Rituals of Getting Acquainted

With the Brit avant-garde, rust-belt saxophone, Braxton standards, Dylan standards

CHRIS POTTER QUARTET
Lift: Live at the Village Vanguard
Sunnyside

Potter's studio albums have always been too slick and too complex. Perhaps too conservative, too. But put him in a club with an all-name quartet and the songs stretch, the solos spread, rough spots break the pace, and chops overcome the damage. This may be why jaded fans swear the only real jazz is invented on the fly. I don't buy that as a rule, but Potter needed some way to take the shine off and let his talent hang out. A MINUS

STEVE REID
Rhythmatism [1976]
Universal Sound

Not the fusion drummer. The one who did studio work for Martha & the Vandellas, James Brown, and Fela before drifting into avant-garde obscurity, mostly with Charles Tyler, and recording four DIY albums in the late '70s. His groove on this one is irresistibly snappy, but the main reason for noticing is a wild and woolly Arthur Blythe, in peak form shortly before his major-label debut. A MINUS

LISA SOKOLOV
Presence
Laughing Horse

When she opens up on "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning" you are reminded not of dewy sunshine but of what Robert Jungk dubbed "brighter than a thousand suns"—something that envelops you in radiation and kisses your ass goodbye. She follows that with "You Do Something to Me" and "Chain of Fools"—the "ch-ch-chain" torqued up as in "ch-ch-chainsaw massacre." Her own songs are filler, but her covers are so audacious that she's found a new dimension for jazz singing: shock and awe. I've never heard anything like it—not even Sokolov herself on Gerry Hemingway's delectable Songs (Between the Lines), where she hews to the twisted contours of the music. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

BRANFORD MARSALIS QUARTET
Eternal
Marsalis Music/Rounder

The front shows an isolated waterfall, the sepia tone leached of all natural color, far removed from the urban world of Buckshot LeFonque. The back cover shows Branford on the lonely end of a garden bench, looking bored out of his fucking skull. The record starts slow and pretty, then slows down, then slows down some more. Built around band originals, it isn't really a "ballad book"—just a personal meditation album, or a marketer's idea of one. It isn't inept, but this playa was meant to have fun, like on A Love Supreme Live in Amsterdam. Here, he doesn't. B MINUS


Additional Consumer News
Honorable Mention

E.S.T.
Seven Days of Falling
215 Records

Scandinavia's Bad Plus, raised not on Nirvana but on Blur and Oasis, the weltschmerz articulated as texture.

SCOTT HAMILTON QUARTET
Live in London
Concord

He makes tenor sax seem like the easiest thing in the world to play.

YEAH NO
Swell Henry
Squealer

The Claudia Quintet's flip side, with Chris Speed working back from the textures instead of forward from the beats.

PATRICIA BARBER
A Fortnight in Paris
Blue Note

Crashing the keyboard, challenging the White World, speaking French.

GREG WALL
Later Prophets
Tzadik

The folklore around Ezekiel's bones sets the table, but sax transcends ancient roots.

NILS PETTER MOLVAER
Live: Steamer
Sula

Molvaer plays trumpet, but the samples, the loops, and the vinyl DJ Strangefruit abuses are why he matters.

RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA
Mother Tongue
Pi

But isn't the real mother tongue Coltrane? And isn't Vijay Iyer its Tyner?

JACOB YOUNG
Evening Falls
ECM

Norwegian guitarist runs the backcourt, sets up plays for trumpet and bass clarinet to score.

HENRY GRIMES TRIO
Live at the Kerava Jazz Festival
Ayler

The sound doesn't favor the return of Ayler's long-lost bassist, but David Murray and Hamid Drake do.

GORKA BENÍTEZ
Sólo la Verdad Es Sexy
Fresh Sound New Talent

Warm sax is sexy—not that there's anything wrong with truth.

JESSICA JONES QUARTET
Nod
New Artists

Family values: Wife and husband play tenor sax, and let their kids, who aren't ready for the AACM yet, sing one cut each.

THE FLIP PHILLIPS QUARTET
Live at the Beowulf [1977-78]
Arbors

One reason they don't make 'em like they used to is that all the JATP jousters have passed on.

JIM BLACK
Habyor
Winter & Winter

Rock band plays modern jazz with chameleon reed man Chris Speed—dense and skewed.

EVAN PARKER
The Snake Decides [1986]
Psi

Amazing harmonics and modulations within the stark limits of solo soprano saxophone.

JACOB FRED JAZZ ODYSSEY
Walking With Giants
Hyena

Badder than the Bad Plus, but that's because they cheat with gadgets to project the bass like a horn.


Duds

MILES DAVIS
Birdland 1951
[1951]
Blue Note

FRED HERSCH ENSEMBLE
Leaves of Grass
Palmetto

MOUNT ANALOG
New Skin
Film Guerrero

MARIA SCHNEIDER ORCHESTRA
Concert in the Garden
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