By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
The artists listed below represent Sheriff Joe Arpaio's Criminal Element: crackheads, communists and collie-beaters, every last one of them. They avoid touring Phoenix for fear of growing liver-spotted in the tents following confiscation of all them suspicious-looking guitars and saxophones, hollowed out to smuggle drugs. Our misfortune. Yeah, they all walk through the Valley (of the shadow of death) . . . on their way to play Los Angeles.
Come November, ballot in your paw, remember: Anagramming "Arpaio" leaves you only one letter short of "pariah."
Albums by lesser-known jazzers who are probably all "on" something: In the Mat Maneri Quartet's Blue Deco (Thirsty Ear), the leader's violin arm-wrestles with bassist William Parker, among others, on some energetic and frenzied playing. While it doesn't fall into the avant-garde category, everybody's certainly leaning pretty far over the ledge. Money Shot (Fog City Records) by Robert Walter's 20th Congress is keyboard funk à la Medeski, Martin & Wood. Walter's signature tone sounds like his organ has a head cold, which is a compliment.
Living Daylights is an in-yer-face Seattle-based trio whose Electric Rosary (Liquid City) features neighbor/guitar deity Bill Frisell. Even without him, the ultra-sophisticated sax work and fancy bass chording suggest that their first two jazz fusion albums should be checked out as well. Violinist Didier Lockwood pays homage to Django Reinhardt's musical Siamese twin on Tribute to Stephane Grappelli (Dreyfus Jazz). The guitarist's role is carried by Djangophile supreme Bireli Lagrene, who plays guitar in this sleek update of Grappelli's and Reinhardt's chunk-chunk Krazy Kat cartoon sound.
From jump street, The Mark Elf Trio's Live at Smalls (Jen Bay Jazz) jackhammers manic improvisation out of the guitar at a pace faster than your teeth chatter. Speed isn't everything (size is, I'm sorry to say), but spinning out witty and well-balanced soliloquies over your sidemen's roller-coastering is no small feat. Though the Andy Biskin Quintet is fueled by the most dweebish of all instruments -- the clarinet -- Biskin twists a traditional New Orleans lineup into playing some pretty freaky polkas and bebop on Dogmental (GM Recordings). Think Lawrence Welk in hell.
The Drummonds are a rhythm section (Billy on drums and Ray on bass) who back underrated pianist Renee Rosnes on their When You Wish Upon a Star (32 Jazz), a collection of romance-inspiring ballads that Gumbo's Walkman has constantly used as mood music during the past two weeks of dorm window peeping. While the trio yanks off its solid swinging with no surprises, there's no fat, either. For perversion diversion, duct-taped to Gumbo's binocular case is Jazz for When You're in Love (32 Jazz), a soul-jazz compilation containing killer takes of "That's All" and "Never Let Me Go" by Houston Person. All of the label's reissue packages are cheap enough that you could buy them with the change found beneath a Taco Bell drive-up window.
Jazz from dead guys: In 1961, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington recorded two albums' worth of Mount Rushmore jazz, here compiled on The Great Summit: Complete Sessions (Roulette Jazz). Disc two is the flashy trash: the abandoned takes, false starts and studio chatter showing the two legends laughing their way through screw-ups that validate their status as the least egocentric figures in jazz history. (All of it, by the way, was bankrolled by mobster/label head Morris Levy.) Speaking of his Dukeness, back in 1995 a used record store scrounger accidentally discovered an unreleased and rejected test pressing of Ellington compositions by the Chico Hamilton Quintet. The Original Ellington Suite (Pacific Jazz), lost for nearly four decades, is a major find because of the presence of Eric Dolphy, replaced on the original release by the comparatively lame Paul Horn.
Them Eastern troublemakers: The Chicago-based Delmark label, best known for its blues releases, turns out lots of great regional jazz as well. The city's major contribution has been the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a collective of highly experimental players who wrote and improvised in a very unhurried, impressionistic style. Delmark has reissued some seminal works by figures who best define Chicago jazz: trumpeter Malachi Thompson's Timeline, pianist Muhal Richard Abrams' Things to Come From Those Now Gone, and saxophonist Maurice McIntyre's Humility in the Light of Creator.
The Paul Wertico Trio is led by the Pat Metheny Group's drummer, but the guitarist on Wertico's Don't Be Scared Anymore (Premonition Records) -- who happens to be a Catholic priest -- joins the trapsman in cranking out buzz-saw jazz not as friendly as Metheny's but just as alluring. Art Pepper's Renascence (Galaxy) is an intense live set from 1975 that includes "Straight Life," which also happens to be the title of the L.A.-based saxophonist's 1979 autobiography, the nastiest account of imprisonment and addiction written by a jazz player to date. Record hammered, get nailed, by God! Sorry, Joe, but he's dead and greener than your jail's cheese sandwiches.
The Maria Schneider Orchestra constructs some lofty, towering big-band jazz on Allegresse (Enja), her third album. Schneider's layered arrangements of her compositions sound damn near 3-D throughout. Violinist Regina Carter revisits the soul (Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder) and jazz (Milt Jackson and Barry Harris) influences of her Detroit upbringing on Motor City Moments (Verve). Fortunately, the multitextured album is no manic, sawing-for-dollars contest, with Carter keeping her bow under the speed limit on this collection of ballads and midtempo swing cuts.