New Jazz Releases – 05/22/2023

Sunna Gunnlaugs

Some new music this week from women who come through Charlottesville from time-to-time: a collection of originals from Icelandic pianist Sunna Gunnlaugs and her long-time trio and a set of handsome big band arrangements of classic standards from Alexis Cole (Monika Herzig’s Joni Mitchell Project).  And don’t miss Jim Afredson with his organ trio plus the Posi-tone records all-star horn section of Alex Sipiagin, Michael Dease, and Diego Rivera.

Sunna Gunnlaugs – Becoming (Sunny Sky, released 02/14/2023).  Sunna Gunnlaugs – piano, Þorgrímur Toggi Jónsson – bass, Scott McLemore – drums.

Sunna Gunnlaugs’s trio has been working together for over a decade and this is their fifth release as a trio, but the first since 2000 to include exclusively the leader’s compositions.  Understandably, given what we have been through over the past three years, the seven compositions describe a longing for travel.  The music ranges from melancholy ballads (Where the Winds and Waters Call) to hopeful, anticipatory mid-tempo walks (Make the Jump).  This is what a well-integrated trio sounds like when the players are totally at ease with each other.

Charlie Apicella & Iron City Meet The Griots Speak – Destiny Calling (OA2, releases 06/16/2023).  The Griots Speak: Daniel Carter – saxophones / flute / clarinet / trumpet / piano, Charlie Apicella – madal drum / Tibetan singing bowls / guitar, William Parker – bass / doson ngoni / double reed gralla / gembiri / pocket trumpet, Juma Sultan – congas / shakers / percussion + Iron City: Brad Whiteley – organ, Austin Walker – drums.

Charlie Apicella and his hard bop rhythm section, Iron City are collaborating here with elder masters of the 60s NY loft scene, The Griots Speak.  Stephen Graham at Marlbank wrotes, “With winningly loose and organic sounding pieces written in collaboration with The Griot Speaks, guitarist Charlie Apicella who leads the organ-guitar-drums combo Iron City meshes in a very free flowing pan-African riff led spree.”  The tune Sparks has it all – swinging grooves, driving rhythm, ever changing textures as each player moves back and forth from foreground to background.

Jim Alfredson – Family Business(Posi-tone Records, released 05/05/2023).  Alex Sipiagin – trumpet / flugelhorn, Michael Dease – trombone, Diego Rivera – tenor saxophone, Jim Alfredson – organ / Clavinet, Will Bernard – guitar, EJ Strickland – drums, Kevin “Bujo” Jones – percussion.

Out-of-control foot-tapping alert, Jim Alfredson (Organissimo) is making his Posi-tone Records debut as a leader in the company of an all-star selection of artists from the label.  Jeff Krow at Audiophile Audition writes, “Noted Hammond gods, Jimmy Smith, Dr. Lonnie Smith, or the recently departed Joey DeFrancesco, seldom were backed with a group so talented as the all-star group that backs Alfredson. They are a mix of veterans and up-and comers, each proficient on their instrument, and have led sessions of their own. BUT if you combine them with quality material, and a top notch Hammond organist, you have an opportunity to recreate the vibe that a Hammond, plus horns release can bring- think the best of 1960s Blue Note and OJC, Hammond B-3 sessions. It’s that good, and such a treat, fifty plus years later to relive the magic.”  Seven originals plus Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Peepin’ and Michael Dease’s For Miles (a standout) and all are balm for your ears.

Richard X Bennett & Matt Parker – Parker Plays X (BYNK Records, released 05/05/2023).  Matt Parker – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone / spoken word, Richard X Bennett – piano / melodica / vibraphone, Adam Armstrong – bass, Julian Edmond – drums.

Friends Bennett and Parker leverage their diverse musical interests in this fascinating release.  Jim Hynes writes in Making a Scene, “Bennett’s musical preferences span a wide range, from New Orleans funk to Indian ragas to blues to the South African music of Abdullah Ibrahim … He’s issued albums as a leader, two of which are trio and the other widely experimental.  Those last two words describe the Florida-born Matt Parker, who is an avant jazz player with two albums to his credit. The groove-oriented Bennett composed these tunes with Parker in mind resulting in a range from Professor Longhair/James Booker NOLA music to jump blues, Indian ragas, ‘80s film noir, modern Gospel, and whatever else you want to label some of these indescribable adventures.”  Semi Vintage has Parker passionately playing a restrained ballad with a lovely solo by Bennett.

Conun Pappas – Onward (Self Produced, released 04/14/2023).  Conun Pappas – piano, Dan Traverso – bass, Curtis Nowosad – drums, Fernando Saci – percussion.

NOLA native (and New Orleans Center for Creative Arts alumus), Conun Pappas has recorded a program of six originals with a quartet that includes Curtis Nowosad (Derrick Gardner and The Big Dig! Band) on drums.  Generally, the offering is quiet and peaceful, but the band gets a little funky (reminding me of Ramsey Lewis) on The East, dedicated to New Orleans East, the leader’s neighborhood.

Ravita Jazz – Oriana (Self Produced, released 04/2023).  Benny Russell – saxophone, Greg Small – piano, Mark Leppo – vibraphone / conga, Phil Ravita – bass, Nucleo Vega – drums, Deirdre Jennings – vocals.

Blues and funk from Baltimore-based bassist Phil Ravita with a sextet featuring sultry singer Deirdre Jennings, performing a program of ten originals plus evergreen standards Caravan and Black Coffee.

Kevin O’Connell Quartet – Hot New York Minutes (Self Produces, released 03/14/2023).  Adam Brenner – saxophones,  Kevin 0’Connell – piano, Paul Gill – bass, Mark Taylor – drum.

Chicago-based pianist Kevin O’Connell (Clifford Jordan) has recorded with a quartet including Adam Brenner (George Coleman Nonet, Vernel Fournier) on saxophones, Paul Gill (Ken Fowser, Cory Weeds) on bass and Mark Taylor on drums. This is a skilled ensemble playing a mainstream mix of originals and standards.  Unfortunately, the sound quality isn’t terrific, especially the sax which, although well played, sounds tinny for some reason (off-mic?).

John Zorn – Multiplicities Ii—A Repository Of Non-Existent Objects (Tzadik, released 10/28/2022).  John Medeski – Hammond organ, Brian Marsella – Fender Rhodes, Matt Hollenberg – guitar, Kenny Grohowski – drums.

This quartet, which has recorded for Zorn before as Chaos Magick, has documented the first 10 of 20 compositions that Zorn has published based on the writings of French philosopher Gilles Deleuze.  As reviewed in Avant Music News, “…you can expect the usual heavy riffing, blistering solos, and on-a-dime tempo changes from Chaos Magick on this release. The resulting amalgams of metal, jazz, and blues are punctuated by bursts of sheer noise and energy. Zorn sets forth tuneful melodies and themes that the band expands upon with its collectively staggering technical proficiency.”  These are beautifully-played handsome compositions.

Alexis Cole – Sky Blossom: Songs from My Tour of Duty (Zoho, released 09/03/2021).  Alexis Cole – vocals, with Big Band.

Alexis Cole came through Charlottesville recently with Monika Herzig in her Both Sides of Joni tour.  This 2021 release that has just reached our collection is a Big Band Album featuring arrangements written for Cole by Scott Arcangel, arranger from her time serving in the Army’s West Point Band (2009 – 2016). She is a confident singer ably tackling a program of standards.  All Blues features her impressive range and she comfortably scats her way through Clifford Brown’s Joy Spring.

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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