Zigzagger – Takuya Kuroda

The brilliant trumpeter from Kobe, Japan, is one of the more exciting new soul-jazz figures emerging from a resurgence of the legendary Blue Note Records label. His brand-new recording Zizagger further seasons his signature soul-jazz and post-bop sound with liberal elements of hip-hop and contemporary culture. Allmusic.com writes, “Blessed with a warm, robust trumpet sound and a knack for delivering lithe, soulful solos that bring to mind both Roy Hargrove and Hugh Masekela, Kuroda is truly a 21st century performer.”

Concord, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dream in Blue – Sara Gazarek/Josh Nelson

Vocalist Sara Gazarek and pianist Josh Nelson have worked together nearly 15 years by this date, and their relationship has never been stronger than on this album, Dream in the Blue. Taking the better part of two years to tour and develop a diverse repertoire, the duo has taken their collaboration to a new level, showcasing their combined artistic maturation. Featuring reworkings of “Blackbird” and “Bye Bye Blackbird,” “Cello Song” and “Without A Song,” and more, this album is “likely to endure in hearts and minds” (DownBeat).

Steel Bird Music, 2016

Beyond Now – Donny McCaslin

Making waves in mainstream publications with his performance on David Bowie’s Blackstar earlier this year, saxophonist Donny McCaslin hits the shelves with his own record, Beyond Now. Joined by pianist Jason Lindner, bassist Timothy Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana, as well as special guests Jeff Taylor and Nate Wood, McCaslin delivers powerful originals and covers of tracks by Mutemath, deadmau5, and The Chainsmokers. Fittingly, he dedicates the record to Bowie himself, and includes covers of “A Small Plot of Land” and “Warszawa.”

Motema, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Je Dis Oui! – Pink Martini

Pink Martini’s ninth studio album finds the beloved group sonically traversing the world. Je dis oui! features an array of songs – many original – in French, Farsi, Armenian, Portugese, Arabic, Turkish, Xhosa, and English, affirming the band’s two-decade-long history of global inclusivity and collaborative spirit. The latter is particularly apparent on this album, as Pink Martini works with a variety of guests, including NPR’s Ari Shapiro, who sings a new Arabic version of “La Soledad,” from the group’s first album, and singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, who covers the Rodgers & Hart classic “Blue Moon.” Fans should “say yes” to this album, indeed.

Heinz Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Secular Hymns – Madeleine Peyroux

One of the most acclaimed modern female jazz vocalists, Madeleine Peyroux recorded her eighth studio album at the Parish Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in Oxfordshire, England. Backed by guitarist/vocalist Jon Herington and bassist/vocalist Barak Mori, Peyroux covers songs ranging from Allen Toussaint’s “Everything I Do Gonh Be Funky (From Now On),” Tom Waits’ “Tango Til They’re Sore,” Townes Van Zandt’s “The Highway Kind,” and Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Shout Sister Shout.” This beautiful record shows how her “throaty, highly resonant voice” has “only ripened in the decades since her debut” (Allmusic.com).

Verve, 2016

Nearness – Joshua Redman & Brad Mehdau

The longtime friends’ and collaborators’ first duo album, Nearness is a selection of duets recorded live during their recent European tour. Before becoming a bandleader himself, pianist Mehldau was a member of Redman’s quartet in the ‘90s; the pair then reunited in 2010 for Mehldau’s album Highway Rider. The musicians are “among the most potent and influential jazz instrumentalists of their generation,” says the Ottawa Citizen, and they perform “world-class improvising before rapt audiences.”

Nonesuch, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

French Fries + Champagne – The Hot Sardines

One of the most delightfully energetic bands on New York’s ‘hot’ music scene” (DownBeat), The Hot Sardines release a down-and-dirty, effervescent record of covers and originals, including a collaboration with Alan Cumming, who sings on “When I Get Low, I Get High,” a hit popularized by Ella Fitzgerald. Evoking New York speakeasies, Parisian cabarets, and New Orleans jazz halls, French Fries & Champagne is a thoroughly enjoyable album of hot arrangements from this celebrated group.

Decca, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Upward Spiral – Branford Marsalis Quartet

The bold saxophonist/bandleader/composer, along with pianist Joey Calderazzo, bassist Eric Revis, and drummer Justin Faulkner – an incredibly strong unit in and of itself – joins forces with one of today’s top jazz vocalists on their latest record, Upward Spiral. “He has the most flexible voice around, is always in tune and is a true jazz musician,” Marsalis says of Kurt Elling. Elling, the Grammy-winning vocalist, lends his warm, versatile voice to the record, which is one of beautiful collaboration between vocalist and instrumentalist.

Okeh, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sunday Night at the Vanguard – Fred Hersch Trio

The eight-time Grammy nominee jazz pianist/composer seems to always surpass expectations with each recording. When he’s alongside bassist John Hebert and drummer Eric McPherson – an ensemble that’s earned critical acclaim with each recording – Hersch is unstoppable in his ability to unfold a dramatic, beautiful musical narrative. Recorded at the venue that’s become like his second home, Sunday Night finds the trio playful, lyrical, rhythmic, and exploratory, all with a certain level of trust and poise.

Palmetto Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Milt Jackson & Ray Brown – Norman Granz Jazz in Montreux presents Milt Jackson and Ray Brown ’77

Of all the vibists in jazz – and there have been a number who have played with much elan, swing, and ingenuity – none has equaled Milt Jackson for his combination of blues-rooted emotional directness and simultaneous lyrical, relaxed, graceful phrasing.” –Nat Hentoff, June 2004

DVD

The New Breed – Jeff Parker

Multi-instrumentalist and a pillar of Chicago jazz and experimental music scene, Jeff Parker has been through many iterations as sideman, companion, and leader; each project he touches he helps bring to life with creativity and motion. On New Breed, a title taken from a clothing store owned by Parker’s late father, the musician finds himself in a funkier, soulful sphere, rooted in jazz and funk with some experimental beats. “The whole time I was working toward trying to fuse all my interests in a recording,” he told Aquarium Drunkard. “It’s a record I always wanted to make.”

International Anthem Recording Co., 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Plays Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite – Slavic Soul Party

For the raucous party band that they are, Slavic Soul Party has conceived and executed a more-than-credible covering of one of Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington’s most distinctive, and prescient, creative projects. This Far East Suite has its own distinctive flavor, but SSP brings considerable musical talent to bear on clever, and even poignant arrangements, once again creating a recording that brings the jazz canon into new territory. As it should.

Ropeadope, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Classic! Live at Newport – Joe Lovano Quartet

His 25th album on Blue Note, saxophonist Joe Lovano’s Classic was recorded at the Newport Festival in 2005 and released on the eve of the 2016 festival (at which he performed with John Scofield). Featuring the late Hank Jones on piano, George Mraz on bass, and Lewis Nash on drums, the album is of typical Lovano magic, and includes melodies and rhythms that made All About Jazz declare, “If your foot isn’t tapping, your body isn’t moving, and your head isn’t bobbing along…you may be suffering from some form of paralysis.”

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Harlem On My Mind – Catherine Russell

New York jazz vocalist Russell pays tribute to the Golden Age of Harlem jazz, celebrating the legacies of Ethel Waters, Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Dinah Washington, as well as iconic compositions of Benny Carter, Fats Waller, and Irving Berlin. The 12-song record swings with soulful interpretations, befitting the daughter of jazz musicians. “My mother was born and raised in Harlem, and my father led one of the leading orchestra in Harlem, which was part of the inspiration for this album,” she told DownBeat. “It’s about not forgetting your roots.”

Jazz Village, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Expansions Live – Dave Liebman Group

Soprano saxophone master, David Liebman, has never been content to rest on the laurels of his important side-man contributions to the Miles Davis “electric” period. This two-disc set has him in the company of a stunning new ensemble of players, taking whole new harmonic approaches to some familiar, and some not familiar, musical statements for both acoustic and electric live performance. Three of the acoustic pieces were recorded live at the Earshot Jazz Festival event at Cornish College of the Arts.

2 CDs
Whaling City Sound, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live in Sant’anna Arresi, 2004 – David S. Ware & Matthew Shipp

The late tenor sax titan David S Ware always had one of the most distinctive sounds of New York’s Black avant-garde, and this beautifully recorded live concert captures it at its full glory. Ware seems absolutely at ease, and perfectly in synch with his long-time collaborator, pianist Matthew Shipp, who is another prolific modern master. The music is adventurous, but so passionately performed and beautifully recorded that it can speak to any listener.

AUM Fidelity, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

The Westerlies – The Westerlies

While it is not unusual for the New York jazz world to be impressed by the young talent coming out of Seattle, the charming and virtuosic brass quarter, The Westerlies, have taken the equation to a whole new level. This second Westerlies release is a beautifully presented two-disco offering of mostly original compositions, with the only “covers” being, tellingly, Duke Ellington and Charles Ives. It is pristine, engaging, virtuosic, and utterly charming music for two trumpets and two trombones.

2 CDs
Songlines, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Atomospheres – Tigran Hamasyn, Arv Henriksen, Eivind Aarset, Jan Bang

The Atmospheres created by these four European masters are quiet, spacious, and absolutely gorgeous. The younger of the four, Armenian pianist Tigran, brings a churning but elegant energy under the pristine trumpet work of Arve Henriksen and the live sampling of Jan Bang. Almost like a pointalist painting of a serene setting; the overall image is so pleasing that one doesn’t realize how much is going on inside it.

Steve Lehman & Selebeyone – Steve Lehman & Selebeyone

This exciting release represents a bold new direction for the blazing genius of alto saxophonist Steve Lehman. In the Wolof language of Senegal, Sélébéyone, represents a confluence, or coming together. This new project brings Lehman into partnership with the French saxophonist/producer, Maciek Lasserre; and allows the already fluid elements of hard-driving post-bop jazz, Senegalese rap, and avant-global electronics, to flow together into a whole new vocabulary for music.

Pi Recordings, 2003
Notes by John Gilbreath

Countdown – Joey Alexander

Here is one of the most astounding prodigies to ever come along. Joey was just 12 when this recording was made. Never mind that his technique and mechanical skills are top level, it is the maturity with which he understands and expresses music that are most impressive. This date features originals and standards, recorded with some of the top artists of the day, mostly in a jazz trio setting, with the exception of a guest appearance by saxophonist Chris Potter. Absolutely amazing.

Motema Music, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dark Territory – Dave Douglas

The mid-20-teens have been an incredibly productive time Dave Douglas. The respected trumpeter, a prodigy in his early years, has remained a pioneer of musical expression, and has become a mentor to new generations; moving fluidly between styles as diverse as shape-note-singing, straight-up jazz, and this example of explorations of down-tempo beats with dark electronic coloring. His “High Risk” ensemble is anchored and propelled by the drummer Mark Guilliana, who also helped to define David Bowie’s last release.

Greenleaf, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Stranger Days – Adam O’Farrill

This debut recording as a leader from the old-soul-in-a-young-body trumpeter, Adam O’Farrill, grandson of the great Chico O’Farrill, seems to be more of a continuation than a debut. The recording title alludes to Albert Camus, and the music is more inspired by Charles Mingus than any Latin Jazz master. This stuff is deep, dark, and inspiring.

Sunnyside, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Wanderlust – Allison Adams Tucker

In the company of a stellar lineup of New York heavy-hitters, including Chris Potter, Antonio Sanchez, and Scott Colley, the vocalist Allison Adams Tucker offers musical impressions of her travels, delivered in six languages, and overseen by award-winning producer, Matt Pierson. It’d be tough to go wrong with support like that, and Adams steps right up with assured pitch and delivery on a distinctive selection of tunes. On Seattle’s Origin record label.

Origin Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Second Impression – Eric Alexander

Known as one of the most solid tenor saxophonists on the main-stream jazz scene, Alexander should also be given credit for keeping the talents of be-bop masters like the pianist Harold Mabern and bassist Bob Cranshaw in the spotlight. He brings his muscular, post-Coltrane attack to bear on a couple of jazz standards, and some original works, so well delivered that they sound like standards.

Highnote, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Declaration of Musical Independence – Andrew Cyrille Quartet

The drummer Andrew Cyrille has been a long-time stalwart of New York’s black avant-garde, known for important work with some of the legends of the form. Always a modern thinker, he has formed and recorded a brand new quartet here with artists other than the “usual suspects;” including the bassist Ben Street, the rarely heard pianist Richard Tittlebaum, and the globally loved, Seattle resident guitarist Bill Frisell. The music is spacious and inventive, and, like all ECM recordings, beautifully presented.

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Frogtown – Anthony Wilson

Long known more as a capable and inventive guitarist – and the son of the cherished big band composer Gerald Wilson – than a vocalist, Wilson has assembled a fascinating group of musicians for a pretty fascinating collection of songs, which he delivers in a pleasant, warmly reedy tone. One of the surprises of the group is Petra Haden — one of the triplet daughters of the late bassist Charlie Haden — who is also becoming well known as a vocalist, but who plays violin on Frogtown, for the most part. Interesting

Goat Hill Recordings, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Peggy Lee & Benny Goodman: the Complete Recordings 1941-1947

Although the whole collection ranges across six years, 32 of the 35 cuts on this two-CD set were recorded within a year of Peggy Lee‘s joining Benny Goodman‘s band, and the vast majority within a six month period through the winter of 1942. It is possible during that span to hear Lee evolve from a competent but scarcely confident vocalist (“Elmer’s Tune”) into a bold interpreter, equally adept at blues (“Blues in the Night”), ballads (“When the Roses Bloom Again”), rhythm numbers (“My Little Cousin,” “I Threw a Kiss in the Ocean”), and everything in between. Aside from an improvement in sound over 1993’s Best of the Big Bands: Benny Goodman Featuring Peggy Lee, the real beauty here is in the material that wasn’t on that earlier disc, most notably the small-group sides “Where or When” (perhaps the most beautiful rendition of that song ever cut), “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” and “Blues in the Night,” the latter one of Lee‘s earliest blues numbers.” –All Music

Columbia Legacy, 1999

Exploring Mars – Josh Nelson

Pianist Josh Nelson brings his own person fascination with our planetary neighbor to fore with Exploring Mars, a science fiction/science fact/jazz follow-up to his Discoveries…Nelson opens with “Bradbury’s Spirit,” a reading from Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, describing the music of the Red Planet—strange and beautiful and unbidden sounds invading the art of Martian musicians and singers, featuring a spare and “silvery” accompaniment by guitarist Larry Koonse….(Later tracks include) otherworldly tints imbued in no small part by the use of the EVI (Electronic Valve Instrument) of John Daversa.” –allaboutjazz.com

Origin Records, 2016

In My Room – Jacob Collier

Though the young Londoner seems at times able to redefine precociousness for the digital age, the outcomes are generally so charming and engaging that one easily forgets whatever criticism may have just been cooked up in the mind. Now under the wing of Quincy Jones, Collier seems destined for great things. This is a chance to get in on the ground floor.

