too loud and once too soft and figured it's not worth fiddling with the tuning, at least at this point. Could develop into something, and I've heard enough that I'm hedging. Elliott Sharp wrote the liner notes. B+(*)

Dosh: Tommy (2008-09 [2010], Anticon): Full name: Martin Dosh, from Minneapolis. Fifth record since 2003, all on Anticon, which is generally an underground hip-hop label, very underground. This one is more post-rock ambient electronica, reminiscent of Brian Eno's Another Green World at times, but not as blessed, not just because it's a bit noisier. B+(**) [advance]

Dave Douglas: A Single Sky (2009, Greenleaf Music): Guest star shot, backed by Frankfurt Radio Bigband, conducted by Jim McNeely, who arranged 4 of 7 Douglas compositions -- Douglas arranged the others. The big band is just that, competent as ever, although the solos you notice are usually the star on trumpet. B+(**)

Dave Douglas: Spirit Moves (2009, Greenleaf Music): A brass band project, with trumpet-french horn-trombone-tuba backed by Nasheet Waits' drums. Douglas works quotes into his compositions, some old Americana, some evoking Lester Bowie -- wit and funk aren't traditional Douglas long suits. Starts strong, wanders a bit, finds itself third cut from the end when they try a cover, "Mr. Pitiful," which is anything but: Otis Redding's horn charts were pretty close to one-dimensional, but each horn adds lively detail here. Continues on a high level with Douglas' "Great Awakening," then peters out on Hank Williams' "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry." B+(***)

The Dreamers: Ipos: The Book of Angels, Vol. 14 (2009 [2010], Tzadik): John Zorn group, appeared on his albums The Dreamers and O'o, not that Zorn actually plays in it. Marc Ribot's guitar and Jamie Saft's keybs tend to lead, backed by a groove-happy rhythm section -- Trevor Dunn (bass), Kenny Wollesen (vibes), Joey Baron (drums), and Cyro Baptista (percussion). It occurs to me that Ribot is especially adept at taking up these dress-up roles, like with his Cubanos Postizos. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Véronique Dubois/François Carrier: Being With (2009 [2010], Leo): Voice/sax duets. I've always loved Carrier's sax, but he doesn't have a lot of leeway here, pinned down by a high, warbly, operatic voice that I find close to unlistenable. B-

Ismael Dueńas Trio: Jazz Ateu (2009 [2010], Quadrant): Pianist, b. 1975 in Badalona, in Spain up the coast from Barcelona. Fifth album, as best I can reckon, since 2003 -- I've heard the two on Fresh Sound New Talent, both excellent but somehow lost in my shuffle. Joan Matera plays bass and Oscar Domčnech drums. For the most part this maintains a steady rhythmic flow, something I'm tempted to call postmodern stride, although it may just come from listening to Jarrett and Svensson. But he doesn't stick to the groove, shifting into melodic passages that work off something familiar, and in at least one case breaking into dissonance that resolves itself into something lovely. A-

Nathan Eklund Group: Coin Flip (2009 [2010], OA2): Trumpet player, b. 1978 near Seattle, based in NJ. Group is a quintet with Craig Yaremko on sax, Steve Myerson on Fender Rhodes. Postbop, the horns tied together harmonically over the soft springiness of the electric piano. I was more impressed last time, when the saxophonist was Donny McCaslin. B

The Element Choir: At Rosedale United (2009 [2010], Barnyard): Rosedale United is a church in Toronto. The Element Choir is a vocal group, 51 voices strong, conducted by Christine Duncan. The vocal group functions more as a crowd than as a choir. They're matched with a set of musicians who tend toward avant-ambiance: Jim Lewis (trumpet), Eric Robertson (cassavant pipe organ), Jesse Zubot (violin), and Jean Martin (drums, trumophone). The organ can get churchy, the violin elegiac, the trumpet -- well, I forget what the trumpet does, but at least it was more clear than the choir. B

Peter Epstein & Idée Fixe: Abstract Realism (2008 [2010], Origin): Alto saxophonist here, plays soprano elsewhere. Had a 2005 album, Lingua Franca, which made JCG A-list, and another album this year, The Dark, by EEA, which made the dud list. This isn't a return to form so much as yet another bold move in some other direction. There are points of electronic drone where this sounds industrial -- Andy Barbera's guitar, and possibly Sam Minaie's bass, are suspects, along with the also unknown drummer Matt Mayhall. But mostly Epstein labors mightily against dark tableaus. This wallows a bit, but when he's working he makes a strong impression. Two "special guests" also play reeds: Brian Walsh on bass clarinet, Gavin Templeton on alto and soprano sax. No idea what they're doing here. B+(***)

Ergo: Multitude, Solitude (2009, Cuneiform): Brett Sroka on trombone and computer; Carl Maguire on Fender Rhodes, Prophet synthesizer, and effects; Shawn Baltazor drums. I've run into Maguire before -- a fine pianist who pushes the state of the art in postbop compositions, but he's less distinctive here. Sroka has a previous album under his own name. This is the group's second. B+(**)

John Escreet: Don't Fight the Inevitable (2010, Mythology): Pianist, from England, b. 1984, studied at Manhattan School of Music, based in Brooklyn; second album, like 2008's Consequences a quintet with Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, David Binney on alto sax, Matt Brewer on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums (replacing Tyshawn Sorey). Ambitious, aggressive stuff, especially out the chute with the horns pumping each other up. First play I found that exhilarating; second play annoying. Gets more complicated later on, for better or worse. B+(*)

Peter Evans Quartet: Live in Lisbon (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Trumpet player, best known for his role in Mostly Other People Do the Killing, but has two solo albums on Psi (haven't heard either) and a slightly different Quartet on Firehouse 12 -- bassist Tom Blancarte and drummer Kevin Shea return here, but the guitar is replaced here by Ricardo Gallo's piano, at once more traditional and more shocking. AMG describes Evans as influenced by Don Cherry and Lester Bowie, but I don't hear either. In chops and conception, he reminds me of early Freddie Hubbard, when he could cross from avant to hard bop without ever seeming out of place. B+(***) [advance]

Mike Fahie: Anima (2010, Bju'ecords): Trombonist, b. 1976 in Ottawa, Canada; wound up in New York in 2000. First album, quintet with Bill McHenry (tenor sax), Ben Monder (guitar), Ben Street (bass), and Billy Hart (drums), produced by John McNeil. Postbop, nicely measured, with a lot of space for sax and guitar to lead, the trombone holding the record down to earth. B+(***)

Kali Z. Fasteau: Animal Grace (2005-07 [2010], Flying Note): Eclectic gadfly; soprano sax is probably her key instrument, but she also plays piano, violin, mizmar, nai flute, and sanza here, and uses her voice for something I wouldn't exactly call singing -- actually sounds processed. She first landed in free jazz in the mid-1970s with husband-drummer Donald Rafael Garrett -- cf. Memoirs of a Dream, two discs from 1975-77. Two sets here: 2007 "Live from Harlem" duo with South African drummer Louis Moholo-Moholo, and 2005 "Live in the Alps" with Bobby Few's piano trio. In both Kali Z. makes the rounds, so this has its ups and downs. The ups include Moholo's game drumming, Few's testy piano, and a pretty amazing stretch of soprano sax on the noisy closer. B+(*)

John Fedchock NY Sextet: Live at the Red Sea Jazz Festival (2008 [2010], Capri): Trombonist, b. 1957, based in New York, mostly identified with his New York Big Band which first appeared on record in 1992, and appears to still be active. Same basic sextet lineup as Steve Davis uses: trumpet-trombone-sax horn line, piano, bass, drums. Scott Wendholt plays trumpet, Walt Weiskopf tenor sax, Allen Farnham piano, David Finck bass, Dave Ratajczak drums (all but Weiskopf and Finck from the Big Band). More of a swing player than Davis, especially with Farnham, which may be why he can run the horns in unison without cloying. B+(***)

Oscar Feldman: Oscar e Familia (2009, Sunnyside): Alto saxophonist, b. 1961 in Argentina, based in New York, has one previous album in 1999. Wrote most of the pieces, one with Guillermo Klein, one by Klein alone, and one each by Wayne Shorter, Astor Piazzolla, and Hermeto Pascoal. Core group features Manuel Valera on piano, John Benitez on bass, Antonio Sanchez on drums, and Pernell Saturnino on percussion, although he also taps Pablo Aslan (bass) on four cuts, Diego Urcola (trumpet, trombone), Mark Turner (tenor sax), Tito Castro (bandoneon), Cuartetango String Quartet (two cuts), and others. Fierce sax and roiling percussion will remind you of Gato Barbieri's early "chapters." B+(***)

First Meeting: Cut the Rope (2009 [2010], Libra): Quartet: Natsuki Tamura on trumpet, the composer and presumed leader here; Satoko Fujii on piano, Kelly Churko on guitar, and Tatsuhisa Yamamoto on drums. Liner notes explain that Tamura threw the band together when promised 15-20 students would show up -- evidently all capitalism takes in the small world of avant-jazz. Conceived as a "noise band" -- a lot of warbling, scratchy, freakout stuff from the guitar, which the others play around, through, or in spite of -- Fujii is especially sharp at that. Irresistible when they tap into a groove, amusing even when they're just scattering shit. A-

Food [Thomas Strřnen/Iain Ballamy]: Quiet Inlet (2007-08 [2010], ECM): Group originally an album title from 1999, by a quartet: Iain Ballamy (saxophones), Arve Henriksen (trumpet), Mats Eilertsen (bass), and Thomas Strřnen (drums), with at least Strřnen contributing electronics. The quartet cut four Food albums through 2004, then slimmed down to Strřnen and Ballamy for a fifth album in 2007, Molecular Gastronomy. This is number six, taken from two live performances, one with Christian Fennesz on guitar and electronics, the other with Nils Petter Molvaer on trumpet and electronics. First cut, with Fennesz, reminds one of Molvaer's drum machine, but eventually the percussion gives way to ambience, laced with Ballamy's reeds and occasionally fortified by Molvaer's trumpet. B+(**)

Bill Frisell: Beautiful Dreamers (2010, Savoy Jazz): Guitarist, has cornered a slice of Americana and keeps working it, in this basic framework with Eyvind Kang on viola and Rudy Royston on drums. His originals fit in neatly enough, but the gems are the covers, including "Beautiful Dreamer," "It's Nobody's Fault but Mine" (Blind Willie Johnson), "Tea for Two," "Goin' Out of My Head," and especially "Keep on the Sunny Side." A-

Curtis Fuller: I Will Tell Her (2010, Capri, 2CD): Trombonist, b. 1934, has thirty-some records since 1957, the majority before 1963, this only the third since 1996. Basically a mainstream hard bop player: best known early album was called Blues-ette; he came back after a decade-long hiatus in 1972 with Smokin' and Crankin'; for his 2005 outing he vowed to Keep It Simple. But this album steps up for a bit more: a sextet, dominated by tenor saxophonist Keith Oxman with Al Hood's trumpet providing the ear candy; not his best trombone, but he gets in some licks. Two discs, one studio, the other live (no dates given). The rhythm section is lively, the sets endlessly enjoyable. B+(***)

Tia Fuller: Decisive Steps (2010, Mack Avenue): Alto saxophonist, also plays some soprano, b. 1976 in Aurora, CO; third album since 2005. Toured for a while with Beyoncé, but her jazz ambitions certainly aren't pop -- she's more like a younger generation Kenny Garrett, a mainstream player who can turn up the heat and draw on deep well of Coltrane antics. Band includes her sister Shamie Royston on piano, Miriam Sullivan on bass, and Kim Thompson on drums; guests include Sean Jones on trumpet/flugelhorn, Christian McBride, and tap dancer Maruice Chestnut. B+(**)

Cochemea Gastelum: The Electric Sound of Johnny Arrow (2010, Mowo!): Sax player; have him listed on alto first, but plays more tenor here, more baritone than that, more "electric sax" than anything, with flute a close second, bass clarinet, all sorts of keyboards, vibes, drums and percussion. First album, has some studio work with pop stars like Amy Winehouse (also Sharon Jones, Angelique Kidjo, New Pornographers), and funk-oriented jazzbos -- Robert Walter, Will Bernard, Melvin Sparks, Reuben Wilson (also something called Phat Jam in Milano listed under Archie Shepp). This one was co-produced by Mocean Worker, who contributed "bips & baps" as well as most of the bass. Beatwise funk, takes off when Elizabeth Pupo-Walker turns on her congas, stalls when the velocity drops too much. B+(*)

Gerry Gibbs and the Electric Thrasher Orchestra: Play the Music of Miles Davis 1967-1975 (2008 [2010], Whaling City Sound, 2CD): Drummer, 44 (b. 1965 or 1966?), born in New York, grew up in Los Angeles, lives both places now; son of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, with whom he has credits going back to 1987. Sixth album since 1995 -- a sextet album with Ravi Coltrane called The Thrasher, and Thrasher Big Band albums since 2005. The group is slimmed down a bit here as styled for electric Miles Davis: trumpet, two reeds; electric keyb, guitar and bass; Essiet Essiet on acoustic bass, and extra gongs and bells; possible electronics on the horns. Songbook goes back to quintet albums Nefertiti and In a Silent Way, but covers a lot of ground, leaning most on Bitches Brew and Live Evil. Doesn't have the spaciousness or individual virtuosity of Davis's original records, but is generally fun, emphasis on the groove. B+(**)

