Joshua Redman – Still Dreaming

With this stellar band of Ron Miles, cornet, Scott Colley, bass, and Brian Blade, drums, Redman addresses some of the work of his late father, the saxophonist Dewey Redman. The elder Redman’s early avant-garde works with Ornette Coleman, and, more specifically, the Old and New Dreams quartet provide the base for Still Dreaming, but this is definitely not a repertory ensemble. The music here is fresh and far ranging, relating, as it should, more to the spirit than the actual sound of the earlier material.

Kamasi Washington – Heaven & Earth

Washington’s impact on the music scene since his breakout 2015 recording The Epic, cannot be overstated. Hailing from a lineage of south L. A.’s jazz community, Washington’s boldness of spirit has made him emblematic of a much-needed Black renaissance in jazz. In fact, his appeal goes way beyond the traditional fences that seem to surround the jazz world. People want to love him. This is music for the heart, rather than the head; focusing as a vessel that carries the earlier spiritual explorations of Pharoah Sanders and Alice Coltrane, as well as the heartaches of Black America.

The Manhattan Transfer – The Junction

Originally formed in 1969 by Tim Hauser, The Manhattan Transfer progressed from a gimmiky revivalist vocal quartet into something much smoother and more successful. With tight, precise harmonies and unwavering showmanship, they established a genre that endures to this day. This new release, their first in ten years, showcases newest member Trist Curless, who replaced Hauser in 2015. While the style may be alive and well, some of the material on this release may not bear repeated listening. Still, it is The Manhattan Transfer, and it is 2018.

Daniel Carter, William Parker, Matthew Shipp – Seraphic Light

The three heavyweight improvisers assembled for this 2017 live concert recording have every right to the implicity Coltrane associations that the title may imply. Seraphic refers to the celestial Seraphim, the ninth highest degree of angels. The sublime, time honored connection between William Parker and Matthew Shipp is as close as present-day “jazz” gets to that degree, and the addition of saxophonist Daniel Carter, even heavily embellished with reverb, does nothing to detour the heavenly trajectory.

Joey Alexander – Eclipse

Indonesian prodigy Joey Alexander, who came on the scene, apparently fully formed at the age of twelve, has continued a progression that is satisfying in its authenticity, while still jaw-dropping in its virtuosity. In this, his fourth release, Alexander appears with the first-rate rhythm team of Reuben Rogers on bass and Eric Harland on drums. The brilliant saxophonist Joshua Redman joins on three or four tunes. This artist is no gimmick. Aside from sheer technical skill, his is evolving understanding of harmonic progression brings inventions on a par with Bill Evans, whose ballad, Time Remembered is one of the stand outs of this release. Plus, he’s a real person: kid and genius.

Jamie Baum Sextet – Bridges

Flautist Jamie Baum has been part of the New York scene for years. And, though working just outside of any serious recognition thus far, she has developed as a musician and a composer of considerable note. In her preferred sextet setting, Baum’s compositions are maximized by her astute choice of musicians – especially in the Iraqi-American trumpeter Amin ElSaffar — bringing an unusual, international nuance to her Copeland-esque voicings.

Brad Mehldau – After Bach

Remarkably gifted and accomplished as a jazz pianist, Mehldau need not work too hard to assert his excellence outside the confines of genre labeling. Aside from the depth and originality that we expect from Mehldau — on display here in seven original tunes clearly influenced by Bach — this release includes four preludes and a fugue from JS Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier, as beautifully performed as we would expect. The main departure in this release is Mehldau’s Prayer For Healing, which reveals the pianist’s raw power and complex, hard-lived personality.

Francois Bourassa Quartet – Number 9

The great Montreal-based pianist/composer Francoise Bourassa has been developing a shining reputation and widening audience for years in Canada, yet his good work remains mostly unknown down here, below the border. This ninth release showcases his well-developed quartet in a variety of polished settings. Saxophonist Andre Leroux, in particular, shines through every tune of this 7-song set.

Patrick Zimmerli Quartet – Clockworks

Time is both the concept and the focus of tenor saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli and this impressive ensemble. With the (former Bad Plus) pianist, Ethan Iverson, bassist Chris Tordini, and drummer John Hollenbeck, Zimmerli has assembled the intellect and inclination to investigate the complexities of time within musical structures, from Polyrhythmic Palindrome movements to fractured Boogaloo and compound Waltzes. It’s almost as if you need an advanced degree to understand this music, let alone enjoy it. But here it is. Read the booklet first, then jump in.

Brad Mehldau Trio – Seymour Reads the Constitution

In following his previous release, which focused on the music of JS Bach, Mehldau returns to the familiar trio format that he has all but perfected, but carries the form forward in ways both familiar and progressive. His vocabulary includes creative reworking of pop pieces, in this case, from Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson, along with visits to some jazz standards, but the overarching momentum of his artistry, and that of this trio, is affirming a place that is destined for the top shelf of jazz history.

Nels Cline 4 – Currents, Constellations

Guitarist Nels Cline, whose inventiveness and considerable chops serve him equally in the rock band Wilco, and in the more complex aspects of newer jazz, has invented a brilliant new quartet with another versatile guitarist, Julian Lage, with whom Cline has also recorded incredible duo work. Here, the two are joined by the accomplished bassist Scott Colley, and the fluid drummer Tom Rainy, in a quirky set of Cline originals. This is a guitar lover’s dream project, with Cline and Lage both comfortable and challenged by each other’s genius.