Dead Cat Bounce
Riffing: Boston-based reed-woodwinds quartet plus rhythm section can scream and bray, but humor and levity — are its main calling cards.
Reference points: Charlie Kholhase is the well-known sax elder here, along with Jared Sims, Terry Goss and composer-leader Matt Steckler; Dave Ambrosio and Bill Carbone on bass and drums. Shifting grooves (now they rock, now they swing), catchy melodies, punchy soloing, a sense of history, "Township Jive Revisited" taps classic South African jazz.
If you like: Microscopic Septet, Claudia Quintet.
Maureen Choi Quartet
Maureen Choi Quartet
Riffing: Chops and grace from a new violinist backed by an exceptional rhythm section of old hands. Not much personality in the repertoire, but when she develops that, watch out!
Reference points: Former Michigander and MSU grad is hailed as the "next great voice on the jazz violin" by school jazz studies head Rodney Whitaker who puts his bass behind the accolades, backing Choi along with pianist Rick Roe and drummer Sean Dobbins.
If you like: Regina Carter, John Blake, Stephane Grappelli.
Café Pacific Records
Riffing: Imagine Michael Franks, maybe with more ballast (musically and lyrically). Or Kurt Elling with a lighter touch.
Reference points: Fans of bossa, etc. should check this guy out just for two versions of his "Somewhere in Brazil," in which Winkler knocks down the fourth wall to sing about the indignities of singing Jobim et. al. for dummies in dives. Mostly sharp originals, covers include Previn and Webster's sharp but obscure "Like Young."
If you like: Michael Franks, Kurt Elling, Boz Scaggs, George Fame.
Blues and the Empirical Truth
Music & Arts
Riffing: A combatant in the sectarian jazz crit wars celebrates his own fringey, old-timey, bluesy avant thing over three discs.
Reference points: The outsider saxophonist-scholar's anthologies are surprise-laden mind fucks, 36 CDs in his jazz history, nine in last year's Really the Blues?, Vol. 1, just for 1893-1929. The latter is a touchstone for these extrapolations with Matthew Shipp, Mark Ribot, Roswell Rudd, etc.
If you like: Twisted blues, thrash blues, Ornette Coleman, Tom Waits, Julius Hemphill, footnotes on history and chords.
Steve Coleman and Five Elements
The Mancy of Sound
Riffing: A founder of the '80s M-Base movement has derived an influential style that goes for broke and baroque precision.
Reference points: The saxophonist's follow-up to last year's crit fave Harvesting Semblances and Affinities taps Charlie Parker (by way of Bunky Green and others) in music that conjures labyrinths, crazy metric clockworks and Santeria. Vocal lines composed for Cassandra Wilson, sung admirably by Jen Shyu.
If you like: Doug Hammond and Sam River (influences). Vijay Iyer or Rudresh Mahanthappa (influencees).