New Jazz Releases – 01/30/2023

Rachel Therrien

Rachel Therrien Latin Jazz Project – Mi Hogar (Outside In Music, 02/2023).

Rachel Therrien – trumpet / flugelhorn, Roman Filiu – sax, Nestor Rodriguez – sax, Miguel de Armas – piano, Gutierrez – piano, Gabriel Chakarji – piano, Manuel Valera -piano, Danae Olano – piano, Willy Soto Barreto – piano, Alex Bellegarde – bass, John Benitez – bass, Roberto Riveron – bass, Luis Izquierdo – bass, Michel Medrano Brindis – drums, Lazaro Martinez – timbales / congas, Arturo Zegarra (- bongos / timbales, Melissa Lavergne  – congas / batas, Keisel Jimenez – congas, Carlos Maldonado – cajon / bongos / quinto, Victor Pablo – congas, Magdelys Savigne – batas.

Rachel Therrien, a Canadian trumpeter of significant substance, brings her years of playing with Latin Jazz bands such as Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra to her new release, Mi Hogar (my home).  Recorded in several sessions, she works with six pianists on the seven tracks, including Danae Olano of Maqueque and Manuel Valera of the New Cuban Express Big Band.  The tunes range from the mysterious and contemplative (Odessa, dedicated to the city of the same name) to the danceably swinging (Porcelanosa, with four percussionists).  Loved this.

Leon Lee Dorsey – Cantaloupe Island (Jazz Avenue 1, 02/2023).

Russell Malone – guitar, Leon Lee Dorsey – bass, Mike Clark – drums).

In their past five collaborations, bassist Leon Lee Dorsey and drummer Mike Clark have brought in a keyboard player to complete their trio.  In a departure, for Cantaloupe Island they team up with guitarist Russell Malone for a sedate and gently swinging set.

Christopher McBride – Ramon (Self-produced, 02/2023).

JS Williams – trumpet, Corey A Wallace – trombone, Kenny Bentley – tuba, Christopher McBride – saxophone, Jonathan Edward Thomas – piano, Luke Carlos O’Reilley – piano, Morgan Burrs – guitar, Bobby Broom – guitar, Noah Jackson – bass, Cedric Easton – drums, J Hoard – vocals.

Although McBride has been a professional musician for a decade and a half, Ramon is the first of his releases to catch my ear.  It is a disc with a lot of range – NOLA 2nd line, soulful contemporary RnB, Cannonball Adderley-influenced post-bop.  The highlight is a three-song suit, Stand Your Ground: The Ballad of Travon Martin.  The suite ranges from tense to confrontational to elegiac in a very personal statement.

Kurt Elling & Charlie Hunter Super Blue- Guilty Pleasures (Edition Records, 02/2023).

Charlie Hunter – guitar / bass, Nate Smith – drums, Kurt Elling – vocals.

Previewing their fall 2023 SuperBlue album, Kurt Elling and Charlie Hunter have released an EP of covers from the upcoming set.  Elling’s last outing with Hunter plus Butcher Brown’s keyboardist DJ Harrison (AKA Devonne Harris with John D’earth and Charles Owens) and drummer Cory Fonville brought into focus his latent 70’s romantic soul chops while he still flexed his beat-poet side as well.  He also overdubbed background vocals with a decidedly gospel flair.  So now, as the portion of his new disc that includes covers comes out, we see him going full soul singer with an intriguingly spare accompaniment and liberal use of overdubbed background vocals on covers like Al Jarreau’s Boogie Down & Eddie Money’s Baby Hold On To Me.

Joe Chambers – Dance Kobina (Blue Note, 02/2023).

Caoilainn Power – alto sax, Marvin Carter – alto sax, Address Vial – piano, Rick Germanson – piano, Michael Davidson – vibraphone, Mark Lewandowski – bass, Ira Coleman – bass, Joe Chambers – drums / vibraphone / percussion, Elli Miller Maboungou – Ngoma drums, Emilio Valses – Latin percussion.

