New Jazz Releases – 08/21/2023

Mark Turner

A new Mark Turner is out and only a year after the last one!  Some important historic works have been revisited – Wynton Marsalis interprets Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens, Aaron Diehl has recorded the first full symphonic version of Mary Lou Williams’s Zodiac Suite and Chris Ingham has released two volumes of works by Hoagy Carmichael.  Charlottesville favorite Joel Harrison has a new set with a tenor – organ – guitar – drums quartet.  I hope your ears are ready for some wonderful music!

Mark Turner – Live At The Village Vanguard (Giant Step Arts, releases 09/08/2023).  Jason Palmer – trumpet, Mark Turner – tenor saxophone, Joe Martin – bass, Jonathan Pinson – drums.

Many sax players will tell you that Mark Turner is the most important tenor player since Michael Becker.  His relentless pursuit of technical excellence combined with his highly developed rhythmic and harmonic chops, make each of his releases moments for celebration.  Now he has come out with his first live record as a leader, reassembling the great chord-less quartet from his last studio recording (Return From The Stars, 2022, reviewed here 01/30/2023) – Jason Palmer on trumpet, Joe Martin on bass, and Jonathan Pinson on drums – recorded at the legendary Village Vanguard.  For this recording, Turner performs a full set of his own compositions, revisiting all eight tunes form his recent release plus Lennie Groove (In This World, 1998), Brother, Sister (Lathe of Heaven, 2013) and 1946, a new piece composed for this set.  The boppish Nigeria 2 with its intricate lines is a showcase for all four players and the new 1946 clearly illustrates Turner’s gentle side.

Guiseppe Millaci & Vogue Trio – Double Portrait (Hypnote Records, releases 09/22/2023).  Amaury Faye – piano, Guiseppe Millaci – bass, Lionel Beuvens – drums.

Belgian bassist Guiseppe Millaci has released his fourth set with the Vogue Trio, although this is the first that I have encountered, which is an oversight – this trio is terrific.  The leader plays with authority and great melodicism.  The set alternates between longer compositions and short vignettes, often performed solo (Double Portrait).  Drummer Lionel Beuvens’s Bad Fortune is a particularly beautiful composition and the trio’s version of Bud Powell’s Time Waits is stately and outstanding, proof that the pace does not need to be blistering when covering the bebop piano hero.

Aaron Diehl & The Knights – Zodiac Suite (Mack Avenue, releases 09/17/2023).  Brandon Lee – trumpet, Nicole Glover – tenor saxophone, Evan Christopher – clarinet, Aaron Diehl – piano, David Wong – bass, Aaron Kimmel – drums + Sybil Math – trumpet, Nate Mayland – trombone, Michael Atkinson – horn, Alex Sopp – flute, Gustav Highstein – oboe, Chad Smith – clarinet / bass clarinet, Njioma Grevious, Kristi Helberg, Nanae Iwata, George Meyer, Miho Saegusa – violin, Kyle Armbrust, Mario Gotoh, Miranda Sielaff – viola, Gabriel Cabezas, Alex Greenbaum, Caitlin Sullivan – cello.

Between 1942 and 1945, pioneering jazz composer and pianist Mary Lou Williams composed her magnum opus Zodiac Suite, twelve pieces named for the astrological signs and each dedicated to jazz musicians she knew.  The ambitious piece mixed jazz and classical forms and was not performed to her satisfaction in the two attempts at a fully orchestrated performances in her lifetime.  Her only recording was with a piano trio.  Pianist Aaron Diehl has spent considerable time restoring and correcting the score against the trio recording and now we have the first full symphonic recording … ever.  Nate Chinen wrote on WRTI, “The recording captures the luster and sweep of Williams’ orchestration, which recalls a vision of mid-century American modernism. Jazz harmony and rhythm flow through the movements like a river, with the classical elements integrated more seamlessly than on any prior recording of the piece.”

Kurt Elling & Charlie Hunter – SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree (Edition Records, releases 09/15/2023).  Jon Lampley – trumpet, Chris Ott – trombone, Dan White – saxophone, Elena Pinderhughes – flute, DJ Harrison – keyboards, Charlie Hunter – hybrid guitar, Corey Fonville – drums, Kurt Elling – vocals..

With thirty years of well-received recordings (two Grammies!), vocalist Kurt Elling has not settled into a comfortable zone of standards and pop tune interpretations.  In fact, his last two discs with Charlie Hunter, DJ Harrison (aka Devonne Harris – Butcher Brown, Charles Owens) and Corey Fonville (Butcher Brown, aTunde Adjuah) have been an adventurous, funky and serious departure for him, dipping into R&B, neo- soul and funk. Chris May wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Elling is on mic practically throughout the album, while Hunter, Harrison and Fonville attend to the grooves. There are short instrumental solos from flautist Elena Pinderhughes, on Joni Mitchell’s Black Crow, and breaks from trumpeter Jon Lampley, trombonist Chris Ott and saxophonist Dan White, on [Nate Smith’s] Bounce It and the group original Not Here / Not Now.  It is tempting to give SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree five stars, but on the grounds that nothing is perfect, four-and-a-half will have to do. The album is magic.”  

