New Jazz Releases – 03/25/2024

Jamie Baum

Good News, Jamie Baum’s new record is in and we have a slab of jazz history from Alice Coltrane with Pharaoh Sanders and Archie Shepp.  The trios dominate this week with Mike Clement (guitar – organ – drums), Martin Budde (guitar – bass – drums), and piano trios from Brandon Goldberg, Brian Bromberg and Spike Wilner.  Sweet.

The Jamie Baum Septet + – What Times Are These (Sunnyside Communications, releases 04/05/2024).  Jonathan Finlayson – trumpet / spoken word, Chris Komer – French horn, Jamie Baum – flute / spoken word, San Sadigursky – alto saxophone / clarinet / bass clarinet, Luis Perdomo – piano / Fender Rhodes, Brad Shepik – guitar / singing bowls, Ricky Rodriguez – bass, Jeff Hirshfield – drums, Keita Ozawa – percussion, Theo Bleckmann, Kokayi, Sara Serpa, Aubrey Johnson – vocals.

Flutist / composer Jamie Baum, a Charlottesville favorite from her membership in Monika Herzig’s Sheroes and her visit with her own band, released her last septet recording in 2018 – Bridges, one of the best records of that year – and now she is back with that ensemble.  Back again are Chris Komer on French horn, Sam Sadigurski on reeds, Brad Shepik on guitar, and husband Jeff Hirshfield on drums.  New in this addition are remarkable trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson on trumpet, Afro-Cuban powerhouse pianist Luis Perdomo, and Rick Rodriguez on bass.  What a fine band!  The music celebrates five poets and features Theo Bleckmann, Kokayi, Sara Serpa, and Aubrey Johnson on vocals.  Several times recently (notably Benjamin Boone, Laurence Hobgood and Jane Ira Bloom) jazz artists have taken inspiration from and created settings for poetry.  This release fits comfortably into that company.  Ken Micallef wrote on Downbeat, “Baum’s new work exhibited a natural rise and fall, from intense ensemble passages to freer blowing sections.The high points came in the funky picking of Shepik, the streamlined, even creamy solos of Finlayson, the exhilarating perambulations of Perdomo, Baum’s subtle but intense playing on soprano and alto flutes (with use of octave and reverb pedals), and Hirshfield (Baum’s husband) providing the swinging glue that held it all together.”  Not background music, this release requires and rewards attentive listening.

Mike Clement – Hittin’ It (Cellar Music, releases 04/05/2024). Mike Clement – guitar, John Lee – Hammond B3 organ, Herlin Riley – drums.

New Orleans-by-choice guitarist Mike Clement brings us soul jazz for the new millennium from a classic power guitar – organ – drums trio, featuring the iconic NOLA timekeeper Herlin Riley.  Mr. Not So PC will get your toes tapping and your fingers snapping.  Give it a listen.

Brian Bromberg – LaFaro (Be Squared Productions, releases 04/01/2024).  Thomas Zink – piano, Brian Bromberg – bass, Charles Ruggierio – drums.

LA bassist Brian Bromberg (Lalo Schifrin, Shirley Horn) has released an acoustic piano trio tribute to the late bassist Scott LaFaro.  Michael J West wrote on Downbeat, “Bassist Brian Bromberg doesn’t channel Scott LaFaro’s sound on his hat-tip to the bass innovator, who died at age 25 in 1961. Both players are virtuosi, but LaFaro broke new ground by supplying a contrapuntal voice even while comping; on LaFaro, Bromberg saves his daredevilry for the solos and walks the bass through its accompaniment passages. The tribute comes by way of Bromberg, like LaFaro, being indefatigably himself on the titan’s most familiar repertoire.”  Milestones, Blue In Green, Nardis, Waltz for Debbie – the repertoire is about what you would expect, fine playing but no surprises here.

Alice Coltrane – Carnegie Hall Concert (Impulse!, released 03/22/2024). Archie Shepp-ts/ss/per, Pharoah Sanders-ts/ss/fl/per, Alice Coltrane-p/harp, Kumar Kramer-harmonium, Cecil McBee-b, Jimmy Garrison-b, Clifford Jarvis-d, Ed Blackwell-d, Tulsi-tamboura.

