New Jazz Releases – 02/27/2023

Jane Bunnett and Maqueque

A smaller collection of discs this week, but what is lacking in quantity is redeemed by quality. Check out the new release by Charlottesville-favorite Jane Bunnett and Maqueque, Kendrick Scott (in a trio for a change) and Tyler Mitchell and his octet from outer space.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque – Playing With Fire (Linus Entertainment, 03/2023).  Jane Bunnett – flute / soprano sax, Danae Olano – piano / vocals, Donna Grantis – guitar, Daniela Olano – violin / vocals, Tailin Marrero – bass / vocals, Yissy Garcia – drums, Mary Paz – percussion / vocals, Gerald French – tambourines / cowbell, Joanna Majoko – vocals.  

Personnel in Maqueque has not changed since the last release (On Firm Ground / Terra Firme, 2019), except for the addition of pianist Danae Olano’s sister Daniela, on violin (also adding another voice to the chorus).  The new voice on violin is featured to good account on a personal favorite – Daniela’s Theme.  Count on this release, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the band, for dancing Latin rhythms, the voices of many women singing – alone and in beautiful choruses, and Jane Bunnett’s exciting soprano sax and flute.  The program is eight originals from the band plus Bud Powell’s Tempus Fugit and Mingus’ Jump Monk, both performed at a blistering pace with wordless vocals.  I’ve loved seeing this band when they have come to Charlottesville and look forward to their return.  This is a keeper.

Alex Baird – Lemon Tree (Next Records, 05/2022).  Thomas Marriott – trumpet, Darrell Grant – piano / keys, Lucas Winter – guitar, Clark Sommers – bass, Mark Ferber – drums, Alex Baird-voc.

There aren’t many vocalists taking a stab the demanding art of vocalise these days.  Alex Baird, whose voice has a timbre that recalls Sara Gazarek or Kate McGarry, tackles Hank Mobley’s This I Dig of You (as It’s You I Dig) and Dexter Gordon’s solo on Kenny Durham’s Blue Bossa (as It’s No Time to be Blue).  In both cases, the demanding lyrics are written by Baird.  In addition to six original tunes, Baird and her capable band (featuring Thomas Marriott on trumpet) interpret a set of standards like Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered and Still Crazy After All These Years.

Sanah Kadoura & Duality – Duality  (Self Produced, 03/2023).  Rachel Therrien – flugelhorn / trumpet, Stacy Dillard – soprano sax, Virginia MacDonald – clarinet, Michael King – piano / keyboards / organ, Flavio Silva – guitar, Jonathan Michel – bass, Sanah Kadoura – drums / cymbals / backing vocals, Joanna Majoko – vocals, Parham Haghighi – vocals.

Sanah Kadoura’s second release has her in great company with Rachel Therrien on trumpet and Stacy Dillard on soprano, both of whom add greatly to the ensemble.  I find the vocalists (singing wordless and lyrics) diminish the effort, but this might be just the piece you love.  Kadoura is Canadian / Lebanese and the Arabian influence is subtle and engaging.

Roy McGrath – Menjunje (JL Music, 03/2023).  Constantine Alexander – trumpet, Roy McGrath – saxophone, Eduardo Zayas – piano, Kitt Lyles – bass, Efraín Martínez – drums, Victor Junito González-conga / punteador / barril, Javier Quintana-Ocasio – barril / requinto / bongo / quinto / campana, José A. Carrasquillo – cuatro.

Jonathan Widran writes on The JW Vibe, “Though Roy McGrath has been living, performing and serving in all sorts of behind-the-scenes capacities in Chicago for nearly a decade, his cultural musical heart will always be in his homeland of Puerto Rico. Menjunje, his long awaited follow-up to his 2017 Latin Grammy nominated album Remembranzas, brings the fiery, densely percussive magic – as well as the soulful, sensually lyrical sweetness – of the island to life in fascinating ways.”  Check out Antonia, which starts on a slow romantic vibe and steady accelerates until it goes wild in a flurry of percussion.

Lizzie Thomas – Duo Encounters (Dot Time Records, 03/2023).  Wayne Escoffery – tenor sax, Hello Alves – piano, John Di Martino – piano, Rossano Sportiello – piano, Russell Malone – guitar, Ron Affif – guitar, Guilherme Monteiro – guitar, Mari Dorman-Phaneuf – cello, Ron Carter – bass, Dezron Douglas – bass, Noriko Ueda – bass, Cafe da silva – percussion, Lizzie Thomas – vocals. 

New York-based vocalist Lizzie Thomas goes for intimate in a dozen duos with other musicians, many of whom are familiar names.  The set list is solidly in the Great American Songbook range (plus Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now.)  The structure of the date leaves Thomas quite exposed and she acquits herself well, singing with a very elastic sense of time.  Highlights include her duet with Ron Carter on Willow Weep For Me and Have You Met Miss Jones with Dezron Douglas.  You have to give her a ton of credit for tackling the complex and gnarly Lush Life with only tenor accompaniment from Wayne Escoffery.

Sara Caswell – The Way To You (Anzic, 03/2023).  Sara Caswell – violin, Chris Dingman – vibraphone, Jesse Lewis – guitar, Ike Sturm – bass, Jared Schonig – drums.

In the 18 years that Sara Caswell has been on the New York scene, she has collaborated with a long list of well-known players (Brad Mehldau, Linda May Han Oh, Amina Figarova, Miho Hazama, etc.) becoming a go-to string player. This is her first release as a leader in that time and it features her quartet of the past decade plus Chris Dingman on vibes. One highlight is the interplay between Caswell, Dingman and Jesse Lewis on guitar on Kenny Barron’s tune Voyage.  Some funky up-tempo numbers, some ballads, a very satisfying and well-played set.

