New Jazz Releases – 06/10/2023

Conrad Herwig

Conrad Herwig is back with another “Latin Side” release and Calligram Records has put out another winner, this time from Rob Parton with a nonet.  In addition, we have a couple for first rate hard bop dates – from Anthony Stanco and Josh Lawrence.

Conrad Herwig – The Latin Side of McCoy Tyner (Savant Records, released 05/24/2024).  Alex Norris – trumpet / flugelhorn, Conrad Herwig – trombone, Craig Handy – tenor saxophone / baritone saxophone, Eddie Palmieri – piano, Bill O’Connell – piano, Ruben Rodriguez – bass, Robby Ameen – drums, Camilo Molina – congas / bata / vocals.

For almost thirty years, trombonist Conrad Herwig has periodically released sets of music from giants of modern jazz rendered as Latin Jazz standards.  With sets dedicated to Trane, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Horace Silver and, most recently, Charles Mingus, it was only a matter of time before he fixed his attention on McCoy Tyner.  With driving, rhythmically propulsive focus, Tyner’s music becomes a perfect subject for this moving disc, particularly his 1967 desert island disc The Real McCoy from which Herwig interprets four of the five tunes.  This is an excellent band with wonderful saxophonist Craig Handy, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen and guest pianist Eddie Palmieri being veterans of several of these recordings.  Drop the needle anywhere, the disc is full of great moments, but the interpretations of Passion Dance, Search for Peace and Fly With the Wind are personal favorites.  Not to be missed!

Anthony Stanco – Stanco’s Time (OA2 Records, releases 06/21/2024).  Anthony Stanco – trumpet, Walter Blanding – tenor saxophone, Xavier Davis – piano, Randy Napoleon – guitar, Rodney Whitaker – bass, Joe Farnsworth – drums.

Trumpeter Anthony Stanco (Randy Napoleon, Michael Dease), is yet another fine player who teaches in the Michigan State Jazz program.  He joins with several of his MSU colleagues – Xavier Davis on piano, Randy Napoleon on guitar, Rodney Whitaker on bass – and Joe Farnsworth on drums to make a very 50s sounding band.  Many of the pieces have Napoleon up front with Stanco playing the heads in unison.  Walter Blanding (Jazz at Lincoln Center), another MSU faculty member, guests on tenor on three tunes.  Stanco duets with Farnsworth on a notably rapid take of Miles Davis’s Dig.  The sextet version of Bird’s Now’s the Time is also a highlight.

Mike Holober & The Gotham Jazz Orchestra – This Rock We’re On: Imaginary Letters (Self Produced, releases 06/14/2024).  Tony Kadleck, Liesl Whitaker, Marvin Stamm, Scott Wenholdt, Stuart Mack – trumpets, Matt MacDonald, Mark Patterson, Alan Ferber, Jason Jackson, Sara Jacovino, Jeff Nelson – trombones, Charles Pillow, Ben Kono, Jason Rigby, Adam Kolker, Chris Potter, Virginia Mayhew, Carl Maraghi – saxophones / woodwinds, Mike Holober – piano / Fender Rhodes, James Shipp – vibraphone / percussion / synthesizer / vocals, Nir Felder – guitar, Jody Redhage Ferber – cello, John Patitucci – bass, Jared Schonig – drums, Jamile Staevie Ayers – vocals.

Pianist Mike Holober (Charles Pillow Large Ensemble, Christopher Zuar Orchestra, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society) has recorded a dense meditation on the fragility of nature for a large ensemble of many A-list players.

Rosario Giuliani Quartet – ‘Logbook’ Live at Sounds (Hypnote Records, releases 06/14/2024).  Rosario Giuliani – alto saxophone, Pietro Lussu – piano, Dario Deidda – electric bass, Sasha Mashin – drums.

