50 Songs To Get You Through NYC’s Jazz Month

Both tourists and locals are in New York absorbing the wealth of jazz that swamps the month of June and seeps over into July as well. The Vision Fest has  concluded,  the Undead Jazz is kaput as of last night too. But the Blue Note Fest has a ways to go,  and that means there’s a lot of shuffling around the West Village.  Those who are also bopping through the regular clubs know that the everyday action is also quite alluring.  This week alone there’s  Noah Preminger’s group, and Gerald Clayton’s trio.

Yes, people talk as they walk, and yes, conversation is important. But I figured it would be nice to have a soundtrack for these 30 days (more if you include the 92nd Street Y’s Jazz in July bash, and I do), so voila: 50 tunes to chew on while moving from one jazz show to another. Load up your playback device and get ready for some present tense ideas; the pieces have been chosen to rep what’s happening around town right now. Yes, you just might get a taste of an artist with an upcoming gig.

All 50 aren’t in place yet. I’m adding more as you read this, and they will all be in the next few days. Actually, I’m stopping at 45 and looking for feedback re: the subsequent five. Hit the comments section and make a case for a 2011 track that I should add to draw a more complete picture of the current goings-on. I’ll chose the final songs from those.

1. Pollywog, James Farm, James Farm (Nonesuch)

It’s the kind of catchy deal that you’d use to kick off a mixed tape, especially if you were trying to woo non-jazzers. Josh Redman’s tenor has often had the clarity and thrust to tickle outsiders, and on this nugget, he and his cohorts work as one, bringing a pop sensibility to some meaty improv.  At the Jazz Standard, June 16-19.

2. Soft Shoe Mingle, BASSDRUMBONE, The Other Parade (Clean Feed)

Some of the trio’s best work since the heyday of “Stompin’ On Enigmas.” The freewheeling approach that trombonist Ray Anderson, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Gerry Hemingway bring to such blowing vehicles speaks volumes about their casual unity. Anderson’s mute and Hemingway’s brushes make it even more singular.

3. Sidereal Flux, Harriet Tubman, Ascension (Sunnyside)

This time it’s two turntablists and Ron Miles’s trumpet joining the fierce guitar threesome. Here they take four minutes to fashion a soundscape that waxes random, but manages to scramble up a story anyway. There’s something wondrous about that.

4. Hugo, Russ Lossing Trio, Oracle (hatOLOGY)

The pianist is steadily refining his skills at free-flowing reflection, and silence just might be the fourth member of this judicious threesome. Here they balance every bass plunk, piano tinkle and snare rub against a perpetually looming question, “what will it do to our balance?” Dreamy and deep.

5. Hawk Over Traffic, Dave King Trucking Company, Good Old Light (Sunnyside)

As the title implies, it’s a smooth glide with lots of unstated flutter. The Bad Plus drummer leads his colleagues with just the right amount of brushed beats, allowing plenty of time for Chris Speed and Brandon Wozniak to dance their pas de deux.  At Littlefield on the 22.

6. Beaufain Street, Erik Friedlander, Bonebridge (Skipstone)

The cellist has a knack for creating catchy ditties, and this riff tune picks up extra points because its attendant interplay and pithy soloing makes it richer than it needs to be. Win win, baby.    Joe’s Pub on the 16th

7. U.M.M.G. (Upper Manhattan Medical Group), Terell Stafford, This Side of Strayhorn (MaxJazz)

With Strays, it’s usually the poignant melody that grabs you first, but here it’s the trumpeter’s tone shaking your shoulders. Teeming with the kind of verve that lets you know he’s thrilled to take this classic out for a spin, Stafford’s lines virtually gleam. Panache city.

8. Judo With Tokyo Joe (For John Zorn), Harris Eisenstadt’s Canada Day, Canada Day II (songlines)

The drummer’s sextet harks to the second great Blue Note era, the epoch that gave us Spring and Point of Departure and Components. In doing so, they concoct a curious chemistry, with Wooley/Bauder/Dingman gently reaching toward the heavens.

9. Ghost, Peter Evans Quintet, Ghosts (More Is More)

Folding yesterday into tomorrow, the remarkable trumpeter bends “I Don’t Stand a Ghost of a Chance With You” into an ethereal experiment that finds one band mate getting all laptopped on some of the sonic info. Romance in 1s+0s era.

10. Freight Train, Julian Lage, Gladwell (EmArcy)

Elizabeth Cotton’s forever disarming theme is picked pretty by the virtuoso guitarist. Wisely he doesn’t kill it with fireworks. Just a few single-note runs that imbue it with a ballet feel before heading back to the campfire’s glow.