Rosario Giuliani: Lennie's Pennies (2009 [2010], Dreyfus Jazz): Alto saxophonist, b. 1967 in Terracina, Italy. Tenth album since 1997. Mainstream piano-bass-drums quartet, with Pierre de Bethmann also playing electric piano. Bright, bouncy, beautiful tone especially on classics like "How Deep the Ocean," some fast bebop turns. B+(**)

Aaron Goldberg: Home (2007 [2010], Sunnyside): Pianist, b. 1974 in Boston, passed through Betty Carter's boot camp, graduated from Harvard, moved to New York; fourth album since 1999, with a lot of work on the side. Trio with Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums; augmented by tenor saxophonist Mark Turner on three cuts, getting a bit lift on the opener, "Canción por la Unidad Latinoamericana," and on "Aze's Blues" -- one of 4 (of 10) originals. Covers scattered from Mandel to Monk, Jobim to Stevie Wonder, with the title track from Omer Avital. B+(*)

Ben Goldberg Quartet: Baal: The Book of Angels, Vol. 15 (2009 [2010], Tzadik): First of these I've heard, variations on John Zorn's Jewish-themed Masada songbook. Goldberg's clarinet stays on top of it all, although pianist Jamie Saft gets in some long runs. With Greg Cohen on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Johnny Griffin: Live at Ronnie Scott's (2008 [2010], In+Out): Recorded May 26-27 in London, about two months before Griffin died on July 25, 2008, so perhaps the tenor sax great's last record. Sounds rather fit, although he's often overpowered by Roy Hargrove's trumpet, which in classic Griffin form provides much of the energy level. With Billy Cobham on drums, David Newton (mostly) on piano, with Paul Kuhn dropping in for "How Deep Is the Ocean" and presumably taking the uncredited vocal. B+(**)

Scott Hamilton Quartet Plus Two: Our Delight! (2005 [2006], Woodville): The "plus two" are Mark Nightingale (trombone) and Dave Cliff (guitar); both do nice work, the trombonist roughly comparable to John Allred. Ten standards, starting off in rousing fashion with "Get Happy", ending with "In Walked Bud," some Ellington/Strayhorn along the way, the title cut from Tadd Dameron. Delightful indeed. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Scott Hamilton/Alan Barnes: Hi-Ya (2009 [2010], Woodville): I heard an interview with Benny Carter once where a caller asked "what did you learn from Johnny Hodges?" Carter's answer: "never to play any of his songs." Only two of nine songs here don't have Hodges' name on them -- some also Ellington or Strayhorn, but Hamilton gives Barnes some cover with his tenor sax, and Barnes plays baritone as well as alto. Nice, loose, plenty of swing. Still, not Hodges -- I imagine Barnes is as leary of that comparison as Carter was. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Herbie Hancock: The Imagine Project (2010, Hancock): Recorded in seven countries with guests from even further across the universe, this is a colossal engagement of liberal internationalism, and a pretty good showcase for at least some of the talent. But is the choice of such obvious songs lazy thinking or a real paucity of alternatives. Lennon's "Imagine," sure, but can't you do better than Peter Gabriel's "Don't Give Up" for an encore? (Pink sings both, paired first with Seal then with John Legend.) Lennon-McCartney return later, showcasing quintessential good guy Dave Matthews, almost as wasted as Sam Cooke is on James Morrison. Colombia and Brazil get some respect, but Bob Marley is routed through Somalia and the Sahara to East L.A., faring better than Dylan "Times They Are a Changin'" done by the Chieftains with Toumani Diabate kora. Silly as the others seem, the latter is the album's only real gag moment. High point? The closer with Chaka Khan, Anoushka Shankar, and Wayne Shorter. Plus a pianist who always sounds impeccable no matter how little he does. Not a jazz record, but the finale could be worked that way. B [Rhapsody]

Hat: Local (2008 [2010], Hatmusic): Spanish group. I've been listing them under pianist Sergi Sirvent, but this one swings pretty hard to guitarist Jordi Matas, who outwrites Sirvent five to three and plays the crucial instrument here, while Sirvent plays Fender Rhodes and a little trumpet -- not what you'd call brilliant but he's still rather effective. The quartet is rounded out with Marc Cuevas on bass (acoustic and electric) and xylophone and Oscar Doménech on drums and tinaja, each writing one song. All four also enjoy voice credits, although there's not a lot -- part of the opener, and a Matas song called "Money" that may be the first such song not to ring up some cash registers. Matas plays terrific screeching guitar there -- I'd peg it as a rock song but the musicians are way too fancy and the vocals don't get any mileage out of their crudeness. Seems transitional, but no idea to what. B+(**)

John Hébert Trio: Spiritual Lover (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): Bassist, from Louisiana, based in Jersey City, shows up on a lot of good records, now has two under his own name. Trio includes Gerald Cleaver on drums and Benoit Delbecq on piano, clarinet, and synth -- mostly piano, but the switches muddy that somewhat. If you care to, you can focus on the bass and be rewarded for your efforts. Otherwise, Delbecq is a fine pianist -- I recommend his 2005 album, Phonetics, but you get a taste of that here. B+(**)

Vincent Herring & Earth Jazz: Morning Star (2010, Challenge): No recording date. Credited with "saxophone" -- both alto and soprano are pictured in booklet, and that's his basic kit. Has a steady stream of records since 1990, when he broke in and seemed likely to be a major force, but I haven't heard much since then. Group includes Anthony Wonsey on piano, Richie Goods on bass, Joris Dudli on drums, with Danny Sadownick adding percussion on 6 of 10 tracks. After initial misdirection on "Naima," this soon settles into a funk groove album, with Goods the prime mover, Wonsey playing what sounds like electric piano. Wonsey wrote three songs, Dudli two, Goods one, Herring only one -- the one he sounds most eloquent on. B+(**)

Fred Hersch Trio: Whirl (2010, Palmetto): Pianist, b. 1955, has more than 30 albums since 1984, seemed to be the big mainstream piano hope (Bill Evans division) in the early 1990s, when he came down with AIDS. He became if anything more prolific after that, and the sidestory gradually faded until now, as he mounts a comeback after an episode that left him in a coma for two months. You get no sense of that from the music here, which is as bright and chipper as anything he's recorded. Don't really understand how it works. Maybe something about concentrating the mind. Maybe just another instance of bassist John Hébert elevating the game. Drummer Eric McPherson does good, too. A-

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (2009 [2010], Dare2): Also buried among the advances -- doubt I'll ever see a final copy. Recorded live at Birdland, so there are some intros and shout outs. Not sure if/when Holland has used the octet format before, but it splits the difference between his quintet (Chris Potter on tenor sax, Robin Eubanks on trombone, Steve Nelson on vibes, and Nate Smith on drums) and his big band, adding three more horns (Alex Sipiagin on trumpet, Antonio Hart on alto sax, and Gary Smulyan on baritone sax). Mostly Holland pieces, with Potter and Sipiagin contributing one each. A lot of firepower -- Potter and Eubanks caught my ears, but Hart and Smulyan also got called out, and Nelson gets his space. I figure this for smart postbop, and can't get excited about it, but there's much to admire, so I'll let it sit for now. Given the reputations of all involved, this will no doubt fare well in year-end polls. [B+(***)] [advance]

Dave Holland Octet: Pathways (2009 [2010], Dare2): Basically Quintet plus extra horns, not as much as the big band, but plenty for all practical purposes. Recorded live at Birdland, some applause and shout outs. Intermittently terrific, especially when trombonist Robin Eubanks bowls his way to the front. B+(***) [advance]

Lena Horne: Sings: The M-G-M Singles (1946-48 [2010], Verve/Hip-O Select): The first black actress granted a Hollywood contract, she was gorgeous in ways that transcended race -- her ancestors reportedly included slaveholders like John C. Calhoun as well as slaves, with a little American Indian mixed in along the way -- and a pretty good standards singer. Her "Stormy Weather" was a hit in 1943, the title of an MGM musical, and not included here although it seems like it should fit. This picks up a bit later. The house orchestra is completely ordinary, and more than half of the songs you no doubt know from Billie Holiday and/or Ella Fitzgerald. Horne wasn't in their class, but the best songs here -- "A Foggy Day (in London Town)" and "The Lady Is a Tramp" are two -- are completely satisfying. B+(***)

Adrian Iaies Trio: A Child's Smile (2009 [2010], Sunnyside): Pianist, from Argentina, b. 1960, nine albums since 2000; second album I've heard, Vals de la 81st & Columbus a high HM. Piano trio with Exequiel Dutil on bass, Pepi Taveira on drums. Another fine album, although after three plays I'm blocked on how to describe it -- the most memorable cuts for me are the one standard I know, "Just the Way You Are," and "Alfonsina y el Mar," the one cut with Raul Barboza's accordion added. B+(**)

Chris Icasiano/Neil Welch: Bad Luck. (2009, Belle): Icasiano is a drummer, b. 1986, from Seattle; also plays in a group called Speak, which has an album on Origin I haven't played yet -- presumably more mainstream, where this is pretty free. Welch is a Seattle saxophonist, b. 1985, plays tenor, soprano, and contrabass here with some loops and pedals. Not as much muscle as Vandermark and Nilssen-Love, the reigning champs of sax-drums duos, but what they lack is interesting in its own right. B+(***)

Ideal Bread: The Ideal Bread (2008, KMB): Quartet, brainchild of baritone saxophonist Josh Stinton, only plays Steve Lacy songs. Other members: Kirk Knuffke (trumpet), Reuben Radding (bass), Tomas Fujiwara (drums). This album came out a couple of years ago and showed up on some year-end ballots, especially as best debut album. I meant to chase them down at the time, but didn't; remembered them again thanks to their new album, Transmit: Vol. 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy -- also didn't get that one, and it's not on Rhapsody, but this one is. I've heard a lot by Lacy but can't pick out any of his songs, even album titles like "Trickles" and "Esteem." The shift from soprano to baritone precludes emulation, but the edge is there, the second horn adds further snap, and Radding has a lot to do. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Keefe Jackson Quartet: Seeing You See (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): Tenor saxophonist, also plays bass clarinet, from Fayetteville, Arkansas, moved to Chicago in 2001, third album since 2006. Quartet includes ex-Vandermark 5 trombonist Jeb Bishop, who also plays alongside Jackson in Lucky 7s, plus Jason Roebke on bass and Noritaka Tanaka on drums. Snakey free jazz, probably more interesting for Bishop's runs and smears, although Jackson can pull off some interesting lines. B+(**)

Sunny Jain: Taboo (2010, Bju'ecords): Drummer, also plays dhol, Indian-American, b. New York, parents Punjabi immigrants. Group includes Mary Cary on piano, Nir Felder on guitar, and Gary Wang on bass, with assorted vocalists on 6 of 7 songs. Compositions based on Indian ragas but don't sound all that Indian. Project "started through a desire and a sense of obligation to use my music as a platform to address social justice issues," which sounds noble and may be worth exploring but I haven't been able to latch on to much in three plays, and feel like moving on. B

Justin Janer: Following Signs (2009 [2010], Janer Music): Alto saxophonist, 25 (b. 1985?) from Seattle, grew up in L.A., based there (although he also lists New York on MySpace). Bio talks about his Puerto Rican heritage and Latin jazz interest, but this is postbop, mostly quintet with Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet and Fabian Almazan on piano -- one track adds guitar. Catches my ear when he stretches. B+(**)

An Excellent Adventure: The Very Best of Al Jarreau (1975-2004 [2009], Rhino): Originally slotted as a jazz singer because he scatted a little and tackled a couple of Dave Brubeck-Paul Desmond odd-time experiments, Jarreau cut a dozen 1975-94 albums for Warners, grabbing popular and critical acclaim, including Grammys in pop and R&B as well as jazz while never really fitting anywhere. I find his "Blue Rondo a la Turk" one of the more hideous pieces of vocalese ever recorded, and "Boogie Down" one of the lamer exercises in rote disco. That leaves a couple of decent R&B songs like "We're in This Love Together" in a compilation that proves Gödels Theorem: like math, he's a system that cannot both be complete and consistent. B-

Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Jasmine (2007 [2010], ECM): A night-blooming flower, perhaps unfair to try to listen to music this quiet and uncomplicated during the day when almost any distraction suffices to break the mood. Standards, love songs, a couple of old comrades getting sentimental. B+(*)

Beat Kaestli: Invitation (2009 [2010], Chesky): Standards singer, from Switzerland, based in New York. Fourth album since 2002. Subtitled his last one A Tribute to European Song, but this one is All American -- spine inset refers to it as "The New York Sessions" -- standards you know played by pros who keeps discreetly to the background: Kenny Rampton (trumpet), Joel Frahm (tenor sax), Paul Meyers (guitar), Jay Leonhart (bass), Billy Drummond (drums). Soft, pliable voice. Horns don't have much to do, but Meyers sets a nice tone. B+(**)

Eleni Karaindrou: Dust of Time (2008 [2009], ECM New Series): Pianist, specializes in composing for films, with seven albums on ECM since 1991, hard to tell how much more. This one is for a film by Theo Angelopoulos. Booklet has lots of pictures, presumably from the film. Mostly strings, some orchestral, but with a delicate touch, soft, easy flow, poignant. B+(**)