Italian alto saxophonist Rosario Giuliani has released a live set of seven originals in a quartet format with other Italian players.  Steve A Cerra wrote on Jazz Profiles, “Indeed, if you like your alto playing searing, sensual and sonorous, welcome to the world of Rosario Giuliani. His is an alto tone that is big, biting and burning – all at the same time; it is a sound that totally envelopes the listener.  Whether it’s running the changes on finger-poppin’ bop tunes, improvising on modal scales and odd time signatures or finding his way movingly and expressively through ballads, Giuliani enveloping sound is a force and a presence. He has a technical command of the instrument that lets him go wherever he wants to on the horn.”

Greg Skaff – Re-up (Soulmation Records, releases 06/14/2024).  Greg Staff – guitar, Ugonna Okegwo – bass, Jonathan Barber – drums.

New York guitarist Greg Skaff (Dorsey – Skaff – Clark, Bobby Watson) has released another set in his favorite format – the guitar – bass – drums trio.  The program is eight originals, plus a Monk and an Ellington cover, performed with bassist Ugonna Okegwo (Wayne Escoffery, Tom Harrell, Behn Gillece) and young drummer Jonathan Barber.

Clarence Penn – Behind The Voice (Origin Records, releases 06/14/2024). Marshall Gilkes – trombone, Doug Dehays – saxophones, Shedrick Mitchell – piano / keyboards / organ, Gregoire Maret – harmonica, Gilad Heckselman – guitar, Tom Guarna – guitar, Christopher Bruce – guitar, Adam Rogers – guitar, James Genus – bass, Darrell Freeman – bass, Yashushi Nakamura – bass, Clarence Penn – drums / percussion / keyboards / vocorder, Aaron Marcellus – vocals, Kurt Elling – vocals, Toku – vocals, Chelsea Jackson – vocals, Emily Braden – vocals. 

Drummer Clarence Penn (recently Andy Milne, Kate McGarry, Marshall Gilkes) has recorded a set of compositions by well-known pop drummers (Phil Collins, Levon Helm, Stevie Wonder, Peter Gabriel, Dave Grohl) mostly with vocalists.

Rob Parton’s Ensemble 9+ – Relentless (Calligram Records, released 06/07/2024).  Rob Parton – trumpet, Chris Van Leeuwen – trumpet, Rodney Booth – trumpet, DJ Rice – trombone, Tony Baker – trombone, Brad Leali – alto saxophone, Shelley Carrol – tenor saxophone, Rylan Villareal – baritone saxophone, Mike Smith – alto saxophone / tenor saxophone / baritone saxophone, Fred Sanders – piano, August Knobbs – piano, Lynn Seaton – bass, Guillermo Lopez – bass, Quincy Davis – drums, Steve Barnes – drums, Jordan Proffer – drums, Jose Aponte – percussion, Rosana Eckert – vocals.

In its rapid rise, we have come to understand Calligram Records as an outlet for some of Chicago’s finest young players.  This time out the nod goes to veteran trumpeter Rob Parton, a Chicago transplant to Denton, Texas, where he directs the University of North Texas Two O’Clock Lab Band.  UNT, where UVa’s own Pete Spaar studied, is second only to Berklee in enrollment among music schools.  With a program of new compositions and/or arrangements commissioned for the band, this is an exciting set with skilled arrangements making the most of the small big band, mostly a nonet.  Compellingly well-written and well-played.

Josh Lawrence – Measured Response (Posi-Tone Records, released 05/24/2024). Josh Lawrence – trumpet / flugelhorn, Diego Rivera – tenor saxophone, Art Hiragana – piano, Luques Curtis – bass, Rudy Royston – drums.