11. Teo, Helen Sung, (re)Conception (Steeplechase)

Lots of accents and punch on an underappreciated Monk tune. Pianist Sung streamlines the angles, bringing Bud to the table more often than Thelonious himself. Clarity is one of her fortes, so the ‘round-the-racetrack approach is always nice and sharp.

12. Formation 2, Steve Coleman and Five Elements, The Mancy of Sound (Pi)

No rhythm section in a music where rhythm is paramount: Coleman never fails to fascinate.  Don’t fret groove fiends, the fugue-like approach to the horns (and Jen Shyu’s vocals) pops with enough kinetic energy to be deemed scripted polyphony.

13. One For Honor, Orrin Evans, Freedom (Posi-Tone)

When squares want to know how important a band’s rhythm section is, just spin ‘em this four-minute locomotive of a performance. Drummer Anwar Marshall and bassist Dwayne Burno connect in serious ways, virtually controlling the flow pianist Evans’ lines.

14. Betcha by Golly, Wow, Pat Metheny, What’s It All About (Nonesuch)

The wispy solo reading of the Philly Soul staple means the guitarist something in common with Prince. The Purple One also took a stab at the Stylistics’ jewel, though he didn’t give it as deep a mix of Fahey and Towner as Pat does.

15. Snake In The Blackberry Patch, Jeff Lederer, Sunwatcher (Jazzheads)

Led grabs the soprano and shakes it silly, like the horn had the power to banish vermin a la St Patrick. The freebop highjinks he receives from his squad helps get the job done, but the punches he throws are the main reason this track tingles from top to bottom.

16. Wonderland, Bill Frisell, Sign of Life (Savoy)

How often do you come across a dreamscape built on a bunch of jittery lines? The guitarist’s 858 Quartet is a strings-only outfit that conflates the usual tension and release dynamics to have both going simultaneously here. It makes for a charming disturbance, indeed.

17. Six, Ivo Perelman Quartet, The Hour of the Star (Leo)

Outcats looking in. Here’s the tenor saxophonist as his most lyrical, being fed by a couple birds who know how to be both buoyant and blistering: Joe Morris and Gerald Cleaver. Swingmeisters should know that the head-nodding has been sanctioned to begin about halfway through.

18. Olive Juice, Sean Jones, No Need For Words (Mack Ave)

Several of the trumpeter’s phrases are shutter-uppers, full rebuffs of anyone who doubts the depth of his chops or the beauty of his horn. The quintet churns, wrestling with an advanced syncopation and providing its soloists with a shifting backdrop that’s both graceful and audacious.

19. Round Come Round, Gerald Clayton, Bond (Emarcy)

It’s a sweet distillation of how prog ideas get put to use by the mainstream, a track that perhaps couldn’t have been born without Andrew Hill or Fred Hersch. The 27-year-old is reaching out to new ideas, and the flow of his trio’s counterpoint maneuvers is ardent.

20. Two Parts, Shane Endsley’s Music Band, Then The Other (Low Electrical)

It’s got as much propulsion as a Steve Reich landscape, yet it allows for some zigzag. That last part makes it jazz, regardless of how central the repetition is to success. Endsley’s trumpet has a regal vibe; there’s proclamation in his every aside. When it catches a groove like this, even the fluffed-off phrases become declarative.

21. L’état d’incertitude, Bruno Chevillon/Tim Berne, Old and Unwise (Clean Feed)

It’s a vivid moment in a program of short sketches that remind just how captivating free jazz can be. The pings of the French bassist nudge the bursts of Berne’s alto into a combustible area. Everything seems elastic, pliable, rubbery. And each squeak accounts for itself architecturally.

22. Off Minor, Ellery Eskelin, Trio New York (Prime Source)

Nope, the saxophonist and his buds never get around to fully proclaiming Monk’s glorious head. But they sure do skirt the issue with aplomb. Gary Versace and Gerald Cleaver help their leader make this sage deconstruction as engaging as possible, with accents that feel like major statements, and slight-of-hand moves that lead the listener into the center of the ring.

23. New Dress, Jeremy Udden’s Plainville, If The Past Seems So Bright (Sunnyside)

The Youngbloods used to improvise a fair amount. Check their live “Ride The Wind” for an offhanded excursion that waxes breezy and wise. Saxophonist Udden works something similar here. A Rhodes is tickled, a banjo is frailed, and the boss’s horn glides through the air like a hawk catching the currents. Meet the most eloquent of the new folk-jazz heroes.

