Charmed Circle – Cedar Walton

Here is a hip re-issue of a late-70s run at San Francisco’s (in)famous Keystone Corner club by one of the great Bop pianists of all time. As was often the case in those days, Walton assembled a group of top local players into a group they called the “Western Rebellion,” and settled into the run. This recording captures the ambience, spontaneity, and excellence of players like Steve Turre, Tony Dumas, and Ralph Penland, working with the great pianist. It’s a valuable sign of the times.

Highnote, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Formidable – Pat Martino

Jazz guitarist Pat Martino has quite a story; he suffered a serious head injury while virtually at the peak of his career, and had to relearn everything about his life, including how to be among the top guitarists in a field so crowded with greats. He did it, and then some. This 2017 release finds him in top form with a young band, swinging hard in front of organ and drums, with guest appearances by trumpet and saxophone. As a seasoned elder, he knows he doesn’t have to play all of the notes; just the right ones.

Highnote, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Blueprints – Bill Anschell/Brent Jensen/Chris Symer

As a follow-up to their lauded duo recording, “We Couldn’t Agree More,” soprano saxophonist Brent Jensen and pianist Bill Anschell decided to enhance their tonal palette, eliciting help from bassist Chris Symer as they explore a set of jazz standards with an uninhibited, free-wheeling interplay. –Chris Robinson (Earshot Jazz)

Origin Records, 2012

Ranky Tanky – Ranky Tanky

From the Gullah language for “Get Funky!” it should come as no surprise that Ranky Tanky’s debut album is full of authentic, funky, soulful, and moving tunes. Coming out of Charleston, South Carolina, a region steeped in the Gullah tradition, Ranky Tanky—Quentin E. Baxter (drums), Kevin Hamilton (bass), Quiana Parler (vocals), Clay Ross (guitar, vocals), and Charlton Singleton (trumpet, vocals)—revives these songs for the 21st century in a way that is relevant and thoroughly enjoyable. As Afropop Worldwide says, “this album is without a doubt one of the greatest gifts of the year, an incredible piece of work overflowing with authenticity.”

Resilience Music, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Steppin’ Out – Steps Ahead with the WDR Big Band

Like a hand in a glove, this synergistic collaboration between the long-running fusion ensemble Steps Ahead and Germany’s polished WDR Big Band comes together as if it were always meant to be. Somewhat surprisingly, since both groups can be brash and chops-heavy, the music finds cohesive and almost laid back attitude, creating a whole quite different than the sum of its parts might lead us to expect.

Delta Music, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

World Broadcast Recordings 1955 – Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee never was a jazz singer, per se, but this two disc retrospective captures the closest she ever came to that designation. Recorded over four afternoons in 1955, one year before “stereophonic” recordings debuted, the date is made of 49 evergreens, most just two or three minutes long. Peggy Lee was a dark and fascinating individual who lived hard and worked hard. Though her legacy has essentially been reduced to one mediocre song, “Fever,” she sang and recorded an enormous amount of material over her life. This archival release is a great view into that world.

Audiophile, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath