Satoko Fujii Orchestra New York
With esteemed freethinkers at every position—including Ellery Eskelin and Tony Malaby on tenor sax, and Steven Bernstein and Herb Robertson on trumpet—this big band packs fierce solo power, but Fujii flexes all that muscle masterfully. Her suite runs the loud-quiet, sweet-sour gamut, a model of tight composition and daring arrangement, driven by a rhythm section that hews close enough to the beat and a trio of trombones that do the heavy lifting. A
The Matthew Shipp Trio
His early records were strictly avant-garde piano, often in improv duos, but when he took command of this experimental rock label’s jazz series, he cranked up the electronics and folded in DJ beats, inventing avant-jazztronica on such releases as Nu Bop and Harmony and Abyss. Lately, he’s reverted to solo and trio albums, less to shore up his jazz-pianist cred than to prove he never really needed electronics to deliver dense harmonics and snappy rhythm. Nods to Monk and Powell recall roots he has moved beyond. A
Live at Belleville
One of the young Norwegians George Russell took under his wing in the late 1960s, bassist Andersen isn’t as well known as Jan Garbarek or Terje Rypdal, with a big chunk of discography under Masqualero, a group now better known for Nils Petter Molvaer. Just a trio here: Andersen’s playing is masterful, but it’s hard to concentrate when tenor saxophonist Tommy Smith gets up a full head of steam. A MINUS
The Cole Porter Mix
She takes Porter as a fellow modernist and drags him into a world where modernity’s future has dimmed. The songs are slower, sadder, and hazier, their flippant irony transmuted into ambiguity. The guitar-driven music is, if anything, even more Art Deco and elegant than her singing. Chris Potter’s tenor-sax breaks grab you every time, then fade into the smoke. A MINUS
Jorge Lima Barreto
Impromptu solo-piano constructions over João Marques Carrilho’s ambient electronics: random radio sweeps on the 45:12 “Zul,” four CD players cycling air-earth-water-fire ambience on the 30:10 “Zelub.” It’s never clear whether it’s Barreto or the listener who turns the randomness into meaning and makes conceptual art real. A MINUS
François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Jean-Jacques Avenel
Canadian alto-saxophonist Carrier started out chasing that old Trane, but with longtime drummer chum Lambert, he finally caught the spirit and found his own sound. Steve Lacy bassist Avenel pushes them even further inside their telepathic free-jazz vein. A MINUS
The Digital Box
A scrapbook of the saxophonist’s trek spread out on seven downloadable CD-Rs: one from 1999 with Dewey Redman, plus various 2004-06 sets, including two duos with drummer Michel Lambert, the rest adding bass and sometimes guitar. De trop, you might think, but the introspection keeps drawing me in as he fleshes out his world. A MINUS
Bill Cole’s Untempered Ensemble
Proverbs for Sam 
A belated tribute to alto-saxophonist Sam Furnace, who died in 2004, but who, in this Vision Festival set, holds the musical center with super-bassist William Parker, while the leader’s squeaky Asian double-reeds (soona, shenai, nagaswaram, didgeridoo), Cooper-Moore’s diddly bow, and multiple percussionists swarm in pursuit of their otherworldly avant-exotica. A MINUS
Satoko Fujii Trio
Trace a River
The pianist plays a jaunty little figure, then the notes descend into a loud crash. She wends her way through meditative quiet, then all hell breaks loose. The often-inscrutable bassist Mark Dresser finds he can push a groove as hard as anyone, and drummer Jim Black relishes every moment. A MINUS
William Parker Quartet
Two freewheeling horns backed by the hardest-working rhythm section in avant-jazz (the leader on bass and Hamid Drake on drums), this has been a glorious group ever since O’Neal’s Porch dropped in 2000. Here, surprisingly, the horns hew to the heads, and the pulse conjures hard bop. That’s what happens when the leader’s writing evolves from scenarios into full-blown songs. A MINUS
The liner notes lecture on anthropogenic climate change and name-drop a reading list I can vouch for as some of the best nonfiction of the last decade-plus. The music is a different sort of human activity. Shepik’s guitar, sax, and tambura skitter across a world of rhythms, most obviously from the Balkans, where Ralph Alessi’s trumpet and Gary Versace’s accordion converge. A MINUS
The 74-year-old pianist does a lot of little things he rarely gets credit for, like writing for horns—Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt never enter a song here unless they have something cogent to say, which isn’t always the case on their own albums. The pianist is in top form, too, maybe because Peter Washington and Al Foster leave him no slack. A MINUS
Count Basie Orchestra
Mustermesse Basel 1956 Part 1 
Early New Testament band, the arrangements just barely subatomic, but with Old Testament virtues, like soloists who aren’t just cogs in the machine.