Membran, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Los Guachos V – Guillermo Klein

The Argentinian composer/pianist is respected for his sophistical harmonic structures and seamless arrangements. With V, coming now some 20 years after the first convening of the incredible Los Gauchos ensemble, he has reached a point where the music is so engaging, and the individual musicians so masterful and astutely interwoven, that one can’t tell the differences between the improvised and through composed passages. Klein’s subtle mastery becomes more clear with each listen.

Sunnyside, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Throttle Elevator Music IV – Throttle Elevator Music

Cross Coltrane with The Clash and it would resemble the departure point for this adventurous leap. The much-praised Washington joins with stalwarts of the “Wide-Hive players,” Matt Montgomery and Gregory Howe, along with punk drummer/guitarist Mike Hughes, to raise the bar of this new tradition with 16 original compositions, ranging from 45-second punk flurries to full-out cosmic explorations. Inventive to the maximum.

Wide Hive, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Chemistry – Houston Person & Ron Carter

Here are two seasoned masters – saxophonist Person, 81, and bassist Carter, 79, at this recording — delivering a timeless collection of jazz standards, wrapped only in the warmth of their burnished tones. While working in a paired down duo format like this, with no net, might be daunting for younger musicians, these two work with such assured grace that the listener couldn’t even imagine a fall.

Highnote, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

John Beasley Presents Monk’estra Vol. 1 – John Beasely

As far as the project goes, the title says it all. But, as for potential, the music speaks volumes for itself. Yes, the big-band brashness can be a bit at odds with the quirky funk of Monk, but Beasley wisely comes behind any screech with some well-placed skronk. This is an incredible band playing great arrangements. I can see Monk spinning in circles next to the piano with this one.

Mack Ave, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Meeting of the Waters

Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra – The Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra features some of the top jazz musicians and arrangers in the Pacific Northwest, primarily focusing on original music written for the band. The tight harmonies of the ensembles and strong soloists are key ingredients to their success. This is not strictly an all-female band like Diva, as drummer Jeremy Jones and lead trumpeter Dennis Haldane are regular members and there are several male guests in the trumpet section. Musical director Daniel Barry contributed several charts and guests on his “Encontro das Águas (Meeting of the Waters).” Hazel Leach wrote the powerful, complex ballad “Self Portrait,” which features a moving vocal by Greta Matassa, and the perky “The Tulip Wonder,” which showcases trombonist Jennifer Kellogg.”—allmusic.com

OA2 Records, 2007

Moxie – Jessica Jones Quartet

Moxie is both an extension of tenor saxophonist Jessica Jones’ previous work and a glimpse back to an earlier point in her career: she continues to explore the possibilities inherent in a piano-less quartet with a two-tenor front line while reuniting with a rhythm duo that she worked with in the ’80s—bassist Stomu Takeishi and drummer Kenny Wolleson. The music that she makes here, with that team and fellow tenor/husband Tony Jones, is predictably unpredictable, grounded yet far-reaching, and irresistibly intriguing in its unfolding.” –All About Jazz

New Artists, 2015

True Stories – The Rippingtons

The Grammy-nominated contemporary jazz band celebrates its 30th anniversary with the release of True Stories, their 22nd album. Recorded over an intensive three-month span, the album is a refreshing compilation sure to please established fans and attract new ones. Joined by original member, saxophonist Brandon Fields, drummer Dave Karasony, bassist and Rhodes player Rico Belled, and special guest Jeffrey Osborne, founder/guitarist Russ Freeman orchestrates 10 compelling original tracks.

Entertainment One, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

Kneedelus – Kneebody + Daedelus

Considered an instrumental “mind-meld,” the complex collaboration of Kneebody and Daedelus is a spiraling electro-jazz-rock fusion that has scorched in the indie music scenes up and down the West Coast. Filled with deft synth beats, at-times dizzying percussion, and sensual horns, the 10-track Kneedelus is an album that moves the listener – a cross-genre experience that opens the doors for many more real/virtual mash-ups.

P&C Brainfeeder, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

Super Petite – The Claudia Quintet

A collection of musical vignettes, of sort, Super Petite is the new release from New York drummer/composer John Hollenbeck and his Claudia Quintet (Chris Speed, sax; Matt Moran, vibes; Red Wierenga, accordion; Drew Gress, bass). Featuring notably short compositions, this record (the group’s eighth) explores the dichotomy between brevity and complexity. Taking its name from a friend of the quintet’s, Super Petite contains 10 original compositions filled with the wit and virtuosity listeners have come to expect from this group.

Cuneiform Records, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

Everything’s Beautiful – Miles Davis & Robert Glaspar

A remix project for the award-winning pianist, Robert Glasper was given access to Sony’s Miles Davis catalogue to revamp and extend the jazz icon’s legacy. Bringing Davis’ innovative and unpredictable spirit into the 21st century, Glasper invites heavyweights including Erykah Badu, Stevie Wonder, and John Scofield, as well as up-and-comers like Hiatus Kaiyote and L.A. trio King, to collaborate in creative reinvention. With textures of R&B, rap, future-soul, funk, Latin, and more, Everything’s Beautiful is just the Davis tribute we need. As Glasper noted, “Miles didn’t have one audience…his music traveled.”

Sony, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

Leslie Odom Jr. – Leslie Odom Jr.

After taking Broadway by storm in Hamilton, the Tony Award-winning star makes his debut as a jazz singer with his self-titled album. Staying close to home, Leslie Odom Jr. features a collection of jazz and Broadway classics, including soulful, R&B-inspired tracks like “Autumn Leaves,” “Cheer-Up Charlie,” and “The Party’s Over.” His smooth voice glides effortlessly through each track, proving that he is “not throwing away [his] shot” as a recording artist.

S-Curve Records, 2014

Notes by John Gilbreath

Soul Eyes – Kandace Springs

Young artist Kandace Springs releases her debut album Soul Eyes, which touches upon soul and pop while channeling her jazz influences as well as her Nashville upbringing. The singer, songwriter, and pianist counts such stylists as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Roberta Flack, and Norah Jones as her heroes, yet she has a sound all her own; her warm alto effortlessly delivers an amalgam of soul, jazz, and pop tracks on this record, produced by Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein (Melody Gardot, Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock).

Blue Note, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

American Tunes – Allen Toussaint

Though the beloved musician, songwriter, and arranger passed away in the fall of ‘15, Allen Toussaint has left a posthumous album filled with his distinctive style: American Tunes is a collection of standards, repurposed with the New Orleans legend’s elegance and energy. Bringing special guests including Bill Frisell, Charles Lloyd, and Rhiannon Giddens into collaboration, Toussaint swings through tunes by Fats Waller, Billy Strayhorn, Duke Ellington, and more, as well as his own “Southern Nights.” It’s a wonderful tribute to the American popular song, and a nearly perfect parting gift.

Nonesuch, 2016

Notes by John Gilbreath

While Strolling Through the Park – Nancy Erickson

Erickson is a Seattle native who has managed to surround herself with the Origin Arts musician stable and other Northwest Coast stalwarts. She beautifully duets with bassist/vocalists Clipper Anderson on “I Just Dropped by to Say Hello,”…Top notch takes on “Perdido” (at deliberate tempo…slowly revealing the genius of Juan Tizol) and a rocking-rapid “That Old Black Magic.” Erickson is smart in her song choice and arrangements.” –All About Jazz

Vital Flame, 2016

Rare Django – Django Reinhardt

Very early recordings of Django Reinhardt (banjo, guitar), working as an accompanist in Paris from 1928 to 1938, playing with a variety of vocalists and orchestras. (Some recordings are previously unissued.) Many of the recordings include his brother Joseph (guitar) and Stephane Grappelli (violin). –liner notes

DRG Records, 1990

Habana Dreams – Pedrito Martinez Group

Cuban-born, New York-based percussionist Pedrito Martinez and his group release the follow up to their 2013 self-titled, Grammy-nominated debut. Habana Dreams pushes forward the gorup’s cutting-edge sound with some of the biggest names in Latin music: Rubén Blades, Descemer Bueno, and Issac Delgado. Recorded in both Cuba and New York, the album sees a return to Martinez’s Afro-Cuban roots, and showcases the group’s impressive range, from contemplative ballads to electrifying rumbas, while his magnetic personality and dynamic musicianship shine throughout.

Motema, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

 

Americana – JD Allen

The New York tenor saxophonist and DownBeat Critics Poll Winner, hailed by the New York Times as having an “enigmatic, elegant and hard-driving style,” has released his latest album with one goal: “To become a better musician.” “Learning how to compose and convincingly play a blues feel is learning how to humanize an inanimate object or a stream of notes,” he says. “The blues is the gateway to the past and future of American music; the well from which gospel, jazz, rock, country, rhythm & blues and hip hop are drawn.” Performing alongside bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, Allen delivers a “blend of emotive intensity balanced by workman-like diligence” (All About Jazz).

Savant, 2016

Sound of Red – Marie Rene

An album that attempts to cover the spectrum of human emotion, Marie’s Sound of Red indeed runs the gamut of joy, nostalgia, innocence, and feeling lost. The vocalist leans toward the theatrical in certain spots, but never oversells it, maintaining a sense of authenticity and relatability. She’s a clever lyricist with the vocal chops to impress many a listener. As John McDonough says in DownBeat, “There are many fine singers out there these days, and Marie is one of the best.”

Motema, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

 

Birdwatching – Anat Fort Trio

On her third record on ECM, Anat Fort invites special guest, the Italian Gianluigi Trovesi, on clarinet, alongside her steadfast trio companions Gary Wang on bass and Roland Schneider on drums. Birdwatching is a lively and bright outing, with the Israeli pianist’s improvised solos interspersing quartet music, and Trovesi’s presence elevating the musicianship to “an alert sense of joy in the playing,” says DownBeat.

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

 

Land of Gold – Anoushka Shankar

A daughter of musical royalty, Anoushka Shankar delivers a compelling, evocative, gorgeous sonic journey on her latest album, inspired by the humanitarian plight of refugees. With her compositions, Shankar evokes shades of aggression, anger, and tenderness, while incorporating elements of classical minimalism, jazz, electronica, and Indian classical styles. Featuring the likes of M.I.A., Vanessa Redgrave, Alev Lenz, and Girls for Equality children’s choir, Land of Gold is a diverse, spiritual, emotional journey indeed.

Deutsche Grammophon, 2014
Notes by John Gilbreath

 

Take Me to the Alley – Gregory Porter

Since his debut in 2010, Gregory Porter has become a celebrated jazz singer-songwriter, going on to win the 2014 Grammy for Best Vocal Jazz Album with his stunner Liquid Spirit. His first release since then, Take Me to the Alley highlights the soulful singer’s versatility and emotion, particularly on the singles “Holding On” and “Don’t Lose Your Steam.” This is a must for any modern vocal jazz lover’s collection.

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

 

Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny – Cuong Vu and Pat Metheny

The Grammy Award-winning guitarist/composer/bandleader finds himself accompanied by a trio led by onetime Pat Metheny Group trumpeter, Cuong Vu, now a Seattle resident and UW jazz professor. Vu, with bassist Stomu Takeishi and fellow Seattle resident Ted Poor on drums, join Metheny on this record that is comprised of five tunes written by the trumpeter, and one each from the bandleader and Andrew D’Angelo. “This project is something that Cuong and I have talked about doing for years,” says Metheny. “For as much as I loved what Cuong has brought to my bands along the way, I always wondered what it would be like to join his group for a project, to see what I might be able to offer those guys.” And the result is worthwhile.

Nonesuch, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

 

Quiver – Ralph Alessi

Following a remarkable ECM debut with 2013’s Baida, trumpeter Ralph Alessi releases Quiver, a thoughtful, immaculate record. Teaming with pianist Gary Versace and Alessi’ longtime rhythm section of choice – bassist Drew Gress and drummer Nasheet Waits – Quiver is an impressive follow-up complete with quick melodies, subtle rhythms, and moody lyricism. The 10-track album is all original Alessi compositions; in particular, his tone is clear and decisive on “I to I” and the title track.

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Written in the Rocks – Renee Rosnes

DownBeat magazine has already declared Renee Rosnes’ latest album “an exceptional achievement.” With a band of Steve Wilson (saxophones, flute), Steve Nelson (vibraphone), Peter Washington (bass), and Bill Stewart (drums) backing the pianist/composer, Rosnes is at her most fluid, vibrant, and natural musical self on Written in the Rocks. Inspired by the natural surroundings of her native British Columbia, Rosnes composed each track about our planet’s evolution – “a stimulating concept and one brimming with possibilities,” she says.

Smoke Sessions, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

New Direction – Herlin Riley

New Orleans native Herlin Riley emerged from a bloodline of drummers during the creative area of all things rhythm in the late 70s and early 80s, to join such ensembles of pianist Ahmad Jamal and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. A musician with an authoritative style of melodic percussion, Riley enhances every creative effort of which he’s a part. With the release of his Mack Avenue debut, the drummer joyously delivers his lifetime of experience into each song, infusing the New Orleans style with Afro-Cuban, jazz, and blues. “Everything on this record is something I’ve lived,” says Riley. “It’s my life.”

Mack Avenue, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Tenderly – Stacey Kent

Vocalist Stacey Kent – a “tender” cross between cabaret and jazz – draws from the Great American Songbook on her debut for Okeh Records. Backed by Jim Tomlinson on tenor sax and flute, Roberto Menescal on guitar, and Jeremy Brown on bass, Kent delivers beautifully languorous, fluid interpretations of songs including “The Very Thought of You,” “If I Had You,” and, of course, the title track. Tenderly is a nice, intimate showcase of Kent’s vocal talents.

Sony, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

What Was Said – Tord Gustavsen

Well known for the majestically slow tempos of his early recordings, Norwegian pianist/composer Gustavsen broadens his musical palette on this latest record for ECM. Featuring longtime collaborator Jarle Vespestad, on drums, and introducing German-Afghan vocalist Simin Tander, What was said explores the tradition of Norwegian church music in untraditional ways: “For the repertoire of the new project, Simin and I have been working with Afghan poet B. Hamsaaya, translating and shaping a selection of hymns that I grew up with in Norway into Pashto,” Gustavsen explains. “This process has been challenging and really fruitful.” Tander also sings, in English, verse of Persian mystic Rumi and Beat poet Kenneth Rexroth. What was said is simply a beautiful, lyrical, and introspective, and sure to grab any listener.

