New Jazz Releases – 03/13/2023

Monika Herzig

Monika Herzig is coming to town and she has a new record, as do other Charlottesville favorites Julian Lage and Wadada Leo Smith.

Janiece Jaffe & Monika Herzig – Both Sides of Joni(Acme Records, 03/2023).  Greg Ward – saxophone, Monika Herzig – piano, Carolyn Dutton – violin, Jeremy Allen – bass, Cassius Goens – drums, Janiece Jaffe – vocals.

The new release from Charlottesville-favorite Monika Herzig presents jazz interpretations of material drawn from the rich discography of Joni Mitchell.  The project comes from COVID-isolation period explorations with vocalist Janice Jaffe, Herzog’s long-time collaborator, who unfortuately passed away during surgery before the release of the project.  Herzig refers to the disc as “Janiece’s final gift to us.” This collection of iconic songs is a loving tribute to a great songwriter.

Hailey Brinnell – Beautiful Tomorrow (Outside In Music, 03/2023).  Terell Stafford – trumpet, Andrew Carson – trumpet, Hailey Brinnel – trombone / vocals, Chris Oatts – alto sax / soprano sax, Silas Irvine – piano, Joe Plowman – bass, Don Monaghan – drums.

Trombonist and vocalist Hailey Brinnel has her vision fixed in the rear view mirror for this well-played set of largely vintage tunes.  She has a warm and engaging voice used to fine effect in her duet with bassist Joe Plowman on Candy and on the up-tempo romp The Sound. A fine soloist on the trombone, she explores a range of older styles including New Orleans tailgate on Wayfairing Stranger.  Nothing particularly new here, but that’s the point.

Dave Askrin – Jeff Benedict – Denver Sessions (Tapestry Records, 03/2023) digital only.  Jeff Benedict – saxophone, Jeff Piltzecker – vibraphone, Dave Askren – guitar, Patrick McDevitt – bass, Paul Romaine – drums. 

Long-time collaborators guitarist Dave Askrin and saxophonist Jeff Benedict have added vibraphonist Jeff Piltzecker to their mix in this release, making a very unique sax – guitar – vibes frontline.  A distinctly 60s vibe plays out in a pair of Askrin compositions – the Jackie McLean inspired Jackie’s Idea and Englewood Cliffs (home to the Rudy Van Gelder studio.) The set consists of nine originals and a spirited rendition of Stomping at the Savoy in very unusual meters (9/4 for the chorus with the bridge in 12/8!)

Cunliffe – Wind – Horner – Border Widow’s Lament (Night is Alive, 03/2023).  Bill Cunliffe – piano, Martin Wind – bass, Tim Horner – drums.

Known largely for his arranging (Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement, 2009) pianist Bill Cunliffe joined with bassist John Patitucci and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta for a program of standards in 2021.  This time he has a new trio – Martin Wood on bass, Tim Horner (Ted Nash, Roseanne Vitro, Mark Murphy) on drums – and each of the trio-mates contributes compositions to the largely original set. Taken at a consistent mid-tempo pace this is a stately look at the jazz piano trio form. 

Wadada Leo Smith – Fire Illuminations (Kabell Records, 03/2023) digital only. Wadada Leo Smith – trumpet, Nels Cline – guitar, Brandon Ross – guitar, Lamar Smith – guitar, Bill Laswell – bass, Melvin Gibbs – bass, Pheeroan akLaff – drum, Mauro Refosco – percussion, Hardedge-electronics.

Wadada Leo Smith records prolifically with an increasingly wide circle of collaborators.  In this project he collects electric guitarists and bassists around him and adds percussionist to produce a somewhat familiar sound.  Smith’s trumpet is reproduced electronically as a very cold and echoey presence, which, combined with guitars and basses that gurgle, rasp and groan in an airy atmosphere, brings to mind various electric efforts from Miles Davis in the 70s.  The music results from several recording sessions, bits of which Smith then assembled into idiosyncratic compositions, not unlike some of Miles’s releases.

