New Jazz Releases – 07/01/2024

Lakecia Benjamin

Two alto players recorded the two most interesting (to me) releases this week – New York’s Lakecia Benjamin and LA’s Nicole McCabeBob Boguslaw and The Way from the DC area has a new release as does clarinetist Harry Skoler with an all-star quartetIf you are looking for women vocalists, this is a banner crop with releases from Andy James, Jo Harrop, Paula Maya and Bruna Black.

Lakecia Benjamin – Phoenix Reimagined (Live) (Ropeadope Records, releases 07/12/2024).  Randy Brecker – trumpet, Lakecia Benjamin – alto saxophone, Zaccai Curtis – piano, Ray Angry – piano, John Scofield – guitar, Kat Dyson – guitar, Elias Bailey – bass, Richie Goods – bass, EJ Strickland – drums, Jeff Tain Watts – drums, Melodie Ray – vocals. 

Following her extremely well-received discs Pursuance – The Coltranes (2020) and Phoenix (2023), her three Grammy nominations and her multiple awards, alto saxophonist Lakecia Benjamin has recorded a scorching, take-no-prisoners live set of ten originals (five of which were included in the 2023 release) plus My Favorite Things by Rogers and Hammerstein by way of John Coltrane – a constant touch point for the saxophonist.  Trumpeter Randy Brecker, guitarist John Scofield and drummer “Tain” Watts sit on one selection and bassist Richie Goods and vocalist Melodie Ray on another, but mostly this is a showcase for an excellent quartet completed by Zaccai Curtis (Cubop Lives previewed 05/27/2024), Newport News-native bassist Elias Bailey (Verve Jazz Ensemble, René Marie, Robert Jospe) and drummer EJ Strickland (Ravi Coltrane, Willie Morris, Jim Alfredson).  Likely a year-end favorite – highly recommended.

Review: AllAbout Jazz

Markus Howell – Chosen Path(Posi-Tone Records, releases 07/14/2024).  Markus Howell – alto saxophone, Art Hirahara – piano, Boris Kozlov – bass, Rudy Royston – drums.

For his second date as a leader, alto saxophonist Markus Howell (Altin Sencalar, Something Blue, Michael Dease) teams up with a familiar Posi-Tone rhythm section for a rousing hard-bop date.  His last start (Get Right! – 2019) was a sextet date with trumpet and trombone and this quartet effort carries a stripped down sound.  Eight soulful originals and three covers including one each by Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock.  Solid.

Review: Jazz Weekly

Jay Sanders – Evanescent (Mindtonic Music, releases 07/12/2024).  Justin Ray – trumpets /flugelhorns / vocals, Steve Alford – saxophone / contralto clarinet, Jacob Rodriguez – saxophones, Jay Sanders – guitars / Vo-96 acoustic synthesizer / effects, Casey Driessen – fiddle, Zack Page – basses / effects, Evan Martin – drums, Tyler Housholder – percussion.

In his solo debut, Asheville, NC guitarist presents a program of originals bringing the full range of his musical interests to bear – jazz, rock, blues, and metal.  

Natsuki Tamura / Satoko Fujii – Aloft (Libra Records, releases 07/12/2024) digital only.  Natsuki Tamura – trumpet, Satoko Fujii – piano.

Over thirty years of collaboration and, now, nine releases as a duo, pianist Satoko Fujii and trumpeter Natsuki Tamura have established a high bar for freely improvised music.

Review: Paris Move

Harry Skoler – Red Brick Hill (Sunnyside Records, releases 07/12/2024) digital only.  Marquis Hill – trumpet, Harry Skoler – clarinet, Christian Sands – piano, Joel Ross – vibraphone, Grégoire Maret – harmonica, Dezron Douglas – bass, Johnathan Blake – drums.