Manu Katché: Third Round (2009 [2010], ECM): Drummer, b. 1958 in France, roots from Côte d'Ivoire. Cut an album in 1992 when he was mostly associated with rock acts like Sting and Peter Gabriel, and now three ECM albums since 2006 -- the first, Neighbourhood, got a big boost from Jan Garbarek. The saxophonist here, also favoring soprano over tenor, is Tore Brunborg, a similar player, but can't light up a record like Garbarek. Nor does Jason Rebello add much on keyboards, but Jacob Young's guitar spots (4 cuts) are bright and lyrical. Kami Lyle sings one, in a voice that is barely there, and plays a bit of trumpet. B+(*)

Kihnoua: Unauthorized Caprices (2009 [2010], Not Two): Larry Ochs group, second his his website's group list after Sax Drumming Core, but then ROVA is on the far end. Ochs plays saxophones (probably sopranino and tenor), rough and rugged as usual, but not as rough as Dohee Lee's vocals -- her attack is barely restrainted. Also on board is Scott Amendola, drums and electronics. Group name "borrowed from ancient Greek might have meant 'the difference.'" Vocals draw on Korean "p'ansori singing" and "sinawi improvisation," but could just as well be avant horn attack. Some guests: Liz Allbee (trumpet + electronics), Fred Frith (guitar), Joan Jeanrenaud (cello). B+(**)

Randy Klein: Sunday Morning (2009 [2010], Jazzheads): Pianist, b. 1949, has ten or so records since 1986, produces records for his Jazzheads label (named after an early album), does theatre and film work -- discography includes a page as "Composer" listing Lil Kim, Memphis Bleek, Black Sheep, IRT, Sarah Dash, Millie Jackson, Candi Staton. Plays here with saxophonist Oleg Kireyev and trombonist Chris Washburne, mostly duets. Alternating the horns keeps the record out of a rut, and both make strong contributions -- I've been praising Kireyev a lot recently, but Washburne does a superb job with the more difficult instrument. B+(**)

Kneebody: You Can Have Your Moment (2009 [2010], Winter & Winter): Postbop group with a little funk undertow, probably related to their fondness for Fender Rhodes and effects. Adam Benjamin (as I said), Shane Endsley (trumpet), Kaveh Rastegar (electric bass), Ben Wendel (sax, melodica), Nate Wood (drums -- the only one not credited with effects). Cut an eponymous album for Dave Douglas's Greenleaf Music label in 2005, and got their name out front on Theo Bleckman's Twelve Songs by Charles Ives. Played this one too many times and have to move on: the horns are names I recognize but have yet to register strongly, the Rhodes is neither here nor there, and the drummer's a busy guy who has something beyond funk to add. B+(*)

Lee Konitz/Chris Cheek/Stephane Furic Leibovici: Jugendstil II (2005 [2010], ESP-Disk): Bassist Leibovici, who previously recorded as Stephane Furic, wrote all eight pieces, and acts as music director for the two saxophonists. He sets the ground rules, reining in the saxes as they're mostly yoked to the melody -- not much here for rugged individualists, although the music is pleasantly engaging. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Oliver Lake Organ Quartet: Plan (2009 [2010], Passin Thru): Follows an Organ Trio record, adding trumpeter Freddie Hendrix to returning Jared Gold (organ) and Jonathan Blake (drums) -- Lake, of course, plays alto sax. The second horn reminds me of the harmonics Julius Hemphill coaxed out of the World Saxophone Quartet (minus the booming tenor and baritone parts), and Gold does some very interesting things -- I've seen reviews invoke the idea of Monk on organ, but he doesn't just jump around a lot; he gets some positive spin on chaos. Main caveat is that it seems off here and there, a sign of the risks they're taking. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Domenic Landolf: New Brighton (2009 [2010], Pirouet): Swiss tenor saxophonist, b. 1969, also plays bass clarinet and quite a bit of alto flute here. Third album since 2004. Trio backed by Patrice Moret on bass and Dejan Terzic on drums, who keep it simple, straightforward, and thoughtful. Mix of Landolf, Moret, and group pieces, with a lovely cover of "My Old Flame" to close. B+(**)

Lawnmower: West (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): The label really seems to like group names, something I try to minimize in my filing: most seem like fronts for some principal, and even when group distribution is genuine so many group names become difficult to follow. I originally tried filing this under drummer Luther Gray: he produced and wrote the (very brief) liner notes. Don't see any song credits. Of course, the person you hear is alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs, who is always out front. Quartet is filled out with two guitarists, Geoff Farina and Dan Littleton, who don't make much of a mark. Some bits of Americana worked into the mix, giving it a bit of folk-gospel roots, but recast as free jazz, of course. B+(**)

Lean Left: The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 (2008 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz): Maybe artist name and title should be switched. "Ex Guitars" are Andy Moor and Terrie Ex of the Dutch mostly-rock group The Ex, which started much like the Mekons but instead of going country-folk hung out with African noise bands and avant-jazzers. Drummer Paal Nilssen-Love and Ken Vandermark (tenor sax, Bb clarinet) have five or six albums as a duo, many more in larger configs, and in fact many Vandermark albums have been multi-band mash-ups along such lines. Cut live at Bimhuis. Liner suggests that Vandermark couldn't hear himself over the guitars although he was aware of blowing his lungs out; no problem, the sax is loud and clear here (especially loud). The guitars are less obvious, cutting in and out with harmonic strings and blasts of distortion. While the rockers are ripping up the sonic landscape, the jazz vanguardists rock out, with Vandermark riffing heavy and the drummer tying it all together. Three short pieces and one long at 27:26 for an intense bit over 41 minutes. A-

Orlando Le Fleming: From Brooklyn With Love (2009 [2010], 19/8): Bassist, b. 1976, Birmingham, UK; moved to New York 2003. Wikipedia has an article on a professional cricket player named Antony Orlando Frank le Fleming, born on the same day in the same town (well, pretty large city), who played 1994-96; web site bio says he played cricked "for five years in the minor counties," which I guess is consistent. First album, although he has a healthy number of side credits going back to 1999, especially with Jane Monheit. Quartet here, with Will Vinson on alto sax, Lage Lund on guitar, and Antonio Sanchez on drums. Lund has some tasty guitar leads here, and Vinson is sharp but moderate. Attractive album. Seems like I'm on a run of records that sound quite good but don't quite move me to write about them. B+(**)

Jim Lewis/Andrew Downing/Jean Martin: On a Short Path From Memory to Forgotten (2008 [2010], Barnyard): Trumpet, bass, drums, respectively. Canadians: Lewis teaches at University of Toronto, which Downing attended. This looks to be Lewis's first album. Scratchy free jazz, often engaging, a little short of fire power. B+(**)

Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth: Deluxe (2008 [2010], Clean Feed): I used to be able to ID these cars: cover looks like a mid-1950s Oldsmobile (1956?), the sketch inside more like a 1959 Caddy, the ne plus ultra of tailfins. Lightcap's a bassist, b. 1971, gets around, third album under his own name after two Fresh Sound New Talents. Runs a big horn line here, with tenor saxophonists Chris Cheek and Tony Malaby on all cuts, and alto saxophonist Andrew D'Angelo joining in on three of eight. Craig Taborn plays Wurlitzer, and Gerald Cleaver is the drums. Sounds like a freewheeling lineup, but they mostly hum along in sync. I used to have a monster Olds: a 1965, with a 425 cu. in. V-8, 4 bbl. carb, put out about 360 hp, ran real smooth keeping all that power bottled up under its big hood, kind of like this record. B+(*)

Joe Locke: For the Love of You (2009 [2010], Koch): Instrumentally a fairly snazzy quartet, with Locke's vibes rattling against Geoffrey Keezer's ivories, and George Mraz and Clarence Penn pushing the rhythm. Problem is they added a singer, Kenny Washington, like Jimmy Scott a little guy with a lot of octaves. First song is awful. Second is "Old Devil Moon" -- can't hardly ruin that. Evens out a bit after that. B- [Rhapsody]

The Mark Lomax Trio: The State of Black America (2007 [2010], Inarhyme): Drummer, b. 1979, from Columbus, OH; describes himself as "the Quincy Jones of his generation"; first group, 1999, was called Blacklist, their first album Blacklisted; trio has a previous gospel-themed album, Lift Every Voice!; this one has originals titled "Stuck in a Rut," "The Unknown Self," "The Power of Knowing," and "To Know God Is to Know Thy Self" (well, also "Blues for Charles"). None of that prepared me for this record, a sax trio, with unknowns Dean Hulett on bass and Edwin Bayard on tenor. First approximation on Bayard is that he sounds a lot like David S. Ware, and I mean a lot. [was: A-] A

Sarah Manning: Dandelion Clock (2009 [2010], Posi-Tone): Alto saxophonist, originally from Connecticut where she bumped into Jackie McLean and picked up a bit of his overbite. Passed through San Francisco on her way to New York. Third album, two covers (Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacocks," Michel Legrand's "The Windmills of Your Mind") and seven originals, with Art Hirahara on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Kyle Struve on drums. Has some edge to her playing, not just the rough tone, and gets occasional buzz from the group -- hadn't heard Hirahara before but his solos stand out. B+(**)

Jacám Manricks: Trigonometry (2009 [2010], Posi-Tone): Saxophonist, not specified but plays alto in his photos and has played soprano in the past; based in New York, teaches at Manhattan School of Music; bio doesn't provide details like when/where born, how he got to New York, etc. One previous album, last year's Labyrinth, also an impressive disc. Wrote all but a Dolphy piece. Postbop, has a loquacious tone, gets solid support from Gary Versace on piano and Obed Calvaire on drums, and occasional front line help from Scott Wendholt (trumpet) and Alan Ferber (trombone). Sorry for the grade rut, but I can't budge this up or down. [PS: Looks like he started out in Australia.] B+(**)

Margret: Com Vocę (2010, Sunnyside): Last name Grebowicz, from Texas, probably based in New York now although hype sheet says she teaches philosophy at Goucher College in Baltimore. Website refers to band as Com Vocę, but hype sheet gives Margret as artist name, Com Vocę as album title. She/they have a 2007 album, Candeias, under Com Vocę. Band isn't really applicable on this album anyway: Margret sings on all tracks, but only has Ben Monder (guitar) on one track, Matvei Sigalov (guitar) on another, Monder and Scott Colley (bass) on a third; tenor saxophonist Stan Killian, who seems to be her senior collaborator, only appears on 3 of 9 tracks. Only 3 of 9 songs have Brazilian roots, but she does a fair Astrud Gilberto impression, especially on the sweetly synthetic "Call Me." B

Bobby McFerrin: Vocabularies (2010, Emarcy): Actually, title is consistently spelled "VOCAbuLarieS" -- a not-so-subtle way of pointing out that most of the sounds are vocal. The balance comes from producer-cowriter Roger Treece's synths and programming, Alex Acuńa's percussion, and small doses of Donny McCaslin sax and Pedro Eustache woodwinds. The cover notes Treece's contribution "and over 50 amazing singers" -- not counting a crowd of 2500 in Bergen, Norway. Each song has at least 16 singers, a chorale effect that trivializes any individual -- McFerrin is always credited as "lead vocal," and Lisa Fischer often as "featured vocal," but neither make much of an impression. B

Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (2009 [2010], Nonesuch): One quick play and there's way too much here to sort out or dismiss. Haven't sorted out who's on which cuts, but the maximum configuration is Mehldau on piano, Joshua Redman on tenor sax, Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard and Matt Chamberlain on drums, and Dan Coleman conducting an orchestra of 30-40 more -- mostly strings, although I'll note that there is both a bassoon and a contrabassoon. I'm not inclined to like the orchestral wash, but thus far it sounds fine. Redman could be more aggressive, but it's Mehldau's thing. I've heard a fair amount of his piano trios and regard him as quite talented but still a project for some future day. [B+(***)]

Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (2009 [2010], Nonesuch, 2CD): Started out with piano trios, making an impressive debut and sustaining his Art of the Piano Trio series longer than anyone has a right to; dropped the obligatory solo album, but then started moving onto large canvases, more composer than improviser. This one sprawls over two discs, awash in a huge string orchestra, which alternately annoys and soothes me. Joshua Redman also graces the affair, sounding functionally comparable to Jan Garbarek if not quite so sweet or sharp. B+(**)

Myra Melford's Be Bread: The Whole Tree Gone (2008 [2010], Firehouse 12): Pianist, b. 1957, cut a couple of trio albums in 1990-91 that Francis Davis noticed, and gradually worked her way into the front rank of cutting edge jazz pianists. Teaches at UC Berkeley. Be Bread is her most expansive group, previously heard on the 2006 album The Image of Your Body, much advanced here: Cuong Vu (trumpet), Ben Goldberg (clarinet), Brandon Ross (guitar), Stomu Takeishi (acoustic bass guitar), and Matt Wilson (drums). A-

Dave Mihaly's Shimmering Leaves Ensemble: Eastern Accents in the Far West (2010, Porto Franco): Drummer, plays some piano here, also has a voice credit; based in San Francisco, after starting in NJ and NY; credits Andrew Cyrille, Barry Altschul, and Zakir Hussain as teachers, and reports that he's taught for some thirty years. First album according to AMG, although his website lists several more, including three string quartets and an expanded "Coretet" version of this group. Two-horn trio, with David Boyce on tenor sax and Ara Anderson on brass instruments (trumpet, bass trumpet, sousaphone), both occasionally spelling Mihaly on drums. I recall Anderson from Tin Hat; Boyce has a couple dozen credits, the only one I recognize a hip-hop album, Haiku D'Etat (actually, a pretty good one, with Aceyalone). The two horns twist in interesting ways, with just enough support from drums (and sometimes piano) to tie it together. B+(**)

