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