All True, More or Less

A worldwide phenomenon and a transworld music, but usually not both at the same time


QUARTET B
Crystal Mountain
Fono

Sometimes they switch to tarogato and bouzouki, even bring in a guest cimbalom player, but these Hungarians aren't folkies. Their folklore is just part of a good Communist education, like the classics. In this context, leader Mihaly Borbely, who also plays in the folk group Vujisics, sounds as clear and spacious on soprano sax as Jan Garbarek. And his bouzouki player spends far more time on a guitar he deploys with the studied eclecticism of Bill Frisell. A MINUS


JENNY SCHEINMAN
Shalagaster
Tzadik

The klezmer one expects of a violinist on John Zorn's label is just one of many touchstones of this transworld jazz. Hints of India and Brazil also appear, but she's rooted only in the sound of her group. Over Myra Melford's harmonium, Scheinman's violin and Russ Johnson's muted trumpet build up thick layers of sound. And when Melford switches to piano, the options become more rhythmic. That's what Scheinman sees in the world: options. A MINUS


TOMASZ STANKO
Suspended Night
ECM

As the jazz scene developed in Poland in the '60s, Stanko filled a role similar to Kenny Wheeler's in the U.K.: Although he was most often heard in avant-garde contexts, his own records were so modestly attired that he sounded normal and accessible even if he didn't fall into any recognizable stylistic nook. Now in his own sixties, he's attracted what's always described as his "young Polish quartet" (like Jan Lukasiewicz's "Polish Notation," an attempt to avoid the names—in this case Wasilewski, Kurkiewicz, and Miskiewicz). Like their debut, The Soul of Things, this is built from series of non-obvious variations, and takes a while to come into focus. Think of them as settings for the gemlike clarity of Stanko's trumpet. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

JAMES CARTER
Gardenias for Lady Day
Columbia

Carter looks good in his retro suits, and deploys his many saxophones with the same aplomb as he shows in selecting his ties. He put together a dream quartet for what could have been The Real Quietstorm II—John Hicks, Peter Washington, Victor Lewis. But with him newly signed to Columbia, you can imagine the helpful hints from company bigwigs: loved that Django tribute, wouldn't Billie Holiday be a nice follow-up (especially given our catalog)? And strings, didn't Billie do an album with strings? And you could freak out a bit on "Strange Fruit," so everyone understands the horrors of lynching. And hey, we just saw this new singer who does Bessie Smith. How else do you get a mess like this? Eight songs, only half even vaguely associated with Holiday; strings that would gag Charlie Parker; excited vocals by an Ella wannabe. Only when the quartet plays unencumbered do you get an idea of how much talent is wasted here. B MINUS


Additional Consumer News

Reissues and Redundancies

DUKE ELLINGTON
The Bubber Miley Era
1924–29 Jazz Legends
Before swing, the Hot Club of Harlem in its flaming youth.

DUKE ELLINGTON
Ellington Uptown
1947–52
Columbia/Legacy
Hodges-less, coming out of his most pretentious composerly period, scratching and kicking to hang on.

BENNY CARTER
Sax à la Carter
1960
Capitol Jazz
A quartet with Jimmy Rowles, Leroy Vinnegar, and Mel Lewis; a few standards; just an easy swinging Friday in L.A.

CHARLES LLOYD/BILLY HIGGINS
Which Way Is East
ECM
In a living room shortly before Higgins's death, two old friends converse, contemplate, fart around.

SIR ROLAND HANNA
Tributaries: Reflections on Tommy Flanagan
IPO
All of Hanna's solo albums are thoughtful, but his fellow Detroiter sets the bar higher than ever.

TOMASZ STANKO: RARUM VOL. 17: SELECTED RECORDINGS
1975–98
ECM
Darkest days, greatest dirges, scattered miracles, two of them drummers.


Honorable Mention

BRIAN LYNCH
Brian Lynch Meets Bill Charlap
Sharp Nine
Brilliant trumpet, impeccable supporting piano, professionalism that doesn't show off because it's so self-satisfied.

ALLAN VACHÉ‚ AND FRIENDS
Ballads, Burners and Blues
Arbors
Trad clarinetist lays out his business card, neglecting to mention "Besame Mucho."

THE YOKO MIWA TRIO
Fadeless Flower
PJL
Young mainstream piano trio aim for clean sound, delicate balance, inconspicuous beauty.

COOPER-MOORE/ASSIF TSAHAR
America
Hopscotch
Eschewing piano, Cooper-Moore plays banjo and diddley-bo, and sings the title song like it's been a long time coming.

THE NEW ARCHIE SHEPP QUARTET
Tomorrow Will Be a Better Day
PAO
I'll take Shepp's revolution over Amina Claudine Myers's gospel, but to him they're probably the same.

RANDY SANDKE
Cliffhanger
Nagel Heyer
Mainstream trumpet, riding roughshod over a crackling-hot band.


Duds

MONTY ALEXANDER/ERNEST RANGLIN
Rocksteady
Telarc

JOHN PIZZARELLI
Bossa Nova
Telarc

SPRING HEEL JACK
The Sweetness of the Water
Thirsty Ear

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