New Jazz Releases – 11/06/2023

Art Pepper

Vintage releases from the vaults this week from Art Pepper (exciting) and Dave Brubeck (not so much), a couple of fine piano trios from Michael Weiss and Art Hirahara, and new releases from Richmond’s Butcher Brown and recent area transplant Stacey Kent.

Art Pepper – The Complete Maiden Voyage Recordings (Omnivore Recordings, released 10/20/2023). Art Pepper – alto saxophone / clarinet, George Cables – piano, David Williams – bass, Carl Burnett – drums.

Art Pepper fans Rejoice! – the 1981 live recordings from the LA Maiden Voyage club have been released – seven sets over three nights on seven CDs. Four posthumous releases were made in the 80s from this trove of impassioned music, but now all the recordings are available. Let’s back up – Pepper emerged in 1947 at age 22 as a brilliant soloist with Stan Kenton; was identified as a major star of the Cool School in mid-50s; spent some of the 50s, much of the 60s and some of the 70s in jail for substance abuse; emerged for an unlikely final act at 50 in 1975, and recorded fiercely for seven years until his death in 1982.  These recordings from ten months before his death represent Pepper at his mature peak with an established band, probably his best quartet, including the great George Cables on piano.  Knowing his time was likely limited he listened through the tapes of these sessions and filled two notebooks with his observations.  Of his tune Arthur’s Blues recorded in the final set, we wrote, “My whole life went into this.”  At seven discs, this is a ton of music representing the creative apex of this major player’s work.  Essential.

Stacey Kent – Summer Me, Winter You (Naive, releases 11/10/2023).  Jim Tomlinson – tenor saxophone / flute / alto flute / clarinet / guitar / percussion / keyboards, Art Hirahara – piano, Graham Harvey – piano, Aurelie Chenille – first violin, Claire Chabert – second violin, Fabrice Planchat – viola, Gabriel Planchat – cello, Tom Hubbard – bass, Jeremy Brown – double bass, Anthony Pinciotti – drums, Joshua Morrison – drums, Stacey Kent – vocals.

Another rich and emotional outing by the pitch-perfect singer Stacey Kent with arrangements and sympathetic multi-reed contributions by husband Jim Tomlinson.  The program features tunes from Kent’s live set list that have not yet been included on her recordings, notably three of Tomlinson’s compositions, one with lyrics by their frequent collaborator Kazoo Ishiguro (Postcard Lovers). Rough Trade wrote, “Kent’s rich vocal range combined with the expertly arranged instrumentation creates a truly immersive listening experience. One standout track on the album is the title track, Summer Me, Winter Me. This beautiful ballad captures the essence of both seasons metaphorically, reflecting on love lost and found. The poignant lyrics combined with Kent’s emotive delivery make it a standout moment on the album.”

Lage Lund – Most Peculiar (Criss Cross, releases 11/10/2023).  Sullivan Fortner – piano, Lage Lund – guitar, Matt Brewer – bass, Tyshawn Sorey – drums.

Guitarist Lage Lund (Melissa Aldana, Jimmy Greene) has recorded a set of originals many of which date to a prolific composing period during the early isolation of the COVID pandemic.  For this recording, he reprises the musical relationship he has had with pianist Sullivan Fortner and drummer Tyshawn Sorey with whom he shared a band from 2014 and recorded Terrible Animals (2019).  There is a restless searching quality to much of the music, exemplified, perhaps, in the oddly metered Circus Island.  Recommended.

Michael Weiss – Homage (Cellar Music, released 11/03/2023).  Michael Weiss – piano, Paul Sikivie – bass, Pete Van Nostrand – drums.

