Fast impressions, new jazz ‘n’ out cds

I’m determined to try to survey unusual and promising new jazz-and-beyond cds with regularity — here are responses (not in-depth reviews) to only half-a-dozen grabbed off my teetering in-pile almost at random, plus related diversions. The scale: 5 stars “You gotta hear this”; 4 – “very interesting, if interested in this sort of thing”; 3 — “middling, ok fun, consistent”; 2 – “flawed, somehow worthy”; 1 “never mind, really.”

  • Impressions of ColtraneKhan Jamal (SteepleChase) — 2 stars — Vibes master Jamal has the rhythm and lyricism to do justice to Coltrane’s beautiful, indelible melodies — “Naima,” “Afro-Blue” and “Impressions” among them. His fellow rarely-heard Philadelphian outcats, saxophonists Odean Pope and Byard Lancaster, each get guest tracks, and it’s good to hear them, but otherwise it’s all vibes-piano-bass-drums, a format I’m usually a sucker for, but I can’t get with this rhythm section. Pianist Farid Barron is capable and creative, but bassist Curtis Lundy has a very elastic sense of time and veteran drummer Edgar Bateman, 78 when this session was cut in January ’08, is to my ear always half a beat behind where I want to hear it, and I’m not syncing up with where it is. Jamal forebears, best on “One Up One Down.

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  • Talu –Alberto Braida (NuScope) — 2 stars — Spontaneously improvised solo piano exploiting the nuances, dynamic and timbral, of a Fazioli piano, presumably a very fine instrument. Annotator Francesco Martinelli insightfully identifies Italian Braida as a “Monkian” pianist whose “sense of horizontal development is influenced by Webern.” I find the narrative flow choppy (like Webern, here played by Glenn Gould)

), uninformed and inconclusive (not much like Webern played by anyone who *can* play Webern), but appreciate some of Braida’s unexpected and inexplicable moments, gestures, touches. . .

  • KRKGeorge Cremaschi/Matthew Ostrowski (Aha) — 3 stars — Completely abstract but dramatic and non-formulaic digital and analog electronics, Ostrowski on “controllers”, Cremaschi playing bass, not that you can tell by casual listening what instruments make  these sounds. Vivid post-industrial and probably post-apocalyptic events — few patterns, little (obvious) formal logic but continuously inventive sonic manipulations and/or developments that seldom flag or languish. Recorded at NYC’s innovative Harvestworks studio/education center. Good stuff, guys, boundary-breaking for them that likes it itchy.Check ’em out at or here:
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  • Sound Check —  Jack Cortner Big Band featuring Marvin Stamm (JazzedMedia) — 3 stars — Thoroughly professional, polished, poised and brassy orchestral treatments of repertoire ranging from the Gershwin’s “Strike Up The Band” to Herbie Hancock’s “Cantaloupe Island.” Except for that one classic Blue Note boogaloo, the mood is polished-mellow. Stamm on trumpet and flugelhorn soars with confident flourishes, never far from the tunes. Cortner’s charts have unshakable Broadway-Hollywood studio DNA.
  • Judgement Day, Vol. 2Rashied Ali Quintet (Survival) — 4 stars — Urgency and the accomplishment to make it convincing leap off this cd by Coltrane’s most time-diffusing drummer. Here Ali’s in a relatively more conventional post-bop mode but he’s still plenty quick and cliché-free, with younger, all muscular true-believers (pianist Greg Murphy, particularly impressive bassist Joris Teepe, raging trumpeter Jumaane Smith and tenor saxophonist Lawrence Clark). Bright and refreshing, riding the edge, blessedly free of cliches. I haven’t heard Vol. 1. 

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  • It’s a gadget world Ron Horton featuring Antonio Zambrini (abeat) — 4 stars — Horton has a very generous trumpet sound: ripe, rich, easy, with resources always in reserve to equal any occasion on original tunes which don’t restrict anyone’s interpretive freedom, plus the late Andrew Hill’s rarity “Laverne,” and drummer Paul Motian’s composition “9×9). Horton blows several shades of bluesiness — from a wail to abstraction to sober-sidedness; Italian pianist Zambir complements him nicely, bassist Ben Allison and drummer Tony Moreno hold a firm, detailed yet unintrusive beat. It”s all deceptively low key, and actually high involving. 

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  1. says

    Nice to hear that there is a new Ron Horton album, I have always loved his playing with Andrew Hill and on his own projects. Is the Jazz Composers Collective still a viable organization? I haven’t heard anything about them lately, but with formidable talent like Horton and Ben Allison, members made excellent music.
    HM: According to its website,, the Jazz Composers Collective dissolved in 2005. No only Allison and Horton but also Frank Kimbrough, Michael Blake and Ted Nash, the other “composers in residence” have been very productive on their own projects, performances and recordings.

  2. CraigP says

    I like this feature, always interested in impressions of new releases. I was disappointed about the Braida CD (the label is nuscope, BTW), as I was thinking of getting it. nuscope generally does a nice job.
    HM: I corrected that typo on NuScope — and urge you and all readers to check out music that you’re attracted to yourselves, not depend on my pronouncements to hold you off from making your own judgements.