New Jazz Releases – 05/06/2024

Jim Snidero

Strong releases this week from several well-known players – Jim Snidero, Behn Gillece and the Black Art Jazz Collective.  In addition there are some terrific releases from lesser known players – Jason Robinson, Christopher Zuar and Troy Roberts to whom we should pay attention.

Jim Snidero – For All We Know (Savant Records, released 02/16/2024).  Jim Snidero – alto saxophone, Peter Washington – bass, Joe Farnsworth – drums.

Alto saxophonist Jim Snider may have the purest tone in the alto world, it’s a pleasure to hear him play and this new release has him in his first trio setting where he is beautifully exposed.  His bandmates – Peter Washington on bass and Joe Farnsworth on drums – have played with everyone including Snidero on his last two releases (the great outing Live At The Deer Hear Inn with Orren Evans in a quartet and Far Far Away with Evans and Kurt Rosenwinkel in a quintet.) Dan McClenaghan wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Snidero’s tone is strikingly pure, showcased all the more in the spare trio setting. Tonal beauty stood out in his previous masterpiece, Strings (Milestone Records), released originally in 2002 and re-released in a slightly buffed-up form in 2021 on the Savant label. It is even more apparent on For All We Know, with the altoist playing the familiar standards, from the title tune opener through John Coltrane’s Naima to Charlie Parker’s (there has to be a Bird song here) Parker’s Mood. Throw in Cole Porter’s Love For Sale, Rodgers and Hart’s My Funny Valentine, and the old war horse Willow Weep For Me and you have a classic set, played with reverence and an unmatchable feel for melodic beauty.”  Unsurpassed.

Jason Robinson – Ancestral Numbers(Playscape Recordings, releases 05/14/2024).  Michael Dessen – trombone, Jason Robinson – saxophone, Joshua White – Piano, Drew Gress – bass, Ches Smith – drums.  

Saxophonist Jason Robinson (Michael Musillami, Brian Lynch) has picked up where he left off with 2021’s Harmonic Constituent also featuring Joshua White on piano, Drew Guess on bass and Ches Smith on drums.   This time around Michael Dressen enriches the mix on trombone making the ensemble a quintet.   Lynn René Bayley wrote on The Art Music Lounge, “Robinson’s composing style uses loose, somewhat funky jazz beats which he combines with melodic lines which appear to be strings of short motifs, yet somehow they emerge as coherent musical statements in their own right… Drummer Ches Smith maintains a steady beat most of the time, but not always. And the various lines of the music—rhythmic saxophone figures, plunger-muted trombone smears, and the ensemble as a whole—fit together like a surrealistic jigsaw puzzle…  On Potentiality, the band even gets into a surprisingly swinging beat of the old school, but it’s not consistent, and Robinson’s sax solo, both inside and outside jazz, similarly defies convention. Remembering Water is a ballad—of sorts—but similarly strange. Vestibule sounds entirely modern-complex with Robinson now on soprano sax, something like Eric Dolphy playing over a sort of funky, slow 6/8.”  Sometimes challenging, always edgy, stimulating.

Nancy Erickson Lamont – Through The Passages (Vital Flame Productions, releases 05/10/2024).  Sean Jones – trumpet, Jerome Smith – trombone, Brent Jensen – alto saxophone, Derek Smith – bass clarinet, Josh Nelson – piano / keyboards / organ, Shawn Schlogel – piano, Jean Chaumont – guitar, Johnaye Kendrick – viola / violin / harmonium / backing vocals, Michael Glynn – bass, Chris Symer – bass, Stefan Schatz – drums, Nancy Erickson Lamont – vocals.

Vocalist Nancy Erikson Lamont has joined with pianist Josh Nelson (who has contributed to the work of many vocalists such as Sara Gazarek, Julie Kelly, Marina Pacowski, and Angie Wells) for her debut set of all original compositions based on poetry she has been writing throughout her life.  There are several very hip tunes like Did It Did or Did It Didn’t (with a three-horn front line including Sean Jones on trumpet) and the staccato Tick Tock in a quartet with Shawn Schloge on piano.  My favorite is G ’n’ K, a love song that kicks off with unison passages from Lamont with Chris Symer on bass, then engages Jerome Smith on trombone and Brent Jensen on alto in a presentation that brings singer Annie Ross to mind.  Several of the tunes had less jazz interest for me, but the highlights are very cool.

