stacey kent. tenderly. okeh. Splendid. A meeting, after years of mutual admiration, between sublime American song book chanteuse stacey kent and iconic bossa nova guitarist/composer roberto menescal. the arrangements, by menescal, fulfilled a life’s desire to record American standards, and with his most admired singer. kent, as always, gives less to give more: some might say, no feathers were ruffled in the making of this recording, but the effect is one of beauty, control, and delicacy. band includes jeremy brown, double bass; jim tomlinson, tenor & alto flute; menescal on guitar. don’t be a stranger.
bill frissell. when you wish upon a star. okeh. Guitarman goes to the movies; bill frissell and some of this best (musical) friends lay out a playlist of film/TV music that runs from sublime to goofy. the ones i loved, i couldn’t get enough; and those i didn’t, i will keep to myself–because in this department, i am too fussy. The genre-specific recording, thematically similar to his previous guitar in the space age, includes rudy royston@drums; thomas morgan, bass; petra haden (daughter of charlie), voice; eyvind kang, stand-out on viola.
sunna gunnlaugs. cielito lindo. sunny sky. From Iceland, the warmest pianist sunna gunnlaugs, performing with her trio: scott mclemore@drums, and “toggi” jonsson on bass (+composition, a lovely vetrarstef). Multiple composers bring on a jazz playlist that embraces tom waits, george gershwin, a Mexican classic, and works by the trio. gunnalaugs’ core style–a romantic lyricism– looks back to early recordings of bill evans, keith jarrett even as it sends out a European sensibility. her every new release builds on the previous.
june bisantz. it’s always you: sings chet baker, vol. 2. self. it would be exciting to say that i have discovered a new singer, but news of june bisantz is posted on radio blogs from Australia to Spain to Macedonia to Russia; so we are late to the party on this one. june sings, interprets the vocals of chet baker and does excellent work. her voice is throaty, strong, quiet; her timing is surprising, velvety, and bright. the band, a drumless trio includes alex nakhimovsky, piano; norman johnson, guitar, and gabor viragh on trumpet & flugel. you’ll just have to try it.
tom beckham & brad shepik. flower starter. self. As bandmates from george schuller’s group, vibraphonist tom beckham and guitarist brad shepik have played together for ten years. the duet possibilities of these two instruments give up much dynamic exploration; all compositions are originals, except george coleman’s blues inside out.
renee rosnes. written in the rocks. smoke sessions. Superb Canadian pianist renee rosnes made the switch from Vancouver to New York City in the late 1980’s, signing on with joe henderson and wayne shorter. her current release focusing (mostly) on a single piece of music, the galapagos suite, dives into the world of darwinian exploration, writing music that expresses a scientist’s love of discovery. heady and ambitious, rosnes engages a fine band: steve nelson on vibraphone; peter washington, bass; bill steward@drums; steve wilson, flutes, alto, soprano. bonus tracks are as good as the suite.
ken fowser. standing tall. posi-tone. Tenor ken fowser goes it alone, breaking the years of co-leadership with vibraphonist behn gillece. for his debut, he has written all originals, and hired a new cast: rick germanson on piano; josh bruneau as a trumpet to his sax chorus; paul gill on bass; jason tiemann@drums. hard, robust bop when it’s not smooth and lyrical .
ryan fourt. big slick. dazzle. Colorado jazz guitarist ryan fourt works with a powerful quintet on his second release for Denver-based dazzle records (associate of award-winning dazzle restaurant & jazz club). tenor peter sommer, pianist annie booth, bassist matt smiley and ed breazeale @ drums collaborate with leader fourt on compositions plus several standards.
uri caine. calibrated thickness. 816music. Philadelphia pianist uri caine does not shy from the challenge of either classical ( mahler, bach, wagner) and jazz composition. calibrated thickness revels in bop, waller-stride, and chopin-esque romantic urgency. everything is possible from caine and his band: clarence penn@ drums; mark helias, bass; and kirk knuffke, guesting on cornet.
jemal ramirez. pomponio. first orbit sounds. Debut recording from SF Bay area drummer/educator jemal ramirez recuits a septet of polished musicians to cover an unsung dozen of jazz classics: tony williams’ citadel; pomponio from bobby hutcherson; herbie bancock’s alone and i. a-list band shines with warren wolf, vibraphone; howard wiley, a trio of saxes; joel behrman, trumpet; matthew clark, piano; john shifflett, double bass; john santos, percussion.
yair loewenson. old bottles new wine. self. Hard-bob, rambunctious release from Israeli guitarist yair loewenson with a SF collective member mark turner on tenor sax. uptempo playlist features gal shaya on bass, noam israeli@ drums; all original compositions.
groove legacy. eponymous. self. From contemporary LA, with ancestors reaching back to the crusaders, meters, steely dan, groove legacy strives to put 70’s fun and groove back into the now. the brain child of fender rhodes master bill steinway, with creative input from tenor sax paulie cerra, guitarist larry carlton , bassist travis carlton, plus guests.