Trumpeter Josh Lawrence returns from his fine 2023 release (And That Too, previewed 03/20/2023) with another Posi-Tone Records mainstream marvel. Of the ten selections, Charlie Haden’s Song For The Whales and Trane’s Wise One complement eight originals.  Featuring another excellent collection of players from the label’s repertory company – Rivera, Hirahara, Curtis, Royston – the disc presents a lot of emotional depth.  In addition to several spiritual and more contemplative tracks, as Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “There are celebratory, exuberant moments too as in his salute to his energetic students in Flip on a Dip where Curtis and Royston push the ensemble to revel in blissful hard bop. Lawrence also penned the bluesy Texas Tenor for Rivera…  The title and Rivera’s playing both evoke the heralded Texas tenors such as Arnett Cobb, Illinois Jacquet, Buddy Tate, King Curtis, and David ‘Fathead’ Newman.  This is a varied album that shows multiple sides of Lawrence’s artistry and represents some of his most deeply thoughtful compositions. As the title indicates, he and his bandmates play with a controlled fervor throughout.”  Another solid and enjoyable outing.

Andrew Bird Trio – Sunday Morning Put-On (Loma Vista Recordings, released 05/24/2024).  Larry Goldings – piano, Jeff Parker – guitar, Andrew Bird – violin / vocals, Alan Hampton – bass, Ted Poor – drums / vibraphone.

Violinist and vocalist Andrew Bird presents a nine tune take at the Great American Songbook, plus one original, all mostly in a trio setting with occasional contributions by Larry Goldings on piano and Jeff Parker on guitar.  Mark Demming wrote on AllMusic, “…Sunday Morning Put-On finds Bird making a straightforward jazz album, or at least his version of a straightforward jazz album… Bird’s violin work is superb, coaxing an evocative tone that moves past the traditional approach to the instrument. He gives it a dark, smoky voice that beautifully complements the sweet sadness of his vocals, which suggest he’s been listening to a lot of great jazz vocalists and learning from the experience… and he’s capable of performing I Cover the Waterfront, You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To, and Caravan while sounding like he was born to do this. For the finale, Bird unveils Ballon de Peut-Etre, a nine-minute instrumental piece that recalls a very different story of jazz; it’s the sort of extended piece that walks the middle ground between the adventure of be-bop and the feel of cool jazz of the ‘50s.”  A very unique and satisfying listen from an artist mostly known for his pop recordings.  On July 17, Bird will be at the Ting Pavilion with Nickel Creek.

Tony Romano – Three Chord Monte (Tony Romano Music, released 05/17/2024).  Paul Carlon – tenor saxophone / baritone saxophone, Tony Romano – guitar, Jennifer Vincent – bass, Rob Garcia – drums. 

Not a household name, but deserving of more attention, guitarist Tony Romano has delivered a set of thirteen originals.  Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “Romano has spent most of his career as a sideman for vocalists but issued a solo guitar album Dance for One (2017) and his trio recording, Standards (2018).  So, this represents the first collection of his own writing for a quartet and trio. In fact, they recorded it all in two days, one for the quartet and another for the trio tracks… There’s well over an hour of music in this distinctly modern album that fuses Latin, blues, and conventional jazz structures such as waltzes with highly cinematic fare.”  A fine disc.

Brother Jack McDuff – Ain’t No Sunshine:  Live In Seattle (Reel To Real, released 04/20/2024).  Leo Johnson – tenor saxophone / flute / clarinet, Dave Young – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone, Jack McDuff – Hammond B3, Vinnie Corrao – guitar, Ron Davis – drums.

Every year on Record Store Day (04/21 this year), labels release special sets often of historical material, many of which were previewed here a couple of months back.  This live Brother Jack McDuff set from 1972 saw its first release this year and has just now reached these shores.  By the time of this set, McDuff had left behind the tough urban jazz sound that he pioneered with Jimmy Forrest, Grant Green, Gene Ammons, Kenny Burrell and, from 1963, George Benson, for a more funky sound.  Despite my lack of enthusiasm, the release has garnered praise, for example Pierre Giroux wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Bill Withers wrote the title track Ain’t No Sunshine, inspired by the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses. The chart is all McDuff, and he takes full advantage of the B-3 for a big, dramatic and juicy rendition of the number. Brother Jack McDuff is not just another musician but a true master of his craft with a precise stamp of blues phrases…”

Have Fun.

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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