New Jazz Releases – 05/20/2024

Bruno Råberg

I’m a little late this week and have compensated by previewing even more music than usual.  I loved the latest from Bruno Råberg, Nduduzo Makhathini and Ben Patterson.  Chick Corea, Jack Walrath, Roger Kellaway – heros all – have new material for us to savor.  And we celebrate Tyshawn Sorey’s Pulitzer with three new releases.  Enjoy.

Bruno Råberg – Evolver (Orbis Music Records, releases 06/01/2024).  Nate Radley – trumpet / guitar, Peter Kenagy – flugelhorn, Randy Pingrey – trombonist, Fernando Brandão – flute, Charlotte Lang – bass clarinet, Allan Chase – saxophone, Stephen Byth – saxophone / clarinet, Walter Smith III – tenor saxophone, Anastassiya Petrova – Kazakhstani piano / organ, Kris Davis – piano, Bruno Råberg – bass, Gen Yoshimura – Japanese drums.

It’s been over twenty years since bassist / composer Bruno Råberg (Look Inside – a solo effort – previewed 04/24/2024) has recorded in a large ensemble format (Chrysalis in a nonet in 2002) and this new release is most welcome.  Dan McClenaghan wrote on AllAboutJazz, “The disc features a first-rate tentet, with a pair of guest artist [Kris Davis, Walter Smith III] contributions which expand the voicings. As the opener Peripeteia spins, the first impression is Gil Evans, or perhaps Evans’ protege, Maria Schneider. The music is airy, as if drifting on a slow-moving cloud. The ensemble is reed-heavy—two saxophones, flute and bass clarinet dancing barefoot with trumpet and trombone. The arrangements contain a soothing ambiance.  Raberg, in his small ensemble recordings, could be accurately tagged as an approachable free jazz player. That tag fits even better on Evolver. The classical-tinged loveliness and luminescence of his arrangements and compositions are captivating. Evolver presents Bruno Raberg’s finest hour on record. Hearing the bassist and composer back in an almost big band setting – presenting music that is perfectly arranged and played, and remarkably beautiful – is a special treat.”  Half of the disc is the four-part composition Echos with arresting playing by Kris Davis.  Highly recommended.

Something Else! Featuring Vincent Herring – Soul Jazz (Smoke Sessions Records, releases 06/14/2024).  Jeremy Pelt – trumpet, Vincent Herring – alto saxophone, Wayne Escoffery – tenor saxophone, David Kikoski – piano, Paul Bollenback – guitar, Essiet Essiet – bass, Otis Brown III – drums.

And now, another jazz supergroup playing music from or inspired by the hard bop / soul jazz heyday of the mid fifties through mid-sixties.  And, once again, I cannot get enough of it.  Like the Black Art Jazz Collective (Truth To Power previewed 05/06/2024), the front line features Jeremy Pelt on trumpet and Wayne Escoffery on tenor, but this time with Vincent Herring (with Jeremy Pelt in The Heavy Hitters) on alto. This disc is a collection of mid-career vets playing music they heard played at home by their parents, whose sound track may have included these featured composers – Horace Silver, Stanley Turrentine, Herbie Hancock, Donald Byrd.  Truth be told, I doubt this disc will become a key piece of the discography of any of these players, all of whom have presented so much great music on records under their own leadership, yet it is enjoyable and not inconsequential with some great grooves and playing.

Adam Rudolph and Tyshawn Sorey – Anachronisms I (Defkaz Records, releases 06/07/2024).  Adam Rudolph – percussion, Tyshawn Sorey – drums / percussion.

Adam Rudolph and Tyshawn Sorey – Anachronisms II (Defkaz Records, releases 06/07/2024).  Adam Rudolph – drums / percussion, Tyshawn Sorey – drums / percussion, Sae Hashimoto – drums / percussion, Russell Greenberg – drums / percussion, Levy Lorenzo – drums / percussion.

