New Jazz Releases – 06/05/2025

Michael Hawkins

A pair of lovely European releases this week from Scandinavian artists guitarist Jacob Young and bassist Thomas Fonnesbæk (with young American pianist Justin Kauflin).  Closer to home, give a listen to an excellent release from a band of Richmond players lead by well-travelled bassist Michael Hawkins.

Michael Hawkins – On Bass… (Self Produced, released 04/2023).  Rex Richardson – trumpet, James “Saxsmo” Gates – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone, W. Weldon Hill – piano, Michael Hawkins – bass, Billy Williams Jr. – drums, Lee Pearson – drums.

Bassist / composer Michael Hawkins (Cyrus Chestnut, Hod O’Brian) leads the talented Richmond, VA ensemble, Michael Hawkins and the Brotherhood, whose members contribute to this well-played disc.  Hawkin’s Niambi features the well-matched front-line of Rex Richardson on trumpet and James “Saxsmo” Gates on alto on a driving piece of post-bop.  Elsewhere the band is trimmed to a quartet with Gates alone upfront on either alto or soprano (as on Hawkin’s prayerful tune, Thankful.)  Hawkin’s Zarina’s House features a delightful performance by excellent pianist Dr. W. Weldon Hill.  Peter McElhinney wrote on Style Weekly, “The straight-ahead playing of lyrical selections, in the sense that every piece is a classically-structured song rather than an abstract groove or postmodern musical construction, gives “On Bass” the immediate approachability of a classic Blue Note set.”  Well worth a listen.

David Mirarchi – Ink Folly, Orchid Gleam (Unbroken Sounds, releases 07/07/2023).  David Mirachi – alto saxophone, Mathias Holgaard Jensen – bass, Eliza Salem – drums.

Young Brooklyn-based alto saxophonist and emerging player in the New York improvised music scene has recorded a two-movement piece with frequent collaborators Mathias Holgaard Jensen on bass and Eliza Salem on drums.

Steve Feifke – Catalyst (La Reserva Records, releases 06/16/2023) digital only.  Max Darche, John Lake, Benny Benack III, Gabe Medd – trumpets, Rob Edwards, Jeffery Miller, Javier Nero, Jennifer Wharton – trombones, Andrew Gould, Alexa Tarantino, Lucas Pino, Sam Dillon, Carl Maraghi – reeds, Steven Feifke – piano, Alex Wintz – guitar, Dan Chmielinski – bass, Bryan Carter – drums.

At the 2023 GRAMMY Awards, then 31-year-old Steven Feifke became the youngest ever winner in the category of Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album for Generation Gap Jazz Orchestra.  On faculty at Berklee College of Music and The New School of Jazz, Feifke has released a startling 6 projects in two years, this one with five original compositions and five classic covers.    Benny Golson’s Stablemates gets a swinging treatment in a wide-ranging arrangement that fully leverages thirteen brass and reeds for many colors and textures.

Tim Ray Trio – Fire and Rain (Whaling City, released 06/02/2023).  Tim Ray – piano / keyboards, John Lockwood – bass, Mark Walker – drums / percussion.

A fine trio set from a trio led by pianist Tim Ray (Tony Bennett, Scott Hamilton).  While each player brings one composition to the set, it’s the creative selection of covers that define this effort.  Monk’s Bye-Ya, Jobim’s Mojave, Dave McKenna’s Theodore The Thumper, Carla Bley’s Lawn, Oscar Peterson’s Nightime and Keith Jarrett’s The Windup are well presented, but the stars of the show are Oliver Nelson’s Stolen Moments and James Taylor’s Fire and Rain.  I’m not sure that I have ever heard James Taylor’s lovely melody as the basis for jazz improvisation. A nice piece of work.

Noshir Mody – A Love Song (Self Produced, released 05/2023).  Benjamin Hankle – flugelhorn, Campbell Charshee – piano, Noshir Mody – guitar, Yuka Tadano – bass, Ronen Itzik – drums, Kate Victor – vocals.

A quiet set of melodic compositions by Indian-born guitarist / composer Noshir Mody featuring interesting unison passages between guitar and flugelhorn.

Mark Ciprut – Blue House (Self Produced, released 05/26/2023).  Jeremy Manasia – Wurlitzer, Etienne Lyle – organ / Wurtlitzer, Jon Cowherd – Wulitzer, Scott Kinsey – Wurlitzer, Marc Ciprut – guitar, James Genus – bass, Jimmy Haislip – bass, Akos Forgacs – bass, Tommi Rautiainen – drums, Steven Santoro – vocals.

Rock, jazz-rock fusion and plenty of blues on guitarist Marc Ciprut’s latest featuring both Wurlitzer and organ on all tracks.

Thomas Fonnesbaek & Justin Kauflin – Danish Rain (Storyville, released 05/19/2023).  Justin Kauflin – piano, Thomas Fonnesbæk – bass.

On this satisfying duo release, melodically-rich Scandinavian bassist Thomas Fonnesbæk has teamed with young American pianist Justin Kauflin, recently heard on Brian McCarthy’s excellent AFTER | LIFE (reviewed here on 05/15/2023).  The bassist’s composition and title tune Danish Rain, brings out the best in both players as does their cover of Herbie Hancock’s Drifting that shows some serious soul jazz chops and a beautiful solo by Fonnesbæk.  This is their third duo set together and once again they are totally in the zone.

Jacob Young – Eventually (ECM, 05/12/2023) digital only.  Jacob Young – guitar; Mats Eilertsen – bass; Audun Kleive – drums.

Guitarist Jacob Young’s fourth outing for ECM and his first in the trio format, for which he has chosen familiar collaborators Mats Eilertsen on bass and Audun Kleive on drums.  Marlbank writes, “Young is like the reincarnation of John Abercrombie far more than ever here. And we give thanks for that feeling even if it is highly subjective an impression in recognition of how much the Abercrombie sound means not just to us but to humanity.  The tunes are very fine, all Young’s – no golden oldies. Easily the best is the groovily head bobbing Schönstedtstraße.”

Michael Costantino – The Song Inside The Tune (Self Produced, 04/17/2023).  Michael Costantino – piano, Harvie S – bass, Thierry Arpino – drums.

I know nothing of the leader Michael Cosantino, nor the drummer Thierry Arpino.  Harvie S (recently Chris O’Keefe, Alan Broadbent, Toni Ben-Hur, Tamuz Nissim), on the other hand, is a ubiquitous New York bassist, famously with Shiela Jordan on many projects.  Costantino has a very bright and percussive approach and the trio fits well together on a program of covers including a surprisingly up-tempo version of Satin Doll.

Rumba Calzada – Feel The Sun (Self Produced, released 01/17/2023).  Vince Mai – trumpet flugelhorn, Miguelito Valdes – trumpet / flugelhorn / vocals / guiro / guira, Rod Murray – trombone, Luis Pablo Melgar – trombone, Louis Mastroianni – piano / keyboards, Tristan Paxton – guitar, Allan Johnston – bass / vocals, Rolando “Rolo” Preza – conga / vocals, Raphael Geronimo – timbales / congas / bongo / guiro / drum set / vocals, Susana Williams – vocals, Danay Sinclair – vocals, Dawn Pemberton – vocals.

Percussionist Raphael Geronimo leads his tight Vancouver band through a ten-song set of originals in a salsa / Afro-Cuban jazz vein.

Another week of strong new music.  I hope these notes help you discover something you will love to hear.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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