New Jazz Releases – 07/24/2023
I would be remiss if I didn’t announce upfront that a new set of tapes was discovered bringing us newly-heard 1961 live recordings from John Coltrane and Eric Dolphy with McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones. What a treat. From among the newly recorded music released this week, I was most excited by the wonderful new piece from Chicago-based Charlottesville-native trumpeter Emily Kuhn.
John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy – Evenings at Village Gate (Impulse, released 07/14/2023). Eric Dolphy – alto saxophone / bass clarinet / flute, John Coltrane – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone, McCoy Tuner – piano, Art Davis – bass, Reggie Workman – bass, Elvin Jones – drums.
In August 1961, three months before the ground-breaking Village Vanguard stand that was immortalized in the legendary live recording, John Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, McCoy Tyner, Reggie Workman and Elvin Jones were captured at another club down the street. While Coltrane and Dolphy had a musical relationship that was expansive, their recorded output is limited to Africa-Brass recorded in June 1961 and Live at the Village Vanguard and Live Train – The European Tours, both in November … until now. This release has been greeted mostly with breathless excitement and for the serious Coltrane and Dolphy fans, rightly so. Others may find that the recording quality, especially with Jones so loud in the mix, compromises the experience. In truth, however, this is a rare and unexpected find and these players are at their peak. By mid-1962, the classic quartet of Trane, Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Jones would be in place and this moment would be past, so we can celebrate this extraordinary look into the brief life of the quintet.
Emily Kuhn – Ghosts Of Us (Back Records, released 06/23/2023). Emily Kuhn – trumpet, Meghan Stage – piano, Erik Skov – guitar, Kit Lyles – bass, Gustavo Cortina’s – drums.
Unlike trumpeter (and Albemarle High School alumna) Emily Kuhn’s last release – Sky Stories with a Dectet – Ghosts of Us is presented by an intimate trumpet – piano – guitar – bass – drums quintet. What a wonderful piece of work. Matt Collar on AllMusic wrote, “Chicago trumpeter Emily Kuhn makes the kind of lyrical, spacious jazz that draws you deep within its cocoon-like atmosphere … Largely recorded during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ghosts of Us has a hushed focus that feels particularly connected to the loneliness and lockdown of that time period. [The quintet sinks] into Kuhn’s songs, creating a sound that’s at once lyrical and rife with an exploratory modern creative quality. With her rounded, vocal-like trumpet tone (and occasional use of a Harmon mute), Kuhn’s playing often brings to mind Miles Davis. Kenny Wheeler also feels like a touchstone, especially on tracks like Home, where Kuhn’s languorous melodies and slowly moving harmonic structures recall the British trumpeter’s classic ECM albums of the 1970s, like Gnu High.” High praise and well-deserved.
Joe Alterman – Plays Les McCann: Big Mo & Little Joe (Self Produced, releases 08/11/2023). Joe Alterman – piano, Kevin Smith – bass, Justin Chesarek – drums.
Pianist Joe Alterman and his Atlanta-based trio have recorded a tribute to the soul jazz pianist and composer Les McCann. By selecting a program of ten McCann compositions plus one co-composed by McCann and Atlerman, this set does not include the Gene McDaniels-composed Compared To What, covered by McCann’s anthemic hit with Eddie Harris. What it does include are tunes from every period of a long career, stripped of the affectations of the different eras in which McCann recorded. Reduced to an acoustic trio, the essence of these compositions comes through and the influences from blues to gospel to soul are made evident. McCann’s knack for a catchy melody are evident in tunes like The Straggler and the wonderful blues ballad Dorene Don’t Cry, written for a 1961 Stanley Turrentine date. Alterman does his mentor proud.
Pete McCann – Without Question (McCannic Music, releases 08/04/2023). Steve Wilson – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone, Henry Hey – piano / Rhodes, Pete McCann – electric guitar / acoustic guitar, Matt Pavolka – electric bass, acoustic bass, Mark Ferber – drums.
The sax – piano – guitar – bass – drums quintet seems to be guitarist Pete McCann’s favored format and this time out he has brought soprano / alto player Steve Wilson (Noah Haidu, Jae Sinnett, Christian McBride) into the mix. And to good effect. In a set of ten original compositions, McCann pays tribute to several influences – John Abercrombie (I Can’t Remember), Lee Konitz (Lovely Thing), Oliver Messiaen (Blues for O.M.). Although he can distort and shred with authority, it is his quiet acoustic moments that resonate most with me – Lost City is a haunting reflection on New York City at the beginning of the COVID lockdown. The New York veteran has put out another solid release.