Mikrokolektyw: Revisit (2009 [2010], Delmark): Polish duo, Artur Majewski on trumpet, Kuba Sucher on drums, both working electronics, based in Wroclaw but with some sort of connection to Chicago -- at least to Rob Mazurek, whose Chicago Underground is a basically similar cornet-drums duo. Sounds microtonal at first, but the trumpet offers relief from any potential tedium. B+(*)

Allison Miller: Boom Tic Boom (2010, Foxhaven): Drummer, from DC, based in New York, second album after one in 2005, substantial list of side credits since 1999, mostly rock (exceptions include Virginia Mayhew, Marty Ehrlich, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Judy Silvano, and Todd Sickafoose). Mostly piano trio with Myra Melford leading, Sickafoose on bass, and some guest contribution from violinist Jenny Scheinman -- just one cut as far as I can tell. Four originals from Miller, two from Melford, one each from Mary Lou Williams and Hoagy Carmichael ("Rockin' Chair"). Slows down for the finale, but Melford is in very fine form -- a better showcase for her piano than her own record. A-

James Moody: 4B (2008 [2010], IPO): One of the most popular bebop saxophonists to emerge in the early 1950s, both through his long association with Dizzy Gillespie and through a few fluke hits of his own, and one of the last standing. This follows up on last year's 4A, more standards from the same sessions, the "4" referring to a quartet with Kenny Barron, Todd Coolman, and Lewis Nash. Straightforward, beautiful tone, swings through "Take the A Train," doesn't cut up the Tadd Dameron and Benny Golson pieces, backup is impeccable, and he leaves his flute in the case. One to remember him by, but it's still a bit early for that. Looks like this includes a label sampler, which with its Roland Hanna and Roger Kellaway piano and Tad Jones tribute band (One More) should make for fine dinner background. B+(***) [Aug. 25]

Jason Moran: Ten (2010, Blue Note): Pianist, b. 1975, grew up in Houston, studied at Manhattan School of Music with Jaki Byard, also hooking up with Muhal Richard Abrams and Andrew Hill. Signed out of college by Blue Note, his first album appearing on a major label in 1999, making him an instant rising star. For a while it seemed like he could do nothing wrong: his first four albums made my A-list, and I can't offhand tell you if any other jazz pianist has ever done that. Fifth one was live, an understanable slip, but his next couple were merely good, and this one (which I count as his eighth) comes nearly four years after the last. Not clear where the title comes from, but it looks like a summing up: covers of Monk and Byard, Bernstein and Nancarrow, a joint credit with Hill. I've played this 6-8 times, maybe more, but haven't quite gotten into it. The last two cuts (Byard's "To Bob Vatel of Paris" and Moran's own "Old Babies") are fairly wonderful with hints of stride, and there is a lot of fancy stuff up front and thought in the middle -- impressive stuff, no doubt. Wonder why I don't like it more. B+(***)

Joe Morris: Colorfield (2009, ESP-Disk): Guitarist, from Boston, with about 30 albums since 1990, has been on a roll lately -- I count three A-list records since 2004 under his own name, a near miss, and a few more under other names, but most of those rode in on the coattails of hard-blowing saxophonists (Ken Vandermark, Jim Hobbs). Missed this one from last year, a trio with pianist Steve Lantner and his usual drummer Luther Gray. Don't know Lantner, but he worked with Joe (and Mat) Maneri, has a half dozen albums since 1997, and provides a consistently interesting contrast to Morris's irrascible guitar. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran: Lost in a Dream (2009 [2010], ECM): This should have been released Mar. 9 but I never got the usual final copy, and have been thrashing around trying to find the advance as it's already been widely reviewed. With no bassist there's no chance of swinging, and with Motian drumming there isn't much of a beat. Moran is another shrinking violet, comping gently and somewhat abstractly, perhaps intent on emulating the Zen master drummer. That leaves Potter in the spotlight. While he too follows the prevailing mood, he doesn't shirk his role, which is to render these marginal melodies as gorgeously as possible, and occasionally hint that there may be more powerful forces lurking beneath the surface. B+(***) [advance]

Music of the Sphere: Thelonious Monk Songbook [The Composer Collection Volume 5] (1977-2009 [2010], High Note): Continues the label's efforts to pad their product line with samplers. You'd think that Monk's pieces (excepting "'Round About Midnight," natch) are so distinctive they'd provide a unifying theme for an inherently disunified various artist selection, but the compiler seems to have taken that as a challenge to make the selection more perverse. The Arthur Blythe/John Hicks duo is sketchy. The Joel Harrison nonet is one I'd just as soon never hear again. Larry Coryell excels, and Frank Morgan seems refreshingly normal. But I'd still rather hear the whole of the Mary Lou Williams trio I missed than a pastiche like this. B-

Wolfgang Muthspiel & Mick Goodrick: Live at the Jazz Standard (2008 [2010], Material): Guitar duo. Muthspiel is Austrian, b. 1965, has about 20 albums since 1990. He gets compared to Metheny and Scofield a lot, but I like him better, with his early Black and Blue and recent Bright Side especially recommended (the latter was a Jazz CG pick hit). Goodrick is an older American, b. 1945, broke in with Gary Burton alongside Metheny. He has a 1978 ECM album, In Pas(s)ing (recommended to John Surman fans), a few more in the 1990s, not much really. The two guitarists sort of melt together here in a polite encounter that generates little heat. Still, there is something to be said for that ice tone and the ability to spin long clean lines. B+(**)

Mycale: Mycale: The Book of Angels, Volume 13 (2009 [2010], Tzadik): More of John Zorn's new-old Jewish music, this time rendered a capella by a group of four women vocalists: Ayelet Rose Gottlieb, Sofia Rei Koutsovitis, Basya Schecter, and Malika Zarra -- I've run across records under the first three names already. Lyrics picked up from various texts in Hebrew, Yiddish, Ladino, French, and Arabic. The music has some bounce and resonance, sort of a klezmerish barbershop quarter. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Milwaukee Volume (2007 [2010], Smalltown Superjazz): Chicago reed player Vandermark plays tenor and baritone sax, Bb and bass clarinet; drums and percussion for Norwegian Nilssen-Love. Nilssen-Love has played in several Vandermark groups like School Days and in Territory Band. They hooked up for an improv duet in 2002 called Dual Pleasure, followed that with the 2-CD Dual Pleasure 2 in 2003, Seven in 2005, and now two new discs, the one from Milwaukee cut a day before the one from Chicago. They go round and round, same basic moves, hard to sort out any real advantages here or there, but this one, I'd say, has more pure pleasure than any since the surprise of the debut wore off. For one thing, Vandermark has developed into a monster baritone player, so the really rough stuff comes out loud and low. A-

Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark: Chicago Volume (2007 [2010], Smalltown Supersound): A day later after Milwaukee Volume, same setup, similar results. Been playing both a lot since they arrived, but this one remains a bit less focused to me, with fewer pleasure spots. B+(***)

NoMoreShapes: Creesus Crisis (2010, Drip Audio): Canadian trio, from (and/or based in) Calgary: Jay Crocker on guitar and electronics, J.C. Jones trombone, Eric Hamelin drums and percussion. One suspects rock backgrounds, but this comes off more like freebop than any kind of experimental fusion. The trombone certainly helps. B+(**)

Mark O'Connor: Jam Session (2000-04 [2010], OMAC): Whiz-kid bluegrass fiddler, b. 1961, won some prizes when he was young, one result being that Country Music Foundation's compilation of his 1975-84 work is called The Championship Years. Gradually gravitated toward jazz, where he seems stuck on Stephane Grappelli. These cuts actually come from four sessions, two with mandolinist Chris Thile and guitarist Bryan Sutton, one of those plus the other two with guitarist Frank Vignola, with either Jon Burr or Byron House on bass. Informal fun, but doesn't impress me much one way or the other. B

Meg Okura and the Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble: Naima (2009 [2010], Meg Okura): Violinist, also plays erhu, b. 1973 in Tokyo, Japan, based in New York. Has a previous album, Meg Okura's Pan Asian Chamber Jazz Ensemble (2006), as well as several in Japan that AMG doesn't have a clue about. Also shows up in side credits on a couple dozen albums, mostly John Zorn circle but also with Dianne Reeves, David Bowie, and Ziggy Marley. Group is chamber-ish, with flutes (Anne Drummond Jun Kubo), piano, cello, bass, drums, and percussion (Satoshi Takeishi), and the pieces tend to be suite-like, the last four under the group title "Lu Chai I-IV." The title track, of course, is an arrangement of Coltrane; everything else original. Striking music when it all clicks, which often it does. B+(**)

Open Graves [Paul Kikuchi/Jesse Olsen]: Hollow Lake (2009, Prefecture): Bay Area-based Olsen is "founder and director of Deconstruct My House, an organization dedicated to presenting and fostering experimental music in socially conscious ways"; also "half of the experimental folk duo Ramon & Jessica." Sounds like a noble calling. For Kikuchi, see above [Tide Tables]. Not sure what Olsen does -- uncredited instruments here are "guitar, voice, slit drum, trombone, bells, walkie-talkies, and Kikuchi and Keplinger instruments" -- but he manages to ground whatever percussion Kikuchi attempts. This "seeks resonant spaces and uncommon environments," which means it is ambient and droney, not uninteresting, but demands attention it doesn't entice. B

Aruán Ortiz Quartet: Alameda (2006 [2009], Fresh Sound New Talent): Pianist, b. 1973, from Santiago de Cuba, passed through Spain and France before moving to US in 2003, to study at Berklee and wind up in New York. Cut an album of Cuban standards in 1996, a trio in 2005, and now this augmented quartet. The extra is tenor saxophonist Antoine Roney, who joins in on three cuts and gets a "featuring" shout out on the cover. The quartet includes Eric McPherson on drums, Peter Slavov on bass, and Abraham Burton on alto sax. Roney's the better known name, and I like him well enough, but Burton carries this record, as he has regularly done throughout his career. Ortiz plays some electric. Doesn't make much of his Cuban roots, but I don't doubt he could. B+(**)

Evan Parker: House Full of Floors (2009, Tzadik): Mostly trio with John Russell on guitar and John Edwards on bass, Parker playing both soprano and tenor sax, scratchy and patchy on both, with most of the muscle coming out of the bass. Aleks Kolkowski joins in on three tracks, playing stroh viola, saw, and wax cylinder recorder, respectively. I take this for easy listening background music, but you probably don't. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Sarah Partridge: Perspective (2009 [2010], Peartree): Singer, based in NJ, fourth album since 1998. Did some acting 1983-93. Duet with pianist Daniel May. Two originals, the rest standards. Never breaks out of a rather bland rut. B-

Art Pepper: Unreleased Art, Vol. V: Stuttgart May 25, 1981 (1981 [2010], Widow's Taste, 2CD): Yet another installment in Laurie Pepper's catalog of late Pepper bootlegs, eleven days after The Croydon Concert which appeared as Vol. III in 2008, eight days before Art Pepper With Duke Jordan in Copenhagen 1981 (released by Galaxy in 1996 and a favorite of mine ever since), then there is the Nov. 22, 1981 Abashiri Concert (Vol. 1 in this series). With Milcho Leviev on piano, Bob Magnuson on bass, and Carl Burnett on drums: a common tour group for Pepper, although only Burnett was a frequent player on Pepper's Galaxy albums of the period -- George Cables was his most common pianist. I'm not sure you need all of these, but after a while one starts looking for idiosyncrasies, and this one has plenty. Leviev is much rougher than Cables and tends to run on, but he is explosive here. Pepper has his ordinary moments, but "Landscape" on the first disc is magnificent; on the second he tears at "Over the Rainbow" trying to come up with something new after thirty years of playing the song, and he succeeds, then celebrates by burning through "Cherokee." A-

Ivo Perelman/Daniel Levin/Torbjörn Zetterberg: Soulstorm (2009 [2010, Clean Feed, 2CD): Recording date just given as "April 18" -- presumably before the March 2010-dated liner notes. Tenor saxophonist, b. 1961 in Brazil, based in New York, has at least 35 albums since 1989, including a few more in the queue that I haven't gotten to yet. Levin plays cello (as has Perelman on occasion), and Zetterberg bass, so they sort of flow together into a backdrop for Perelman's musings, some rough and tumble but most sensitive and eloquent. A-

Ivo Perelman/Gerry Hemingway: The Apple in the Dark (2010, Leo): Hemingway is a drummer with a notable discography under his own name, as well as renown as a sideman, perhaps most importantly in Anthony Braxton's 1980s quartet. Perelman is the tenor saxophonist from Brazil. I have in my notes that he's also played cello (in Strings, a duo with guitarist Joe Morris), but hadn't noticed him playing piano before (the only instance I can find is a 1999 album, Brazilian Watercolor). In these duos, he plays piano about half of the time -- didn't manage to count the cuts -- and tenor sax the other half. He's more assured, and more relaxed, on his main instrument, but I'm even more struck by the piano. James Hall's liner notes described it as "a kaleidoscopic jumber of Erroll Garner and Monk" but I was thinking more of Cecil Taylor, and not just because he makes a lot of noise but because he turns it into something remarkable. A-