Homage, the new release by pianist / composer Michael Weiss (Johnny Griffin, Charles McPherson) is in appreciation for several strong influences of the bandleader.  The Griffin is a jubilant romp to reflect the infectious spirit of tenor giant Johnny Griffin.  We Love Horace has an uplifting groove, laced with a bit of funk to honor Horace Silver.  Bird’s An Oscar For Treadwell, illustrating Weiss’s substantial bebop chops, is dedicated to the pianist’s friend and mentor Barry Harris.  The trio-mates bassist Paul Sikivie (Cecile McLorin Salvant, Aaron Diehl) and drummer Pete Van Nostrand (Bruce Harris, Rob Schneiderman, Will Caviness) combine to make a formidable unit with loads of sympathy as evidenced by Weiss’s Un Petit Quelque Chose.

Dave Brubeck Quartet – Live From The Northwest, 1959 (Brubeck Editions, released 11/03/2023).  Paul Desmond – alto saxophone, Dave Brubeck – piano, Eugene Wright – bass, Joe Morello – drums.

In late April 1959, the Dave Brubeck Quartet recorded a program of covers in a deal with Columbia Records that allowed them to next record a program of originals in June.  The first disc, Gone with The Wind has been largely forgotten in the context of their next release Time Out, one of the greatest jazz records ever made.  This newly discovered early-April 1959 recording has the classic 1958 – 1967 Brubeck Quartet (Desmond – Brubeck – Wright – Morello) performing a program based on their upcoming release of covers.  While all the classic Brubeck Quartet sounds are there (including the ever-lyrical Paul Desmond), a live program based on the upcoming Time Out might have been more interesting.

Art Hirahara – Echo Canyon (Positone Records, released 10/20/2023). Art Hirahara – piano, Boris Kozlov – bass, Rudy Royston – drums / percussion.

This trio, all of whom are band leaders on their own recordings, is central to the sound of Posi-Tone Records, having graced countless releases in support of other artists.  Here they get a chance to show their prowess as a unit and so they do. Adam Sieff wrote on London Jazz News, “One particular favourite is the deftly performed and beguiling Aoi Blu, the title made up of the Japanese and Italian words for the colour blue, reflecting on his heritage and that of his Italian wife Sara and the parallels in the two cultures. Another is the cinematic Mia Bella, again written for his wife, and it’s simply beautiful. The superb musicianship is almost taken for granted, as on this, and throughout the album, Hirahara, Kozlov and Royston sound so comfortable together and play for each composition, with just the right balance of economy with every melodic note in its rightful place.”  A beautiful piano trio recording. 

Atley King – Unconditional (Cellar Music, released 10/20/2023). Brad Turner – flugelhorn, Max Huberdeau – piano, Atley King – vibraphone, David Caballero – bass, Arvind Ramdas – drums.

Young Canadian vibraphonist Atley King has assembled a band of other young Canadian players for a program of eight originals plus Coltrane’s Naima.  This may be a debut recording and one that promises more tasteful music to come.  Of the other players, flugelhorn player Brad Turner (The Magnificent previewed here 10/23/2023) is a highlight.  The program is mostly well-crafted ballads and mid-tempo swingers.

Butcher Brown – Solar Music (Concord Jazz, released 10/03/2023). Tennishu – trumpet / tenor saxophone / vocals / percussion, Keyon Harrold – trumpet, DJ Harrison/Devonne Harris – piano / drum programming / vibraphone / Rhodes / organ / synth / SP404 / CP700 piano / clavinet / baritone guitar / vocals, Morgan Burrs – guitar / MPC / synth, Charlie Hunter – guitar, R4ND4ZZO/Andrew Randazzo – bass / whistle, Corey Fonville – drums / percussion / bongo / MPC / woodblock, Vanisha Gould – vocals, Jay Price – vocals, Julia Shuren – vocals, Pink Siifu – vocals, Akeema-Zane – vocals, Michael Millions – vocals.

