New Jazz Adds – 2/9/2021

New Jazz Adds – 2/9/2021

Till Bronner & Bob James – On Vacation (Masterworks): “Together with jazz legend and Grammy award winner Bob James, trumpeter Till Brönner – Germany’s most successful jazz musician – has transformed holiday moods into a multi-layered sound painting. Close your eyes and dream: “On Vacation is first and foremost a feeling for me and we have transformed this feeling into music,” explains BrönnerVirtuosic, full of creative love for refined details and at the same time of the greatest possible nonchalance, Brönner and James create an imaginative and sonorous music for inspiration, reflection and daydreaming. Confirming the cliché “Unity is Strength”, German trumpetist and singer Till Brönner and the American pianist Bob James have cowritten On Vacation, a work of smooth, hedonistic jazz. Before becoming the king of smooth jazz who has been sampled by every rapper on the planet (his Nautilus has ended up on over 400 tracks by the likes of Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest and Ghostface Killah), Bob James made pure, hard jazz, accompanying even the great Sarah Vaughan between 1965 and 1968. A music that was light years away from the funky fusion that would make his money throughout the 70s and 80s. It is clearly this ultra-smooth version of Bob James that fascinates Brönner, thirty years his younger. Somewhat like On Vacation’s sleeve, the two musicians have conceived a meticulous and flawless work that features soul themes carried by silky, comforting grooves. One must also note the immense Harvey Mason’s jazz’n’funk drums which feature on over half the tracks. Amidst the ensemble, Till Brönner’s trumpet holds an incredible lightness and his voice, on the few sung tracks, is like that of Donald Fagen, laid back and carefree. But it is ultimately in the more stripped-down songs like Miranda, those which veer off the beaten track where Brönner and James are alone without rhythmic sections, that the sheer extent of their style shines through the most. – Max Dembo ( Click here to listen to the opening song.

James Carney Sextet – Pure Heart (Sunnyside): “The combination of concept, effort and the right collaborators typically leads to good things no matter what the goal might be. These elements are especially integral to cohesion within a musical ensemble in performance, especially a group built of musicians who haven’t previously played together. Pianist/composer James Carney was thinking along these lines when he came up with the idea and chose the musicians for his new recording, Pure Heart. Carney has been a long time mover on the jazz scenes on both the West Coast and the East Coast. Originally from Syracuse, New York, Carney went to California to study and graduated from CalArts in Los Angeles. He remained there working as a musician and composer before relocating to New York in 2004. His connection to the scene deepened as he began to host the popular Konceptions Series at Korzo in Brooklyn. Because of his long reach across the continent, Carney has maintained close ties to many incredible musicians. It was while walking in Prospect Park in Brooklyn that the pianist came up with a lineup of musicians that he wanted to put together. None of the players had spent more than a cursory amount of time performing together, except for the two duos. Carney has been no stranger to mid-sized ensembles and had even recorded a couple of septet albums. For Pure Heart, he wanted to scale down a little to three horns, which would allow a bit more flexibility and openness for the musicians to shape the music. The size allowed for much of the compositional complexity and also allowed a bit more in rhythmic and harmonic development. The sextet that Carney put together is quite an assemblage. For the horns, he recruited his longtime friend and saxophonist Ravi Coltrane, bass clarinetist and alto saxophonist Oscar Noriega, and recent collaborator and trumpeter Stephanie Richards. Bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Tom Rainey met in their first time ever pairing. In fact, most of these players had never played together before, except Coltrane and Douglas and Noriega and Rainey. The pieces that Carney wrote for the sextet were well conceived but left room for stylistic interpretations from the players. Carney understood that with all of these special conceptualists and stylists that it would serve the music best to allow them to bring their personalities to the service of the pieces. Carney wrote the pieces with his conception of counterpoint through interlocking rhythmic parts and tried to make any bit of abstraction have its own logic. The results exceeded his expectations and have kept him busy writing similar material ever since.” ( It may take more than one listen to appreciate this drift, but it is certainly worth while to listen and and pick up the groove. Click here to listen to the songs on this disc.

Emmet Cohen – Future Stride (Mack Avenue): “The sound of stride piano vividly evokes scenes from the past: the roaring nightclubs of 1920s Harlem, the raucous birth pangs of jazz’s nascent years, the gymnastic burlesques of risk-taking silent movie madcaps. But in the music of pianist/composer Emmet Cohen, the past is always present, if not venturing with sly turns into an open-eared future as we enter into a new iteration of the roaring 20s. On ‘Future Stride’, Cohen revisits one of the music’s earliest forms without a trace of quaintness or throwback pastiche by meticulously covering the genre’s lexicon spanning the past century and melding its context with “modern” music. He instead finds the immediacy in a stylistic approach that can speak volumes to modern listeners open to recognising its thrilling vitality. Though he’s made a point of connecting with masters from the past throughout his still-young career, Cohen pointedly invites a group of his peers to realize this project, including his longtime rhythm section partners, bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole, along with two of modern jazz’s most progressive voices, trumpeter Marquis Hill and saxophonist Melissa Aldana.” ( It’s clever, hip and totally solid throughout! Hip from whatever angle you might dig! Click here to listen to the title tune.