ECM, 2016

Livin’ On A High Note – Mavis Staples

Beloved R&B/gospel singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staples has teamed up with an A-list roster of modern songwriters to release Livin’ On a High Note. Opening with “Take Us Back,” Staples proclaims, “I’m working on me…/I’ve got friends and I’ve got family/ I’ve got help from all the people who love me.” And help she certainly does have, from artists like M. Ward, Nick Cave, Justin Vernon, Merrill Garbus, and Neko Case. “I told the writers I was looking for some joyful songs,” the 79-year-old says. “I wanted to stretch out and sing some songs that were new.” The album sees a variety of tunes, from the refreshing, upbeat “High Note” to the more activist-oriented “Action.” Fans of Staples will truly enjoy hearing her stretch her wings on these tracks.

ANTI, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Distance – Michael Formanek

Bassist/composer Formanek leads an 18-piece band through his adventurous, skilled, and cinematic compositions, each with influences of Ornette Coleman, Henry Threadgill, Charles Mingus, and more. Formanek wrote parts for the specific musicians in this truly colossal ensemble of top-notch artists: Loren Stillman (alto saxophone); Oscar Noriega (alto sax/ clarinet, bass clarinet); Chris Speed (tenor sax, clarinet); Brian Settles (tenor sax, flute); Tim Berne (baritone sax); trumpeters Dave Ballou, Ralph Alessi, Shane Endsley, and Kirk Knuffke (cornet); trombonists Alan Ferber, Jacob Garchik, Ben Gerstein, and Jeff Nelson (bass trombone, contrabass trombone); Patricia Brennan (marimba); Mary Halvorson (guitar); Kris Davis (piano); Tomas Fujiwara (drums); and conductor Mark Helias. If that’s not an ensemble of the 21st century, then what is?

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Trying To Figure It Out – Grace Kelly

Seven albums and 11 years since she released her debut Dreaming at the age of 12, saxophonist/singer/songwriter Grace Kelly releases Trying to Figure It Out, an album on which she explores, in her words, “the world of jazz and beyond.” Expanding on her longstanding interest in genre-bending, while maintaining a foundation of jazz, Kelly shifts her approach from acoustic, conventional jazz to more contemporary production values on her latest record. The frequent DownBeat critics’ poll winner has collaborated with contemporary “stars” like Jon Batiste, and learned from masters like Frank Morgan, Lee Konitz, and Phil Woods. Not yet 25 here, she showcases the on-going evolution of her restless artistic spirit on this album.

PAZZ, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

This Is Not A Miracle – Food

The British/Norwegian duo of Iain Ballamy (saxophones, electronics) and Thomas Strønen (drums, electronics, percussion, Moog, Fender Rhodes) – team up once again with Austrian guitarist/electronics artist Christian Fennesz on this album of powerful grooves, evocative textures, and exploratory improvisation. It’s a hypnotic, exotic recording, with references to the Middle East and Africa, DownBeat magazine notes, the soundscape evoking “a desert wind of synthesized howl and holler, as on the eerie ‘Exposed To Frost’….Food walks a fine line between tension and excitement.”

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Book of Intuition – Kenny Barron Trio

NEA Jazz Master pianist Kenny Barron teams up with his veteran trio of Kiyoshi Kitagawa on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums on a long-awaited recorded outing that highlights the group’s mastered interplay. Filled with technical chops and high energy, Book of Intuition is a collection of swinging and bopping originals, as well as grooving covers, including two Monk pieces: “Shuffle Boil” and “Light Blue.” Barron’s piano solo on the latter is simply (as one would expect) masterful.

Verve, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Sharp Nine Sessions – John Stowell, Brian Cunningham

John Stowell, Brian Cunningham – “The culmination of three days of recording over the past two years…The Jazz Project’s affiliation with the featured performers, guitarist John Stowell and Brian Cunningham, spans more than 20 years.” –liner notes

The Jazz Project, 2013

Blue Serenade – Brian Cunningham Quartet

Brian Cunningham Quartet – “Blue Serenade is Brian Cunningham’s third recording as composer and leader. While his last quartet CD paired two guitars, this one brings fresh new voices to his original compositions with saxophonist Josh Cook, Tom Anastasio on bass, and Jud Sherwood on drums.” –JazzProject.

The Jazz Project, 2012

Jimmy Heath: the Endless Search – Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

After a guest spot with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 2001, longtime sax player Jimmy Heath went back to work at Queens College. Letting a few years pass, the SRJO came back with a commission — an attempt to create new music for the older structured form of big-band jazz. The result was a three-part tour de force of harmony that manages to showcase the formidable horns of Seattle individually without simply resorting to solos. Along with the outstanding set from (and featuring) Heath, the album throws in a bonus with live recordings of “Haitian Love Song” (which uses the deeper horns incredibly) and “Creole Love Song” (which brings the big-band aesthetic back to its roots, but uses Ellington‘s composition to highlight individuals yet again). There’s a smoothness to any big-band recording, but the SRJO, especially with Heath at the compositional helm, falls into the realm of Tadd Dameron more than Lawrence Welk. This is outstanding music with a bevy of fine musicians behind it.” –AllMusic

Origin, 2010

Mette Henriette – Mette Henriette

(2 CDs) – The young Norwegian saxophonist/composer delivers a contemplative, gentle, and fascinating two-disc debut album. The production is simply wonderful and engaging, as The Guardian notes the record “often catches the moistness and crackle of her sax-reed” and “sounds not unlike an insect buzzing in the sun…gong-like piano repetitions that draw the saxophonist out of hiding.” Though the record “may be an acquired taste for some,” Henriette “is a contemporary-music star on the rise.”

ECM, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Arclight – Julian Lage

The phenomenal jazz guitarist/composer has a seemingly relentless recording stamina, having just released the well-received World’s Fair last year and the beautiful ROOM with Nels Cline the year before, all amidst touring and sideman appearances. Though a veteran of sorts, he is still young, having first appeared as the subject of a film at age 8. Now, with Arclight, Lage makes his Mack Avenue debut, and presents his first recorded outing on electric guitar and in a trio format, backed by double bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Produced by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jesse Harris, the album is thoughtful, well-paced, and subtly dazzling. Standout tracks include the gorgeous “Nocturne,” as well as the bluesy album closer “Ryland.”

Mack Avenue, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Energies of Change – David Gilmore

The “multifaceted guitarist” demonstrates on his new record that he is “a thoughtful composer and ambitious performer” (DownBeat). Add to that now “bandleader,” as he simply commands on Energies of Change, his fourth release. Compositionally, Gilmore offers seven original tunes out of the nine on the record. The title track “opens the album with broad, flowing strokes” and “sets the stage for pensive alto saxophone and bass clarinet solos by reedist Marcus Strickland and extended explorations by Gilmore and pianist Luis Perdomo.” The remaining two tracks, including Wayne Shorter’s “Over Shadow Hill Way,” are equally captivating.

Evolutionary Music, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Restless Idealism – Roxy Coss

The Seattle saxophonist’s sophomore effort, from Seattle’s Origin Records, proves that she is “an exceptional young talent among millennial jazz musicians” (DownBeat). Coss, a cross-country transplant who now resides in New York, performs 10 originals, in a grooving post-bop, on Restless Idealism, focusing in large part on demonstrating her “impeccable technique” and “brawny tone.” With a backing band including pianist Chris Pattishall, guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer Willie Jones III, and guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Coss is in good company to take on dense, unpredictable melodies and showcase her “strong lyricism and piercing intellect.”

Origin Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Return of the East West Trumpet Summit – Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott

Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott – After hitting #1 on the jazz charts with their 2010 release East-West Trumpet Summit, Vega and Marriott have returned to the studio, joined this time by Portlander George Colligan on B3 organ and Seattleite Matt Jorgensen on drums, to explore a collection of originals, standards, and jazz classics, including Wayne Shorter’s “United,” Lee Morgan’s “Totem Pole,” and Curtis Fuller’s “The Egyptian.” It’s a collaboration that International Trumpet Guild says is “brimming with creative imagination, technical fluency, and a deep respect for the jazz tradition.”

Origin, 2016

Into The Silence – Avishai Cohen

The Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s latest album (his first as a leader for ECM) is a tribute to his father, who passed away in 2014. The compositions on Into the Silence (a JazzTimes Editor’s Pick) reflect the album title: they’re introspective, contemplative, and beautiful. Working with pianist Yonathan Avishai, drummer Nasheet Waits, bassist Eric Revis, and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, Cohen produces a lush, at times soaring, sound on this record, honoring his late father, and the musical legacy that includes his sister, the noted clarinetist Anat Cohen.

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

At This Time – Steve Kuhn Trio

The master pianist/composer/bandleader releases At This Time… with a contemporary, bassist Steve Swallow, and an important innovator of a later generation, drummer Joey Baron. Kuhn has an illustrious career having worked with some of the most important voices of his generation: John Coltrane, Sheila Jordan, and Kenny Dorham. But it is his work as bandleader of smaller groups, particularly the trio, where he has made his name. Swallow, an important figure on both acoustic and electric bass, and Baron, who has cemented himself as one of the most well rounded musicians, join Kuhn on this timeless, inspired outing featuring a solid mix of standards and a few originals.

Sunnyside, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sarabande – Fred Hersch, Charlie Haden, & Joey Baron

Recorded 30 years ago, Sunnyside Records issues a re-master of this outing of pianist Fred Hersch, drummer Joey Baron, and the late legend Charlie Haden on bass. Sarabande is lyrical yet thrilling, with each track standing the test of time: three Tin Pan Alley classics, standards each from Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and Jimmy Rowles, and three Hersch originals, including the sumptuous waltz that is the title track. Wistfully, the pianist writes in the liner notes, “Though – unfortunately – this trio never played a live gig after the recording, I felt like the three of us danced through the music together in a very special way.”

Sunnyside, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Emily’s D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

The great Wayne Shorter once said, “We should use the best of the past like a flashlight into the future.” In an interview with NPR, the remarkable bassist/singer Spalding reveals that she used this quote as a talisman in creating her ambitious, emboldened record Emily’s D+Evolution, a project three years in the making. Crafting an alter ego from the middle name she went by as a child, she says, “Emily is exploring these ways of performing and means of expression that I was curious about as a kid.” Many genre elements are at play to create a theatrical experience. The curtain opens on the playfully dissonant rocker “Good Lava,” and the act is carried through on thoughtfully composed and intricate tracks. With this record, the Grammy Award-winner/revolutionizer solidifies her status as a force in modern jazz.

Concord, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dreamcatcher – Seattle Women’s Jazz Orchestra

The album was recorded from February-August ’03 at four venues, including an appearance at the XIII Festival Jazz in Lima, Peru (track 10). Five tracks (1-4, 11) were taped in a studio, the others at the Tacoma Jazz Festival or Seattle’s Jazz Alley. In every case, SWOJO is squarely on top of its game, carefully burnishing every chart to lay bare its inherent radiance and charm… As Dreamcatcher suggests, SWOJO is a remarkably impressive ensemble, one whose energy and talent assuredly point toward a bright and productive future.” (Jack Bowers – All About Jazz)

OA2 Records, 2004

Two of a Mind – Paul Desmond and Gerry Mulligan

Altoist Paul Desmond and baritonist Gerry Mulligan always made for a perfect team during their infrequent collaborations. Both of the saxophonists had immediately distinctive light tones, strong wits, and the ability to improvise melodically. Here the two masterful reed players are featured in piano-less quartets that also include Wendell Marshall, Joe Benjamin or John Beal on bass, and Connie Kay or Mel Lewis on drums. The songs all utilize common chord changes, including the two “originals” (“Two of a Mind” and “Blight of the Fumble Bee”), and the interplay between Desmond and Mulligan is consistently delightful.” –Scott Yanow

Bluebird/RCA, 2003

When You Wish Upon A Star – Bill Frisell

Beloved Northwest guitarist Bill Frisell performs equally beloved classic film and television music on this new record, from “Bonanza” to “Moon River,” “The Godfather,” and, of course, the album’s namesake. Always adept at conveying emotion and depth in any given tune, the guitarist yet again is skillful at drawing upon how this music shapes and informs our own emotional relationships to what we see. Performing with singer Petra Haden, violist Eyvind Kang, bassist Thomas Morgan, and drummer Rudy Royston, Frisell succeeds in re-imagining these time-honored gems.

OKeh, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Songs From Afar – Lucian Ban & Elevation

On his latest endeavor, Transylvanian pianist Lucian Ban is joined by Abraham Burton (tenor sax), John Hebert (bass), an Eric McPherson (drums), plus guest appearances by violist Mat Maneri and vocalist Gavril Tarmure. The album incorporates the musicians’ collective, extensive knowledge of modern jazz and creative music, to create a program of music with a unique identity that spans continents and styles. “Songs From Afar is very personal for me because the album is intimately tied to my Romanian cultural heritage and to the jazz influences that help me find out more where I come from – and where I’m going,” says Ban.

Sunnyside, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

No One Ever Tells You – Seth MacFarlane

Seth MacFarlane, well-known for his turns as actor and comedian, received a Grammy nomination for No One Ever Tells You, his third album. Recorded at Abbey Road Studios in London, the album features Frank Sinatra’s bassist Chuck Berghoffer, as well as a 65-piece orchestra. With big band and traditional pop influences, the album includes songs by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Carroll Coates, and more. MacFarlane said of the record, “There was a time during the mid-1950s and early 1960s when popular song was stretching its creative boundaries, and experimenting with more ambitious structures and tones. During this period, a song set out to really tell a story: not just with the lyric and the vocal, but with the arrangements and orchestral interpretations. The songs on this record attempt to do just that.”

Republic, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Chemical Language – Wally Shoup, Bill Horst/Paul Kikuchi

A power trio of Seattle improvisers, Shoup (saxophone), Horist (guitar), and Kikuchi (drums) delve into diverse sonics, with superlative technical skills augmented by a dazzling range of advanced extended techniques. An amalgam or genres, from nu-wave and free jazz, Chemical Language challenges listeners with its unique structures and propulsive improvisation.

