New Jazz Releases – 04/23/2024

Nicole Glover

Record Store Day came and went with a burst of (mostly) important historical unreleased material from Art Tatum, Mal Waldron, Steve Lacy, Yusef Lateef, Chet Baker and Sun Ra.  In the current jazz realm – strong issues from Bill Frissell, Shabaka Hutchings and Nicole Glover. And a wonderful 2014 recording from Glenn Wilson and John D’earth just found my ears.

Nicole Glover – Plays (Savant Records, released 03/29/2024).  Nicole Glover – tenor saxophone, Steve Nelson – vibraphone, Tyrone Allen – bass, Kayvon Gordon – drums.

Tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover is on a fast track.  She contributed to two of the best records of 2023 – Ben Wolfe’s Unjust (previewed 01/23/2023) and Artemis’s In Real Time (previewed 05/01/2023).  She plays with a deep, rich tone and is an exceptional improvisor, spinning long logical lines in a sax – bass – drums trio for half the disc and in a quartet with the addition of vibraphonist Steve Nelson (Lewis Hayes, Phil Woods, Chris Potter) for the balance.  The rep features one by the leader and a set of well chosen covers from Ornette Coleman, Kenny Dorham (The Fox – a fav), Lucky Thompson, McCoy Tyner, Elmo Hope (One Second, Please – always great to hear from Hope’s catalog), and Lerner and Lowe.  A winner from start to finish.

Art Tatum – Jewels In The Treasure Box – The 1953 Chicago Blue Note Jazz Club Recordings (Resonance Records, released 04/20/2024).  Art Tatum – piano, Everett Barksdale – guitar, Slam Stewart – bass.

Sonny Rollins said, “I don’t know any musician in the jazz world who doesn’t just stop cold when you mention Art Tatum.”  Master pianist Art Tatum, an inspiration to musicians but not a fresh talent in 1953, was not recording regularly at the time of these live sessions.  Tatum was just about to start his final and monumental recording sessions with Norman Granz (21 LPs worth of music in 33 months) and a few weeks after these recordings he tracked 69 solo pieces in two days.  Just a portion of his encyclopedic repertoire gets aired in this set 3 CD set.  Tatum is playing at his peak and, while he is naturally a solo player, he fits comfortably with Everett Barksdale on guitar and Slam Stewart on bass.  Given the modest contributions of his fellow band members, one has to wonder why Tatum doesn’t just inhabit an otherwise empty stage.  Be that as it may, one comes to this release for Art Tatum and he doesn’t disappoint.  Thirty-eight tunes from the Great American Songbook and a single Tatum original recorded over three nights in 1953 – Tatum would die three years later at 47.

Mal Waldron & Steve Lacy – The Mighty Warriors: Live in Antwerp (Elemental Music, released 04/20/2024).  Steve Lacy – soprano saxophone, Mal Waldron – piano, Reggie Workman – bass, Andrew Cyrille – drums.

Having played together off-and-on since 1958, it was comfortable for Steve Lacy to join Mal Waldron and his trio with Reggie Workman (bass) and Andrew Cyrille (drums) to celebrate Waldron’s 70th Birthday in 1995.  Much of the music on the first CD follows from Monk one way or another, and these artists KNOW their MONK.  The two tracks on the second CD, both by Waldron and Garrison, are more experimental and abstract – sometimes free and exciting.  Five of the six tracks are longer than 12 minutes, but the level of invention is so high that the music doesn’t flag.  Live jazz at its best.

Yusef Lateef – Avignon 1972 (Elemental Music, released 04/20/2024).  Yusef Lateef – soprano saxophone / tenor saxophone / flute, Kenny Barron – piano, Bob Cunningham – bass, Albert “Tootie” Heath – drums / Indian flute.

Tenor sax and flute master Yusef Lateef may be slipping out of the common narrative, but we can hope that this excellent set from 1972 puts a stop to such nonsense. At the time of this recording, Lateef’s touring and recording band featured future NEA Jazz Masters Kenny Barron on piano and Albert “Tootie” Heath (1935 – 2024) on drums, along with Bob Cunningham on bass.  And on this night they were on fire, everything works!  Seven tracks (over two CD’s) from straight ahead hard bop (Inside Atlantis) to barrelhouse blues (Yusef’s Mood) to lyrical ballads I’m Getting Sentimental Over You), they can do it all.  Highly Recommended.

