New Jazz Releases – 02/20/2023

Brad Mehldau

There is a lot of new music this week, in part because we suspended actively recording the new releases during the very successful Folk Mararthon.  Some great new music noted below from Brad Mehldau, Buster Williams and Jim Snidero.  Enjoy.

Brad Mehldau – Your Mother Should Know: Brad Mehldau Plays the Beatles (Nonesuch, 02/2023).  Brad Mehldau – solo piano. 

Brad Mehldau is no stranger to taking pop tunes and finding the inspiration for invention.  He’s even covered The Beatles before (Blackbird on 1997’s The Art of the Trio, Vol. 1), but now he has recorded an entire (live) program of music from Lennon – McCartney, plus If I Needed Someone by George Harrison and you can “drop the needle” anywhere and be surprised and delighted.  Matt Collar writes on AllMusic, “What’s particularly enjoyable about Mehldau’s approach is how he keeps each song recognizable while making it his own, as on “I Am the Walrus,” where he implies John Lennon’s throaty psychedelia with tiny moments of dissonance. Similarly, the already lullaby-like “For No One” is given a delicate, dancerly quality in the swinging Paul McCartney style. Perhaps most compelling is his bittersweet reading of “Here, There and Everywhere,” transforming the song into a softly moving ballad that evokes the classic ’60s style of Bill Evans.”  Admittedly, I approached this disc with a little skepticism and boy was that unnecessary.  This is a fine piece of work and belongs near the top of Mehldau’s growing discography.

Dan Trudell – Fishin’Again: A Tribute to Clyde Stubblefield & Dr. Lonnie Smith (OA2 Records, 02/2023).  Joel Adams – trombone, Pat Mallinger – alto sax, John Wojciechowski – tenor sax, Dan Trudell – organ / keyboard / vocals, Mike Standal – guitar, Dana Hall – drums. 

Dan Trudell co-led a band with the late drummer Clyde Stubblefield (James Brown) and assembled a funky band to record tunes he wrote for that band.  They assembled in the studio the day after his friend and mentor Dr. Lonnie Smith died, so the disc has a dual dedication.  The results are swinging, toe-tapping, and somewhat predictable.

Okonski – Magnolia (Colemine Records, 02/2023).  Steve Okanski – piano, Michael Isvara “Ish” Montgomery – bass, Aaron Frazier – drums.

If these players are not familiar, it may be because they constitute part of the Bloomington, Indiana neo-soul group Durand Jones and the Indications.  We should take this occasion to welcome them to the jazz-o-sphere.  Pianist Steve Okanski and his trio mates created all the tunes in this release through improvising in several late-night sessions.  While not “composed”, there is significant structure and order to the pieces and beautiful playing throughout.  A gentle, introspective, and thoughtful set.  Give it a listen.

Charlie Peacock featuring Eddie Henderson & Dangerboy – Keep Movin’ (Meta, Inc. Records, 02/2023). Eddie Henderson – trumpet, Matthew White – trumpet, Jeff Coffin – flute / tenor sax, Charlie Peacock – keyboards / piano, Mike Clark – drums, Joey Waronker – drums, Dangerboy-rap. 

Heavy dance beat peppered with occasional jazz improvisation.  I might suggest that you get your Eddie Henderson fix instead from The Cookers’ 2021 release Look Out or his own 2020 release Shuffle and Deal.

Jim Snidero featuring Kurt Rosenwinkel – Far Far Away (Savant, 02/2023).  Jim Snidero – tenor sax, Orrin Evans – piano, Kurt Rosenwinkel – guitar, Peter Washington – bass, Joe Farnsworth – drums. 

Jim Snidero is an heroic, if under-appreciated alto player.  His last release, Live at the Dear Head Inn was a five-star effort, anchored by this same Evans – Washington – Farnsworth super rhythm section.  This time around, he adds in the legendary guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel.  I could listen to this band play ballads all day.  Rogers and Hammerstein’s It Might As Well Be Spring and McCoy Tyner’s Search For Peace are standouts.  The other six tracks are fine examples of Snidero’s writing.

Anthony Branker & Imagine – What Place Can Be For Us? A Suite in Ten Movements (Origin Records, 02/2023).  Philip Dizack – trumpet, Remy Le Boeuf – alto sax / soprano sax, Walter Smith III – tenor sax, Fabian Almazan – piano, Pete McCann – guitar, Linda May Han Oh – bass, Donald Edwards – drums, Alison Crockett – vocals.

