New Jazz Releases – 03/27/2023

Donny McCaslin

We’ve got a variety of new releases this week, punctuated by piano trios from Peter Smith, Andrew Moorhead, Lafayette Harris, Jr., Chris Keefe, and Eric Lilley.  The latter is my pick of the group.  Coming out shortly, tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has a new disc and will be featured on Joel Goodman’s latest with an all-star set of players.

Donny McCaslin – I Want More (Edition Records, 06/2023).  Donny McCaslin – tenor saxophone / flutes, Jason Lindner – synthesizers / Wurlitzer, Tim Lefebvre – bass, Mark Gillian – drums.

Tenor saxophonist Donny McCaslin has released a dozen discs on his own, but is perhaps best known for his role in defining the vibe of David Bowie’s last release – Blackstar (2016)His latest is a raw affair with more backbeat than swing.  Brimming with intensity, there is an electronic sound that keeps the energy level high.  McCaslin writes, “Felt like I poured everything into it and am thus laid bare and the art is an expression of that vulnerability, along with determination, devotion, honesty and everything we pour into the creative process.”  This is a fusion music that should get the interest of alt-rockers as well.

Joel Goodman – An Exquisite Moment (Self Produced, 06/2023).  Randy Brecker – flugelhorn / trumpet, Charlie Morillas – trombone, Marcus Rojas – tuba, Donny McCaslin – saxophones, Brian Scanlon – alto saxophone, clarinet, Bobby Shulgold – flute, Phil O’Connor – clarinet, bass clarinet, Joel Goodman – keyboard / bass, Philippe Saisse – piano / vibes / marimba, Scott Tibbs – piano, Brandee Younger – harp, Adam Rogers – guitar, Greg Herzanach – acoustic and electric guitar, John Patitucci – bass, Scott Colley -bass, Eric Harland – drums, Mino Cinélu – percussion, Lisa Fischer – vocals.

Composer for 150 films and TV programs, Goodman has collected a group of A-list players for this release of original compositions.  Tenor-player Donny McCaslin is a dominant voice throughout the disc.  This one is a little over-orchestrated for my taste.

Duncan Eagles – Narrations (Ropeadope, 05/2023).  Duncan Eagles – saxophone, Tomasz Bura – piano, Max Luthert – bass, Zoe Pascal – drums.

Another artist from the fertile London scene, saxophonist Duncan Eagles has released a new set of seven originals. I am late coming to this party – in the past 13 years, he has released a dozen discs either as a leader or from one of several bands in which he plays (Partikel, Million Square, Jazz Proof).  This is his second release on Ropeadope.  John Fordham of the Guardian writes, “Saxophonist Duncan Eagles holds the stage with his attractively dry tone, sharpness and the urgent ferocity of his tenor improvising.”  The music runs a full range from the tender balladry of Rosebush to the agitated funk of The Bakehouse.  Check it out.

Das Kondensat – Andere Planeten (WhyPlay Jazz, 04/2023).  Gebhard Ullman – saxophone, Oliver Potratz – bass, Eric Schaefer – drums / synthesizer.  

A very free set from saxophonist and composer Gebhard Ullmann in an electro-acoustic trio, recorded to commemorate his 65th birthday.

Peter Smith Trio – Dollar Dreams (Real Magic Records, 03/2023).  Peter Smith – piano, Mike Gurrola – bass, Reggie Quinerly – drums.

Pianist and band-leader Peter Smith leads a busy LA-based entertainment-industry life (TV, accompanist, composer, arranger, player, screen-writer!) and, in this instance, he leads a swinging jazz piano trio.  I am not aware of any of these players, but, in addition to being a fine trio member, bassist Mike Gurrola is a compelling soloist (Alter Ego). Smith covers a lot of ground.  The trio’s version of Sweet Georgia Brown breaths new life into a very old chestnut and the tune Gotta Travel On channels Les McCann.  Well done.

Jason Kush – Finally Friday (MCG Jazz, 03/2023).  Jason Kush – tenor saxophone, Alton Merrell – piano, Jeff Grubbs – bass, David Glover – drums.

