Jazz Consumer Guide: Low-End Theories

Bassists shine, even amid the dark age of conservatism

Henry Threadgill Zooid This Brings Us To: Volume II | Pi More of last year's hit, and better, I'd say: The flute never flails against the tense, jagged rhythms, and contrasts neatly with tuba or trombone, while guitarist Liberty Ellman spins ever more elaborate lines. A MINUS

Vandermark 5 Annular Gift | Not Two With Fred Lonberg-Holm's cello and electronics broadening the palette—including what sounds like a more refined return to Jeb Bishop's guitar—the band returns to Alchemia in Krakow, and whips out a furious set that stands proudly alongside the Alchemia box. A MINUS

Honorable Mentions

Paal Nilssen-Love/Ken Vandermark Milwaukee Volume/Chicago Volume | Smalltown Superjazz Two nights of smoldering sax and lascivious clarinet knocked about by a drummer who rocks in no known time.

3ology With Ron Miles | Tapestry This Colorado sax trio remains intimate enough to merit the introspective moniker, as Miles's cornet fits in and draws them out.

Allison Miller Boom Tic Boom | Foxhaven Drummer-led trio, an even better showcase for Myra Melford's piano than her own album.

James Blood Ulmer In and Out | In+Out As his grizzled vocals sink deeper into the blues, his harmolodic guitar skitters beyond.

Vijay Iyer Solo | ACT Can the best jazz pianist of the last decade do a solo album? Sure, easy.

Bryan and the Haggards Pretend It's the End of the World Merle's melodies run through the mill, from Bird to Ornette to Ayler.

Nik Bärtsch's Ronin Llyria | ECM Precision Swiss movement, more dazzling at high speed than when they settle for ambience.

Steve Turre Delicious and Delightful | HighNote Bright, bold flavors: Billy Harper, Larry Willis, and the trombonist, of course. Even the conch shell contributes.

Ralph Alessi Cognitive Dissonance | CAM Jazz Everyone's favorite sideman brings his trumpet out front, outshining even pianist Jason Moran.

Rova & the Nels Cline Singers The Celestial Septet | New World Sax quartet and guitar trio, a perfectly matched band, but sometimes they cancel out each other's idiosyncrasies.

Peter Evans Quartet Live in Lisbon | Clean Feed With pianist Ricardo Gallo tossing bombs every which way, a tough venue for a hard-playing trumpeter.

David Murray Black Saint Quartet Live in Berlin | Jazzwerkstatt The piano and bass slots aren't much, but muscular bass clarinet and monster sax prevail.

James Moody 4B | IPO Finely aged standards, no rough edges, no flute—just tenor sax framed for posterity, or a romantic dinner.

Erica Lindsay/Sumi Tonooka Initiation | ARC Unheralded stars team up: Spare, Coltrane-ish sax thrashes a bit with rich, loquacious piano.

Paul Motian/Chris Potter/ Jason Moran Lost in a Dream | ECM Enigmatic drummer sets two stars adrift, trying to make sense of nothing.

Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet + 1 3 Nights in Oslo | Smalltown Superjazz Five discs, two with the large band in full fury, three cleaving off subsets deconstructing the mischief.

Evan Parker/Barry Guy/Paul Lytton + Peter Evans Scenes in the House of Music | Clean Feed Trumpet enfant terrible can't rattle the old guys of the Anglo avant-garde.

Curtis Fuller I Will Tell Her | Capri A classic Detroit cruiser from the 1950s, the trombonist's band spiffed up with Keith Oxman's tenor sax and Al Hood's trumpet.

William Parker At Somewhere There | Barnyard Long bass solo, mild and creamy as those things go, followed by experiments on dousn'gouni and double flute.

Roscoe Mitchell and the Note Factory Far Side | ECM A double quartet clash: two drummers, two bassists, two thrashing pianos, trumpet sparks to ignite the leader's sax.

Nels Cline Dirty Baby | Cryptogramophone An art box of Ed Ruscha paintings, bracketed by a guitar tour de force on one disc, meaty scraps on another.

Gia Notte Shades | Gnote Tasty standards from Ellington, Weill, and the usual suspects, saxed up by Don Braden.

David Weiss & Point of Departure Snuck In | Sunnyside Twenty-first-century Jazz Messengers, with horns sparring, guitar slinking, and nothing as obvious as hard bop.

Nils Petter Molvaer Hamada | Thirsty Ear Two bass-and-drums eruptions break the Arctic chill of trumpet and electronic ambience.

Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green Apex | Pi Ever the chameleon, he could pass for Green's old partner, Sonny Stitt, at the bebop joust.

Mort Weiss Raising the Bar | SMS Jazz Small businessman, picked up the clarinet at 65, plays solo on well-worn covers, gets by on charm.

Nilson Matta's Brazilian Voyage Copacabana | Zoho The bass pulse of Brazil, with Harry Allen's elegant sax swing and wisps of flute.

Jason Robinson The Two Faces of Janus | Cuneiform Backed with a fleet-footed band, with crucial interventions by Marty Ehrlich and Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Food Quiet Inlet | ECM Thomas Strønen's electronics overcome his percussion, devolving into ambiencelaced with Iain Ballamy reeds.

Brad Mehldau Highway Rider | Nonesuch Two discs of string-swept pastorale, dotted by the occasional Joshua Redman oasis.

Duds

Jason Robinson and Anthony Davis Cerulean Landscapes | Clean Feed Sax-piano duets, limited palette, fancy abstractions. B

Metropole Orkest 54 | Emarcy Vince Mendoza rolls out so much red carpet for John Scofield that nobody notices the guest star. B MINUS

Puttin' on the Ritz White Light/White Heat | Hot Cup Sometimes, when they try to kill, they only maim themselves. C PLUS

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