Second-Term Blues

Avant or retro, unplugged or wired, guerrilla musicians defy the neocon millennium

Sonny Simmons
The Traveller
Jazzaway

Sonny goes to Norway, hooking up with Anders Aarum's piano trio and a string quartet conducted by veteran flautist Vidar Johansen. Ordinary in themselves, the string arrangements set Simmons so at ease that he plays with unforeseen grace and clarity. A MINUS

Miguel Zenón
Jíbaro Marsalis
Music/Rounder

This starts out as the music of Puerto Rico's countryside, a thick stew of Arabic and African roots, its seasoning crossed with elements from Cuba and points south. But Zenón isn't tempted by folk instruments or traditional melodies. He maps the extraordinarily complex rhythms onto standard jazz piano-bass-drums, then improvises fast, jaunty alto sax lines in lieu of the usual vocalist. A MINUS


Dud of the Month

Taylor Eigsti
Lucky to Be Me
Concord

Concord's latest youth pitch at the adult-contemporary market looks like the Mod Squad scrubbed up for the neocon millennium: blonde ingenue Erin Boheme, black trumpeter Christian Scott, and this slightly scruffy white pianist. All three have talent, of course—Eigsti is a 21-year-old prodigy on his third album, clearly a hot property. But they wouldn't have gotten all that hair and skin budget, not to mention all that advertising, if they looked as geeky as Steve Lehman. The music is groomed, too: Eigsti gets two top bass-drums tandems and plenty of cover—Coltrane, Björk, Porter, Mussorgsky, the Soprano theme song—for his scrawny originals. B MINUS


Honorable Mention

Sonny Simmons
The Complete ESP-Disk' Recordings
[1966]
ESP-Disk'

Kicking off a great career, give or take 20 years in hell.

Marc Johnson
Shades of Jade
ECM

If Eliane Elias's label insists she play the pop star, she'll release her serious work under hubby's name.

Gianluca Petrella
Indigo 4
Blue Note

A constructive traditionalist, working from Ellington through Sun Ra, willing to get his trombone dirty.

Ben Goldberg Quintet
The Door, the Hat, the Chair, the Fact
Cryptogramophone

Steve Lacy as Zen master, or Dr. Seuss, with Kenny Clarke as the cat with the hat.

Exploding Customer
Live at Tampere Jazz Happening
Ayler

Swedish freebop quartet, two horns performing aerial acrobatics, and the usual great drummer—in this case, Kjell Nordeson.

Jamie Davis
It's a Good Thing
Unity Music

Count Basie's ghost band, Joe Williams's ghost singer.

Jason Kao Hwang
Graphic Evidence
Asian Improv

A Chinese tinge to the violin, as Francis Wong's soprano sax looks east from Coltrane to come full circle.

Antonio Arnedo
Colombia
Adventure Music

Folk instruments, trad tunes, toned-down Barbieri-ish sax, beats by Satoshi Takeishi.

Ray Barretto
Time Was—Time Is
O+ Music

Another memoir of bebop's Spanishtinge—the congalero's last. Unexpected Plays the Blues in Need Fresh Sound New Talent Pianist Sergi Sirvent's trio twists Monk for old and new needs.

Bob Belden
Three Days of Rain
Sunnyside

A soundtrack for Chekhov in Cleveland, with Joe Lovano to keep you snug and warm.

Brent Jensen
Trios
Origin

Standard curriculum, but the alto saxophonist aces his orals.

String Trio of New York with Oliver Lake
Frozen Ropes
Barking Hoop

They spar mostly, but find common ground on "Texas Koto Blues."

Ray Russell
Goodbye Svengali
Cuneiform

A fusion guitarist remembers his own personal Gil Evans.

Jimmy Amadie Trio
Let's Groove! A Tribute to Mel Tormé
TP

The pianist's Tormé is less the point than guest Phil Woods channeling Benny Carter.

Kenny Wheeler
What Now?
Cam Jazz

The mild man of Europe's avant-garde in a drumless all-star quartet.

Andrew Lamb & Warren Smith
The Dogon Duo
Engine

Not only does this $6.79 list CD boast the cheapest packaging I've ever seen, there's nothing bogus in the duets either.


Duds

JAMES CARTER/CYRUS CHESTNUT/ALI JACKSON/REGINALD VEAL
Gold Sounds
Brown Brothers

JAZZ AT LINCOLN CENTER'S AFRO-LATIN JAZZ ORCHESTRA
Noche Inolvidable
Palmetto

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