Jazz Consumer Guide: Pure Joy and Hard Work


Pick Hits

Benjamin Herman Hypochristmastreefuzz | Dox

An alto saxophonist who styles himself as New Cool and describes his band as a “surf-guitar based, Dutch-impro, cocktail-jazz sort of thing” returns to the doyen of Dutch-impro for two discs of Misha Mengelberg tunes, the tricky mischief exploding into pure joy: “Brozziman” is an r&b honk for the avant-garde, the Ruben Hein vocal goes down easy, and the kwela piece reminds me of a Sonny Rollins calypso. The live disc is even looser and edgier. A

Ivo Perelman Mind Games | Leo

Brazil’s iconic tenor saxophonist decided to celebrate 20 years of hardy free blowing with a publicity blitz behind this year’s crop. At least three of the records are keepers—Soulstorm (Clean Feed) with its acerbic cello and bass; The Apple in the Dark (Leo) with the Gerry Hemingway percussion touch and occasional splotches of dramatic piano; maybe also another intimate drummer duo, The Stream of Life (Leo), with Brian Willson—but your best bet is the most basic, a sturdy sax trio with Willson again (misspelled on the cover) and hard-working Dominic Duval on bass. A MINUS

Anthony Brown’s Asian American Orchestra India & Africa: A Tribute to John Coltrane | Water Baby

A Bay Area drummer with African and Asian blood in his veins starts with Coltrane’s “India” and “Africa” and expands each to a suite, adding African and Indian percussion, strings and wind instruments in an orgy of worldly cosmopolitanism. A MINUS

Commitment The Complete Recordings 1981/1983 | NoBusiness

One of those records that must have seemed interesting but unfocused at the time sounds prophetic now, especially padded out to two-disc length with a rousing live set. Will Connell’s flutes and reeds don’t so much lead as dodge Jason Kao Hwang’s razor-sharp violin, amplified by William Parker’s bass and prodded along by Zen Matsuura’s drums. A MINUS

Marilyn Crispell/David Rothenberg One Night I Left My Silent House | ECM

Joint credits, but Rothenberg’s clarinet or bass clarinet frames each song, most with titles reflecting his interest in nature sounds. Crispell’s piano wends cagily around the edges, but often she just taps the soundboard or clicks percussive things, eliciting the sort of odd, unexpected sounds that flesh out the dark night theme. A MINUS

Stephan Crump Reclamation | Sunnyside

With Rosetta Trio—Liberty Ellman and Jamie Fox, who tone their guitars down so as not to overwhelm the bassist leader. The balance lets every string count, forming an intimate framework that seduces you into ever-closer listening. A MINUS

Paquito D’Rivera Tango Jazz: Live at Jazz at Lincoln Center | Sunnyside

The Cuban clarinetist has dabbled in tango before, poorly, and I had yet to hear anything from the uptown culture palace that I could recommend. So why this breakthrough? That’s easy: bassist-arranger Pablo Aslan, whose own records have stealthily insinuated tango into the New York jazz ghetto. Yet this is an advance for Aslan as well: His moves are so assured and graceful, the extra glitz actually helps. A MINUS

Henry Grimes/Rashied Ali Spirits Aloft | Porter

In the 1960s, Grimes had a knack for being in the right place at the right time, but after him vanishing for 35 years who expected he’d return to form, much less come up with something new? The David Murray album under his name was a marketing ploy, but Grimes himself has to carry most of the weight in this reunion with drummer Ali. He comes up with a new trick as he almost seamlessly swaps a violin in—his technique is similar on both, so you’ve never heard violin like this, and rarely bass. A MINUS

ICP Orchestra ICP 049 | ICP

The grizzled veterans of the New Dutch Swing movement recapitulate 40 years of evolution: a gravel-voiced ballad, a dip into chaos, resolution into delirious string-driven swooning, a burst of applause that comes from nowhere, less the signature of a live recording than a sound effect that secures their place in the real world. A MINUS

Lean Left The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 1 | Smalltown Superjazz

The Ex has long been Holland’s analogue to the Mekons—left-wing post-punks with a knack for singles riffs—but while the Mekons wandered into country music, the Ex-ers dabbled in Afrofunk and avant-jazz. Guitarists Andy Morr and Terrie Ex expand the sonics with squelchy reverb and distortion, while the avant jazzers rock out. A MINUS

Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch What Is Known | Clean Feed

The leader’s bass brackets the sonic range where Aaron Bennett’s tenor sax and John Finkbeiner’s guitar rumble and roil—deep, dense, with a steady charge and a tendency to get noisy. Two covers: one from Air drummer Steve McCall, the other from Don Van Vliet, a/k/a Captain Beefheart, who knew a thing or two about getting down and dirty. A MINUS

