New Jazz Releases – 06/17/2024

Oded Tzur

So much variety this week – spiritual jazz from Oded Tzur, hard bop from Steve Turre, string quartets from Ryan Truesdale and Cuban Son from Kiki Valera.  And tributes abound – Jared Hall honors his trumpet influences, Antonio Farao channels his piano heroes, Matthew Whitaker grooves on the B3 masters, Antonio Adolpho shows Cole Porter some love, and Amber Weekes celebrates Nancy Wilson.  Truly something for everyone.

Oded Tzur – My Prophet (ECM, released 06/07/2024).  Oded Tzur – tenor saxophone, Nitai Hershkovits – piano, Petros Klampanis – bass, Cyrano Almeida – drums.

In his third release for ECM, Tel Aviv-born, NYC-based tenor saxophonist Oded Tzur brings back his quartet – this time with Brazilian newcomer Cyrano Almeida replacing veteran Johnathan Blake.  Once again,Tzur’s playing recalls the cerebral spirituality of mature Charles Lloyd (some say late John Coltrane, but that comparison is not as apt to me.)  Filipe Freitas wrote on Jazz Trail, “With artistry and charismatic personality, Tzur draws in anyone seeking for a new sense of spirituality in jazz, which reaches uplifting and fervent tones in the closer, Last Bike Ride in Paris. Here, synergistic interplay and odd rhythmic placement make everything so exciting. As Tzur states: ‘there’s freedom within the form’, and that’s palpable.  My Prophet is a magical record, a transfixing masterpiece of restraint enchantment and passionate eruptions that places Tzur at the crest of contemporary spiritual jazz.”  Important and recommended.

Steve Turre – Sanyas (Smoke Sessions, releases 06/28/2024).  Nicholas Payton – trumpet, Steve Turre – trombone / shells, Ron Blake – tenor saxophone, Isaiah J. Thompson – piano, Buster Williams – bass, Lenny White – drums.

With a resume that goes back to the legendary Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers (1973) and the famed Woody Shaw units (1974 – 1987), trombonist Steve Turre is the senior bone player on the scene.  For a gig at Smoke in 2023, Turre assembled the amazing group of Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Ron Blake on tenor, Isaiah J Thompson on piano, Buster Williams on bass and Lenny White on drums (ranging from 27 to 82 years old).  The program is two originals, two standards and Lee Morgan’s Mr. KenyattaGeorge W Harris wrote on Jazz Weekly, “One of the masters of the hard bopping trombone, Steve Turre brings together an impressive cast … for a bicep flexing recording from gigs recorded August 3-6 at Smoke Jazz Club last year. The team is filled with swagger, with Blake’s Don Byas-ish tenor leading the charge with  Turre on Sanyas  and Thompson in a peppy mood for All The Things You Are. Turre’s mute is in glorious form on Wishful Thinking and his shells shine along with a buccinator’d Payton blasting through Lee Morgan’s Mr. Kenyatta. Turre plunges lower than Beyonce’s neckline on a get down funky groove of These Foolish Things as White and Williams snap out a backbeat for the ages.”  Hard Bop Lives!

Ryan Truesdell – Synthesis: The String Quartet Sessions (ArtistShare, releases 06/21/2024).  Anat Cohen – clarinet, Sara Caswell – violin, Joyce Hammann – violin, Lady Jess – violin, Lois Martin – viola, Orlando Wells – viola, Jody Redhage-Ferber – cello, Noah Hoffeld – cello, Jody Redhage-Ferber – cello, Jay Anderson – bass,John Hollenbeck – drums / marimba / piano. 