New Atlantis, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Memory in the Center, an Afro Opera: Homage to Nelson Mandela

Earnest Dawkins’ Live in the Spirit Residency Big Band –

Recorded live on the opening night of the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival, this compilation is a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, filled with elements of South African dance and music along with post-bop, swing, improvisation, and a whole lot of heart. Composer and saxophonist Dawkins, a stalwart of Chicago’s Black avant-garde, puts down his instrument to lead a 16-piece orchestra, with soloists including alto saxophonist Rajiv Halim, trumpeter Marquis Hill, trombonist Steve Berry, pianist Neil Gonsalves, and vocalist Dee Alexander. The result is a fiery, spirited, and transcendent homage to one of the most remarkable figures of our time.

Dawk Publishing, 2014
Notes by John Gilbreath

Across the Bridge – Tom Collier

The Northwest’s vibraphone sensation and long-time UW professor, Tom Collier, pairs up with other regional heavy hitters for his latest recording. Bill Frisell (electric guitar), Larry Coryell (electric & acoustic guitar), Dan Dean (electric bass & electric guitar), John Bishop (drums), and Ted Poor (drums) accompany Collier through a set of nine originals inspired by places and recollections from his early years when his family lived on the other side of the West Seattle Bridge. This record contains powerful musical imagery, as Collier “turns phrases and builds lines that set a new musical standard for the vibraphone” (Percussive Arts Society).

Origin Records, 2015

Silver – Fourplay

For 25 years, bassist Nathan East, keyboardist Bob James, drummer Harvey Mason, and (more recently) guitarist Chuck Loeb have together explored the realms of “contemporary jazz.” Their intuitive, forward-thinking work may be best represented on this new album Silver. Demonstrating compatibility and chemistry, they each give their voice – cohesively – to this record. Not as dazzling or cutting-edge as longtime fans may be used to, but it is remarkably solid release.

Heads Up, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Let’s Get Lost – Cyrille Aimee

Since her joyful Mack Avenue debut It’s a Good Day, Aimee has been dazzling audiences around the world with expressive and immensely capable vocal stylings. On this new record, the singer reflects on her musical and personal growth, telling us the story of a nascent love coming to full bloom. Accompanied by two guitar wunderkinds, Adrien Moignard and Michael Valeanu, as well as an Australian rhythm section consistent of bassist Sam Anning and drummer Raj Jayaweera, she adds a pensive touch that will have listeners daydreaming for a while.

Mack Avenue, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Bactrian – David Friesen & Glen Moore

Two modern influential bassists, David Friesen and Glen Moore, both associated with the Portland, OR jazz scene, recently teamed up for a tour through Europe, culminating in this, their third duo recording over the last 40 years. Bactrian (named for the two-humped camel native to the steppes of central Asia) consistently offers surprises – and joy. As critic Nat Hentoff says, “Bassist David Friesen is a phenomenon, a player whose musicianship, tone, time and imagination are uncategorizable.”

Origin Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Evolution – Dr. Lonnie Smith

His first Blue Note Album in 45 years, Evolutionmarks the return of Dr. Lonnie Smith to the label where he first made a name for himself in the late 1960s. The legendary B3 organ master invites other modern heavyweights including pianist Robert Glasper and saxophonist Joe Lovano to feature on the album. Following a stellar performance at 2016 NYC Winter Jazzfest, Smith and his Evolution band are set to tour again.

Blue Note, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Solo Sessions, Vol. 1 – Bill Evans

(Originally released as part of multi-volume package, and offered here in part) – “Recorded January 10th 1963, Bill Evans on piano, unaccompanied, produced a body of music that was emotionally revealing and stylistically quite unlike anything he played at any other time.” –liner notes

Milestone – Fantasy, 1989

I Long to See You – Charles Lloyd & The Marvels

This profound release finds the iconic saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master in the company of a new band, featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, along with his longtime quartet members, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. The record also features two guest vocal appearances by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones. It’s a sumptuous collection of 10 songs ranging from traditional hymns to anti-war folk protests to re-envisioned Lloyd originals from his earlier recording. “We don’t need to say much when we get together,” Lloyd says of this collaboration with Frisell. “It’s all expressed in the music, in the sound, the feeling.”

Blue Note, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Black Star – David Bowie

On January 10 – two days after his 69th birthday, and the release of his 25th and final studio album – the world lost David Bowie. In a career spanning more than five decades, the chameleonic, ever-evolving artist graced us with seemingly endless incarnations. And yet, in 2016, he was ready to show us David Bowie the Jazz Artist. According to NPR, it had been a dream of his to make a jazz record with a big band; and once Blackstar was released, it has been one of the most highly critically acclaimed albums of the year already. Crafted with producer Tony Visconti and featuring saxophonist/band leader Donny McCaslin, Blackstar pulls back the curtains to what new sounds Bowie was on the cusp of releasing in this new incarnation. One listen to the title track, or “Lazarus,” and Bowie’s legacy as one of the best musicians of our time is assured.

Columbia Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Bell – Ches Smith

One of the most exciting drummer/composers on the fertile Brooklyn jazz scene appears with veterans of the jazz vanguard, Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola), on The Bell. The title song is one of the very first pieces Smith wrote for the new group, and it’s almost a blueprint for what follows on this album of chamber music for master improvisers of wide experience.What started as a one-off gig turned into a collaboration that drew positive critical reactions even early on. After the trio’s appearance at the 2014 Winter Jazzfest, Chicago Reader’s Peter Margasak said, “The best thing I caught all weekend was a superb trio led by drummer Ches Smith with pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri, which expertly infused seductively draggy, narcotic writing with a mixture of brooding melody and rich texture.”

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2015 – Mack Avenue Superband

This recording documents the third incarnation of the Mack Avenue Superband, an ensemble of all-stars from the Detroit jazz label. Under the leadership of bassist Rodney Whitaker, the Superband – Carl Allen (drums), Aaron Diehl (piano), Tia Fuller (alto sax), Evan Perri (guitar), Kirk Whalum (tenor sax), and Warren Wolf (vibraphone) – ignited the stage and dazzled the festival audience. “A super festival, a super label and indeed, a Superband,” says DownBeat.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

D-Stringz – Jean-luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke, & Bireli Lagrene

Though celebrated fusion violinist Ponty and influential bassist Clarke had collaborated years past, neither had worked with French jazz guitarist Lagrene. In a collection of 10 acoustic tracks, comprised of standards and originals, each artist delivers flawless technique. The album is bright flashes of soul-jazz and funk, brushstrokes of 21st century blues and gypsy jazz, and brawny bop and post-bop. A deep influencer of all three musicians, Django Reinhardt naturally is covered, with his iconic “Nuages” appearing on the record. D-Stringz is a wonderful, feel-good outing of three string masters.

Verve, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Trip Mode – Joey DeFrancesco

The Grammy-nominated organist once again asserts his chops on Trip Mode, which also features Jason Brown on drums, Dan Wilson on guitar, and Mike Boone on bass. Several tracks showcase his additional talents on trumpet and vocals, and nearly all are DeFrancesco originals – with the exceptions of Wilson’s own “Who Shot John,” and classic jazz composer Ray Noble’s hit “The Touch of Your Lips.” The swinging, hard-grooving artist and his band simply rock the house on this album.

Highnote, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Tenebrae – Gregg Belisle-Chi

Seattle-based guitarist and UW Masters student Gregg Belisle- Chi recently released his debut album Tenebrae, which features music for solo guitar and duo (with vocalist Chelsea Crabtree). Belisle- Chi, who’s studied and performed with many Seattle heavy-hitters including Cuong Vu, Ted Poor, and Bill Frisell, has crafted an album rich in beauty, character, and emotion. Earshot Jazz’s Andrew Luthringer writes: “There is a somber beauty, and ethereal, almost spiritual quality to the music, which offsets dark and even jarring textures with a pastoral radiance, often within the same piece.”

Songlines, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Out of the Blue – Clare Fischer

Though the noted keyboardist, composer, arranger, and bandleader passed away in 2011, Clare Fischer’s son, Brent, has brought together a collection of previously unreleased recordings of his father’s music. Featuring Brent, drummers Peter Erskine and Mike Shapiro, and vocalists Denise Donatelli and John Proulx, Out of the Blue is a wonderful collection of songs old and new, including a lovely arrangement of the classics “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.”

Clavo Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

We Are the Drum – Kendrick Scott Oracle

We are the Drum is drummer Kendrick Scott’s Blue Note debut. With his Oracle ensemble of saxophonist John Ellis, keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Mike Moreno, and bassist Joe Sanders, Scott takes the listener through an expansive, immersive musical experience. Out of 11 tracks, the drummer has provided six compelling new originals, and each of Oracle’s members has a songwriting credit. “It’s not a percussion centered recording,” Scott says. “The accent is on ‘we’ in the title. There is a sense of community in how it was created and how we work together. There is a lot of space for each player to have their say.” And each member certainly has something worth saying.

Blue Note, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sun Ra Arkestra: Live in Babylon, Istanbul

Celestial mayhem, gleeful abandon, vestigial swing and a joyously loose big band come together beautifully in this live recording by the Sun Ra Arkestra, post-Sun Ra. The visionary and impossible-to-categorize jazz legend, who claimed to have come from Saturn…died in 1993, but he would most likely approve of the project, which was recorded on the road in 2014 for what would have been Sun Ra’s centennial year” (DownBeat).

In+Out Records, 2015

Royal Bopsters Project – London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross

Jazz vocalist Amy London – a progeny of the recently deceased Mark Murphy – recruited vocal arranger/tenor Darmon Meader, alto Holli Ross, and newcomer Dylan Pramuk for this special Royal Bopsters Project, a “historic, multi-generational vocalese summit.” Along with veteran jazz singers Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Sheila Jordan, and Bob Dorough, the quartet has released a breakthrough album of truly masterful vocal work. From guest Murphy’s spoken-word on a selection from Kerouac’s On the Road to London’s vocalese on Charlie Parker’s “Chasin’ the Bird,” to nimble scatting and theatrical flair, The Royal Bopsters Project is a collection for which you should make room in your music library.

Motema, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Solo – Fred Hersch

Pianist Fred Hersch is well known for the remarkable balance of considerable technical expertise and rich emotional expression in his music. He is such a good pianist that one can almost overlook his skills; and his life experiences – living with full blown AIDS for over 30 years – are so well known that people expect rich emotional expression. Still, the sum of those qualities continues to grow, and this Solo set is the perfect showcase. Hersch is right at home in compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk. He delivers a stately homage to Robert Schumann on ‘Pastorale, and a version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ that, as All About Jazz reports, “sounds as if it drifted up out of a prayer book.” Solo is another jewel by one of this generation’s finest pianists.

Palmetto Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Children of the Light – Perez, Patitucci & Blade

The three brilliant instrumentalists, pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patittucci, and drummer Brian Blade, originally formed in the Wayne Shorter Quartet behind the master saxophonist and composer, and have united as a group only in that setting, from its early 2000 origins until this 2015 release. Having honed their group chemistry in this chance-of-a-lifetime setting, and their individual talents in a myriad of group-leader and side-man settings, these three masters bring a sense of inevitability and an arsenal of incredible firepower to this spinoff trio, whose name, Children of the Light, is itself a twist on the Wayne Shorter composition, ‘Children of the Night.’ NPR music says, “in most ways, the group functions as a collective….with lively group improv like a family dinner where everyone’s talking at once yet somehow, everyone’s being heard”.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Conduct of Jazz – Matthew Shipp Trio

Along with long-time Seattle bassist, Michael Bisio, and drummer, Newman Taylor Baker, composer/pianist Matthew Shipp has released a trio album that beautifully combines his hard-bop influences with his renown as a free improviser. Matt Shipp has been widely recorded over the years, and has enjoyed a lengthy relationship with Thirsty Ear, of whose Blue Series Continuum he was curator. This release is a joy of progressive jazz, especially for the deep swing underpinning the music in the gorgeous tone and time of Bisio’s bass. Listen for the Thelonious Monk-inspired title track, the free form of “Primary Form,” the fanfare of “Instinctive Touch,” and the hard grooves of “Blue Abyss,” all of which combine for an accessible yet adventurous album.

Thirsty Ear, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Looking Forward, Looking Back – Symphonic Jazz Orchestra

The 67-member Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, with special guests Christian McBride, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, John Beasley, Chris Coelman, and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, recorded a live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California, as part of the “Arts for Life” series. Conducted by SJO Music Director Mitch Glickman, the concert featured George Duke’s “Dark Wood: Concerto for McBride” and Lee Ritenour’s “Symphonic Captain’s Journey.” The orchestra, joined by pianist Bill Cunliffe, also performed Gerswhin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” – the work that started the symphonic jazz genre 90 years ago.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Two – Chick Corea & Bela Fleck

The collaboration of the legendary pianist/composer Chick Corea and distinctive banjoist/composer Bela Fleck may seem unlikely at first blush, but turns out to be a magnificent meeting of musical minds. Corea’s ever-serious and often precious approach is contrasted beautifully by Fleck’s playful virtuosity, often at break-neck speeds. It’s all about the engaging, spontaneous inventions of two disparate masters.

Concord Jazz, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Wild Dream – Swingnuts Jazz

Written by Peggy Wendel, vocalist with a vaudeville twist, these are eccentric songs to put a smile in your day. Swingnuts Jazz plays them with vintage jazz style: Spirited Swing, Samba, Bossa Nova, Tango, and Hot Jazz.” –liner notes.
Peggy Wendel, 2015

The Blue Room – Madeleine Peyroux

The nucleus of Madeleine Peyruoux’s The Blue Room is Ray CharlesModern Sounds In Country And Western Music< (ABC, 1962). It was an idea percolating in the brain of long-time Peyroux producer Larry Klein, who was considering a re-examination of the Charles classic and evolved into something more than a simple homage, something with the same intention as Charles had fifty years ago. Using only the sparest core keyboard-guitar quartet led by Larry Goldings, Peyroux re-imagines this material, giving its spirit a second generation of consideration. Peyroux’s voice is a paradox. Clearly informed by Billie Holiday, for which she has been criticised and praised, Peyroux has assimilated this influence into an instrument as unique as it is progressive.” –AllAboutJazz.

Universal, 2012

The Story of Sonny Boy Slim – Gary Clark Jr.

On this, his second major label release, Gary Clark Jr. “bolsters his reputation as a man of multiple musical personalities” (DownBeat). The 31-year-old guitarist (who has drawn comparisons to Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan) has listed his influences as blues, jazz, soul, country, and even hip hop. After more blues/rock-infused releases, The Story of Sonny Boy Slim finds the young artist more in a neo-soul, R&B, and gospel capacity, with delicious melodic and mood shifts throughout, commanding his instrument and voice in ways that fire on all cylinders.

