New Jazz Releases – 09/01/2023
Rus is away from reviewing duties this month and we have a team who will be filling in for him. My name is Steve Harris and I co-host with Rus the Jazz at 100 Now! shows on Tuesday mornings from 9 until noon. I want to start by giving a shout out to Rus, and the Professor before him, who took on the task of listening to and talking about a large number of new releases on a weekly basis. It is a lot of work. There is a fine batch of new releases this week and rather than do long reviews I have provided brief descriptions of the projects and initial impressions from a couple of listens.. There were some really enjoyable discs that I look forward to hearing again and playing on the air. I hope you’ll be curious to check out this new music.
The Return (Cellar Music releases Sept 8)
with Joel Haynes drums, Seamus Blake Tenor sax, Tilden Webb piano, Neil Swainson bass
3rd record by the veteran Ontario, Canada drummer and composer, and his first in 15 years. A Canadian producer booked saxophonist Blake for a festival date and then arranged this session while he was there. It is a reunion of Blake,Webb and Haynes. This straight ahead set contains 4 original by Haynes, 2 by Webb and 2 covers. The originals are pretty strong, especially the hard driving The Return that opens the disc. The covers don’t work as well as the originals. There is a cover of the Beatles Tomorrow Never Knows that plays it too safe and a cover of the Sarah McLachlan hit Angel that never blossoms. But most of the originals are strong and there is a nice synergy with the group. Blake is a fine drummer with growing skills as a composer. Let’s hope it isn’t another 15 years before we hear from him again.
Anthony Branker & Ascent
Ralph Bowen Tenor and soprano sax, Antonio Hart Alto and Soprano, Clifford Adams, Jr trombone, Jonny King piano, John Benitez double bass, Ralph Peterson Jr Drums, Anthony Branker composer and musical director
Anthony Branker is a composer, trumpet/flugelhorn player and jazz professor at Princeton University. Branker’s ninth album for Origin Records is a re-release of his debut project, recorded in 2003 and originally issued by Sons of Sound Records in 2006. He had assembed a crack band including the amazing Antonio Hart and the fiery drums of the late Ralph Peterson, Jr who really drives the record. The reissue is dedicated to Peterson and trombonist Clifford Adams who passed away 8 years ago. This album features all original compositions from Branker, showing a writing talent that has only grown in the years since. Check out this album to see a master in the making and marvel at the drumming of Peterson.
Three Story Sandbox
Artful Dodgers (Tall Grass Records released August 18)
Janice Borla voice, Scott Robinson tenor sax, slide sax, bamboo flute, Jack Mouse drums, percussion, guest artist Mark Feldman violin
A follow-up to their 2016 self-titled debut, the free jazz trio is joined by violinist Mark Feldman. This is a challenging, spontaneous and full of imagination release from creative musicians who communicate so well together.
Spry (Lost Wax Records, releases September 5)
Adam Levy guitar, Larry Grenadier bass, Joey Baron drums
30 year jazz guitar veteran, educator and jazz journalist Adam Levy set out to write and record the “jazz album of his dreams” for his 12th album. He assembled a stellar rhythm section with bassist Larry Grenadier (Brad Mehldau) and drummer Joey Barron. This is an intimate recording with the musicians set up in one room in the studio. The interaction is organic and Grenadier/Barron make for one of the most musical rhythm sections working. Levy is known for his work with artists Norah Jones, Tracy Chapman, Allen Toussaint and Meshell Ndegeocello, and he did a GoFundMe campaign for this album of all originals. His compositions and guitar styles run the spectrum on this always interesting release. This is one to check out.
Friends R Family (Samech Records, released June 9)
Steve Carrington saxophones and EWI, Cyrus Chestnut piano, Davis Whitfield keyboard, Mark Whitfield guitar, Keny Davis basses, Mark Whitfield Jr, drums plus special guests
On saxophonist and Baltimore native Steve Carrington’s third album, Friends R Family , he runs the gamut between swinging, straight-ahead jazz and an infectious, R&B influenced funky smooth jazz. He is as influenced by his time with Kenny Garrett as he is touring with Kool & The Gang. His playing is top notch and is joined by an all-star lineup including Cyrus Chestnut, Mark Whitfield and Mark Whitfield Jr. While I really enjoyed the mainstream stuff, several tunes veered into Quiet Storm/Smooth Jazz territory, especially when he plays the EWI (electronic wind instrument).
Introspection (You&Me Music, released July 14)
Eunmi Lee piano, Tony Kadleck trumbet, Alan Ferber trombones, Jon Gordon soprano and alto sax, Remy Le Boeuf alto and baritone sax, John Ellis tenor sax, clarinet and bass clarinet, Vinicius Gomes guitar, Matt Clohesy Bass, Ari Hoenig drums
Korean-born, New York-based pianist and composer Eunmi Lee just released her debut record, Introspection. Lee composed and arranged all the tunes and assembled a lineup of NY pros including Ari Hoenig, Remy Le Bouef and John Ellis. The compositions range from hard driving bop to chamber jazz to snappy groove big band sounds. This debut cd is getting attention including this from downbeat: “INTROSPECTION is a captivating debut for emerging jazz artist Eunmi Lee.”
Kevin O’Connell Quartet
Hot New York Minutes (Ignoramus Music Inc, released March 14)
Kevin O’Connell piano, Adam Brenner alto and tenor sax, Paul Gill bass, Mark Taylor drums
Debut release from veteran Chicago pianist Adam Brenner came about when his old friend, saxophonist Brenner invited him to New York to revisit their playing together from the 1980’s. The sessions clicked and O’Connell came back a year later with a batch of new tunes to record. O’Connell contributes 3 strong tunes, Brenner a couple, and there are covers of folks like Cedar Walton, Tadd Dameron and Bill Lee. O’Connell used to play in Clifford Jordan’s Quartet and Brenner was with George Coleman. They celebrate these histories with One for Cliff by O’Connell and One for George by the Brenner. These guys sound so comfortable in the studio together, it is hard to believe that O’Connell and Brenner hadn’t played together since the ‘80.s. This is a long overdue debut for O’Connell and I hope there’s more in the future.
Roberto Magris & The JM Horns
High Quote (J Mood Records, released Sept 1) Italian pianist, composer and arranger Magris has been active in the European big band scene for decades. Producer Paul Collins tasked him to compose and arrange for a small big band with an American perspective. Magris synthesized influences from Bill Holman, Oliver Nelson and Gerald Wilson and created a sound with elements of American big band but still retains Magris’ Italian flavoring. The arrangements and compositions sound both familiar and a little exotic, with colorful big band flourishes. The group is led by alto saxophonist Jim Mair and features fine Kansas City players. There are 6 originals along with covers of Hank Mobley’s The Changing Scene and the song Black Coffee that features vocalist Monique Danielle and was made popular by Sarah Vaughn and Peggy Lee. This is a very pleasant listen with a combination of nostalgic charts and some playful twists in the arrangements. While this is a brand new release, the sessions date from 2012.