24. Le Fee Morgane, Jerome Sabbagh, I Will Follow You (Bee Jazz)

Here’s a chance to hear how supple the tenor sax player truly is. He rises and falls as Ben Monder’s strings and Daniel Humair’s drums support him with some floating. Reminds me of the way Air made hay with constant flow of implications rather than statements.

25. Wilsonian Alto, Bruce Barth, Live At Smalls (Smalls Live)

A prime example of chopped up rhythms fluidly dispensing themselves, making this nod to the pianist’s longtime saxophone partner simultaneously disorienting and graceful. A trio addicted to dynamics.

26. Fez, Adam Kolker, Reflections (Sunnyside)

It’s a trio of drummer Billy Mintz and bassist John Hebert, and it’s the latter’s tune. But the blend of curiosity and calm from the leader’s tenor is what sets the tone. Whether he’s crawling around in the upper register or working a fuzz ‘n’ buzz down below, his trajectory is fascinating. And he’s not afraid of negative space.

27. Jet Lag, Chris Dingman, Waking Dreams (Between Worlds)

It’s subtle burner that’s got the itchy phrases of Miles pieces like “Pinocchio” or “Madness,” but there’s little aping in the air. The vibraphonist sets up a more ethereal atmosphere, especially in the glowing outro.

28. Waltzing With My Baby, Roswell Rudd, The Incredible Honk (Sunnyside)

RoRudd at his most candid. RoRudd at his most sentimental. RoRudd at his most lyrical. It’s a duet with pianist Lafayette Harris, Jr, and illustrates just how many ways he can bend a melody while messing with texture. Impossible not to love the wahhhhh of his lines when he get his plunger on.

29. Peggy’s Blue Skylight, Kirk Knuffke & Jesse Stacken, Orange Was the Color (Steeplechase)

There’s a sweep to Mingus’ ode, and these two capture pretty damn well for a duo. Credit pianist Stacken’s rolling chords and cornetist Knuffke’s phat sound. And they punctuate all the right spots.

30. Sir Snacktray Speaks, Farmers By Nature, Out of This World’s Distortions (AUM Fidelity)

The fruits of freedom. Craig Taborn chatters while Gerald Cleaver rattles and William Parker bows ‘n’ moans. But these guys have places to go, and as eight minutes fly by, the textural and rhythmic tacks are in constant flux. Better, they reach a denouement that sounds like a conclusion.

31. The Dhikr of Radiant Hearts, Wadada Leo Smith, Heart’s Reflections (Cuneiform)

The big-hearted trumpeter is a no-show on this section of his latest suite, giving way to Angelica Sanchez’s poised ramblings and John Lindberg’s adroit rumbles. It’s a poetic space walk, and if you’re jonesing for Smith when it subsides, just hang a sec: he comes in to scald on “The Majestic Way.”

32. Ears Like a Fox, Jon Lundbom & Big Five Chord, Quavers! Quavers! (Hot Cup)

Both the martial groove and the Prime Timey interplay give off a Decoding Society vibe, and like Shannon Jackson’s rock-tinged outfit, BFC bend and stretch their muscle music as a matter of course, even making room for a Derek Bailey TTFN.

33. Paraphernalia, David Weiss & Point of Departure, Snuck Out (Sunnyside)

Shorter’s jewel drifts an odd kind of way, but its inner-fierceness is nudged to the fore by the trumpeter’s aggressive quintet. I like the way they throw punches while still looking dapper.

34. Two-ophony, Pandelis Karayorgis Quintet, System of 5 (hatOLOGY)

It’s a freebop spillway and a very convincing one to boot. The Boston pianist has a reed ‘n’ bone front line steadily erupting, and the pliability offered by the rhythm section is almost outweighed by the vigor of its swing.

35. Johnny Come Lately, Laszlo Gardony, Signature Time (Sunnyside)

The way the pianist cuts up the usual phrasing of Strayhorn’s quirky nugget makes you rethink it to a degree. There’s a shuffle hidden there somewhere. Icing on the cake: It’s not often enough that we get to hear saxophonist Stan Strickland in action. His horn has a Hendersonian shape – as comfy as the playing is clever.

36. My Opening Farewell, Cuong Vu 4-Tet, Leaps of Faith (Origin)

We’ve moved past Nick Drake and Rufus Wainwright. Now Jackson Browne is up for grabs, and the cagey trumpeter turns this milky plaint into a droning study in the way long tones effect atmosphere and how bravado can seem wistful. The outro is magnificently calibrated.