It was just recently announced that composer / percussionist Tyshawn Sorey (Continuing previewed 07/03/2023) is the 2024 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Music for his composition Adagio (For Wadada Leo Smith).  Incredibly, at the same time that Sorey is understood to be a pre-eminent composer, he is celebrated as a consummate improviser.  He has just released two double CD collections with fellow percussionist Adam Rudolf (generally Sorey is on traps and Rudolf on hand drums) – one set as a duo and the second with three (!) additional percussionists.  Of the duo set, Fotis Nikolakopoulos wrote on The Free Jazz Collective, “Apart from Rudolph’s overtone flute, both musicians utilize various percussion instruments. Bypassing the constant threat that this instrumentation can bring – a boring linear rhythmology – their playing comes to the listener’s ears as an inseparable entity. They play in unison and they both admit it willingly… the music flows like one entity linking every second of sound with the next one.  Like Adam Rudolph comments on the label’s bandcamp page, they approached the music and their interaction with open hearts. And a willingness to interact, speak through the non-verbal language that music is, I dare to add, communicating their truth, ideas and sentiments. Even though there seem to be distinct sections within the recording, it is, or at least it feels like, one continuous piece. Archaisms I is one of the best records for 2023.”  Challenging, certainly, but virtuosic.

Nduduzo Makhathini – uNomkhubulwane (Blue Note, releases 06/07/2024).  Nduduzo Makhathini – piano, Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere – bass, Francisco Mela – drums.

Pianist / composer Nduduzo Makhathini is back with a startlingly good release featuring a new trio (Zwelakhe-Duma Bell le Pere on bass and Francisco Mela on drums.) Mike Jurkovic wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Abundantly, beatifically, and beautifully ebullient, uNomkhubulwane, Nduduzo Makhathini’s eleventh overall effort but third masterwork for Blue Note (his 2020 Blue Note first, Modes of Communication: Letters From the Underworlds and 2022’s In the Spirit of Ntu still shimmer and transcend) is, as is the South African pianist’s quickly evolving tradition, radiant and revelatory.  Emerging from a mother song gifted to Makhathini during his initiation process to become a healer, (the pianist was immersed in water in order to encounter the Zulu goddess uNomkhubulwane) the elegant crafter opener Libations: Omnyama, relies on a gracefully hypnotic repeated figure to establish its beautiful trance. Makhathini’s resonant, storytelling spoken word enchants as well as heals. It is a marvelous six minutes of utter transportation…  Music is Makhathini’s church, and Inner Attainment‘s first movement Izibingelelo could be its mother song, Umlayez’oPhuthumayo its ceremony ending exultation. Closing as intuitively elegant as uNomkhubulwane began, Ithemba not only serves to sum up the pianist’s many gifts in its joyous, cinematic theme but also expands the concept of greater music to come.”  What a wonderful record this is: one part Abdullah Ibrahim, one part McCoy Tyner and immeasurable parts lyricism.  I cannot get enough of this!

Jake Hertzog – Longing To Meet You (Self Produced, releases 06/01/2024).  Matt Woroshyl – saxophone, Jake Hertzog – guitar, Perrin Grace – bass, Joe Peri – drums.

University of Arkansas-based guitarist Jake Hertzog apparently plays in many settings including rock and fusion.  This release puts him in a sax – guitar – bass – drums quartet, playing his own jazz compositions.  A very skilled player, he is joined by Matt Woroshyl whose romantic tenor is played with great yearning in a set that reflects Hertz’s experience with IVF.  I was not previously aware of any of these players, but together they have made a lovely record.

Lauren Henderson – Sombras (Brontosaurus Records, releases 05/31/2024).  Sean Mason – piano, Joel Ross – vibraphone, Jonathan Michel – bass, Joe Dyson – drums / percussion, Lauren Henderson – vocals.

Vocalist / songwriter Lauren Henderson (Conjuring previewed 04/10/2023) has a very characteristic sound – breathy, deep, with a pronounced vibrato.  Her new record, again featuring a very sympathetic Joel Ross (Nublues previewed 02/12/2024) on vibes, constitutes a search for identity, asking the question how does one’s cultural inheritance shape who they are.  The release also features Sean Mason (The Southern Suite previewed 04/10/2023) on piano, blending wonderfully with Henderson and Ross.  A good one.

George Colligan – You’ll Hear It (La Reserve, releases 05/31/2024).  Alex Norris – trumpet, Nicole Glover – tenor saxophone, Joe Manis – tenor saxophone, John Nastos – alto saxophone,  George Colligan-p, Alex Claffy – bass, Kush Abaday – drums, Carmelo Torres – percussion, Ayanna Melada – vocals, Jimmie Herrod – vocals.

