New Jazz Releases – 02/13/2023

Christian McBride

Christian McBride’s New Jawn – Prime. (Mack Avenue / Brother Mister, 02/2023)Josh Evans – trumpet, Marcus Strickland – tenor sax / bass clarinet, Christian McBride – bass, Nasheet Waits – drums. 

Christian McBride is on a roll – in the DownBeat’s 2022 Readers Poll, artist of the year, bassist of the year and producer of the year.   McBride brings back the band that produced the celebrated New Jawn release in 2018 – trumpeter Josh Evans (Jackie McLean, Cedar Walton, Rasheid Ali), saxophonist and bass clarinetist Marcus Strickland (Roy Haynes, Jeff “Tain” Watts, Robert Glasper), and drummer Nasheet Waits (Jason Moran, Joe Lovano, John Medeski). The disc features a mix of band originals with tunes from Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman and Larry Young.  These players are at the top of their game.  Look for this one on “best of…” lists at the end of the year.

Steve Fidyk Live Wire Broad Band – Red Beats(Blue Canteen Music, 02/2023).  Luke Brandon, Graham Breedlove, Kevin Burns, Andrew Carson, Thomas Eby, Tamela Fidyk, Matt Gallagher, Chris Kaplan, Tim Leahey, Tyler Mire, Fareed Simpson-Hankins – trumpets, Scott Blanke, Hailey Brinnel, Kevin Cerovich, Sam Gellerstein, Ian Kaufman, Jane Kraft, Randy Kapralick, Omeed E Nyman, Harry Watters – trombones, Mark allen, Mike Cemprola, Chris Farr, Daniel Henson, Joseph Henson, Josh Lee, Xavier Perez, Walt Weiskopf – saxophones, Christopher Ziemba – piano, Brain Charette – organ, Jeff Barone, Michael Kramer, Parris Spivey, Jack Wilkins – guitar, Regan Brough, Micah Jones, Nathan Kawaller, Jack Synoski – bass, Steve Fidyk – drums.

Hard-driving big band under the direction drummer / educator Steve Fidyk performing the leader’s compositions.

Delfeayo Marsalis and the Uptown Jazz Orchestra – Uptown On Mardi Gras Day (Troubadour Pass Records, 02/2023).  Scott Frock – trumpet, Andrew Baham – trumpet, John Gray – trumpet,  Mike Christie – trumpet, Delfeayo Marsalis – trombone, Terrance “Hollywood” Taplin – trombone, TJ Norris – trombone, Ethan Santos – trombone, Khari Allen Lee – alto sax / soprano sax, Amari Ansari – alto sax, Branford Marsalis – tenor sax, Roderick Paulin – tenor sax, Scott Johnson – tenor sax, Roger Lewis – baritone sax, Trevarri Huff-Boone – baritone sax, Gregory “Speedo” Agid – clarinet, Kyle Roussell – piano, Davell Crawford – piano, Arnold Little III – guitar, David Pulphus – bass, William “Mobetta” Ledbetter – bass, Chris Severin – bass, Jason “Smiley” Stewart – bass, Herlin Riley – drums, Marvin “Smitty Smith – drums, Alexey Marti – congas.

In New Orleans, the gap between RnB and Jazz lets no light through.  Delfeayo Marsalis has assembled a cracking orchestra that brings the funk to big band charts.  This is just what you might expect – All on a Mardi Gras Day, Big Chief, They All Ask For You, Mardi Gras Mambo.  Put your beads on!  This is comfort food for your ears.

Libby York – Dreamland (Origin Arts, 02/2023). Randy Napoleon – guitar, Rodney Whitaker – bass, Keith Hall – drums, Libby York – vocals.

York’s first disc in a decade is soft and intimate affair.  Lovers of classic jazz singing from the end of the swing era will enjoy this collection from the Great American Songbook.  Mostly, the selections are familiar but not over-exposed.  Billy Barnes’ Something Cool brings June Christy’s whispery version to mind.  Napoleon and Whitaker (and on four selections, Hall) provide a very sympathetic cushion for these casual and mature interpretations.