Prompted by the forced mass migration of Syrian civilians during the civil war, composer (and product of an immigrant family) Anthony Bracken asks What Place Can Be For Us?  Thierry Docmac of Paris Move writes, “Anthony Branker’s compositions are luxuriously packaged in both classical and jazz forms, blending and intermingling to the point of no longer knowing what planet we are on, except for that of an exceptional composer, in front of whom one can feel small, due to the grandeur of his work.”  A composer of significant substance, Branken also directs the Princeton University Jazz Program.

Jivko Petrov Trio – On The Way(Self-Produced, 02/2023).  Jivko Petrov – piano, Dimitar Karamfilov – bass, Dimitar Semov – drums. 

Bulgarian pianist Jivko Petrov and his long-time trio mates have produced a lovely recording of the leader’s compositions reflecting settings across the world (e.g. Girl from Argentina, London After the Rain).  This is relaxed and spacious music.

Dave Liebman – Live at Smalls (Cellar Music, 02/2023). Peter Evans – trumpet, Dave Liebman – saxophones, Leo Genovese – piano, John Hébert – bass, Tyshawn Sorey – drums). 

Mike Jurkovic writes on AllAboutJazz, “Gathered onstage by NEA Jazz Master Liebman, the next generation of thinkers and creators … take on the fevered squalls and quiescent sea of inspiration to witness the collective anxiety of this current moment dissipate, then coalesce into and with the music past, present, and future. A newly minted nugget in the Smalls’ Live Living Masters Series [as with the recent Jesse Davis release], Dave Liebman: Live at Smalls takes its place in the larger spectrum of ideas which does exist if only we would open ourselves to the infinite possibilities that these musicians give themselves to as a matter of course, with a genuine respect and enthusiasm which makes performances like this one not only possible, but memorable.”  Seventy-five minutes of freely improvised music to challenge and reward your ears.

Diego Rivera – Love & Peace (Posi-tone Records, 02/2023).  Diego Rivera – tenor sax / soprano sax, Art Hirahara – piano, Boris Kozlov – bass, Rudy Royston – drums.

Posi-Tone Records all-star rhythm section of Hirahara, Kozlov, and Royston (Alex Sipiagin, Alexa Tarantino, Behn Gillece) join terrific saxophonist Diego Rivera in a stirring and often emotional set.  Consisting of Horace Silvers’ Peace on soprano, Coltrane’s Alabama and Violeta Parra’s Gracias a la Vida on tenor, and eight solid originals, there is a familiar late-50s vibe to much of this and Rivera and the other players are more than strong enough to pull it off.  Pay attention to this one.

Joe Locke – Makram (Circle 9 Records, 02/2023).  Tim Garland – soprano sax / bass clarinet / flute, Eric C. Davis – french horn, Doug Beavers – trombone, Jennifer Wharton – bass trombone / tuba, Jim Ridl – piano / synthesizers, Joe Locke – vibraphone / keyboards, Samir Nasr Eddine – oud, Bahaa Daou – riq, Lorin Cohen – bass, Samvel Sarkisyan – drums / cymbals. 

Joe Locke has contributed to a wide range of projects in his long career to date (e.g. Dave Douglas, Ron Carter, Thomas Marriott, Eddie Henderson, Jim Rotondi), so it is no surprise, perhaps, that his latest release covers a lot of ground: elegy – Song for Vic Juris & Raise Heaven (For Roy) [Harper], world music – Makram, smooth jazz – Tuskin, up-tempo hard bop – Love for Sale.  The highlight for me is the solo version of Billy Strayhorn’s Lush Life.

Danielle Wertz – Other Side (Outside In Music, 02/2023). Samuel Priven – alto sax, Javier Santiago – piano / organ / keyboards / synthesizer, Keith Ganz – guitar, Owen Clapp – bass, Evan Hyde – drums / percussion, Danielle Wertz – vocal.

Danielle Wertz has put together an intimate release of mostly soft and breathy ballads, with the occasional up-tempo romp.  My favorite is in the latter category – a wordless vocal on her composition When the Walls Crumble, We Return.  Guitarist Keith Ganz (Kate McGarry) plays beautifully in support on Cloud Shaped Thoughts.

Buster Williams Something More Sextet – Unalome (Smoke Sessions Records, 02/2023). Bruce Williams – saxophone / flute, George Colligan – piano, Stefon Harris – vibraphone, Buster Williams – bass, Lenny White – drums, Jean Baylor – vocals).

Buster Williams played with everyone (really – Miles, Blakey, Chet, Chick, Dexter, Sonny) since the mid-60s and in the new millennium has recorded steadily as a leader.  Now 80, he shows no sign of letting up.  His playing is better than ever (what a fabulous tone!) as evidenced by this strong outing.  Jean Baylor (Baylor Project) sings beautifully and totally owns a set of laid-back ballads, several by the leader.  Don’t be surprised to find this disc among your favorites for 2023.

