New Jazz Releases – 10/30/2023

Cory Weeds

It seems to be the trumpeter’s week for releases – Finish star Verneri Pohjola, Chad McCollough of Atlantic Road Trip, father and son John and David Sneider, Eric Jacobson of Affinity Trio, Adam O’Farrill of Hiromi’s Sonicwonder, and Etienne Charles.  Something for everyone.  And finally after five years, impresario and bandleader Cory Weeds returns with his twelve-piece Little Big Band.  

Cory Weeds – Home Cookin’ (Cellar Music, releases 11/10/2023).  Brad Turner – trumpet, Chris Davis – trumpet, Brian Harding – trombone, Jim Hopson – trombone, Steve Kaldestad – lead alto, James Danderer – tenor saxophone, Dave Say – baritone saxophone, Cory Weeds – tenor saxophone, Chris Gestrin – piano, John Lee – bass, Jesse Cahill – drums 

The last time Cory Weeds (impresario behind Cellar Music) got his Little Big Band to record, it was populated by his favorite NYC players, this time he has a Vancouver based unit (four brass, four reeds, three rhythm.  His Horace Silver jones gets stroked through strutting versions of Home Cookin’ and Metamorphosis and the results are outstanding (never too much from the king of hard bop.)  On the mellow side, the Weeds-penned Blossoms In May gives us a chance to hear the leader as a tenor soloist on a lovely ballad with a pillowy cushion of an arrangement.  Five years was too long to wait since the last Little Big Band release.

The Hot Club of LA – NOVA (Self Produced, releases 01/26/2024).  Carl Byron – accordion / piano, Josh Workman – guitar, Jake Bluenote – guitar, Paul Eckman – bass, Jim Doyle – drums.

This Django-driven quintet has had a club residency in Culver City since 2011.  TheIR record is full of surprises.  For example, guitarist Jake Bluenote (great name for a musician, right?), sings Cdaje Šukarije in Romanian Serbian with vocal accompaniment from the rest of the band.  Que Reste-t-il de Nos Amours and Les Feuilles Mortes feature the original French lyrics, not those we know under the titles I Wish You Love and Autumn LeavesCarlotta’s Galop from Fellini’s film 8 1/2, races along for a couple of choruses and then the band comes in singing a wordless vocal in unison.  Be ready to love the accordion and some sweet guitar picking.

The Adam Deitch Quartet – Roll The Tape (Golden Wolf Records, releases 11/10/2023).  Eric “Benny” Bloom – trumpet, Ryan Voids – saxophone, Will Blades – organ, John Scofield – guitar, Adam Deitch – drums.

Drummer Adam Deitch, a veteran of psychedelic funk and hip hop recording projects has released a soul jazz disc with guitar hero John Scofield guesting on one track.

Verneri Pohjola – Monkey Mind (Edition Records, releases 11/03/2023). Verneri Pohjola – trumpet, Jusu Berghäll – alto flute, Linda Fredriksson – baritone saxophone / alto saxophone, Kit Downes – piano, Raoul Björkenheim – guitar, Olavi Ouhivuori – drums, Tuomo Prättälä – programming / synths.

Finnish trumpet player Verneri Pohjola has put out a number of releases, with his 2022 The Dead Don’t Dream being the one that caught my attention previously.  Thierry De Clemensat wrote from a European perspective on Paris Move, “Verneri has managed to create a style that encompasses his culture, blending a unique form of jazz with a touch of contemporary classical music. While his music is particularly rich, one of his primary talents, aside from his exceptional sound, is his ability to create the arrangements necessary for perfect cohesion within his group. This skill delights the listener, who will hear all the artist’s influences, with rock never far away, and wandering melodic intentions that evoke the landscapes of his native Finland.”  More than a little Miles in the 70s here, tempered with a classical sensibility and bold writing.

Atlantic Road Trip – One (Calligram Records, releases 11/03/2023).  Chad McCullough – trumpet / flugelhorn, Paul Towndrow – alto saxophone / whistles / flute, Miro Herak – vibraphone, Conor Murray – double bass, Alyn Cocker – drums / bodhran.

Trumpeter Chad McCullough’s trio disc The Charm of Impossibilities (previewed here 08/15/2023) was intimate and quite moving.  For this release, he is in the company of an international (Slovakia, Ireland, Scotland) quintet with compositional contributions from McCullough, alto / whistle / flute player Paul Towndrow and vibraphonist Miro Herak.  The latter also arranged two traditional Slovak folk songs.  Theirs is a very individual sound with the instrumentation featuring traditional whistles and flutes plus the Irish bodhran drum.  Paul Towndrow’s Celtic routes are face forward on the beautiful Pale Ale with the Irish flute joined by the vibes and trumpet.  Another strong release by the new Chicago label, Calligram.

Lafayette Gilcrest – Undaunted (Morphius, releases 11/2/2023).  Christian Hizon – trombone, Brian Settles – tenor saxophone, Lafayette Gilchrest – piano, Herman Burney – bass, Eric Kennedy – drums, Kevin Pinder – percussion.

A well-kept secret, pianist Lafayette Gilcrest has kept musical company with folks like David Murray and Michael Formanek but really hasn’t yet broken out.  This could be the disc that does it.  Mike Jurkovik wrote on All About Jazz, “In the Swirl with its sustained, Cat-5 hurricane force, foments and bristles, breaks to catch its breath about midway through its seven plus hectic minutes, then picks up where it left off, taking everything with it in its wake. It is easily one of the most fearsome tracks heard so far in 2023, burning and boiling with Gilchrist’s left hand, and Burney’s incessant sawing leading the charge into the swaggering Southern Belle. A sexy, sensual dance that hinges on the speculation of desire and its heated aftermath, Burney and Kennedy hold the pocket and enumerate as the horns provide the impetus for the lady to dance well on into the night as Gilchrist flirts and flatters her.”  This is a good one, for sure.