The Verve Jazz Ensemble – All In (Light Source Media, 05/2023).  Tabum Greenblabb – trumpet, Willie Applewhite – trombone, Alexa Tarantino – alto sax / flute, John Blanck – tenor sax, Matt Oestreicher – piano / guitar, Elias Bailey – bass, Josh Feldstein – drums.

This is the eighth release by the proudly mainstream collective.  The return of Alexa Tarantino on alto is a welcome addition to the four-horn front line. 

Mark Lockett – Swings and Roundabouts (Thick Records, 02/2023).  Duane Eubanks – trumpet, David Binney – saxophone, Matt Penman – bass, Mark Lockett – drums.  

New Zealand drummer Mark Lockett leads a cordless quartet (sax – trumpet – bass – drums) in the model of Ornette Coleman.  Saxophonist David Binney (Donny McCaslin, Joel Harrison, Uri Caine), bassist Matt Penman (Joshua Redman, SF Jazz Collective), and trumpeter Duane Eubanks (Dave Holland Big Band, Mulgrew Miller) make up a fine ensemble for this collection of compelling compositions by the leader.

Mark Ortwein – It Was Time (Self-published, 02/2023).  Kenny Rampton – trumpet, Mark Ortwein – bass clarinet / tenor sax / electrified bassoon / baritone sax / flute / clarinet / alto sax / soprano sax, Frank Glover -piano / string patches, Pavel Polanko-Safadit – piano / congas, Paul Lagford – piano, Gary Walters – piano, John Fell – guitar, Olas Ortwein – bass, Peter Hansen – bass, Frances Wyatt – drums, Matt McGraw – drums, Craig Hetrick – drums, Carrington Clinton – drums, Johnny Concannon – drums, Jon Gabriel – percussion, Josh Kaufman – vocals.

Orchestral bassoonist (Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra) and educator (University of Indianapolis) Mark Ortwein has recorded a set of originals and reimagined standards featuring his skill on a myriad of reed instruments.

Various Artists – Transmissions from Total Refreshment Centre(Blue Note, 02/2023).  Soccor96, Byron Wallen, Jake Long, Matters Unknown, Zeitgeist Freedom Energy Exchange, Neue Graffik, Resavoir.

Per Blue Note Records, “All the best music has a community underneath it, and the extended family around [Total Refreshment Center]—a music venue and recording studio … that serves as a vital hub in London’s jazz scene—connects continents and generations, creating the rich relationships that are in full effect on Transmissions From Total Refreshment Centre. The collection draws from new school jazz, hip hop, dub, soul, funk, and drill: sounds you’ll hear trailing out of cars as they spin up the Kingsland Road or spiraling out of doorways like so much smoke.”  These acts are largely unfamiliar to me (so much music!) and the music covers a very wide range.  Notable is Byron Wallen’s track Closed Circle featuring Byron Wallen’s trumpet (Jazz Warriors, Binker and Moses) and Tony Kofi’s baritone (Alina Bzhezhinska & HipHarpCollective, Gary Crosby’s Nu Troop) over a driving string quartet anchored by the drums of Tom Skinner (Sons of Kemet).

Satoko Fujii & Otomo Yoshihide – Perpetual Motion(Ayler Records, 02/2023). Satoko Fujii – piano, Otomo Yoshihide – guitar.

Given their positions as giants of the Japanese avant-garde and their regular recording schedules, one would have imagined that by their mid-sixties, pianist Satoko FujIi and guitarist Otomo Yoshihide must certainly have recorded together.  In fact, this is their first musical meeting and they have a definite rapport.  By turns harsh and peaceful, loud and dreamy, this disc will reward close listening.

Leap Day Trio – Live at the Cafe Bohemia(Giant Step Arts, 02/2023).  Jeff Lederer – saxophone, Mimi Jones – bass, Matt Wilson – drums.

Kenny Dorham, Randy Weston, Art Blakey, and Charles Mingus all recored there; Oscar Pettiford wrote Bohemia After Dark about it, but the Cafe Bohemia was actually only alive for five years and closed 60 years ago.  Now it’s back.  Four months in to the new era, the Leap Day Trio convened to record this offering.  Jeff Lederer and Matt Wilson have collaborated on many releases over the past thirty years and exhibit a tight chemistry.  New to their collaboration is rising-star bassist Mimi Jones.  By turns melodic and free, this is an exciting and well-played disc.