Ivo Perelman/Dominic Duval/Brian Willson: Mind Games (2008 [2010], Leo): Conventional tenor sax trio, with Duval on bass and Wilson on drums. I saw Duval play once, with Cecil Taylor, who ran him ragged for about 20 minutes, then after Duval was worn out Taylor started to play a little himself. Wilson is a drummer. Can't find out much about him, but he's certainly not the ex-Beach Boys singer-guitarist who shows up in his stead for the first million or so Google searches. Pretty good drummer, too. As for the tenor saxophonist, this is billed marking the 20th anniversary of his recording career, and he's in his prime, sticking to what he knows best. Before this string, I had only heard 4-5 of his recordings, the delta there an unrated duo with Borah Bergman, and only had one at A-: 1996's Sad Life. It, too, was a sax trio, with William Parker and Hamid Drake. I wonder whether, had I played the records in some other order, I might have nitpicked one or the other down a notch. After three plays I'm not totally blown away here either, but have no nits to pick. I need to go back the review the others, and figure out what to do with this cluster -- probably a lead and two high HMs. (Also wonder why they didn't send me the Perelman/Wilson duo The Stream of Life -- hard to think of any label I don't get that I'd be more excited to hook into than Leo.) A-

Ivo Perelman: The Ventriloquist (2001 [2002], Leo): Rhapsody has two copies of this with different artwork -- this one matches Leo's website. With Paul Rodgers on guitar, Ramon Lopez on drums, and either Louis Sclavis on bass clarinet or Christine Wodrascka on piano. The horns squeak more than squawk, but that's the basic range, at a pretty intense level. The piano pieces, especially the long title track, are at least as intense; she throws fits of unbalanced chords, and Perelman has to play his ass off to keep from being buried. Very intense, not comfortable with it myself. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Ivo Perelman & Dominic Duval: Nowhere to Hide (2009, Not Two): Tenor sax-bass duo, a subset of the trio that recorded Mind Games, which benefitted from the accents and dynamics of drummer Brian Wilson. Perelman is close in tone and temperament to the later albums -- much mellower than on the early albums -- but stretches a bit thin here, partly listener fatigue setting in approaching 76 minutes. B+(**) [Rhapsody]

Ivo Perelman: Brazilian Watercolour (1998 [1999], Leo): Several Perelman albums have been reissued in Brazil on Atraçăo Fonográphica and worked their way to Rhapsody that way -- this one under the title Aquarela do Brasil, but aside from a few title translations this matches the release on Leo. One of the few cases where Perelman plays a couple of pop tunes from his homeland, here "Desafinado" and "Samba de Verăo" -- the strain and choppiness he adds makes them all the more alluring. With Matthew Shipp on piano, Rashid Ali on drums, Guilherme Franco and Cyro Baptista on percussion and wood flutes. A singular tenor saxophonist, even on a lite samba. Also has a piano credit somewhere, but it's not clear to me where Shipp gives way. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Ivo Perelman with C.T. String Quartet: The Alexander Suite (1998, Leo): The quartet is sharp and jazzwise, led from the bassist: Jason Kao Hwang (violin), Ron Lawrence (viola), Tomas Ulrich (cello), and Dominic Duval (bass). That makes them about as astringent as the tenor saxophonist, who squeaks and squawks above them, pretty much as sharp and bloody as cutting edge gets. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

Gregory Porter: Water (2009 [2010], Motema): Vocalist, based in Brooklyn, first album. Wrote 6 of 11 songs; one called "1960 What?" on the Detroit riot is a choice cut, partly because he beefs up the horn section (three trumpets and trombone), partly because he doesn't try to constrain his cool. On the other hand, standards like "Skylark" and "But Beautiful" are really tightened down. B+(*)

Portico Quartet: Isla (2009 [2010], Real World): British group: Jack Wyllie (saxes, electronics), Milo Fitzpatrick (double bass), Duncan Bellamy (drums, piano), and Nick Mulvey (hang drums, percussion). Record also has a string quartet -- two violins, viola, cello -- arranged by Fitzpatrick, but mostly what you hear is soprano sax riffing over percussion, not much as jazz but a very listenable synthesis of postrock minimalism and world fusion. B+(**)

Dan Pratt Organ Quartet: Toe the Line (2008 [2010], Posi-Tone): Tenor saxophonist, from Saratoga, CA, moved to New York in 1997. Group identified as DPOQ on their previous album. Jared Gold plays organ, Mark Ferber drums, and Alan Ferber chimes in on trombone. All originals except for Ellington-Strayhorn's "Star Crossed Lovers." Sounds a lot like Eric Alexander, especially when he gets up a good head of steam. The trombone is fun as a solo contrast, but the postbop harmonies are less appealing. B+(**)

Tom Rainey Trio: Pool School (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Album says this was recorded "on September 4th, 2010" -- I assume that's a typo for 2009. Rainey is a drummer who's made a big impression, especially in Tim Berne's groups. Has a long credits list going back to 1987, but this is the first album under his own name. Gets all the composition credits, too. Trio includes Ingrid Laubrock on tenor and soprano sax and Mary Halvorson on guitar. Both tend to wobble here, which is sort of an art form for Halvorson, harder to speculate on with Laubrock. Free playing, takes a lot of attention, doesn't give much back, even from the drummer. B+(*)

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and Negotiations (2008 [2010], 482 Music): Chicago drummer. Personnel in this particular group has shifted around depending on what Reed wants to focus on, but the basic theme is 1950s proto-avant-garde jazz in Chicago, which includes pieces here from Clifford Jordan, John Jenkins, Wilbur Campbell, Julian Priester, and (especially) Sun Ra. Art Hoyle (trumpet) and Priester (trombone) are featured here, as is Ira Sullivan, a tenor saxophonist who also hails from the 1950s. The younger set includes Greg Ward (alto sax), Tim Haldeman (tenor sax), Jeb Bishop (trombone), and Jason Roebke (bass), so we get a lot of horns freebopping along. Reed wrote three originals, one for each of his featured guests. In several plays they have yet to resolve -- when I do perk up it's invariably in one or another of the covers. B+(***)

Reed's Bass Drum: Which Is Which (2009 [2010], Reed's Bass Drum): Brooklyn-based sax trio, with Jonah Parzen-Johnson leading on baritone, Noah Garabedian on bass, and Aaron Ewing on drums. First album. Freebop, moderately paced, no surprise given how slow the bari takes the corners; marvelous, though, when the big horn reaches for a bottom note. B+(**)

Pete Robbins: Silent Z Live (2009 [2010], Hate Laugh Music): Alto saxophonist, b. 1978, grew up in Andover, MA, studied at Phillips Academy, Tufts, and New England Conservatory; moved to Brooklyn in 2002. Fourth album since 2002. Two quintet variants, half with Jesse Neuman on cornet, the other hand with Cory Smythe on piano; both with Mike Gamble on guitar, Thomas Morgan on bass, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. Gets a sweet sound out of his horn, working freebop grooves and angles, dicier with the cornet than with the piano, but engaging in all cases. B+(***)

Aldo Romano: Origine (2009 [2010], Dreyfus Jazz): Drummer, b. 1941 in Belluno, Italy, but moved to France in 1950s and has been long based in Paris. Has a couple dozen albums under his own name since 1977, and a lot of credits -- AMG, which misses a lot in Europe, has a long page starting with Gato Barbieri and Don Cherry in 1965, Steve Lacy in 1966, Rolf Kuhn in 1967, Joachim Kuhn and Steve Kuhn in 1969. Romano composed these pieces, probably over the course of his career, with Yves Simon adding lyrics to "Jazz Messengers" which Romano sings in a touchingly offhand way. Lionel Belmondo arranged the pieces for a large orchestra -- no strings but flutes, English and French horns, bassoon, and tuba, along with the usual reeds, limited brass, piano, bass, and drums -- which the notes fairly describe as "sumptuous." B+(**)

Jim Rotondi: 1000 Rainbows (2008 [2010], Posi-Tone): Trumpet player, b. 1962 in Butte, MT, attended UNT, based in New York, has more than a dozen albums since 1997, mostly on mainstream/hard bop labels Criss Cross and Sharp Nine; also more than 50 side credits since 1992. Sole horn, with Joe Locke on vibes, Danny Grissett on piano, Barak Mori on bass, and Bill Stewart on drums. Hard-edged, bright sound, another very solid record. B+(**)

ROVA & Nels Cline Singers: The Celestial Septet (2008 [2010], New World): World renowned saxophone quartet plus world renowned guitar-bass-drums trio, works out to be a pretty full-featured band. The saxophonists -- Bruce Ackley, Steve Adams, Larry Ochs, and Jon Raskin -- are used to orchestrating their own harmony, but assuming the Singers will take up the slack they get to stretch out a bit here. But Nels Cline, bassist Devin Hoff, and drummer Scott Amendola don't harmonize so much as build up the ambient noise level, putting this into Electric Ascension territory, minus the annoyances of the Coltrane script. Closest they come is Ochs's 25:23 paean to Albert Ayler, "Whose to Know," where the noise climax seems well-earned. B+(***)

Ellen Rowe Quartet: Wishing Well (2009 [2010], PKO): Pianist, b. 1958, from Connecticut, teaches at University of Michigan, third album since 2001. Runs marathons, climbs mountains: Aconcagua, Denali -- second album was called Denali Pass. Wrote 9 of 10 pieces, covering "Alone Together." Quartet includes Andrew Bishop on tenor and soprano sax, nice balance since she doesn't push her piano real hard. Higher peaks come from the guests: Andy Haefner (tenor sax) on one cut, Ingrid Jensen (flugelhorn) on two. After playing John Zorn most of yesterday, I found this sublimely relaxing. B+(***)

Terje Rypdal: Crime Scene (2009 [2010], ECM): Guitarist, b. 1947, part of the George Russell generation of Norwegian jazz musicians; started in rock and gravitated in and out of fusion over the years. Shows some of that here, but the album, a concert recording at Nattjazz Festival in Bergen, veers wildly about with a range of things I can't add up much less reconcile: scattered vocal samples assembled by drummer Paolo Vinaccia; free-ranging trumpet by Palle Mikkelborg; grungy organ by Stĺle Storlřkken; and occasional earth rumbling from the 17-piece Bergen Big Band. Each of these things are interesting. (Surprised to find him dropped from the 9th ed. of The Penguin Guide, along with 18 records, all on ECM, very likely all still in print.) B+(**)

Dino Saluzzi: El Encuentro (2009 [2010], ECM): Bandoneon virtuoso, b. 1935 in Argentina, picks up from the tango tradition but usually adds a jazz dimension. Eleventh ECM album since 1982, plus a few others scattered here and there. Cut a duet album with cellist Anja Lechner in 2006, and continues that collaboration here, adding Felix Saluzzi on tenor sax and, most fatefully, the Metropole Orchestra (Jules Buckley, conductor) for a live album. Metropole is a Dutch group, limited here to strings, which pushes all of my I-hate-classical-music buttons. (Not sure how this group relates to the Metropole Orchestra founded in 1945, currently directed as a big band by Vince Mendoza.) The Saluzzis and Lechner are hard pressed to stand out against such dross. B-

Scenes: Rinnova (2009 [2010], Origin): Guitarist John Stowell, leading a trio with Seattle stalwarts Jeff Johnson (bass) and John Bishop (drums). Second album as Scenes, plus an earlier quartet album titled Scenes. Stowell's credits go back to the mid-1970s. AMG credits him with 13 albums and a few more credits, mostly since 2000. Has an engagingly subtle style, calmly picking his way through intricate sequences. Need more time to decide just how substantial this is. [B+(***)]

Scenes [John Stowell/Jeff Johnson/John Bishop]: Rinnova (2009 [2010], Origin): Guitar-bass-drums trio. Stowell is a subtle craftsman, and Seattle's standard rhythm section lay out smartly measured postbop ambience. B+(***)

Hiroe Sekine: A-Mé (2009 [2010], Sekai Music): Pianist, from Japan, studied at USC. First album, produced by Russell Ferrante, who plays synth on one track. Most tracks are sextet, with trumpet (John Daversa), trombone (Bob McChesney), tenor sax (Bob Sheppard, also soprano and flute), bass (Tony Dumas), and drums (Peter Erskine or Chris Wabich), generating a robust mainstream sound -- Sheppard is typically superb. Half originals, half covers -- Gigi Gryce, Frank Loesser, Jerome Kern, Isham Jones, Milton Nascimento. One solo piece, which I found quite likable. B+(*)

Elliott Sharp: Octal Book Two (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Guitarist, b. 1951. AMG lists him under classical (chamber music) since 1986, although his rather large discography goes back to 1977. I hadn't heard anything until he showed up playing Monk on Clean Feed, and now I'm up to four records, barely scratching the surface. Solo guitar -- having a lot of trouble with the small print here, but the credit actually looks like "Koll 8-string electroacoustic guitarbass." Interesting but marginal, turning ambient toward the end. B+(**)

Avery Sharpe Trio: Live (2008 [2010], JKNM): Bassist, built his career on long turns with McCoy Tyner and Yusef Lateef, each honored with a song here. Ninth album since 1988. Group is a trio with Onaje Alan Gumbs on piano and Winard Harper on drums. Three originals by Sharpe, one by Gumbs, one more cover: "My Favorite Things." B+(*)