As a pandemic exercise, composer Ryan Truesdale acted on his belief that many jazz composers, especially those who compose for large ensembles, were inspired by the string quartet writing of composers like Bartok, Brahms, and Ravel.  So he asked 15 of his fellow composers to compose a piece for the traditional string quartet line-up – composers like Jim McNeely, Miho Hazama, Alan Ferber, Rufus Reed and John Hollenback – and the results are these 30 tracks.  David Olds wrote on The Whole Note, “Truesdell gave the composers very few parameters in terms of length or style to guide them, and I was particularly taken with the range of approaches taken. While most of the works were composed specifically for this project, also included are a previously unrecorded work for string trio from 1990 by Bob Brookmeyer and a reworking of John Hollenbeck’s Grey Cottage, originally for solo violin, for quartet with the composer adding drums, marimba and piano. Most of the composers have chosen to stick within the traditional quartet formation of two violins, viola and cello, but several feature soloists within this context, including Christine Jensen whose lovely Tilting World features violin soloist Sara Caswell. Truesdell, who himself contributed three titles, adds Israeli-born clarinetist Anat Cohen for Suite for Clarinet and String Quartet and bassist Jay Anderson to the quartet in Heart of Gold (for Jody) which is a showcase for cellist Jody Redhage Ferber. To quote the press release: ‘SYNTHESIS challenges old perceptions of the traditional string quartet … exploring a new genre of music cultivated at the intersection of jazz, classical, world, and contemporary music.’ It does so admirably.”

Jared Hall – Influences (Origin Records, releases 06/21/2024). Jared Hall – trumpet, Tal Cohen – piano, Michael Glynn – bass, John Bishop – drums.

For his second release on Origin, trumpeter / educator Jared Hall, has taken inspiration from his influences Woody Shaw, Tom Harrell, Wallace Roney, Roy Hargrove, and Brian Lynch for his eight compositions and then has added Gigi Gryce’s great standard MinorityPaul Rauch wrote on AllAboutJazz, “All trumpeters of Hall’s generation of players have been influenced by the late, great [Roy] Hargrove. He was accessible to so many, while touring and performing, and by stopping in to jam sessions around the world. His sound was special, and very different from Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie. Dear Roy is a ballad, a format frequented by Hargrove, defining his dedication to melody and emotive playing. Hall’s soaring trumpet style is paramount while playing ballads. The purity of his sound, the finer elements of his facility are best expressed in this realm of longer tones and wide dynamic range. Influences is an excellent follow-up to Hall’s last release, Seen on the Scene (Origin, 2021). The trumpeter knows how to make a sound record, eschewing stylistic twists and turns and creating a focus on a particular way of playing within the lexicon of an actual functioning band… There is truth here, unabashed, direct to the listener.”  Give it a listen.

Tomasz Stańko Quartet – September Night (ECM, releases 06/21/2024).  Tomasz Stanko – trumpet, Marcin Wasilewski – piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz – double bass, Michal Miskiewicz – drums.

Trumpeter Tomasz Stanko (1942 -2018) hit his stride with his “Polish Quartet” during their long tenure (1993 – 2017) and now we have an unreleased live set in their prime, from 2004.  Chris May wrote on AllAboutJazz, “An intensely lyrical player, Stanko was among the greatest ever mixologists of on-the-hoof melodicism and free improvisation. This rare talent shines through September Night, a corker of an album. It was recorded live (by ECM founder Manfred Eicher) in Munich in 2004, and twenty years later is getting its first release. Stańko leads his stellar new millennial Quartet – pianist Marcin Wasilewski, double bassist Slawomir Kurkiewicz, drummer Michal Miskiewicz – with whom he recorded three outstanding studio albums: Soul Of Things (ECM, 2002), Suspended Night (ECM, 2004) and Lontano (ECM, 2006). September Night was recorded between Suspended Night and Lontano and the Quartet can be heard moving some distance away from the structured lyricism of the first, while remaining connected, towards the freer approach of the second. All seven pieces were composed by Stańko with the exception of Kaetano, a group creation. It is impossible to pull out highlights, because the entire album is near perfect. But, under extreme duress, one might point to the joyous, dancing Celina, at 10:43 the longest track… and the loving Song For Sarah, previously heard on Suspended Night, plus the pensive closer, Theatrical. The disc comes in just shy of 60 minutes, every one of them a winner.”  Pianist Wasilewski is marvelous as always.

Antonio Farao Trio – Tributes (Criss Cross, releases 06/14/2024). Antonio Farao – piano, John Patitucci – bass, Jeff Ballard – drums.