For his latest, clarinetist and educator (Berklee College of Music) Harry Skoler has aligned himself with terrific quartet-mates – Joel Ross on vibes, Dezron Douglas on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums.  Half the disc features this lineup and they sound great together.  Skoler also recorded duets with each bandmate and these are among the highlights of the disc.  As a bonus, the quartet is joined on one tune each by Marquis Hill on trumpet, Christian Sands on piano (Last Star, Last Night, another highlight) and Gregoire Maret on harmonica.  But mostly, this is a quartet record and the low woody tone of the clarinet mixes wonderfully with the chiming sound of the vibes.  Recommended.

Andy James – Let Me See Your Heart (Le Coq Records, releases 07/05/2024) digital only.  Terell Stafford – trumpet, Michael Dease – trombone, Joel Frahm – saxophone, John Ellis – saxophone, Bob Sheppard – flute, Jon Cowherd – piano, John Beasley – keyboard, Ronnie Foster – organ, Chico Pinheiro- guitar, Steve Cardenas – guitar, Larry Koonse – guitar, Paul Jackson Jr. – guitar, John Patitucci – bass, James Genus – bass, Eric Wheeler – bass, Nate Smith – drums, Clarence Penn – drums, Rudy Royston – drums, Johnathan Blake – drums, Alex Acuña – percussion, Andy James – vocals.

Teamed with a host of familiar players (led by frequent collaborator bassist John Patitucci), Australian-born, Las Vegas-based singer Andy James brings her distinctive smoldering voice to a program of standards.

Review: Spectrum Culture

Kim Cass – Levs (Pi Recordings, released 06/28/2024) digital only.  Adam Dotson – euphonium, Laura Cocks – flutes, Matt Mitchell – piano / prophet, Kim Cass – bass / sampling, Tyshawn Sorey – drums. 

Brooklyn-based bassist, in his debut on Pi Recordings, starts with a trio of himself and well-known avant garde players – Matt Mitchell on piano and Tyshawn Sorey on drums.  To this he adds lesser-known players on euphonium and flute for many of the tracks.  Sometimes rhythmic, sometimes lyrical, but mostly challenging.

Review: Jazz Trail

Julius Rodriguez – Evergreen (Verve Records, released 06/14/2024) digital only.  Alonzo Demetrius – trumpet, Nicole McCabe – alto saxophone, Chris Lewis – tenor saxophone, Julius Rodriguez – piano / drum programming / synthesizer / percussion / bass / electric guitar / organ / drums, Nate Mercereau – synthesizer / guitar / sampler, Philip Norris – bass, Declan Miers – bass, Luke Titus – drums, Brian Richburg Jr – drums / tambourine, Jay Adlher – vocals.

Multi-instrumentalist Julius Rodriguez has made a name for himself as a serious and exciting jazz pianist in sessions with Carmen Lundy, Joe Farnsworth and Nicole McCabe (see below).  This is his second release under his own name and neither live up to the potential of his session work.  In his review on AllAboutJazz, Chris May damns these efforts under the descriptor “pop-jazz.”  That may be too kind.

Review:  New York Times, AllAboutJazz

Bob Boguslaw and The Way – Tributes (Self Produced, released 06/07/2024).  Alan Hood – trumpet, Bruce Swaim – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone, Bob Boguslaw – piano, Tom Baldwin – bass, Frank Russo – drums, Chris Roe – percussion, Mary Boguslaw – vocals.

Veterans of the Washington DC scene (including time with the US service bands) pianist Bob Boguslaw and his band have released a double CD of ten themes composed by band members plus one each from McCoy Tyler, Bennie Golson and Paul Simon.  Trumpeter Alan Hood joins on four tunes which are among the highlights.  Recommended.

Jo Harrop – The Path of a Tear (Lateralize, released 06/07/2024).  Jim Cox – piano / Rhodes / Hammond B3, Anthony Wilson – guitar, David Pitch – bass, Victor Indrizzo – drums / percussion, Jo Harrop – vocals.

For her fifth release UK singer Jo Harrop travelled to the US to record her first session outside the UK with LA studio musicians.  For a set of eight tunes co-composed by Harrop plus covers of Leon Russell, Leonard Cohen and Steve Earle, the leader brings a jazz-inflected neo-soul sound expressed with ready emotion and intimacy.  And her voice is arrestingly beautiful.

