New Jazz Releases – 05/13/2024

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington has released his third disc.  This week also includes music from some relative new comers – Stuart Mack, Luke Stewart and Win Pongsakorn along side of veterans Alan Braufman, Dave Douglas, Ben Sidran, Jacqui Naylor and Bruce Hornsby.

Stuart Mack – Vibrations (Self Produced, releases 05/17/2024).   Stuart Mack – trumpet / flugelhorn, Alejandro Aviles – saxophones / flute, Manuel Valera – piano, Adi Meyerson – bass, Dan Pugach – drums.

Trumpeter / composer Stuart Mack (Dan Pugach Big Band) has released his debut recording after paying his dues in the New York scene.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “Here…, on the surface, you hear a relatively classic form of jazz, yet the arrangements are entirely contemporary. I don’t think with this debut album it’s possible to pigeonhole this musician, who I believe has some beautiful surprises in store for us in the future. For Mack, the unique presence and personality of each musician on the album were crucial in bringing the music to life. This is particularly evident in the liveliness and unity that the ensemble brings to each piece… There’s a Chet Baker-like DNA in the way Mack sends out the notes and lets them float in the air, catching them with another.”  A fine debut.

Randy Weinstein – Harmonimonk (Random Chance Records, releases 05/17/2024).  Randy Weinstein – chromatic harmonica / diatonic harmonica / MIDI controller / keyboards, Michaela Gomez – guitars, Pete Smith – guitars, George Rush – bass / tuba,  Clyde Stubblefield – drum samples, Richard Huntley – drums / percussion.

The compositions of Thelonious Monk continue to inspire players of all sorts.  The latest to fall under his spell is harmonica player Randy Weinstein who has recorded seven Monk tunes in mostly duo settings.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “There are certain projects like this one that will make you smile for a good cause from the very first notes. Indeed, this particularly fun project hides the beautiful complexity from which it stems… It’s always fascinating to see what an artist can communicate about a work with an instrument it wasn’t originally intended for. Here, Randy Wenstein manages to infuse a form of blues intelligently and remarkably into these jazz tracks, to the point of turning Off Minor into a reggae form, as I mentioned earlier, this album is both amusing and surprising… It’s a beautiful adventure that is easily accessible and enjoyable to listen to, for an album with multiple facets that is already ‘Indispensable’ even before its release.”  I particularly enjoyed the harmonica – tuba – percussion version of the classic Straight No Chaser.  Another stimulating addition to the Monk literature.

Alan Braufman – Infinite Love Infinite Tears (Valley of Search, releases 05/17/2024).  Alan Braufman – alto saxophone / flute, James Brandon Lewis – tenor saxophone, Patricia Brennan – vibraphone, Ken Filiano – bass, Michael Wimberly – drums.

New York City alto saxophonist Alan Braufman released his debut album Valley of Search in 1975 with his follow up release The Fire Still Burns coming finally in 2020, featuring, on tenor saxophone, the young player James Brandon lewis, who plays beautifully on the new release as well.  Rob Shepherd wrote on PostGenre, “To call the saxophonist’s pieces “simplistic” would seemingly belittle them. Still, there is an instantly relatable nature to his work. One can easily hum or sing – Braufman’s preferred compositional approach – them compared to some intricately complex arrangement of sounds composed at a piano. The result is unavoidably theme-driven tracks as on the aptly titled Chasing a Melody. The song is an Ornettish anthem that proclaims that part of the reason the greats of free music – whether Albert Ayler, John Coltrane, or the Master of Harmolodics himself – were brilliant was not merely because of the wild abandon of their solos but their ability to craft memorable melodies. Similarly, Brooklyn is prefaced on propulsive Afro-Caribbean rhythms over which the leader’ laid-back flute gently glides. Actually, two-thirds of the album is in major key, adding tranquility to the affair. But make no mistake, Infinite Love Infinite Tears is a quintessentially free recording. This is most evident in Spirits, where a slow and steady march turns turbulent as it swirls and twists around Patricia Brennan’s vibraphone’s whirs and bends… Between Braufman’s compositional prowess and the brilliance of those executing his thoughts while adding their own, Infinite Love Infinite Tears is a recording that proves that alienating some listeners is not a requisite for free expression.”

Yuko Ito – Seduzir (Funny Baby Face Records, releases 05/15/2024).  Steve Wilson – alto saxophone, Helio Alves – piano, Romero Lubambo – guitar, Edward Perez – bass, Alexandre Kautz – drums / percussion, Willie Ruiz – percussion / vocals, Yuko Ito – vocals, Vanessa Falbella – vocals.

Tokyo-born and New York-based (since 1994) vocalist Yuko Ito has recorded her new release with two selections in English and five in Portuguese.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move,, “Surrounded by remarkable musicians who offer her a silver platter to lay her voice upon, with Helio Valdes on piano, Edward Perez on bass, Alexandre Klauz on percussion set and drums, Romero Lubambo on guitar, Willie Ruiz on percussion, and the voice of Vanessa Falabella, we are carried away in this unexpected proposal. It’s a bit of the magic of all these artists from elsewhere who find themselves in the USA, each bringing in their suitcases their culture and vision of certain music. Here, Yuko alternately presents her interpretation of Jobim, Nascimento, and Djavan.”