Hilario Durán And His Latin Jazz Big Band – Cry Me A River (Alma / Universal, releases 09/08/2023).  Hilario Durán And His Latin Jazz Big Band (Alexis Baro, Kevin Turcotte, Alexander Brown, Brian Okane – trumpet, Christian Overton, Karl Silveira, Rob Somerville – trombone, Peter Hysen – bass trombone, Diego D’Rivera – alto saxophone / clarinet, Colleen Allen – alto saxophone / flute, Andy Ballantyne – alto saxophone / clarinet / alto flute, Luis Deniz – alto saxophone, Jeff King – tenor saxophone / clarinet, Kelly Jefferson – tenor saxophone / clarinet, Pol Coussee – baritone saxophone / bass clarinet, Hilario Duran – piano, Roberto Occhipinti, Roberto Riveron, Marc Rogers – bass, Horacio “El Negro” Hernandez – drums, Joe Luis Torres “Papiosco” – congas / persuasion, Magdelys Savigne – congas, Elizabeth Rodriguez – vocals / violin.

Inspired by his residency with the WDR Big Band in Koln, pianist / composer Hilario Durán has recorded his first big band record in seventeen years.  With five originals and four covers, the highlight for me is Durán’s I Remember Mingus a tune that captures and projects the power of the large ensemble, leading with Marc Rogers’s powerful bass intro.  The classic Night in Tunisia is also a standout for the richness of its brass and horn arrangements and for Paquito D’Rivera’s be-bop alto star-turn.

Mike Clark – Kosen Rufu (Wide Hive Records, releases 09/08/2023). Eddie Henderson – trumpet, Skerik – saxophones, Wayne Horvitz – keyboards, Henry Franklin – bass, Mike Clark – drums, Bill Summers – percussion.

Drummer Mike Clark, known as a pioneer funk percussionist from his days with Herbie Hancock, has reunited with fellow HH-alum percussionist Bill Summers for a release that shows more straight-ahead chops that we usually see from these funk-meisters.  Trumpeter Eddie Henderson (The Cookers, 2020s Shuffle and Deal) and Seattle punk-jazz saxophonist Skerik (Syncopated Taint Septet) make a surprisingly coherent front line given their divergent roots.  Dolphy’s Hat and Beard swings in an angular way (with appropriately challenging contributions from Wayne Horvitz on piano) as would be appropriate for a tribute to Monk.  On Apparition, the band churns through a free intro that resolves to a spiritual ballad featuring Skerik and Henderson with overtones of Pharaoh Sanders.  The more I listened, the more this release reached me.

Simon Nabatov – Extensions (Unbroken Sounds, releases 09/02/2023). Shannon Barnett – trombone, Sebastian Gille – saxophone, Simon Nabatov – piano, Reza Askari – bass, Maria Portugal – drums.

This quintet of European improvising musicians under the leadership of pianist Simon Nabatov has released a live recording of two twenty-plus-minute collective musical explorations.  Free but not a-melodic; spontaneous but not a-rhythmic; this music has a broad dynamic range and features very skilled musicians in deep-listening mode.

Peter Xifaras – Fusion (Music With No Expiration, releases 08/25/2023).  Shunzo Ohno – trumpet, Peter Xifaras – guitar / piano, Xander Niching – violin, Max Gerl – bass, Scott Jackson – drums, Czech Symphony – orchestra. 

“Fusion” comes in a lot of varieties – Afro-Cuban jazz or Bossa Nova come to mind as much-loved and enduring examples.  Jazz-rock fusion was hugely popular, filling stadiums in the 70s, but with spotty popularity since then. John Lewis and Gunther Schuller advocated for a classical – jazz fusion they called “Third Stream” with some notable successes.  So what is this? Peter Xifaras is a classical guitarist and composer (whose work is unknown to me) but this release has more in common with early Moody Blues or late sixties Miles but without the adventurousness, bite or soul.  I found it repetitive, but it just might fill a void for you.

Harold Lopez-Nussa – Timba A La Americana (Blue Note Records, releases 08/25/2023).  Harold Lopez-Nussa – piano, Michael League – Moog / synthesizers, Grégoire Maret – harmonica, Luques Curtis – bass, Ruy Adrián López-Nussa  – drums / percussion, Bárbaro “Machito” Crespo – congas / percussion.