The Microscopic Septet Friday the Thirteenth: The Micros Play Monk | Cuneiform

Adding three extra saxophones to Monk’s basic sax-piano-bass-drums arrangements transforms them into a kaleidoscope of color. Phillip Johnston’s soprano refracts Steve Lacy, while Mike Hashim’s tenor can’t help but swing. A MINUS

Wadada Leo Smith and Ed Blackwell The Blue Mountain’s Sun Drummer | [1986]

Kabell Blackwell was famous as Ornette Coleman’s drummer, carrying on with Don Cherry in Old and New Dreams. Smith is the more rigorous trumpet player, and nearly as Catholic. He’s done lots of solo and duo albums, but Blackwell patiently brings out his best—mesmerizing trumpet, good-natured flute, mbira, and voice. A MINUS

Honorable Mentions

Anthony Braxton 19 Standards (Quartet) 2003 | Leo

The third four-CD helping from the tour, with no signs yet that the barrel even has a bottom.

Profound Sound Trio Opus de Life | Porter

Credit Andrew Cyrille and Henry Grimes for holding this together; Paul Dunmall even gets his bagpipes to behave.

Rob Wagner/Hamid Drake/Nobu Ozaki Trio | Valid

Uneasy in post-Katrina New Orleans, meditating on shock, awe, sham, and shame.

Marcin & Bartlomiej Brat Oles Duo | Fenomedia

Twins, bass and drums respectively, instant rhythm section for anyone passing through Poland, but complete together.

Ben Syversen Cracked Vessel | Self-released

Avant-trumpet trio forgoes bass support for guitar interference.

Billy Fox’s Blackbirds & Bullets Dulces | Clean Feed

Crazy like a maracas player, shuffling three horns, keys, and violin.

Vijay Iyer Tirtha | ACT

With tabla for a taste of India, but Prasanna’s guitar leans west even when Iyer’s piano glances east.

Ernestine Anderson Nightlife | High Note

Two sets straddle her 80th birthday—not a celebration, just working, fortunately with Houston Person.

Sun Ra Arkestra, Under the Direction of Marshall Allen Live at the Paradox | In+Out

The secret to a ghost band that never gets trapped in its past is a past so far in the future we don’t know it’s coming.

Anat Fort And If | ECM

Quiet, supple meditations on Paul Motian, the inscrutable path beyond Bill Evans.

John McNeil/Bill McHenry Chill Morn He Climb Jenny | Sunnyside

Fun and games with obscure bebop gems, with some of that Latin tinge.

Marshall Allen/Matthew Shipp/Joe Morris Night Logic | RogueArt

Sun Ra vet + volatile pianist + sly bassist = avant chemistry.

World Saxophone Quartet Yes We Can | Jazzwerkstatt

Murray and Bluiett celebrate Obama, with Kidd Jordan for Lake’s grit, and James Carter for Hemphill’s soul.

Stephan Crump/James Carney Echo Run Pry | Clean Feed

Bass and piano, the former in the lead, the latter dark and percussive.

Lean Left The Ex Guitars Meet Nilssen-Love/Vandermark Duo, Volume 2 | Smalltown Superjazz

Another “Chunk of Lung” hits the floor, but Vandermark leaves the guitarist alone for their “Knuckle Cracking Party.”

The Warren Vaché/John Allred Quintet Top Shelf | Arbors

Aging young fogeys advance, reminiscing about the swinging ’50s.

Hugo Antunes Roll Call | Clean Feed

Bassist-composer, double drums, lots of deep rumble and fleeting, flaring reeds.

Harold O’Neal Whirling Mantis | Smalls

Pianist son of Black Panthers in exile goes back to his roots—bebop.

Mike Mainieri Crescent | NYC

Last call for Charlie Mariano, playing a lot of Coltrane tarted up with vibes.

Rich Halley Quartet Live at the Penofin Jazz Festival | Pine Eagle

Haley’s tenor sax and Bobby Bradford’s cornet, blowing free in the wild wild west.

Chris Dahlgren & Lexicon Mystic Maze | Jazzwerkstatt

Walkin’, talkin’ Béla Bartók blues.

Decoy & Joe McPhee Oto | Bo Weavil

World’s freest saxophonist combusts caustically with Hammond B3 trio.

David Smith Quintet Anticipation | Bju’ecords

Postbop quintet, the shape of jazz du jour, with Nate Radley’s guitar anchoring the leader’s crackling trumpet.

James Carney Group Ways & Means | Songlines

Pianist surrounded with distinctive horns: Tony Malaby, Ralph Alessi, Peter Epstein, Josh Roseman.

Kenny Burrell Be Yourself | High Note

Good advice when you’re 78, as is “Let the band help you out.”

Pablo Aslan Tango Grill | Zoho

Roughing up the formalism of old tango chestnuts.

Rafi Malkiel Water | Tzadik

Latin beats, Jewish horns, refreshing when the tide comes in.