Jazz Prospecting From Tom Hull

More reviews from Tom Hull:

The Bad Plus: For All I Care (2008 [2009], Heads Up): Front cover adds: “Joined by Wendy Lewis.” Lewis is a singer, based in Minneapolis, don’t know much more. Her presence pushed the piano trio to doing more cover songs, which leads to some not very interesting generational issues. They date their classics from the 1970s with Pink Floyd and Yes, and mix them in with the 1990s as represented by Nirvana, Wilco, and Flaming Lips. Aside from Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” they are songs I’d happily never hear again, given a sharp jolt by the band then waxed into torpor by the singer. Between the touchstones are some short quasi-classical instrumentals Igor from Stravinsky, Gyorgy Ligeti, and Milton Babbitt — the latter repeated in an alternate version. B-

Larry Ochs/Miya Masaoka/Peggy Lee: Spiller Alley (2006 [2008], RogueArt): Ochs is one of the saxophonists in ROVA. I had read a rave this release in Stef’s Free Jazz blog, knew that I’d never gotten so much as an email response from the label, but was curious enough to approach the artist. After an amusing round of emails, Ochs sent me a couple years’ output, which I’ll slowly work my way through. Thought I’d start here. Masaoka plays koto and Lee plays cello, so there’s a dominant string motif here. Ochs plays tenor and soprano sax, the former listed first but the latter seems the more temperamental fit — in any case, he tends to defer to the koto lead, coloring in rather than blowing ahead. Likewise, Lee plays more like a bassist, just a little off pitch. Good example of mutual listening, three musicians feeling their way through difficult and unforseen terrain. B (***)

Gerald Cleaver/William Parker/Craig Taborn: Farmers by Nature (2008 [2009], AUM Fidelity): Artists listed alphabetically, although Cleaver gets co-credith with Steven Joerg for production; all pieces attributed to all three, also alphabetically. I’m filing it under Cleaver, a journeyman drummer who’s played on a lot of good records and is slowly building up a short list of unspectacular ones under his own name. Taborn is a pianist who came up in James Carter’s quartet. Better known these days for his Fender Rhodes, but plays acoustic here, poking around abstractly, with muted Don Pullen flashes. Best thing here is when Taborn picks up a jagged groove and the others knock him about. Parker, of course, is superb in his supporting role, and brilliant as a soloist, at least when you can hear him clearly. Recorded at the Stone, NYC, rather offhandedly with a bit of applause at the end. Nice pictures, especially on the back cover. B (*)

Nels Cline: Coward (2008 [2009], Cryptogramophone): Solo guitar: acoustic (some), electric (mostly), effects (lots), some extra overdub junk. Solo records often sound like practice; this a bit less than the norm, but not the exception either. Rather, this plays a like a notebook of ideas, some of which can be developed into something, others discarded. As such, it oscillates more than usual between the annoying and intriguing. The latter more often than not tend to be rockish, dividends perhaps from Cline’s slumming with Wilco. B [Feb. 10]

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