Joe Chambers featured on a slew of important discs in the 60s (Archie Shepp’s Fire Music, Joe Henderson’s Mode For Joe, Wayne Shorter’s Adam’s Apple) but does not have a long discography as a leader.  Since 2021, he has had a home on Blue Note and is recording significant music.  Two additional percussionists – Cuban born Emilio Valdés and Congolese born Elli Miller Maboungou – join on several tracks as Chambers explores multiple rhythmic traditions.  Remember this one for Best of the Year in 11 months.

Something Blue – Personal Preference(Posi-Tone, 01/2023).

Altin Sencalar – trombone, Markus Howell – alto sax / soprano sax, Willie Morris – tenor sax, Misha Tsiganov – piano, Boris Kozlov – bass, Donald Edwards – drums.

Periodically, to feature their younger artists, Posi-Tone Records puts out a disc such as this.  Label-mates Boris Kozlov (2022’s First Things First) on bass, Markus Howell (2019’s Get Right) on alto and Donald Edwards (Ben Wolfe, Orrin Evans, Brian Lynch, Diego Rivera) on drums are joined by a talented bunch of players and everyone contributes compositions.  Like most Posi-Tone releases, this is a straight ahead hard bop / post bop date and a fine one at that.

Ed Cherry – Are We There Yet (Cellar Music, 01/2023).

Kyle Koehler – Hammond B3 organ, Monte Croft – vibraphone, Ed Cherry – guitar, Byron “Wookie” Landham – drums.

Ed Cherry was the long-time guitarist in Dizzy Gillespie’s final quartet.  In the intervening thirty years he has recorded occasionally and brings out this swinging disc from a seldom used quartet lineup – the standard guitar – organ – drums trio plus vibes.  In explaining the quartet ,he references organinst Larry Young and vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson’s contributions to the great Grant Green recording, Street of Dreams

Jay Hoggard Quintet – Raise Your Spirit Consciousness (Self-produced, 01/2023).

Dwight Andrews – soprano saxophone / bass clarinet, Nat Adderley, Jr. – piano, James Weidman – organ / piano, Jay Hoggard – vibraphone, Kenny Davis – bass, Phereroan Aklaff – drums.

Jay Hoggard has been around for many years, but this disc is a long way from the more adventurous music he cut with Chico Freeman in the 70s. A set of gospel and spiritual-oriented tunes is brought forward – some with Afro-beat, Caribbean and Afro-Cuban rhythms and others with a more dreamy foundation.  Although a fine vibes player, Hoggard relies a little overmuch on the familiar and the electric bass is a bit forward in the mix on a number of the tunes for my taste. Ellington’s In The Beginning / Praise God from the Sacred Concerts is a standout.

East Axis – No Subject (Mack Avenue, 01/2023).

Scott Robinson – tenor sax / alto clarinet / tarogato / trumpet / slide cornet, Matthew Shipp – piano, Kevin Ray – bass, Gerald Cleaver – drums.

In 2018, Charlottesville Jazz Society brought Matthew Shipp to town, not just with his trio-mates Kevin Ray and Gerald Cleaver, but with the addition of alto sax player Alan Lowe.  In 2021 that quartet recorded under the name East Axis and their Cool With That disc was one of the best of the year to many ears.  Now the group has released a new disc, this time with multi-reedist Scott Robinson (Maria Schneider, Frank Kimbrough).  There is a lot going on here as these first-rate improvisors explore a wide range of moods and tones.  They swing; they strut; they shuffle.  Listen with open ears.

The Heavy Hitters – The Heavy Hitters (Cellar Music, 01/2023).

Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, Eric Alexander – tenor saxophone, Vincent Herring – alto saxophone, Mike LeDonne – piano, Peter Washington – bass, Kenny Washington – drums.