Virtuoso Italian pianist Antonio Farao (Mike Clark, Chico Freeman) has assembled a terrific trio with John Patitucci on bass (Chris Potter, Wayne Shorter) and Jeff Ballard (Brad Mehldau, Fly Trio).  This is Farao’s first release for the storied Dutch label Criss Cross, since 2021 under the second generation leadership of the founder’s son Jerry Teekens.  Neil Duggan wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Tributes involves Faraò addressing the styles of some of his greatest piano influences, especially Michel Petrucciani, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and McCoy Tyner. This is no mere copy or impersonation of the work of others; Faraò absorbs a style and uses that as a catalyst to drive his own melodic and on-the-spot invention. For this session, Faraò provides Patitucci and Ballard with eight compositions and two covers [Cole Porter’s I Love You and Chick Corea’s Matrix] as the basis for the trio to cut loose for over an hour with some marvellous improvisation… As one might expect, Patitucci and Ballard are tremendous throughout, using their extensive jazz vocabularies to stretch out and provide an ideal rhythmic environment for Faraò to explore. Faraò’s playing takes his post-bop influences and extends into a range of textures and moods, with unpredictable progressions sitting alongside open and lucid expressions. His improvisations have conviction; they are quick, fluent and energised making this an enjoyable and entertaining trio session.” A wonderful piano trio effort – check out the tribute to McCoy Tyner, MT.

Matthew Whitaker – On Their Shoulders: An Organ Tribute(MOCAT Records, released 06/14/2024). David Sneider – trumpet, Summer Cammargo – trumpet, Itai MacAggi – trombone, Ian Munoz – alto saxophone, Sergio Tabasco – tenor saxophone, Griffin Ross – tenor saxophone, Adam Stein – baritone saxophone, Antonina Styczen – flute, Matthew Whitaker – organ / keys / piano / cymbals, Marcos Robinson – guitar, Daniel Winshall – bass, Johnny Steele – drums, Ivan Llanes Montejo – percussion, Kenny Vaughn – vocals, New Hope Baptist Church – vocals.

In his fourth release, young rising keyboard star Matthew Whitaker offers his gospel-inflected take on several of his B3 heroes including The Organ Grinder’s Swing by Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland’s Happy ‘Cause I’m Goin’Home, Dr. Lonnie Smith’s Pilgrimage, and Joey DeFrancesco’s In The Key of the Universe.  Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene,Whitaker is wise enough to acknowledge tradition and one gets the feeling that this is a necessary step before venturing further on his own path. He does offer two of his originals, mostly of the jam variety akin to his live shows but the bulk of the repertoire honors the B-3 pioneers Jimmy Smith, Charles Earland, Dr. Lonnie Smith, gospel organist Elbernita ‘Twinkie’ Clarke of The Clarke Sisters, and recent great, the late Joey DeFrancesco.  He listened to all of them growing up and was privileged to have met and seen live Smith, Clarke, and DeFrancesco.  The album kicks off with Smith’s The Organ Grinder’s Swing, a brassy septet rendering, with in-the-pocket grooving rhythm punctuated by alternately soaring and crunchy B-3 and searing guitar solo from Marcus Robinson with the vocal interpretation from Kenny Vaughan… Whitaker’s Latin tinged Yessaah is an in-studio jam highlighted by bubbling percussion from Ivan Llanes Montejo and the maestro’s funky B-3.”  A loving tribute from a virtuoso on the B3.

Antonio Adolfo – Love Cole Porter (Antonio Adolpho Music, released 06/10/2024).  Jesse Sadoc – trumpet / flugelhorn, Rafael Rocha – trombone, Danilo Sinna – alto saxophone, Marcelo Martins – flute / tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone, Antonio Adolpho – piano, Lula Galvao – guitar, Jorge Helder – bass, Paulo Braga – drums, Dada Costa – percussion, Rafael Barata – percussion.