Gerry Gibbs Thrasher People – Family (Whaling City Sound, releases 08/02/2023). Jerry Espinoza – soprano saxophone / alto saxophone / tenor saxophone / flute / piccolo / percussion / background organ, Eric Hargett – soprano saxophone / tenor saxophone / baritone saxophone / bass clarinet / percussions / background organ, Tommy Howard – electric guitar / acoustic guitar / slide guitar / rap / percussion, James Suter – acoustic bass, percussion, Gerry Gibbs – drums / percussions / Hammond B-3 organ / piano, Michelle Garibay Carey – vocals / percussion / background organ.
In 2020, during the pandemic, percussionist Gerry Gibbs launched into a 15,000 mile travel odyssey to record the music that became his 2021 Dream Trios release Songs From My Father with Chick Corea, Ron Carter, Kenny Barron, Patrice Rushen and many others. Along the way he encountered a set of talented musicians in San Antonio that he built into a new band the Thrasher People. The resulting recording is mixed between straight ahead instrumentals (Firm Roots), jazz versions of pop tunes (Smells Like Teen Spirit) and jazz standards (My Favorite Things). There are two woodwinds players on the disc and I cannot be sure who is playing what, but between them they produce some compelling playing on the full range of instruments.
Nite Bjuti – Nite Bjuti (Whirlwind Recordings, releases 07/28/2023). Candice Hoyes – vocals / pedals, Val Jeanty – percussion / drums / electronics / pedals, Mimi Jones – bass / vocals / pedals.
Vocalist Candace Hoyes, “sound chemist” Van Jeanty and bassist Mimi Jones are an Afro-Caribbean improvisational trio with roots in Afrofuturism. Remarkably, this release is entirely improvised based on preparatory conversations and collaborations, fine-tuned through post-production. The results are fearless and include challenging texts, but they are consistently musically comfortable. Scottlovesmusic wrote on 1DF, “Mood (Liberation Walk) features vocal variation from direct questions to ghostly background harmonies that flutter around the frenzied bassline and percussion. Nite Bjuti is inspired by Haitian drum rhythms and spoken word poetry which adds layers of rich history intermixed with modern experiences and novel electronics that come together on Mood (Liberation Walk) for a timeless yet redefined sound.” This is not background music, but rewards quiet and careful listening.
Chief Adjuah – Bark Out Thunder Roar Out Lightning (Ropeadope, releases 07/28/2023). Chief Xian aTunde Adjuah – vocals / Chief Adjuah’s Bow / Adjuah’s N’Goni / SPDSX / pan African kit / bells / tambourine / percussion / synth percussion / sonic architecture, Trail Chief Kiel Adrian Scott – vocals / percussion, Weedie Braimah – djembe / congas / tambourine / dun duns / percussion / vocals, Luques Curtis – bass / guembri, vocals, Elé Howell – pan African kit / drums / bells / tambourines / docals, Brian Richburg Jr. – drums, SPDSX, percussion / tambourines / vocals, Marcus Gillmore – drums, Joe Dyson Jr. – pan African kit, Corey Fonville – drums, Alfred Jordan – drums / percussion / tambourine / vocals, Mizan Willis –-dun duns / bells / shekere / percussion / vocals, Amyna Love – vocals, Amina Scott – vocals, Lioness Sia Fodey – vocals.
In addition to being a talented trumpet player and composer, Chief Adjuah (formerly Christian Scott) is Chieftain of the New Orleans Mardi Gras Indian Xodokan Nation, the grandson of Louisiana luminary and legend the late Big Chief Donald Harrison Sr. and the nephew of NEA Jazz Master Donald Harrison, Jr. After 13 releases of a very personal vision of jazz, Adjuah has gone full-out chieftain this time out. He has foregone the trumpet for a double-sided harp that he calls “Chief Adjuah’s bow” and a variety of percussion instruments. The instrumentation, which shifts from track-to-track, is mostly vocals plus percussion and bass. I didn’t see this one coming and, while this is obviously a very personal statement, it didn’t excite me. Try it on for size.
Ceramic Dog – Connection (Knockwurst, released 07/14/2023). James Brandon Lewis – saxophone, Oscar Noriega – clarinet, Anthony Colman – farfisa, Greg Lewis – Hammond B3, Marc Ribot – guitar, Peter Sachon – cello, Shahzad Ismaily – bass, Ches Smith – drums, Syd Straw -vocals.
What a puzzling record this is. Guitarist Marc Ribot has put out another edition of Ceramic Dog with bassist Shahzad Ismaily and drummer Ches Smith – omnivores all. Thematically, this is a disc about social justice, musically it’s hard to pin down. Daniel Feisenthal at Pitchfork wrote, “Ribot and co. roll through rock, free jazz, boogaloo, son cubano, and, on their thrilling cover of That’s Entertainment, the popular songbook as filtered through post-punk. Along the way, they bludgeon us with the most direct rock song of their career, the title track and opener, which sacrifices charming bookishness for bruising force. Later, they proffer soul-stirring free jazz on “Swan,” … aided by James Brandon Lewis’ saxophone…” One listen was enough for me, your mileage may vary.
