New Jazz Releases – 10/16/2023

Shuteen Erdenebaatar

This week brings a brilliant debut from Shuteen Erdenebaatar, a young Mongolian born pianist / composer, three trombone-led releases from Jennifer Wharton, Robert Edwards and Bob McChesney (two of which I liked a lot), three important back catalog additions from Chicago’s  Denmark Records and a solid return for Hays Street Hart.

Shuteen Eredenebaatar – Rising Sun (Motéma Music, released 09/15/2023).  Anton Mangold – soprano saxophone / alto saxophone / flute, Shuteen Erdenebaatar – piano, Nils Kugelmann – upright bass, Valentin Renner – drums.

Pianist / composer Shuteen Erdenebaatar is Mongolia-born and based in Munich since she moved there at 20 in 2018.  Daughter of a television producer and the director of the National Mongolian Opera, music has always been a driver in her life.  With no place to study jazz at home, she moved to Munich, attended conservatory and linked up with her current band members, each an emerging player in their own right.  Multi-reedist Anton Mangold is terrific on alto (Rising Sun), soprano (In A Time Warp) and flute (An Answer From the Distant Hill.)  This program of eight originals is strong from start to finish – catchy melodies, compelling rhythms, strong playing and an unusual sense of narrative to the songs.  Highly recommended.

Angelica Sanchez Nonet – Nighttime Creatures (Pyroclastic Records, releases 10/27/2023).  Kenny Warren – cornet, Thomas Heberer – quarter-tone trumpet, Michaël Attias – alto saxophone, Ben Goldberg – contra alto clarinet, Chris Speed – tenor saxophone / clarinet Angelica Sanchez – piano / compositions, Omar Tamez – guitar, John Hébert – bass, Sam Ospovat – drums.

After three decades in New York City, pianist / composer Angelica Sanchez moved upstate for the better part of a year and drew inspiration from the forest, hence the title of her most recent release – Nighttime Creatures.  Drawing from the NYC creative music scene, the band sports the likes of tenor / clarinet player Chris Speed (Bad Plus, Craig Taborn) and contra alto clarinetist Ben Goldberg (Geof Bradfild, Boom Tic Boom).  The set includes nine originals plus Armando Carvajal’s Tristeza and Duke Ellington’s Lady of the Lavender Mist (my favorite selection.)

Oscar Peterson – Con Alma: The Oscar Peterson Trio – Live in Lugano, 1964 (Mack Avenue, releases 10/24/2023).  Oscar Peterson – piano, Ray Brown – bass, Ed Thigpen – drums.

Oscar Peterson began recording in a trio format in the mid-40s often in a piano – guitar (Herb Ellis, Barney Kessel) – bass configuration.  Ray Brown was his chosen bassist by 1952 and by 1959, this trio with drummer Ed Thigpen was in place for the next five years or so, including multiple sessions as the house rhythm section for Verve Records (Clark Terry, Ben Webster, Sonny Stitt).  At their peak in 1964, this set was recorded and only just now released.  Peterson was a giant of the jazz piano with technical chops to spare and to have him arguably with his classic trio on an unheard program of standards, including Bill Evans’s, then new, Waltz For Debbie, is a treat indeed. 

Jennifer Wharton’s Bonegasm – Grit & Grace (Sunnyside Recordings, releases 10/23/2023).  John Fedchock – trombone, Nate Mayland – trombone, Alan Ferber – trombone, Jennifer Wharton – bass trombone / vocals, Michael Eckroth – piano, Evan Gregor – bass, Don Peretz – drums, Samuel Torres – percussion.

For her third outing with Bonegasm, trombonist Jennifer Wharton leans into what it takes for a woman to succeed in the male-dominated jazz world – “Grit and Grace.”  She highlights the works of fellow woman composers Vanessa Perica, Miho Hazama, Carolina Calvache, Natalie Cressman and Nadje Noordhuis and includes three of her own pieces.  Leading from the bottom (bass trombone) Wharton has assembled a horn section exclusively of trombones, including her husband John Fedchock with Nate Maynard and Alan Ferber.  While the instrumentation is still novel, the music is first rate.

