Ok folks, a couple more of my favorite albums from the last year (and as always, the whole list can be found here)….
Peter Brendler, Outside the Line (Posi-tone) – What a sizzling, fun, and adventurous date. Bassist Brendler, joined by the unbeatable front line of tenor saxist Rich Perry and trumpeter Peter Evans, and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza (who put out his own very fine album this year) tear through several quirky and left handed bop heads, a laid back and understated cover of Lou Reed’s “Walk on the Wild Side,” and Ornette’s “Una Muy Bonita.” Brendler’s sound is both big and clean, his playing firm, rhythmic sense strong, his pocket deep. There’s a little bit for everyone on this outstanding record.
Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Mother’s Touch (Posi-tone) – Orrin Evans’ group sure is one power outfit. Put on “Tickle” – written by Donald Edwards and arranged by Todd Bashore – and get ready to be whacked with equal parts swagger and snarl; immediately following Evans’ piano solo enter roiling cascades of horn lines that move throughout the horn sections, tumbling up and down at a breakneck pace. It’s some of the nastiest and daring big band writing and playing I’ve heard recently. But the band also knows how to dial it down too, let things bubble ever so slightly. Evans’ “In My Soul,” which features Marcus Strickland on tenor, is a soulful 12/8 piece. His slow ballad “Dita” – arranged by Bashore – mixes hushed introspection, soul, and wistfulness, with lush orchestrations reminiscent of Gil Evans. Mother’s Touch is hip, swinging, moving, powerful, and engaging from top to bottom. Another great album from a great big band.
Well, it’s that time again – the yearly “best of” lists have started appearing, and yearly readers and critics polls have either come out or are immanent. I’ve been working on putting together a list of my favorite albums of the year for quite some time, and I’ve got a few more to add to the list. Listed in alphabetical order by first/band name, and including a short review, here’s a list of a handful of albums that I really dig that I think deserve attention from listeners and critics alike. (These have all been added to my favorites of 2014 page.)
Adam Schroeder, Let’s, (Capri) – A swinging, sophisticated and thoroughly enjoyable date, Let’s showcases Schroeder’s meaty bari sax tone, individual voice, and strong melodicism. From the funky “Just Clap Your Hands” – which could mistaken for a classic Blue Note cut – and the easy swingers “In the Middle of a Kiss” and “Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams,” to uptempo originals that showcase his nimble fingers and lithe phrasing, Schroeder is a player and composer that everybody should check out. And it doesn’t get much better than his rhythm section: Anthony Wilson (guitar), John Clayton (bass), Jeff Hamilton (drums).
Ben Flocks, Battle Mountain - Holy crap, I listened to this a ton this summer. A diverse mix of Americana (“Tennessee Waltz”; “Shenandoah”), standards (“Polka Dots and Moonbeams”), originals, Lead Belly’s “Silver City Bound,” and pop tunes. Gorgeous, raucous, tender, catchy, bittersweet, but above all: memorable and unshakeable.
Bobby Avey, Authority Melts From Me (Whirlwind Recordings) – Pianist Avey traveled to Haiti to learn about Haitian culture and music, which this captivating, demanding, and rewarding album results from. It’s a 53 minute suite with three long-form tracks separated by two shorter interludes. Avey’s writing is rhythmically and metrically complex, which is a tribute to how rock solid and effortless bassist Thomson Kneeland and drummer Jordan Perlson make things sound. Miguel Zenon and Ben Monder do the bulk of the soloing; it’s impossible to go wrong by writing killer charts and having Zenon and Monder go off. This is some heavy writing and playing.
Clarence Penn & Penn Station, Monk: The Lost Files (Origin) – Drummer Clarence Penn’s latest is a super hip and contemporary update on eleven Monk tunes. Along with saxophonist Chad Lefkowitz-Brown, pianist Vega, bassist Yasuhi Nakamura, and Gerald Clayton on Rhodes for one track, Penn reworked Monk’s tunes – sometimes shifting accents to create a new rhythmic feel, or disguising the tune altogether. In doing so, he has breathed fresh life into and offered new ways to hear compositions that everybody knows and that have been played to death – No easy feat.