37. Bob Walk, Orchestre National De Jazz, Shut Up and Dance (BeeJazz)

John Hollenbeck’s nod to Mr Brookmeyer is full of exactitude in the hands of the French big band. All sorts of high reed chirping (John holds Zappa close to the heart) and rhythmic eruptions make the melody steadily reexplain itself. I like the way it begins with “Theme From ‘Shaft'” guitar and surf drums and becomes more and more intricate from there.

38. Neverland, Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel (ECM)

I’m a bit dense when it comes to classical particulars, but I’m going to consider the opening statement a one-man fugue and the middle section a reverie that deserves to go on forever. I’d like to say that it’s all about touch with Taborn (he strikes the keys like few others), but that would short-changing the well of improv ideas that drive this piece and, indeed, the whole of the new AA.

39. Medieval Genius, Ralph Alessi and This Against That, Wiry Strong (Clean Feed)

Ravi Coltrane and the trumpeter/leader get their squiggle on in a wonderfully enticing manner as this kinda-sorta march (which I hear as a distant cousin of Ornette’s “European Echoes”), continuously picks up steam and ultimately proves that momentum comes in all kinds of meters.

40. Sous le Ciel de Paris, Marc Ribot, Silent Movies (Pi)

Nothing wry about this reading of Piaf’s weeper. It’s piercing in the way that it renders the heartbreak of the lyrics – just ask Terry Gross; she effused over it during a recent Fresh Air interview with Ribot. And she’s right. The guitarist has rightly been applauded for his frenetics, but forlorn is a strong suit, too.

41. Human Feel, Aaron Goldberg and Guillermo Klein, Bienestan (Sunnyside)

It starts with pianist Klein’s right hand forming a pithy pattern, and immediately opens the floodgates for pianist Goldberg’s interpolation of same. In less than a minute, with addition of reeds by Chris Cheek and Miguel Zenon, a full-force fugue is underway, and its phased phrases create a dizzying swirl. It’s like a downpour that comes out of nowhere in the middle of a sunny day.

42. Stand Clear, Escreet/Binney/Krantz/Gilmore, The Age We Live In (Mythology)

A storm of post-fusion polyrhythms and inverted phunk grooves, it gives drummer Marcus Gilmore a lot more than “some.” Like some frenzied Weather Report track that was recalibrated to fit a 2011 set of manners, it shakes with anticipation of the future.

43. Zillo Valla, Darius Jones & Matthew Shipp, Cosmic Leider (AUM Fidelity)

A sense of foreboding marks this ominous ballad, but the horn player’s pliant pitch – on eerie long tones and jagged roars – is a siren song that can’t be rebuffed. Shipp’s dark lyricism, especially potent here, fits nicely into such forays.

44. Stretched Thin, Bizingas (NCM East)

At first it’s a Phillip Glass exercise or an outtake from Nonnah if Steve Lacy was in charge of Roscoe’s session, then it becomes a children’s song, brimming with ha-has and boo-hoos. Brian Drye’s ‘bone, Kirk Knuffke’s cornet, Jonathan Goldberger’s guitar and Ches Smith’s drums (or kid’s xylophone in this case, I believe) have plenty of intersections on this one. Along the way it fascinates with a dedication to amorphousness.

45. Game, Wildlife, Traits (Riti)

Keep the freebop rolling, through the mirror over the water as HenThread might say. Joe Morris’ rural studio has captured the vivaciousness of swing and the gnarled articulation of out-cat adventure on this one, which combines Luther Gray’s splash, Morris’ walking, and the twisted trajectories of reedmeisters Petr Cancura and Jim Hobbs. Somewhere in the middle I was tripping off to Mingus’ “Lock ‘Em Up.”

THERE’S ROOM FOR FIVE MORE ENTRIES. LET ME KNOW WHAT TRACKS FROM RECENT DISCS BY JUNE-ACTIVE ARTISTS WOULD BE GOOD TO INCLUDE HERE! THANKS.

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3 responses to “50 Songs To Get You Through NYC’s Jazz Month

  1. Wow. Jimbo, you really outdid yourself. Talk about a great cross-section of stuff out there on the market right now (new stuff, people!). Seek it out – almost all of these cats are playing gigs in June as part of festivals and not. Go – get your listen on, people!

  2. Pingback: 25 Jazz Albums That Just Might Make It To The “End of the Year” Lists – 2011 Edition | Lament For A Straight Line

  3. Pingback: The Laszlo Gardony, Stan Strickland Duo – CD Release Concert for “Signature Time” (Sunnyside) | The Buttonwood Tree

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