Pianist / composer Antonio Adolpho has released another terrific disc with virtually the same excellent band as on his last – 2023’s Bossa 65: Celebrating Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescal (previewed 07/03/2023).   Jonathan Widran wrote on JW Vibe, “With a series of tribute albums in recent years celebrating Milton Nasimento, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Carlos Lyra and Roberto Menescale, [Adolfo] has artfully and beautifully chronicled the formation and enduring appeal of bossa nova… In mining fresh excitement from one of his own personal favorite composers, he also expands the Brazilian stylistic repertoire of those recent tribute albums. He continues the lush, authentic bossa vibes of those on tunes here like the slyly soulful, uber-romantic Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye and I Concentrate on You, which adheres closely to the classic Jobim/Sinatra version and features gorgeous solos by Marcelo Martins (flute) and Rafael Rocha (trombone). Then Adolfo injects some colorful rhythmic variation into the mix, starting with his blend of toada (a romantic baiao) and bossa on I’ve Got You Under My Skin; a brisk, percussive, big band-ish romp through Just One of Those Things where he fuses Northeastern Brazil originated dance styles frevo and quadrilha; and a charming brass-tinged stroll through Love For Sale based on an ijexa groove… Adolfo returns to the more familiar energies of a slow tempo bossa on So In Love and a festival high energy Carnaval spirit on the closer You Do Something To Me. We can tell by the intricate care and imagination Adolfo puts into these arrangement that Love Cole Porter is not just a clever title but a true expression of his musical heart.”  Another lively and beautiful Brazilian release from Antonio Adolfo.

Scott Gilman – So Far (Self Produced, released 06/07/2024).  Scott Gilman – saxophone, Gary Fukushima – piano, Trevor Ware – bass, Abe Lagrimas Jr – drums, Joey De Leon – percussion.

Scott Gilman has been a guitarist, rock singer, soundtrack composer and producer, coming back on his new release of 9 originals to an overlooked talent – jazz saxophone.

Kenny Reichert – Switch (Caligram Records, released 06/07/2024).  Lenard Simpson – alto saxophone, Geof Bradfield – tenor saxophone / bass clarinet, Kenny Reichert – electric guitar, Ethan Philion – acoustic bass, Devin Drobka – drums & cymbals, Alyssa Allgood voice / spoken word.

Chicago-based Calligram Records has released their first disc from guitarist Kenny Reichert, his third as a leader.  Mark Corroto wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Reichert is joined here by Calligram chief Geof Bradfield and vocalist Alyssa Allgood. Bradfield’s tenor is heard on Cherry and Farewell, and he switches to bass clarinet for Shadows. The latter track also features Allgood’s sung poetic lyrics. She sings beautifully and wordlessly on Things Ain’t What They Seem and applies both wordless and spoken word with Aquaintance. Each track here has an unforced feel that can only come about by talent and dedication to craft.”  Calligram keeps rolling and introducing new talent.

Amber Weekes – A Lady With A Song: Amber Weekes Celebrates Nancy Wilson (Amber Inn Records, released 06/06/2024).  Amber Weekes – vocals, Russell Malone, Andrew Synowiec, Gregory Coo,  Paul Jackson Jr. – guitar, Tony Campodonico – acoustic & Fender Rhodes piano, Andy Langham – piano; John B. Williams, Carlos Puerto, Jeff Littleton – bass, Fritz Wise, Donald Barrett, Oscar Seaton – drums/percussion, Joey De Leon, Pepe Jimenez, Munyungo – percussion, Paul Baker – harp; Gabriel “Slam” Nobles – timpani / orchestral percussion, Justo Almario, Carol Chaikin – flute, Mark Cargill – violin, Miguel Gandelman, David W. Jackson, Jacob Scesney, Rickey Woodard, Justo Almario, Gerald Albright – tenor saxophone, Adam Schroeder – baritone saxophone, Carol Chaikin – soprano saxophone / flute, Ray Monteiro, Mike Cardone, Rashawn Ross – trumpets, Garrett Smith – trombone; Patrice Bell, Tamara Devant, Chevone Shampine, Kaleena Wiley, Ronald Hodge, Marcus Cargill, Ron Hasley – Gospet Choir.