Lennie Moore – Mentors (Self Produced, released 06/09/2023). Wayne Bergeron – trumpet, Eric Miyashiro – trumpet, Tim Larkin – trumpet, Andy Gravish – trumpet / flugelhorn, Alex Iles – trombone / bass trombone / tuba, Andy Martin – trombone, Jim Lutz – trombone, Andy Suzuki – alto saxophone / tenor saxophone / flute, Billy Martin – alto saxophone, Phil Moore – tenor saxophone / baritone saxophone / flutes / clarinet / bass clarinet, Nick Manson – keyboards, Dimitirs Mahlis – electric guitar / oud, Ken Lasaine – electric guitar, Dean Taba – acoustic bass, Lennie Moore – electric bass, Peter Erskine – drums, MB Gordy – percussion.
Here’s another pandemic music story – composer / arranger Lennie Moore was writing the music for this release when the world changed. He spent the next couple years tightening up the music and recording it in a serial fashion starting from the drums, then rhythm section, then section leads, and finally each of the players in the full big band – one by one. The result tends toward the formulaic. Each tune is dedicated to one of Moore’s musical mentors, ie. Weather Report, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Don Grolnick, etc.
Greg Satterthwaite – Savannah Blue (Self Produced, released 06/09/2023). Derrick James – alto saxophone, Greg Satterthwaite – piano, Rod Harris – guitar, Delbert Felix – bass, Quentin Baxter – drums.
This is the second release for Jamican-born, Georgia-resident pianist / composer Greg Satterthwaite and it brings music of great delicacy. That’s not to say that it’s not rhythmically complex or dynamically varied. It’s just that Satterthwaite has such finesse and touch at the keyboard. Dave Linn wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Island Roots … is a lovely, seemingly simple composition. Nostalgic in nature, the song’s structure gives it a few different layers. McCoy Tyner’s influence on Satterthwaite here is subtle, yet apparent with his dense chordings. Beware The Tides has almost an ECM-era Keith Jarrett, My Song feel to it. It is a beautiful, sweet melody with sparkling interludes by [altoist Derrick] James and [guitarist Rod] Harris before Satterthwaite gets to explore the beauty of his composition.” You might not get up and dance, but you are likely to have a smile on your face. I look forward to hearing more from Satterthwaite and this band.
Alison Crockett – Echoes Of An Era Redux (released 05/01/2023). Thad Wilson – trumpet, Paul Carr – tenor saxophone, Todd Smith – piano, Eliot Seppa – bass, Dana Hawkins – drums, Alison Crockett – vocals.
In 1982, funk master singer Chaka Kahn put out an album of standards with support from Joe Henderson, Freddie Hubbard and Chick Corea entitled Echoes of an Era. As DC-based singer Alison Crockett put out a live record of many of the same tunes, she appropriated the title as well. Interleaved with her stories of learning of this music from her father’s record collection, Crockett chews her way through a brief set of seven standards such as Them Their Eyes and I Get A Kick Out Of You.
Braxton Cook – Who Are You When No One Is Watching?(Nettwerk Music Group, released 02/24/2023).
Saxophonist Brandon Cook has contributed to releases by Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Curtis Nowosad and others. Now with his debut as a leader, he presents his significant chops as a singer, with very positive messaging. He has chosen to drift way over to the smooth pop side of things and the results, while competent and maybe even “popular” with a broader audience, leave me wanting more. Trumpeter Marquis Hill makes an appearance on The Same, but his solo sounds dropped in after the fact and sparks don’t fly. I doubt I’ll return to this one.
Dave Goldberg – The Other Side (Tritone Records, 02/10/2023). Dave Goldberg – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone, Joe Bagg – Hammond B-3 organ, Adam Nussbaum – drums.
Saxophonist (tenor mostly) Dave Goldberg and his trio with organist Joe Bagg (Anthony Wilson) and drummer Adam Nussbaum (James Moody, Patricia Barber, John Abercrombie) serve up a program of nine originals plus their version of Danny Boy. I usually prefer to have my sax – organ – drums trios served up greasy and raw in a dark smokey room (Lockjaw Davis / Shirley Scott or Lou Donaldson / Jimmy Smith) …we’ll, this isn’t that. It is, on the other hand, quite civilized but restrained in an almost passionless way, perhaps a cool jazz version of the organ trio. Don’t get me wrong, these are very competent and fluid players. It may be that the genre brings along such powerful associations for me that I am just waiting to be disappointed. Goldberg does catch a little fire when he picks up the soprano for Lineage, but Bagg’s contribution says mostly in the mid- to low-range of the keyboard without pushing the tune forward. While you might love this approach, it didn’t move me.
Several terrific new releases, I hope you find something you love.
Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!