New Jazz Releases – 05/01/2023


This week brings us several fine performances by women artists Artemis, Sylvie Courvoisier, Rickie Lee Jones and Jackie Ryan; a couple of roaring big band sets from JOI Jazz Orchestra and Gardyn Jazz Orchestra, and two vintage sets from the tape vault – bassist Jeff Johnson (1991) and drummer Les DeMerle (1967).  Something for everyone!

Artemis – In Real Time (Blue Note, 05/2023).  Ingrid Jensen – trumpet, Alexa Tarantino – flute / alto saxophone / soprano saxophone, Nicole Glover – tenor saxophone, Renee Rosnes – piano / Rhodes / vocals, Noriko Ueda – bass, Allison Miller – drums.

In 2020, Artemis, a sextet of acclaimed women jazz players, released a significant debut recording and now they return with an equally impressive sophomore effort.  Supplementing founding members Ingrid Jensen on trumpet plus the rhythm section of Renee Rosnes on piano, Norika Ueda on bass and Charlottesville favorite Allison Miller on drums are two new reed players, Nicole Glover (Ben Wolfe, Savant Records) on tenor and Alexa Tarantino (Grammy-winning Generation Gap Orchestra, Cécile McLorin Salvant, Posi-tone Records) on flute, alto and soprano.  Five of the six players contribute compositions, including Miller’s muscular and richly-voiced Bow and Arrow and Rosnes’s driving Empress Afternoon.  George Harris at Jazz Weekly raised the question of whether this is a “female band” or a “band of females” and concluded, “the only novel thing here is the talent, and its bubbling over…”. Likely one of the best of the year.

Sylvie Courvoisier & Cory Smythe – The Rite of Spring – Spectre d’un Songe (Pyroclastic Records, 05/2023).  Sylvie Courvoisier – piano, Cory Smythe – piano.

Pianist / composer Sylvie Courvoisier has one foot in the classical music world and one in the improvised music world.  Forbidden by the Stravinsky family from performing an independent arrangement of Rite of Spring, she has recorded the maestro’s piano duet version with fellow pianist Cory Smythe, followed by a piece she composed as a musical response to the masterpiece, Spectre d’un Songe.

Juan Pastor / Chinchano – Cachito (Bace Records, 05/2023).  Victor Garcia – trumpet, Greg Ward – alto saxophone, Dustin Laurenzi – tenor saxophone, Stu Mindeman – piano / organ, Matt Ulery – bass, Juan Pastor – percusion / drumset / vocals, Flavio Donoso – cajon / cajita / congas / quijada / cowbell, Javier Quintana – congas / bata.

Chicago-based Peruvian percussionist Juan Pastor has dedicated this work (primarily a tenor – piano – bass – drums quartet) to his late father.  Supplemented by additional percussion, plus trumpet and alto in the front line, La Lucha captures the essence of this release with a driving rhythm that moves from 4/4 to 12/8. Azúcar De Caña features a beautiful tenor (Dustin Laurenzi) – alto (Greg Ward) front line with gentle solos and sweet ensemble passages.  Juan Pastor is an artist who is new to me, although this is his fourth release.  A lovely listen it is.

Greg Diamond – Beata (Chasm Records, 04/2023). Greg Diamond – guitar, Edward Perez – bass, Ludwig Afonso – drums.

After three sextet releases and two solo releases in the past 15 years, guitarist Greg Diamond turns his attention to this trio set dedicated to his Colombian mother and carrying an infusion of Latin styles.  In lieu of raging congas and timbales, expect thoughtful and introspective performances with challenging and interesting rhythms and time signatures.

Le Boeuf Brothers – Hush (Soundspore Records, 04/2023).  Remy Le Boeuf – alto saxophone / tenor saxophone, Dayna Stephens – tenor saxophone, Pascal Le Boeuf – piano, Linda May Han Oh – bass, Christian Euman – drums.

This appropriately-titled release from twins Remy (alto) and Pascal (piano) LeBoeuf looks and sounds like an ECM release, in every positive way. Jim Hynes wrote in the independent music magazine, Making a Scene, “If the sound and music of an album can be described in one word, the Le Boeuf Brothers have managed to do just that with this title, Hush. One does not find many jazz albums with 19 tracks as this has, but the many short vignettes or interludes serve the purpose of the whole – to create a calm mood…. The brothers wanted to develop an antidote of sorts to our bustling society – giving the listener calming music that would not only be relaxing but ultimately feel good too. They adopted a technical approach of performing into close microphones at extremely low volumes, realizing that this close proximity would result in exaggerated low and high frequencies.  These hushed, whispering tones exude warmth, and arguably an even more focused interplay among the musicians.”

Jeff Johnson –  My Heart (Origin, 04/2023).  John Gross – tenor saxophone, Art Resnick – piano, Jeff Johnson – bass, Billy Mintz – drums.

After sitting on a shelf for the past 32 years, bassist Jeff Johnson (Hal Galper, Thomas Marriott, Karrin Allyson) has just now released a tremendous recording of his 1991 tenor quartet, featuring drummer Billy Mintz (Alan Broadbent, Nels Cline, Vinny Golia).  Paul Rauch wrote on AllAboutJazz, “The most striking quality of this recording is how perfectly it brings out the character of each participant’s personal approach and overall sound. Johnson’s compositions are notoriously open-ended, providing lots of elbow room for four voices to have a focused and emotive conversation…. The music swings gently, with Johnson and Mintz in beautiful unison which is straight ahead, yet contains a degree of elasticity. [Tenorist John] Gross improvises in and around Johnson’s lithe melodies with a tone which suggests romanticism and melancholy, even at its most intense moments. Gross’ reputation as a musician’s musician rises to the surface, his flawless technique, elegant tonality and melody-based spontaneity perfectly embracing the vibe of Johnson’s tunes.”  The emotional peak of the record is the title tune, My Heart, a ballad which is receives a powerful reading.  This is not just a curiosity, but a serious piece of very good work that has been unheard until now.