Saxophonist Jason Kush is one of those few players whose credits run from classical (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra) to big band (Pittsburgh Jazz Orchestra). In this set he leads a tenor – piano – bass – drums quartet on a program of originals.  I don’t know these players, but they are all playing well.  Asked and Answered takes a mid-tempo stroll that finds its way into a  spiritual jazz world with Pharoah Sanders overtones.  Soledad del Otono is a lovely ballad with a soft Latin feel while Razor Burn is more aggressive and could have fit comfortably in Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis’s repertoire.  I enjoyed this disc a lot and look forward to more from these players.

Andrew Moorhead – Interleaved (Origin Arts, 03/2023).  Andrew Moorhead – piano, Marcos Varela – bass, Ari Hoenig – drums.

George W. Harris writes in Jazz Weekly, “Pianist Andrew Moorhead leads a team of bassist Marcos Varela and drummer Ari Hoenig through a collection of mostly originals and standards. His originals feel like he takes a simple theme, not unlike Beethoven’s 5th, and turns it around and inside out for an entire songs. Thus, World Wind has a relentless pattern that gets explored and stretched, A Key In A Pool gets repeated over and over in various stylings, and drummer Hoenig gets into the act with a drum led Five Tom and the restless Crystal Wind.” Seven originals plus Someday My Prince Will Come and The Days of Wine and Roses performed by traditional piano trio are sandwiched between two hypno-electronic solo pieces.

Dewayne Pate – On The Up Side (Patetown Music, 03/2023).  Joel Behrman – trumpet, Mike Olmos – trumpet / flugelhorn, Norbert Stachel – soprano sax / tenor sax / flute, Johnnie Bamont – tenor sax / baritone sax, Marc Russo – alto sax, Rita Thies – flute, David Kirk Mathews – synths / B3 organ / piano / keys / organ, Peter Horvath – piano, Frank Martin – synths / rhodes, Robben Ford – guitar, Ray Obiedo – guitar, Chris Cain – guitar, Stef Burns – guitar, Jim Nichols – guitar, Barry Finnerty – guitar, Dewayne Pate – bass, Dennis Chambers – drums, Brian Collier – drums, David Garibaldi – drums, Jason Lewis – drums, Kevin Hayes – drums, Michael Spiro – percussion, Karl Perazzo – percussion, Tony Lindsay – vocals, Juan Luis Perez (J. Ele) – vocals, Amikaeyla Gaston – vocals.

Primarily known as a sideman (Robben Ford, Tower of Power), bassist Dewayne Pate has released a jazz / blues / funk disc, his first as a leader in 15 years.  The credits suggest that this is another one of the pandemic releases that was recorded at a variety of home studios and assembled.

Mark Lewis – Sunlight Shines In (Audio Daddio, 03/2023).  Mark Lewis – saxophone / flute, Ron Kobayashi – piano, Baba Elefante – bass, Steve Dixon – drums.

Seattle-based saxophonist and flutist has joined forces with a Southern California trio led by pianist Ron Kobayashi for a program of original compositions.

Lafayette Harris, Jr. – Swingin’ Up In Harlem (Savant, 03/2023).  Lafayette Harris, Jr. – piano, Peter Washington – bass, Lewis Nash – drums.

In 2020, veteran pianist Lafayette Harris, Jr. assembled a top-flight trio with Peter Washington (bass) and Lewis Nash (drums) to record the Houston Person-produced You Can’t Lose With The Blues. With the same players and producer, Harris returns to the Rudy Van Gelder studio to record this disc, a polite affair consisting of well-known standards from throughout the twentieth century, ranging from Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust to Stevie Wonder’s Living For The City.

Chris Keefe – Opening (Zugzwangbebop, 02/2023).  Chris O’Keefe – piano, Harvie S – bass, Adam Nussbaum – drums.