Chet Baker & Jack Sheldon – Perfect Harmony (Elemental Music, released 04/20/2024).  Chet Baker – trumpet / vocals, Jack Sheldon – trumpet / vocals, Dave Frishberg – piano, Jack Marshall – guitar, Joe Mondragon – bass, Nick Ceroli – drums.

In 1966, Chet Baker was brutally beaten, losing teeth.  He had to redevelop his embouchure with dentures and was, six years later in this 1972 session, trying to get comfortable with playing again.  His friend Jack Shelton, also a singing trumpet player, suggested the session to Baker as less taxing, with the two lead players.  Baker and Jack Sheldon alternate vocals, alternate soloing, never vocalize together and only sporadically play together.  Sheldon is nowhere near as compelling a singer as Baker, edging toward cringeworthy and there is an electric bass too far forward in the mix.  Baker’s singing is sweet and his flexibility with time noteworthy.  At best – a half a Chet Baker record by something like half a Chet Baker.  This was never released – go figure.

Sun Ra – Sun Ra At the Showcase: Live In Chicago 1976 – 1977 (Elemental Records, released 04/20/2024).  Michael Ray – trumpet, Ahmed Abdullah – trumpet, Emmett McDonald – trumpet, Vincent Chancey – French horn, John Gilmore – tenor saxophone, Marshall Allen – alto saxophone / flute / kora, Danny Davis – alto saxophone / flute,
Elo Omoe – alto sax / bass clarinet, Danny Ray Thompson – baritone saxophone / flute, Sun Ra – piano / electric Keyboards, Dale Williams – guitar, Richard Williams – bass, Luqman Ali – drums, Eddie Thomas – percussion / vocal, James Jacson – Ancient Ihnfinity drum / oboe, Atakatune – congas, June Tyson – vocals, Cheryl Banks-Smith – vocals, Wisteria (Judith Holton) – vocals.

Two sets of previously unreleased Sun Ra live in 1976 and 1977 have now escaped the gravitational pull of the earth.  The material ranges from very accessible hard bop(ish) to space jams.  Velvet, an uptempo hard bop romp features some terrific playing from tenor saxophonist John Gilmore, whose mainstream chops are unquestioned.  Calling Planet Earth – The Shadow World points the other way and reaches for the stars, unsurprisingly, as do tunes like Theme of the Stargazers, Space Is The Place, and Ebah Speaks In Cosmic Tongue.  Sun Ra was an adventurous composer and bandleader, some would say an acquired taste, but if you tilt this direction, you’ll be pleased with this well-recorded slice of Arkestral history. George W Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “The 1976 gig is akin to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, with textured sounds and lunar landings on Calling  Planet Earth & The Shadow World with the leader splashing the ivories with more noodles than a Korean Soup Kitchen on Theme of The Stargazers. The vocal team which included Wisteria, Cheryl Banks Smith and June Tyson chant and clap like a gospel meeting from Mars on EbaH Speaks In Cosmic Tongue and Greetings From The 21st Century.”  “More noodles” / “gospel meeting on Mars”, indeed.

Bill Frisell – Orchestras(Blue Note, released 04/19/2024).  Bill Frisell – guitar, Thomas Morgan – bass, Rudy Royston – drums, Brussels Philharmonic, Umbria Jazz Orchestra.

