MUSIC ARCHIVES

Jazz Consumer Guide: Play Louder, and Pray for Peace

by

Billy Bang

Prayer for Peace

TUM

Back from his second tour of Vietnam, wherein he found peace in transcendent musical fusion, the violinist reflects on the dawn of apocalypse: Hiroshima, 1945. Even there, the chill gradually gives way to the fire of one of his trademark riffs, then segues into another from Compay Segundo. Joy all around, from Stuff Smith well beyond Sun Ra, with James Zollar’s tart trumpet challenging Bang’s razor-sharp violin. A

The Mark Lomax Trio

The State of Black America

Inarhyme

Something about growing up in the Middle West gets you imagining that the whole country is spinning around your calm, clear-eyed pivot point. This Columbus, Ohio, sax trio picks up the pieces from the 1960s collision of black power and avant-jazz while dispensing with everything superfluous. Dean Hulett’s bass and Mark Lomax’s drums hold fast to their lore, while Edwin Bayard’s tenor sax meditates on the blues and rises up to break down walls. A

Juhani Aaltonen Quartet

Conclusions
TUM

Well into his seventies, a legend in his native Finland but scarcely recognized elsewhere, Aaltonen and his thoughtful flute would sweep the U.S. polls if anyone heard his three spots here. Still, they’re light, relative to his smoldering, often colossal tenor sax. A MINUS

Borah Bergman Trio

Luminescence
Tzadik

At 75, he’s outgrown the Cecil Taylor likeness, placing his stately chords with remarkable precision and logic amid the flutter of Greg Cohen and the percussive spray of Kenny Wollesen. John Zorn joins in for one cut, his abrasive alto sax something else. A MINUS

Gerald Wilson Orchestra

Detroit
Mack Avenue

The six-part suite commissioned for the venerable bandleader’s former hometown hits all the right notes: sterling solos, including notable use of Yvette Devereaux’s violin and son Anthony Wilson’s guitar, backed by solid section work combining power and finesse. Two pieces cut with a star-studded New York group are even sharper. A MINUS

First Meeting

Cut the Rope
Libra

Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura’s noise band, free jazz in a cartoon world, the bam-pop-pow splashed large and crude. Guitarist Kelly Churko churns out the electronics, while Satoko Fujii works her piano as a percussion machine. Amusing when they’re just scattering shit, and irresistible when they tap into a groove. A MINUS

John Hicks & Frank Morgan

Twogether [2005–06]
High Note

Three piano solos packed around two pairs of alto-sax duets, all standard stuff from way back when. This might seem like a lazy product concept, but it’s all the more poignant in a memoir for the recently departed. A MINUS

Tin Hat

Foreign Legion
BAG

Chamber jazz, tightly arranged around the string framework of Carla Kihlstedt’s violin and Mark Orton’s guitar, subtly colored by Trio-breaker Ben Goldberg’s clarinets. Might have been too pat, but Ara Anderson breaks out of the piano slot, emerging as a triple threat with romping pump organ and biting trumpet. A MINUS

New York Art Quartet

Old Stuff [1965]
Cuneiform

A short-lived group long remembered (their plainly titled third album, 35th Reunion, was cut in 1999), they worked more in altoist John Tchicai’s Copenhagen than in New York. These radio shots are a happy find, especially for Roswell Rudd’s gritty trombone. A MINUS

Ben Perowsky Quartet

Esopus Opus
Skirl

The drummer borrows three-fifths of Claudia Quintet not to match rhythmic wits, but to play with the accordion-reeds sound, covering Hendrix and the Beatles and Brazilians, all while slipping in an original funeral blues that shows how far New York has moved beyond New Orleans. A MINUS

RED Trio

RED Trio
Clean Feed

Prepared-piano trio, where Hernani Faustino’s bass is almost as percussive as, and even more discordant than, Rodrigo Pinheiro’s piano, while Gabriel Ferrandini’s percussion is nothing but. A MINUS

Roberto Rodriguez

Timba Talmud
Tzadik

Mixing violin and clarinet with congas, his Cuban-Klezmer fusion is skin-deep, a mash-up inspired by juxtaposing titles like “Mambo Kitsch,” “Timba Talmud,” and “Descarga 1492.” (Does that last one mean “party like the Inquisition just started?”) It is party music, fusing the ecstatic impulses of two cultures. He even parties for Obama. A MINUS

Honorable Mentions

Nellie McKay

Normal as Blueberry Pie
Verve

A younger, hipper, jazzier Doris Day, kind of like the budding artiste herself.

Andrea Fultz

The German Projekt

The German Projekt

Von Kopf bis Fuss auf Liebe. Maybe Brecht/Weill and Hollaender do sound better in the original German.

Abraham Inc.

Tweet Tweet
Table Pounding

Who better than Fred Wesley to add funky bottom to David Krakauer’s klezmer clarinet?

Dave Holland Octet

Pathways
Dare2

Quintet plus extra horns, with big-band range and punch but nimbler.

Jason Moran

Ten
Blue Note

Postbop stride master rolls over classics and wears out his influences.

The Claudia Quintet + Gary Versace

Royal Toast
Cuneiform

Too rigorous for cocktail jazz, even though the soft instruments lean that way.

Brandon Wright

Boiling Point
Posi-Tone

Auspicious tenor-sax debut runs in fast company and burns up the track.

Bernardo Sassetti Trio

Motion
Clean Feed

Soundtrack piano, calm and composed, pretty but spare—more like serene.

The Gordon Grdina Trio

. . . If Accident Will
Plunge

The oud is delicate and deliberate, the guitar fully charged.