On the heals of his decision to leave Cuba and relocate to France, pianist / composer Harold Lopez-Nussa has recorded an energetic collection of ten new songs.  With occasional synthesizer assistance from producer Michael League (Snarky Puppy), the band is largely a stripped down piano – harmonica – bass – drums – percussion quintet featuring French harp maestro Grégoire Maret.  The result is a fusion of sorts, with the harmonica sounding much like an accordion on many tunes.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “Cuban rhythms are present, delving deeper into jazz and its progression, to the point where one might wonder if he isn’t the spiritual heir of Joe Zawinul at the keyboard. On the track Cake a la Moda, frankly, you’d believe it, yes! Harold always surprises us, arriving where we least expect it, and with an intelligent incorporation of his culture to create his works.”

Aline’s Étoile Magique – Éclipse  (Elastic Recordings, releases 08/25/2023). Michael Davidson – vibraphone / marimba / piano / synthesizer, João Frade – accordion, Thom Gill – guitars, Aline Homzy – violin / voice / theremin, Dan Fortin – bass, Marito Marques – percussion / drums, Felicity Williams – vocals.

Toronto-based violinist Aline Homzy has created a very unique sound through her choice of instrumentation: violin – vibes – accordion – guitar – bass – drums for a set of ten originals plus a very spacey version of Charlie Parker’s SegmentAngel Romero at Progressive Rock Central wrote, “Aline’s Étoile Magique’s Éclipse is an album that defies traditional jazz structures and takes listeners on an adventurous musical journey, incorporating improvised music, chamber music, lovely contemporary jazz and some experimentation as well. Aline Homzy, the award-winning violinist and composer, leads the band, which includes exquisite vibraphone, violin, guitar, bass, and drums, creating a rich palette of colors and textures.”  All that and theremin.

Jay Hoggard – Retro Focus (Jay Hoggard Hear Now Recordings, released 08/14/2023).  Jay Hoggard – vibraphone, other musicians not credited.

Vibraphonist Jay Hoggard has collected and reissued thirteen up tempo straight-ahead recordings from his last five releases on his own label.  Although Hoggard has quite a bit of adventurous music in his past (Anthony Braxton, Taylor Ho Bynum), this mainstream selection is thoroughly enjoyable.  There is no information on the other musicians that contribute to these selections and that always rubs me the wrong way.

Ember – August In March (Imani Records, released 08/11/2023).  Caleb Wheeler Curtis – stritch / trumpet / reed trumpet,  Noah Garabedian – bass,  Vincent Sperrazza – drums.

Young Brooklyn-based improvisational trio presents a program of original compositions and collective improvisations.  These are some talented players who have significant chemistry as a trio.

TechnoCats – The Music of Gregg Hill (Cold Plunge Music, released 08/11/2023).  Chris Glassman – bass trombone, Xavier Davis – piano, Nathan Borton – guitar, Javier Enrique – bass, Michael J Reed – drums.

In the last four years, East Lansing Michigan composer Gregg Hill has had his music featured on three discs by bassist Rodney Whitaker, and one each by trombonist Michael Dease, guitarist Randy Napoleon, and pianist Ben Rosenbaum – all of which are titled or subtitled The Music of Gregg Hill as is this current release from a group of young players associated with the jazz studies program at Michigan State.  Theirry De Clemensat wrote on Paris Move, “Go Figure is certainly the most interesting title of this album due to its structure closely tied to the rhythm, and it’s on this track that the musical arrangements are most pleasing to hear. Gregg Hill’s music always has this element of timeless, poetic beauty that is the composer’s signature. We appreciate the piano parts here, much more lively and eloquent than the overly talkative guitar that intervenes here and there; for others, it will certainly be the opposite, but it doesn’t matter as long as you find your enjoyment in it.”  Gregg Hill’s compositions have been compared to Ellington and early George Russell, tall cotton indeed.

Wynton Marsalis Plays Louis Armstrong’s Hot Fives and Sevens (Blue Engine Records, released 08/04/2023).  Wynton Marsalis – trumpet / vocals, Wycliffe Gordon – tuba / trombone / bass / vocals, Vincent Gardner – trombone, Victor Goines – clarinet, Walter Blanding – tenor saxophone / soprano saxophone, “Papa” Don Vappie – banjo / guitar, Jonathan Batiste – piano, Carlos Henriquez – bass, Ali Jackson – drums.

