New Jazz & Blues News – 10/12/2021
Chick Corea Akoustic Band – Live (Concord): “The jazz world was stunned and saddened by the unexpected passing of legendary pianist Chick Corea on February 9, 2021, from a rare form of cancer. In a posthumous statement released on his Facebook page, Corea bid farewell to his compatriots and fans in the same joyous spirit with which he always approached the keyboard: “I want to thank all of those along my journey who have helped keep the music fires burning bright. It is my hope that those who have an inkling to play, write, perform or otherwise, do so. If not for yourself then for the rest of us. It’s not only that the world needs more artists, it’s also just a lot of fun.” Two of the gifted musicians who’d helped Chick keep those fires burning so brightly were bassist John Patitucci and drummer Dave Weckl, the pianist’s bandmates in his storied Akoustic Band. Corea worked hard making sure everything was just right for this first release by the trio in over two decades. Straightforwardly titled Chick Corea Akoustic Band LIVE, the 2-CD set was recorded January 13, 2018 at SPC Music Hall in St. Petersburg, Florida. Due out September 24, 2021 via Concord Jazz, the release serves as a celebratory reminder of Corea’s singular genius, with more than two hours of inspired playing and spirited camaraderie.” (https://concord.com/concord-albums/akoustic-band-live/) Click here to listen to “Morning Sprite”, the opening song in this disc.
Theo Croker – BLK2LIFE // A FUTURE PAST (Sony Music Masterworks): “The ongoing astral connections between the fragmentary lineages of neo-soul and the experimental fringes of jazz has resulted in some of the 21st century’s most breathtaking projects. Theo Croker should know – he’s played on some of them, and composed several more. An anomaly within the major label system, he’s managed to earned mainstream success and Grammy recognition while still playing music that is recognisably Out – both pan-genre and genre-less, it’s very much within the spirit of American improvisatory arts, while pursuing personal ends.
‘BLK2LIFE // A FUTURE PAST’ could be his finest moment yet. It’s certainly the most overtly soulful, plugging Theo Croker’s work into R&B circuitry laid out by guests such as the divine Ari Lennox, the magnificent Charlotte Dos Santos, and a magical turn from Malaya. Envisaged as a complete work of art, there’s a rare unity on display with this album – from the introductory passages on ‘4KNOWLEDGE’ to the closing ‘Pathways’ it’s never less than riveting…. A riveting, fascinating experience, ‘BLK2LIFE // A FUTURE PAST’ is a gorgeous listen, one peppered with unexpected sonic detail. Theo Croker’s aural paintings have rarely been so developed, and so defined; jazz meets soul, future meets past, it’s a record that seems to conjure possibilities at every turn.” (https://www.clashmusic.com/reviews/theo-croker-blk2life-a-future-past) A unique mellow blend. Click here to listen to “Happy Feet (for dancers)…”
Graham Dechter – Major Influence (CAPRI): “Graham Dechter has distilled his myriad musical inspirations into Major Influence, his third release as a leader. Available on Capri Records, the album reunites Dechter with his dream team rhythm section from his earlier recordings: Tamir Hendelman on piano, John Clayton on bass, and Jeff Hamilton on drums. The album was recorded prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, but the release was delayed until the group could return to touring and live performances. The guitarist wrote and arranged all but one of the tunes. “After completing seven originals and co-arranging the classic ‘Pure Imagination’ with Mr. Hamilton, I came to the realization that every song on this recording, whether consciously or subconsciously, was dedicated to and/or directly influenced by one or more of my musical heroes.” The album is reflective of his journey through jazz from an early age with some of the most influential musicians to play the music. Some of the inspirations were jazz guitar luminaries like Herb Ellis and Wes Montgomery, but Dechter has plenty of contemporary influences as well. The track “Moonithology” was influenced not just by Charlie Parker, George Shearing, Montgomery, and Hank Mobley, but also Louis Cole and Genevieve Artadi of the synth-heavy avant-pop duo KNOWER. Another composition, “Minor Influence,” was inspired by both Art Blakey and Larry Goldings.” (https://jazzguitartoday.com/2021/10/guitarist-graham-dechter-gives-a-nod-to-his-major-influence/) Click here to listen to any of the songs on this terrific set.
Kurt Elling – Super Blue (Edition Records): “On the heels of winning his second Grammy Award this year, preeminent jazz vocalist Kurt Elling is returning with an album that finds him in new musical territory. While Elling’s past projects have explored the musical worlds of bebop, traditional pop, progressive jazz and neo-soul, SuperBlue marks his first foray into full-on funk.