Warner Bros., 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Black Light – John McLaughlin

The genius behind the Mahavishnu Orchestra continues to take the fusion between jazz and rock ever-forward with his latest album Black Light, by the 4th Dimension band; with keyboardist Gary Husband, bassist Etienne Mbappe, and drummer Ranjit Barot. Coming off of the live 2014 release, The Boston Record, this music seems a bit more controlled, yet still contains activity and movement, especially with McLaughlin’s stunning guitar riffs and the band’s precise percussion. One particularly special moment on the record comes in the form of “El Hombre Que Sabia,” a tune composed for McLaughlin’s late friend and colleague, Paco de Lucia, which plays with timbre and emotions to – much like the album itself – continually surprise the listener.

Abstract Logix, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Come Fly With Me – Herb Alpert

In a career that has spanned five decades, beginning with the tremendous commercial success of the Tijuana Brass, the legendary trumpeter has released a lot of praiseworthy material. On his latest record, Come Fly With Me, Alpert crafts easy, enjoyable originals and reimagines cover songs with influences ranging from Brazilian bossa nova to reggae to classical orchestrations. One standout track is the Beatles’ Abbey Road classic “Something,” an ethereal, bare-bones cover that holds a match to George Harrison’s tenderness and emotion. Come Fly With Me is a beautiful record sure to please listeners of all ages.

Herb Alpert Presents, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live at the Village Vanguard -Christian McBride Trio

The NPR host, Grammy Award-winning bassist, and overall jazz luminary, joined once again by pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., delivered a remarkable performance at the hallowed, historic New York City venue. The trio swings through nine tracks of originals, jazz standards, and R&B and pop selections (Car Wash!), filled with vibrancy, virtuosity, and funk. As Christian McBride said, “It’s a pretty diversified trio … the core foundation is hardcore, swingin’ blues and American songbook.”

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Silver Lining: the Songs of Jerome Kern – Tony Bennett & Bill Charlap

On this new collaboration with the pristine traditionalist pianist Bill Charlap, the venerable Tony Bennett’s voice is still quite “profound” (DownBeat). From the spine-tingling opener of “All the Things You Are” to the electrifying “Long Ago and Far Away,” The Silver Lining unites two masters in a simply great album that is perfect as “a welcome refresher course in the Jerome Kern songbook.”

Columbia, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Rambling Confessions – John Herbert

New Orleans-born, New York-based bassist John Hebert (A-BARE) has honed his chops working with such masters as Andrew Hill, Fred Hersch, and Paul Bley. Backed by the ethereal vocalist Jen Shyu on several tracks, as well as pianist Andy Milne and drummer Billy Drummond, Hebert glides through re-imagined covers and textured, expansive originals with ease and a sure tone.

Sunnyside, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Evolution of Oneself – Orrin Evans

“If there was no Philadelphia sound, there would be no Orrin Evans,” writes Mark Corroto on AllAboutJazz.com. On this recording, with Detroit drummer Karriem Riggins and Philadelphia’s first-call bassist Christian McBride, the pianist evaluates his way through life and music with a diverse selection of tracks, including reworkings of “All the Things You Are,” “Autumn Leaves,” and even the folk piece “Wildwood Flower.” The Evolution of Oneself is a self-assured, masterful work by an artist who is confident of his place in modern jazz.

Smoke Sessions, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Subliminal and the Sublime – Chris Dingman

The impressive second release for the thoughtful vibraphonist Chris Dingman brings forth a work of significant ambition and impressive realization. The Subliminal and the Sublime is a through-composed five-part suite, commissioned by Chamber Music America, that was inspired by Dingman’s travels in the wilderness of the American West. “He derives a remarkable sense of scale from six instruments, and believably portrays massive Nevada mountains and vast California canyons through music,” making.. “those natural mysteries and renewals personal for us all.” (DownBeat).

Inner Arts initiative, 2015

Midnight McCartney – John Pizzarelli

Guitarist/ vocalist John Pizzarelli has released an enjoyable, capable album of Paul McCartney covers. After working together on McCartney’s 2012 release Kisses on the Bottom, the former Beatle suggested that Pizzarelli take on some songs from his discography. That idea comes to fruition with this album, which includes tracks ranging from the popular “Silly Love Songs” and “Maybe I’m Amazed” to the lesser-known “Warm and Beautiful” and “Some People Never Know.” The songs successfully reimagine McCartney’s work on a jazzed up, dignified, hard-swinging recording.

Concord, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

New Orleans Christmas Carol – Ellis Marsalis

(This is an expanded edition of Marsalis’ 2002 Christmas album.) “Marsalis imparts beauty on his piano while displaying his humility, order, wisdom and love of melody. He plays solo and in a trio and quartet (his son Jason plays drums and vibes; Cynthia Liggins Thomas and Johnaye Kenchick make cameos).” –Downbeat

ELM, 2011

Zoning – Mary Lou Williams

Zoning’s appearance served as both a revelation and reaffirmation of what had always made Williams so unique. She was still stretching the boundaries, with harmonic, rhythmic and formal notions that bordered on the avant-garde; yet her ear for melody and her deep immersion in the blues idiom remained. The bulk of the music was recorded on January 17, 1974, with assistance of pianist Zita Carno, bassist Bob Cranshaw and drummer Mickey Roker. While the blues is pervasive and the moods interrelated, each piece is distinct, and distinctly eloquent.”

Smithsonian Folkways, 1995

Send One Your Love – New West Guitar Group

On Send One Your Love, this innovative guitar ensemble combines acoustic and electric sounds to craft an album of virtuosic rhythm and beauty. Utilizing an incredible cast of guest vocalists, including Gretchen Parlato, Tierney Sutton, Sara Gazarek, Becca Stevens, and Peter Eldridge, this record tells a story about the highs and lows of love. With thoughtful arrangements and evocative vocals, New West Guitar Group, who the Seattle Times calls “sharp and refined,” conveys universal emotions through the timeless tradition of guitar and voice.

Summit Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Out of My Dreams – Joanne Tatham

Blessed with impeccable phrasing and a meticulous sense of time, Tatham projects a West Coast effervescence, yet also conjures the long shadows of Manhattan,” writes JazzTimes. “For Out of My Dreams, her second album in as many years, she’s surrounded herself with top West Coast talent, including drummer, Peter Erskine, pianist Tamir Hendelman, bassist John Clayton, saxophonist Bob Sheppard and guitarist Marcel Camargo…So stellar an assemblage deserves equally beguiling material, and Tatham doesn’t disappoint.”

Café Pacific Records
Notes by John Gilbreath

Meltframe – Mary Halvorson

On her first solo guitar venture, Mary Halvorson successfully reimagines works such as Ornette Coleman’s “Sadness,” Duke Ellington’s “Solitude,” and Carla Bley’s “Ida Lupino” with fine fretwork and exploration, at times aggressive and other times calm. “Some musicians paint worlds when they perform, but Halvorson paints entire solar systems with her guitar,” writes AllAboutJazz.com. “There is nobody capable of doing what she does here: Mary Halvorson gently coaxes out melodies and delivers distorted truths that ring on long after this album concludes.”

Firehouse 12 Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Lake Effect – David Ake

Bereaved by the death of his mentor Charlie Haden in 2014, pianist David Ake channels his emotion into this beautiful record, Lake Effect. Opening with “Lone Pine,” a solo piano tribute to the late bassist, Ake elicits an acute yet beautiful sadness. With the remaining nine tracks, he leads bassist Sam Minaie, drummer Mark Ferber, and saxophonist Peter Epstein in intimate, beautiful, and nuanced compositions. Listen to the shimmering “Silver Thaw,” the wistful “Hills,” or the captivating “Two Stones” to feel the raw sentimentality of the album.

Posi-tone Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dee Dee’s Feathers – Dee Dee Bridgewater

The Grammy and Tony Award-winning NPR host and UN Ambassador releases her first on OKeh Records. Collaborating with the New Orleans Jazz Orchestra and its artistic director Irvin Mayfield, Bridgewater modernizes the traditional Big Easy sound on songs like “Big Chief,” “Saint James Infirmary,” and “What a Wonderful World,” alongside new compositions “Congo Square” and “C’est Ici Que Je T’aime.” Take a stroll through the Tremé neighborhood with the celebrated vocalist on this delightful record.

Okeh Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Old Friends and New Friends – David Berkman

The latest offering from the award-winning pianist and composer features Berkman’s exceptional friends, indeed, with the likes of Brian Blade (drums), Adam Kolker, Billy Drewes, and Dayna Stephens (sax), and Linda Oh (bass), the latter two his latest acquaintances. Performing all original Berkman compositions, the musicians, like old friends, slip comfortably into each piece, playing off one another with such vigor and chemistry. Old Friends and New Friends is a sure hit for established fans of Berkman’s, as well as newcomers to his talent – friends, old and new.

Palmetto, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

For One to Love – Cecile McLorin Salvant

If anyone can extend the lineage of the Big Three – Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald – it is this 23-year-old virtuoso,” The New York Times’ Stephen Holden declared upon the release of Salvant’s 2013 debut album WomanChild. Now, the vocal savant releases her follow-up album, For One to Love, which reveals a further and more personal depth to her artistry. “I can look at many of these songs, and see that this is an event that really happened, or a feeling I’ve lived through myself,” McLorin Salvant says. “That’s what makes it so difficult to share. It’s almost like a diary entry.” The honest, heartfelt lyrics are delivered with her earnest, full-bodied, and beautiful vocals – cementing McLorin Salvant as one of the new jazz generation’s standout artists.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave & Iola Brubeck – The Dan Brubeck Quartet

The son of Dave and Iola Brubeck honors his parents with this album, showcasing his mother’s lesser-known role as a lyricist for many of her husband’s songs. The younger Brubeck, a drummer, performs with his Vancouver-based quartet of Steve Kaldestad on saxophone, Tony Foster on piano, and Adam Thomas, who does double-duty this time around as bassist and vocalist. Thomas’ gentle tenor conveys Iola’s heartfelt lyrics on songs including “Since Love Had Its Way,” “Summer Song,” “It’s a Raggy Waltz,” and the Brubeck classic “Take Five.” This album is a wonderful demonstration of Dan’s adoration for his parents, and setting vocals to the music gives each song a fresh energy.

Blue Forest Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Passion flower: A Proper Introduction to Billy Strayhorn – Billy Strayhorn

“During their nearly three decades of working together, Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington created a legacy of music for the ages. This set offers a rare opportunity to hear Strayhorn the composer playing many of his own songs, as well as some he wrote with Ellington and others…The first ten cuts in this collection, recorded in Paris during two midnight sessions in 1961, were originally released on an LP rather inexplicably called The Peaceful Side of Billy Strayhorn. To that set another eleven sides have been added here. Recorded at various dates in New York from 1946 and 1950, both Ellington and Strayhorn play the piano… Filled with brilliant, playful, intimate and thoughtful touches, this private party of giants is one we’re fortunate indeed to be able to share.” –allaboutjazz.com
 
Proper Records, 2004

Brotherlee Love: Celebrating Lee Morgan – Terell Stafford

On Brotherlee Love, the virtuosic trumpeter Terrell Stafford honors the sometimes-dark legend of Philadelphia trumpeter Lee Morgan. Along with saxophonist Tim Warfield, pianist Bruce Barth, bassist Peter Washington, and drummer Dana Hall, Stafford pays tribute to the soulful spirit that Morgan brought into jazz, and the City of Brotherly Love that launched so many jazz careers. “This project is about how I was embraced by this city and about a trumpet player who has always been a huge inspiration to me,” says Stafford. “There was so much joy wrapped around playing this music,” he says, “and I just hope some of that comes through to the listener.” Take a spin, and catch the soulful groove that helped propel jazz music into a new day.

Capri, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Crisis – Amir ElSaffar

With Crisis, Doris Duke Performing Artist Awardee ElSaffar produces his most ambitious recording to date. Commissioned by and debuted at the 2013 Newport Jazz Festival, the work received a standing ovation after just the first song. An Iraqi by birth, ElSaffar composed Crisis after he spent a year living in Egypt and Lebanon, as a reflection on the recent history of Iraq and the Middle East. Backed by his Two Rivers Ensemble of Ole Mathisen (tenor and soprano sax), Nasheet Waits (drums), Carlo DeRosa (bass), Tareq Abboushi (buzuq), and Zafer Tawil (oud, percussion), ElSaffar, on trumpet, vocals, and santour, delivers a sweeping, vast musical exploration of a region in turmoil and strife, revolution, civil war, and violence: a culture’s struggle for survival. The Chicago-bred musician says of Crisis: “Out of the ashes emerges a sound. Overtones, harmonizing, becoming many. Intangible threads of humanity, too delicate to be broken or destroyed, emanating from a shared, infinite past that is our present.”

Pi Recordings, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Touchstone – Ariel Pocock

“With its pairing of a neophyte vocalist-pianist with four jazz heavyweights, this album might better have been titled Post-Millennial All-Stars Featuring Ariel Pocock,” writes JazzTimes. “Not that the 22-year-old Floridian can’t hold her own in the company of tenor saxophonist Seamus Blake, guitarist Julian Lage, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. Indeed, she is gifted well beyond her years…She’s as impressive at maneuvering the tricky curves of Monk and Bob Dorough as she is navigating the densely powerful storytelling of Randy Newman and Tom Waits.”

Justin Time, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

In the Morning: Music of Alec Wilder – Stefano Battaglia Trio

With bassist Salvatore Maiore and drummer Roberto Dani, Italian pianist Stefano Battaglia has created an “enormously successful outing….the best of his trio recordings and a real pleasure to listen to,” writes Karl Ackerman on AllAboutJazz.com. Paying homage to the late American composer Alec Wilder, In the Morning was recorded live in Torino, Italy, in April of 2014. The album “reflects the eccentric combination of styles in which Wilder composed.” Perhaps it’s the 12-minute-long title track that best exemplifies both Wilder’s work and the trio’s skillset, as noted by Ackerman: “[It] opens with the type of lyrical Bills Evans style that Battaglia has been understandably fond of over the years. Maiore interjects a brief solo, Dani washes over the cymbals and Battaglia then picking up a more abstract variation of the main theme that effectively incorporates Wilder’s pop experimentalism.