Guitarist Bill Frisell was joined by his long-time trio with Thomas Morgan on bass and Rudy Royston on drums to record two sets with large ensembles – one with the nearly 60-piece Brusseels Philharmonic and another with the 11-piece Umbria Jazz Orchestra – both with arrangements by English composer Michael Gibbs.  Of the two sets, the one with the Umbria Jazz Orchestra made the biggest impact on these ears.  Of that set, Filipe Freitas wrote on Jazz Trail, “CD2 further captivated my ears, with the musicians coloring and texturing agreeable sonic landscapes, reaching a genuine universality in their musical commitment as they listen to each other so closely. Moreover, the repertoire contains two of my favorite Frisell tunes, both enhanced by magnificent arrangements and executions. They are Strange Meeting, here featuring a disarmingly simple guitar solo, and Lookout For Hope, a marvelous jazz-rock hybrid aggrandized by Royston’s fine drum chops by the end. There’s also Levees, a stress-free, ternary exercise with bold horn lines, while Frisell’s guitar counterpoints by exuding more sparky than mellow tones.”  Frisell continues to bring us great new music and he always surprises.

Jordan VanHemert – Deep in the Soil (Origin Records, released 04/19/2024).  Terell Stafford – trumpet, Michael Dease – trombone, Jordan VanHemert – alto saxophone, Helen Sung – piano, Rodney Whitaker – bass, Lewis Nash – drums.

Oklahoma-based saxophonist Jordan VanHemert has stepped away from his normal ax, the tenor, in favor of a recording featuring his original instrument, the alto sax.  Terrell Stafford sings on the trumpet and Helen Sung plays beautifully on piano – in fact the whole band is excellent.  Jimmy Heath’s Sound for Sore Ears is a highpoint, showing the ensembles first-rate hard bop chops.  VanHemert follows in the large footsteps of Fathead Newman, Houston Person and Vincent Herring in recording the soul jazz classic Hard Times.  Worth a listen.

The Jazz Defenders – Memory In Motion (Haggis Records, released 04/19/2024).  Nick Malcolm – trumpet, Jake McMurchie – saxophone, George Cooper – piano / Wurlitzer / organ / vibraphone / percussion / vocals, Will Harris – double bass / electric bass, Ian Matthews – drums, Doc Brown – vocals, Gemma Bott – backing vocals.

As with their last release (Scheming previewed 04/24/2023), UK’s Jazz Defenders bring their hard bop, soul jazz and Film Noir chops to the table again.  Chris May wrote on AllAboutJazz, “If there is one quality of first generation NYC hard bop which no twenty-first century band has succeeded in capturing it is the snarling half-valve badness which coursed through Lee Morgan’s music. The absence is not surprising, for Morgan’s vibe was a real-time product of the demi-monde in which he moved and that world is gone forever.   Hard bop was not all about badness, however. Of equal weight towards the other end of the spectrum were Horace Silver’s gospel fervour and Art Blakey’s orgiastic celebration of the beat. The UK’s Bristol-based quintet The Jazz Defenders may not have much of Morgan about them but they bring Silver and Blakey and some of their own thing.”  Some funk, some strutting, some ballads, lots of toe-tapping and swinging good times.  Recommended.

Jacky Terrasson – Moving On (Believe, releases 04/19/2024).  Jacky Trerrasson – piano / keyboards, Gregoire Maret – harmonica, Kenny Davis – bass, Sylvain Romano – bass, Alvester Garnett – drums, Eric Hartland – drums, Billy Hart – drums, Lukmil Perez – drums, Camille Bertault – vocals, Kareen Guiock Thurman – vocals.

After a couple of decades in New York, pianist Jacky Terrasson has moved back home to France, starting his own label after recording for prominent US labels like Blue Note and Impulse!  There are a many different players in several combinations (four different drummers), a cameo from harmonicat Gregoire Maret and brilliant singing from Kareen Guiock Thuram on My Baby Just Cares For Me.

Allyssa Allgood – From Here (Next Records, released April 19, 2024.  Greg Ward – saxophone, Geoffrey Keezer – piano, John Patitucci – bass, Kendrick Scott – drums, Allyssa Algood – vocals.