Pianist / composer George Collegian has followed up his 2021 release The Phyllis Wheatley Project (previewed 01/08/2024) with an eleven-tune release of his compositions, five in a trio format and the balance in larger setting featuring Alex Norris on trumpet (Marlon Simon and the Nagual Spirits, Manuel Valera, Dafnis Prieto) and tenor saxophonist Nicole Glover (Plays previewed 04/23/2024, Artemis).  The quintet performance of New York in the 90s is particularly strong and when Glover and Colligan join forces a quartet performance of You’ll Hear it, the result conjures Thelonious Monk and Charlie Rouse.  Lot’s of great music here.

Chick Corea & Béla Fleck – Remembrance (Thirty Tigers, releases 05/27/2014).  Chick Corea – piano, Béla Fleck – banjo.

The late pianist Chick Corea and banjoist Bela Fleck joined forces for the disc The Enchantment in 2007 and then documented their touring together with Two in 2015 and now Fleck has released the final documentation of their collaboration.  Doug Collette wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Fourteen tracks running roughly sixty-five minutes fittingly span the stylistic gamut at the command of the two men, both of whom composed material herein…  The individual persona of each man remains even amid the most involved interactions of Lucky Bounce. On [the] title song, as with most of its surroundings, the output from banjo and acoustic piano complement each other in an almost supernatural fashion. Fleck and Corea’s intuitive empathy may have been honed on the road, but it was a natural rapport they discovered in order to elevate it to such rarefied heights as on Corea’s Continuance…  Remembrance is at once a vivid recollection of, and testament to, a meeting of the minds almost as often playful as it is sophisticated. We may not see its likes again any time soon…”  Corea was a giant and continues to be missed.  Thanks for Fleck for sharing this final record of their time together.

Natsuki Tamura & Jim Black – NatJim (Libra Records, releases 05/17/2024).  Natsuki Tamura – trumpet, Jim Black – drums. 

Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and drummer Jim Black first recorded together 25 years ago and have recorded with Satoko Fuji’s quartet in the interim.  Glenn Atarita wrote on AllAboutJazz, “This avant-garde jazz session is a spirited reunion, highlighting their exceptional synergy and limitless creativity.… NatJim is a celebration of the enduring magic of collaboration, where musical boundaries melt away and the thrill of creation takes the spotlight. The seasoned avant-garde pioneers have delivered a vivid, mesmerizing album filled with unfettered spontaneity and raw creative power. This is improvisational music at its most expansive and viscerally affecting—a deep-listening experience that captivates the senses and moves the soul. Fortunately, the duo keep each piece concise, under nine minutes, avoiding overly long improvisations where excess might overshadow the content.”  Raw and immediate.

Live Edge Trio with Steve Nelson – Closing Time (OA2 Records, released 05/17/2024).  Ben Markley – piano, Steve Nelson – vibraphone, Seth Lewis – bass, Andy Wheelock – drums.

Members of the Live Edge Trio (Ben Markley on piano, Seth Lewis on bass, Andy Wheelock on drums) met in the Denver jazz scene and have formed the trio from their faculty home at the University of Wyoming.  For this release they have joined forces with tasteful vibraphonist New Yorker Steve Nelson.George W Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “Sounds inspired by the Modern Jazz Quartet are delivered by the trio… and guest Steve Nelson… The comparison to the MJQ is inevitable, but the sound hear has a bit more muscle as on a bopping take of Horace Silver’s Cape Verdean Blues and the journey of Wheeler’s Hope that builds up to a dramatic climax after featuring each teammate in the spotlight. Wheelock’s brushes waft on the clean and easy post bopper Ben’s Tune, Markley and Lewis lurk around Closing Time and the rhythm section gives a hip pulse for Fantasy For Cede, with Nelson fitting in well here, and featured on a glowing read of Old Folks.”  A keeper for sure.

Mike Monford – The Cloth I’m Cut From (Self Produced, released 05/17/2024).  Allen Dennard – trumpet, Mike Monford – alto saxophone / spoken word, Calvin Taylor – tenor saxophone, Pam Weiss – piano / keys, William Hill III – piano / Fender Rhodes, Jaribu Shahid – bass, Bebe Sewell – violin, Xavier Gillium – violin, Tariq Gardner – drums, Kevin Jone – percussion.