Gui Duvignau – 3, 5, 8 (Sunnyside): “It was his move to New York City that led to the development of the music on 3, 5, 8. While completing his master’s degree in jazz studies at New York University, Duvignau was able to meet a number of musicians who would help shape his sound and approach to composing. Duvignau was introduced to Argentinean pianist Santiago Leibson at a recording session and they hit it off immediately. Leibson called the great drummer, Jeff Hirshfield, for one of their initial meetings and the three found a quick rapport as they began to play regular sessions and a handful of gigs. // While at NYU, Duvignau studied with the illustrious saxophonist Billy Drewes. Drewes was an inspiration, not only for his incredible playing, but for his compositional practice. The young bassist had become burnt out by writing highly involved compositions. Drewes recommended the practice of writing every day, no matter what came out. This helped Duvignau break through his writer’s block and focus on developing a simpler, more spontaneous compositional style. // When the opportunity to record came about, Duvignau wanted to form a unit of openminded and flexibly expressive players. He invited his trio mates, Leibson and Hirshfield, and added Drewes. Duvignau also brought in German guitarist and fellow Berklee alum Elias Meister to bring a blues-inflected energy into the quintet’s mix.” ( Click here to listen to “Minas” from this release.

Rachel Efron – Human As I Came (Whisper Track): “Rachel Efron writes edgy but deeply felt piano driven alt-pop, nuanced by a forever love for improvised jazz and impressionistic classical music. She takes her influence from The Beatles and Tom Waits, Ben Folds and Feist, alongside the melodic sensibilities of Grieg and Chopin, and the chord voicings of Bill Evans and Brad Mehldau.” ( This appears to be her eighth release. There are some intriguing lyrics and tunes on this release. Definitely on the pop side, but interesting. Click here to listen to the songs on this release.

Roderick Harper – Evolving (Self-produced): “Harper’s story begins in DC, where he grew up singing from the time he could speak, but it really starts taking off at Southern University in Baton Rouge, where he found himself studying under the tutelage of jazz titan Alvin Batiste. While still enrolled at Southern, Harper began making regular trips into New Orleans, and it was there that he landed himself a life-changing guest spot one night with Ellis Marsalis. Impressed with the young vocalist’s performance, Marsalis invited Harper to return the following week, and soon after that, offered him a steady gig with the band.” Eventually, Harper moved to Chicago performing and marrying and raising a family. Move to the present and Harper is back in New Orleans and performing again. This is his second new release and he is evolving again. This is an uptown set, featuring songs ranging from Alvin Batiste’s “Salty Dog” and Alter and DeLange’s “”Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans” to Charles Mingus’ “Duke Ellington’s Sound Of Love” and Betty Carter’s “Look What I Got”. Definitely uptown! Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this release.

Idle Hands – Solid Moments (PosiTone): “Producer Marc Free is at it again! This time he’s enlisting some trusted Posi-Tone musicians for this new release in his visionary series of curated musical delights. Obvious inspiration comes from the 1964 album “Idle Moments” by Grant Green, but the following group of beloved musicians take it to a brand new stylistic place. Posi-Tone label is proud to present “Solid Moments,” the latest in a series of projects he began curating specially for the label in 2018. With Solid Moments, the series progresses confidently into 2020. The album features Idle Hands, a collaborative sextet of top-tier musicians who have done illustrious work as leaders or sidemen for Posi-Tone. The instrumentation of “Solid Moments” matches that of Grant Green’s mid-’60s classic “Idle Moments,” a vibes/guitar/piano/tenor texture that producer Marc Free considers both beautiful and also under-utilized. Yet Solid Moments is not an attempt to recreate the atmosphere and mood of Green’s album. The emphasis is new original music by these band members: Will Bernard (guitar), Behn Gillece (vibes), Sam Dillon (tenor sax), Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass) and Donald Edwards (drums). Absolutely terrific! Click here and scroll down to listen to the songs on this release.

Gayelynn McKinney & McKinney Zone – Zoot Suit Funk (Beatsticks): “Gayelynn’s last album was a tribute to the compositions of her father, Harold McKinney. On this album, her own compositions take center stage, and she brings a terrific group of musicians along for the ride: Ibrahim Jones on bass, Alex Anest on guitar, Demetrius Nabors on keyboards, Trenita Womack on percussion, and Rafael Statin on Tenor Sax, Bass Flute, Bass Clarinet and Soprano Saxaphone. There are wonderful arrangements by Gayelynn on 2 cover songs, “My Love Is Deeper” by Jill Scott and Bill Withers’s “Lovely Day.” “My Love is Deeper,” is revamped from funky Neo soul to head bobbin’ swing.”Lovely Day” has fresh chords and feel added to the original composition. It is appropriate that this song be included, to honor Mr. Bill Withers, who passed away earlier this year. For title track “Zoot Suit Funk,” Gayelynn and company incorporate several genres and styles in a short time frame…from Alex Anest’s Jimi Hendrix-like guitar intro to Gayelynn, Rafael, and Demetrius riffing in a style reminiscent of gospel and early Motown. After listening to each song, I found myself getting lost in the music more times than I could count. This is one of those albums that people will want to play from beginning to end at any given social gathering. On “Zoot Suit Funk”, Gayelynn McKinney is throwing a party, and you’re all invited. Let’s get funky! (MATTHEW SHAPIRO, 2020) Click here to check out the songs on this second release.