With producer and guitarist Charlie Hunter at the helm, Elling is joined by drummer Corey Fonville and bassist and keyboardist DJ Harrison, both of the genre-hopping band Butcher Brown. SuperBlue features Elling’s own original songs along with fresh takes on compositions by jazz legends Wayne Shorter and Freddie Hubbard, a stripped-down treatment of Cody Chestnutt and a groovy version of a Tom Waits tune.” (https://jazz.fm/kurt-elling-superblue-new-album/) Everyone should have a chance to step off the normal and Elling clearly gets and shares the hip and crazy. Click here to listen to “Sassy” from this set.
Joe Farnsworth – City Of Sounds (Smoke Sessions): “Joe Farnsworth celebrates the fortitude of New York City’s jazz community with City of Sounds featuring legendary pianist Kenny Barron and stellar bassist Peter Washington. Captured onstage at Smoke Jazz & Supper Club, the three are reunited from the stellar drummer’s previous release, Time to Swing, which also included Wynton Marsalis in the line-up. Here, Farnsworth sticks to the classic piano trio, a format in which he’s thrived throughout his storied career including collaborations with McCoy Tyner, Cedar Walton, Harold Mabern, Hank Jones, David Hazeltine and ELEW, among many others. Still in masks, separated by plastic barriers, playing to an empty club for an audience of virtual listeners streaming the music live at home—none of these inconveniences are reflected in the incredible music. In fact, the trio plays with as much or more vigor, wit, and muscularity than if the place were packed, delivering a rollicking set that spans the stylistic spectrum. This example of musical grit and determination by his bandmates is one of reasons that Farnsworth remains so dedicated to his adopted hometown, and why he was so proud to see it survive the incredible challenges of a turbulent period.
“People ask all the time if it’s still relevant to come to New York anymore,” Farnsworth concludes. “Without a doubt, if you were to spend a year here you would be a better musician. Why? Charlie Parker’s not here, but you still feel him. Monk’s not here, but you still feel him. Their presence flows through the streets. It flows the people. It’s the ultimate power source.” (https://smokesessionsrecords.com/shop/albums/city-of-sounds/) The group plays three Farnsworth songs and two from Barron and round it out with standards like “The Surrey With The Fringe On Top”, “Moonlight In Vermont” and “Softly As In A Morning Sunrise”. A totally performance! Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this set.
Lorraine Feather – My Own Particular Life (Relarion): “My new album, My Own Particular Life, will be released on September 24th. The composers are my co-producer Eddie Arkin, and my other treasured co-writers Russell Ferrante, Shelly Berg, and Dave Grusin…. Most of the musicians recorded in LA, but our drummer Michael Shapiro laid his tracks down from his studio in Quezon City, The Philippines; Shelly’s trio recorded in Miami, and Dave Grusin did his piano part in Santa Fe. Full credits are on the page too. I did my lead and background parts here in Rochester, NY…. Lorraine Feather was born in Manhattan. Her parents named her Billie Jane Lee Lorraine after godmother Billie Holiday, her mother Jane (formerly a big band singer), her mother’s ex-roommate Peggy Lee, and the song “Sweet Lorraine.” She is the daughter of the late jazz writer Leonard Feather.” (https://lorrainefeather.com/biography/) Feather has song in a variety of settings, including stage performances and shows. This release is her thirteenth release. Click here to listen to two songs on this release.
Jeff Lederer – Sunwatcher (Little Music): “After a decade, the cutting-edge tenor saxophonist Jeff Lederer reunites his Sunwatcher project with one change in the lineup: the legendary electric bassist Steve Swallow replaces Buster Williams, another legend. The keyboardist Jamie Saft and the drummer Matt Wilson round out the quartet for a stirring record made by inspired musicians. The eight recorded pieces were conceived to reflect the law of Dharma in its fundamental ideas. All of them are first takes from a session that took place during the summer of 2020 in the yard of Saft’s home studio in the Hudson Valley.
The group’s energy is promptly personified on the opening track, “Right Concentration”, where the relaxing sound of gongs prepares us for sudden organ strikes, sparse bass notes and filling drums, which complete the substratum while offering an ample bed to Lederer’s magnetic phrases. Together, they form a fragmented psychedelic scenario. The main idea bookending “Right Speech” first comes in the form of an irresistible reed/drum tide. The middle section is marked not only by Swallow’s stunning bass lines, which are imbued of warmth and groove, but also by vivid and oblique organ reverberations and dynamic sax trajectories populated with strong rhythmic figures. “Right Effort”evinces a more reflective, laid-back posture, a fact that doesn’t curb Lederer from articulate a considerable amount of notes with impressive speed, and “Right Resolve” harkens back to the groovy rock of the 70s – the sound of Janis Joplin and Deep Purple suddenly crossed my mind. Additionally, “Right Action” grooves with soulful intensity. Following “Right Livelihood”, a powerful concoction of soul, jazz and funk, the quartet ends the journey with “Right Mindfulness”, endorsing contemplation through a mantra-like piano premise. Wilson’s beautifully designed cymbal maneuvers add extra special flavor here.” (https://jazztrail.net/blog/jeff-lederer-sunwatcher-eightfold-path-album-review) Click here to listen to “Right Action” on the path to “protect life, to practice generation, behave responsibility and consume mindfully.” Click here to listen to “Right Action”.
