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ANTHONY BRAXTON
20 Standards (Quartet) 2003
Leo

Four more CDs from the same tour that yielded last year's four-CD 23 Standards (Quartet) 2003. The bounty results from Braxton picking fresh songs each show—jazz pieces more often than the usual chestnuts, with old favorites Brubeck and Desmond most prominent. Tracks stretch out leisurely, with Kevin O'Neil's deft guitar often the highlight, and Braxton's saxes favoring the high registers. The most accessible and simply pleasurable set he's done—smart and cool. A

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PARAPHRASE
Pre-Emptive Denial
Screwgun

Saxophonist Tim Berne joins frequent collaborators Drew Gress and Tom Rainey for long, freewheeling improvs. They released two records from 1996 to 1998, then nothing until this set at John Zorn's Stone in May 2005. They probably weren't planning on releasing this one either, but rarely has spontaneous invention meshed so perfectly. Gress delivers the fat bottom you want in a bass, but the star is Rainey, whose exceptionally loud and precise drums shift the time so adroitly he constructs a labyrinthine cage for the sax. Berne paces, tests his limits, and ultimately plays within himself. He's never sounded so cogent. A

FRED ANDERSON/HAMID DRAKE/WILLIAM PARKER
Blue Winter
Eremite

The five minutes of solo sax opening the second disc shows off all the tools in Anderson's kit. He doesn't really get going until the rhythm section joins in, but when they do, Parker and Drake loom huge, filling the soundscape with shifting grooves and powerful rumble. Anderson finds plenty to say in their wake, until Parker picks up his nagaswaram (an Indian oboe) for a snake-charming duet. A MINUS

TOM CHRISTENSEN
New York School
Playscape

Christensen says his compositions draw inspiration from the circle of poets and painters around Frank O'Hara, but that tells you nothing about the music. He writes for pairs of reed instruments, usually matching timbres rather than looking for contrasts. He's joined here by Walt Weiskopf and a bass-drums combo that keeps things moving as he and Weiskopf work their way up and down the equipment rack. The tenor sax duel is the liveliest, but the interplay fascinates even when they draw flutes. A MINUS

ANAT COHEN
Place & Time
Anzic

An Israeli in New York who works most often in Latin bands, Cohen has a light touch with her saxophones and a dollop of klezmer in her clarinet. Her first record syncretizes a world of influences, with none dominating, except perhaps the bebop that never met a music it couldn't incorporate. More surprising is how well behaved her syntheses are, leaving us with an album that is impossible to pigeonhole as anything except surpassingly graceful. A MINUS

GERRY HEMINGWAY QUARTET
The Whimbler
Clean Feed

A very potent group. The horns—Ellery Eskelin's tenor sax and Herb Robertson's trumpet—deploy in myriad ways, notably Eskelin's crafty solo constructs and Robertson's rapid-fire brass. But the rhythm section is evenly calibrated and tightly engaged. With due respect to the leader and his songbook, the MVP is Mark Helias, whose rumbling pulse, on electric as well as acoustic bass, serves as a springboard for everyone else. A MINUS

GEORGE RUSSELL AND THE LIVING TIME ORCHESTRA
The 80th Birthday Concert
Concept Publishing

In theory, Russell was the guy who moved jazz from bebop to postbop, although in practice Miles Davis and John Coltrane get the credit. His early records, from Jazz Workshop in 1956 until he moved to Europe in 1963, still bear fruit, with especially profound influence in Scandinavia. Returning to the U.S. in 1969, he settled into academia, working on his Lydian Chromatic Concept and writing sweeping orchestral works like "Electronic Sonata for Souls Loved by Nature" and "The African Game"—the two centerpieces reprised for this big-band birthday bash. You'd think he'd have slowed down enough at 80 that we might catch up, but even when he's just having fun, like here, he's still several steps ahead of the game. A MINUS

JENNY SCHEINMAN
12 Songs
Cryptogramophone

She has quickly established herself as a versatile violinist working everywhere from ROVA to the Hot Club of San Francisco, but she flashes little virtuosity here. Instead she makes her mark elaborating folk tunes into luminous harmonic textures, shaping the melodies with her violin but leaving it to others to buff up the highlights—Ron Miles's cornet, Doug Wieselman's clarinets, Rachelle Garniez's accordion and piano, and most of all Bill Frisell's never more shimmering guitar. A MINUS

MARY STALLINGS
Remember Love
Half Note

Two versions of "What a Difference a Day Makes"—one with the band, the other a duet with Frank Wess—are her entry in this year's Dinah Washington sweepstakes, where she's less consistent but more interesting than Diana Reeves in Good Night, and Good Luck. No idea how old she is—she's got Louis Jordan on her resume, and a 1961 album with Cal Tjader, but other than that she's only been recording since 1990. One key to this one is the Geri Allen–led band, whose measured support never intrudes. A MINUS

RALPH SUTTON & DICK CARY
Rendezvous at Sunnie's 1969
Arbors

Sutton was the postwar era's nonpareil stride pianist, so he offers little here that hasn't already been showcased many times. So focus on Cary, who cut his teeth playing piano with Louis Armstrong and trumpet with Eddie Condon. Here he sticks to trumpet and alto horn—looks like a miniature tuba—adding a wizened soulfulness to Sutton's flashy little trio. A MINUS

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