Sean Mason – The Southern Suite (Blue Engine, releases 10/27/2023). Tony Glausi – trumpet, Chris Lewis – tenor saxophone, Sean Mason – piano, Felix Moseholm – bass, Domo Branch – drums.

Under the production watch of Branford Marsalis, pianist Sean Mason has served up a debut record that is a suite of original compositions.  Mason has a knack for catchy hooks that from time-to-time brought Horace Silver to mind (Final Voyage).  Tony Glausi on trumpet and Chris Lewis on tenor make a formidable front line with impeccable unison playing often creating a setting for terrific piano soloing by the leader (Kid).  With the JALC / Blue Engine juggernaut behind him, serious piano chops and something to say compositionally, Sean Mason is one we will be hearing from again.

Lucas Pino – Covers (Outside In Music, releases 10/27/2023).  Lucas Pino – saxophone, Alex Goodman – guitar, Rick Rosato – bass, Allan Mednard – drums.

Saxophonist Lucan Pino has recorded five discs with the Nick Finzer Sextet and several on his own.  Now he is out with his own quartet in a release of covers by Bird, Nicholas Payton, Duke Pearson and others.  He captures a Lee Konitz / Lenny Tristano vibe on Alex LoRe’s Amnesia.  His reprise of Free Hirsch’s Phantom of the Bopera from the back catalog is an exciting bebop romp showing a ton of technique and swing at high speed.  Recommended.

Aruán Ortiz  – Pastor’s Paradox (Clean Feed, releases 10/20/2023).  Don Byron – clarinet / bass clarinet, Aruán Ortiz – piano, Lester St. Louis – cello, Yves Dear – cello, Pheeron AkLaff – drums, Mute Grant – spoken word.

The new release from pianist Aruán Ortiz (James Brandon Lewis, Nicole Mitchell, Wallace Roney, Esperanza Spalding) is a challenging piece of avant grade chamber jazz, with powerful contributions from clarinetist Don Byron in an unusual configuration of clarinet, piano, two cellos and drums.  The subject of the suite is Martin Luther King and his legacy on the 60th anniversary of I Had A DreamKarl Ackerman wrote on AllAboutJazz, “Pastor’s Paradox, with all music composed by Ortiz, fulfills the pianist’s wish to take his writing further into social concepts without losing the music’s spontaneity. His non-compliant style and Byron’s classical background and superb technique make their pairing, and this album, exceptionally fine listening.”

John & David Sneider – Sneid Remarks (Cellar Live, released 10/20/2023).  John Sneider – trumpet, David Sneider – trumpet, Jeb Patton – piano, Ugonna Okegwo – bass, Andy Watson – drums.

I can think of only a couple of jazz recordings featuring a two-trumpet front line and a similar number featuring a parent and their child.  This release by trumpeters John Sneider (father) and David Sneider (son) fits into both categories.  Theirs is a quintet with pianist Jeb Patton (Danny Jonokuchi, Nick Green, Mike Melito, Charles McPherson), bassist Ugonna Okekwo (Wayne Escoffery, Pete Malinverni, Tom Harrell) and drummer Andy Watson.  The composing credits are split between father and son and the tunes are catchy and well-conceived.  The band swings.

Affinity Trio – Hindsight (Origins Records, released 10/20/2023).  Eric Jacobson – trumpet, Pamela York – piano, Clay Schaub – bass

After honing their collective chops with a weekly residency in Milwaukee for the past couple of years, this is the recording debut for the Affinity Trio.  [Note – trumpeter Eric Jacobson should not be confused with SF trumpeter Erik Jekabson – Electric Squeezebox Orchestra, Throttle Elevator Music.]  There is a quiet intimacy that comes from the drumerlelss trio of trumpet – piano – bass.  It is interesting and delightful to hear the usually rhythm-intensive Tin Tin Deo (Gil Fuller & Chano Pozo) in a piano-forward arrangement.  Another treat is the reprise of Theme for Ernie,  a sweet ballad notably recorded by John Coltrane on Soultrane in 1958.  In addition to the six covers the disc includes four well-conceived originals by the band.  Swinging straight ahead jazz.

Hiromi’s Sonicwonder – Sonicwonderland (Telarc, released 10/06/2023).  Adam O’Farrill – trumpet, Hiromi – piano / keyboards, Hadien Feraud – bass, Gene Coy – drums, Oli Rockberger – vocals.

Pianist Hiromi has moved towards electronics and funk on her latest quartet recording with more than a hint of influence from video game music.  Terrific young trumpeter Adam O’Farrill (2021’s Visions Of Your Other) carries most of the melodic responsibility and his playing is lyrical and engaging.  On the whole, this release falls short of my expectations for Hiromi Uehara.

Etienne Charles – Live In San Francisco, Vol. 1 (Culture Shock Music, released 10/2023).  Etienne Charles – trumpet & percussion, Godwin Louis –  alto sax, Axel Tosca Laugart – piano, Alex Wintz –  guitar, Ben Williams – bass, Obed Calvaire –  drums.

Over the last dozen years, Trinidad-born trumpeter Etienne Charles has gone from being an in-demand session player to a leader of substance.  I believe this is his first live recording and it is a good fit.  The whole band is in fine form.  Cuban-born pianist Axel Tosca Laugart is especially strong on Charles’s own composition Dame Lorraine.  The inclusion of Bob Marley’s Redemption Song was a surprise and a treat – the band sets up a stately groove and serves up a series of terrific solos.  This is a fine record from a growing bandleader.

I hope something sticks in your ears.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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