Mason Razavi – Six-String Standards (OA2 Records, 02/2023).  Mason Razavi solo – guitar.

This is a beautifully played set of very familiar standards (as advertised.)

Brad Goode – The Unknown (Origin Records, 02/2023).  Brad Goode – trumpet, Jeff Jenkins – piano, Seth Lewis – bass, Paa Kow – drums / percussion. 

Brad Goode’s latest has been compared favorably to 80s Miles.  If that’s your thing, dive in.  It’s not mine.  Just saying.

Jeff Lofton – Silver’s Strut (Tiger Turn Productions, 01/2023).  Jeff Lofton – trumpet / flugel horn, Andre Hayward – trombone, Jake Lampa – tenor sax, Sean Giddings – piano, James Suter – bass, Brannen Temple – drums, Mac Macintosh – vocals.

An Austin, Texas favorite, trumpeter Jeff Lofton has a sound right out of the late fifties, down to the Harmon mute and he wears his Miles chops proudly.

Eric Goletz – Standard-Ized (CAP Records, 01/2023). Eric Goltz – trombone / piano, Don Braden – soprano sax, Jim Ridl – piano, Henry Heinitsh – guitar, Marco Panascia – bass, Brian Glassman – bass, Steve Johns – drums, Joe Mowatt – percussion, LaJuan Carter – vocals.

Twenty-five years ago, Jazziz magazine voted trombonist Eric Goletz one of the Top 10 Unsigned Artists in the world.  This release of pop and jazz standards features Goletz as the lead soloist and he surely does have chops.  Some of the arrangements with strings leave me cold, but the three Horace Silver tunes are swinging – Mayreh, Jungle Juice and especially a very Latin Nutsville.

Mike Dillon & Punkadelic – Inflorescence (Royal Potato Family, 01/2023).  Brian Haas-key/p/moog/melodica, Mike Dillon-vib/mar/cga/bga, Nikki Glaspie-d/cym/voc.

S. Victor Aaron of Something Else writes, “America’s favorite gonzo percussionist has a whole new band with the same bad-assed attitude. Mike Dillon, long admired in this space for taking the vibraphone and marimba to all the fun places has a new fun release Inflorescence where he lets it all hang out (he’s incapable of doing otherwise). Often pigeonholed into jazz in the broadest sense because no one is really sure where to place him, and that probably suits him just fine.”  Mostly jazz-adjacent to my ears, but maybe that’s what you are looking for…

Planet D Nonet – Blues To Be There, A Salute to Duke Ellington (East Lawn, 12/2022).  James O’Donnell – trumpet / percussion, Charlie Miller – trumpet / flugel horn, John Tbone Paxton – trombone / percussion / vocals, Alex Colista – alto sax / soprano sax, Christopher Tabaczynski – tenor sax / clarinet, Goode Wyche III – baritone sax / clarinet, Michael Zaporski – piano / background vocals, Trevor Lamb – bass, RJ Spangler – drums, Sean Perlmutter – drums / cowbell.

Nine years ago, Detroit’s Planet D Nonet released a loving tribute entitled A Salute to Strayhorn, which hewed pretty closely to a Greatest Hits list.  Filled with fun and fine ensemble work, that effort paved the way for this Ellington collection, but this time the band stuck primarily to lesser known cuts (e.g. Pie Eye Blues from Money Jungle, Chinoiserie from Afro-Eurasian Suite, Blues To Be There from Ellington at Newport ’56).  Tigress, Purple Gazelle (later recorded with Coltrane as Angelica) and Moonbow all hail from the little-known but well-regarded1963 release Afro Bossa.  Interestingly, the least compelling selection is Take The A-Train by Billy Strayhorn, with a retread of Betty Roché’s legendary scat chorus.  Returning to the Duke from time-to-time has its own rewards, this disc included.

… and here are some older releases that are now coming into our library:

Manuel Valera New Cuban Express Big Band – Distancia(Greenleaf Music, 03/2022).  Brian Pareschi, Michael Rodriguez, Stuart Mack, David Smith, Alex Norris – trumpet, Matt MacDonald, John Yao, Mike Fahie, Andy Clausen, Sam Blakeslee – trombone, Jeff Nelson-bass trombone, Michael Thomas-alto sax / soprano sax / flute, Roman Filiu-alto sax / flute, Remy LeBoeuf – alto sax / flute, Joel Frahm – tenor sax, Jeremy Powell – Tenor sax / clarinet, Andrew Gutauskas – baritone sax / bass clarinet, Manuel Valera – piano, Alex Goodman – guitar, Ricky Rodriguez – bass, Hamish Smith – bass, Jimmy MacBride – drums, Samuel Torres – percussion, Camila Meza – vocal, Bogna Kicińska – vocal. 