Arild Andersen

Green in Blue: Early Quartets [1975-78]
ECM

The bassist’s first three discs, from Kurt Riisnaes’s cutting sax to Juhani Aaltonen’s dry flute.

NYNDK

The Hunting of the Snark
Jazzheads

Too rowdy for chamber jazz even if the touchstones are classical, if that’s what you call Ives, Grieg, Perle, et al.

Scott DuBois

Black Hawk Dance
Sunnyside

Supple guitarist leads an edgy quartet where Gebhard Ullman makes most of the noise.

Jason Adasiewicz’s Rolldown

Varmint
Cuneiform

Underground Chicago with a colorful swish of vibes.

Ben Goldberg

Go Home
BAG

Charlie Hunter fusion grooves with clarinet dressing in lieu of synth and Ron Miles’s cornet for occasional bite.

Gabriel Johnson

Fra_ctured
Electrofone

Bold swathes of soundtrack electronica, burnished with bolts of trumpet.

Kirk Knuffke

Amnesia Brown
Clean Feed

Free trumpet trio, with Doug Wieselman a double threat on clarinet and engagingly primitive guitar.

Soren Moller & Dick Oatts

The Clouds Above
Audial

Another NY-DK connection, piano-sax duets that remain bracing until the flute comes out.

Wolter Wierbos

3 Trombone Solos
Dolfjin

A limited instrument, seldom given such range of expression.

Tord Gustavsen Ensemble

Restored, Returned
ECM

Piano ambience elevated by Tore Brunborg sax; W.H. Auden poetry warmed by Kristin Asbjørnson.

Roberto Rodriguez

The First Basket
Tzadik

Soundtrack for a David Vyorst film on early Jewish basketballers; a pastiche of klezmerish pieces con salsa.

Babatunde Lea

Umbo Weti: A Tribute to Leon Thomas
Motéma

Dwight Trible channels the avant-garde’s preacher man, Ernie Watts waxes eloquent where Pharoah Sanders turned shrill.

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do

Desert Ship
Not Two

Bass and drums present, but only to heighten the piano-trumpet intercourse.

Matt Lavelle and Morcilla

The Manifestation Drama
KMB Jazz

Somehow manages to get his bass clarinet in your face as much as his trumpet.

Dan Tepfer/Lee Konitz

Duos With Lee
Sunnyside

Young pianist, ancient genius, no drama, nothing rushed—just pick a key and improvise.

Rempis/Rosaly

Cyrillic
482 Music

Sax-drums improvs, like Vandermark/Nilssen-Love but more together.

Minamo

Kuroi Kawa–Black River
Tzadik

Crashing Satoko Fujii piano and soothing Carla Kihlstedt violin, evened out into two discs of intricate serenade.

Luis Lopes/Adam Lane/Igal Foni

What Is When
Clean Feed

Starts with a dissonant guitar nod to Sonny Sharrock, ends with badass bass solo.

Edward Ratliff

Those Moments Before
Strudelmedia

Nods to Johnny Hodges and Henry Threadgill, with soundtrack locales from Spain to the Orient.

Will Sellenraad

Balance
Beeswax

Long, sinuous guitar lines intertwined with Abraham Burton’s earthy sax.

Gary Peacock/Marc Copland

Insight
Pirouet

Famous bassist and not nearly famous enough pianist snuggle up for discreet pleasures.

David Crowell Ensemble

Spectrum
Innova

Philip Glass saxophonist builds on minimalist rhythmic vamps, tightly boxed but tougher than chamber jazz.

Dave Douglas

Spirit Moves
Greenleaf Music

The spirit of Lester Bowie returns, trademarked by wit and funk, with a brass band “Mr. Pitiful” that is anything but.

John Hollenbeck

Rainbow Jimmies
GPE

A résumé stuffer, with two Claudia Quintet cuts, some chamber music, and percussion collectives.

Cynthia Sayer

Attractions Plunk

Banjo picker who sings too much fronts a retro dream band featuring guitar picker Bucky Pizzarelli.

Satoko Fujii Orchestra Tokyo

Zakopane
Libra

Big band, no piano, lots of Kelly Churko guitar, more horns.

Fight the Big Bull

All Is Gladness in the Kingdom
Clean Feed

Bigger (and louder) than ever, with Steven Bernstein joining the fray.

John McLaughlin and the 4th Dimension

To the One
Abstract Logix

Forty years of meditation on the one true fusion.

Pat Metheny

Orchestrion
Nonesuch

The fancy technology just lets him be himself, more mellifluous than ever.

Ralph Towner/Paolo Fresu

Chiaroscuro
ECM

Lushly resonant guitar and stately trumpet—a masterful match of color and texture.

Led Bib

Sensible Shoes
Cuneiform

Double-sax fusion group, drawing from rock the concept that you find the path to the next by paying louder.

Jones Jones

We All Feel the Same Way
SoLyd

Veteran Russian avant-garde drummer Vladimir Tarasov hooks up with Larry Ochs and Mark Dresser for twisting free improv.

Duds

Herbie Hancock

The Imagine Project
Hancock

As long as Wayne Shorter answers his calls, he’d do the world more good playing jazz than indulging Dave Matthews, Pink, the Chieftains, et al. B

Esperanza Spalding

Chamber Music Society
Heads Up

Soft, shapeless strings, layered in all sorts of scat. B-

Jamie Cullum

The Pursuit
Verve

Fewer tics, lamer songs. C

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 29, 2010

Archive Highlights