Alison Miller & Jane Ira Bloom – Tues Days (Outline Records): “In March and April of 2021 soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom and drummer Allison Miller came together on five Tuesdays in March and April of 2021 to record some improvised sax and drum duets to see what might happen. They didn’t set out to make an album – they just wanted to play because they needed to improvise any way that they could. They played with complete abandon, performing remotely from their home studios in New York City in the reality of the world of 2021. Tues Days is the result of those recordings that now appear on Bloom’s Outline label and are available through Miller’s Bandcamp site, mixed and mastered by bassist Mark Helias with breathtaking fidelity. It’s a musical duet saturated in a kaleidoscope of color. The music is spontaneous composition at its best by two masterful improvisers – energetic, tactile, and alive. Miller’s multi-colored array of percussion augments her drumset in exquisite counterpoint to Bloom’s signature tone on the soprano sax. The music is both rhythmic and deeply lyrical – drum and sax dancing around one another until their song is sung. The compositions are Bloom and Miller making-it-up live and in the moment, taking you on a wild ride through their musical universe. From the adventurous journey of “The Wild Frontier” to the unpredictable “A & J’s Test Kitchen,” get ready for Tues Days – a story for your ears that will have your head spinning in wonder.” (https://allisonmiller.bandcamp.com/) Click here to listen to a song on the disc.
Dennis Mitcheltree – Union (dennismitchelt.com): “Jazz saxophonist and composer Dennis Mitcheltree has just released his 5th album as a leader, Nevermind the Circus. Mitcheltree is a mainstay of the tenor saxophone, having been based in New York City from 1987-2007 and in Los Angeles from 2007 to the present. Dennis has performed and recorded with a virtual Who’s Who of the jazz world: Clark Terry, George Cables, Bill Holman, Bob Moses, Jim McNeely, Howard Johnson, Gary Bartz, Kenny Werner, James Williams, Don Sickler, Charli Persip, Pete Yellin along with contemporaries Uri Caine, Ingrid Jensen, Johannes Wallmann, Andy Milne, David Binney, Ben Shepherd, Dan Schnelle and Andy Sanesi. Mitcheltree was born and raised in Wisconsin, picking up the oboe and saxophone at age 12. He received a scholarship from Berklee College of Music where he graduated with a Magna cum Laude degree in Jazz Performance in 1987. He is the Artistic Director for the American Music Group, widely known for the INFLUENCES series presented at Carnegie Hall, and an award-winning saxophonist and composer.” ( https://dennismitcheltree.bandcamp.com/) Recorded while on tour in 1999, with the quartet at the height of it’s power in the 1990s, Union features evolving compositions that are still fresh and relevant today. Mitcheltree was tenor sax and the players are Johannea Wallmann (piano), Jesse Crawfors (bass) and Bill McClellan (drums). Click here to listen to songs from this release.
Nate Smith – Kinfolks 2: See The Birds (Edition): “Kinfolk 2: See the Birds is the highly anticipated follow up to the 2017 Grammy-nominated album Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere. Featuring the diverse and all-star talents of Brittany Howard, Amma Whatt, Joel Ross, Kokayi, Michael Mayo, Regina Carter, Stokley and Vernon Reid, Kinfolk 2: See the Birds is the inspired and emphatic album that exemplifies Nateâs artistry as one of the most exciting, dynamic and innovative drummer-composers of his generation, adept across multi-genres and styles. Taking inspiration from his teenage years spent absorbing the diverse and eclectic riches of Prince, Michael Jackson and Living Colour. Kinfolk 2: See the Birds is a multi-faceted jewel and is set to be one of the most significant albums of 2021.” (https://2ddl.it/nate-smith-kinfolk-2-see-the-birds-2021-mp3-320-kbps-p2p) This set is an interesting mix of performers and blend of styles, following an earlier set from some months back. The backing playings are Nate Smith (drums), Brad Allen Williams (guitar), Fima Ephron (bass), Jaleel Shaw (sax) and Jon Cowherd (piano) It’s a new feel. Click here to listen to “Square Wheel”.