Raising money for her guru and on the bill between Laura Nyro and The Rascals (really!), in 1971, harpist / pianist / composer Alice Coltrane brought out her augmented double quartet and held court for most of an hour and a half (she was asked to play 20 minutes).  Four years after John Coltrane’s death, for a concert at Carnegie Hall, Alice Coltrane surrounded herself with veterans of his musical world – Pharoah Sanders and Archie Shepp on tenor and soprano, Cecil McBee and Jimmy Garrison on bass, Ed Blackwell and Clifford Jarvis on drums.  The set consists of four extended performances, the first two penned by Alice and the final two by John.  Mike Jurek wrote on AllMusic, “All told, the concert’s pace, textures, explosive drama, virtuosity, and limitless creativity are unmatched… This is an essential entry in Coltrane’s catalog.”  Shimmering, ecstatic, ethereal – seat belts are required, levitation is optional.

Martin Budde – Back Burner (Origin Records, released 03/22/2024).  Martin Budde – guitar, Ben Feldman – bass, Xavier Lecouturier – drums.

Bred on acoustic folk forms in Alaska, guitarist Martin Buddy, brings a fresh and melodic approach to the jazz guitar trio.  Paul Rauch wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Jazz guitar albums in the modern age can be a challenge for the listener, and that is putting it kindly. With boomers bred on rock guitar sounds now representing the older portion of jazz audiences, edgy playing with a harder sound has taken precedence over the more traditional styles mastered by Jim Hall, Wes Montgomery and others of the elder guard. Budde falls somewhere in between this divide. There is no slew of pedals and electronic aids pushing his sound, nor reverence for tradition binding him down. The music on Back Burner is down to earth and honest. The triad formed by this trio is formidable. The tunes are accessible to the listener, speak a cultural truth and are delivered with both warmth and fire.”  Simple, straightforward and a delight.  Enjoy.

Last Word Quintet – Falling to Earth (Origin Records, released 03/22/2024). Brian Gephart – saxophones, Bob Long – piano / vocals, Al Day – guitar / vocals, Doug Lofstrom – bass / keyboard / background vocals, Sarah Allen – drums, Marc Kelly Smith – spoken word / background vocals.

Last Word Quintet is a setting for the work of gravelly-voiced Springsteen-inflected singer / songwriter Al Day with an overlay of poetry slam denizen Marc Kelly Smith, salted with saxophone obligatti from Brian Gephart and tasty piano backing from Bob Long.  A unique offering.

Brandon Goldberg Trio – Live At Dizzy’s (Cellar Music, released 03/22/2024).  Brandon Goldberg – piano, Ben Wolfe – bass, Aaron Kimmel – drums.

Now 18 years old, pianist Brandon Goldberg has released his third disc, a trio set to follow the quartet and quintet ensembles of his first two outings.  Goldberg thrives in the trio setting with the great bassist Ben Wolfe (Unjust, one of my top discs of 2023, previewed 01/23/2023) and drummer Aaron Kimmel (also on Unjust).  The set features two compositions by the leader (Unholy Water and Circles) both of which evidence a musical maturity that is also obvious in his playing. Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “A true gem, this very young artist deserves to be discovered for those of you who are not yet acquainted with him.”  Recommended.

Tom Keenlyside – Third Street Wobble (Artist Jazz Recordings, released 03/15/2024).  Brad Turner – trumpet, Tom Keenlyside – tenor saxophone, Chris Gestrin – B3 organ, Tristan Paxton – guitar, Joe Poole – drums.

Tenor saxophonist Tom Keenlyside has been in the horn section for many pop and rock dates, but has infrequently recorded jazz as a leader.  The new disc is a solid hard bop date with trumpeter Brad Turner (The Magnificent previewed 10/23/2023) paired with Keenlyside in a stirring front line.  The rhythm section is solidly anchored by organist Chris Gestrin (The Nightcrawlers, Cory Weeds Little Big Band).  The set is composed by band members with seven tunes by the leader.