George W. Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “Chris Keefe brings his mainstream piano into the lead with bass extraordinaire Harvie S and drummer Adam Nussbaum for a mix of originals and covers. His pulse is subtle on the easy waltz/swing of Modern and has soft hands with the bassist for the samba’d Chobim. He gives an agonizing intro to I Fall In Love Too Easy and has a classy staccato cadence on Dream while taking the baton from Harvie S’s intro to Along Came Betty and cruising like a 49 Buick. The team works well together, like a working band, as Nussbaum guides well with sticks on a clever Just In Time and leads the bop on Got A Chick?”  Filed under “You Never Know What You Might Find On The Internet”:  This disc was recorded 3 months after Keefe’s Master of Music Recital at the Manhattan School of Music, where he studied with Harvie S, and the set list on the disc precisely tracks that of the recital!  A great start for a music career.

Ella and the Bossa Beat – In The Moment(Self Produced, 11/2022).  Greg Little – trumpet, Larry Williams – trumpet, Rodrigo Sha – saxophone, Alain Bradette – saxophone, Kim Freitas – acoustic guitar, Ruvit Bracho – violin, Jonathan Dills – cello, Magrus Borges – drums / percussion, Ella Borges – vocals / piano / keyboards / bass.

There isn’t as much “Bossa” as you might expect and I was not as much a breathless fan as Raul DaGama of LatinJazzNet – who usually gets it very right, so I have shared his take.  DaGama raves, “Not since Flora Purim, the otherworldly-sounding vocalist celebrated for her work with the legendary percussionist Airto Moreira and Chick Corea … has Brasil produced a voice artist – and instrumentalist, one might add – with the prodigious gifts as the wraithlike vocalist Ella Borges.  Her music – and she co-composes much of it on In The Moment [her second album] – is like a temperate-cool in the everglades [she grew up in Florida] with just enough steamy vapour to suggest a steamy kind of seduction that is never very far off.”  Ella Borges’s delivery is often soft and whispy with an Esperanza Spalding groove, perhaps without the core musicality that makes the latter singer so unique.

Lucy Wijnands and John Di Martino with the Night Is Alive Band – Call Me Irresponsible (Night is Alive, 10/2022).  Harry Allen — tenor saxophone, John Di Martino — piano / keyboards, Dave Stryker — guitar, Peter Washington — bass, Willie Jones lll — drums, Lucy Wijnands — vocals.

Jimmy Van Heusen is one of the kings of the Great American Songbook and while he is not as celebrated as Cole Porter or George and Ira Gershwin, his songbook includes classics like Only the Lonely, Call Me Irresponsible and Imagination (all of which are on this collection).  Now a powerhouse ensemble breaths new life into a small portion Van Huesen’s work – a measure of the quality of his book is a list of tunes that are NOT included, such as Darn That Dream, Come Fly With Me and My Kind Of Town.  Lucy Wijnands is a smooth and touching singer, the winner of Blues Alley’s Ella Fitgerald Jazz Vocal Competition in 2021.  This set also gives us a chance to hear under-recorded mainstream tenor sax player, Harry Allen, whose Stan Getz-inflected ballad playing often steals the show – check out Call Me Irresponsible or the instrumental Imagination (Reprise).

Eric Lilley Trio – Three(Twin Goats, 10/2022).  Eric Lilly – piano, Mark Diamond – bass, Tony Black – drums, Jose Espino – percussion.

George W. Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “It’s not hard to guess who inspires pianist/composer Eric Lilley … I mean, after all, [Lilley’s composition] Bill Evans is filled with rich and lyrical harmonics that sparkle, and even uptempo pieces such as Jereice’s Step never runs out of melodic ideas. There are also a pair of solo outings that make you wish for more, with the [Miles Davis (or probably Eddie Vinson) composition] Tune Up inspired May Day a rich journey and Any Day Now a dramatic aria.”  It seems like there are a lot of piano trio dates coming out these days.  This is one that deserves your attention.

I hope this helps you discover new music.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


Become a Sponsor

Underwriting WTJU is a way to broadly share information about your business. It’s also a way for your business or organization to gain community-wide recognition for your support of WTJU’s community mission.

Underwrite a Program


Your gift nourishes our community and helps bring people together through music.

Underwrite a Program