ECM, 2015

Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 – Marc Carey

Keyboardist Marc Cary’s Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 has become something of a critics’ darling since its release. With a funky, groovy backbone, the pianist brings in guests like trumpeter Igmar Thomas and tabla player Sameer Gupta to layer sounds and melodies, creating a futuristic, neo-soul feel. Rhodes Ahead Vol. 2 contains ambient textures with hip-hop beats, giving the listener a visceral aural experience.

Motema, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Synovial Joints – Steve Coleman and the Council of Balance

Guggenheim Fellow, Doris Duke Performing Artist, and MacArthur Genius Coleman delivers one of his most ambitious recordings in years. Featuring more than 20 musicians, a 17-minute-long, four-part eponymous suite, and “camoflauge orchestration” (derived from hearing birds and other animals in the Amazon rain forest), Synovial Joints generates a cerebrally and conceptually dense aural experience we have come to expect from the saxophonist. Like his 2013 Functional Arrhythmias, Coleman explores anatomy, this time with a big band to examine the most common and movable type of joint in a mammal. As the body structure themselves, Synovial Joints achieves movement, and, in turn, life.

Pi Recordings, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Passion World – Kurt Elling

Recorded live on the opening night of the 2014 Chicago Jazz Festival, this compilation is a tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, filled with elements of South African dance and music along with postbop, swing, improvisation, and a whole lot of heart. Composer and saxophonist Dawkins, a stalwart of Chicago’s Black avant-garde, puts down his instrument to lead a 16-piece orchestra, with soloists including alto saxophonist Rajiv Halim, trumpeter Marquis Hill, trombonist Steve Berry, pianist Neil Gonsalves, and vocalist Dee Alexander. The result is a fiery, spirited, and transcendent homage to one of the most remarkable figures of our time.

Concord Jazz, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Play a Bill Frisell Set List – NDR Big Band

In a career that spans more than four decades – and as many continents –composer/guitarist/arranger/producer (and Seattle resident) Bill Frisell has become one of the most influential figures in jazz. In this collaboration with Frisell and Germany’s NDR Big Band, Michael Gibbs has arranged a program specifically for the guitarist and band for a “tour de force” performance.

Cuniform, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Currency of Man – Melody Gardot

Here is a jazz singer who understands how to embraced popular music without compromise. “The aural equivalent of Lauren Bacall in The Big Sleep and Kathleen Turner in Body Heat, jazz chanteuse/songwriter Melody Gardot delivers a cinematic-styled blockbuster on her fourth release. From slinky horn arrangements courtesy of Jerry Hey to the Euro-styled orchestrations from French arranger Clement Ducol, combined with Larry Klein’s sympathetic production, this is a culmination of everything the evocative Gardot has promised over her past three albums.” (American Songwriter)
Verve, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sophisticated Ladies

Charlie Haden Quartet West – “Of the Haden-led Quartet West’s various albums in this preservationist, as opposed to revisionist, style, The Art Of The Song (Verve, 1999), made with singers Bill Henderson, and Shirley Horn, is widely considered the best, Sophisticated Ladies is every bit as good. This time out the singers are, Cassandra Wilson, Diana Krall, Melody Gardot, Norah Jones, Renee Fleming, and Ruth Cameron, who with her husband, Haden, is also co-producer… With top drawer vocals, a virtuoso jazz backbone, immaculate audio quality and engaging liner notes by executive producer Jean-Philippe Allard, Sophisticated Ladies is a delight.” –AllAboutJazz.com

Universal, 2015

Space Time Continuum

Aaron Diehl – As the title suggests, the virtuosic pianist’s latest album swings through jazz eras and styles, all with dexterity and charm. Backed by his trio of bassist David Wong and drummer Quincy Davis, Diehl also teams up with veteran saxophonists Joe Temperley (bari) and Benny Golson (tenor) on several numbers. “Mr. Golson has been inspiration beyond the legacy of music he’s created,” Diehl said. “Carpe diem while he and Joe Temperley are still around.” The pianist also utilizes the captivating vocal stylings of Cecile McLorin Salvant and Charenee Wade on the title track, and tenor saxophonist Stephen Riley on the Back to the Future-influenced Diehl original, “Flux Capacitor.” This release is a mature and modern album with great appeal.

Mack Avenue, 2015

This is the Day

Giovanni Guidi Trio – The exceptional trio of Italian pianist Giovanni Guidi, American bassist Thomas Morgan, and Portuguese drummer João Lobo is featured on this brilliant record from the revered ECM label out of Munich. With uncommon originality and reflective depth, the trio crafts thoughtful, complex ballads, which shimmer with tension and a strong balance of sounds and silence. While most tunes comes from Guidi’s hand, This is the Day also includes the standard “I’m Through With Love,” Cuban songwriter Osvaldo Farrés’ “Quizás, quizás, quizás,” and Lobo’s “Baiiia.”

ECM Records, 2015

Futuresoul

Boney James – Four-time Grammy Award nominee Boney James asserts his artistic capabilities as a top Smooth-Jazz saxman on this dynamic album. Interspersing vintage soul music with modern production, the aptly titled futuresoul is a genre-bending record of 10 original songs, written and co-written by James, with special guests Stokley of Mint Condition (appearing on “Either Way”) and trumpeter and Thelonioius Monk Competition winner Marquis Hill (appearing on album closer “Far From Home”). This album is funky-fresh spattered with classic retro sounds, creating an engaging experience for the listener.

Concord, 2015

Surrounded by Sea

Andy Sheppard Quartet – The enormously talented saxophonist Andy Sheppard last appeared with bassist Michael Benita and drummer Seb Rochford on 2012’s heralded Trio Libero project. This time around he adds guitarist/electronic artist Eivind Aarset, whose ambient drones and electronic textures allow the “free trio” to explore even further. Embracing new compositions, open improvisations, an Elvis Costello track, and the Gaeilic traditional ballad “Aoidh, Na Dean Cadal Idir” (which appears in three variations, threading the album), Surrounded by Sea is an exquisite compilation for any modern jazz collection.

ECM Records, 2015

My Favorite Things

Joey Alexander – Only a phenomenal 11 years old at the time of this recording, Alexander’s playing and phrasing are remarkably assured and accomplished. “A thoughtful musician as well as a natural one, with a sophisticated harmonic palette and a dynamic sensitivity” (New York Times), Joey Alexander is a jazz pianist from Indonesia. The young prodigy magnificently renders classics including “‘Round Midnight,” “Over the Rainbow,” and, of course, the title track, while the few originals are simple treasures that hint at a strong composing future. Keep an eye out for great things from Mr. Alexander.

Motema, 2015

Brooklyn

John Patitucci Electric Guitar Quartet – Performing with drummer Brian Blade and guitarists Adam Rogers and Steve Cardenas, vaunted bassist John Patitucci returns to his roots on Brooklyn, playing electric bass (the instrument on which he started) exclusively. Recorded at the Brooklyn studio The Bunker, Brooklyn features several tracks that introduced Patitucci to jazz, including Monk’s “Trinkle Tinkle” and “Ugly Beauty.” “While no single album can capture every angle of Patitucci’s playing,” writes AllAboutJazz.com, “Brooklyn manages to shine a light on his multifaceted electric bass work better than anything else in his leader discography. This music is electric in more ways than one.”

Three Faces Records, 2015

Sylva

Snarky Puppy w/Metropole Orkest – (1 CD & 1 DVD) – “The New York collective Snarky Puppy have made an album unlike any of their earlier ventures, with Holland’s genre-crossing Metropole Orkest. Sylva is a refined and cohesive orchestral suite rather than a collection of quirky groove vehicles, and also the band’s first work for a major label,” writes The Guardian. “There are six movements, each inspired by forests around the world that have left a deep impression on [leader Michael] League. Gliding high strings lines and a cello ostinato turn into silkily intricate horn melodies; coolly riffing groovers build to funky, Jazz Crusaders-like dances; humming string meditations pass through pensive keyboard solos into gentle waltzes; harmonies reminiscent of Marcus Miller’s work with Miles Davis colour the graceful melodic transformations of the 19-minute finale, The Clearing.”

Impulse, 2015

Now This

Gary Peacock Trio – Pianist Marc Copland and drummer Joey Baron recorded Now This with the revered bassist (and former Seattle resident) in Oslo, creating an album that features powerful new versions of Peacock compositions, a few Copland and Baron originals, and even “Gloria’s Step” by Scott La Faro, another of jazz’s great bassists. The trio captures an even balance of sonic ownership, with Peacock’s melodic bass playing consistently heard throughout each tune. Copland’s piano playing respects and highlights his fellow musicians’ compositions, while Baron drives each one home with a superior attention to detail.

ECM Records, 2015

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

The Bad Plus Joshua Redman – Four years ago, The Bad Plus invited saxophonist Joshua Redman to perform with them at a weeklong streak at New York City’s Blue Note. The positively received collaboration led the foursome into the studio in 2014 to record their debut album, The Bad Plus Joshua Redman. The nine-track record features seven new compositions by the quartet members, while the remaining two, “Dirty Blonde” and “Silence Is the Question,” are new arrangements of Bad Plus originals. The quartet has been described by Metroland (Albany, MA), in one word, “sublime,” going on to say, “It’s as though Redman is the long-lost fourth member of the group, just waiting to be snapped snugly into place.”

Nonesuch, 2015

Creation

Keith Jarrett – This album features music, hand-picked by the legendary pianist/composer, from his improvised solo concerts recorded in Japan, Canada, and Europe in 2014. His first solo recording since 2011’s Rio, Creation takes individual songs from various performances to curate an altogether new concert experience, which AllAboutJazz.com describes as “a program that’s largely dark and brooding, heavily based on chordal constructs and sparse melodies, and the absolute antithesis of overt virtuosity…even though only a pianist with the kind of exceptional mastery of his instrument as Jarrett could create a suite such as this.”

ECM, 2015

Luminosa

Anat Cohen  –  “With her new CD, Luminosa, (Israeli clarinetist) Cohen integrates many musical influences into a unique brand of Brazilian-tinged improvisation. The clarinet’s many-octave range lends itself to caricature. It can be the black crow of instruments, darting high and low to scavenge for musical sketches. But Cohen has the courage to use the instrument’s broad range for soulfulness… Cohen relishes the clarinet’s dark beauty as much as its bright dexterity. She takes the instrument seriously enough to enlist it for both song and dance. On Luminosa, Anat Cohen creates an ideal role for her clarinet, and the instrument shines with the dignity and joy it deserves.” (NPR Music)

Anzic Records, 2015

Coming Forth by Day

Cassandra Wilson  –  The jazz singer pays homage to one of her idols, the incessantly celebrated, yet still “undersung,” Billie Holiday. While many artists have released albums covering Ms. Holiday, who would be 100 years’ old in April, ‘15, Wilson’s utilizes thick, bluesy rhythm (courtesy of Nick Cave’s Bad Seeds), a stunning strings section, guitar reverb, and sensual tenor sax, all contributing to the lusciously orchestrated Coming Forth by Day. In spite of a mix that places her voice well out of the foreground, this record has reinvigorated Wilson’s status as one of the premier jazz vocalists.

Legacy, 2015

Birdman or The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance

Original Sound Track (drum score by Antonio Sanchez) –  Mexico City native Antonio Sanchez studied under Danilo Perez at the Berklee school and has been first choice jazz drummer for heavy hitters like Pat Metheny and Jim Hall. Group. In 2014, he was invited by González Iñárritu to compose the score for the director’s critically acclaimed and award-winning film Birdman. This soundtrack ingeniously juxtaposes drums with classical pieces, with a majority of the score comprised of energetic, momentous, sharp-shooting rhythms.

Milon, 2014

Brand New Day

Donna Lewis  –  The Welsh artist rose to adult pop fame in the mid-1990s with her hit single “I Love You Always Forever,” but with Brand New Day, a record of jazz-inflected covers and originals, she easily breaks free of the contemporary singer-songwriter boundaries. With the high-profile musical company of The Bad Plus (pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson, and drummer Dave King) and production by cross-genre composer David Torn, Lewis’ approachable, breathy voice and unique phrasing brings freshness to covers of David Bowie’s “Bring Me the Disco King” and Neil Young’s “Helpless,” and even revitalizes her 1996 chart-topper.

Palmetto, 2015

World’s Fair

Julian Lage  –  Guitar prodigy Julian Lage releases a solo project with an orchestral backbone, large in part since he was inspired by classical master Andres Segovia. Dubbing his instrument his “own tiny orchestra,” Guitar World notes, “in his hands the musical possibilities seem endless.” As Lage himself describes, “What I’m doing is distinctly American in a way. There are certain aesthetics on this record that you’re more likely to find in contemporary acoustic chamber music, American classical music and old-time fiddle music.” Though World’s Fair is a slight migration from his typical sound, it’s an apropos album for any jazz/Americana lover.

Modern Lore, 2015

A Clear Midnight

Julia Hulsmann Quartet  –  The Berlin-based Julia Hülsmann began playing piano at the age of 11, and formed her first band at 16. Renowned for her pristine technique and a breadth of creative influences ranging from Thelonious Monk to Emily Dickinson, Hülsmann is gaining international attention through her records through Munich’s respected ECM label, most recently with the release of the gorgeous record A Clear Midnight. Teaming up with singer Theo Bleckmann, the five-piece celebrates the “unsung Weill” alongside the master’s best-loved works including “Mack the Knife,” “Speak Low,” and “September Song.”

ECM, 2015

Black Bar Jukebox

Allan Harris  –  Inspired by the African-American music culture of the 1970’s, vocalist, guitarist, and composer Alan Harris delivers a solid set of jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, country, and Latin genres heard on jukeboxes in the barbershops, clubs, and restaurants of the time. Accompanied by Jake Goldbas on drums, Leon Boykins on keys, and Pascal Le Bouef, along with special guests Samuel Torres on percussion and Yotam Silberstein on guitar, Harris returns to his Harlem roots. Featuring 13 songs, Black Bar Jukebox is a combination of standards and original compositions, delivered with a rich and soulful sound; it is sure to please music lovers from every generation.

Love Records, 2015

Heavy Feel

Larry Coryell  –  Heavy Feel is guitarist, and former Seattleite, Larry Coryell’s third release on Wide Hive Records, and has proven to be one of his strongest records. The deservingly titled album brings a heavy, full-produced sound, and showcases the bandleader’s formidable guitar playing. Recorded in one day, Heavy Feel is filled with tracks crafted under Coryell’s significant improvisational feel. Bassist Matt Montgomery, drummer Mike Hughes, and saxophonist George Brooks accompanying the guitarist.