Ingrid Laubrock – The Last Quiet Place (Pyroclastic Records, 03/2023). Ingrid Laubrock – saxophones, Brandon Seabrook – guitar, Mazz Swift – violin, Tomeka Reid – cello, Michael Formanek – bass, Tom Rainey – drums.

As advertised, this is a generally quiet affair with saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock fronting an ensemble of four strings (guitar – violin – cello – bass) plus long-time collaborator Tom Rainey on drums.  Tomeka Reid on cello and Michael Formanek on bass – among the best out there – combine to anchor a fine ensemble performance.  The pieces run from intricately percussive (Delusions) to hypnotically lyrical (Afterglow).

Julian Lage – The Layers (Blue Note, 03/2023).  Julian Lage – guitar, Bill Frisell – guitar, Jorge Roeder – bass, Dave King – drums.

Julian Lage’s latest, The Layers, is a companion-piece to his well-regarded 2022 release, View With A Room, recorded at the same sessions with fellow guitarist Bill Frisell and his regular trio-mates bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King.  The program of Lage originals manifests the orchestration possibilities deriving from the addition of Frisell to the trio.  The acoustic guitar duo, This World, is a standout.  Another beautiful set.

Vince Ector Organatomy Trio+ – Live @ The Side Door (Cabo Verde Records, 03/2023).  Justin Jones – atlo sax, Pat Bianghi – organ, Paul Bollenback – guitar, Vince Ector – drums.

Home to Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Jimmy McGriff and Shirley Scott, among others, Philadelphia is rightly known as the Jazz Organ Capital of the World.  Philly drummer Vince Ector has assembled a classic line-up of organist Pat Bianchi (Pat Martino, Tim Warfield), guitarist Paul Bollenbrack (Joey DeFrancesco) and newcomer altoist Justin Jones.  Sometimes a subdued affair, there is plenty of swinging going down and occasional fire in this live recording from a gig in January 2020, just before COVID hit.

Eric Reed – Black, Brown, and Blue (Smoke Sessions, 03/2023).  Eric Reed – piano, Luca Alemanno – bass, Reggie Quinerly – drums, David Daugherty – vocals, Calvin B Rhone – vocals.

Pianist Eric Reed has recently been recording in quartets with sax players (like his influence Monk), but this time comes out with a straight piano trio and although composers of color have always featured heavily in his selections, this set is entirely from African-American composers (including one each by the trio members.)  This could be his most personal release yet as he effectively mines these (mostly) familiar tunes for deep emotional responses, primarily at a very measured pace.  Two selections feature vocalists and I cannot say that those are my favorite part of this program.

Kingsley Durant – Convertible (Zen Diagram Records, 02/2023).  Steve Hunt – keyboards, Kingsley Durant – guitar, Eric Johnson-g, Roscoe Beck – bass, Tom Brechtlein – drums, Ricardo Monzon – percussion.

An electric piano – guitar – bass – drums quartet (for the most part), playing a program of originals.

Don Aliquo – Growth (Ear Up Records, 02/2023) digital only.  Rod McGha – trumpet, Don Aliquo – tenor sax / bass clarinet, Steve Kovalcheck – guitar, Jacog Jezioro – bass, Jonathan Wires – bass, Dannie Gottlieb – drums, Marcus Finnie – drums.

A veteran of the Nashville scene, Growth is Don Aliquo’s eight as a leader  Jack Bowers from AllAboutJazz writes, “It should be noted from the outset that Aliquo is a capable soloist on tenor sax (most numbers) or bass clarinet (For the Vulnerable) whose special qualities lie not so much in anomalous detours as in his ability to decipher every theme and wrest the most intensity from it. The fact that he wrote and arranged all of them is no doubt useful in that respect … The music [serves] for the most part as a sturdy launching pad for the various soloists while leaving little or no after-effects. Those whose appetites clamor for daring enterprises that lean toward modernism without eschewing tradition may find that Growth embodies precisely the proper ingredients to appease their hunger.”

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

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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