Recorded in 2006, Wynton Marsalis has finally released his homage to Louis Armstrong’s very earliest works as a headliner.  By the time Pops recorded these classic tunes in 1926 – 1929, he was already a veteran of King Oliver’s Creole Jazz Band, Fletcher Henderson’s Orchestra and numerous sessions with Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and their contemporaries.  His genius was creating the small group (five or seven) setting where New Orleans simultaneous improvisation gave way to the heroic jazz soloist and he created that role from scratch.  To celebrate this music, Marsalis surrounded himself with many of his regular collaborators of the period (seventeen years ago!), with star-turns for pianist Jon Batiste (perhaps his first recording out of New Orleans) and trombonist Wycliffe “Pinecone” Gordon.  In their review, Marlbank wrote, “There’s such nimble, pristine playing and a whole lot of sheer passion throughout this labour of love that shines a light again on such seminal early jazz… Highlights include Victor Goines’ clarinet runs on Spencer Williams’ Fireworks and elsewhere. But this is quintessential Wynton paying tribute to another proud son of New Orleans in his own inimitable manner warmly received by the Lincoln Center faithful.”  An old school take on old school, brilliantly performed.

Linda Purl – This Could Be The Start (Reaching Records, released 08/2023). Nelson Rangell – reeds, Tedd Firth – piano, David Finck – bass, Ray Marchica – drums / percussion, Linda Purl – vocals.

Cabaret singer, actress and recurring character on several television programs, Linda Purl has recorded four discs of mostly theatrical readings of standards.  The challenge with recording a disc of tunes like Blue Moon and Let’s Get Lost is how you can bring something new and unique to these great pieces.  I think Purl is still working on it.

Joel Harrison – Anthem of Unity (High Note, released 07/21/2023).  Gregory Tardy – tenor saxophone / clarinet, Gary Vesace – Hammond B3 organ / piano, Joel Harrison – guitar, Jack DeJohnette – drums.

Every new release from guitarist (and Charlottesville favorite) Joel Harrison is a new adventure and Anthem for Unity is no disappointment.  Rather than follow a theme, such as the Americana of the Free Country three-disc series, this is a blowing session with an ensemble of drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist / flutist Greg Tardy (Bill Frisell, Michael Dease), and Gary Versace (Ted Nash, Kate McGarry) on Hammond B-3.  The program includes five originals and covers of The times They Are A-Changing and Sonny Rollins’s Doxy, delivered, per Thom Jurek at All Music, “with a layer of easy, gritty NOLA jazz-funk, (think the Meters with Alvin “Red” Tyler joining on tenor sax). Harrison’s solo is all blue funk, and his greasy interplay with Tardy and DeJohnette is as canny as it is welcoming.”  The quartet gives a master class on collective feel on the pastoral Migratory Birds with Tardy on a very flute-like clarinet.

Chris Ingham Quartet – Hoagy (Downhome Records, released 10/15/2021). Paul Higgs – trumpet, Chris Ingham – piano / vocal, Rev. Andrew Brown – bass, Russell Morgan – drums.

Hoagy Carmichael (1899 – 1981) was one of the first jazz players to contribute significantly to the Great American Songbook.  His Riverboat Shuffle (included here) was recorded by Bix Beiderbecke’s Wolverine Orchestra in 1924.  British pianist / singer / writer / impresario Chris Ingham and his quartet have recorded two collections of Carmichael’s compositions.  This first Hoagy set includes beautiful standards like Skylark, Baltimore Oriole, Lazy Bones, Georgia On My Mind, and Stardust performed by a trumpet – piano – bass – drums quartet with Paul Higgs furnishing a delicate and wistful trumpet in the spirit of Bix.  Frank Griffin wrote on London Jazz News, “Chris’ somewhat light and streamlined vocal quality is infused with a covering of Midwestern dustiness – just the job for this kind of material. One gets the sense that he revels in the opportunity to share these songs with whomever might be in his midst- whether in a concert hall or informal house party.”  Important music, well presented.

Chris Ingham Quartet – Hoagy II (Downhome Records, released 06/12/2023). Paul Higgs – trumpet, Chris Ingham – piano / vocal, Rev. Andrew Brown – bass, George Double – drums.

After a two-year hiatus, Chris Ingham and his quartet are back with another set of Hoagy Carmichael (70- to 100-year-old) standards.  Brian Payne wrote on Jazz Journal, “Artful arrangements of 15 of the composer’s songs include well-known ones such as Heart And Soul, The Nearness Of You, (Up A) Lazy River and In The Cool Cool Cool Of The Evening alongside comparatively lesser known numbers such as Billy-a-Dick and Down Boy. The album captures the essence of Carmichael’s catchy, jazz-influenced melodies and their droll, laconic lyrics perfectly.”  These two releases are a fitting tribute to an important artist whose songs are perhaps better known than the composer himself.  And yes – Juddermeister, Ingham performs The Monkey Song!

The following discs were reviewed as digital only releases recently and we now have the CDs in the air studio.

Danny Jonokuchi Big Band – Voices(Outside In Music, released 08/18/2023)

Terell Stafford – Between Two Worlds (Le Coq Records, releases 09/08/2023)

A ton of music this week, much of it very good and some fabulous.  I suspect there is something here that will tickle your ears.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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