Kendrick Scott – Corridors (Blue Note, 03/2023).  (Walter Smith III – tenor sax, Reuben Rogers – bass, Kendrick Scott – drums / vocals). 

In a departure, Kendrick Scott dispenses with the piano and guitar that have defined the ensemble sound of his band Oracle and presents Corridors as a tenor – bass – drums trio.  The spare language of the music emphasizes the intimacy of the trio setting for whom Scott has written eight new pieces (he also reprises Bobby Hutcherson’s Isn’t This My Sound Around Me?).  This is sedate and serious music that is reflective of Scott’s response to the pandemic, the isolation and the discomfort of loss.  Tenorist Smith and bassist Rogers ably round out the somber trio.  Powerful.

Tyler Mitchell Octet – Sun Ra’s Journey (Cellar Music, 03/2023) digital only.  Giveton Gelin –  trumpet, Marshall Allen – alto sax / electronic wind instrument, Chris Hemingway – alto sax, Nicoletta Manzini – alto sax, Farid Barron – piano, Tyler Mitchell – bass, Wayne Smith – drums, Ron McBee – percussion, Elson Nacimento – percussion.

Another issue from Small’s Living Masters Series reunites bassist Tyler Mitchell, who joined Sun Ra at the end of his career, with 97-year old altoist Tyler Mitchell, a 35-year veteran of the band.  Critic Scott Yanow has described Allen’s playing as “Johnny Hodges from another dimension”.  Mark Corrotto writes on AllAboutJazz, “Ra’s music is familiar and delivered with all the loving exaltation it deserves. From the sly swing of “Velvet” to the charging passion of “Dancing Shadows” and the transcendental mysticism of “Love In Outer Space” the octet is spot on, with Marshall Allen adding both his automatic firing alto saxophone and cosmic electronic valve instrument (EVI) to the affair. Elsewhere, the octet delivers a Ra-accented and inspired take on Thelonious Monk with their version of “Skippy.”  A wildly exhilarating mix of improvised and composed music (from outer space.)

Scott Petito – Many Worlds(Planet Arts, 02/2023).  Randy Brecker – trumpet, Bob Mintzer – soprano sax / electronic wind instrument, Rachel Z. Hakim – piano / keyboards, Mike Mainieri – vibraphone, Mari Dorman-Phaneuf – cello, Scott Petitio – bass / piccolo bass / piano, Larry Genadier – bass, Peter Erskine – drums, Omar Hakim – drums, Steve Gadd – drums, Mino Cinelu – percussion, Bashitri Johnson – percussion, Anna Maria Jopek – vocals). 

This release by bassist / composer / producer Petito brings to mind the exciting days of fusion in the seventies with a very deliberate electronic vibe (think more What Games Shall We Play Today, less Birds of Fire.). Bassist Scott Petitio is a fine player on several instruments and he has surrounded himself with veterans of the fusion world.  Bob Mintzer is sublime on the soprano on Bombagensis.  Mike Manieri contibutes mightily on vibes on several tracks.  Petito presents a masterful solo on piccolo bass on A Great and Sudden Change.  Lots to listen to here.

Vince Mendoza & Metropole Orchestra – Olympians(Modern Recordings, 02/2023).  Metropole Orchestra with Rick Moi – trumpet, Marc Scholten – soprano sax, David Binney – alto sax, Paul Van Der Feen – alto sax, Chris Potter – tenor sax, Leo Janssen – tenor sax, Hans Vroomans – piano, Peter Tiehuis – guitar, Alex Acuna – percussion, Cecile McLorin Salvant – vocals, Dianne Reeves – vocals.

Vince Mendoza is a composer / conductor / arranger who is the Chief Conductor for the 52-musician (Dutch) Metropole Orchestra.  In this project, they collaborate with a number of A-list American artists (Cecile McLorin Salvant, Dianne Reeves, David Binney, Chris Potter, Alex Acuna).  The results are more than a bit overwhelming, sounding like an epic film score at many junctures, with huge swells of strings and wide swings in dynamics.  Perhaps that’s your thing.

Ian Dogole – Quinta Essentia (Global Music, 01/2023) digital only.  Henry Hung – trumpet, Richard Howell – tenor sax, soprano sax / vocals, Sheldon Brown – tenor sax, soprano sax / bass clarinet, Frank Martin – piano / synthesizer, Fred Randolf – bass, Ian Dogole– djembes/ floor tom / hand drum / udu / cajon / African talking drum / hang / kalimba / cymbals / maracas llaneras / Sundrum / shakers / ankle bells / miscellaneous percussion.  

This digital-only release came courtesy of Aaron the Jazz Czar.  Ian Dogole is a composer, percussionist and bandleader who plays a wide-range of instruments, including several tuned percussion instruments.  The program includes several originals plus tunes by Randy Weston, Wayne Shorter and Leon Thomas.  The lead-off tune Trane Tracks, a solo effort on the hang drum, starts as a Dogole composition and morphs in Coltrane’s Equinox (from Coltrane’s Sound, 1960.) The release really takes off with the front line of Henry Hung on trumpet plus Richard Howell and Sheldon Brown on various reeds.  Howell takes a beautiful turn as the vocalist on Leon Thomas’ Sun Song.  These players are all new to me, but I look forward to hearing more from them.

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

Russell Perry

Jazz at 100 Now!


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