Vincent Thekal & Fabian Fiorini – Monk’s Mood (Hypnote Records releases 10/20/2023).  (Vincent Thekal – tenor saxophone, Fabian Fiorini – piano, Nic Thys – bass, Dre Pallemaerts – drums.

Belgian duo, tenor saxophonist Vincent Thekal and pianist Fabian Fiorini have assembled Monk’s favorite format, the tenor quartet, for a live program of six selections from the great composer.  There are no surprises among the selections although Little Rootie Tootie and Friday the Thirteenth are not played as often as they deserve.  The lovely ballad Pannonica is given a gentle and delicate reading.

Hays Street Hart – Bridges (Smoke Session, releases 10/20/2023).  Kevin Hays – piano, Ben Street – bass, Billy Hart – drums.

The piano trio of Kevin Hays (recently Al Foster, Nicholas Payton, Terell Stafford), Ben Street (recently Yelena Eckemoff, Andrew Cyrille, Tom Harrell) and Billy Hart (recently Jeremy Pelt, The Cookers, Joey DeFrancesco) recorded their debut as a group live and distanced in an empty Smoke nightclub in the throes of the pandemic.  For their sophomore outing, they are in the more comfortable confines of a recording studio, playing with warmth and intimacy.  Featuring four tunes from the band (Kevin Hays and Billy Hart), the set includes compositions from Wayne Shorter, Bill Frisell, Milton Nascimento and Lennon / McCartney.  Highlights include Hays’s beautiful ballad Butterfly and a fine reading of With A Little Help From My Friends.

Jeff Lederer – Balls of Simplicity(Little (i) Music, released 10/06/2023).  Jeff Lederer – composer / conductor, Jamie Saft – piano with the Morningside Tone Collective: Weiwei Zhai – piano, Leo Sussman – flute, Emmaile Tello – clarinet, Francesca Abusamra – violin, Jordan Bartow – cello.

Jeff Lederer’s latest is, surprisingly, a chamber music affair.  Consisting of five pieces (two of which are multi-movement) composed at various points over the past 40 years, the music is performed largely by the Morningside Tone Collective (flute – clarinet – piano – violin – cello).  Lederer himself guests on a clarinet duet (Persistence of Memory – a eulogy for the composer’s father) and the final selection is a solo piano piece performed by Jamie Saft (Piano Piece).  One would be hard put to describe this music as “Jazz,” but it is delicate and soothing music from the heart.

Bob McChesney – Come Sunday (MoCo Records, released 09/25/2023).  Bob McChesney – trombone, Bill Cunliffe – piano, Larry Koonse – guitar, Kevin Axt – bass, Vinnie Colaiuta – drums.

Trombonist Bob McChesney has assembled a first-class rhythm section to support his recording of gospel tunes.  This is more a mainstream Christian playlist than a black gospel set; more Doxology and less Precious Lord.  The band performs well, but is overly sweetened by unnecessary strings on some of the tunes.

David K Mathews – The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 3 (Effendi Records, released 09/19/2023).  David K Mathews – piano / organ / Fender Rhodes, Chris Cain – guitar / piano, Bobby Murray – guitar, Carl Locket – guitar, Ray Oviedo – guitar, DeWayne Pate- bass, Kevin Hays – drums, Desron Claiborne – drums, Brian Collier- drums, Mike Finnigan – vocals, Lady Bianca – vocals, Tony Lindsay – vocals, Glenn Walters – vocals, Chris Cain – vocals.

In 2017, David K Mathews, keyboardist with Etta James, collected undersung Bay Area vocalists to record a disc from the Great American Songbook, The Fantasy Vocal Sessions Vol. 1. Volume 2 followed in 2020 with a take on the Great American Soulbook.  Now the setlist for Vol. 3 is taken from vintage RnB – Ray Charles’s Drown in My Own Tears and I’ve Got A Woman, Louis Jordan’s Let The Good Times Roll … you get the idea.  It’s a loving bit of nostalgia.