Review: AllAboutJazz, UK Jazz News, Jazzwise

Nation Beat – Archaic Humans (Ropeadope, released 05/31/2024).  Mark Collins – trumpet, Tom McHugh – trombone, Heather Ewer – sousaphone, Paul Carlon – tenor saxophone, Scott Kettner – drum set / percussion, Luca Texeira – percussion, Michael Spiro – congas / percussion, Christylez Bacon – beatbox / rhymes, Melanie Scholtz – vocals.

Nation Beat layers north-eastern Brazilian beats on top of a NOLA brass band sound creating funky and danceable high-octane grooves.  The set of a dozen originals plus one by Jobim is performed by a quintet of a drum set plus a trumpet – trombone – euphonium – tenor frontline, supplemented by additional percussionists and, on four tunes, vocals.

Buffalo Monroe – Buffalo Monroe Meets Willie Waldman (Metacognitive, released 05/31/2024).  Willie Waldman – trumpet / horns, Rachel Courtney – keyboards, Ross Rice – Rhodes / organ / Melodica, Harold McCummings – guitar, Clint Wagner – guitar, Ron Carter – bass, Matt Courtney – bass / ukelele / guitar, Vinnie amico – drums, Greg Bissonette – drums / percussion.

Rhythmic Jazz Funk explorations from keyboard / bass couple Rachel and Matt Courtney in the Buffalo Monroe debut of eight originals and one standard. Two selections have an unexpected contribution from legendary bassist Ron Carter.

Review: Paris Move

Paula Maya – Rio De Janiero (Yellow House, released 05/30/2024).  Monica Avila – flute, Fernando Monteiro – guitar, Humberto Mirabelli – guitar, Erick Vieira – bass, Nema Antunes – bass, Sizao Machado – bass, Teo Lima – drums, Andre Siqueira – percussion, Tamila Nikazm – vocals, Paula Maya Nemeyer – vocals / piano.

Brazilian songwriter / vocalist  Paula Maya has released a set of seven jazz-adjacent originals.

Neil Adler – Emi’s Song(EJA Records, released 05/29/2024).  Neil Adler – piano / chromatic harmonica, Jeff Buenz – six string bass, Akira Tana – drums, Carlitos Medrano – congas.

Neil Adler, pianist and chromatic harp player has released a set of three originals plus nine standards with a quartet including bass, drums and congas. All of these players are new to me.

Nicole McCabe – Mosaic (Ghost Note Records, released 05/24/2024) digital only.   Aaron Janik – trumpet, Jon Hatamiya – trombone, Nicole McCabe – alto saxophone, Julius Rodriguez – piano / Rhodes, Jeff Parker – guitar, Logan Kane – bass,  Tim Angulo – drums.

For her third release of originals (she also recorded a live disc of standards), LA-based alto saxophonist Nicole McCabe primarily features her quartet of bassist and life partner Logan Kane (David Binney) plus two New Yorkers – gifted pianist Julius Rodriguez and drummer Tim Angulo.  McCabe is a fine player, but the star here may be her writing, that shows rich variety in themes and dynamics.  I also cannot get enough of Rodriguez and Kane – fine players.

Reviews: AllAboutJazz, The Jazz Man

Bruna Black / John Finbury – Va Revelacao (Green Flash Music, released 05/14/2024).  Vito Goncalves – piano, Chico Pinheiro – guitars, John Patitucci – bass, Duduka Da Fonseca – drums, Rogerio Boccato – percussion, Leo Rodrigues – percussion, Vinicinhos Magalhaes – percussion, Caue Silve – percussion, Bruna Black – vocals.

Anchored by bassist John Patitucci (Antonio Faraò, Chris Potter, Wayne Shorter) and drummer Duduka Da Fonseca (Yes!!! released 2002), Brazilian vocalist Bruna Black has released a silky smooth and subtle set of Brazilian originals penned by John Finbury.

I hope you find something that suits your ears.

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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