WTJU Best of 2018: Professor Bebop (Jazz)

Dave Rogers, aka Professor Bebop, has been hosting a program on WTJU for over four decades.  He is also the Jazz, Blues, and Soul reviewer.

Professor Bebop’s Top Jazz Releases of 2018

Ben Allison – Quiet Revolution (Self-produced): Ben Allison (bass), Steve Cardenas (acoustic guitar) and Ted Nash (tenor sax, clarinet) have decided to stage their own quiet revolution and they certainly have the subtle cool to pull it off. They selected a half dozen Jim Hall compositions, sprinkled in two Jimmy Giuffre’s, added one special number from each member of the group and still had room for the “Love Theme From Spartacus”! The resulting disc is gentle, flowing and certainly honors the quiet revolution that Giuffre and Hall accomplished themselves. Really fine. Click here to listen to songs on this disc. Karrin Allyson – Some Of That Sunshine (Self-produced): Release number 15 for Karrin Allyson is a total winner! Her voice is unique and her command of nuance makes her singing and talking combination is both warm and dazzling. “Allyson coolly stakes her claim. She brings a timbre that is part ice and part grain — incisive, original, and emotionally convincing. Heart, intelligence, warmth — an emotional range from bittersweet to sassy —you hear it every time you listen. Make no mistake — Karrin Allyson is singing to you.” (Gary Giddons, Village Voice) Allyson composed all of the songs on this disc and also plays piano on one. Accompanying musicians include Miro Sprague (piano, Rhodes), Chris Caswell (organ), Jeff Johnson (bass), Rod Fleeman (guitar), Jerome Jennings (drums, percussion), and guest appearances by Regina Carter (violin on 3 songs), Houston Person (tenor sax on 3 songs, including a killer solo on “Nobody Said Love Was Easy”) and Lee Sklar (bass on one song).
Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.

Tiffany Austin – Unbroken (Con Ama Music): “Widely hailed as one of the best jazz debut albums of 2015, Tiffany Austin’s self-released Nothing But Soul made quite a splash…. Her eagerly awaited follow-up, Unbroken, confirms the Bay Area vocalist’s status as one of jazz’s elite singers and a formidable songwriter as well. Unbroken is both a timeless meditation on African-American culture’s extraordinary resilience and an all-too-timely response to the reenergized forces seeking to degrade and deny that legacy….Rather than separating AfricanAmerican music into kindred tributaries, Austin plunges into the whole river of sound that’s sustained black life in America since before the nation’s founding. In many ways, she’s contesting what vocalist Gregory Porter has called “musical genocide” with a soul-steeped affirmation that embraces blues and swing, spirituals and R&B, bebop, post-bop, and her own Louisiana Creole heritage.” (https://www.tiffanyaustin.com/bio/) I can’t think of a better or more accurate description. This is simply one of the most stunning works of art I have ever heard. Austin certainly covers Ella Fitzgerald’s style, but is always herself. She composed four of the songs and added her own lyrics to Ornette Coleman’s “The Blessing” and Charles Mingus’ “Better Git It In Your Soul”. Backing musicians are Asklin Parker (trumpet), Mitch Butler (trombone), Teodross Avery (tenor sax), Cyrus Chestnut (piano), Rodney Whitaker (bass) and Carl Allen (drums).
Click here to listen to samples of three songs on this disc.

Eden Bareket Trio – Night (Fresh Sound): Eden Bareket (bari sax, bass clarinet) has made a striking impact in the New York jazz scene with his versatility and his eclectic tastes and style. His backing on this disc, his third, is provided by Or Bareket (bass) and Felix Lecaros (drums). The sound is familiar and yet unique. It is also melodic but sometimes edgy.
Click here and scroll down until you see “Audio”. Then click on “Birds” and any of the other listings after that to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.
Or you might click here to watch a live performance of “Night Creatures”, a song on this disc.

Roxy Coss – The Future Is Female (Posi-Tone): This is composer/performer Roxy Coss’ fourth release in the past eight years and her second on Posi-Tone. She is currently based in New York and is recognized as one of the most talented players of the day. She is also an educator and a strong advocate and model of the capabilities of women. She founded and “…leads the Women In Jazz Organization, a collective of professional jazz musicians who identify as women, gender neutral or non-binary. WIJO intends to help level the playing field, so that women and nonbinary people have equal opportunity to participate in and contribute to the jazz community, leading to an improved and more rich, diverse, and successful art form. The organization is committed to honoring Black Americans as the creators of jazz.”  Coss is a remarkable musician who plays with a smooth attack that is captivating and flows with beautiful tones and runs. Coss is supported on this disc by a wonderfully tight and flexible group that includes Alex Wirtz (guitar), Miki Yamanaka (piano), Rick Rosato (bass) and Jimmy MacBride (drums), adding Lucas Pino (bass clarinet) on the final cut.
Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.

Orrin Evans & The Captain Black Big Band – Presence (Smoke Sessions): “Founded in late 2009, Captain Black was conceived as a vehicle for Evans to combine the power and scale of a big band with the freedom and spontaneity of a small group. From its beginnings at Chris’ Jazz Cafe in Evans’ native Philadelphia through its long-running Monday night residency at New York’s Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, the band has evolved into just that — a flexible and tightrope-walking unit whose daring approach lends the music an exhilarating edge.”  This is the third release by this aggregation, now widely recognized as a front running jazz band anywhere. The band’s players are Caleb Curtis and Todd Bashore (alto sax); Troy Roberts (tenor sax), John Raymond, Josh Lawrence and Bryan Davis (trumpets); David Gibson, Stafford Hunter and Brent White (trombones); Orrin Evans (piano); Madison Rast (bass); and Anwar Marshall and Jason Brown (drums). Evans seeks challenge as well as an opportunity to make his audiences think deeply about the impact and messages in jazz. As they have grown into a front line jazz band, they have earned equal recognition with their founder and his penchant for risk-taking, robust expression, and independent vision. This is essential listening. It is also a live recording.
Click here to listen to short samples of the songs on this disc.

