New Jazz Releases – 04/01/2024

Melissa Aldana

An International flavor runs through this week’s notes with new releases by Chilean-born Melissa Aldana, the German and American quintet Transatlantic Five, Filipina-American Caroline Julia Cabading, South Korean-born Seulah Noh, and Israeli Yosef Gutman.  Additionally, Owen Broder continues his paean to Johnny Hodges and Noah Haidu gives us the second volume of his Standards series.

Melissa Aldana – Echoes Of The Inner Prophet(Blue Note, releases 04/05/2024).  Melissa Aldana – tenor saxophone, Fabian Almazan – piano / effects, Lage Lund – guitar, Pablo Menares – bass, Kush Abadey – drums.

Chilean tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana earned a Grammy nomination for her 2022 release 12 Stars, and she is back with her fine quintet.  If anything, the debt she owes to Wayne Shorter has grown stronger through the years.  Lage Lund on guitar (Most Peculiar previewed 11/06/2023), Pablo Menares on bass and Kush Abadey on drums (Ethan Iverson, David Gibson) carry over from the last effort and Fabian Almazan (Linda May Han Oh, Biophilia Records) joins on piano and effects.  Mike Jurkovic wrote on AllAboutJazz, “As exhibited on such artistic statements as 12 Stars and 2019’s Visions…, Aldana relishes her sojourns and residencies in the inner world. Echoes Of The Inner Prophet is the next chapter in the journey. But it is not just a step or a stride but a leap. Amorphous, calligraphic, and bursting with ideas that are given breadth to blend and clash, color and collaborate, music like the luxurious, collective narrative A Story comes into clear, clean view. Taking its drive and tempo shifts from the concentrated yet open-ended interplay of pianist Fabian Almazan and guitarist/co-producer/arranger Lage Lund (with whom Aldana enjoys an especially keen symbiosis) her tenor vibes and calls bask in joy interspersed with a common sadness.”  Aldana is a major talent already and continues to grow.

Transatlantic Five – Transitions (NEMU Records, releases 05/15/2024).  Nate Wooley – trumpet, Ken Vandermark – tenor saxophone / clarinet, Christopher Dell – vibes, Christian Ramond – double bass, Klaus Kugel – drums.

Two Americans (Nate Wooley on trumpet and Ken Vandermark on reeds) and three Germans (Christopher Dell on vibes, Christian Ramond on double bass, and Klaus Kugel on drums), unified by their passion for and study of Eric Dolphy, have released a new disc, flavored by their joint passion for improvisation.  Mark Corroto wrote on AllAboutJazz,  “The quintet takes its impulse from Eric Dolphy’s 1964 recording Out To Lunch!… , as is quite apparent with the opener Around Town written by Dell. It is one of two composed pieces, Vandermark’s En Attente being the other. Dell’s Around Town parallels that Dolphy recording, which included Bobby Hutcherson, Freddie Hubbard, Richard Davis, and Tony Williams. From this point of departure, the quintet accelerates by a factor of sixty years with the six freely improvised Transitions.”  Challenging and rewarding.

Owen Broder – Hodges: Front and Center, Vol. 2 (Outside In Music, releases 04/19/2024).  Riley Multherker – trumpet, Owen Broder – saxophone, Carmen Staff – piano, Barry Stephenson – bass, Bryan Carter – drums.  

Next to baritone saxophonist Harry Carney, Johnny Hodges was the most consistent member of Duke Ellington’s Orchestra, anchoring the middle seat in the reed section from 1928 – 1970, with a four year gap in the 50s.  He and Benny Carter were the defining alto players in the Big Band Era.  In 2022, saxophonist Owen Broder assembled a quintet to record tunes associated with Hodges, mostly pulled from small-group recordings that the alto player put together with Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Ben Webster or Gerry Mulligan.  Volume One was recognized as one of the highlights of jazz recordings in 2022 and now a second set has been released from those same sessions.  Once again, while Broder’s alto and baritone define the set, Carmen Staaf’s piano is fundamental to the sound and her strength as a band member and soloist defines a lot of what is exciting about this release.  Recommended.