Christopher Zuar – Exuberance (Tonal Conversations, releases 05/10/2024).  Tony Kadleck – trumpet / flugelhorn, Jon Owens – trumpet / flugelhorn, Scott Wendholt – trumpet / flugelhorn, Matt Holman – trumpet / flugelhorn, Matt McDonald – trombone, Mark Patterson – trombone, Alan Ferber – trombone, Max Seigel – bass trombone, Dave Pietro – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone / piccolo / flute / alto flute, Charles Pillow – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone / tenor saxophone / flute / alto flute / oboe / clarinet, Jason Rigby – tenor saxophone / flute / clarinet, Ben Kono – tenor saxophone / alto saxophone / flute / alto flute / clarinet, Carl Maraghi – baritone saxophone / bass clarinet, Pete McCann – electric guitar / nylon string guitar / steel string guitar / banjo / mandolin / dobro, Glenn Zaleski – piano / Fender Rhodes, Drew Gress – bass, Mark Ferber – drums, Rogerio Boccato – percussion.

Composer Christopher Zuar’s first record was one of the best records of 2016 and eight years later he is finally back with another stellar effort.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “Often considered a gifted composer, which is indeed the reality, Christopher Zuar presents us with his second album, a highly inspired work remarkable for its compositions, arrangements, and performers…  Praised by music critic Raul Da Gama as “prodigiously gifted,” Zuar feels at home writing in a variety of musical styles.  Moreover, this album features artists you may already recognize… such as [guitarist] Pete McCann and [violinst] Sara Caswell, musicians who have already distinguished themselves through their own talents… Sara Caswell’s remarkable musical feats on the track Communion are hard to ignore… The title track, Exuberance, which lends its name to the album, serves as the finale, with Emma Frank’s voice seamlessly fitting into this project, reminiscent of both a cantatrice and a musical theater performer, accompanied by music that makes us lament the end of the work.”  Recommended.

Troy Roberts – Green Lights (Toy Robot Music, releases 05/10/2024).  Troy Roberts – tenor saxophone, Paul Bollenback – guitar, John Patitucci – bass, Jimmy Macbride – drums.

Tenorist Troy Roberts (Veronica Swift, Leon Foster Thomas, Joey DeFrancesco) has recorded a set of ten originals with a terrific band of guitarist Paul Bollenback (Irina Zubareva, Doug Beavers), bassist John Patitucci (Chris Potter, Andy Erin, Wayne Shorter), and drummer Jimmy Macbride (Nick Finzer, Roxy Cross).  Jack Bowers wrote on AllAboutJazz, “The leader’s comrades are exceptionally talented and responsive, lending the quartet a tight and synchronous vibe. Paticucci is metronomic, as always, while MacBride blends power and sensitivity to get the job done. Bollenback, meanwhile, coaxes several esoteric sounds from his guitar, none of which is unseemly or out of place. And to ice the cake, each of them is an accomplished soloist. Roberts’ themes are for the most part soft-flowing and sober, with an emphasis on burnished and tasteful sound. No flag-wavers here, with the possible exceptions of Solar Panels and Stretch Armstrong, which turn up the heat while allowing Roberts and the others to flex their impressive chops.”

Jon Gordon – 7th Ave South (ArtistShare, released 05/03/2024). Jonathan Challoner – trumpet, Alan Ferber – trombone, Jon Gordon – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone, Walter Smith III – tenor saxophone, John Ellis – bass clarinet, Will Bonness – piano, Jocelyn Gould – guitar, Julian Bradford – bass, Fabio Ragnelli – drums, Joanna Major – voice, Erin Popp – voice + Choir.

Dedicated to the jazz scene of his youth in the 80’s on 7th Avenue South (Sweet Basil, the Village Vanguard and the Brecker Brothers’ club Seventh Avenue South) saxophonist Jon Gordon has enlisted a first class nonet, including tenorist Walter Smith III and trombonist Alan Ferber, for a set of eight originals and two covers.  His tune Ponder This with wordless vocals by Joanna Majoko is a highlight.

Behn Gillece – Stick Together (Posi-Tone Records, released 04/26/2024).  Art Hirahara – piano, Behn Gillece – vibraphone, Boris Kozlof – bass, Rudy Royston – drums.