Richmond’s Butcher Brown are having quite a run with their latest a tour de force.  Thom Jurek wrote a glowing review on AllMusic, “A year after the delightfully maximal Butcher Brown Presents Triple Trey … in 2022, the Richmond, Virginia-based Butcher Brown return with the 17-track Solar Music, a spacious, warm exploration of grooves in jazz, funk, hip-hop, dance music, neo-soul, and various combinations therein assisted by a bevy of guests…Solar Music is easily the most well-rounded offering from Butcher Brown yet. The band offers an aesthetically pleasing collection of songs with exceptional atmospheric vibes in a wide variety of sophisticated musical settings that showcase growth in composition and arrangement with an inspired performance.”  Enjoy.

Michael Dease – Swing Low (Positone Records, released 09/29/2023).  Ingrid Jensen – trumpet, Altin Sencalar – trombone, Michael Dease – baritone saxophone, Art Hirahara – piano, Boris Kozlov – bass, Rudy Royston – drums.

Trombonist Michael Dease has a surprise for you – his latest features him on baritone sax!  In fact, when you hear the trombone on three cuts, it is played by Altin Sincalar (whose In Good Standing was previewed here on 07/10/2023).  In addition to Dease and Sincalar, Ingrid Jensen ably fills the trumpet seat and the Posi-Tone rhythm section of Hirahara, Kozlov and Royston round out the band.  Make no mistake, this is not a gimmick, Dease can really play the bari sax.  Jim Hynes wrote on Making A Scene, “The standout Just Waiting is from the criminally underappreciated female Black trombonist Melba Liston, who has impeccable history with Dizzy Gillespie, Quincy Jones, and later in her career, Randy Weston. There’s plenty of tension in this ballad too, with its alternating dark and brighter colors, it’s perhaps the best contrast between the two lead instruments in the album… The closing chestnut, Gershwin’s Embraceable You is a feast for lovers of the low-end sound as Dease and Kozlov take it as a duet, proving their instruments can be as melodic as any. The album is another winner for the ever-consistent Dease who certainly sounds like no rookie on the baritone sax.”  Delightful.

Ann Hampton Callaway – Finding Beauty: Originals, Vol. 1 (Shanachie Entertainment, released 09/29/2023).  Christian Jacob – piano / keyboards, John Nelson – piano / keyboards, Jeff Babko – piano / keyboards, Mitchell Forman – melodica, Paul Viapiano – guitar / keyboards, Charlie Bisharat -violin, Cecelia Tsan – cello, Trey Henry – bass / keyboards, Ray Brinker – drums / percussion, Brian Kilgore – percussion, Ann Hampton Callaway – vocals, Jarrett Johnson – background vocals, Niki Haris – background vocals.

Known for pops and standards, this time out Ann Hampton Callaway has put out a program of well-crafted original compositions.

Linley Hamilton – Ginger’s Hollow (Whirlwind Recordings, released 05/26/2023).  Linley Hamilton – trumpet, Derek Doc O’Connor – tenor sax, Cian Boylan – piano / organ, Mark Egan – bass, Adam Nussbaum – drums.

Irish trumpeter Ian Hamilton joins with fellow countrymen tenor saxophonist “Doc” O’Connor and pianist Cian Boylan to form a trans-Atlantic quintet with American bassist Mark Egan and drummer Adam Nussbaum.  The set of originals by Hamilton and Egan (together or individually) is full of irresistible hooks, joyful funk and spirited hard bop.  Ian Patterson wrote on AllAboutJazz, “The quintet opens its account with the post-bop burner Shinebox, while infectious tunes Sunday Morning and Stonky exude the funky, upbeat vibe of summer anthems. The classic quintets of Lee Morgan and Cannonball Adderley could almost have provided the blueprint; memorable unison heads, uncluttered grooves and tasteful embellishments lay the foundation for impassioned soloing from the front-line duo. You can take your pick of Hamilton and O’Connor’s solos, but suffice it to say, both are in excellent form—melodious improvisors of the old school.”  Love this.

I hope you hear something that moves you.

Russell Perry, Jazz at 100 Now!


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