Brad Goode Quintet w/ Ernie Watts – That’s Right! (Origin): Brad Goode (trumpeter, bassist, drummer, composer, music educator) presents his 18th release as a leader and it is a jewel! He has pulled together a stunning band, including Ernie Watts (tenor sax), Adrian Farrugia (piano), Kelly Sill (bass) and Adam Nussbaum (drums). Goode says the disc is “supposed to be a snapshot of this band…and of the musical relationship between Ernie and myself – the combination of our approaches.” (Liner notes) Watts has played with bands ranging from Charlie
Haden’s Quartet West to The Mothers of Invention and though Goode and Watts have played together quite a lot, this is their first recording together. Their interaction is terrific. Seven of the ten songs on offer are originals by the group members: Farrugia’s “Half Moon” is the opener, Goode offers three, and Watts, Sill and Nussbaum one each. The covers are “Blues In The Night” (Arlen and Mercer), “I Want To Talk About You” (Eckstine) and Von Freeman’s tribute to his high school classmate Gene Ammons’ “Jug Ain’t Gone” . There is terrific musical span and interaction on this disc. A total WOW!
Click here and scroll down to listen to samples of the first two songs on this disc.

Andrew Gould – First Things First (Outside In Music): This is Andrew Gould’s first release as a leader and it certainly stands out. Gould (alto, soprano sax, FX) wrote all but the one song which was composed by keyboard player Steven Feifke. The other members of the group are Marco Panascia (bass) and Jake Goldbas (drums, percussion) and there are two guests: Scott Wendholt (trumpet on 2 songs) and Ioana Vintu with an absolutely amazing vocal on the song “On A Darker Moon”. The interplay is sensational, but Gould is phenomenal! Essential listening!
Click here and scroll down to listen to the songs on this disc.

Wayne Horvitz – The Snowghost Sessions (Songlines): “Wayne Horvitz is a composer, pianist and electronic musician who has performed extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia, and North America. He is the leader of the Gravitas Quartet, Sweeter Than the Day, Zony Mash, The Four plus One Ensemble and co-founder of the New York Composers Orchestra. He has performed and collaborated with Bill Frisell, Butch Morris, John Zorn, George Lewis, Robin Holcomb, Fred Frith, Julian Priester, Michael Shrieve and Carla Bley, among others.”  On this disc, Horwitz plays a large number of keyboards from piano and Wulitzer electric piano to Hammond B3, mellotron and various other electrics. Geoff Harper (bass) and Eric Eagle (drums, percussion) are the rhythm section. The songs range from sweet to weird and pretty rhythmic at times.
Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.

Pete McCann – Pay For it On The Other Side (Self-produced): Guitarist Pete McCann is a terrifically inventive guitarist. His variety of styles is truly exciting and leads his accompanying musicians into such a variety of settings that everyone can rise to the music at some point. His accompanying players are John O’Gallagher (alto sax), Henry Hey (piano, organ, clavinet, pianet and accordion), Matt Clohesy (bass) and Mark Ferber (drums). This group tackles a lot of  styles well, but the listeners must be ready to follow several different styles and attitudes to get a full appreciation for their reach and accomplishment. “Guitarist Pete McCann has been heralded as a convincing voice of the contemporary jazz guitar world, showing the skills to combine hard rock, blues, and post-bop in a legitimate manner. His latest record, Pay For It On The Other Side, is an extremely versatile work that features some of the brightest musicians on the scene…Exploring the full range of possibilities, McCann shows a fierce sense of independence regardless of the numerous styles that influence his compositions.”
Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.

Houston Person & Ron Carter – Remember Love (HighNote): It is hard to imagine a more compatible pairing than Houston and Ron Carter. Both are so mellow and lyrical. Both players contributed one original song and the remainder come from Rodgers and Hart, Ellington and Strayhorn, Kern and Fields, and even Jimmie Davis. The solos and the combined playing by this duo is both timeless and delicious. Delicious!
Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this disc.

Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Final Tour (Columbia Legacy): This four disc set presents the final tour for John Coltrane (tenor sax) as a member of of the Miles Davis Quintet. In addition to Davis and Coltrane, the band included Wynton Kelly (piano), Paul Chambers (bass) and Jimmy Cobb (drums). The concerts took place in Paris March 21, 1960, Copenhagen March 24 and Stockholm March 22. Performances include “All Of You”, “So What”, On Green Dolphin Street”, “Walkin’”, “Bye Bye Blackbird”, “‘Round Midnight”, “Oleo”, “All Blues”, and “Fran Dance”. There are some duplications from one concert to the next, such as three performances of “So What”. There was some tension between Davis and Coltrane mainly due to their differing musical goals, Miles still in the cool bop zone, while Trane explains he was thinking “in groups of notes, not of one note at a time. I tried to place these groups on the accents and emphasize the strong beats…sometimes what I was doing clashed harmonically with the piano….” (liner notes) When he does take over that way, his genius simply overwhelms what anyone else is playing. At the same time, Miles and the band are great form as well. Clearly, Trane and Miles were going to part before long and this is the last concerting they did together. This is a completely amazing piece of jazz history that we are fortunate enough to be able to hear.
Click here and scroll way down to listen to samples of the songs on this set.

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