Detroit alto saxophonist Mike Monford has previously contributed to the Detroit – Chicago ensemble Autophysiopsychic Millennium with Angel Bat Dawid.  Continuing on a very spiritual Afro-Futurism vein, Monford has released his sophomore effort, full of passion and driving energy.

Karrin Allyson – A Kiss For Brazil (Origin Records, released 05/17/2024). Victor Concalves – piano / Fender Rhodes / accordion, Yotam Silberstein – guitar, Rosa Passos – guitar / vocals, Harvie S – bass, Rafael Barata – drums, Karrin Allyson – vocals / piano.

Lovers of classic Bossa Nova are in for a treat with this latest from vocalist Karrin Allyson.  Katchie Cartwright wrote on AllAboutJazz, A Kiss for Brazil is Kansas-bred Grammy-nominated singer Karrin Allyson’s third release to feature Brazilian music (From Paris to Rio, Concord, 1999; Imagina, Concord, 2008), and her first to showcase Brazilian musicians: Vitor Gonçalves on piano and accordion, Rafael Barata at the drums, plus the acclaimed singer-guitarist and songwriter Rosa Passos. First-call New York-based guitarist Yotam Silberstein and bassist Harvie S complete the group. The album sprang into being spontaneously, in response to a concert Passos had scheduled in New York, Allyson’s home base. Allyson contacted Passos—a friend and admirer—and booked studio time with the only real plan being “to document the music.” The program she decided upon is mainly bossa nova standards, including Antonio Carlos Jobim’s Wave, Luiz Bonfa’s Manhã de Carnaval and Sergio Mendes’ “So Many Stars” (lyric by Marilyn and Alan Bergman). Passos sat in for two tunes, O Grande Amor (Jobim and Vinicius De Moraes) and Passos’ own Dunas, which form the heart of the project.”  Quiet, lilting and lovely.

Roger Kellaway – Live at Mezzrow (Cellar Music, released 05/17/2024).  Roger Kellaway – piano, Roni Ben-Hur – guitar, Jay Leonhart – bass, Dennis Mackrel – drums.

At 85, pianist Roger Kellaway has appeared on over 250 discs, perhaps 30 as a leader, and he his still in top form with this live recording.  Pierre Giroux wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Roger Kellaway’s latest offering Live At Mezzrow is a masterclass in jazz artistry. With Kellaway on piano—leading his trio of first class musicians, including bassist Jay Leonhart and drummer Dennis Mackrel along with guest guitarist Roni Ben-Hur on a couple of tracks—they embark on a celebration of mostly historical jazz standards from the songbooks of Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Billy Strayhorn among others, as well as one of Kellaway’s own pieces All My Life.  Miles Davis masterpiece recording from 1959 Kind Of Blue… is given special acknowledgement with Kellaway diving into three timeless classics: All Blues, Blue in Green, and So What. The modal structures, as conceived by Davis, are intact, and Kellaway’s interpretations are both respectful of the originals and infused with his unique flair. His fingers prance effortlessly across the keys using the tonal modes, ascending and descending chords and scale fragments to develop the sonic bath the compositions take.”  It is wonderful that such a gifted, if under-recognized, player still finds opportunities to record great music.  Recommended.

John Dokes – Our Day (Swing Theory Entertainment, released 05/10/2024). Freddie Hendrix – trumpet, Andy Gravish – trumpet, David Gibson – trombone, Anthony Nelson Jr – saxophone, Michael Hashim – saxophone, Patience Higgins – reeds, Steve Einerson – piano, Malik McLaurine – bass, Chris Latona – drums, John Dokes – vocals.

Unabashedly “old-school,”vocalist John Dokes recalls great baritones like Johnny Hartman on a diverse collection of ten fine tunes.  George W Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “Here’s a guy that knocks me out every time he puts out an album. John Dokes has the classic honey’d soul voice, relaxed and suave – why isn’t he a late night deejay?  Here’s he’s backed by George Gee’s orchestra, and he’s relaxed under an umbrella on Our Day Will Come while suavely shuffling out the bebop classic Moanin’. And he doesn’t just rework “standard” standards – he throws in some hip jazz classics as well. He works with ease through the obstacle course of the tricky drum pulse of Freddie Hubbard’s Red Clay and struts out Everything Must Change. A  peppy Almost Like Being In Love and Latinized Suddenly go down easy like a cold frappe’. Does this guy ever sweat? Cucumber cool.”  This is a fine disc, well-arranged and well-sung.