Archie Shepp: The New York Contemporary Five (1963 [2010], Delmark): One of two contemporaneous John Tchicai groups that took New York for their name -- the other was New York Art Quartet with trombonist Roswell Rudd -- yet recorded mostly in the alto saxophonist's native Denmark. This one sported Don Cherry (cornet) and Archie Shepp (tenor sax) on the front line, Don Moore (bass) and J.C. Moses (drums). They recorded a studio album in New York for Fontana in August 1963, then two live sets at Jazzhus Montmartre in Copenhagen for Sonet in November. The latter, minus two cuts, were consolidated by Storyville into a single CD. This reissue goes back to Sonet's Vol. 1 -- perhaps the other shoe will fall later, although there is no indication of it here. They went on to cut one more album for Savoy in 1964, with different bass and drums, Ted Curson replacing Cherry on two cuts, and Shepp's name (for the first time, I think) out front. Starts with the three horns brawling before the rhythm section enters to sort things out. Rough, primeval avant-garde, of the moment, with 1967-vintage liner notes that fall into the period. B+(***)

Sierra Maestra: Sonido Ya (2009 [2010], World Village): Cuban institution, dates back to 1976, started out playing classic son and pretty much stuck that way, the rhythms complex, the horns simplistic, the vocals deeply sincere, the songs scarcely varied in pitch, volume, or temperament -- not that they don't put out. They always put out. B

Ricardo Silveira: Até Amanhă/'Til Tomorrow (2008 [2010], Adventure Music): Guitarist, from Brazil, where there are many but he consistently distinguishes himself. Not sure who plays what here -- album has a "featuring" list but no instruments and it's certainly incomplete. Actually, there seems to be a lot of murky orchestral background, not awful but not clear and not very helpful. B+(*)

John Skillman's Barb City Stompers: DeKalb Blues (2009 [2010], Delmark): Trad jazz band, based in DeKalb, IL ("the birthplace of barbed wire"), led by a clarinetist who played in the Buck Creek Jazz Band for 32 years, but also owns and runs an engineering firm in DeKalb. Featuring credit for trombonist Roy Rubinstein, a 30-year veteran of "the New Orleans style Chicago Hot Six," whose day job is Assistant Director at Fermilab in Batavia, IL. Also with Larry Rutan on guitar (a QA manager), Roger Hintzsche on bass (runs a fertilizer business), and Aaron Puckett on drums (teaches high school). First album, mostly pre-swing although it's hard to keep stuff that old pure, and also hard to resist a Fats Waller song. Starst with "Millenberg Joys"; ends with "My Old Kentucky Home"; Diana Skillman drops in to sing "Yes Sir! That's My Baby." Corny, easy to see why they stick with it even when the bread's got to come from somewhere else. B+(***)

Dr. Lonnie Smith: Spiral (2010, Palmetto): Organ player, b. 1942, has twenty-some albums since 1967 with a big gap from 1979 to 1993. Fourth album with Palmetto, a trio, with Jonathan Kreisberg, who's found a seductive niche on guitar, and Jamire Williams on drums. First cut is from another Smith, Jimmy, setting out the basic funk parameters. Gets a substantial sound when he slows it down, too. B+(**)

Sounds of Liberation (1972 [2010], Porter): Philadelphia group, very much of the black power moment when shards of avant-sax clashed with funky conga rhythms, merging into something far out but not inaccessible. Byard Lancaster is the saxophonist in a septet with guitar, bass, and four percussionists counting vibraphonist Khan Jamal, the founder and best known member of the one-album group. A- [Rhapsody]

Carmen Souza: Protegid (2010, Galileo Music): Cape Verdean singer, b. 1981, third album since 2006, backed by an international band with Portuguese bassist-percussionist Theo Pas'cal especially prominent, but Cuban pianist Victor Zamora reminds me of the herky-jerky rhythms unusual in post-Portuguese music (although Tom Zé is an exception -- maybe psychedelic tropicalia has something going here). Her vocals are heavily mannered, sometimes so Sprachgesang I expect to grasp some German words, but the lyrics look to be all Portuguese, with a thick booklet of trots I haven't bothered with (and in any case would find arduous to read). Played it enough to detect that there is something highly unusual going on here, but still too far out for me to get. B+(*)

Esperanza Spalding: Chamber Music Society (2009-10 [2010], Heads Up): Bassist, singer, Downbeat cover girl; b. 1984, Portland, OR; third album since 2005, singing more each time, with a lot more scat here, but also with Gretchen Parlato taking over two vocals, and Milton Nascimento chiming in on a third (a Spalding original -- Parlato takes the semi-obligatory Jobim cut). The chamber effect comes from violin-viola-cello, steadied by Leo Genovese piano, with Terri Lynne Carrington drums, and Quintino Cinalli percussion. "Wild Is the Wind" is a welcome cover, but there's not much else to latch onto. B-

Speak (2009 [2010], Origin): Seattle quintet, if you count trumpeter Cuong Vu who dropped in after picking up a teaching gig at the University of Washington. The others are Luke Bergman on bass, Chris Icasiano on drums, Aaron Otheim on keyboard, and Andrew Swanson on sax (probably tenor). All but Vu contribute songs -- Bergman and Otheim two. Bergman produced. Not as mainstream as I expected, although the sax-trumpet layering is postbop, while the electric keyboard is mostly tacky, at least until they mutate into some sort of horror soundtrack phase, ultimately breaking up into noise, which is possibly their metier -- at least Swanson sounds much healthier and happier squawking. B

John Stein/Ron Gill: Turn Up the Quiet (2009 [2010], Whaling City Sound): Stein is a guitarist, from Kansas City, MO, not sure how old but he's pretty thin on top; ninth album since 1995. Has a light, elegant style, not much evident here where he winds up playing a lot of bass. Gill is a singer, from North Carolina, based in Massachusetts, with one previous album, although like Stein I'd guess he's probably in his 50s. Billy Eckstein-type voice, but smokier. Draws songs from Victor Young, Sammy Cahn, Bart Howard, one each from Ellington and Strayhorn, two Brazilian pieces (neither Jobim), a short Stevie Wonder medley. "Detour Ahead" is especially striking. Uncredited on the front cover is pianist Gilad Barkan, who fills his unsung role admirably. B+(**)

Stevens, Siegel & Ferguson Trio: Six (2008 [2010], Konnex): Piano trio, with Memphis-based Michael Jefry Stevens forgoing alphabetical order for once to claim first dibs on a record. Siegel is drummer Jeff, nicknamed "Siege," which leads to all sorts of typographical errors. Ferguson, Tim, plays bass. Both contribute a pair of originals; Stevens just places one. The other five cuts are old standards ("Straight No Chaser" on the fence there), given pleasantly straightforward readings. B+(*)

The Stryker/Slagle Band: Keeper (2010, Panorama): Guitarist Dave Stryker, b. 1957 in Omaha, NE; has a couple dozen albums since 1989, mostly on Denmark's Steeplechase, a fairly mainstream label that kept Dexter Gordon's career moving during his years in exile (Duke Jordan, too, and Jackie McLean, only in virtual exile). Steve Slagle, b. 1951 in Los Angeles, has a similar career, less prolific, more of a sideman; worked with Steve Kuhn in late 1970s, Carla Bley in early 1980s, Mingus Big Band, and bumped into Stryker on the latter's first (1991) Steeplechase album, Passage, and frequently thereafter, consolidating their business in 2003, and releasing respectable product ever since. With Jay Anderson on bass and Victor Lewis on drums, high calibre journeymen. Still, through several plays it keeps growing on me, mainstream postbop burnished up with Slagle's blues tone -- even the two soprano features fit in seamlessly. A-

Ike Sturm: Jazzmass (2009, Ike Sturm): Bassist, b. 1978, based in New York, holds a title as "Assistant Director of Music for the Jazz Ministry at Saint Peter's Church in Manhattan." One previous album. I've been avoiding this because, well, you see the title. No false advertising there. Misty Ann Sturm sings, best on the pure hymns, with choir and string orchestra backing, all of which I could do without. The horns are something else: Ingrid Jensen on trumpet/flugelhorn, Loren Stillman on alto sax, and Donny McCaslin on tenor. There are better places to hear them, but they're in form even here. B-

Sun Ra Arkestra, Under the Direction of Marshall Allen: Live at the Paradox (2008 [2010], In+Out): Sun Ra died in 1993. Alto saxophonist Allen joined Ra's Arkestra in 1958, was a mainstay until the end, and at 86 is the ghost band's undisputed leader. I don't know how active the Arkestra has been since 1993: Allen's website shows three albums including this one, another live album from 2003 and an earlier album dating from 1999. I only count four band members here who also played on 1990's Live at the Hackney Empire, the last of Ra's full Arkestra albums I have listings for: Allen, Noel Scott (as), Charles Davis (ts), and Elson Nascimento (surdo). The nine songs are split 4-4 between Allen and Ra, with Fletcher Henderson's "Hocus Pocus" the odd tune out -- Ra learned his craft arranging for Henderson; don't know if any of Allen's pieces are new. This covers all the bases, most of the planets and quite a few moons, cranking up the space synths, cracking up into cacophony, breaking down with corny vocals, and swinging like hell. You've heard it all before, yet still can't predict it: this is one ghost band that never gets trapped in its past because its past is still so far in the future we can't anticipate it. B+(***)

Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: Remember Now (2005 [2006], Not Two): Something from the back catalog, by my reckoning the second of four Slammin' the Infinite recordings. No pianist yet, so this is basically two freewheeling horns -- Swell's trombone and Sabir Mateen's saxes/clarinets -- against freewheeling rhythm. Offhand, about as explosive as the new one; while the piano is a plus in the new one, it is hardly necessary. This group projects tremendous energy, makes great noise, and has a fractal intrigue especially in its churning rhythm. Never heard of bassist Matt Heyner or drummer Klaus Kugel before, but they're very solid in this group. Would like to hear more. A- [Rhapsody]

Steve Swell's Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems (2007 [2010], Not Two): Trombonist, b. 1954, didn't record his own stuff until 1996 but has been prolific ever since. Group named for a 2003 album, originally a quartet with Sabir Mateen (alto sax, tenor sax, clarinet, alto clarinet, flute), Matthew Heyner (bass), and Klaus Kugel (drums), now with pianist John Blum added. I've heard very little that he's done before -- especially missed out on a long series of CIMP albums -- and haven't been real impressed by what little I did hear, but this hits on every cyllinder. I'm impressed that he keeps up on a much slower instrument with Mateen. I also love how Blum breaks up the rhythm on piano. A-

Gabor Szabo: Jazz Raga (1966 [2010], Light in the Attic): Guitarist, from Hungary, b. 1936, d. 1982, moved to US in 1956 before the uprising to attend Berklee, and stayed on playing in Chico Hamilton's quintet 1961-66. Starting in 1966 he cut a series of fusion albums for Impulse, drawing on gypsy rhythms for his debut (Gypsy '66) and trying to cash in on the sitar vogue on this his third album. Nothing here suggests he has a clue how to construct one of Ravi Shankar's ragas, but he likes the instrument's peculiar twang and puts it to good use, especially on covers where it adds a distinctive touch ("Caravan," "Paint It Black," and especially "Summertime"). Label kept the old artwork and didn't find any extra tracks, but added a 36-page booklet with a lot more care than Universal will ever muster. B+(**)

TGB: Evil Things (2009 [2010], Clean Feed): Portuguese trio: Sérgio Carolino (tuba), Mário Delgado (guitar), Alexandre Frazăo (drums). Delgado wrote six pieces, Frazăo three; one is a group improv, and four more are from others -- only one my eyes can make out is Bill Evans. Rather scattered, as you might expect given how they juxtapose originals named for "George Harrison" and "Aleister Crowley" -- the latter may be the one that sounds like slightly bent Black Sabbath. The tango/soundtrack-ish "Close Your Eyes" is a choice cut, and the high-speed tuba bebop solo on "Tangram" is a hoot, but there's too much evil for my taste; suggest they lighten up and call their next one Mischievous Things. B+(*)

3ology: With Ron Miles (2008 [2010], Tapestry): Longmont, CO-based trio: Doug Carmichael on saxophones, Tim Carmichael on basses, Jon Powers on drums. Looks like they have two previous albums (or CDRs), an eponymous one in 2007 and Out of the Depths in 2008, but they had nothing to do with a 1995 Konnex album called 3-Ology (Santi Debriano, Billy Hart, Arthur Blythe). Miles plays cornet and has a substantial discography that far transcends his Colorado base. He adds an extra dimension here, but the group really hums even when he lays out. Doug Carmichael plays interesting, aggressive freebop sax, while Tim Carmichael keeps a steady rhythmic buzz going on bass. A-

Steve Tibbetts: Natural Causes (2008 [2010], ECM): Guitarist, b. 1954, from Minnesota, had an eponymous album in 1976 and now has eight ECM albums from 1980, the last three following 6-, 8-, and 8-year breaks. Also credited with piano, kalimba, and bouzouki -- not sure whether they are minor here or just subtly layered, as the hype sheet suggests. Marc Anderson adds percussion, but there is little more to it: quiet, measured, slips by all to easily. B+(**)

