Old Forms, Fresh Outlooks

Innovation reigns, from 36-CD retrospectives to the Hüsker Dü of free jazz

Assif Tsahar/Cooper-Moore/Chad Taylor
Digital Primitives

They mean “Postmodern Primitives,” but have the good sense to look for another term. Cooper-Moore is central: His homemade string instruments—diddley-bow, mouth bow, bango—add a hillbilly twang to Harry Partch tonality, and he sings one, “Ol’ Saint Peter,” which is more campfire tale than hymn. The others are bemused, with Taylor’s possibly digital beats sometimes sounding like balafon, and Tsahar putting his new-thing sax on the back burner until the closer, comping and cooing on bass clarinet and pulling out the old didgeridoo. A MINUS

Fay Victor Ensemble
Cartwheels Through the Cosmos

Chris Byars, Photos in Black, White and Gray
Chris Byars, Photos in Black, White and Gray

She reminds people of Betty Carter, perhaps because so few jazz singers ever look to break new ground. Victor’s voice is relatively unmannered, but one trait she does share with Carter is her ability to command a band worth listening to with or without her: Guitarist Anders Nilsson is always up to something interesting, while bassist Ken Filiano and drummer Michael T.A. Thompson have a knack for showing up unheralded on good albums. The songs explore the cosmos, but the closer homes in on earth. A MINUS

David S. Ware Quartet
AUM Fidelity

Reportedly the finale of the most formidable quartet since Coltrane’s, with stars William Parker and Matthew Shipp and a series of drummers marking epochs within the era. One more live shot to go with Live in the World. A MINUS

Dud of the Month

Chris Potter 10
Song for Anyone

Ten musicians, with flute-clarinet-bassoon among the winds, and guitar joining the violin-viola-cello-bass for strings. It seems like every jazz musician aspires to compose and arrange on a large canvas, but more often than not, ambition gets the best of them. Potter only manages drab, static backgrounds, then chews them up with his tenor sax. With chops like his, why bother? B

Additional Consumer News

Von Freeman
The Best of Von Freeman on Premonition (1996-2006) [Premonition]
Invisible until he turned 75 and morphed into Sonny Rollins’s scrawny little brother.

Adam Lane/Ken Vandermark/Magnus Broo/Paal Nilssen-Love
4 Corners [Clean Feed]
Two composers, two Vikings to brawl with them.

Josh Roseman
New Constellations: Live in Vienna [Accurate]
Jah-driven funk, severely bent but rarely broken.

Marcus Strickland Twi-Life Group
Open Reel Deck [Strick Muzik]
Malachi Rivers recites and cajoles over a state-of-the-art sax quartet.

The Blueprint Project
People I Like [Creative Nation Music]
The guest rhythm section takes a mischievous turn: Han Bennink.

Amir ElSaffar
Two Rivers [Pi]
One Iraqi, the other American, played out in mutual respect as jazz, not war.

Terence Blanchard
A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina) [Blue Note]
Wading through when the ghost of 1927 revisits Congo Square.

Frank Morgan
A Night in the Life [High Note]
Plays Bird songs, sweet and soulful—it isn’t just pianist George Cables who reminds me of Art Pepper.

Sonic Openings Under Pressure
Muhheankuntuk [Clean Feed]
Writhing, snaking improv lines against David Pleasant’s “densemetriX” beat, with a momentary torrent of rap.

Matt Chamberlain/Bill Frisell/Tucker Martine/Lee Townsend Floratone [Blue Note] Disembodied grooves veiled with guitar tones; future music intended as folk.

Paul Zauners Blue Brass
Soil [PAO/BluJazz]
An Austrian trombonist and connoisseur, collecting fine songs from Africa and Afro-America and burnishing them to a fine luster.

Quadro Nuevo
Tango Bitter Sweet [Justin Time]
Cosmopolitan folk music, too pat for jazz, too danceable for chamber music.

Charlie Haden/Antonio Forcione
Heartplay [Naim]
In a sentimental mood, so soft it’s almost subliminal.

The Phil Woods Quintet
American Songbook II [Kind of Blue]
With Brian Lynch and Bill Charlap. So supremely mainstream, you feel like saluting.

Allen Lowe
Jews in Hell: Radical Jewish Acculturation [Spaceout]
From Massapequa to Maine, what a long, strange trip it’s been.


Satoko Fujii Quartet
Bacchus [Onoff]
Godzilla tries to waltz, succumbs to toxic heavy metals.

Herbie Hancock
River: The Joni Letters [Verve]
A classy band, especially Wayne Shorter, wasted behind a bevy of vocal caricatures.

Miroslav Vitous
Universal Syncopations II [ECM]
Funk horns and multiple drummers whitewashed by heavenly voices.

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