Ben Rosenbaum Nebula Project – A Thousand Pebbles (Ben Rosenblum, 02/2023).  Wayne Tucker – triumpet / flugelhorn, Xavier Del Castillo – tenor sax / flute, Jasper Dutz –  alto sax / bass clarinet / clarinet / alto flute, Ben Rosenblum – piano / accordion, Rafael Rosa –  guitar, Marty Jaffe – bass, Ben Zweig – drums / percussion.

CouleursJazz writes, “A bit of Jewish tradition, Bulgarian tunes, traces of blues, jazz that is both modern and rooted in tradition, tasty solos, a supple tonic pulse, a group sound that is totally personal and beautifully worked… And this melting pot never sounds artificial as the cohesion of the group and the individual sounds of the musicians constitute the cement that holds the whole together… At the same time bathed in tradition and open to various influences, Ben Rosenblum‘s music breathes life, invites to dance, sings in full voice. In short, it is hard to see who could resist its charm, from the most hardened jazz fan to the most candid neophyte.  A convivial music, therefore, admirably shaped and totally delightful.” And a taste of accordion, give this one a listen.

Jesse Davis – Live at Smalls Jazz Club (Cedar Music, 01/2023).  Jesse Davis – alto sax, Spike Wilner – piano, Peter Washington – bass, Joe Farnsworth – drums.

New Orleans native and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts alum Jesse Davis emerged in the 1990’s as one of the “Young Lions.”  After recording extensively in the 90s, he took a two decade hiatus in Italy, but now he is roaring back.  On AllAboutJazz, Jack Bowers writes of the comparison between Jesse Davis and Cannonball Adderley, “Like Adderley, Davis takes pleasure in performing arduous and dazzling runs up and down the horn; like Adderley, he delights in borrowing brief phrases from other songs to enrich his already tantalizing ad-libs; and like Adderley, he is never at a loss for a suitable proviso or discourse… [C]omparisons aside, Davis is one of the more eloquent and enterprising alto saxophonists on the contemporary scene.”  A fine and overdue disc.

Falkner Evans – Through The Lens (Consolidated Artists Productions, 01/2023)Falkner Evans – solo piano.

George Harris at Jazz Weekly writes, “Pianist Falkner Evans goes gently into solo format for five nocturnes on this latest release. The tunes range from 5-10 minutes, with each piece filled with patience and melody. There’s a gentle tide to pieces like “Soul Witness”, with a warm and fluffy left hand on “Blues For Lucia”. Longing and sustained chords fill up “Living Forever” with space being used as a sound on the intimate and dark “Closeness…Desire”.  Reflective and long shadows on the wall.”  Lovely.

Bobby West – Big Trippin’ (Soulville Sound Recordings, 01/2023).  Bobby West – piano.

Bobby West grew up in Los Angeles on a diet of Hampton Hawes and Horace Tapscott – LA keyboard legends.  For better opportunities to play, as a young man he relocated to the Middle-East and later Asia for 30 years.  Now back in the States since 2021, he brings his powerful attack and fleet fingers to a trio program of covers and originals on his second release as a leader.  A very satisfying collection.

Ant Law & Alex Hitchcock – Same Moon In The Same World (Outside In Music, 11/2022).  Alex Hitchcock – tenor Sax, Tim Garland – bass clarinet, Shai Maestro – piano, Joel Ross – vibraphone, At Law – guitar, Linda May Han Oh – bass, Ben Williams – bass, Eric Harland – drums, Jeff Ballard – drums, Kendrick Scott – drums, Sun-Mi Hong – drums.

Another amazing collaboration recorded remotely across continents as required by the protocols of 2020 / 2021.  The set of originals by the leaders is more melodic than one might expect from their recent efforts.  The London Jazz News calls it a “lively, optimistic album” and I’d agree.  Look at the lineup!  Joel Ross and Linda May Han Oh are standouts, especially on Vivid which features  wordless vocals by Oh meshed with Hitchcock’s tenor.

