Country for Old Men – John Scofield

The lauded guitarist/composer’s latest album finds him paying tribute to such greats as George Jones, Dolly Parton, Merle Haggard, James Taylor, and Hanks Williams. Playing alongside colleagues including Steve Swallow (bass), Larry Goldings (keys), and Bill Stewart (drums), Scofield delivers a top-notch, seamless performance combining many of his interests and influences. Country For Old Men is an album that “suggests that not only does Scofield – playing better than he ever has – have plenty of surprises still up his sleeve, but that he may well be moving in a direction where the myriad of music he loves is now all fair game, all while still remaining firmly in the jazz sphere.”

Verve, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Six Pieces of Silver – Horace Silver

The first classic album by the Horace Silver Quintet, this set is highlighted by “Señor Blues” and “Cool Eyes.” The early Silver quintet of 1956 was essentially the Jazz Messengers of the year before, with trumpeter Donald Byrd, tenor saxophonist Hank Mobley, and bassist Doug Watkins (while drummer Louis Hayes was in Blakey‘s place), but already the band was starting to develop a sound of its own. “Señor Blues” officially put Horace Silver on the map, and the album is a hard bop and gospel-tinged jazz gem. Some reissues add bonus tracks, including two additional versions of “Señor Blues,” including a later vocal rendition by Bill Henderson.”- (Scott Yanow, Allmusic)

Blue Note/Capitol Record, 2000

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