New Jazz Releases – 05/08/2023

Fareed Haque

Tenor-led release by Ken Fowser and rerelease by David S. Ware plus alto-led release by tenor giant Eric Alexander top the list this week along with new work from guitarists Fareed Haque and Oscar Peñas.

Fareed Haque – Casseus! (Wahdude Music, released 04/28/2023).  Kevin Kozol – piano, Fareed Haque – guitar, Alex Austin – bass, Greg Fundis – drums, Jose Maria Piedra – percussion, Juan Pastor – cajon, Paul Cotton – percussion / djembe, Richard Christian – tabla, Rob Dicke – drums, Paul Wertico – drums, Ugochi Nwaogwaugwu – vocals.

This new disc, by classical and jazz guitarist Fareed Haque, interpets the compositions of the “Father of Haitian Classical Guitar”, Frantz Casseus.  Chicago-based Haque has made two dozen records in several genres over the past 35 years.  Jeff Cebulski writes at, “CASSEUS! Is a tribute to the underappreciated Haitian guitarist and composer Frantz Casseus, whose music Haque was introduced to by fellow guitar wizard Marc Ribot, who studied under Casseus. Thus the new album features Haque’s unique global-stylistic takes on music from Casseus’ oeuvre, demonstrating both his dexterity and aplomb with exotic motifs sketched inside classical, folk, and jazz structures.”

Dara Starr Tucker – Dara Starr Tucker (Green Hill Productions, to be released 06/03/2023). Given Gelin – trumpet, Stacy Dillard – soprano saxophone, John Ellis – bass clarinet / tenor saxophone, Aaron Parks – piano, Mike King – piano / Rhodes, James Hurt – Rhodes, Vicente Archer – bass, Greg Bryant – bass, Marcus Finnie – drums, Dara Starr Tucker – vocals.

Although she records with jazz players, Dara Starr Tucker has released a mostly pop vocal record.  Her lyrics are often compelling dealing with significant issue facing the world and her voice is beautiful, I just don’t find much jazz here.

Oscar Peñas – Chicken or Pasta (Musikoz, released 05/08/2023).  Oscar Peñas – guitars, Mike Stern – guitar, Greg Leisz – pedal steel guitar, Sara Caswell – violin, Moto Fukushima – six-string electric bass, Richie Barshay – drums.

Barcelona-born and New York-based guitarist Oscar Peñas is creating a singular body of work that weaves together elements of jazz, Spanish folk music, and the European classical tradition.  His unusual quartet of guitar – violin – bass – drums, featuring the talented Sara Caswell on violin (The Way To You, reviewed 02/27/2023), is supplemented by Mike Stern on guitar for two selections and Greg Leisz (Pat Metheny) on pedal steel for one tune.

David S. Ware – Birth of a Being (AUM Fidelity, rereleased 05/05/2023).  David S. Ware – tenor saxophone, Cooper-Moore – piano, Marc Edwards – drums.

Recorded in 1977, originally released in 1979, re-issued in 2015 and now again in 2023, this recording represents the first for legendary free player David S. Ware.  Ware is best known for his quartet releases in the 90s and 00s with pianist Matthew Shipp, bassist William Parker and several drummers including Marc Edwards, but this is where it starts.

Lonnie Liston Smith – Lonnie Liston Smith JID017 (Jazz is Dead, released 04/28/2023).  Lonnie Liston Smith – piano / Fender Rhodes, Adrain Younge – guitar / bass / alto saxophone / sopranino saxophone / monophonic synthesizer / mellotron / flutes, clavinet / vibraphone percussion, Ali Shaheed Muhammad – Fender Rhodes / bass, Greg Paul – drums, Malachi Morehead – drums.

Jazz is Dead (Ali Shaheed Muhammad & Adrian Younge) is back, this time presenting and supporting 70s fusion star Lonnie Listen Smith.  The mission of this series is to provide exposure for somewhat overlooked players from the past.  As with the other releases in this series, while I applaud the drive behind these projects, I am not persuaded that the music adds significantly to the artist’s legacy.