Luke Stewart – Unknown Rivers (Pi Recordings, released 05/03/2024). Brian Settles – tenor saxophone, Luke Stewart – bass, Trae Crudup – drums, Chad Taylor – drums.

Bassist / composer Luke Stewart has been key to some very creative recent efforts including Irreversible Entanglements and the Exposure Quintet and now has explored the saxophone – bass – drums trio with four studio tracks and three live tracks.  Felipe Freitas wrote on Jazz Trail, “The album opens with Seek Whence, driven by Crudup’s modern hip-hop beat and Stewart’s bass fragmentation. Despite its polyrhythmic feel, there’s a weightlessness that vanishes as Settles blows freely over a rich tapestry affiliated with a danceable punk-rock act. The title “Baba Doo Way” transports its phonetic articulation to the motif at the center, which expands and transforms whimsically. Here, devotional tenor phrases expose a chanting quality, while the irregular, complex rhythmic mesh provided by bass and drums accelerates into a confident swinging walk… Exploring eclectic avenues with boldness, Stewart steps forward artistically with a risk-taking album whose tracks conjure a synergistic collective spirit that is always on the move, never settling for the ordinary. It underscores his reputation as one of the most inventive and energetic bassists in the field.”  Exciting from start to finish and more accessible than some of his work.

Kamasi Washington – Fearless Moment (Young, released 05/03/2024).  Dontae Winslow – trumpet, Ryan Porter – trombone, Kamasi Washington – tenor saxophone / alto saxophone, Terrace Martin – alto saxophone, Ricky Washington – flute, Andre 3000 – flute, Cameron Graves – piano, Brandon Coleman – keyboards / organ, Mono/Poly – synthesizers, Woody Aplanalp – guitars, Joel WhitleyMiles Mosley – bass, Thundercat – bass, Ben Williams – bass, Ronald Bruner Jr – drums, Tony Austin – drums / percussion, Robert Miller – drums, Allakoi Pete – percussion, Carlos Nina – percussion, Kahlil Cummings – percussion, Patrice Quinn-voc, Taj Austin – vocals, Ras Austin – vocals, George Clinton – vocals, D Smoke – vocals, BJ The Chicago Kid – vocals.

After his 3-CD debut The Epic and the 2-hour long follow up Heaven and Earth, the latest release from tenor saxophonist / composer Kamasi Washington is a slightly more modest affair, clocking in at 86 minutes.  Andy Kush wrote on Pitchfork, “There are guest verses from a few different rappers, little-known names who bring throwback block-party MC energy even when their subject matter gets heady. For the first time, Washington seems interested in conveying not just big feelings like joy, struggle, and transcendence, but also something like fun—just as important, no doubt, and perhaps even more difficult to get across… In theory, the relative lightness of Fearless Movement is a natural and welcome next step after his pair of zeitgeist-grabbing epics. But too often, tunes that might prance, flex, and delight remain burdened by their own gravity. Fearless Movement’s first half is filled with guest vocalists delivering songs that attempt awkwardly to be soundtracks for both revelry and deep contemplation. The album gets better when it dispenses with its noncommittal relationship to party music, freeing Washington to pursue the heroic high drama that’s still his strong suit.”  I am not sure that this releases pushes Washington forward the way we heard in the the first two efforts.  Solid spiritual jazz with more vocals than I wanted, but likely to resonate with many.

Win Pongsakorn – Time Has Changed (Cellar Music, released 05/03/2024).  Win Pongsakorn Lertvanitsutha – trumpet, David Hazeltine – piano, Paolo Benedettini – bass, Jason Brown – drums.

For his sophomore outing, Thai trumpeter / composer Win Pongsakorn has assembled a new quartet with the wonderful David Hazeltine (All For One, James Zollar, Xavier Hellmeier, Blues For Jerry previewed 06/20/2024) on piano, Paolo Benedettini on double bass and Jason Brown on drums.  Per Dusty Groove, “A beautifully crafted quartet session from trumpeter Win Pongsakorn – an up-and-coming younger musician who we’re sure to be hearing more from in years to come! Win’s got an impeccable sound on his horns – which here also include flugelhorn, blown with the kind of cool, compressed energy that we might associate with Art Farmer at his best – but also with a bit more bite, which may well come from the strong group backing from David Hazeltine on piano and Fender Rhodes, Paolo Benedetti on bass, and Jason Brown on drums.”  Quiet and tasteful.