For her fourth release, swinging vocalist Alyssa Allgood has surrounded herself with a first-class band – Greg Ward (Geof Bradfield, Monika Herzig, Makaya McRaven) on tenor, Geoffrey Keezer (Michael Dease, Christian McBride, Ralph Peterson) on piano, John Patitucci (Chris Potter, Chick Corea, Wayne Shorter) on bass and Kendrick Smith (Corridors previewed 02/27/2023) on drums.  Allgood is a capable writer, penning ten of the dozen tunes, covering Both Sides Now and  On A Clear Day.  Her Burn (For Betty) for Betty Carter includes scorching solos by Ward and Keezer and, appropriately, scatting from the leader amidst several tempo changes.  Betty Carter would be proud.

Shabaka – Perceive Its Beauty, Acknowledge Its Grace (Impulse!, released 04/12/2024).  Shabaka Hutchings – clarinet / shakuhachi / flute / swirl / tenor saxophone, Andre 3000 – Teotihuacan drone flute, Jason Moran – piano, Nduduzo Makhathini – piano, Surya Botofasina, Floating Points – synthesizer / vibraphone, Brandee Younger – harp, Charles Overton – harp, Dave Okumu – guitar, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson – violin / viola / cello, Esperanza Spalding – bass, Tom Herbert – bass, Nasheet Watts – drums, Marcus Gilmore – drums, Rajna Swaminathan – mrundangam, Carlos Nino – percussion, Chris Sholat – electronic percussion, Moses Sumner – vocals, Saul Williams – vocals, Elucid – vocals, Laraaji – vocals, Eska – vocals, Lianne La Havas – vocals, Anum Iyapo – vocals.

Known primarily as a tenor player, Shabaka Hutchings put down the larger horn to focus on the flute last year.  The result is considerably quieter and less rhythmic than the output of the various bands he has led (The Comet is Coming, Shabaka and the Ancestors, Sons of Kemet). Drum, brass and keys have been largely swapped out for harp (Charles Overton / Brandee Younger) and vocals (various).  Kitty Empire wrote on The Guardian, “The emphatic playing of Hutchings’ more exhortatory bands (chiefly Sons of Kemet) has given way to a more impressionistic delicacy. Fear, courage and the power of breathwork are underlying narratives, as well as the flute as proxy for both birdsong and the human voice, as when Moses Sumney duets with Hutchings’ flute on the lovely Insecurities.”  Hutchings surprises … again.

Andrea Wolper – Wanderlust (Moonflower Music, released 04/12/2024).  Jeff Lederer – clarinet / flute, John Di Martino – piano, Charlie Burnham – violin, Ken Filiano – bass, Michael TA Thompson – drums,Andrea Wolper – vocals.

Veteran vocalist Andrea Wolper has released her first disc in 14 years, this time with mutli-reedist Jeff Lederer playing and co-producing.  Dan Bilawsky wrote on AllAboutJazz, “With pliant pipes and a willingness to stretch the limits of an idea, Wolper serves as creator and catalyst on a program split between choice, reimagined covers and originals. The former category earns focus up front, with a loose-swinging yet pointed look at Ray Charles and Rick Ward’s Light Out of Darkness and a ruminative balladic take on country songwriter Wayne Carson’s Dog Day Afternoon (complete with Burnham’s mood-matching violin work). Wolper broadens horizons—hers and ours—with sharp interpretive powers in that opening pairing, and in what follows at intervals: A swaying and wholly seductive take on Abbey Lincoln’s The Music is the Magic, a mostly upbeat performance of Carole King’s Been to Canaan and a Parnassian, semi-tempestuous reading of Sting’s I Burn for You.  Solid pipers, great band.

Bob Mover & Walter Davis, Jr. – The Salerno Concert (Reel To Real, released 04/12/2024).  Bob Mover – alto saxophone, Walter Davis, Jr – piano.

Pianist Walter Davis, Jr recorded with Dizzy Gillespie, Jackie McLean and Donald Byrd in the 50s and his 1960 release Davis Cup is an important hard bop quintet set (with Byrd and McLean).  Although he didn’t get many opportunities to record as a leader, he formed a duo with alto player Bob Mover in 1987, an association cut short by Davis’s untimely death at 57 in 1990.  As far as I know, this is the only recording of that pairing.  Mover is also under-recorded, but I recommend his 1986 disc The Night Bathers with an amazing trio featuring John Abercrombie on guitar and Paul Bley on piano.  Davis and Mover make a formidable duo –  flawless chops with a sense of humor.  A fine record of a fleeting association.