Wide Hive, 2015

Twisted Soul

Jessi Teich  –  Blending old blues, jazz, and soul, 10-time international songwriting award-winner Jessi Teich brings a pop sensibility to her Paris-recorded album Twisted Soul. The Berklee College of Music graduate describes her album as “a crossover record with a jazz spinal cord,” with a “poperatic” story arc. “The album showcases Jessi’s sinuous vocal prowess as well as her heralded songwriting capacity,” writes JazzCorner. “She writes impressionistically about heartbreak, love, loss, gain, and sisterhood on Twisted Soul, tracing her surrender to – and eventual escape from – a controlling, abusive lover. All the while, she masterfully mixes jazz sophistication, blues grit, and soul’s tragic romance, with an edgy-but-elegant aesthetic.”

Madame Freak Records, 2015

Time and the River

David Sanborn  –  Time and the River is the 25th release under the leadership of the legendary saxophonist David Sanborn, whose distinctive alto tone virtually set the standard for subsequent years of “Smooth Jazz.” Produced by Marcus Miller, who also plays bass on the recording, Time and the River includes Roy Assaf (keyboards), Ricky Peterson (Hammond organ), Yotam Silberstein and Nick Moroch (guitars), Peter Hess (horns, flute), Marcus Baylor (drums), and Javier Diaz (percussion). The album also features trombonist Tim Vaughn, trumpeter Justin Mullens, and veteran contemporary jazz vocalists Randy Crawford. As usual, Sanborn weaves infectious, lyrical jazz lines with deep funk grooves and a pop sensibility.

Okeh, 2015

Incredible Jazz Guitar: 3 original Riverside albums

Wes Montgomery (3 CDs originally released on Riverside Records, “Incredible Jazz Guitar”, “Movin’ Along”, and “So Much Guitar!” – “By 1959, when he was brought to (Orrin) Keepnews’ attention by saxophonist Cannonball Adderley, Montgomery had developed a revolutionary new approach to the instrument. His style featured three signature elements: he played with his thumb, never a pick, and he improvised entire choruses using either octaves or pianistic block chords. None of these techniques were unique, but until Montgomery came along no other guitarist had mastered them so completely (let alone combined them) or made them so integral to sound and improvisation.” –Chris May (AllMusic)

Not New Music, 2013

Interlude

Jamie Cullum – Interlude is the seventh studio album from vocalist Jamie Cullum, the UK’s best-selling jazz artist. Though he has made a name for himself by combining clear pop sensibilities with jazz and swing, Cullum moves into straight-ahead jazz territory here. “Interlude is a celebration of my love of jazz,” the singer says. “I have connected with some of the most talented musicians on the scene. This is a collaboration with them. Recorded in the original way – live, in one large room, straight to analogue tape, in single takes.” Cullum has hand-picked numbers from the Great American Songbook, and croons alongside special guests Gregory Porter and Laura Mvula, on this album filled with classic and soulful styles, creating an accessible and enjoyable listening experience.

Blue Note, 2014

Things of that Particular Nature

Duane Eubanks – Trumpeter Duane Eubanks (the brother of guitarist Kevin and trombonist Robin Eubanks) came up in another of the accomplished family dynasties that have reigned throughout jazz history. Emerging from the shadows of his better-known brothers, he has assembled a first-rate group of musicians, capable of absolute investment in the mostly original material on Things of That Particular Nature. The music is beautifully played and deep in the hard-swinging jazz tradition.

Sunnyside, 2015

 

Snowy Egret

Myra Melford – Snowy Egret features songs composed for the individual members of Melford’s eponymous quintet, made up of Ron Miles on cornet, Liberty Ellman on guitar, Stomu Takeishi on acoustic bass guitar, and Tyshawn Sorey on drums. The pianist and composer, a former Seattle resident now on the faculty at UC Berkely, carries this group of first-rate improvisers through deep, thought provoking experimental tunes that are exquisitely crafted.

Enja, 2014

Collective Portrait

Eddie Henderson – As its title suggests, trumpeter Eddie Henderson’s latest album is a collaborative musical reflection of his heart and soul, painted with the help of all-star artists including George Cables (piano), Gary Bartz (sax), Doug Weiss (bass), and Carl Allen (drums). Inspired by Miles Davis’ statement that “a collective portrait is better than a self-portrait,” Henderson applies years of his own jazz experience to a record that is forged in creativity and community. The music is enhanced by the ensemble’s natural chemistry and Henderson’s own lyricism, honed from years playing with jazz greats like Herbie Hancock, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, and Art Blakey.

Smoke Sessions, 2015

Live at Cory Weeds’ Cellar Jazz Club

Louis Hayes & the Cannonball Adderley Legacy Band – Drummer Louis Hayes first recorded with Adderley back in 1959, on The Cannonball Quintet in San Francisco, and continued performing with the bandleader until his death in 1975. More than 50 years after that first recording, Hayes leads an ensemble of Dezron Douglas on bass, Rick Germanson on guitar, Vincent Herring on alto sax, Jeremy Pelt on trumpet, and Vancouver B. C. club owner Cory Weeds on tenor sax, in this tribute to Adderly. This swinging set is an incendiary, powerful iteration of the hard bop tradition sure to please straight-ahead jazz fans.

Cellar Live, 2014

Duets

Kevin Eubanks – More than 30 years after they first met at New York’s famed 55 Grand club, guitarists Eubanks and Jordan release an album consisting of original joint compositions, well-known classics (including “Blue In Green” and “Summertime”), and pop hits (Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Ellie Goulding’s “Lights”). The 10-song record shines light on the musicians’ spontaneity, passion, ingenuity, and prodigeous musical chops (of note, Eubanks spent 18 years on The Tonight Show). “This album fills a nice niche because it’s relaxing yet engaging,” says Jordan. “When you hear Kevin and me playing together, it’s all about the music and supporting each other. I just love the feel of it – it has a real sweetness. People who listen from their heart are really going to love this record as an antidote to the norm.”

Mack Avenue, 2015

Yesterday I Had the Blues: the Music of Billie Holiday

Jose James – Coordinated for release near the 100th anniversary of Holiday’s birth, Yesterday I Had the Blues is a respectful, mostly straight-ahead reading of tunes associated with the brilliant and tragic vocalist. It is also an opportunity for James, who operates as much, or more, in the Hip Hop and contemporary R & B worlds, to sink into some darkly compelling jazz singing in the company of a brilliant trio, with Jason Moran on piano, John Patitucci on bass; and Eric Harland on drums.

Blue Note, 2015

Spiritman

Steve Turre – Trombonist, “shellist,” composer, and long-time presence on the “Saturday Night Live” bandstand, Steve Turre goes back to basics on his latest record; accompanied by first-rate jazz players Bruce Williams (saxophone), Xavier Davis (piano), Gerald Cannon (bass), Willie Jones III (drums), and special guest Chembo Corniel (congas). With a repertoire of standards, jazz classics, and five Turre compositions, Spirtiman is a solid, swinging showcase of superb trombone playing. “Music is about giving and about searching and so that is the spirit,” he says, “because without spirit, music is just notes.”

Smoke Sessions, 2015

Afrodeezia

Marcus Miller – Don’t let the cheesy name fool you. Afrodeezia is bassist/composer Miller’s Blue Note Records debut, and carries both weight and depth, largely because it was inspired by his role as a UNESCO Artist For Peace and spokesperson for the organization’s Slave Route Project. Recorded around the world – including Morocco, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and New Orleans – the album features a variety of guests including rapper Chuck D., vocalist Lalah Hathaway, keyboardist Robert Glasper, trumpeters Etienne Charles and Ambrose Akinmusire, guitarists Keb’ Mo’ and Wah Wah Watson, bassist/producer Mocean Worker, organist Cory Henry (Snarky Puppy), and cellist Ben Hong, as well as musicians from Africa, South America, and the Caribbean. Having set the enduring sound of funk and soul jazz since the 1980’s, and his work with late-career Miles Davis, Marcus Miller is still his own man, and Afrodeezia continues his distinctive creative output.

Blue Note, 2015

Philadelphia Beat

Albert “Tootie” Heath – There are several interlocking triumphs on this trio recording. The big news is the venerable drummer, Tootie Heath, brother of jazz legends Jimmy Heath and Percy Heath, joining the modernist piano genius Ethan Iverson (The Bad Plus) and the seasoned, young bassist, Ben Street. This album celebrates the city that paved the way for the iconic jazz groups of Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Art Blakey, and many others. Tootie Heath, a South Philly native who’s played with Coltrane, Lester Young, Thelonious Monk, Nina Simone, and many other jazz legends, brings a straight-up authenticity, which is wonderfully embellished by the more contemporary sounds of Iverson and Street. This is a record filled with bebop, Afro-Cuban, and soul that both embodies and expands the bebop mysticism of Philadelphia jazz.

Sunnyside, 2015

Waitin’ for the W. T.: W. T. Preston Jazz Band

“The W. T. Preston Jazz Band was started by Ben Root, an Anacortes trumpet player who loved New Orleans-style jazz and wanted to put together a local group to share his interest (and named it after the old paddle wheeler now being used as a museum in Anacortes). Ben gathered several of his musician friends and began to play Dixieland Jazz. After his passing in 1997, Norris Hooten took over, and Pat Rein joined. The group expanded its repertoire to include tunes from the 60’s through the 80’s (in Dixieland style).” –CD leaflet.

Mile 7 Music, 2001

Cosmopolite: the Oscar Peterson Verve Sessions

Benny Carter – These timeless Benny Carter performances match the great altoist with pianist Oscar Peterson, bassist Ray Brown, either Barney Kessel or Herb Ellis on guitar, Buddy Rich, J.C. Heard or Bobby White on drums, and, on four numbers, trombonist Bill Harris. The 17 standards (four of which are also heard in alternate versions) are treated with respect, taste, and swing. Carter always sounds flawless and is in excellent form throughout this enjoyable set.” –Scott Yanow

Verve/Polygram, 1994

Expedition 2: Wolff & Clark Expedition

Veteran musicians with jazz roots, Michael Wolff (piano) and Mike Clark (drums), offer Expedition 2 as a sonic exploration of their more-than-45-year friendship and musical careers. With an experimental mix of straight-ahead, rock, funk, and Latin jazz, the record is a cross-section of two varied musical careers, with notable collaborators like Christian McBride and Daryl Johns on bass, Wallace Roney on trumpet, and the young saxophonist Hailey Niswanger.

Random Act, 2015

Abstract Quantities: Chad Mccullough / Bram Weijters

With Abstract Quantities, Seattle trumpeter Chad McCullough continues his fertile creative hookup with the Belgian keyboardist Bram Weijters. Piet Verbist on bass, and John Bishop on drums, round out this third collaboration between McCullough and Weijters. Featuring original compositions by the two (McCullough’s three to Weijters’ eight), Abstract Quantities is filled with pure tones, wistful melodies, and cohesive interplay within the quartet.

Origin Records, 2015

Intents and Purposes: Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet

The Rez Abbasi Acoustic Quartet features the Pakistan-born, California-reared guitarist along with Bill Ware (vibraphone), Stephan Crump (bass), and Eric McPherson (drums), recreating early jazz-fusion classics from the likes of Herbie Hancock, Weather Report, Tony Williams, and others. Abbasi recasts these primarily electric, 1970’s originals into enjoyable, modern acoustic settings influenced, as always, by his South Asian musical sensibilities.

Enja, 2015

The Last Southern Gentlemen: Delfeayo Marsalis

In this first-time collaboration with his pianist father Ellis Marsalis, trombonist and producer Delfeayo delivers a fine album of jazz standards and original compositions. The trombonist tenderly and intimately swings through “Autumn Leaves” and “If I Were a Bell,” and surprises with “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street.” It’s a lovely album that escorts the listener through a classic and gentle jazz experience in the hands of masters.

Troubadour Jass, 2014

Dedication: Justin Kauflin

Produced by Quincy Jones, Dedication has been named a DownBeat magazine Editor’s Pick, a New York Times Critics’ Choice, and spent numerous weeks on the top of the jazz charts. The album is the second full-length effort by 28-year-old pianist Kauflin, who lost his vision at an early age due to a rare eye disease. It features 12 original compositions in trio and quartet settings that are dedicated to his mentor, trumpeter Clark Terry, and accompany the award winning documentary film, “Keep on Keeping on.” This is a mature and marvelous record that rewards multiple listens.

Jazz Village, 2014

Ernestine Anderson Swings the Penthouse: Ernestine Anderson

Seattle’s beloved jazz and blues vocal legend unveils these historically significant recordings from performance at the legendary Pioneer Square jazz club, The Penthouse, more than 50 years after the fact. This is a wonderful opportunity to hear the great Anderson, live and at the start of her career, on standards like “You Make Me Feel So Young,” “There Will Never Be Another You,” and “Honeysuckle Rose,” which have never been released in any format since recorded here. One can easily see how Anderson, whose career spanned over 60 years, still had so many tricks up her sleeve.

Highnote, 2015

Round Nina: Various Artists

Eleven years after her passing, a somewhat disparate but enormously talented tribe of musicians honors the distinctive jazz vocalist Nina Simone, on Round Nina. Interpreted by artists from around the world — like Keziah Jones, Gregory Porter, Melody Gardot, and Youn Sun Nah — the tribute is filled with jazz, blues, and soul renditions of the Simone’s tunes such as “Sinnerman,” “Black is the Color (of My True Love’s Hair),” “Feeling Good,” and “I Put a Spell on You.” The roster of younger artists turn this ambitious record into proof of the timelessness of Simone’s work.

Verve, 2014

I Remember Cedar: David Hazeltine

“I Remember Cedar represents the passing of a baton, with a lingering grip. Pianist Cedar Walton had a profound influence on the musical artistry of David Hazeltine. For his part, Walton once called Hazeltine ‘for sure the brightest star on the jazz piano horizon.’ When Walton passed in August of 2013 at the age of 79, this tribute from Hazeltine—with its ensemble integrity, nuanced innovation and overall ability to pay back, with interest, a hefty stylistic debt—was inevitable,” writes Britt Robson, JazzTimes. “[The] ability to unearth so much fertile ground within the theoretically narrow confines of mid-tempo bop (ballads and breakneck tunes are mostly eschewed) is what made the ingenuity of Walton, and subsequently Hazeltine, such an enduring pleasure…The final track is ‘Over the Rainbow,’ Walton’s favorite solo piece. Hazeltine’s solo version is worthy of the occasion, and could righteously stand as the eulogy Walton fans most cherish.