The Honeyshotz – Lovin’ You (Superfly Records): “The Honeyshotz is a band/project put together by Ian Stevens, the bass player from The Getup (Breakin Bread) and The King Rooster (Funk Night Records) as a vehicle to record and perform a collection of songs that were written by himself and some of the other musicians involved. The band features Mark Claydon of The Getup / The King Rooster on drums and percussion and Lee Blackmore of The Getup on guitar. The man on the keys is Toby Kinder from The Gene Drayton Unit (Freestyle Records) and the vocals are taken care of by Sabina Challenger (formerly of The Getup and The Soul Grenades). Additional musicians that appear on the album are Mark Norton, known for his work in The Fantastics (BBE) and The Gene Drayton Unit, on sax and flute, Freddy De Lord on sax, Tristan Gaudion and Achilleas Anastasopoulos on trumpet. The songs are very much in the vein of The Brand New Heavies and have that summertime Acid Jazz / Soul Funk Vibe.” (https://afro-disiac.co.uk/artist-focus-the-honeyshotz/) Click here to listen to the opening song.
Webber / Morris Big Band – Both Are True (Geenleaf): “It’s one of the most surprising jazz trends in the 21st century: the emergence of big bands as something more than an anomaly or a nostalgia vehicle. And in fact, the new big bands are emblematic of sonic trends in jazz, capturing and enlarging imaginative compositional techniques and bracingly original improvisations. If the trickle began in the ’90s with the Maria Schneider Orchestra, it became a river in the last decade via superlative work from bands led by John Hollenbeck, Darcy James Argue, Miho Hazama, Dan Weiss, Brian Krock, and others. The latest development in this style comes from reedwomen/composers Anna Webber and Angela Morris and their debut big-band recording, Both Are True.
Morris and Webber have been up-and-comers on the New York scene for several years and have co-led this band for five. Webber has impressed with larger groups performing music inspired by cornerstone 20th-century classical composers and with her Simple Trio featuring Hollenbeck and pianist Matt Mitchell. Morris has won followers with her chamber-sized ensemble Rallidae and her work in bands led by Jessica Pavone, Myra Melford, and Helado Negro. The co-leaders share a passion for timbre, unique rhythms, unusual voicings, and biting solos, which are found in abundance on this album. We begin with Webber’s sweeping “Climbing on Mirrors,” which rides catchy horn figures and an exhilarating solo from alto saxophonist Charlotte Greve. Morris penned the title track, and it features stellar ensemble movement and superb solos from Webber, saxophonist Jay Rattman, and vibraphonist Patricia Brennan. The recording alternates expansive works with pithy, shorter ones. “Rebonds” showcases gritty play by guitarist Dustin Carlson, and there are two thorny duets by the co-leaders. As is often the case with first albums that were years in the works, Both Are True is a compelling assemblage of intense ideas brought to exciting fruition.” (https://jazztimes.com/reviews/albums/webber-morris-big-band-both-are-true-greenleaf/) Challenging and vibrant music. Click here to listen to the opening piece, “Climbing On Mirrors”.
Chris “Badnews” Barnes – Badnews Rising (VizzTone): The liner notes say, “Chris BADNEWS Barnes and Grammy Award-winning producer, Tom Hambridge , have teamed up for Barnes’ first ever original blues album, BADNEWS RISING. This is Barnes’ third release with Vizztone Records. All ten original offerings were recorded at Nashville’s Sound Stage Studio with top studio musicians, Kevin McKendree (Delbert McClinton, Anson Funderburgh) on Piano/B3, Tommy MacDonald (Buddy Guy, Johnny Winter) playing Bass, Pat Buchanan (Cameo, Hall & Oates) on Guitar/Harmonica and Tom Hambridge (Buddy Guy, Susan Tedeschi, Roy Buchanan) behind the console and drum kit as both producer and drummer. Badnews Rising delivers the same Schlock and trade ironic, salacious Hokem Blues lyrics that Barnes is known for.” (Liner notes) You have been warned! Click here to listen to “When Koko Came To Town”.
Al Basile – B’s Testimony (Sweetspot): Veteran singer / band leader / cornet player has gathered Kid Andersen (guitar), Mark Teixeira (drums), Brad Hallen (bass), Bruce Bears (keys), Doug James (tenor sax) and Jeff “Doc” Chanonhouse (trumpet) to pass on his most recent original set of shining blues. Basile is strongest when he’s playing the horn, but he does offer some fresh set of original material. Click here to listen to “I Oughta Be Your Monkey” from this new set. Click here to listen to samples of the songs on this release.