Vibraphonist / composer Behn Gillece (Between The Bars previewed 05/08/2023) is right at home with his fellow Posi-Tone bandmates – the label’s rhythm section – Art Hirahara on piano, Boris Kazlof on bass and Rudy Royston on drums.  Kyle Simpler wrote on AllAboutJazz, “The album’s title is a double entendre; on one level it is a reference to the sticks used for playing the vibraphone but it also emphasizes the connections among the players in the band. This is evidenced by the opening track, Almost There, [that] starts with a soft, melodic interplay between Gillece and Hirarhara, and quickly escalates into a tight, satisfying groove.  Except for the Sam Rivers number Cyclic Episode, the songs are Gilece originals, and his compositional skills are impressive, to say the least. From the rhythmic complexity of Four of a Kind to the soft melodic feel of Changing My Day, Stick Together offers various moods.”  Lovely and worth a listen.

David Bixler – Beatitudes (Tiger Turn, released 04/26/2024). David Bixler – alto saxophone, Jon Cowherd – piano, Ike Sturm – bass, Rogerio Boccato – percussion.

A veteran of big bands led by Arturo O’Farrill and Bobby Sanabria, alto saxophonist David Bixler leads a quartet in a set of eight originals.  Reinforced by pianist Jon Cowherd (David Mullen, Steve Cardenas), Bixler captures a yearning spiritual feel in these lovely tunes, especially on the stately Clement.

Carl Clements – A Different Light (Greydisc Records, released 04/23/2024).  Carl Clements – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone / bansuri, Chase Morrin – piano, Bruno Raberg – bass, Gen Yoshimura – drums.

Inspired by deep study of North Indian and Latin American music, pianist / composer Carl Clements has released a wide-ranging set of nine original compositions.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “One thing is certain… apart from his talents as a musician, [Clements] is also a very inspired composer. The arrangements on this album prove it; everything here is done with lightness and intelligence. Across the 9 diverse tracks of A Different Light, the musician seems to paint us a novel drawn from his travels and encounters, as the way he manages the instruments in his compositions sometimes reminds me of the brilliant Joe Zawinul, especially when the latter performed accompanying other artists on the piano, allowing space for each while imposing his style. Clements does exactly the same thing, not with his instruments, but with his compositions, which are sometimes dauntingly complex yet always very aesthetic.”

Irina Zubareva – Soul Mystery (Self Produced, released 04/15/2024).  Alex Sipiagin – trumpet, Misha Tsiganov – piano, Henrik Meurkens – harmonica, Boris Kozlov – bass, Donald Edwards – drums, Irina Zubareva – vocals.

Vocalist Irina Zubareva emigrated from Russian in the early teens following bandmates pianist Misha Tsiganov, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin and bassist Boris Kozlov, all first call players (and bandleaders) who settled in New York in the early 90s.  The leader’s contralto complements Sipiagin’s rich trumpet and Tsiganov’s sensitive piano on a quiet set of four covers, three originals Tsiganov, one by guest harmonica player Henrik Meurkens, three originals by countrymen Dmitro Kolesnik and Eugene Krilatov.

Black Art Jazz Collective – Truth To Power (HighNote Records, released 02/18/2024).  Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, Josh Evans – trumpet, Wallace Roney, Jr – trumpet, James Burton III – trombone, Wayne Escoffery – tenor saxophone, Xavier Davis – piano, Victor Gould – piano, Vincente Archer – bass, Rashaan Carter – bass, Johnathan Blake – drums, Mark Whitfield, Jr – drums.

A couple of times a year we get to hear a new release from one of the All-Star ensembles gracing today’s jazz world – The Cookers, Heads of State, All For One, The Heavy Hitters, etc. This new releases marks the 10th anniversary of one of the best – the Black Art Jazz Collective – featuring the muscular front line of Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, James Burton III on trombone and Wayne Escoffery on tenor.  The disc is split between two excellent rhythm sections – Xavier Davis (piano), Vincente Archer (bass), Johnathan Blake (drums) and Victor Gould (piano), Rahsaan Carter (bass), Mark Whitfield, Jr (drums).  The band contributes all ten compositions with two each from the front line players.  George W Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “The music has hints of ESP/Nerfertiti era’d Miles Davis, with a sleek feel with pretty ivories by Davis on Black Heart while Gould is soulful on Code Switching. Escoffery and Pelt dig in deep on Lookin’ For Leroy and Pelt glistens on The Fabricator. Blake rumbles under the warm horns harmonizing on Coming Of Age and Whitfield adds a restless spirit which the brass rides during Dsus. This kind of music is badly needed in this musical age of navel gazing.”  This is a familiar sound with reverberations of 70s and 80s acoustic jazz ensembles such as those led by McCoy Tyler and Woody Shaw. Highly recommended.

That’s it for now.  I hope you enjoy this new music.

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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