Sharp Nine Records, 2015

Take This: Jacky Terrasson

The French pianist is renowned for his carefully controlled velocity, exquisite phrasing, and affinity to everything from the French Romantics and mid-century bebop to American pop icons. Take This, an album whose name comes from Paul Desmond’s 1959 “Take Five,” features Terrasson with American bassist Burniss Travis, Cuban-born drummer Lukmill Perez, Malian percussionist Adama Diarra, and Afro-French vocalist/ beatboxer Sly Johnson, to create a record with a global jazz sound. Balancing standards from Bud Powell, Miles Davis, and more, Terrasson also takes on classic rock with the Beatles’ “Come Together” and modern pop with Gotye’s 2011 “Somebody That I Used to Know.”

Impulse, 2015

Made in Chicago: live at the Chicago Jazz Festival

Jack DeJohnette – Long known as 1/3 of the enduring “Standards Trio” of Keith Jarrett, Jack DeJohnette originally came up in Chicago, and has always maintained ties to that fertile creative music scene. In August, 2013, the renowned drummer reunited with old friends to record a concert at his hometown’s Millennium Park. Made in Chicago features avant-gardists Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell on saxophones, Muhal Richard Abrams on piano, and Larry Gray on double bass and cello. Original compositions and group improvisation by these seasoned musicians make for a thrilling live album.

ECM, 2015

Hear Here: Mark Lewis Cool Jazz Trio

“Mark Lewis grew up in the Northwest then moved to the Netherlands for many years to perform, teach and record music. He also lived in San Francisco for a few years and recorded a top 40 jazz album after auditioning for Stan Getz to land a record deal. He is a prolific composer, with over 1,600 songs to his name. He’s also an accomplished recording engineer, and has recorded and produced albums for a number of great jazz musicians, including the last album recorded by legendary drummer Philly Joe Jones.” –All About Jazz

Audio Daddio, 2013

The Music of Eddie South: Violin Jazz

“The sheer eclecticism of this tribute to jazz-fiddle forebear Eddie South – ranging from the feel good swing of “Idaho” to the cantorial “Kol Nidre”, and a flamboyant four-minute “Rhapsody in Blue” – bolsters (violinist) Cohen’s position among the heavyweights.  Ten of the 14 tracks can be compared with “The Dark Angel of the Fiddle”, a collection of radio transcriptions from 1944 on which a young Billy Taylor was South’s pianist…Cohen’s quartet reaffirms that South’s deepest jazz allegiance remained with the swing of his peers Django Reinhardt and Stephane Grappelli.” -JazzTimes

Dorian Recordings, 2010

Songs for Quintet: Kenny Wheeler

The innovative, smokey-toned trumpeter and composer, Kenny Wheeler, recorded what was to be his last album, Songs for Quintet, just months before he passed away in 2014. It was released in January, 2015, the day before he would have turned 85. With Stan Stulzmann on tenor sax, John Parricelli on guitar, Chris Laurence on double bass, and Martin France on drums, the album features warm and lyrical tunes, enhanced by the quintet’s sure sound, convincing solos, and dazzling cohesiveness. – John Gilbreath

ECM, 2015

Swing Makes You Happy!: George Gee Swing Orchestra

(featuring the transcriptions, arrangements & compositions of David Gibson) –  Bandleader George Gee, both an innovator and a traditionalist who has always offered spirited projects, has taken special care with this joyous swing romp.  “The George Gee Swing Orchestra swings in the manner of Gee’s friend and mentor, Count Basie,” writes AllAboutJazz.com. “The Basie spirit is ever-present, and if Swing Makes You Happy, Gee’s eighth album as leader should put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.” – John Gilbreath

Rondette Records, 2014

Break Stuff: Vijay Iyer Trio

Long known as “a brilliant young pianist” (he earned a Masters in Physics and a Doctorate in brain cognition by age 28), Iyer has matured as a jazz artist (also picking up a MacArthur genius award at 42) through a variety of innovative musical applications. “Break Stuff” applies his penchant for innovation to his relationship with the classic jazz piano trio format, with the now-seasoned ensemble of Stephan Crump on bass and Marcus Gilmore on drums examining the role of “breakdowns, break beats, and break dancing” in music and life. – John Gilbreath

ECM, 2015

The Journey: Charles McPherson

The veteran be-bop alto saxophonist McPherson is well known for his work with Charles Mingus, and for being a direct link the spirit of Charlie Parker. On The Journey he takes inspiration from Parker, and pays respects to the standards of Richard Rogers, Sammy Cahn, and others. McPherson also plays original compositions with bandmates Keith Oxman, Chip Stephens, Ken Walker, and Todd Reid in a recording he calls “fruitful and joyous,” filled with songs that are “a great representation of the collective spirit and vitality of this group.” – John Gilbreath

Capri Records, 2015

 

Shadows in the Night: Bob Dylan

 

On Shadows in the Night, the iconic folk rocker covers 10 “jazz standards” from the Great American Songbook, including such tracks as “Autmun Leaves,” “Some Enchanted Evening,” and “That Lucky Old Sun.” In this, his 36th studio album, Dylan recorded live with a five-piece band (two guitars, bass and pedal steel, and occasional horns) in beautifully crafted arrangements. In an exclusive interview with AARP, which Dylan himself sought out, he says of making this record now, “Now is the right time. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I heard Willie [Nelson’s] Stardust record in the late 1970s. All through the years, I’ve heard these songs being recorded by other people and I’ve always wanted to do that. And I wondered if anybody else saw it the way I did.” – John Gilbreath

Columbia, 2015

The Now: Aaron Goldberg

The Now marks the fifth tersely titled disc in 16 years for pianist Aaron Goldberg’s trio with drummer Eric Harland and bassist Reuben Rogers,” writes Britt Robson in JazzTimes. “Goldberg and his rhythm section (who have also paired up behind Charles Lloyd) have steadfastly redefined a mixture of elements that is at once distinctive and familiar.” This release includes, “thoughtful Goldberg originals….; slightly skewed covers of mid-20th-century jazz tunes; and some exquisite Latin American jazz, pop or folk songs.”

Sunnyside Records, 2014

 

Chicago April 1951: Lennie Tristano (2 CD’s)

A fantastic, two-disc document of another of jazz’s definitive, but under-recognized artists, here at the peak of his career and in a sextet setting that includes his two most notable collaborators; alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, and tenor saxophonist Warne Marsh. Recorded at Chicago’s Blue Note Jazz Club in the spring of 1951, the date captures fascinating and forward-thinking music — in the bebop tradition but somehow outside the gravitational pull of Charlie Parker — that was to shape the sounds still used 50 years down the road. – John Gilbreath

Uptown Records, 2014

All the Cats Join In: Connie Evingson and the John Jorgenson Quintet

Connie Evingson and the John Jorgenson Quintet  –  Evingson, the charming, Minneapolis-based jazz vocalist who has long been a favorite of this region’s KPLU radio, continues to evolve and refine her technique on this release. As JazzTimes magazine says, “Evingson’s sound has grown plumper, richer and warmer. Such enticing changes are ideally suited to her new album’s concept of swinging dusty chestnuts (and several deftly chosen pop tunes) old-style…The vintage tunes – “Love Me or Leave Me,” “You’re Driving Me Crazy,” “The Lamp is Low” and such – are winningly rendered. More intriguing, though, are Evingson and Jorgenson’s sepia-toned reinterpretations of more contemporary material”. – John Gilbreath

Minnehaha Music, 2014

To Lady With Love: Annie Ross

(1 CD & 1 DVD)  –  Since the 1960’s heyday of the legendary vocalese trio of Lambert, Hendricks, and Ross, Annie Ross has largely mined the shadows, emerging briefly on the soundtrack to the film “Short Cuts,” with the Doc Pomus ditty, “To Hell With Love.”  In this (very) late-career release, the 84-year-old Ross pays homage to Billie Holiday, kicking it off with a spoken introduction: “I heard her first on record. I was 15 years old. The song she sang was ‘Strange Fruit.’ It made my blood run cold. She became my idol, my mentor and my friend. She remained my favorite until the very end. Your voice was always in my head, its message clear and true.” Though Ross herself has lost some of her vocal range, JazzTimes notes, “there’s a hard-earned nobility in her tremulous sound, vestige of a life lived fast, furiously and well.” – John Gilbreath

Red Anchor, 2014

Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert – Various Artists

“An extraordinary hurricane benefit concert took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on September 17, just two weeks after Katrina washed away much of New Orleans. The five-hour show brought together a dazzling array of jazz and pop stars, and notables from stage and screen who recited tributes to the birthplace of jazz and urged Americans to give generously and to make sure their government fixes the levees and helps the city revive.” –All About Jazz

Bluenote 2005

Bird Calls: Rudresh Mahanthappa

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa teams up with Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Matt Mitchell (piano), François Moutin (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums) on Bird Calls, a non-tribute album to Charlie Parker. Rather, “each track is directly based on a Parker composition or solo,” Mahanthappa writes in the album liner notes. The quintet delivers fine, fiery material two-fold: first, with straightforward homages to Bird in terms of runs and articulation, and second with imaginatively crafted montages. “This album is not a tribute to Charlie Parker. It is a blissful devotion to a man who made so much possible. Bird Calls on all of us to embrace the beauty of the world as it exists here and now.”  – John Gilbreath

ACT Music, 2015

Swingin’ on the Korner: live at the Keystone Korner – Red Garland Trio

2 CD Compilation – This late-career trio recording captures the perennially under-rated piano master in the company of drummer Philly Joe Jones and the bassist Leroy Vinnegar, at San Francisco’s legendary Keystone Korner. The two-disc set is remarkable in my mind, not for the pristine, distinctive block-chord blues of Garland’s early work with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but for conveying the loose, road-tested ease with which three veterans can put together real magic by just seeming to “shake it out of their sleeves.” The recording is a little rough, and the playing is not what you’d call “tight,” but you can feel the vibe, hear the glasses clink, and almost smell the cigarette smoke in this notorious jazz joint. – John Gilbreath

Elemental Music, 2014

Imaginary Cities: Chris Potter Underground Orchestra

Saxophonist Chris Potter, who has always been a thoughtful composer and a stunning instrumentalist, has applied his remarkable skills to a wide variety of musical projects over the years. Continuing this musical progression here, he expands the existing “Underground” quartet with the judicious and compelling use of a first-rate string section. This disc rewards the serious listener with some fascinating visits to the Imaginary Cities of one of the truly distinctive artists of our era. – John Gilbreath

ECM Records, 2015

Beautiful Life: Jimmy Greene

The accomplished saxophonist Jimmy Greene tragically lost his six-year-old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. With Beautiful Life, he delivers a heartbreakingly beautiful musical eulogy for her. “Much attention has been paid to the way in which my precious Ana died,” he writes in the liner notes, “but this album attempts to paint the picture of how she lived — lovingly, faithfully and joyfully.” – John Gilbreath

Mack Avenue, 2014

Lathe of Heaven: Mark Turner Quartet

With trumpeter with the first-rate band of trumpeter Avishai Cohen, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Marcus Gilmore, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner creates an articulate, cohesive six-track record – his first on ECM. Influenced by Warne Marsh and John Coltrane, Turner crafts textured, intricate tunes, such as the distinctive title track and “Year of the Rabbit.” The quartet also pays homage to pianist Ethan Iverson on “Ethan’s Line” and Stevie Wonder on “Sonnet for Stevie.” – John Gilbreath

ECM Records, 2014

Quartet: Frank Kimbrough

The brilliant, but under-recognized pianist Frank Kimbrough was a founding member of the Jazz Composer’s Collective in the 1990’s and has been a thoughtful contributor to the New York jazz scene jazz. His chops as a bandleader are on ample display here. Pop Matters points out that Kimbrough’s “… quartet is a very balanced band, and it’s a tribute to the leader that he neither dominates the program nor is he swallowed up by superb sidemen. Quartet sounds in every respect like the document of a band that operates with respect and encouragement, with daring but tradition. With four players all planted firmly on the ground but not afraid to take flight, this is recording that tells you just how beautifully the scene today balances adventure and beauty, lift-off and landing”. – John Gilbreath

Palmetto Records, 2014

Live in NYC: Gretchen Parlato

Released in 2013, this stunning live recording was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for the Best Jazz Vocal Album. With superb pitch and control, Parlato’s restrained but soaring vocals, accompanied by pianist Taylor Eigsti and saxophonist David Binney, create pure aural bliss. An extremely listenable album, Live in NYC features tracks from her earlier records, such as “Weak,” “Butterfly,” and “Alo, Alo,” as well as a striking cover of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years.” “She pushes boundaries without offending any musically liberal or conservative sensibilities…This is one of the futures of jazz vocals,” says AllAboutJazz.com.

ObliqSound, 2013

Worker: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is the acclaimed, road-sharpened trio of Brian Haas (piano/Fender Rhodes/bass Moog/synth), Chris Combs (electric guitar/lap steel guitar/synth), and Josh Raymer (drums). While navigating 20 years, 16 members, 25 albums, and countless tours around the world, JFJO has become an institution in modern music. Defined by evolution and change, the band has invented a language so clear that it defines the JFJO sound regardless of configuration. Worker is a yet another collection of songs that defy expectation.  – John Gilbreath

The Royal Potato Family, 2014

The Hot Sardines

“One of the most delightfully energetic bands on New York’s burgeoning ‘hot’ music scene is this swinging ensemble fronted by the charismatic singer ‘Miz Elizabeth’ Bougerol and featuring the happy feet of resident tap dancer ‘Fast Eddy’ Francisco. Led by the talented old soul pianist Evan ‘Bibs’ Palazzo, this charming retro octet tackles such tunes from yesteryear as the Andrews Sisters’ ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen’ and Fats Waller’s ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ with great gusto and panache.”  — DownBeat

Decca, 2014

Wallflower: Diana Krall

The alluring and incredibly popular songstress brings her sensual singing and piano skills to a “collection of songs from the late ‘60s to the present day that inspired Krall in her early years.” These include The Eagles’ “Desperado,” The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin,’” Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower,” and a new composition by Paul McCartney, “If I Take You Home Tonight.”   – John Gilbreath

Verve, 2014

 

See What I’m Saying: The Kareem Kandi Band

“Best Jazz Group for 2007, 2008, 2010 & 2011” –(Weekly Volcano’s Best of Tacoma Reader’s Poll).  ”It’s a hard swinging, straight ahead, bop oriented quartet with few announcements, no vocals and a consistent commitment to explore the joys of jazz.” –The Tacoma Reporter.