Spike Wilner Trio – Contrafactus (Cellar Music, released 03/15/2024).  Spike Wilner – piano, Paul Gill – bass, Anthony Pinciotti – drums.

Pianist / composer Spike Wilder has recorded another disc around his heavy schedule as the manager of Smalls and Mezzrow in NYC.  The trio set was recorded as a series of first takes and has a live and spontaneous feel. Wilner is a fluid player with a strong attack on seven originals, of which Contrafactus is a driving favorite, and four covers including a lovely version of Lullaby of the Leaves.

The Messthetics and James Brandon Lewis(Impulse!, released 03/15/2024).  James Brandon Lewis – tenor saxophone, Anthony Pirog – guitar, Joe Lally – bass, Brendan Canty – drums.

The Messthetics are made up of the rhythm section from the legendary DC post-hardcore band Fugazi and young guitar hero Anthony Pirog (The Great Mirage with Joel Harrison previewed 04/10/2023).  For this release, they have added tenor phenom James Brandon Lewis (For Mahalia With Love previewed 09/11/2023) whose 2021 release Jesup Wagon was named record of the year by several jazz periodicals.  As might be expected genre definitions struggle to include the music of this ensemble.  Chris Deville wrote on Stereogum, “Sometimes, as on opener L’Orso, Lewis and the Messthetics err on the side of jazz. There are traces of funky, disjointed DC post-hardcore in the track, but it follows the traditional pattern of an opening horn melody that gives way to freeform soloing before finishing out with the central melody again. Elsewhere, as on… Emergence, they lean toward the rock side; the track’s fast-plucked pentatonic foundation sounds just like a Fugazi riff, but with a tenor saxophone wailing away on top. And sometimes, they truly hybridize their jazz and punk tendencies. That Thang saunters forward with combustible swagger, while Three Sisters wafts upward like smoke from that fire’s aftermath. Boatly patiently creeps forward around eerie corners before building to grandiose power chords and a blaring saxophone lead, whereas Aesthenia remains quiet, searching, and beautiful until the end, with no need for fireworks to get its point across.”  Terrific playing here.

Albare – Beyond Belief (Alfi, released 03/08/2024).  Phil Turcio – piano, Albare – guitar / voice, Phil Rex – bass, Pablo Benched – drums, Lionel Cole – voice.

Australia-based guitarist Albarehas has released an introspective set of compositions, nine of which are composed by the leader or co-composed with pianist Phil Turcio.  While the tempos vary, the pervading sense of this release is one of gentleness,  Lionel Cole, son of singer Freddie Cole & nephew of Nat King Cole, joins in for one tune on which he wrote the lyrics.  The single cover is a soft-focused take on Kenny Dorham’s Blue Bossa.

Hendrik Meurkens – The Jazz Meurkengers (Cellar Music, released 02/23/2024).  Nick Hempton – tenor saxophone, Hendrik Meurkens – harmonica , Steve Ash – piano, Ed Cherry – guitar, Chris Berger – bass, Andy Watson – drums.

For a disc dedicated to drummer Jimmy Cobb, it should be no surprise that there is a consistent hard bop vibe throughout. Chromatic harp player Hendrik Meurkens recorded three discs in the period 2000 – 2019 with Cobb (1929 – 2020).  In a set of five originals and four covers, the quintet pieces with Nick Hempton (The Nightcrawlers) on tenor stand out, especially as on Ellington’s Smada, when the tenor and harmonica follow hard bop protocol and play the head in unison – harp and tenor making a sweet sound.

Timo Lassy & Jukka Eskola – Nordic Stew (Dox Records, released 02/23/2024).  Jukka Eskola – trumpet, Delfeayo Marsalis – trombone, Kirk Joseph – sousaphone, Matt Perrine – tuba, Timo Lassy – tenor saxophone, David Torkanowsky – piano / Wurlitzer, Roland Guerin – acoustic bass / electric bass, Herlin Riley – drums, Abdissa Assefa – percussion.