Noah Haidu – Standards II (Sunnyside Records, releases 04/12/2024).  Noah Haidu – piano, Buster Williams – bass, Billy Hart – drums.

Last year, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Keith Jarrett – Gary Peacock – Jack DeJohnette Standards Trio, Noah Haidu and his trio released their lovely set Standards.  For Volume II, the trio still features bassist Buster Williams (wonderful) and Billy Hart sits on the drum stool in lieu of Lewis Nash from the first release.  Tunes from Gershwin, Arlen, Hubbard, Mancini, and Ellington make for a great set list and Haidu gets better and better as a sensitive presenter of melodies and improvisor of substance.  Buster Williams and Billy Hart are perfect company in this spare and quiet set.

Kenny Garrett & Svoy – Who Killed AI? (Mack Avenue, releases 04/12/2024).  Kenny Garrett – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone / vocals, Svoy – programming / vocals / piano.

Saxophonist Kenny Garrett’s last effort, 2021’s Sounds From the Ancestors was a highlight in his lengthy and distinguished discography.  Now, for the first time (as far as I know), he has released an electronic record and his promotional material makes a lot of the fact that he came of age in one of Miles’s late period electric bands.  The fact that I don’t return to that portion of the Miles discography, ever, at all, gives you a hint of what I think of Garrett’s latest.  He is a tremendous player, but I think I’ll return this to the shelf.   

Lizz Wright – Shadow (Blues and Greens, releases 04/08/2024).  Glenn Patscha – rhodes / B3, Lynne Earls – wurlitzer / baritone acoustic guitar / hand percussion, Kenny Banks Sr. – piano / B3, Brandee Younger – harp, Adam Levy – electric guitars / acoustic guitars, Chris Bruce – electric guitars / acoustic guitars / Rhodes / electronic percussion, Melissa Bach – cello, Katherine Hughes – violin, Jeff Yang – viola, Trina Basu – violin, Elizabeth Brathwaite – violin, Rashaan Carter – upright bass, Meshell Ndegeocello – bass, Deantoni Parks – acoustic and electronic drums, Abe Rounds – percussion, Arun Ramamurthy – Carnatic violin, Lizz Wright – vocals, Angelique Kidjo – guest vocalist.

What a remarkable instrument is Lizz Wright’s smokey alto of a voice.  I could listen to her all day.  I’m not sure how much of this disc I would categorize as “jazz,” but does it matter?  Stamish Malcuss wrote on Jazz Sensibilities, “Your Love shows Wright’s adeptness at blending genres, weaving blues, gospel, and jazz elements into a compelling R&B groove. The track opens with the unmistakable rhythm of [Meshell] Ndegeocello’s bass—deep, resonant, and perfectly in the pocket—setting the stage for a musical experience that’s grounding in its pulse and transcendent in its melodic unfolding. [Brandee] Younger’s harp punctuates the arrangement, adding a layer of ethereal beauty that elevates the song beyond its roots.  Wright’s vocal delivery on “Your Love” is profoundly expressive and imbued with soul, bearing a distinct resonance of her gospel roots melded seamlessly with the expansive expressiveness of jazz and soul music.”  A very sweet record.

BK Trio – Groovin’ On (Self Produced, released 03/26/2024).  Brian Kooken – guitar, Greg Hatza – Hammond B3, Robert Shahid – drums.

Mid-Atlantic guitarist Brian Kooken has released a straight-ahead dose of guitar – B3 – drums blues, boogie, ballads and bop.

Hiruy Tirfe – 10,000 Hours (Tirfe Records, released 01/26/2024).  Daniel Spearman – trumpet, Aaron Goode – trombone, Michael Spearman – trombone, Connor Devlin – sousaphone, Hiruy Tirfe – saxophone / vocals, Luke Carlos O’Reilly – piano, Kayla Childs – Fender Rhodes / organ, Dan Rouse – keyboards, Simon Martinez – guitar, Mollie Ducoste – violin, Matthew Keppler – bass, Damani Okuri – bass, Lionel Forrester, Jr – drums / percussion, Steve McKie – drums, Aaron Draper – percussion, Ciara Chantelle – vocals, Mare – vocals, Yodel Tesfamichael – vocals, Eskinder Tirfe – vocals. 