Dayna Stephens – Closer Than We Think (Cellar Music, released 04/05/2024).  Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, Dayna Stephens – saxophones / EWI, Emmanuel Michael – guitar, Kanoa Mendenhall – bass, Jongkuk Kim – drums.

Tenor player Dayna Stephens (Lorca Hart, Le Boeuf Brothers, Billy Drummond) has played a supporting role on many recent discs bringing his big tenor sound and fertile improvisational chops to bear. Now, Stephens has assembled a young band, some of whom he met as students in his educational role.  Much of the vibe comes from guitarist Emmanuel Michael whose distinctive sound anchors the quartet.  Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “The choice of guitar rather than piano owes in part to being inspired by the classic Sonny Rollins album, The Bridge… Not only does Stephens tap some youngsters for the band, but they contribute compositions as well. The joyous, buoyant “Bubbly” from Michael puts his impressive guitar sound front and center and sets the mood for an uplifting album.”

Jeremy Pelt – Tomorrow’s Another Day(High Note Records, released 03/29/2024).  Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, Frank LoCastro – Fender Rhodes / piano, Jalen Baker – vibraphone, Alex Wintz – guitar, Leighton McKinley Harrell – bass, Allan Medford – drums, Deantoni Parks – drums.

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt put out a first rate hard bop with strings disc in 2023 (The Art of Intimacy, Vol. 2 previewed 03/20/2023) and has followed with his most experimental release to date – Tomorrow’s Another Day.  I cannot say that this one is a highlight of his catalog to date.  Jack Bowers wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, a force on the jazz scene for more than two decades, simply does his own thing on Tomorrow’s Another Day, the twenty-fourth album as leader of his own groups, inviting any interested listeners to come on board for the ride. Pelt’s thing these days apparently includes an abundance of special effects, reverb, heavy (and at times intrusive) rhythms, leavened with occasional flashes of the remarkable improviser he can be and often is… [Pelt] has clearly reached that enviable place where he no longer has to prove himself to anyone. The flip side is that he is able, for better or worse, to go his own way and hope that avenue draws an appreciative audience. While Tomorrow’s Another Day succeeds at times, there are too many other moments in which it falls short, musically and aesthetically.”

Tony Monaco – Over And Over(Chicken Coup Records, released 03/22/2024).  Tony Monaco – Hammond B3 organ, Zakk Jones – guitar, Reggie Jackson – drums. 

B3 player Tony Monaco is a fine player and his trio works really well together.  Mentored by B3-hero Jimmy Smith, Monaco can stomp and wail or stroll and whisper.  Marc Myers wrote on Jazz Wax, “Over and Over … released this week, is his finest album to date. Every single track is electrifying and will set your legs and hands moving. At least that’s what happened to me each time I gave a listen over the past few weeks. The rest of the group is spectacular—guitarist Zakk Jones, who has an early-1970s soul-funk flavor, and drummer Reggie Jackson, who knows how to snap the snare and kick the bass. What a dream trio.”

Leon Foster Thomas – Calasanitus(Krossover Jazz, released 03/03/2024).  John Daversea – trumpet, Troy Roberts – tenor saxophone / alto saxophone, Magela Herrera – flute, Tai Cohen – piano, Leon Foster Thomas – steel pans, Michael Ramos – bass, Michael Piolet – drums, Harvel Nakundi – drums, Antonia N. Wilson – vocals, Faith Lowe – vocals, Donald A Lowe Jr. – vocals.