The leaders on this release, Finnish duo Jukka Eskola (trumpet) and Timo Lassy (saxophone), decamped to New Orleans to assemble a first call band of Nawlins collaborators and what a band it is.  Led by the dean of NOLA drummers, Herlin Riley (Owl Song with Ambrose Akinmusire and Bill Frisell previewed 01/08/2024) and Delfeayo Marsalis (Uptown On Mardi Gras Day previewed 02/13/2023) on trombone, the band features a very NOLA front line of trumpet / trombone / tuba / sousaphone / tenor.  This one is predestined to a long life on Induced to Judder.

Abena Koomson-Davis – Where Is Love (WJ3 Records, released 02/16/2024).  Joshua Bruneau – trumpet, Steve Davis – trombone, Mike DiRubbo – alto saxophone, Rick Germanson – piano, Tony Davis – guitar, Nat Reeves – bass, Willie Jones III – drums, Abeena Koomson-Davis – vocals.

Singer Abena Koomson-Davis moves through many different worlds – as an Broadway original cast member of Fela, as a pop music duo partner with Natalie Merchant (Come on Aphrodite, 2023), musical director of the Women’s March Resistance Revival Chorus and now jazz singer.  For this disc, her secret weapon is husband and A-list trombone player Steve Davis (Cory Weeds Little Big Band, One For All, Terri Lyne Carrington).  The pair swing their way through standards like Softly As In A Morning Sunshine and scat through self-penned Abena’s Bop.  Altoist Mike DiRubbo jumps out front on another tune from the leader, Easy and the highly polished trombone of Steve Davis is ubiquitous.  Abena Koomson-Davis has a powerful voice capable of sweet tenderness.  Lovely.

Rachel Eckroth – Humanoid (Sam First Records, released 08/25/2024).  Rachel Eckroth – piano, Andrew Renfroe – guitar, Billy Mohler – bass, Tina Raymond – drums.

Firmly anchored in the pop music world, pianist / composer Rachel Eckroth has crossed back over to the jazz world for this live set with Andrew Renfroe (Tina Raymond, Mike DiRubbo, Carmen Lundy) on guitar, Billy Mohler (Ultraviolet previewed 12/11/2023) on bass and Tina Raymond (Divinations previewed 10/23/2023) on drums.  Matty Bannond wrote on Jazz Journal, “The title track was created for this performance. It has a swaggering coolness, with a slippery bass figure and a Monkish twistiness in the offbeat melody. Renfroe plays a bluesy solo. When Eckroth’s turn follows, the band takes a few bars to simmer. The pianist favours a famine-and-feast improvising style, with long pockets of silence and whirlwind flurries of rapid notes… Eckroth’s return to her roots showcases the exceptional skills that have propelled her across musical and geographic borders.”  Our colleague Steve Harris saw Eckroth in a streamed performance and brought this August 2023 release to our belated attention.  Thanks.

ECM is celebrating their (remarkable) back catalog with vinyl releases of a number of landmark discs.

Jan Garbarek Quartet – Afric Pepperbird (ECM, released 03/01/2024).  Jan Garbarek – saxophones, Terje Rypdal – guitar, Arild Andersen – bass, Jon Christensen – drums.

From September 1970, saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s debut marked the beginning of more than a half century of music for the label.

Keith Jarrett – Jan Garbarek – Luminescence: Music for String Orchestra and Saxophone (ECM, released 03/01/2024).  Jan Garbarek – saxophone, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Recorded with the Stuttgart Radio Symphony in 1974, Luminescence documents a high point in the creative relationship between pianist Keith Jarrett and saxophonist Jan Garbarek.

Azimuth – Azimuth (ECM, releases 03/29/2024).  Kenny Wheeler – flugelhorn / trumpet, John Taylor – piano / organ, Norma Winstone – voice.

In their 1977 debut, the trio of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler, pianist John Taylor and vocalist Norma Winstone explored minimalistic music and exploratory improvisations.

That should keep you busy.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!

If your music isn’t changing your life, you’ve simply picked the wrong songs. – Ted Gioia


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