Tide Tables [Paul Kikuchi/Alexander Vittum]: Lost Birdsongs (2005 [2009], Prefecture): Both Kikuchi and Vittum are credited with compositions, percussion, and electronics. Kikuchi is from Seattle, drummer for Empty Cage Quartet, has another collaborative record -- with Jese Olsen as Open Graves -- in my unplayed box. Vittum is based in/near San Francisco. Doesn't seem to have any other credits. This was recorded live in Seattle with a group of musicians: Daniel Carter (alto sax, flute, trumpet), Brian Drye (trombone), Matt Goeke (cello), Matt Crane (percussion), Sam Weng (percussion). CDBaby page describes this as "Milford Graves meets Aphex Twin meets Konono #1." Graves is wishful thinking, but the other two bracket the percussion range, and from the "Recommended if you like" list we can throw in Harry Partch for orientation. Package I got is a clear plastic sleeve with a folded print insert. I'm tempted to treat it as an advance, but if you pay cash you'll probably get the same. B+(**)

Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu: Chiaroscuro (2008 [2010], ECM): Another advance, final due out Mar. 16. Another intimate duo, slow, meticulous. Towner plays classical, twelve string, and baritone guitars. He's a long-term ECM fixture, going back to 1972. Fresu plays trumpet and flugelhorn, from Italy, younger (b. 1961 vs. 1940 for Towner), also has a long list of releases, although I've only managed to hear one so far. The two don't necessarily mix, but Fresu provides a clear melodic thread distinct from Towner's diddling, while Towner fascinates with the most minimal of quirks. B+(**) [advance]

Michael Treni: Turnaround (2009, Bell Production, CD+DVD): Composer-arranger, started out on trombone -- has a side credit on a 1977 Bobby Watson album -- based on New Jersey; has a previous album, Detour! (2007), and a more recent one, America: Land of Opportunity (2010). Big band with some extra percussion and occasional strings. First solo caught my ear, but that's just Jerry Bergonzi for you. Don't care much for the strings, but the brass section work is sharp. Comes with a DVD I haven't watched. Also a political screed about how socialism may be OK for classical music but doesn't work for jazz. B

Trichotomy: Variations (2007 [2010], Naim Jazz): Piano trio, from Australia: Sean Foran on piano, Pat Marchisella on bass, John Parker on drums. First album, or third if you count two released in Australia under the name Misinterprotato. One track adds violin-viola-alto sax; another adds trumpet-electronics. Foran composed 5 pieces, Parker 4, and one was a joint improv. They have a brash, beatwise, populist feel, not unlike EST or Neil Cowley, and it suits them well. B+(***) [July 13]

Steve Turre: Delicious and Delightful (2010, High Note): Trombone player, from Omaha, also plays conch shells but I've never figured out how that works or what they sound like. Fifteen album since 1987, including tributes to J.J. Johnson and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. This one doesn't quite live up to its title, but it is boldly flavored, with Billy Harper on tenor sax -- his rough edges ground down by all that big band work of late, but his energy undiminished -- Larry Willis on piano, Russell Malone on guitar (just two cuts), bass, drums, and some extra bata and djembe on one cut. Harper wrote two songs, Turre the rest except for "Tenderly." Best record since the Kirk tribute, but they all seems to be coming up with the same grade. B+(**)

The Ullmann/Swell 4: News? No News! (2010, Jazzwerkstatt): There seems to be two Jazzwerkstatt labels, one based in Vienna with artists I've never heard of, the other in Berlin with a strong avant-garde roster and nice graphic design. Gebhard Ullman plays tenor sax and bass clarinet; Steve Swell trombone, Hilliard Greene bass, Barry Altschul drums. Swell has played on a couple of recent Ullmann albums, including Don't Touch My Music; also has a two-horn group with Sabir Mateen, who's a bit higher strung but similar. Ullmann has been hugely prolific since the early 1990s, but lately he's gotten much better at fitting in and finding his niche. Some unison lines seem like a waste, but their avant shuck-and-jive is a lot of fun. B+(***) [advance]

James Blood Ulmer: In and Out (2008 [2010], In+Out): Harmolodic jazz guitarist turned bluesman, returns to the German label that released his first album back in 1977, after a series of relatively straight blues sets on Hyena. Just a trio, with Mark Peterson on bass and Aubrey Dayle on drums. Aging usually conditions blues voices and Ulmer's is no exception: at 68 he's more grizzled than ever. But there's more guitar here, long instrumental stretches that move more than groove. And while I normally loathe flute, he takes a lead there that Sonny Boy would relish. A-

Bo van de Graaf: Sold Out: 25 Soundtracks (2009 [2010], Icdisc): Dutch saxophonist, has contributed to the notion that the Dutch avant-garde has as much to do with comedy as with music, although the funniest things here are the titles: "Cat on a hot thin roof," "Ascenseur pour un escargot," "Lost tanga in Paris," "Et Depardieu créa la femme," "The gossip father," "Koyaanisquatsch," "For your legs only," and the 26th cut, disguised as a "bonus track" so as not to dispute the title, "Silence of the lamps (suite)." Would be more fun -- not the same thing as funnier -- if he played more sax, but only 6 of 26 cuts get that treatment. Mostly he hacks out melodies on electric keyboards with samples, and employs a few helpers for bits trumpet, harmonica, english horn, and to voice some Anna Akhmatova words. B

Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott: East-West Trumpet Summit (2009 [2010], Origin): Marriott's from Seattle; Vega's from the Bronx. Marriott thanks God in the notes here; Vega thanks Jesus. Presumably Vega's the hot one here -- play with Ray Barretto and Tito Puente and you learn to crank it up a couple notches. Each has a moderate pile of albums. Both can play but neither makes a very distinctive impression. Together they put together as hot a trumpet album as I've heard in a while. B+(*)

The Waitiki 7: New Sounds of Exotica (2009 [2010], Pass Out): Sounds like the old sounds of exotica, as far as I can bother to recall, except maybe louder. Group is led by bassist Ray Wong, with soprano sax/flutes, violin, piano, vibes/xylophone, drums, and a percussion guy who doubles on bird/animal calls. Some old Martin Denny pieces; some new ones. Packaging includes a Chee Hoo Fizz recipe which I'm not about to mix up. B

Nasheet Waits: Equality: Alive at MPI (2008 [2009], Fresh Sound New Talent): Cover can be parsed various ways: one implication is that Equality is meant to be the group name. Waits is a drummer, best known for driving Jason Moran's Bandwagon, a piano trio with Taurus Mateen on bass. All three are present and accounted for here, and all three contribute songs -- Mateen one, Moran and Waits two each. Moreover, Moran doesn't seem to be too unhappy to see the tables turned. He has his own record and has shown up on several more lately, but this is his most energetic performance in several years. Oh, and there's a fourth guy here: alto saxophonist Logan Richardson. He had a terrific debut album, Cerebral Flow, in 2006, and is in prime form here too. A- [Rhapsody]

Myron Walden: Momentum Live (2009, Demi Sound): Tenor saxophonist, b. 1972 (or 1973?), started on alto, establishing himself as one of the better mainstream boppers around before taking time off to refashion himself on tenor. Got hit with a lot of hype on him last fall, including a bunch of advances for albums that the publicist never followed up on. The first was called Momentum, and it seemed like a pretty decent hard bop outing. This is a live reworking, with Darren Barrett (trumpet) and Yasushi Nakamura (bass) carrying over from the studio album, Edin Ladin (piano) and John Davis (drums) replacing David Bryant and Kendrick Scott. Main diff this time is sonic, where they're going for (or stumbled on) the thin-skinned underwater sound of Charlie Parker boots. The plus side is an engaging looseness, especially the horns sliding to and fro. The piano solos don't do much, and the usual live ballast doesn't add anything. B+(*) [advance]

Myron Walden/In This World: To Feel (2009 [2010], Demi Sound): Last fall's batch of CDRs included two Walden albums promised for Jan. 15 release. I did what I usually do: wait for the real copy, which in this case never came. Looks like everyone else did too. I haven't found a single review of either album, and the only place where it is Amazon, fronting for a retailed identified as Myron Walden. Not clear if "In This World" is a band name or just a logo. One page in the hype package lists the band as: Jon Cowherd (piano), Mike Moreno (guitar), Yasushi Nakamura (bass), and Obed Calvaire (drums). AMG, with no track info, confirms Cowherd-Moreno-Nakamura, but has Brian Blade and/or Kendrick Scott on drums, plus David Bryant on Fender Rhodes and Chris Thomas on acoustic bass. Band doesn't matter much here. Walden's To Feel approach is to run ballads past us, everything slow and soft. B [advance]

Myron Walden/In This World: What We Share (2009 [2010], Demi Sound): Same deal here: don't know anything more about band, recording date (presumed 2009 because I got the advance before 2010 rolled over), etc. Record is a little more energetic, and guitar (Mike Moreno?) does a nice job of framing the tenor sax. Walden is an attractive mainstream player, worth taking seriously, but he's not making any big breakthroughs. I have one more CDR in my pile, a 2-cut thing called Singles, which I assume is just a pure PR fantasy. He seems to have one more album in the pipeline, Countryfied, also on Amazon. Didn't come my way. B+(*) [advance]

Christian Wallumrřd Ensemble: Fabula Suite Lugano (2009 [2010], ECM): Norwegian pianist, b. 1971, fifth album since 1998, all on ECM. Group is a sextet, long on strings -- Gjermund Larsen on violin/viola/hardanger fiddle, Tanja Orning on cello, Giovanna Pessi on baroque harp -- with Eivind Lenning's trumpet for a rare dash of color and Per Oddvar Johansen on percussion and glockenspiel. More baroque than anything else, with a bit of Scarlatti tucked into the originals. A lot of this is annoyingly subaudible, yet it doesn't seem like the kind of music you ought to crank up. B- [advance]

David Weiss & Point of Departure: Snuck In (2008 [2010], Sunnyside): Trumpet player, b. 1964, from New York, in New York, third album since 2001, although I also filed The Turning Gate by New Jazz Composers Octet, a recent HM, under his name. Quintet, what's becoming the standard post-[hard]-bop configuration: trumpet, sax (JD Allen on tenor), guitar (Nir Felder), batt (Matt Clohesy), drums (Jamire Williams). The back end is more freebop, the guitar navigates the open spaces, and the horns slug it out, with Allen frequently making a play to steal the album. B+(***)

Wellstone Conspiracy: Motives (2009 [2010], Origin): Quartet, new group name but familiar components: Brent Jensen on soprano sax, Bill Anschell on piano, Jeff Johnson on bass, John Bishop on drums. Anschell and Jensen each wrote three of seven originals; Johnson wrote one, and Anschell arranged Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is a Lovesome Thing" for the closer. Jensen has developed into the finest mainstream soprano sax specialist around, so normal here you'd hardly guess what he's playing. The others are solid pros, a reputation the album consolidates without adding much to. B+(**)

Pharez Whitted: Transient Journey (2009 [2010], Owl Studios): Trumpet player, from Indiana, studied at DePauw and Indiana University, two previous albums on Motown (1994 and 1996), based in Chicago now, teaches at Chicago State. Sexet with Eddie Bayard -- Edwin on Mark Lomax's more challenging record -- on tenor and soprano sax, Ron Perrillo on piano/keyboards, Bobby Broom on guitar, Dennis Carroll on bass, Greg Artry on drums, with Broom producing. Freddie Hubbard and Barack Obama inspire pieces. Solid hard bop, nothing spectacular, not much from Bayard, who made such a big impression on the Lomax album. B

Carrie Wicks: I'll Get Around to It (2009 [2010], OA2): Singer, based in Seattle area, first album, backed by label regulars including Hans Teuber on tenor sax and clarinet, Bill Anschell on piano, and Jeff Johnson on bass. Standards, mostly from 1940s with Elvis Costello's "Almost Blue" an outlier and a co-credited original from 2008. Samba-fied medley of "Moonlight in Vermont" and "No Moon at All" and a "Baby, Get Lost" among the highlights. B+(*)

Phil Wilson/Makoto Ozone: Live!! At the Berklee Performance Center (1982 [2010], Capri): Wilson, b. 1937, plays trombone; studied at New England Conservatory and the Navy School of Music; played in big bands with Herb Pomeroy, the Dorsey Brothers, Woody Herman, and Buddy Rich; taught at Berklee from 1966; has a spotty recording career which adds up to a couple dozen albums. Ozone, b. 1961 in Kobe, Japan, is a pianist, studied at Berklee, returned to Japan in 1983, where he is evidently a big deal. He also has a couple dozen albums, of which this is one of the first. I haven't heard any others, although I have an advance of a new album on Verve somewhere. Standards, ranging from "Stella by Starlight" to "Giant Steps" played with an amusing crudeness -- actually, it's just Wilson who sounds crude, a badge of merit from trombonists. B+(*)

Nikki Yanofsky: Nikki (2010, Decca): Standards singer, from Montreal, b. 1994, which makes her 16 or probably 15 when she recorded this, her second album following a 2008 CD/DVD combo called Ella . . . of Thee I Swing. Produced by Phil Ramone and Jesse Harris. Didn't bother digging through the fine print to see who all's playing. No doubt she can belt the songs out -- a plus on "Take the 'A' Train" and "On the Sunny Side of the Street" and "Mr. Paganini" but not so much on "Over the Rainbow." While the Ella and Billie songs don't match up, at least they swing. The less obvious pieces don't reveal much of anything, even fandom. B

