New Jazz Releases – 08/07/2023

Kris Davis

Some of the highlights this week – Kris Davis has released a live follow-up to her groundbreaking 2019 release Diatom Ribbons, Charlottesville’s JoVia Armstrong is back with another strong outing, Quincy Jones’s first six discs from 1957 – 1961 have been reissued and we have filled in some important holes in our Tony Bennett discography.

Kris Davis – Diatom Ribbons Live At The Village Vanguard (Pyroclastic Records, releases 09/01/2023).  Kris Davis – piano / prepared piano / arturia micro freak synthesizer, Julian Lage – electric guitar, Trevor Dunn – electric bass / double bass, Val Jeanty – turntables / electronics, Terri Lyne Carrington – drums.

Pianist Kris Davis’s 2019 release Diatom Ribbons was a breakthrough for her and landed on many people’s best of the year lists (including album of the year from The New York Times and the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.)  Now she has reassembled the core musicians from that effort – Trevor Dunn on bass, Val Jeanty of electronics and the celebrated Terri Lyne Carrington (on whose New Standards Davis plays) on drums – for a live recording.  This time around Julian Lage takes over the guitar chair previously held by Marc Ribot and Nels Cline.  The repertoire is new, mostly comprised of Davis’s original compositions.  Lage is particularly effective on Geri Allen’s The Dancer and whole band swings on Bird Suite, Part 2: Bird Call Blues which includes ruminations on Charlie Parker by Paul Bley.  A worthy follow-up.

The Hot Toddies Jazz Band – The Hot Toddies Jazz Band (Prohibition Productions, released 07/28/2023).  Alphonso Horne – trumpet, Jon Seiger – trumpet, Ron Wilkins – trombone, J Walter Hawkes – trombone, Dan Levinson – reeds, Danny Lipsitz – reeds, Gordon Webster – piano, Justin Poindexter – guitar / banjo / organ / vocals, Gabe Terracciano – violin / vocals, Wallace Stelzer – bass, Ian Hutchinson – bass, Patrick Soluri – drums, Hannah Gill – vocals, Queen Esther – vocals.

The Hot Toddies have a retro vibe that is ingratiating and they have the chops to pull it off.  They sport four singers who each contribute unique contributions.  Queen Ester has the sass to turn Digga Digga Do into a romp; 23-year-old Hannah Gill swings When I Get Low I Get High; accompanied by a growly trumpet and latin bridge, Justin Poindexter croons St. Louis Blues; but the star for me is Gabe Terracciano on I Wanna Be Like You (yup, from The Jungle Book) complete with jungle beat on tom toms.  A splendid time is guaranteed for all.

The 14 Jazz Orchestra – Islands (Dabon Music, released 07/17/2023). Brett Murphy – trumpet, Jason Carder – trumpet, John Lovell – trumpet, Dana Teboe – trombone, Major Bailey – bass trombone, Dante Luciani – trombone, Ed Main – alto Saxophone / flutes, Ed Calle – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone / flutes, Peter Brewer – tenor saxophone / flutes / clarinet, Mike Brignola – baritone saxophone / flutes / bass clarinet, David Liebman – soprano saxophone, Mike Levine – piano, Joe Davidian – piano, Mike Manieri – vibraphone, Lindsay Blair – guitars, Randy Bernsen – acoustic guitar, Mark Egan – bass, Will Lee – bass, Nicky Orta – bass, Tim Smith – bass, Jamie Ousley – bass, Dennis Marks – bass, Peter Erskine – dums, Lee Levin – drums, Mike Harvey – drums, Richard Bravo – percussion.

A decade ago, students and faculty at University of Miami got together to form the big band 14 Jazz Orchestra.  Many of the players have dispersed but have come back for this their fourth release under the guidance of arranger Don Bonsanti.  The core brass and reeds are supplemented by many guests (some well-known) in the rhythm section, but it is this core that really makes the record.  That said, vibraphonist Mike Manieri plays beautifully on Pat Metheny’s Missouri Uncompromised and Dave Liebman’s presence on his own Loft Dance is a highlight.

Wayne Smith, Jr. – Be Still (Blue Collar Records, released 07/07/2023).  Brent White – trombone, Matthew Clayton – alto saxophone, Ian Macaulay – guitar, Madison East – bass, Wayne Smith, Jr. – drums.