From time-to-time all-star recording units are put together, most often as one-off events (Blue Note All-Stars, Blue Note 7).  Occasionally one like The Cookers will stick around for six releases over a dozen years.  Cellar Music’s entry into this category is The Heavy Hitters, who, at 20 years younger on average than The Cookers, could be around for a substantial run … or … we’ll have to wait and see.  Meanwhile, this is a very talented ensemble of well-known players making compelling music.  The Pelt / Herring / Alexander hard bop front-line is as formidable as they come.  Straight ahead and beautiful.

Alex Sipiagin – Mel’s Vision (Criss Cross, 01/2023).

Alex Sipiagin – trumpet, Chris Potter – tenor sax, David Kikoski – piano, Matt Brewer – bass, Johnathan Blake – drums.

This is hard bop – hard and fast, slow and tender, with virtuoso playing, sympathetic accompaniment, and a rich mix of solid originals and familiar modern jazz milestones.  This is about as good a band as one could park on a bandstand;  leaders in their own rights.  The rhythm section of Kikoski, Brewer and Blake drives and guides the first-flight front line.  Chris Potter is, as always, amazing.  If you like your jazz straight-ahead, you’ll love this.  Enjoy!

Malcolm Strachan – Point of No Return (Cellar Music/Haggis Music, 01/2023).

Malcolm Strachan – trumpet, Danny Barley – trombone, Atholl Ransome – tenor sax / flute, George Cooper – piano, Courtny Tomas – bass, Erroll Rollins – drums, Sam Bell – percussion, Jo Harrop – vocals. 

Scottish trumpeter Malcom Strachan was aiming for the sound that his hero Freddie Hubbard achieved in his early 70s CTI releases and if you love that vibe, this is for you.  He’s a talented trumpeter, but the overall sound is generally a little sweet for me.

… And catching up of some older releases, new to our music library

Jon Irabagon Quartet – Rising Sun (Irabbagast, 09/2022).

Jon Irabagon – tenor sax, Matt Mitchell – piano, Chris Lightcap – bass, Dan Weiss – drums.

The latest from Jon Irabagon (Dave Douglas, Mary Halvorson) opens with a slice of bebop frenzy on Sundance, a tenor – piano – bass – drums presentation with plenty of space for Matt Mitchell and the leader to tangle with each other, resolving eventually into a gentle swinger, only to go back into overdrive.  Irabagon’s writing on this disc is adventurous, inventive, sometimes starting and often quite beautiful.  Phil Freitas writes on Jazz Trail, that the band “evokes the folk jazz of Keith Jarrett, the avant-garde intensity of David Murray, and the sophistication of Sonny Rollins.”  Quite an achievement.  Matt Mitchell, Chris Lightcap, Dan Weiss – fabulous band with the addition of Miles Okazaki and an always interesting Adam O’Farrill, each on two cuts.  JazzTimes put the disc into its top 40 for 2022.

The Bad Plus – The Bad Plus (Edition, 09/2022).

Chris Speed – tenor sax, Ben Monder – guitar, Reid Anderson – bass, David King – drums.

Twenty-one years a trio, The Bad Plus have now recorded as a quartet.  Founder and pianist Ethan Iverson stepped away a couple of years back and the last two discs featured Orrin Evans in that seat.  Rather than bring in another pianist, remaining founders Anderson and King opted for tenor and guitar, radically changing their sound.  Dummer King has always had a rock (indie-rock? prog-rock?) side and this gets to stretch in the new mix.  The new members – guitarist Ben Monder (David Bowie, Paul Motian) and reed player Chris Speed (The Claudia Quintet, Tim Berne’s Bloodcount) bring affinities for jazz-rock/funk and the avant-garde, so be prepared.  This isn’t the same old The Bad Plus.

Steven Bernstein and The Hot Nine – Manifesto Of Henryisms (Community Music, Vol. 3) (Royal Potato Family, 05/2022).

