Tandem – Dawn Clements

This eagerly-anticipated 2nd release from Seattle pianist/vocalist Dawn Clement is made up of a variety of duo performances and showcases all of her charm, virtuosity, and humanity. From the adventurous improvisations with jazz master Julian Priester, to the sweet, understated vocal duos with Johnaye Kendrick, to the hard-swinging romps with drummer Matt Wilson, these settings draw us in with a sense of mutual discovery. Dawn Clement’s stature is sure to grow, here at home and far abroad.

Origin Records, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Leadbelly Project – Adam Nussbaum

Drummer Adam Nussbaum has assembled two fascinating guitarists and a saxophonist to join him on this all-instrumental recording of songs by the great American blues man, Heddie Ledbetter, most commonly known as Leadbelly. To the many who are familiar with some of these songs, the vocals may be glaring by their omission. At least initially, this CD may be more engaging to those who have never heard of Leadbelly, but as we let go of the need for vocals, the arrangements and performances here stand up perfectly on their own.

Sunnyside, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Standards – Seal

Turns at jazz vocals by established pop stars are not always successful. Same goes here. But the English soulster steps up here with a core jazz trio, and, even though the set list is a bit odd, finds the perfect fit for a few rewarding tunes. Seal’s voice is a treasure, and its soft but textured soul wraps a few familiar standards in a fine new package.

Universal, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Embrace – Roswell Rudd

From Dixieland to free jazz, trombonist Roswell Rudd, who passed away at 82 years of age, was a longtime veteran and champion of all aspects of the art form. On this final recording, Embrace, featuring vocalist Fay Victor, pianist Lafayette Harris, and bassist Ken Filiano, Rudd and company skillfully move through jazz standards, including Charlie Chaplin’s “Can’t We Be Friends” and album opener, Billy Strayhorn’s “Something to Live For,” and embody the lineage and rich beauty of jazz composition, culture, and camaraderie.

Rare Noise, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

In Paris: the Definitive ORTF Recording – Wes Montgomery

This reissue of a live 1965 concert recording by one of the most distinctive guitarists in jazz has been digitally re-mastered on two discs directly from the original tapes. The package includes a 32-page booklet as well. This is one of those packages you want to just sit down with for a few hours. The band is first rate, and features the great Johnny Griffin on guest appearances, and, though some of the arrangements may sound dated, Wes Montgomery’s work is a pure joy throughout. Even at 50 years old, this live date is full of straight-up jazz joy, can offer guitar lessons for even the most of today’s players.

Resonance, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

All In My Mind – Dr. Lonnie Smith

Recorded in New York City during Smith’s 75-birthday celebration, this date finds the B-3 organist and NEA Jazz Master at an astounding creative height that implies that this arc has plenty of vertical gain still to come. Smith, who came on the scene in 1967 and left the Blue Note label in 1970, returns to the label here with organ work that’s funky, hard swinging, and full of dark narrative. Smith creates a dynamic groove with drummer Jonathan Blake and guitarist Jonathan Kreisberg, and finds magic with vocalist Alicia Olatuja on one track.

Blue Note Records, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Vortex – Wayne Escoffery

Being a tenor saxophonist in jazz is not an easy job. The instrument is so ubiquitous and the field so full of giants that, often times, even the excellent get overlooked. After a number of years of exemplary work with great orchestrators like Tom Harrell and Amina Figarova, Wayne Escofferey is emerging as a bandleader to be watched. His new quartet has heavy hitters like pianist Dave Kikoski, bassist Ugonna Okegwo, and drummer Ralph Peterson, and carries a tension that plays out on ballads as well as up tempo stompers. His playing is influenced by, and carries the edge of, his mentor, Jackie McLean, but the intellect and experience that he brings to this debut recording bring him head and shoulders above the pack.

Sunnyside, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Modern Lore – Julian Lage

The still-young Santa Cruz native has emerged as one great guitarists of his generation, which is saying something. Without any pretense or showboating, the joy and mastery he displays in live performance is jaw dropping and riveting; you just can’t look away. It’s difficult to capture that on a recording, however. This is not soothing background music. The listener has to lean into this recording to catch its magic, but this set of original compositions and guitar virtuosity can be enormously rewarding.

Mack Avenue, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Bad Hombre – Antonio Sanchez

Drummer Antonio Sanchez has distinguished himself by being one of the best, inside and outside, of jazz. His ensemble work with Pat Metheny and others gained well-deserved attention as a jazz drummer, but his conceptual work and solo drum sound track to the Birdman film really established him as a leading artist. This work, too, is a complete solo project, expressing his anger as a Mexican American living in the time of political disenfranchisement and “racial rhetoric against Mexicans.” Melding electronica, drum set, and studio production, Sanchez has created a statement that is as socially relevant as it is musically powerful.

 
Cam One Music, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath