New Jazz Releases- 06/03/2024

Etienne Charles

An international vibe suffuses the new releases this week with discs by players from Trinidad (Etienne Charles), Israel (Eyal Milner), Canada (Andrew Scott / Kelsley Grant), Argentina (Fernando Huergo), Russia (Alex Sipiagin) and Australia (Sam Anning & Jeremy Rose and the Earchift Orchestra).  In addition, we have some fine trio work from Bobby Broom and Central Virginia’s Lenny Marcus.

Etienne Charles – Creole Orchestra (Culture Shock, releases 06/14/2024).  Etienne Charles, Jumaane Smith, Walter Cano, Anthony Stanco, Giveton Gelin – trumpets, Dion Tucker, Corey Wilcox, Michael Dease, Chris Glassman, Michael Thomas, Godwin Louis, Brian Hogans, John Ellis, Seth Ebersole, Paul Nedzela, Gina Izzo – woodwinds, Sullivan Fortner – piano, Alex Wintz – guitar, Ben Williams – bass, Jonathan Michel – bass, Obed Calvaire – drums, Jorge Glem – cuatro, Pascual Landeau – marac, Rene Marie-vocals, Brandon Rose – vocals, DJ Logic – turntables.

Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles spins New Orleans-rooted Creole Jazz with all the polyglot of traditions that it deserves with French, Spanish, Haitian Creole and Bajan cultures in evidence.  As Fred Bouchard wrote on New York City Jazz Record, “Charles’ 22-man band stars hip sons of the Caribbean, including Bahamian trumpeter Giveton Gelin, and Port-au-Prince-raised, Berklee-alum reed-whiz Godwin Louis. The Haitian-American rhythm team boasts sensationally chameleonic NOLA pianist Sullivan Fortner, bassist Jonathan Michel, drummer Obed Calvaire and Venezuelan cuatro maestro Jorge Glem. Charles has a blithe, affable manner with a lighthearted, agile tunefulness. As a composer he’s adventuresome: border-hopping devilment possesses him, and pieces burst open in piñatas of kaleidoscopic creolizations. Charles rustles up a spicy jambalaya of dancing rhythms and tasty tunes, simmered with hot solos and served up with eye-watering riffs… In Old School, sly Mighty Sparrow calypso meets Thad Jones/Mel Lewis savvy swing with sax swells and brass shakes… Think Twice shifts gears and sections between reggae and swing with ensemble dynamism recalling Brazilian composer Moacir Santos, with turns for lead trumpeter Jumaane Smith and trombonist Michael Dease… The band tosses a playful game of catch to open Stompin’ At The Savoy and kicks goals on Joe Henderson’s A Shade of Jade. Louis invests his solos with Cannonball authority and aplomb throughout, a first-magnitude star in Charles’ giddy galaxy.”  All this and four star-turns by the powerful and sassy songstress Rene Marie.  Don’t miss this one. 

Matt Wilson – Good Trouble (Palmetto Records, releases 06/14/2024) digital only.  Tia Fuller – alto saxophone, Jeff Lederer – tenor saxophone / clarinet, Dawn Clement – piano, Ben Allison – bass, Matt Wilson – drums.

Drummer Matt Wilson has assembled another first-rate band for his new release.  Michael J West wrote in Downbeat, “Good Trouble finds Matt Wilson as boisterous and hard-swinging as ever. Resourceful, too: This critic had never heard a contrafact of Feed The Fire, Geri Allen’s signature tune, before Wilson’s playful album opener Fireplace. The drummer brings his affability as well to Ornette Coleman’s Feet Music, spurring his bandmates — alto saxophonist Tia Fuller, tenor saxophonist/clarinetist Jeff Lederer, pianist/vocalist Dawn Clements and bassist Ben Allison — into a downright boogie. Add in a sly, slinky performance of Lederer’s Albert’s Alley, and who can resist?…  Even at its most earnest, though, Good Trouble can’t help but default to Wilson’s sense of fun and humor. RBG ends with a vocal chant from the band, urging the listener to ‘honor her plea/serve your community.’ Yet it concludes with gales of laughter as Fuller gleefully shouts, ‘Matt, you’re so in it!’ You will be, too.”  It whispers, it shouts, it struts, it boogies.  Recommended.

Phil Haynes’ 4 Horns & What – The Complete American Recordings (Self Produced, releases 06/14/2024).  4 Horns & What  (1989).  Paul Smoker – trumpet / tambourine, Joe Daly – tuba / baritone horn, Ellery Eskelin – tenor saxophone / cabasa, Andy Laster – alto saxophone / baritone saxophone / flute, Phil Haynes – drums / wind chimes.  4 Horn Lore (1992).  Paul Smoker – trumpet, Clarence ‘Herb’ Robertson – trumpet, valve trombone, tuba [E-flat tuba], percussion, Ellery Eskelin – tenor saxophone, Andy Laster – alto saxophone / baritone saxophone / flute, Phil Haynes – drums.  Live At B.A.M. (1995).  Paul Smoker – trumpet, Clarence “Herb” Robertson – multi-brass, John Tchicai – tenor saxophone, Andy Laster – multi-reeds / flute, Phil Haynes – drums.

In the late 80s and through the first half of the 90s, avant grade drummer Phil Haynes recorded two studio sets and one live date (unreleased) with four horn players in a group he named Phil Haynes’ 4 Horns & What.  Among the reed and brass players who filled out the band are major players like tenor players Ellery Eskelin and John Tchicai, and multi-reedist Herb Robertson.  Tim Larsen wrote on Jazz Views, “Drummer Phil Haynes first thought about forming 4 Horns & What in 1986. He wanted two brass players, two saxophone players, and he envisioned a band that could play like a whisper one moment, and then raise the roof the next. He needed a unified approach to group interaction. He got that by using the African conception of direct conversational interplay between rhythm and melody. By not having a bass player the rapport between the drum and the horns become the norm… 4 Horns & What had a shifting but always exceptional line-up. The band has been largely forgotten. I hope the release of 4 HORNS & WHAT? THE COMPLETE AMERICAN RECORDINGS changes that.”  Some really beautiful ensemble and solo playing (and some chaos) – an open mind helps.

Avery Sharpe Double Quartet – I Am My Neighbors Keeper (JKNM Records, releases 06/14/2024).  Zaccai Curtis – piano, Matt DeChamplain – piano, Sarah Briggs – violin, Kaila Graef – violin, Gregory Diehl – viola, Dave Haughey – cello , Avery Sharpe – bass, Yoron Israel – drums, Tony Vacca – balafon / African percussion, Anton Kot – drums.

Coming off of a highly productive 20-year run with McCoy Tyner, bassist Avery Sharpe has recorded a set of eleven originals with a double quartet: one a piano (Zaccai Curtis!) – bass – drums – percussion ensemble and the other a traditional string quartet.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “An album by a double bassist that breaks from tradition by borrowing from various musical genres to offer us a work made of original compositions forming a sort of symphonic jazz. It must be said that this musician has a solid career behind him. Avery Sharpe has recorded and played with many great names in jazz, from Dizzy Gillespie to Yusef Lateef. He had an illustrious career of over 20 years with the legendary jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, with whom he recorded more than 25 albums and gave countless concerts around the world.  Listening to Avery Sharpe solo or enjoying the depth of his compositions is a true delight for connoisseurs. Rather than sticking to more classical compositions, here the double bassist draws his inspiration from various folklores and classical music, all united in a jazz form where he has succeeded in leaving his mark thanks to his unique expertise.”  Having spent so much creative time with Tyler, it is no surprise that there are shades of the legendary pianist / composer thought this disc.  An A-list release.

Eyal Vilner Big Band – Swingin’ Uptown (Self Produced, releases 06/14/2024).  John Lake, Brandon Lee, Bryan Davis, Michael Sailors, James Zollar – trumpets, Ron Wilkins, Robert Edwards, Mariel Bildsten – trombones, Eyal Vilner, Bill Todd, Jordan Pettay, Julieta Eugenio, Evan Arntzen, Michael Hashim, Josh Lee, Eden Bareket – reeds, Jon Thomas – piano, Jordan Piper – piano, Ian Hutchinson – bass, Eran Fink – drums, Imani Russell – vocals.

Bandleader Eyal Vilner’s latest release is a celebration of dance music from Harlem and beyond, time-stamped in the 1940s.  In addition to six originals are covers of tunes like Ray Bryant’s Chicken An’ Dumplings, two Billy Eckstein vehicles (Tell Me Pretty Baby & I Love A Rhythm In A Riff), Danny Barker’s Don’t You Feel My Leg, and Louis Jordan’s Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t.  Even Irving Belin’s ballad Blue Skies is given a peppy danceable treatment.  Much of the record seems to be recorded with a nonet, but Vilner’s Afternoon At Smalls gets a full Big Band treatment.

Scott / Grant 5 – Horizon Song (Cellar Music, releases 06/07/2024).  Kelsley Grant – trombone, Amanda Tosoff – piano / Fender Rhodes, Andrew Scott – guitar, Neil Swainson – bass, Terry Clarke – drums.

Toronto-based leaders guitarist Andrew Scott and trombonist Kelsley Grant have recorded a Canadian quintet date (with terrific bassist Neil Swainson.). The set list of original compositions – seven by Scott and two by Grant are very measured and cool with overtones of Bossa Nova.

Michael O’Neill – Arrival (Green Bean Records, releases 06/07/2024).  John Keenlyside – saxophone, Ronnie Foster – organ, Michael O’Neill – guitar, John Leftwich – bass, Land Richards – drums, Lorie V Moore – vocal, Sadie O’Neill – vocals.

Guitarist Michael O’Neill – not to be confused with saxophonist Michael O’Neill (Conversations With Birds, 2023) – is a well travelled sideman (25 years with George Benson), studio player and television composer.  His new release is a rather smooth quartet date with other LA-session players.

Bobby Broom Organization – Jamalot (Live) (Steele Records, released 05/24/2024).  Ben Paterson – Hammond B3, Bobby Broom – guitar, Kobie Watkins – drums.

Guitarist Bobby Broom formed his excellent B3 – guitar – drums trio, featuring B3 maven Ben Paterson – not to be confused with trombonist and bandleader Ben Patterson (Groove Junkies, 2024) for a 2014 tour with Steely Dan. Chris May wrote on AllAboutJazz, “When Jimmy Smith brought the tablets down from the mountain, one of the commandments decreed that the job of an organ trio was to mix jazz standards with pop tunes and mash them all up into a seamless joyous brew. Guitarist Bobby Broom keeps to the original recipe on the live album Jamalot… It is his second disc with his Organi-Sation trio completed by Ben Paterson on Hammond B3 and Kobie Watkins on drums… Half the album was recorded on the big venue Steely Dan tour. The other half was recorded during an engagement at Chicago’s more intimate Jazz Showcase in 2019. Good as the 2014 tracks are, it is the closing three tracks, which take up the final half-hour of the disc, recorded at Jazz Showcase, which are the real business. Broom’s talent for reharmonising shines strongly on Tadd’s Delight, The Long And Winding Road and Speak Low, and the extended playing times on the first and third of these allow the band to stretch out to optimal effect.”  Essential for organ trio lovers.

Fernando Huergo Big Band – Relentless (Whaling City Sound, released 05/24/2024). Jeff Claassen, Billy Buss, Dan Rosenthal, Greg Hopkins – trumpets, Randy Pingrey, Chris Gagne, Jason Camelio, Andy Garcia – trombone, Yulia Musayelyan, Rick Stone, Allan Chase, Rick DiMuzio, Joel Springer, Daniel Ian Smith – reeds, Santiago Bosch – piano, Fernando Huergo – bass, Gen Yoshimura – drums, Ernesto Diaz – congas.

Argentina-born, Boston-based bassist Fernando Huergo (Filipe Salles, Ahmet Ali Anlikol, Guillermo Klein) leads his Boston-centric big band through a set of ten originals and one tune by Wayne Shorter.  This is a straight-ahead modern big band date, not, as might be expected, a Latin Jazz performance.

Alex Sipiagin – Horizons (Blue Room Music, released 05/24/2024).  Alex Sipiagin – trumpet / flugelhorn, Chris Potter – saxophones, John Escreet – piano / keyboards, Matt Brewer – bass, Eric Harland – drums.

