New Jazz Releases – 9/18/2023
A lot of drummers as leaders this week. Also brass bands, one in particular that is so really “out there” it has a lot of brass to call itself a brass band. Note that the opinions expressed here in no way, shape, or form reflect the beliefs or taste of Rus Perry, who undoubtedly would have done a better job of this. That said, my two cents for this week of new jazz releases.
Tony Addison Sextet
Relentless Pursuit (Odradek Records released 9/23)
What exactly are we pursuing, and why are we being relentless about it? The answer, according to composer, drummer, and leader of the eponymous Tony Addision Sextet is “to write music that is interesting and enjoyable for both the hardcore jazz listener and the casual listener.” Sounds about right. Featuring pianist William Knowles, bassist Dave Marsh, Frankie Addison on saxophone, Michael Thomas and Michael Fitzhugh on trumpets, and Reginal Cyntje on trombone. (If you’re counting, that makes seven members of a sextet, but presumably someone from the horn section takes turns sitting out.) Extra bonus for the bilingual: liner notes in both English and German. Wunderbar! Further details at Odradek Records.
Unidad (Self-released 9/23)
Aguankó is a Michigan-based Latin jazz ensemble led by percussionist and composer Alberto Nacíf. I don’t pretend to know too much about Latin jazz, so I’ll cede the review to comments by Thierry De Clemensat writing in Paris-Move, “This group offers us the best of modernized Cuban jazz where rhythms and brass are perfected, making it one of the standout albums of the season in this unique style. If we delve into the musical arrangements of this album, we particularly love both its modernity and its ability to dive into a much older musical culture, making it an album that can be listened to attentively or can make you want to dance until the end of the night… If you’re in search of good Cuban music, there’s no need to look further.” Further details at the band’s website.
Off the Charts (Savant released 9/23)
As the title implies, this focuses on music and approaches to music generally overlooked by the mainstream. As Barratta explains in the liner notes, “The compositions on this recording are tunes some of you may never have heard, the B-Side or Flip Side, as they say, but they were hand picked by me because I believe they are true hidden treasures. They are somewhat overlooked gems.” Well, overlooked no more. Baratta on drums, Paul Rossman on percussion, John Patitucci on bass, David Kikoski on piano, and Jerry Bergonzin on saxophone. Check it out.
Black Market Brass
Hox (Colemine released 9/23)
Not your average brass band. You’d know that immediately if you could see the album cover, which features a green skull with purple eyes. This Minneapolis-based group describes its compositions as Afropsych music, drawing on complex polyrhythmic percussion, driving bass lines, dizzying guitar interplay, rolling keys, and room-commanding brass. This is their third release. Rates high on the Cool-o-Weirdo-Meter! More details at Black Market Brass Band.
Everybody Loves a Lover (Turtle Bay Records released 9/23)
This is the debut of a 26-year old Hannah Gill who, while billed as a songwriter as well as a jazz vocalist, sticks to covering standards, many in a kind of Dixieland style. Straightforward covers, she’s got a great voice, and pleasant enough, but far more interesting for me is this performance with Post Modern Jukebox. See Hannah Gill for more.
Holz-Stathis Collaborative (MVDaudio released 9/23)
Features 12 tunes in collaboration (which you might have guessed, given the title) with drummer/composer Bob Holz. If you are wondering who Stathis is, he’s the executive producer. Other collaborators include John McLaughlin, Jean Luc Ponty, Daryl Jones, Brandon Fields, Dean Brown, Ralphe Armstrong, Jamie Glaser, Randy Brecker, Alex Acuna, Airto Moreira, Billy Steinway, Ada Rovatti, Ric Fierabracci, Elliot Yamin, Karen Briggs, Diana Moreira, Ben Shepherd, and Frank Stepanek. As you might also guess from this guest list, this is jazz fusion. As they say, YMMV. My personal mileage wasn’t very far as this just isn’t my thing (did kinda like the cover of Chicago’s Make Me Smile, one of the only tracks with a vocal, though it lacks the grit of the original). Might be yours, though. See Bob’s website for more details.
Song-Poems (Bounce-Step Records released 9/23)
Another drummer/composer disc (we seem to have a theme this week)! A trio with Yayoi Ikwa on piano and Steve LaSpina on bass. The idea of song-poems is, as Kane explains, “I’m interested in the narrative of songs, the storytelling and evolution of a simple melody going where it wants to go.” Sounds about right to me. Check out Matt Kane Music for more details.
The Remainder (PJCE Records released 9/23)
Solo piano work by Portland-based Gordon Lee, composed during Covid. The way Lee’s record company puts it, “In a time when many of us have been isolated and disconnected, this album reminds us of the power of community, and the importance of coming together to support one another. If you are a fan of jazz piano, or simply appreciate the beauty of great music.” My nomination for all time best title for a jazz piano composition is Bozo Sulks on the Golf Course. I have an idea who that might refer to. Fore! More info at PJCE Records.
Compton’s Finest (Savant released 9/23)
If Tony Addison is striving towards making enjoyable music for both the jazz fan and casual listener with original music, drummer/bandleader Brandon Sanders’s debut disc achieves that with a collection of mostly standards (such as In a Sentimental Mood, Body and Soul, Voyage) plus a Michael Jackson hit written by Stevie Wonder (with vocals by Jazzmeia Horn, who also sings the aforementioned Ellington), and the Sigmund Romeberg and Oscar Hammerstein tune, Softly as in a Morning Sunrise. The two originals are the title cut, Compton’s Finest (a minor blues in tribute to the positive aspects of Sanders growing up there despite the crime rates the area is infamous for) and SJB (and guess what those letters stand for). Further details at Brandon Sanders Music.
Sixth Street All Stars
Everybody ( released 9/23)
Springsteen has E Street. Composers Molly Skuse and Dana Hinchliffe have Sixth Street, a corner in Berkeley, California to name this modern Afro-Caribbean/Jazz 14-piece band collective. The title says it all: just about everybody should find something to like here (see Tony Addison and Brandon Sanders above). See Sixth Street All Stars for more information.
Open the Door: Sound of the Word Vol. 1 (Self released 9/23)
Jacob Slocum is a baritone saxophonist inspired by his grandfather and his belief in God on this disc. The Sound of the Word here is that of the Word, i.e., the Gospel. Track titles such as Messiah and Jesus are also dead giveaways of that. But if you hadn’t read the liner notes, this would still hit you full frontal. Which is the problem with this release. The actual music is possibly interesting, but I can’t really tell because for the most part it serves only as background to a series of sermons from the Rev. Victor Leroy Walter. Look, we all know the religious roots of blues and jazz and rock and roll, and obviously gospel, are indisputable. But this is of little interest only to devout listeners. And I don’t mean devout listeners to WTJU. The one exception is the last track, Slocum’s arrangement of Amazing Grace, that is suitable for secular airplay. More details at Slocum’s Facebook page.
Heartbeat (OA2 released 9/23) Another pianist with a set of tunes composed during Covid. If you hadn’t read that in the liner notes, you might have thought that since one tune is called The Plague and another Isolation. Winkelman says that, “I changed my writing process…I usually compose at the piano with pencil and manuscript at hand, I instead made demo versions on the computer, which led me to try different sounds.” Seems to have worked out rather nicely. Matt Penman on bass, Obed Calvaire on drums and on a number of tracks Gilad Hekselman on guitar. Tasty stuff. Check out The Wonky Waltz which is, well, pretty wonky. See Ben Winkelman for more information.