Meridian Odyssey – Second Wave (Origin): “Five brilliant and focused musicians who against odds imposed by history and impossibility, have risen to the occasion to create a recording that provides depth, joy and emotional outreach in times of isolation and hardship. Developing their musical voices on the Seattle jazz scene, bassist Ben Feldman and saxophonist Santosh Sharma moved to New York for school and opportunity, while drummer Xavier Lecouturier, pianist Dylan Hayes, and guitarist Martin Budde became invaluable creatives in Northwest music circles. Sidelined from various tours in 2020, the five ended up gathering in Alaska, learning to fly planes, composing, playing, and discovering that as a quintet, the joy of music and creation was rekindled, the weight of the moment lifted. Setting up in an airplane hangar, the quintet live-streamed performances through the summer and with their new compositions in tow, self-recorded and produced “Second Wave.” The commonality of language acquired through hours of musical conversation between this group of friends quickly rose to fruition, producing sublime results for the listener.” ( Click here to listen to samples of two songs on this release.

Sounds Of A&R – Questions Left Unanswered (Self-produced): “Jazz ensembles fronted by a vocalist and trumpeter in equal roles are far and few between, and that’s a major part of the charm of Sounds of A&R. Led by April May Webb (vocals) and Randall Haywood (trumpet and flugelhorn), who are musical partners as well as partners in life, the duo calls to mind the classic pairing of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Rounding out this family affair are two of Webb’s siblings—Jacob Webb on bass and Nathan Webb on drums—plus guitarist Charlie Sigler, pianist James Austin, and harpist Riza Printup. On their impressive third studio album, Questions Left Unanswered, S.O.A.R. offers a mix of new arrangements of romantic classics and bold, fresh originals that speak to contemporary issues. In their album trailer, April and Randall explain that the project’s title speaks to the self-discovery that occurs while dealing with life’s highs and lows, joys and sorrows. When there is not a clear path forward, many questions are left unanswered. Life is a journey, and the duo invites listeners along for the ride as they explore the past and the present while also voicing their hope for the future.” ( The style is rather unique: the singing is often perky even when the message questions the lack of equality. Nonetheless, the message comes through plainly and several songs such as “”The Skin I’m In” and “Questions Left Unanswered”. Click here to listen to “They Keep Saying No”, one of April May Webb’s original songs.

Bobby Spellman – Revenge Of The Cool (Sunnyside): “Bobby Spellman is a jazz trumpeter, composer, educator, and theorist known for his eclectic musical style, dynamic performances, and experiments in contemporary jazz theory. A native of Boston, Bobby currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where he leads several groups including his “Revenge of the Cool” Nonet, Dingonek Street Band, and his free-fusion unit, the Voodoo Club. In addition to working regularly with his own ensembles, Bobby has performed across the Northeast U.S. with Motown legends the Temptations and the Four Tops, reggae juggernaut John Brown’s Body, and with experimental jazz groups including the Either/Orchestra, Charlie Kohlhase’s Explorer’s Club, and the Ed Polermo Big Band. The Bobby Spellman Nonet features Bobby Spellman (trumpet, slide trombone), Emily Pecorard (alto sax, 1 song), David Leon (alto sax, 7 songs), Tyler Burchfield (bari sax), Kyra Sims (French horn, 6 songs), Justin Mullens (French horn, 2 songs), Tim Shneier (trombone), Ben Stapp (tuba), Ben Schwendener (piano, 6 songs), Eli Wallace (piano, 3 songs), Andrew Schiller (bass) and Evan Hyde (drums). Click here to listen to a live performance by the band. 

Greg Yasinitsky – Yazz Band: New Normal (Origin): “Greg Yasinitsky is a Regents Professor of Music in the Washington State University School of Music where he teaches composition, jazz studies and saxophone. He served as Director of the School of Music from 2011 to 2018…. Yasinitsky has an international reputation as a composer, arranger and saxophonist… As a saxophonist, Yasinitsky has appeared with numerous distinguished artists including Sean Jones, Alex Acuna, Conrad Herwig, Randy Brecker, Marcus Printup, Ed Calle, Kirk Whalum, Lou Rawls, Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, Louie Bellson, Stan Getz, Lionel Hampton, Manhattan Transfer, Mel Torme and Clark Terry. Additionally, Yasinitsky is Principal Saxophonist with the Spokane Symphony…. His playing and compositions can be heard on over forty compact discs including recordings released by his own label, YAZZ Recordings.” ( Click here and scroll down to listen to the songs on this release.


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