Matt Wilson Quartet with John Medeski, Gathering Call (Palmetto) – This sure is a playful romp. Features a front line of cornetist Kirk Knuffke (who I’ve been listening to a ton recently) and tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer, whose big, Coleman Hawkins/Texas-tenor sound is a cool contrast to the more contemporary approach of the other soloists. Medeski on piano here, rather than the organ he’s better known for (he’s not afraid to get a little dissonant), and Chris Lightcap on bass. Laced with dashes of bebop, Horace Silver funk, Ornette, ECMish introspection, and a cover of Beyonce’s “If I Were a Boy”, make Gathering Call a robust and rigorous album that is as fun as it is approachable.
Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, Live Snakes (Accurate) – This is a pure “dance party in my pants” record. Yup, I said it. Recorded at several live performances with various personnel combinations, this album bounces and grooves through twelve cuts, and features plenty of polyphonic saxophone and trumpet soloing. The second line “Parade,” and the group’s cover of “Caravan” are particularly tasty. Prepare to shake yo’ ass.
It’s been quite a while since I dropped a Wacky LP of the Day on you all, but as soon as I remember I owned the following, I felt like I had to share. Dig this little beauty…..
I bought this amazingly awful record as soon as I saw the amazing cover. It didn’t hurt that it was like $2. And the back cover…
Pretty basic, but then I began to wonder what was going on over on the right hand side:
(But first, look at those amazing titles: “We Need a Cajun President” or “Cajuns Are Tough”)
Without having put the record on I thought maybe Joyce was in the band, and maybe John-boy was a child picture of Janot. Wrong and wrong.
They’re his family, which is nice. I’m just not sure I’ve seen anybody put their family on the back of their record before. I also dug the John-boy and Johnette combo. Reminds one of George Foreman naming all his kids some variation of George.
And the best part for me: “I miss my dog Barney, at times.” I’m not knocking any man who thanks his dog – I thanked mine in the acknowledgments in my dissertation. What’s the best is that he misses Barney “at times.”
Now, the music: it’s awful. It’s more country with some Cajun seasoning thrown in. Pretty much the celebrating the hard working, blue collar, God fearing, family man variety of country made popular by Merle and Waylon and those cats. But wow, it’s terrible. I enjoy this record for it’s fabulous cover art and title, the family photos, the shout out to the dog, and the unabashed expression of everything that is important to this man. It’s just too bad it’s not good to listen to.
In the Fall 2014 issue of Jazziz I came across this piece on saxophonist Mindi Abair:
“Sax Education.” Ugh, as a saxophonist I’ve been hearing the sex/sax pun since I was about 10 years old. And let me tell you, it never gets old. Wait, that’s not true, it got old about 10th grade. Unless you are a 12 year old boy this is not funny. And it’s not clever – far from it in fact. Pretty lazy and unimaginative stuff indeed. Musicians and their audiences deserve better than this.
And then there’s the picture. I’m not going to dwell on this too much because I hit the topic of the sexualization of female jazz musicians somewhat regularly. But, please allow a quick take. I can imagine the photo shoot went something like this: “Now Mindi, we think it would be great if you stripped down to what you wear to bed. . . . Ok, great. Now see those stacks of records in the floor? Go lie down, rest your head on one of them, and look longingly into some record. It doesn’t matter which one. Awesome, love it, perfect.”
First, I don’t know anybody who cares about their records who would have them thrown around all over the floor. It’s hard to see in my photo, but there are 45s and LPs out of their sleeves, lying on the floor or mixed in one of the stacks, overlapping each other. They are just begging to get scratched. There better not have been any good records in there. (The only one I can identify is Cannonball’s Live in New York, which is burning, btw.) And anybody who has seen High Fidelity will know that you don’t stack your records, unless you want to warp them. What crap.
Second, it looks like Abair is in her underwear. And with the lights down low it’s as if the photographer is inviting the reader into her bedroom. That’s all.
It seems as if some of the editors and/or writers of Jazziz have the maturity of a middle school boy, think their readers do, or both, which is unfortunate. Now, please don’t take my comments to mean I dismiss everything in the magazine. And even though I’m not the magazine’s target audience (my taste rarely lines up with the music they cover), there is quality writing by some of the best jazz journalists around – Shaun Brady immediately comes to mind. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t the occasional troubling or annoying moments.
I will now leave you with a picture of the headline of short piece on Sergio Mendes from the same issue, which I think drives home some of my points. Really?