Les DeMerle Sound 67 – Once In A Lifetime (Origin, 04/2023).  Randy Brecker – trumpet / flugelhorn, Alan Gauvin – alto saxophone, Lanny Morgan – alto saxophone / flute, Danny Sandridge – piano, Mel Olman – piano, Terry Plumeri – bass, Jack Greg – bass, Les DeMerle – drums, Genya Ravan – vocals, Rosemary Clooney – vocals.

More unreleased acetates, in this case the stash is 56 years old and just now finding ears.  In 1967, this would have been Randy Brecker’s first release and was early in the career of renowned bassist / composer Terry Plumeri.  Vocalist Genya Ravan went on to success as the 60s became the 70s with the rock group Ten Wheel Drive.  Absent these historical footnotes, this release doesn’t do much for me.

Rickie Lee Jones – Pieces of Treasure (BMG, 04/2023).  Scott Robinson – baritone saxophone / trumpet / alto saxophone, Ryan Roberts – oboe, Rob Mounsey – piano, Mike Dillon – vibraphone, Mike Manieri – vibraphone, Russell Malone – guitar, Jon Herington – guitar, Ara Dinkjian – oud, David Wong – bass, Mark McLean – drums, Rickie Lee Jones – vocals.

I really wanted to love this release.  Over the years, Jones has done much that you might describe as “jazzy,” opening the possibility of great work to emerge from her first disc entirely of selections from the Great American Songbook.  Alas, despite a fine band, this is not the record that succeeds in defining her as a jazz singer.

The JOI Jazz Orchestra – A JOIful NoiZZ (Jazz Outreach Initiative, 03/2023).  Wynton Marsalis, Daniel Falcone, Gary Cordell, Wes Marshall, Jorge Machain, Kenny Rampton – trumpets, Curt Miller, Nathan Tenouye, David Philippus, Sonny Hernandez – trombones, Phil Wigfall – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone / flute, Eddie Rich – alto saxophone / flute / clarinet, Wayne de Silva – tenor saxophone, Rob Mader – tenor saxophone / clarinet, John Summers – baritone saxophone / bass clarinet, Dave Loeb – piano, Jimmy Tripi- guitar, David Ostrem – bass, Molly Redfield -bass, Johnny Friday – drums, Clint Holmes – vocals.

The Orchestra from the Las Vegas-based Jazz Outreach Initiative (JOI) is a project of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra trumpeter Kenny Rampton and features a cameo by Wynton Marsalis on My Favorite Things.  Alto player Phil Wigfall has Johnny Hodges in his ear as he slides his way through Jeep’s Blues.   A tight and tidy affair all around.

Gardyn Jazz Orchestra – Gardyn Jazz Orchestra (JC Gardner Music, 10/2022).  Derek Dillman, Daniel Wright, Chris Coletti, Joe Anderson – trumpets, Travis Hill, Sean McCusker, Anthony Triplett – trombones, Chelsea Meynig – flute, Jon C. Gardner – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone, Andrew Neu – alto saxophone / flute, Nils Mossblad – alto saxophone / flute, Judson Aaron – tenor saxophone / clarinet, Jordan Graef,- tenor saxophone / clarinet Chuck Hallahan – baritone saxophone / bass clarinet, James Collins- piano, Dan Hanrahan – guitar, Isaac Strader – bass, Sean J. Kennedy – drums, Chris Colaneri – percussion, David Lu – percussion.

As further evidence that there is amazing home-town jazz happening all over, Jon Gardner’s Gardyn Jazz Orchestra is comprised of first-rate players from around the Philapdelphia region (including Charlottesville-native flutist Chelsea Meynig!).   Gardner interprets George Michael’s Faith as an uptempo second-line swinger.  All ten tunes are arranged by Garner and half are his own compositions including the delightful mid-tempo swinger Good Evening, Mrs. Garner.  With seven reeds, four trumpets, four trombones and four rhythm players, this is a large ensemble that exploits all the potential of its size.

Jackie Ryan – Recuerdos de Mm Madre (Open Arts, 08/2022).  Steffen Kühn – trumpet, Paquito D’Rivera – clarinet / alto saxophone, Marco Diaz – piano / trumpet, Hugo Wainzinger – guitar, Carlos Reyes – violin, Jeremy Cohen – violin, Seth Asarnow – bandoneon, Saul Sierra – bass, Louie Romero – percussion, Braulio Barrera – cajon, Carlos Caro – percussion, Jackie Ryan – vocals.

After three highly regarded releases, in her fourth outing, Jackie Ryan pays homage to her Mexican mother and the tunes she learned at her mother’s knee. Andrew Gilbert wrote in Jazz Times, “Some singers play it cool. Whatever language she sings in, Jackie Ryan wears her heart on her sleeve. The multilingual San Francisco Bay Area vocalist has released a small but emotionally expansive discography that seamlessly weaves Brazilian, French, and Latin American and American Songbook standards into a Technicolor jazz tapestry. Her new bolero-centric album Recuerdos de Mi Madre might seem like a departure, but it’s actually a return home.  Dedicated to her Acapulco-raised mother, Recuerdos collects classic Latin American songs that served as a cultural lifeline to Mexico when Ryan was growing up in Marin County. Rather than transforming these standards into Latin jazz vehicles, Ryan focuses on wringing a lifetime of feeling out of classic songs.”

Another week of strong new music.  I hope these notes help you discover something you love to hear.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!

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