Jazz Consumer Guide: Adapt, Improvise, Party

Digital Primitives
Hum Crackle & Pop

The singularly named Cooper-Moore has the real folk-jazz spirit, clowning on homemade instruments and singing one piece that starts politically obvious but comes to exemplify the freedom he espouses. Assif Tsahar (on tenor sax and bass clarinet) and Chad Taylor (on all things percussive) adapt their free jazz, playing along without settling into mere groove. A MINUS

The Fully Celebrated
Drunk on the Blood of the Holy Ones
AUM Fidelity

A trio led by alto saxophonist Jim Hobbs and drunk on Ornette Coleman, for starters: They begin with a basic funk or blues groove, lay on a deceptively simple sax melody, and deconstruct. A

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Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics
Inspiration Information

A percussionist who merged his Ethiopian roots and Western acculturation into something he calls Ethio-jazz meets up with a band of techno-fied Sun Ra worshippers, who push him into harder grooves and improvise around the riddims. A MINUS

Jerry Bergonzi
Simply Put

Nothing fancy—just another exemplary textbook of mainstream tenor sax. A MINUS

James Carter
Heaven on Earth
Half Note

No new ground here: starts with Django Reinhardt, recaps Don Byas and Lucky Thompson, blows up blues from Leo Parker and Ike Quebec, and winds up with Larry Young's title cut. Organ and guitar try to fix Carter's retro sound in a soul-jazz matrix, but he plays much too large for that. A MINUS

Freddy Cole
The Dreamer in Me
High Note

With the genes, the speakeasy pipes, and even a bit of the piano style, he always both begged and denied likeness to his big brother, but now he's 30 years older than Nat ever got to be. Live uptown, loose and gracious, he finally finds his role as the living legend that never was. A MINUS

Lars Danielsson

The Swedish bassist composes delectable but spare melodies, sweetening them with his cello and bass violin, Leszek Mozdzer's piano, and John Parricelli's guitar. Mathias Eick's trumpet adds the polish and sheen of brass, and Eric Harland can go exotic on the percussion. In short, everything you might want in a piece of ECM environmentalism, minus the bleak cover photo. A MINUS

Hal Galper/Reggie Workman/Rashied Ali

A 70-year-old pianist few have heard of—inspired by Bud Powell, taught by Jaki Byard, always turns out thoughtful albums—goes live with two 70-year-old avant-gardists, each as fascinating in his own right. A MINUS

Dennis González Jnaana Septet
The Gift of Discernment
Not Two

Leena Conquest's vocals are integral here, imparting an aura of spiritual ecstasy, although, as usual, I prefer the leader's down-to-earth trumpet. Both are propelled by an endless river of percussion—three drummers (including batas), bass, and sparkling Chris Parker piano. A MINUS

Vijay Iyer Trio

Iyer's first piano trio marks personal history, reworking four originals within a context ranging from Andrew Hill and Julius Hemphill to Stevie Wonder and M.I.A. Also shows off his chops: how he drives the rhythm while throwing off sparkling fills. A MINUS

Adam Lane/Lou Grassi/Mark Whitecage
Drunk Butterfly
Clean Feed

The bassist gets top billing due to his knack for setting up grooves that turn free-oriented saxophonists on rather than off. He did that with Vinny Golia in Zero Degree Music; here, he gets the most accessible work ever out of Whitecage. In her liner notes, Slim calls this "avant swinging bebop." That's right. A MINUS

Steve Lehman Octet
Travail, Transformation, and Flow

Lehman's octet isn't a big band wannabe—it's a toolkit he employs surgically, making sharp cuts, then polishing them up, often with a shower of Chris Dingman's vibes. His alto sax is all but lost in the mix—no need to show off when he has so many other options to juxtapose. A MINUS

Chris Morrissey Quartet
The Morning World

The young bassist's indelible grooves are driven home by drummer Dave King and spiced up by King's Happy Apple bandmate Michael Lewis, exploring tangential jazz angles with all kinds of saxes. A MINUS

De Nazaten & James Carter

The offspring of libertine Prince Hendrik promiscuously adopt the rhythms of former Dutch colony Surinam, with three drummers and lots of brass. Carter, the guest, isn't really needed, but he puts on a mighty demonstration of his prize-winning baritone sax nonetheless. A MINUS

Roswell Rudd
Trombone Tribe

Several tribes, actually: the title group with three trombones and Bob Stewart on tuba; one called Bonerama with five plus a sousaphone; the Gangbé Brass Band of Benin; and Sex Mob, which qualifies when Rudd weighs in; also, scattered unnamed groups with everyone from Eddie Bert to Ray Anderson to Josh Roseman. And what do trombone tribes do? Duh, party! A MINUS

Tim Sparks
Little Princess

The music of klezmer clarinet king Naftule Brandwein, loosened up and spread out for fingerpicked guitar, with Greg Cohen's bass and Cyro Baptista's percussion taking further liberties. Genuinely easy listening, but you should really call it jazz. A MINUS

Ulf Wakenius
Love Is Real

Following his gratifyingly spare Keith Jarrett songbook album, Notes From the Heart, the Swedish guitarist takes on another pianist's repertoire: EST's Esbjörn Svensson. The rockish rhythms support fancier arrangements, some with strings and horns. Cut before Svensson died in a scuba-diving accident, it turns out to be an elegant and touching tribute. A MINUS

Honorable Mention

Arthur Kell Quartet
BJU Records

Bassist writes tight little figures, spun by Brad Shepik's guitar and Loren Stillman's alto sax into harmolodic heaven.