Drummer Wayne Smith, member of the Sun Ra Arkestra heard recently on Sun Ra’s Journey by the Tyler Mitchell Octet, has put aside the fire-eating tendencies of these ensembles for an emotive and contemplative set with an unusual trombone – alto – guitar – bass – drums lineup.  The majestic I-5 evokes the sinuous Pacific coastal highway with beautiful contributions by bassist Madison East and trombonist Brent White (Orrin Evans and the Captain Black Big Band).  The combination of trombone and alto in the front line is compelling and I love altoist Matthew Clayton’s pure tone on tunes like PicoJim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “This is the kind of music one can easily get lost in, relaxing, dreaming, admiring the colorful tonal palettes and interplay of the ensemble.”  Very satisfying and, as the title suggests … still.

Jason Kao Hwang Critical Response – Book of Stories (True Sound Recordings, released 06/30/2023).  Jason Kao Hwang – electric violin, Anders Nillson – electric guitar, Michael TA Thompson -drums.

Electric violinist Jason Kao Hwang has released a set of 5 long-form compositions with guitarist Anders Nillsen and drummer Michael TA Thompson (Dennis González).  The trio packs a lot of different sounds into the set which has moments of transcendent beauty and others of cacophonous dissonance.

JoVia Armstrong & Eunoia Society – Inception(Black Earth Music, released 06/30/2023).  Leslie Deshazor – 5 strings, Sasha Kashperko – guitar, Damon Warmack – bass, JoVia Armstrong – hybrid cajon.

Percussionist JoVia Armstrong is back with a new edition of her band Eunoia Society.  Uber-violinist Leslie DeShazor is still featured up-front, Sasha Kashperko (Musique Noire, Leslie DeShazor) joins on guitar and Damon Warmack completes the ensemble on bass. There is an other-worldly quality that separates this music from what you might expect from a string ensemble.  Much of the vibe comes from the reliance of all players on reverb and electronics to make the origins of the sound somewhat indeterminate.  Armstrong, now on faculty at UVa ,will be joining Jazz at 100 Now! later in August to listen to the disc and put the music in context.

Matt Savage – Whole Package (Savage Records, released 06/16/2023).  Mark Zaleski – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone, Matt Savage – piano, Greg Loughman – bass, Zak King – drums.

Thirty-year-old pianist / composer Matt Savage has released a set of eight originals and three covers with an alto – piano – bass – drums quartet.  The band plays seamlessly and Savage has a lovely touch.  Alto saxophonist Mark Zaleski, a recording artist with Original Records (Our Time: Reimagining Dave Brubeck, 2021), is an inventive soloist who can be gruff or sweet as the music demands.  A solid straight-ahead effort.

Quincy Jones – Early Years: Six Complete Albums 1957-61 (Acrobat Records, released 01/20/2023).

After touring with big bands led by Lionel Hampton and Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones began recording with his own big band at 23 years old in 1956.  He had already established himself as a go-to music director / arranger and he had no problem attracting first class musicians, some of whom were well established and many of whom would become stalwarts of the music as time went on.  This set collects the first six discs that he released before joining Mercury Records as their first black executive in1961.

This is How I Fell About Jazz (ABC, 1957).  This is the classic of the set with sparkling arrangements by Jimmy Giuffre, Lennie Niehaus and Herb Geller.  The set includes three covers and three originals, two of which (Stockholm Sweetnin’, Evening in Paris) have become standards.

Go West, Man! (ABC, 1957).  For his second ABC date, Jones assembled the best West Coast players for three sessions, each featuring a rhythm section plus a specific instrument – trumpet (Harry “Sweets Edison, Conte Candoli, Pete Candoli, Jack Sheldon), tenor/baritone sax (Buddy Collette, Bill Perkins, Walter Benton, Pepper Adams), and alto sax (Benny Carter, Herb Geller, Charlie Mariano, Art Pepper).

The Birth Of A Band (Mercury, 1959).  Jones’s third release includes two new originals plus three by band member Benny Golson (I Remember Clifford, Whisper Not, Along Came Betty), Bobby Timmons’s Moanin’, and five other covers.  The band includes players who would stick with Jones over the next several years, never as a touring band, but reassembled for recording – Sweets Edison, Clark Terry, Jimmy Cleveland, Urbie Green, Phil Woods, Benny Golson, Zoot Sims, Kenny Burrell, Milton Hinton, Ray Brown and others.