Trinidadian steel pan player Leon Foster Thomas has released a lovely and tender tribute to his mother (Calasanitus was her middle name.)  Chris May (one of my favorite reviewers) wrote on AllAboutJazz, “An engaging composer and imaginative improviser, Thomas fuses melodies with propulsive rhythmic drive. He wrote all of the tunes, bar one, on Calasanitus. These comprise four muscular workouts: I Am An Immigrant, Silent Maze, Together and Ascension, which bookend a lovely ballad, Bliss, and the prayerful Dance Of David. The cover is a remake of soca star Bunji Garlin’s bustling 2015 hit Cheers. Harmonically and structurally, the closing track Ascension is the highlight of the album, but there is not a single dud on the disc, which is peppered with strong solos from [trumpeter John] Daversa, [saxophonist Troy] Roberts, [pianist [Tai] Cohen and, above all, Thomas.”  The steel pans fill an ensemble roll similar to the vibraphone and Thomas proves to be totally in synch with this band, especially pianist Cohen.

Tierney Sutton & San Gabriel Seven – Good People (JRL-SG5 Records, released 03/01/2024).  Kye Palmer – trumpet / flugelhorn, James Lewis – trombone, Paul Stoker – trombone, Glen Berger – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone / tenor saxophone, Dan Boissy – alto saxophone / flute, Jay Mason – baritone saxophone / tenor saxophone / flute, Alex Budman – alto saxophone, Chad Edwards – piano / keyboards, Chris Gordon – piano, Steve Gregory – guitar, Serge Merlaud – guitar, Jonathan Pintoff – bass, Trey Henry – bass, Randy M Drake – drums, Scott Breadman – drums, Tierney Sutton – vocals.

Tierney Sutton is a terrific singer who tends to record in a small group setting but, for this release, has joined forces with LA jazz / funk band San Gabriel Seven.  The big horn section suites her.  In a departure, Sutton wrote or co-wrote eight of the ten tunes, showing a sensitive and clever touch, with a deep conscience (Good People) and a sense of humor (Where’d I Put My Keys).  Recommended.

Glenn Wilson – Timely (Cadence Jazz Records, released 2014).  John D’earth – trumpet / flugelhorn, Glenn Wilson – baritone saxophone, John Toomey – piano, Jimmy Masters – bass, Tony Martucci – drums.

Released in 2014, this disc, from a quintet led by bari sax player Glenn Wilson, escaped my notice until it was mentioned from the bandstand when John D’earth invited Wilson to guest with the UVa Jazz Ensemble several weeks ago.  With the baritone – trumpet front line, you should think of Donald Byrd – Pepper Adams, not Chet Baker – Gerry Mulligan, more unison long lines and less counterpoint.  The band comes roaring out of the gate with D’earth’s title tune then proceeds to cover compositions by Pepper Adams, Bob Beldon, Wayne Shorter and Bob Dorough.  D’earth’s ballad Inner Life gets a tender reading from both the composer and Wilson.  Raul Da Game wrote on JazzdaGama, “Mr. Wilson’s embouchure is such that his lines are viscous and he spews them forth in great tongues of fire. But first there are notes that pop out of his horn like plump drops of magic potion that then fly up, pirouetting as they do so in balletic swirls forming those hot and gushing lines that he has become known for. Sometimes Mr. Wilson holds those notes as if they exist in suspended animation and then when their is too much to bear he lets go and the notes dissipate in feathery poofs while others take their place. On Timely this is absolutely breathtaking to listen to especially as the baritone saxophonist plays opposite the brazen sound of the trumpet—and sometimes the softer, flugelhorn—both played with ravishing beauty by John D’earth. The dramatis personae might have seemed thin on the ground for any other ensemble, but the command performances by the two characters more than compensates for the fact that there are just two characters in this performance. Moreover baritone saxophone and trumpet make for strange bedfellows sometimes. Here, however the relationship is so close that they dance around each other like atoms in a double helix molecule.”  A terrific addition to the discography of our local Jazz Hero.

The Jazz Journalists Association has, in fact, identified trumpeter / composer / bandleader / positive force in our community, John D’earth, as one of their 2024 Jazz Heroes.  The annual Jazz Hero awards recognize “… advocates who have had significant impact in their local communities.”  To congratulate and celebrate John D’earth, he will be be my guest on Jazz at 100 Now! from 9:00 – Noon on this Tuesday 04/23/2023.  We will be sampling from his deep and compelling discography.  Please join us.

Please enjoy all the new music and thanks to those who listened and contributed to our just completed Rock Marathon.

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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