Allen Toussaint
The Bright Mississippi

A New Orleans pro with beaucoup connections shows a light touch with trad jazz.

Mulatu Astatke
New York–Addis–London: The Story of Ethio Jazz 1965–1975

Got out of Swinging Addis while the getting was good, picking up Latin and jazz notions just to splice them with hints of home.

Joe Morris
AUM Fidelity

Not so distinctive a bassist, but like every saxophonist he trios with—Petr Cancura here—he delivers a jolt of freedom.

Paul Giallorenzo
Get In to Go Out
482 Music

Josh Berman and Dave Rempis enjoy the free jousting of a pianoless quartet, while the pianist-leader finds clever ways to contribute.

The Second Approach Trio With Roswell Rudd
The Light

Passing through Moscow, the great trombonist gets sucked into a maelstrom of flying scat-singing and piano, like he never left the '60s.

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things
About Us
482 Music

Following an album about their ancestors, they tap into themselves for the sound of Chicago today.

Henry Threadgill Zooid
This Brings Us To, Vol. 1

Too much flute and some dead spots, but miraculous stretches confirm the leader's genius, a relief after too long a break.

Chris Potter Underground

Electrified with Adam Rogers's guitar and Craig Taborn's Fender Rhodes, the sax-whiz card pumps up the volume.

Chad Taylor
Circle Down
482 Music

Drummer-led piano trio, a snappier strategy than letting the pianist run things.

The Aggregation
Groove's Mood

La Tanya Hall sings a couple of Stevie Wonder songs, bait for Eddie Allen's brass stylings.

The Harry Allen–Joe Cohn Quartet
Plays Music From 'South Pacific'

A swinging, enchanted evening, with singers Rebecca Kilgore and Eddie Erickson cornier than Kansas in August.

Louis Sclavis
Lost on the Way

Double reeds romp and roll over Maxime Delpierre's guitar buzz.

Avram Fefer
Clean Feed

Freebop sax trio imagines "Sheep in Wolves' Clothing" and other fractious fairy tales.

Joe Morris Quartet
Today on Earth
AUM Fidelity

Returns to guitar, trading lines with Jim Hobbs—a kinder, gentler version of the Fully Celebrated Orchestra.

Erik Friedlander
Broken Arm Trio

Cello-led string bop—light, loose, slightly oblique.

Jeff Johnson
Tall Stranger

Bass-centered trio, the playing field leveled with Hans Teuber's faint reeds and soft splashes on the drums.

John Patitucci Trio

The bassist's record, so note the solos, the sonic balance, and the nuanced grooves, not just Joe Lovano.

Dave Holland/Gonzalo Rubalcaba/Chris Potter/Eric Harland
The Monterey Quartet
Monterey Jazz Festival

Live postbop superstar jam, the pianist's Afro-Cuban vibe feeding everyone's thoughts.

Peter Delano
For Dewey [1996]

More importantly, featuring Dewey—the late Mr. Redman's tenor infiltrates three of eight cuts, vibrant as ever.

The Ron Hockett Quintet
Finally Ron

Longtime journeyman clarinetist gets the Arbors red-carpet treatment for another round of those good ol' good 'uns.

Branford Marsalis Quartet
Marsalis Music

Same quartet as Requiem 10 years ago, the CEO letting his crew do the work while he perfects his soprano.

Lucky 7s
Pluto Junkyard
Clean Feed

Freebop grunge, muscled up with double-barreled lead trombones, gussied up with splashes of cornet and vibes.

Marty Grosz
Hot Winds

Rhythm guitarist cranks the winds, supplied by Dan Block and Scott Robinson, up to "hot."

Oliver Jones/Hank Jones
Pleased to Meet You
Justin Time

An Oscar Peterson–inspired piano trio reinforced by an elder whose extra piano adds more depth and gravity than flash.

Stacy Dillard

Tenor saxophonist, fierce at high speeds, soulful when he slows down.

Steve Shapiro/Pat Bergeson
Backward Compatible

Swinging guitar-vibes duo, with Nashville Hot Clubber Annie Sellick pledging her love to Daddy.

Dennis González
A Matter of Blood

Old-school, avant-garde mournful trumpet over a hard-working Curtis Clark–Reggie Workman–Michael T.A. Thompson rhythm section.

Miroslav Vitous Group With Michel Portal
Remembering Weather Report

Strange thing, memory, blotting out fusion keyboards in favor of Dvorak variations on Ornette and Miles.

Johnny Varro & Ken Peplowski
Two Legends of Jazz

Journeymen on piano and clarinet evoke the legendary era of small-group swing.

Rez Abbasi
Things to Come

Four songs with Indian vocals fortify the extended Indo-Pak Coalition, but the world-class band eschews fusion for postbop.

Harry Allen
New York State of Mind Challenge

A graceful swing through town, from "Harlem Nocturne" to "Chinatown, My Chinatown."


Mary Halvorson & Jessica Pavone
Thin Air
Thirsty Ear

Beat-up chamber jazz played as inept anti-folk and sung worse. B-

Robert Glasper
Double Booked
Blue Note

Continues to make nice progress as a mainstream piano trio-ist, but his Experiment is unstable and prone to stink bombs. B-

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