Philadelphia saxophonist Hiruy Tirfe has released his debut recording showing us an exciting young talent.  While there are several different presentations here, A Cry For Help, a very spiritual selection from a tenor – piano – bass – drums quartet, is my favorite.  I didn’t get anything from the various patches of conversation, but when the music got going, I was good. 

Allen Dennard – Flashback (Self Produced, released 03/22/2024).  Allen Dennard – trumpet / piano / congas / vocals, Nolan Young – tenor saxophone, Stephen Grady – tenor saxophone, De’sean Jones – tenor saxophone, Kasan Belgrave – alto saxophone, Ian Finkelstein – piano / Rhodes, Jonathon Muir-Cotton – bass, Louis Jones III – drums.

Young Detroit trumpeter Allen Dennard has released a personal debut informed by the COVID shutdown and social justice protests. He comes at the music from several different angles and when he presents his ensemble playing straight-ahead jazz, as on The Oasis, this release is a successful to these ears.

Caroline Julia Cabading – Sugilanon – Sugilanon (Patois Records, released 03/22/2024).

Filipina-American percussionist / singer Caroline Julia Cabading has recorded a very personal story of the immigrant experience in her community over several generations, complete with indigenous percussion and a multi-part epic poem in a traditional format.

Seulah Noh Jazz Orchestra – Nohmad (Cultural Foundation, released 07/07/2023).  Mark Tipton, Mike Brehm, Dan Hirsch, Alex Quinn – trumpets, Joey Dies, Michael Gerace, Josh Gagnon, Gabe Ramos – trombones, Nathan See, Harry Pershing, Hunter McCay, Ian Buss, Nick Biagini – reeds, Dabin Ryu – piano / Rhodes, Kevin Scollins – guitar, Benjamin Young – bass, Willis Edmundson – drums.

Debut release by South Korean-born composer / bandleader Seulah Noh and her seventeen-piece orchestra (bumped to twenty-one with strings on the three-part Travellers Suite). Noh brings some obvious classical music chops to this effort.  Jack Bowers wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Several {compositions] impart an East Asian flavor, especially the three-movement Traveler’s Suite, which presumably depicts Noh’s long journey from Korea (and her immersion in classical music) to the United States—and later conversion to jazz. The sections are 6829 Miles, A Letter from Me and Sail at Dawn, each of which is persuasive in its own way, as are Noh’s other themes: L’illusionniste (versions of which open and close the album), Arrogant or Elegant and Hear the Light.  Noh also arranged Fred Hersch’s graceful Heartsong and Pat Metheny’s warm-hearted Have You Heard, which round out the colorful and charming program.”  Quite a debut and we can look forward to more.

Yosef Gutman Levitt – Upside Down Mountain (Soul Song Records, released 09/30/2022).  Omri More – piano, Yosef Gutman Levitt – acoustic bass guitar, Ofri Nehemya – drums.

And yet another release from Israeli bassist Yosef Gutman (Soul Song with Lionel Loueke previewed 02/05/2024, The World and Its People previewed 02/09/2024), this one from 2022 and just now reaching us.  This is a trio date with the same pianist and drummer as on the date with Loueke, and with Gutman Levitt on acoustic bass guitar.  Jerome Wilson wrote on AllAboutJazz, “It is tempting to wonder what ECM producer Manfred Eicher and his love of depth and echo might do with this music but the more upfront sound of this recording works fine, especially when capturing the glowing tones of Levitt’s string plucking. The delicate trio drama of “Poltova” sounds particularly rich and full when the piano and bass dance over the melody together. There is a graceful and profound sweep to all of the music on this album. It sounds intimate, natural, and heartfelt. Yosef Gutman Levitt and his trio have produced a small gem of an album.”  There is a delightful, sometimes even moving, vibe as Gutman seems to mine the world of folk music.

Red Pocket – Thick (Tzadik Records, released 2004).  Jewila Eisenberg – bass / voice, Marika Hughes – cello / voice, Scott Amendola – drums / percussion / electronics.

This is a 20 year old disc from John Zorn’s Tzadik Records that was recently sent to WTJU.

Lot’s to listen to.

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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