Joel Yennior Trio: Big City Circus (2007 [2010], Brass Wheel): Trombonist, from South Orange, NJ; studied and now teaches at New England Conservatory; first album, although he has side credits since 2000 with Either/Orchestra, Gypsy Schaeffer, Alejandro Cimadoro, and Mulatu Astatke. Trio adds guitarist Eric Hofbauer (Blueprint Project) and drummer Gary Fieldman. Trombone is a little thin for the lead here, but that has its own appeal, and Hofbauer is an interesting player even in small roles. B+(**)

Alper Yilmaz: Over the Clouds (2009 [2010], Kayique): Electric bassist, from Turkey, studied industrial engineering, based in New York since 2000, second album since 2007. Also takes credits for sound design and loops. The bass lines are highlighted by Nir Felder's guitar, while David Binney's alto sax provides a sharp contrast. B+(**)

Denny Zeitlin: Precipice (2008 [2010], Sunnyside): I'm not good with solo piano, and I'm in no shape to sort this one out right now, but I can't just dismiss it either. Zeitlin is in his 70s, has had a long career making small scale piano albums -- solos, duos, a lot of trios. I've only heard a few -- notably missing his Columbia sessions from the 1960s which were wrapped up neatly in a 3-CD Mosaic Select box last year. Never found an album I can flat out recommend, but never been disappointed either. [B+(***)]

Ratko Zjaca/John Patitucci/Steve Gadd/Stanislav Mitrovic/Randy Brecker: Continental Talk (2008 [2010], In+Out): Guitarist, studied in Zagreb, based now in Rotterdam; AMG lists 3 records since 2000 (not including this one); website lists 8 but not much detail. Mitrovic, b. 1963 in Belgrade, also based in Rotterdam, plays tenor and soprano sax. The others, better known, play trumpet (Brecker), bass (Patitucci), and drums (Gadd). Mostly modern postbop, with nice sax runs and trumpet blasts, but slips into some skunk funk near the end. B

John Zorn: The 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 1: Masada String Trio (2003 [2004], Tzadik): Looked for the new Masada String Trio, Haborym (Book of Angels, Vol. 16), not available (yet), and found this one from a few years back, one of a big stack of live shots from Sept. 2003 when Tonic put on a series to honor the club's owner. Most are Zorn-less groups picking over his songbook. This trio consists of Mark Feldman on viola, Erik Friedlander on cello, and Greg Cohen on bass. The Jewish themes provide some bounce, lack of violin cuts down on the screech, and the bass adds depth. Could do without the applause. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

John Zorn: Dictée/Liber Novus (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Two pieces, close to 20 minutes each, one based on Korean-American writer/conceptual artist Theresa Hak-Kyung Cha, the other "a mythic psychodrama inspired by the legendary Red Book of Carl Jung. Keybs (Sylvie Courvoisier and Stephen Goslin on piano, John Medeski on organ), Ned Rothenberg's reeds (shakuhachi, bass flute, clarinet), percussion and sound effects, could be a soundtrack cluttered with random events, not horror but not normal either. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

John Zorn: The Goddess: Music for the Ancient of Days (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Another Zorn-as-composer-only album, the titles casually plundered archaeology, but actually nothing ancient about it; reminds me more of cocktail jazz, exotica with the spurious weirdness supplanted by a higher-powered Riley/Reich minimalist engine. Played on piano (Rob Burger), guitar (Marc Ribot), harp (Carol Emmanuel), vibes (Kenny Wollesen), bass (Travor Dunn), and drums (Ben Perowsky). B+(**) [Rhapsody]

John Zorn: In Search of the Miraculous (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Zorn's promised one record each month this year, which isn't a lot more prolific than his usual pace, but seems likely to involve cutting some corners. Composer-only album, built around the Rob Burger-Greg Cohen-Ben Perowsky piano trio that cut Alhambra Love Songs, with a few extras -- Shanir Blumenkranz (electric bass), Kenny Wollesen (vibes), but focuses more on the piano, adding a bit of dramatic range rather than sinking into minimalist repetition. Gains something toward the end. B+(***) [Rhapsody]

John Zorn/Fred Frith: Late Works (2009 [2010], Tzadik): Alto sax/electric guitar duo, the latter's screech closely tuned to match the former. Ten pieces, most likely improv, although occasional oblique strategies lurk. Often interesting, but does wear a bit thin. B+(*) [Rhapsody]

Carry Over

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

  1. Juhani Aaltonen Quartet: Conclusions (2009 [2010], Tum) A-
  2. Abraham Inc.: Tweet Tweet (2010, Table Pounding) B+(***)
  3. Jason Adasiewicz's Rolldown: Varmint (2008 [2009], Cuneiform) B+(***)
  4. Aida Severo (2007 [2009], Slam) B+(***)
  5. Arild Andersen: Green in Blue: Early Quartets (1975-78 [2010, ECM, 3CD) B+(***)
  6. David Ashkenazy: Out With It (2009, Posi-Tone) B+(***)
  7. Pablo Aslan: Tango Grill (2010, Zoho) B+(***)
  8. Tommy Babin's Benzene: Your Body Is Your Prison (2010, Drip Audio) A-
  9. Stefano Battaglia/Michele Rabbia: Pastorale (2009 [2010], ECM) B+(***)
  10. Roni Ben-Hur: Fortuna (2007 [2009], Motema) B+(***)
  11. Borah Bergman Trio: Luminescence (2008 [2009], Tzadik) A-
  12. Michiel Braam's Wurli Trio: Non-Functionals! (2009, BBB) B+(**)
  13. Alison Burns and Martin Taylor: 1: AM (2008 [2009], P3 Music) B+(***)
  14. Butcher/Muller/van der Schyff: Way Out Northwest (2007 [2008], Drip Audio) B+(**)
  15. James Carney Group: Ways & Means (2008 [2009], Songlines) B+(***)
  16. Chicago Underground Duo: Boca Negra (2009 [2010], Thrill Jockey) B+(**)
  17. The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate (2009 [2010], Cryptogramophone, 2CD) A-
  18. Anat Cohen: Clarinetwork: Live at the Village Vanguard (2009 [2010], Anzic) A-
  19. David Crowell Ensemble: Spectrum (2009, Innova) B+(***)
  20. The Dynamic Les DeMerle Band: Gypsy Rendezvous, Vol. One (2008 [2009], Origin) B+(***)
  21. The Dominant 7 and The Jazz Arts Messengers: Fourteen Channels (2009 [2010], Tapestry) B+(***)
  22. Scott DuBois: Black Hawk Dance (2009 [2010], Sunnyside) B+(***)
  23. Empty Cage Quartet: Gravity (2008 [2009], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  24. Empty Cage Quartet & Soletti Besnard: Take Care of Floating (2008 [2010], Rude Awakening) B+(**)
  25. Scott Fields Ensemble: Fugu (1995 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(**)
  26. Fight the Big Bull: All Is Gladness in the Kingdom (2009 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  27. First Meeting: Cut the Rope (2009 [2010], Libra) A-
  28. Satoko Fujii Ma-Do: Desert Ship (2009 [2010], Not Two) B+(**)
  29. Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo: Zakopane (2009 [2010], Libra) B+(***)
  30. Andrea Fultz: The German Projekt: German Songs From the Twenties & Thirties (2009, The German Projekt) A-
  31. Dave Glasser: Evolution (2010, Here Tiz) B+(***)
  32. Ben Goldberg: Go Home (2009, BAG) B+(***)
  33. Bobby Gordon: Plays Joe Marsala: Lower Register (2007, Arbors) B+(***)
  34. The Gordon Grdina Trio: . . . If Accident Will (2007 [2009], Plunge) B+(***)
  35. Bob Greene: St. Peter Street Strutters (1964 [2009], Delmark) B+(***)
  36. Tord Gustavsen Ensemble: Restored, Returned (2009 [2010], ECM) B+(***)
  37. John Hicks & Frank Morgan: Twogether (2005-06 [2010], High Note) A-
  38. Rainbow Jimmies: The Music of John Hollenbeck (2007-08 [2009], GPE) B+(***)
  39. Gabriel Johnson: Fra_ctured (2009 [2010], Electrofone) B+(***)
  40. Jones Jones: We All Feel the Same Way (2008, SoLyd) B+(**)
  41. Barb Jungr: The Men I Love: The New American Songbook (2009 [2010], Naim) B+(***)
  42. Oleg Kireyev/Keith Javors: Rhyme & Reason (2009 [2010], Inarhyme) A-
  43. Komeda Project: Requiem (2009, WM) B+(**)
  44. Kirk Knuffke: Amnesia Brown (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  45. Brian Landrus: Foward (2007 [2010], Cadence Jazz) B+(***)
  46. Matt Lavelle and Morcilla: The Manifestation Drama (2008 [2009], KMB Jazz) B+(***)
  47. Babatunde Lea: Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas (2008 [2009], Motéma, 2CD) B+(***)
  48. Jerry Leake: Cubist (2009 [2010], Rhombus Publishing) B+(**)
  49. Led Bib: Sensible Shoes (2008 [2009], Cuneiform) B+(**)
  50. Gianni Lenoci: Ephemeral Rhizome (2008 [2009], Evil Rabbit) B+(***)
  51. Rozanne Levine & Chakra Tuning: Only Moment (2008 [2009], Acoustics) B+(**)
  52. Erica Lindsay/Sumi Tonooka: Initiation (2004 [2010], ARC)B+(***)
  53. The Giuseppi Logan Quintet (2009 [2010], Tompkins Square) B+(***)
  54. Frank London/Lorin Sklamberg: Tsuker-Zis (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
  55. Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni: What Is When (2007-08 [2009], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  56. Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord: Accomplish Jazz (2009, Hot Cup) B+(***)
  57. Olivier Manchon: Orchestre de Chambre Miniature, Volume 1 (2010, ObliqSound) B+(**)
  58. Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage: Copacabana (2008 [2010], Zoho) B+(***)
  59. Nellie McKay: Normal as Blueberry Pie: A Tribute to Doris Day (2009, Verve) A-
  60. John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension: To the One (2009 [2010], Abstract Logix) B+(**)
  61. Eric McPherson: Continuum (2007 [2008], Smalls) B+(***)
  62. Sebastiano Meloni/Adriano Orrů/Tony Oxley: Improvised Pieces for Trio (2008 [2010], Big Round) B+(***)
  63. Memphis Nighthawks: Jazz Lips (1976-77 [2009], Delmark) B+(***)
  64. Pat Metheny: Orchestrion (2010, Nonesuch) B+(**)
  65. Minamo: Kuroi Kawa -- Black River (2008 [2009], Tzadik, 2CD) B+(***)
  66. Soren Moller & Dick Oatts: The Clouds Above (2007 [2010], Audial) B+(***)
  67. New York Art Quartet: Old Stuff (1965 [2010], Cuneiform) A-
  68. Gia Notte: Shades (2009 [2010], Gnote) B+(***)
  69. NYNDK: The Hunting of the Snark (2008 [2009], Jazzheads) B+(***)
  70. William Parker: At Somewhere There (2008 [2010], Barnyard) B+(***)
  71. Gary Peacock/Marc Copland: Insight (2005-07 [2009], Pirouet) B+(***)
  72. Ben Perowsky Quartet: Esopus Opus (2009, Skirl) A-
  73. Edward Ratliff: Those Moments Before (2009, Strudelmedia) B+(***)
  74. RED Trio (2008 [2010], Clean Feed) A-
  75. Rempis/Rosaly: Cyrillic (2009, 482 Music) B+(***)
  76. Júlio Resende: Assim Falava Jazzatustra (2009, Clean Feed) B+(***)
  77. Roberto Rodriguez: Timba Talmud (2009, Tzadik) A-
  78. Roberto Rodriguez: The First Basket (2009, Tzadik) B+(***)
  79. Bernardo Sassetti Trio: Motion (2009 [2010], Clean Feed) B+(***)
  80. Cynthia Sayer: Attractions (2006 [2008], Plunk) B+(***)
  81. Jacques Schwarz-Bart: Abyss (2009, ObliqSound) B+(**)
  82. Scottish National Jazz Orchestra: Rhapsody in Blue: Live (2009, Spartacus) B+(**)
  83. Will Sellenraad: Balance (2007 [2008], Beeswax) B+(***)
  84. Matthew Shipp: 4D (2009 [2010], Thirsty Ear) B+(**)
  85. Edward Simon Trio: Poesia (2008 [2009], CAM Jazz) B+(***)
  86. David Smith Quintet: Anticipation (2009 [2010], Bju'ecords) B+(***)
  87. Bob Sneider & Joe Locke [Film Noir Project]: Nocturne for Ava (2007 [2009], Origin) B+(**)
  88. Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz: Duos With Lee (2008 [2009], Sunnyside) B+(***)
  89. Tin Hat: Foreign Legion (2005-08 [2010], BAG) A-
  90. Petra van Nuis & Andy Brown: Far Away Places (2009 [2010], String Damper) B+(**)
  91. Matt Vashlishan: No Such Thing (2008 [2009], Origin) B+(***)
  92. Torben Waldorff: American Rock Beauty (2009 [2010], ArtistShare) B+(**)
  93. Mort Weiss: Raising the Bar (2009 [2010], SMS Jazz) B+(***)
  94. Frank Wess Nonet: Once Is Not Enough (2008 [2009], Labeth Music) B+(**)
  95. Wolter Wierbos: 3 Trombone Solos (2005-06 [2009], Dolfjin) B+(***)
  96. Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit (2009, Mack Avenue) A-
  97. Brandon Wright: Boiling Point (2009 [2010], Posi-Tone) B+(***)