Jack Walrath – Live At Smalls (Cellar Music, released May 3, 2024).  Jack Walrath – trumpet, Abraham Burton – tenor saxophone, George Burton – piano, Boris Kozlov – acoustic bass, Donald Edwards – drums.

SmallsLive Living Masters Series is home to another jazz hero, this time trumpeter Jack Walrath with his quintet of 14 years.  Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “The rather opinionated Walrath emphasizes in the liners the value of a working band, stating that he is not a fan of ‘supergroups’ or hastily put together lineups. The tight interplay of this unit certainly corroborates this view.  Walrath, like every artist in this Living Masters Series, boasts a gleaming resume, having worked with a diverse list of icons including Ray Charles, Charles Mingus, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, Muhal Richard Abrams, and more. His six original compositions are all lengthy, giving his bandmates ample room to stretch out and improvise. It’s mostly the kind of music we associate with Mingus – a mix of the traditional and modern, excursions into blues, African sounds and ideas, and music that is both ‘in’ and ‘out.’”  A welcome live set from a veteran – well worth a listen.

Ben Patterson Jazz Orchestra – Groove Junkies (Origin Records, released 04/22/2024). Brian MacDonald, Kevin Burns, Luke Brandon, Alec Alred – trumpets, Ben Patterson, Kevin Cerovich, Dave Perkel, Ben Polk – trombones, Antonio Orta, Mike Cemprola, Tedd Baker, Xavier Perez, Doug Morgan, Bill Mulligan – reeds, Chris Ziemba, Shawn Purcell, Paul Henry, Todd Harrison, Fran Vielma – rhythm section.  

Trombonist Ben Patterson ,until recently a veteran with the Airmen of Note, has assembled an ace big band to deliver a program of five originals plus one cover of Chris Potter.  Dan Bilawsky wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Groove junkies searching for a fix need look no further. Mainlining this music—a hard-hitting big band set that satisfies as it soars—offers a serious high… Patterson’s positively electric take on saxophonist Chris Potter’s well-titled Exclamation offers fireworks at the front end of the program. Mixing odd meters, pushing muscular funk and fusion lines, and paving the way for tenor saxophonist Tedd Baker and pianist Chris Ziemba… to each burn in their own brilliant way, he creates a platform for potent discourse. It stands out as the album’s only non-original yet perfectly blends into the mix with regard to style and sensibilities, making for the ideal introduction to a program that packs a marvelously mean punch. The first of two planned big band bashes…, Groove Junkies hits hard in all the right ways. Here’s to hoping that the follow-up arrives sooner than later.”  A Winner.

Travis Reuter – Quintet Music (Self Produced, released 04/12/2024).  Mark Shim – tenor saxophone, Peter Schlamb – vibraphone, Travis Reuter – guitar, Harish Raghavan – upright bass, Tyshawn Sorey – drums.

It has been 13 years since guitarist Travis Reuter’s debut Rotational Templates and his return shows that he still has the fire that characterized that release.  His new quintet features one of the most exciting drummers on the avant side, Tyshawn Sorey.  Glenn Astarita wrote on AllAboutJazz, “…Travis Reuter’s Quintet Music is a masterpiece of musical sorcery, brimming with bold invention and innovative creativity. Reuter, a maverick guitarist who is unafraid to color outside the lines, leads his band of equally audacious virtuosos through a sonic wonderland that most musicians only dare to visit in dreams. The quintet, with Peter Schlamb swapping the traditional piano for the vibraphone, tosses the jazz playbook out the window. They dive headlong into a labyrinth of complex rhythms and harmonies, crafting a soundscape that thrills and bewilders in equal measure. The performance is a raw display of constructive interaction, where the spirit of improvisation permeates every track, despite—or perhaps because of—their bold departure from jazz norms. In essence, Quintet Music is a spectacular salute to the outer limits of jazz… If you are in the mood for a musical expedition that is anything but ordinary, this album is your ticket.”  A good listen.

So many releases to listen to … good luck.

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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