The Scene 
His blues touched by grace, charm, and swing, a singer who could bring out the old-time religion in brothers Sims and Cohn.
Raoul Björkenheim/William Parker/Hamid Drake
DMG @ the Stone: Volume 2
Slash-and-grind guitar supported by the rhythm section, with a snake-charming shawm bonus.
Warmed by soft Claus Ogerman strings, melting the heartbreak of the cold North with nice little samba songs.
Bebo Valdés & Javier Colina
Live at the Village Vanguard
Cuban classics made simple, just bass supporting the 86-year-old master.
An old pianist with a light touch, his trio fluffed up with extra percussion, his catchy melodies undiminished.
Saxman Phil Dwyer cooks up some Rollins, Parker, and Monk with an intriguing spice from “Isfahan.”
The European Quartet Live
A saxophonist with patient poise on the slow ones and fierce resolve on the fast ones.
Bassist-led pianoless quartet, the tight writing neatly binding a dense, complex thrash of trumpet and sax.
Evan Parker/The Transatlantic Art Ensemble
Roscoe Mitchell leads a feisty American contingent to this avant-garde summit, but Parker prevails, his soprano sax rising above it all.
Natsuki Tamura’s avant-folk quartet, with Kazuhiko Tsumura’s tart guitar and Satoko Fujii’s swaying accordion.
Guitarist-composer’s date, but all the choice spots go to heavyweight tenor-saxophonist Rodrigo Amado.
Brad Leali-Claus Raible Quartet
Swing saxophonist in a bebop quartet brings out the Bird—but also the funk.
A quintet of hard-bop all-stars play seven compositions mailed in by strangers.
Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 3
Jimmy Smith’s old drummer gets the call and flares out to Odean Pope, who crashes upfield and lets Charles Tolliver kick the extra point.
Straightforward Omaha saxophonist leads Afro-Cuban group, transposing “Iowa Folk Song” and “Bata Boogie.”
Roger Davidson & Raúl Jaurena
Pasión por la Vida
Pianist Davidson writes a batch of tangos; Jaurena’s bandoneón renders his fascination classic.
Burnt Sugar/The Arkestra Chamber
Making Love to the Dark Ages
Embracing the real dark side: furtive, resilient, and so clever it could pass harmlessly as mood music.
Natsuki Tamura/Satoko Fujii
Husband-wife duets, his trumpet warm and supportive, her piano stark and brash.
Satoko Fujii/Myra Melford
Under the Water
Two avant-pianists square off for three duets and a solo apiece, rumbling and waxing eloquent.
Say It Plain
Basie ghost trumpeter runs rings around the post-Marsalis neo-trad playpen.
John Ettinger/Pete Forbes
Violinist and drummer, switching on keyboards and setting up loops—compellingly fast and intriguingly slow, lovely when they tune in “Stardust.”
Steve Herberman Trio
Subtly hinting at Wes Montgomery groove and Joe Pass craftsmanship.
Another gray world, the palette thinned down to acoustic piano and clarinet.
Vibe Over Perfection
Forty years ago, he would have been a terrific soul singer, but the moment passed, so he looks back to Basie.
Writings on the Wall
Israeli guitarist who feels Palestinian plays Montgomery lines with Arabesque fillips.
Bo’s Art Trio
Live: Jazz Is Free and So Are We!
The poet’s sane revolution is just for fun, like Bo van de Graaf’s sax.
Blueprints of Jazz, Vol. 2
Amiri Baraka’s blues people, from Africa to be-bop and hip-hop, atop churchly sax vamps and big-band breaks.
Sunny Then Cloudy
More Satoko Fujii–Natsuki Tamura jousts, with John Hollenbeck’s fractured martial drums stirring up trouble.
Satoko Fujii Orchestra Nagoya
An exhilarating blast of sci-fi fusion with occasional squawkfests and crashes.
Anthony Braxton/Kyle Brenders
Toronto (Duets) 2007
Tight sax dialogues, mostly soprano/sopranino, depend on little things signifying.
Stones World: The Rolling Stones Project II
A worldwide tour promoting the Stones’ great idea: miscegenation. B
The Blue Note 7:
Too mod for the Bill Charlap trio; too congested for the extra horns and guitar. B
East West Quintet
Native Language Music
Not only do they not know how to fuse jazz and rock, but this Brooklyn group is even confused about its name. C PLUS