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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