Cannonball Adderley introduced singer Nancy Wilson in 1961 and she became a very successful song-stylist with increasingly pop chops as time went on.  Singer Amber Weekes channels Wilson in a very smooth set of songs from Wilson’s catalog.  Dee Dee McNeil wrote on Making A Scene, “From Nancy Wilson’s 1989 album, Weekes covers the title tune, A Lady with A Song.  I love Amber’s rendition of this tune and Carol Chaikin’s warm soprano saxophone improvisation sweetly colors their arrangement.  The Weekes’ rendition of Irving Berlin’s Suppertime tune deals with a lynching.  It’s often sanitized by other artist versions, but Amber adds a spoken word section where she frankly explains the horrible situation of her man not coming home for dinner, because he was hung by vigilantes… Here is an album that’s not only a wonderful tribute to the great Nancy Wilson, but it’s a tremendous joy to listen to the lovely, dedicated, jazzy voice of Amber Weekes.”  Silky Smooth and powerful.

Judith Owen – Comes Live (Twanky Records, released 05/01/2024).  Kevin Louis – cornet, Ricardo Pascal – saxophone, David Torkanowsky – piano, Dave Blenkhorn – guitar, Lex Warshawsky – bass, Jameson Ross – drums, Judith Owen – vocals.

Following directly from her 2023 release (Unapologetically previewed 05/29/2023), Welsh-born and NOLA-based singer Judith Owens continues to mine the RnB hits of the 40’s and 50s.  Steven Graham wrote on Marlbank, “Recorded in Swiss jazz club the Marians Jazzroom some 16 tracks sizzle plucked from a week of far from humdrum shows. Tracks include versions of Lady Be Good and Fever. Notable in the band is the great Carmen Lundy drummer Jamison Ross and there are effortessly rampaging piano passages from David ‘Tork’ Torkanowsky… On cornet is Kevin Louis (his horn playing lights up Satchel Mouth Baby), tenor sax Ricardo Pascal, double bass Lex Warshawsky and on guitar David Blenkhorn. The album pretty much won us over from the first track as Lady Be Good has a fine feel to it and the gathered mini-throng seem agreeably lit enough to rub along well with – a factor that gees Judith on.”  Fun.

Kiki Valera – Vacilon Santiaguero(Circle 9 Records, released 03/29/2024).  Alexis Baró – trumpet, Steve Mostovoy – trumpet, Michael Rodriguez – trumpet, Jonathan Powell – trumpet, Pete Nater – trumpet, Dennis Hernandez – trumpet, Bryan Lynch – trumpet, Thomas Marriott – trumpet, Leon Q Allen -trumpet, Kiki Valera – cuatro cubano / guitar / bass / clave / maracas / coros, Pedro Vargas – congas / bongos / coros, Steve Guasch – coros, Carlos Cascante – vocals, Francisco “Coco” Freeman – vocal, Joshuah de Jesus – vocals, Raquel Zozaya – vocals

Over a program of 12 selections, Cuban cuatro / guitar player Kiki Valera joins forces with a rotating set of trumpeters and singers, many also from Cuba.  The program includes many traditional Cuban songs as performed with a rich percussion bed, stirring vocals and jazz-inflected cuatro and guitar.  Paul Rauch wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Son Cubano, the music and dance from the hill country of eastern Cuba, may be a mystery to some readers of these pages. Though the form is rooted in both Spanish and Bantu traditions, its modern day practitioners, embodied and popularized by the music of Buena Vista Social Club, have broadened the music’s view. In the United States, particularly in this case, the Pacific Northwest, there are pockets of enthusiasm for Latin music of all sorts. Yet upon attending a performance from a world class Cuban artist such as cuatro master Kiki Valera in Seattle, you will find many in the audience mostly connected to the jazz community. The jazz audience has a passion for Cuban music, whether gathered from African or Spanish origins. The inventive improvisation, call and response and Cuban rhythms speak to the freedom and emotive expression so evident in jazz music.”  Loved this!

Jasper Dutz – Ever After (Self Produced, released 02/14/2023).  Jasper Dutz – tenor saxophone, soprano saxophone, Ben Rosenblum – piano, John Koozin – bass, Connor Parks – drums.

Multi-reedist Jasper Dutz has recorded his first release as a leader – a set of ballads performed on tenor mostly (It Might As Well Be Spring on soprano.). We have had a couple of opportunities to hear Dutz play in Charlottesville with Chris Monson and Dave Dominique, in both cases on bass clarinet.  This writer also saw him playing with Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Big Band at their weekly gig at Birdland!  His tenor work is powerful, quite lyrical and lovely.  Highly recommended.

I hope you get a groove on.

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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