Steven Bernstein – slide trumpet / trumpet, Curtis Fowlkes – trombone, Doug Wieselman – clarinet / tenor sax, Peter Apfelbaum – tenor sax / soprano sax, Erik Lawrence – baritone sax, Arturo O’Farrill – piano, John Medeski – organ / piano, Matt Munisteri – guitar, Brad Jones – bass, Donald Edwards – drums.  The third volume (of four so far) of Bernstein’s Community Music series features his Hot Nine (basically the same lineup as his Millennial Territory Orchestra), using the name of the band Bernstein co-founded with the late pianist Henry Butler.  As the title suggests, the disc is a tribute to Butler and the playlist is NOLA-bound (Joe Oliver, James Booker, Fats Domino / Dave Batholomew).  My Girl Josephine is very likely to strut its funky self right onto Induced to Judder.

Dave Douglas Sextet – Secular Psalms (Greenleaf Music, 04/2022).

Dave Douglas – trumpet / vocals, Berlinde Deman – serpant / tuba / vocals, Marta Wells – piano / organ, Frederik Leroux – guitar / lute / electronics, Tomeka Reid – cello, Lander Gyselinck – drums / electronics.

Like so many other COVID-era productions, this was recorded separately and remotely by each musician between May 2020 and August 2021.  The result is surprisingly coherent, as with many others created during this stressful period.  The disc is a suite commissioned by the city of Ghent to commemorate the 600th anniversary of the creation of the alterpiece at St. Bavo’s Cathedral.  Jerome Wilson on AllAboutJazz writes, “There is a sense of humility and awe about this music as though it is approaching some mysterious and powerful force. All its disparate threads combine into a moving whole with all the individual players acquitting themselves well, especially Douglas, Reid, Leroux and Gyselinck, whose drumming ties it all together. This majestic suite is one of the recent high points of Dave Douglas’ prolific career.”

Mark Turner Quartet – Return From The Stars(ECM, 03/2022).

Jason Palmer – trumpet, Mark Turner – tenor sax, Joe Martine – bass, Jonathan Pinson – drums.

It’s been eight years (eight l-o-n-g years for Mark Turner fans), since 2014’s Lathe of Heaven, and it is worth the wait. As with the last time, the quartet is trumpet – tenor – bass – drums, a lineup that allows for the sparest of arrangements.  But this time, Jason Palmer (Matana Roberts, Noah Preminger) is on trumpet, in lieu of Avishai Cohen.  As great as Cohen is, he isn’t missed.  Palmer and Turner each sound great and they sound fabulous together.  Consisting of 10 Turner originals, this is a beautiful disc!  Hopefully, we don’t have to wait another eight years…

Avishai Cohen Quartet – Naked Truth(ECM, 02/2022).

Avishai Cohen – trumpet, Yonathan Avishai – piano, Barak Mori – bass, Ziv Ravits – drums.

A lovely disc, if not radically different from Cohen’s previous offerings.  Area Mahdawi writes in The Guardian, “Cohen’s soft, perfectly rounded notes, leaning graceful lullabies into Mori’s plummy bass sound, give way to gentle piano ostinatos coaxed by whispering cymbals that build a rising insistence; elegantly classical modulations over mallet rolls resolve in mournful high-pitched horn lines and startlingly nimble runs; almost ceremonial bugle-like calls turn to quivering laments.”  Like she said.

Courtney Pine – Spirituality (Destin-E Records, 01/2022).

Courtney Pine – bass clarinet, Zoe Rahman – piano, Elaine Blair – violin, Natalie Taylor – viola, Mira Glenn – viola, Jenny Adejayan – cello. 

Multi-reed player Courtney Pine has been a revered character and important player in British jazz since the 80s. This project reunites him with sympathetic pianist Zoe Rahman (as on 2015’s Song – the Ballad Book).  Unfortunately, half the tunes feature a string quartet playing indifferent charts.  The selections that feature just bass clarinet and piano are outstanding, particularly Motherless Child.

So much great music.  I hope this helps you discover something new.

Russell Perry

Jazz at 100 Now!


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