Dara James – Her Light (Self-produced): “Award-winning singer-songwriter Dara James started his professional gigging music career at only 11 years of age playing harmonica for the popular New River Valley-based band, Upland Express. Playing alongside his father and twin brothers, Barry and Garry Collins, Dara travelled with Upland Express all around Virginia for almost 10 years, opening up for national acts and recording a CD together when Dara was only 13 years old. Dara recorded his first solo album when he was 17. From there, Dara found a popular blues band in Central Virginia known as the Jon Spear Band, where his talent as a quadruple-threat musician became even more apparent as a master of harmonica, vocals, electric guitar, and award-winning songwriting. Dara’s work on the band’s three CDs has earned him generous praise….Presently, Dara has recorded another solo project entitled, “Her Light,” in dedication of his late daughter, Everly Margaret Rose, set to release September 1st, 2021.” (https://darajamesmusic.com/about/) Click here to listen to listen to samples of the songs on this release.
Love Letters From Detroit (Bobby Murray) – Love Letters From Detroit (Little White House): “Bobby Murray (born June 9, 1953) is an American electric blues guitarist, songwriter and record producer who has played in Etta James’ backing band for twenty three years, performed on three Grammy Award winning recordings with James and B.B. King and released four solo albums. In 2011, the Detroit Blues Society granted Murray their Lifetime Achievement Award. Murray currently leads his own band in Metro Detroit and has won several Detroit Music Awards. His latest solo recording, I’m Sticking With You, was released in 2013. His guitar playing was mainly influenced by Albert Collins and B.B. King. Murray currently resides in White Lake, Michigan, United States. Murray was born in Nagoya, Japan, to a Japanese mother and an Irish father. Growing up in a military family setting, he was later raised in Tacoma, Washington. Murray attended the same high school as Robert Cray and they engaged Albert Collins to play at the school’s graduation party.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Murray_(musician)) The musicians are a wonderfully tight group as they mix from song to song: Singers (Greg Nagy, Smoke Jones, Tosha Owens, Lenny Watkins and Wyles Redding) and musicians trading off from song to song include Bobby Murray, Kris Kurzawa, Tosha Owens, Greg Nagy, Smoke Jones, Tosha Owens, Lenny Watkins and Wyles Redding. Really smooth and beautifully played and sung. The information is scarce by one important comment is “longtime guitar player for Etta James’ band”. I regret I am unable to find a performance to share.
Mr. Luck: A Tribute To Jimmy Reed (Live At The Royal Albert Hall) (digital only)(BMG): “The Ronnie Wood Band return to the blues this month with the second installment of his live album trilogy -‘Mr. Luck – A Tribute to Jimmy Reed: Live at the Royal Albert Hall’. Released by BMG today, September 17, 2021, the 18-track album features The Ronnie Wood Band including Mick Taylor with incredible special guests, Bobby Womack, Mick Hucknall, and Paul Weller, and pays tribute to one of Ronnie’s musical heroes and major influences, the Mississippi electric blues pioneer Jimmy Reed. The album was recorded live on a memorable night at the Royal Albert Hall on November 1st, 2013. It features stunning tracks including “Good Lover,” “Ghost of A Man,” and “Shame, Shame, Shame.” With unique album artwork specially created by Ronnie, Mr. Luck will be available digitally, on CD, as a vinyl release, and as a beautiful limited-edition dual-tone smoky blue vinyl. When self-taught guitarist Eddie Taylor imparted his skills onto his friend Jimmy Reed, he surely couldn’t have imagined the effect this was to have on the Chicago blues scene. Backing up such luminaries as John Lee Hooker, he is best remembered for his work with his former student. Sweet coincidence, then, that in 1974 another Taylor, Mick, would make way for Ronnie Wood in the Rolling Stones, paving the way for these two friends and celebrated guitarists to work on projects ever since. The culmination of this to date is Taylor’s place in The Ronnie Wood Band at the Royal Albert Hall for 2013’s Bluesfest, where they played the now-legendary set that would come to birth to this recording. Ronnie comments: “Jimmy Reed was one of the premier influences on the Rolling Stones and all the bands that love American blues from that era until the present day. It is my honor to have the opportunity to celebrate his life and legacy with this tribute.” (https://www.gratefulweb.com/articles/out-today-mr-luck-tribute-jimmy-reed-live-royal-albert-hall) Click here to listen to “Baby What You Want Me To Do” from this live performance by Ronnie Wood and friends honoring the music of Jimmy Reed. Click here to listen to “Baby What You Want Me To Do”.