In the past 25 years, Russian-born trumpeter Alex Sipiagin (Mel’s Vision, previewed 01/30/2023) has led eleven recording sessions that feature Chris Potter, one of the greatest living saxophonists.  In addition to his own recordings, Sipiagin has recently appeared on dates from Irina Zubareva (Soul Mystery, 2024), Conrad Herwig (The Latin Side of Charles Mingus, 2022 & The Latin Side of Herbie Hancock, 2020), Jim Alfredson (Family Business, 2023), Michael Dease (Best Next Thing, 2022), and Bill O’Connell and the Afro Caribbean Ensemble (Wind Off The Hudson, 2019) – all in the past five years.  But his own dates with Chris Potter are certain to be the discography entries that define Sipiagin’s legacy.  Listen to their sweet interplay on Pat Methane’s ballad When Is It Now? to hear two players completely in synch.  Recommended.

Lenny Marcus Trio – Blackwater Sessions (LJM, released 05/14/2024).  Lenny Marcus – piano / flutes / vocals, Willis Greenstreet – guitar, Zachary McDonald – acoustic bass / electric bass, Denver Nuckolls – drums, Jay Ware – drums.

Roanoke-based pianist / composer Lenny Marcus has recorded a (mostly) piano trio set that explores varied influences.  In addition to five originals, the trio tackles compositions by Lennon / McCartney, Eden Ahbez, Alvin Batiste, Ray Bryant, Bird, Ahmad Jamal and ELP.  This is an elegant trio.

Sam Anning – Earthen (Earshift Music, released 04/05/2024).  Mat Jodrell – trumpet, Carl Mackey – alto saxophone, Julien Wilson – tenor saxophone / electronics, Andrea Teller – piano / wurlitzer, Theo Carbo – electric guitar / acoustic guitar, Sam Anning – double bass, Kyrie Anderson – drums.

Australian bassist / composer Sam Anning (Cyrille Aimée, Miho Hazama) has recorded a suite inspired by his mentorsinger, songwriter, and Aboriginal activist Archie Roach, who died in 2022.  Michael Roland wrote on The Big Takeover, “Rather than cover Roach’s music, Anning instead comes up with his own tunes, taking the songwriter’s words – “Music comes from the earth and these instruments carry it, and it goes back to the earth” – to heart by using his personal creativity instead of borrowing someone else’s. To that end, Anning’s melodies tend toward the spiritual, balancing the melancholy of his great inspiration being no longer of this earth with the joy in the influence he left behind. Anning and his septet range from the atmospheric sound poetry of Moonland and Eleventy Million (for Auggie Bruten) to the tense postbop of Kicking Not Screaming and Uvalde, an update to the social commentary that always drove Roach’s work. Beautiful, unsettling, thought-provoking, and mystical, Earthen pays tribute to Roach’s spirit while staying true to Anning’s vision.”

Jeremy Rose & The Earshift Orchestra – Discordia (Earshift Music, released 03/01/2024).  James Powers, Thomas Avgenicos, Simon French, Ellen Kirkwood – trumpets, James Macauley, Jacob Parks, Cailey Mei Soon, Nick Barnard – trombones, Tessie Overmeyer, Hunan Fujisaki, Michael Avgenicos, Nick Boyd – reeds, Novak Manojlovic – piano, Hilary Geddes – guitar, Jacques Emery – bass, Chloe Kim – drum.

Australian saxophonist / composer / label owner Jeremy Rose brings a varied and unconventional approach to composing for a big band, prompting favorable comparisons to early Darcy James Argue (for example 2009s Infernal Machines.)  Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “Award-winning saxophonist-composer Jeremy Rose and owner of Australia’s most important jazz label, Earshift Music, leads his large ensemble on Discordia.  In 2023, Rose turned heads with his acclaimed Disruption: The Voice of Drums featuring the twin drummers Simon Barker and Korean stylist Chloe Kim, the latter who returns to this project supporting Rose’s 17-piece orchestra. Rose has built his reputation on wild and unconventional big band charts and as the album title suggests, our current information age, saddled with myriads of mistruths and the increasing presence of AI, has not only camouflaged the truth, but resulted in divisiveness not just here in the states, but globally.”  This band is full of talented players (like the Avgenicos brothers – Tom and Michael – on trumpet and saxophone), none of whom has attracted my attention before.  Worth a listen.

So get out your atlases and follow along.  I hope you find some new music here to enrich your life.

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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