Eric Alexander – A New Beginning, Alto Saxophone With Strings (HighNote, released 04/21, 2023).  Eric Alexander – alto saxophone, David Hazeltine – piano, John Webber – bass, Joe Farnsworth – drums, Bill Dobbins – string conductor.

Yes, you read this correctly – Eric Alexander on alto!  There are so many pandemic stories associated with jazz releases these days.  This one is different – given the time to concentrate, tenor-player Alexander dusted off his alto for the first time in thirty years.  Now he has released his second “with strings” disc, but his time on the smaller horn, although with the same line-up as was on Eric Alexander with Strings (2019). While I cannot get really excited about the strings aspect of this project, Alexander’s alto playing is much like his tenor playing – melody first, beautiful articulation, speed on demand.  It seems like everyone wants to record Jimmy Van Huesen standards these days and the two on this release are a treat – All My Tomorrows and To Love and Be Loved.

Louis Hayes – Exactly Right! (Savant, released 04/21/2023).  Abraham Burton – tenor saxophone, David Hazeltine – piano, Steve Nelson – vibraphone, Dezron Douglas – bass, Louis Hayes – drums.

Louis Hayes, at 85, is one of the few remaining native hard bop players having worked with Horace Silver in 1956 and EVERYONE since then.  What an all-star band he has put together –  on tenor Abraham Burton (several discs with Hayes, Steve Davis, Mingus Big Band), on piano David Hazeltine (recently Cory Weeds, Mary Stallings, Eric Alexander, Michael Dease), and on bass Dezron Douglas (recently Billy Drummond, Johnathan Blake, Joe Lovano, Enrico Rava).  The repertoire is, on the one hand, predictable – tunes by Wayne Shorter, Cedar Walton, Horace Silver, Duke Pearson – but, with the exception of Shorter’s Nefertiti and Walton’s Ugetsu (listen for Hazeltine’s tender intro), the selections are lesser-heard compositions in need to reintroduction. Check out Silver’s Mellow D (originally on Finger Poppin’, 1959) with swinging contributions by Nelson and Burton.

Behn Gillece – Between the Bars (Posi-tone, released 04/07/2023).  Patrick Cornelius – alto saxophone / bass clarinet / soprano saxophone, Diego Rivera – tenor saxophone, Altin Sencalar – trombone, Art Hirahara – piano / Rhodes, Behn Gillece – vibraphone, Peter Slavov – bass, Vinnie Sperrazza – drums.

Vibraphonist Behn Gillece has been a leader or co-leader on nine discs for Posi-tone Records since his debut in 2009, while contributing to countless others on the label.  This is largely a quartet recording with major contributions from pianist Art Hirahara, while the horn line plays a selective role.  Gillece wrote nine of the eleven tracks including the loping Mindful Moments, which first appeared one of his sideman projects – Firefly by Alexa Tarantino (now in Artemis.) Sam Rivers, whose compositions don’t get as much play as they should, is represented by his beautiful work – Beatrice.  Another Gillece composition Apogee is a swinging romp with a characteristically powerful contribution by Diego Rivera.

Ken Fowser – Resolution (WJ3 Records, released 04/2023).  Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, Ken Fowser – tenor sax, Rick Germanson – piano, Peter Bernstein – guitar, Gerald Cannon – bass, Willie Jones III – drums.

A regular at Posi-tone Records (often in the company of Behn Gillece), Fowser has released his new disc produced by Willie Jones III on Jones’s imprint WJ3.  For much of the record, there is a three-player front line with Bernstein joining the horns.  The one non-Fowser original has the ensemble stripped to a tenor – guitar – bass trio.  Keith Hoffman wrote in The New York Jazz Record, “If Coleman Hawkins had ever recorded Autumn in New York, this might be as close to what it would have sounded like.  Fowser has the Hawk’s breathy beauty, and Bernstein’s guitar solo is a master class in miniature, with Cannon providing understated swing below the surface.”  Pelt, as always, is a standout, especially on the gentle ballad, Vanishing City.

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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