The Great Wide World of Quincy Jones (Mercury 1959).  Jones quickly turned around a second Mercury disc with a decidedly older repertoire from composers like Don Redman, Lester Young, Ray Noble, Irving Berlin, Benny Goodman, but with very inventive modern arrangements.

I Dig Dancers (Mercury 1960). In and around touring and recording with Count Basie, Jones recorded his third Mercury date including two more originals (Pleasingly Plump, The Midnight Sun Will Never Set), plus Melba Liston’s amazing Tone Poem and seven classic covers (Moonglow, My Love Is Here To Stay, A Sunday Kind Of Love, etc.)

Around The World (Mercury, 1961).  An international theme influenced the selection of tunes from a band of now familiar players – Benny Bailey, Clark Terry, Ernie Royal, Curtis Fuller, Julius Watkins, Phil Woods, Jerome Richardson, Eric Dixon, Sahib Shihab, Patti Brown, Don Arnone, Stu Martin, Jimmy Crawford – plus percussionists Tito Puente, “Patato” Valdes, and Michael “Babatunde” Olatunji.  It’s a bombastic affair and it signaled the end of this period of Quincy Jones’s musical life.  He was broke and took a front office job.  

It’s good to have this great music all in one place!

A Tony Bennett Footnote.  

On August 3, the late and iconic singer Tony Bennett would have been 97 years old and what an amazing career he packed into a full lifetime.  Recognizing his output that spanned from chart-topping pop singles to solid jazz albums, historian / critic Ted Gioia published a list of his favorite collaborations between Bennett and the best jazz players.  Many of the discs he celebrated are in the WTJU collection, but a couple were missing and we have remedied those omissions.  

Great jazz records by Tony Bennet included on Gioia’s list and already in the library include:

The Tony Bennett – Bill Evans Album (Fantasy, 1975)

Bennett / Brubeck – The White House Sessions (Columbia 2013)

Bennett Sings Ellington Hot & Cool (Columbia, 1999)

Tony Bennett – The Art of Romance (Columbia, 2004)

New to the collection:

Tony Bennett and Bill Evans – Together Again (Concord, 1977).  Bill Evans – piano, Tony Bennett – vocals.

Ted Gioia wrote, “A year after recording The Tony Bennett/Bill Evans Album, released by Fantasy in 1975. the two artists returned to the studio to record Together Again for Bennett’s own Improv Records label. The album was subsequently released on Concord, and the Bennett/Evans duets here are just as magical as the first time around. My hunch is that this collaboration helped lay the foundation for Bennett’s career revival—where he focused more on jazz standards and sought out accompanying musicians of the highest caliber. Evans, for his part, never made a subsequent album with a vocalist.”

Tony Bennett – Jazz (Columbia, 1987).  Collection including: Nat Adderley – trumpet, Al Cohn – tenor saxophone, Ralph Sharon – piano, Milt Hinton – bass, Art Blakey – drums; Count Basie Orchestra; Stan Getz – tenor saxophone, Herbie Hancock – piano, Ron Carter – bass, Elvin Jones – drums.

This collection includes sessions from 1954 – 1967.  There are several notable sessions included here: a 1957 session with Nat Adderley, Al Cohn, Ralph Sharon, Milt Hinton, and Art Blakey; a 1958 session with Count Basie’s New Testament band; and an amazing 1964 session with Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Elvin Jones.

Tony Bennett – Bennett / Berlin (Columbia, 1987).  Dexter Gordon – tenor saxophone, Dizzy Gillespie – trumpet, George Bensen – guitar, Paul Langosch -bass, Ralph Sharon -piano, Joe La Barbera – drums, Tony Bennett – vocals.

In four sessions dedicated to the music of Irving Berlin in 1986 and 1987, Bennett recorded two selections in a small group with Dexter Gordon, two with Dizzy Gillespie and one with George Bensen.  Gordon died in 1990 and Gillespie in 1993, so this was nearly the last minute for these collaborations.

Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap – The Silver Lining: The Songs Of Jerome Kern (RPM Records / Columbia, released 09/25/2015).  Bill Charlap – piano, Renee Rosnes – piano, Peter Washington – bass, Kenny Washington – drums, Tony Bennett – vocals.

Mirroring his duets with Bill Evans forty years before, Tony Bennett, at almost 90, linked up with pianist Bill Charlap in this release that won the Grammy for the best Traditional Pop Vocal Album in 2015.

Long live Tony Bennett.  I hope you find some music here that you love.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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