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