Biophilia Records has sent us a number of releases that we missed over the past few years.  Here is the best of the bunch:

Adam O’Farrill and Stranger Days – Visions Of Your Other (Biophilia, 12/2021).  Adam O’Farrill – trumpet, Xavier Del Castillo – tenor sax, Walter Stinson – bass, Zack O’Farrill – drums.

Adam O’Farrill (heir to the O’Farrill jazz dynasty – grandfather Chico / father Arturo) brings back his cordless quartet for its third release, this time with Xavier Del Castillo in the front line.  Farrell can play with conviction in so many different settings (Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra, Anna Webber) that it is no wonder many see him as one of the next great trumpet innovators (#1 Rising Star trumpeter, 2021 Downbeat Critics Poll).  This is a beautiful disc, filled with lovely compositions and compelling playing by all four quartet members.

María Grand – Reciprocity (Biophilia, 05/2021).  Maria Grand – tenor sax / vocals, Kanoa Mendenhall – bass / vocals, Savannah Harris – drums / vocals.

Maria Grand records her second disc with a tenor trio and the results are spare and illuminating.  Each player is fully exposed and their interplay is at times intense and at other times comforting.  Hrayr Attarian writes on AllAboutJazz, “Reciprocity is a stimulating, cohesive opus which showcases Grand’s brilliance to its fullest. That [drummer Savannah] Harris and [bassist Kanoa] Mendenhall also share Grand’s aesthetic vision makes this work even more delightful and fascinating. It is a personal and intriguing statement from a uniquely talented musician.”

Sara Serpa Quartet – Recognition (Biophilia, 06/2020).  Mark Turner – tenor sax, David Virelles – piano, Zeena Parkins – harp, Sara Serpa – vocals.

This is an adventurous disc, the soundtrack for a film that Sara Serpa made about Portuguese colonialism in Angola.  It doesn’t swing, as one might expect of a jazz release, then maybe this isn’t “jazz” per se.  The handpicked first-rate musicians realize Serpa’s tough compositions, sometimes with surreal beauty as when Serpa’s voice and Mark Turner’s tenor unite into an unearthly whole.  Turner, as always, is exceptional.  As JD Considine wrote in Downbeat, “As for the spoken-word pieces, even without the historical context, the emotional power … makes the message of Recognition impossible to deny.”

Rajna Swaminathan – Of Agency and Abstraction (Biophilia, 04/2019).  Amir ElSaffar – trumpet, Maria Grand – tenor sax, Miles Okazaki – guitar, Anjna Swaminathan – violin, Stephan Crump – bass, Rajna Swaminathan – mridandam.

JD Considine of Jazz times write, “Rajna Swaminathan is a virtuoso on the mrudangam, the two-headed, tuned hand drum essential to Carnatic music, and in a surprisingly brief time has made a name for herself both in Indian classical music and jazz. But Of Agency and Abstraction is not just another entry in the catalog of Indian-flavored jazz albums. As a composer conversant in multiple styles of improvisation, Swaminathan seems most interested in exploring relationships between pitch and rhythm across various musical traditions, an idea that draws heavily from Carnatic music theory but also has a significant footprint in jazz.”  The disc features some beautiful playing by Maria Grand on tenor and Miles Okazaki on guitar.

Early in the year we reviewed the Griffin Woodard Group release Completion and got the personnel wrong.  Here is the correct line-up with the original review:

Griffin Woodard Group – Completion (Praise Message): Griffin Woodard – bass clarinet / composer, Georgia Heers – vocals, Deneen Jones – vocals, Coleman Rose – soprano and tenor sax, Miles Gilbert – bass, Hugh Kline – drums.  “Griffin Woodard’s debut album, Completion, is an uninhibited, autobiographical recount of potent memories and experiences that shaped the course of his life. The 10 original compositions and 1 arrangement chronicle Woodard’s formative experiences and lessons in love, isolation, connection, and spirituality. ‘The Completion album has nothing to do with endings. The word completion means to me, spiritual wholeness,’ states Woodard.” to songs from this album.

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

Russell Perry

Jazz at 100 Now!


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