Ben Sidran – Rainmaker (Bonsat, released 04/26/2024).  Michael Leonhart – trumpet, Rick Margitza – saxophone, John Ellis – saxophone, Ben Sidran – piano / organ / vocals, Mike Mainieri – vibraphone, Olivier Ker Ourio – harmonica, Romain Roussoulier – guitar, Rodolphe Burger – guitar, Billy Peterson – bass, Max Darmon – bass / vocals, Leo Sidran – drums / organ / guitar / vocals, Andy Narell – steel drums, Denis Benarrosh – percussion, Camille Marotte – vocals.

To celebrate his 80th birthday, veteran pianist / composer Ben Sidran convened a group of friends and musical collaborators in Paris for a recording session that resulted in this latest release.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “On the theme of resilience in our troubled times, Ben has composed eight originals, which he combines with a new version of his own Victime De La Mode…, as well as two covers : the appropriate Times Getting Tougher Than Tough by Jimmy Witherspoon, and Ever Since The World Ended by Mose Allison. It is the latter’s style that Sidran’s music evokes more than ever. Thus the opening Someday Baby, Are We There Yet, So Long and the titular track, where his laconic singing, as well as his swinging and swaying piano, are close to those of the bard of Tippo, Missisippi. It is towards another of his emulators, Tom Waits, that the semi-Balkan and haunted proto-reggae Humanity … [leans], while the instrumentals Panda, Sosi B and Sweet respectively refer to the rich [compositions] of Ramsey Lewis, Horace Silver and Herbie Mann. A mega-cool record in every sense of the word…”. Lots of blues here … satisfying.

Jacqui Naylor – Treasures of the Heart (Ruby Star Records, released 04/26/2024).  Erik Jekabson-tp, Art Khu – piano / organ / Rhodes / celeste / guitar, Richie Goods – bass, Ele Howell – drums / percussion, Jacqui Naylor – vocals.

Much of this disc has a familiar and comfortable vibe that brings to mind Marvin Gaye, perhaps seasoned with Gil Scott Heron / Brian Jackson with a splash of Tracy Chapman.  Needless to say, I love that vibe and the deep soulful voice that Jacqui Naylor brings to this release.  This is a spare and open band with plenty of space for each of the players to shine.  Art Khu is a fine pianist, accompanist and song-writing partner, paired with formidable bassist Richie Goods (Connected with Chien Chien Lu previewed 01/23/2023), wide ranging percussionist Ele Howell (recently with Ravi Coltrane) and almost subliminally on five tracks, Bay Area denizen trumpeter Erik Jekabson. Jonathan Widran wrote on The JW Vibe, “Naylor offers countless highlights, from the jumpy, ultra-percussive Latin-flavored swirl through I Didn’t Know What Time It Was through the inspirational, blues/gospel driven church jazz of We’ll Shine Through. Yet perhaps the sweetest sign of affection Naylor [has] for her admirers comes on the calypso-flavored whimsy of Picture Book of You – a seductive charmer the singer and Khu wrote for a fan who asked them to compose a song for his wife… Naylor’s also expreses her enduring love for classic R&B with a towering rendition of Bill Wither’s Lovely Day featuring one Khu’s most spirited solo piano improvisations.”  Wonderful.

Dave Douglas – Gifts (Greenleaf Music, released 04/12/2024).  Dave Douglas – trumpet, James Brandon Lewis – tenor saxophone, Rafiq Bhatia – guitar, Ian Chang – drums.

Veteran trumpeter Dave Douglas has teamed with two members of the experimental/post-rock trio Son Lux – guitarist Rafiq Bhatia and drummer Ian Chang – and, on half the tracks, emerging tenor star James Brandon Lewis,  The result is quite lyrical and gentle with four of the ten selections by Bill Strayhorn and the balance by the leader.  Glenn Asarita wrote on AllAboutJazz, “At the commencement of the album is the eponymous track Gifts, where Douglas’ trumpet heralds a jubilee, complemented by Rafiq Bhatia’s use of ethereal guitar effects, crafting an ambiance that oscillates between festive and solemn. Following suit, James Brandon Lewis’ saxophone elevates the piece into a vivacious escapade. Here, the ensemble acts less as a mere group of musicians and more like conjurers of musical enchantment.”  Terrific playing by the full ensemble.

BrhyM – Deep Sea Vents (Zappo Productions / Thirty Tigers, released 03/01/2024).  CJ Camerieri – trumpet / flugelhorn, Alex Sopp – flute / piccolo / vocals, Branford Marsalis-ts, Hideaki Aomori – clarinets, Mark Dover – clarinet, Bruce Hornsby – piano / dulcimer / vocals / electric sitar / bass, Rob Moose – violin, Nadia Sirota – viola, Gabriel Cabezas – cello, Chad Wright – drums.

Virginia-based uber-Ameriana composer / pianist / vocalist Bruce Hornsby has joined with yMusic (making the group BrhyM) for a deep dive into estuarial /oceanographic activism.  yMusic is a flute – clarinet – trumpet – violin – viola – cello genre-flexible chamber group with very big ears.  The result is some really interesting hybrid music with very pointed lyrics.

I trust there is music here that will interest you.

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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