Robert Edwards – Upswing (La Reserva Records, released 09/09/2023).  Joe Magnarelli – trumpet, Robert Edwards – trombone, Adam Birnbaum – piano, Mike Karn – bass, Aaron Kimmel – drums, Vanessa Perea – vocals.

Trombonist Robert Edwards is a veteran of several New York big bands (Danny Jonokuchi, Swingadelic, David Chamberlain’s Band of Bones).  For his own release, he slims down to a quintet and chooses an all-brass front line with Joe Magnarelli (Nick Green, Mike Melito, Mike LeDonne) on trumpet and the result is sparkling.  George Kanzler wrote on Hot House Jazz, “Upswing, … is a brassy delight reminiscent of quintets of the mid and later 20th century as those of trombonists J.J. Johnson and Kai Winding, and trumpeter Clark Terry. Robert, employing an open, unmuted trombone throughout, is paired in the front line of this band with Joe Magnarelli’s trumpet — also open. The two play as often in counterpoint as they do in harmony, as on the opener, Robert’s Edges, which offer bop and groove sections for improvising.”  Snappy arrangements well-played – an ideal straight ahead quintet date.

Hu Vibrational – Timeless (Meta Records, released 08/12/2023) Adam Rudolph – keyboards / thumb piano / merimbula /cajon / mbuti harp / mouth bow / vocal / slit drums / edu drums / wooden and bamboo flutes / double reeds / gongs / kudu horn / zither / ccxixi / bongos / Tarija / gankogui / bells / percussion, Alexis Marcelo – fender rhodes / organ, Brahim Fribgane – tarija, Damon Banks – bass, Eivind Aarset – guitar / electronics, Hamid Drake – drum set, Harris Eisenstadt – bata, Jan Bang – sampling, Kaoru Watanabe – noh kan flute, Marco Cappelli – guitar, Munyungo Jackson – tambourine, /shekere, Neel Murgai – sitar, Sameer Gupta – tabla.

Percussionist Adam Rudolph has recorded an experimental set, rhythmically rich yet melodically thin.  Unusual instruments are the norm here and most of the players are new to me, then exceptions being drummer Hamid Drake and percussionist Munyungo Jackson.

Daniel Hersog Jazz Orchestra – Open Spaces, Folk Songs Reimagined (Cellar Music, released 06/23/2023).  Michael Kim – trumpet / flugelhorn, Brad Turner – trumpet / flugelhorn, Derry Byrne – trumpet / flugelhorn, Jocelyn Waugh – trumpet / flugelhorn, Jeremy Berkman – trombone, Jim Hopson – trombone / euphonium, Andrew Porrier – trombone, Sharman King – bass trombone, Ben Kono – oboe / soprano saxophone / flute / clarinet, Ben Henriques – alto saxophone / soprano saxophone / clarinet, Noah Preminger – tenor saxophone, Tom Keenlyside – flute / alto flute / piccolo / tenor saxophone, Scott Robinson – baritone saxophone / bass clarinet / flute, Frank Carlberg – piano, Kurt Rosenwinkel – guitar, Kim Cass – bass, Dan Weiss – drums. 

Daniel Hersog has assembled a 17-piece ensemble for his sophomore release, full of first rate musicians like Noah Preminger (2021’s Sky Continuous) on tenor, Scott Robinson (The Earegulars, Rickie Lee Jones, East Axis) on baritone saxophone / bass clarinet / flute, Kurt Rosenwinkel (Joe Farnsworth, Jim Snidero, Alex Claffy) on guitar, and Dan Weiss (Delvon Lamar, Jon Irabagon, 2020’s Dedication) on drums.  For this big band, Hersog has arranged five familiar “folk” tunes (defined broadly) and added six of his own.  Robinson is majestic on Shenandoah and Rosenwinkel shines on the reconception of Blowin’ In The Wind as How Many RoadsJim Hynes wrote on Making a Scene, “Interestingly, one of the most folk-like compositions is a Hersog original, simply entitled Canadian Folk Song which begins with a rich Rosenwinkel solo, followed by a riveting turn from Preminger, and a free ranging improvisation by Carlberg while the ensemble ebbs and swells lightly, evoking an evening campfire and convivial conversation.”  Worth a listen.