A fine big band delivering a sensitively-carved and personal set with influences from Cuba, Puerto Rico and Brazil.  Pianist Valera (Paquito D’Rivera, Arturo Sandoval) uses the ensemble to capture a variety of moods and textures as only a big band can.

Steven Bernstein’s Millennial Territory Orchestra – Good Time Music (Community Music, Vol. 2)(Royal Potato Family, 01/2022).  Steven Bernstein – slide trumpet / trumpet, Curtis Fowlkes – trombone, Doug Wieselman – clarinet / tenor sax, Peter Apfelbaum – tenor sax / soprano sax, Erik Lawrence – baritone sax, Matt Munisteri – guitar, Ben Allison – bass, Ben Perowsky – drums, Catherine Russell – vocals.

In his second release (of four so far) in the Community Music series, Steven Bernstein brings singer Catherine Russell into the mix.  Percy Mayfield’s River’s Invitation and Allen Toussaint’s Yes We Can have the Millennial Territory Orchestra in familiar NOLA territory, and the rest of the set doesn’t wander too far from there.  Stay tuned, Catherine Russell has a new disc of her own in the works.

Steven Bernstein Millennial Territory Orchestra – Tinctures In Time (Community Music, Vol. 1)  (Royal Potato Family, 09/2021).  Steven Bernstein – trumpet / slide trumpet / flugelhorn, Curtis Fowlkes – trombone, Doug Wielselman – clarint, Peter Apfelbaum – tenor sax, Erik Lawrence – baritone sax, Matthew Munisteri – guitar / banjo, Charlie Burnham – violin, Ben Allison – bass, Ben Perowsky – drums.

During  a tough year of personal loss and then the beginning of the pandemic Steven Bernstein was drawn to the comfort of work and began composing music.  The result is the first of what has become four volumes of music by the Millennium Territory Orchestra, but in this case his first release of all original music.  Writing as if he had a big band of interlocking sections (trumpets – trombones – reeds – rhythm), Bernstein’s arrangements for his nonet celebrate the space and spareness of the smaller ensemble. To me, this is the most interesting of the Community Music releases.

Alfa Mist – Bring Backs (Anti-, 04/2021). Johnny Woodham-tp, Sam Rapley – tenor sax / bass clarinet, Alfa Mist – piano / synthesizer / vocal, Jamie Leeming – guitar, Peggy Nolan – cello, Kaya Thomas-Dyke – bass / vocals, Rocco Palladino – bass, Jamie Houghton – drums, Richard Spaven – drums, Junior Alli-Balogun – percussion, Hilary Thomas – vocals, Lex Amor – vocals.

Ken Micallef of Jazz Times writes, “London-based producer, pianist, and MC Alfa Mist has generated a growing stateside buzz, with his earlier releases Nocturne (2015), Antiphon (2017), and Structuralism (2019) positing ’70s funk-jazz tempered by hip-hop as undying source and sustenance.”  Pensive and soulful.

Miguel Zenón & Luis Perdomo – El Arte Del Bolero (Miel Music, 01/2021). Miguel Zenón – alto sax, Luis Perdomo – piano.

As a follow up to 2019’s wonderful Sonero (The Music Of Ismael Rivera), Puerto Rican altoist Miguel Zenon created a project based on the 1950’s bolero era, this time with only piano accompaniment from Luis Perdomo.  John Murph at Downbeat wrote, “Zenón’s silvery tone has matured and developed a more supple allure, while his phrasing is as expressive as it is fluid. El Arte Del Bolero brings out the sensualist in him…”. In a discography that keeps adding tender and heart-felt music, this one stands among the best.  I love Miguel Zenón’s playing.

John Bailey – Can You Imagine? (Freedom Road, 02/2020).  John Bailey – trumpet / flugelhorn, Stafford Hunter – trombone, Earl McIntyre – bass trombone / tuba, Janet Axelrod – flute / alto flute / bass flute, Stacy Dillard – ts/ss, Edsel Gomez-p, Mike Karn-b, Victor Lewis-d/per.

After recently reviewing John Bailey’s latest, Time Bandits, I looked back into his catalog to see what I might have missed.  This release from 2020 was one omission for sure.  As with the recent disc, this is a hard-bopping affair, mostly from the pen of the leader, but also from drummer Victor Lewis and tenorist Stacey Dillard among others.  The highlight is the 2020 election-year suite based on Dizzy Gillespie’s unsuccessful run for president in 1964 – President Gillespie Suite.  Can You Imagine?, indeed.

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

Russell Perry

Jazz at 100 Now!

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