Mike Surratt – Bistro Beatz (Coalition Records, released 01/23/2023).

Mike Surratt is an accordion and keyboard player from the mid-Atlantic, who is new to me.  I am unable to find any of the player credits for this disc, although there is a rhythm section with horns on several selections.  Expect to have a nostalgic recall of French bistros.

From the Denmark Records back catalog, but new to our library:

Nicole Mitchell’s Black Earth Ensemble – Black Unstoppable (Delmark, released 2007).  David Young – trumpet, Nicole Mitchell – flute, David Boykin – tenor saxophone / percussion, Jeff Parker – guitar, Tomeka Reid – cello / shakere, Josh Abrams – bass, Marcus Evans – drums.

In 2006 and 2007, flutist (and UVa Music Professor) Nice Mitchell was identified by Downbeat as “Rising Star Flutist.”  In the interim years, she has consistently been seen as, perhaps, the dominant flute voice in Jazz today .  This recording from 2007, while her fourth release, captures her at the beginning of this journey. This release finds her in the company of her Black Earth Ensemble including a, then, 30-year-old Tomeka Reid on cello.  While always informed by an improvisational approach honed at the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Mitchell takes us through blues, funk, hard bop and calypso with the latter evident on the remarkable Life Wants You To LoveMichael Nastos wrote on AllMusic, “Black Unstoppable documents Mitchell’s complete concept, diverse thoughts, and ever potent musical gifts without resorting to existential theories — a woman’s touch definitely gracing the powerful AACM aesthetic in a very positive light.”

Sun Ra – Sound of Joy (Delmark, released 1968 & 2017).  Art Hoyle – trumpet, Dave Young – trumpet, John Avant – trombone, Pat Patrick – alto saxophone / baritone saxophone, John Gilmore – tenor saxophone, Charles Davis – baritone saxophone, Sun Ra – piano, Victor Sproles – bass, William Cochran – drums, Jim Herndon – tympani / timbali.

Recorded in 1956, but not released until 1968, this was one of Sun Ra’s first recordings (maybe the fourth or fifth in a very confusing discography).  Scott Yanow wrote on AllMusic, “The music from Sun Ra’s Chicago-based band of the 1950s is quite interesting for its ties to the bop and swing traditions are much more obvious than it would be in the near future. Ra’s eccentric piano and occasional electric keyboard look forward as do some of the harmonies and Jim Herndon’s colorful tympani.”  In many regards, this very accessible disc is closer to Ellington than the free blowing that characterized Sun Ra’s later work.  Recommended.

Sun Ra – Sun Song (Delmark, released 1967). Art Hoyle – trumpet / bells, Dave Young – trumpet, Julian Priester – trombone / chimes, James Scales – alto saxophone, John Gilmore – tenor saxophone / woodblocks, Pat Patrick – baritone saxophone / bells, Sun Ra – piano / organ, Richard Evans – bass, Wilburn Green – electric bass / tambourine, Robert Barr – drums / bells, Jim Herndon – tympani / timbales.

Recorded in 1957 and released contemporaneously, this gem from the early catalog includes a classic Arkestra front line – Art Hoyle and Dave Young on trumpets, Julian Priester on trombone, John Gilmore and Pat Patrick on reeds.  Lindsay Planer wrote on AllMusic, “… this long-player contains some of Sun Ra’s most complex, yet accessible efforts … Among the musical innovations woven into the up-tempo Brainville and Transition, are advanced time signatures coupled with harmonic scales based on Ra’s mathematical equations. Not to be missed is the lush elegance within the delicate, if not intricate arrangements heard on Possession, as well as the equally involved Sun Song — both of which take on an air of sophistication in their deceptive simplicity.”  Essential.

I hope you find some meaningful music this week.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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