Rise – Shayna Steele

Ms. Steele’s expansive career has found her backing Moby, Bette Midler, and Kelly Clarkson, performing on Broadway, touring with Rihanna, and working alongside the likes of Dave Douglas and Snarky Puppy. “Now, for her sophomore album,” writes JazzTimes, she “seems bent on bringing that kaleidoscopic wealth of experience crashing together. Across 11 tracks anchored by her longtime musical partner and husband, pianist David Cook, but also featuring such jazz A-listers as Christian McBride, Marcus Miller and Eric Harland, she ventures from gossamer folk to hard-driving rock, adding generous dollops of jazz and soul, and even a hint of country, along the way.”

Ropeadope, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Déjà vu – Peter and Will Anderson

“On this thoroughly entertaining quintet session, twins Will and Peter Anderson team up with one of the most renowned and beloved siblings in jazz history, drummer Albert ‘Tootie’ Heath, who turn[ed] 80 in May of ‘15. No surprise, then, that the young reedmen sound as if they’re fully enjoying the cross-familial connection here, buoyed by Heath’s rhythmic joie de vivre. Of course, given the Anderson’s bob-rooted influences and Heath’s obvious compatibility, who would have expected anything less?” (DownBeat)

Gutstring Records, 2015

Happiness – Benny Green

Long compared to Bud Powell, pianist Benny Green, who played in Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Betty Carter’s band, is a celebrated musician who’s recorded for Blue Note, Telarc, and Criss Cross Jazz. Now he releases Happiness!, his second record for Sunnyside as a leader. The album, recorded live at Kuumbwa Jazz Workshop in the summer of 2016, features Green with bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green as they spin their way through colorful arrangements of tunes by Horace Silver, Freddie Hubbard, Cedar Walton, Wes Montgomery, and more. It’s certainly a record that reflects Green’s love of this music and spreads happiness to the listener.

Sunnyside, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Upstate Project – Rebecca Martin & Guillermo Klein

Singer/songwriter Rebecca Martin and pianist/vocalist/composer Guillermo Klein embark on a collaboration made possible by Klein’s move to Martin’s home of upstate New York. Martin, well known for her elegant songwriting and performance that is a blend of jazz and folk, has previously collaborated with Paul Motian and Kurt Rosenwinkel, who contributes a composition here. Other tracks include rearrangements of works by Bill Frisell, and Brad Mehldau whose trio mates, Larry Grenadier, bass, and Jeff Ballard, drums, join the mix for a truly remarkable project.

Sunnyside, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Akua’s Dance – Akua Dixon

Cellist/composer/vocalist Akua Dixon has stepped up her game on her third release. Moving away from her strings-centric sophomore album, Dixon enlists a driving rhythm section of bassists Kenny Davis and Ron Carter and drummer Victor Lewis, along with immensely capable guitarists Freddie Bryant and Russell Malone. Featuring a mix of original compositions and covers, including a standout arrangement by Bryant of the traditional Negro spiritual “I’m Gonna Tell God of my Troubles,” Akua’s Dance moves its way through the listener’s heart.

Akua’s Music, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Vitor Goncalves Quartet

This remarkable collection of reinvented Brazilian music by Rio-born pianist Vitor Gonçalves contains the bright essence of its original form while also engaging the creative spirit of a few of the most remarkable musicians on the New York jazz scene. Compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Baden Powell, and Dolores Duran, are treated with obvious affection for another Brazilian genius, Hermeto Pascoal. The New York rhythm team of percussionist Dan Weiss and bassist Thomas Morgan are each gifted almost beyond reason, and come to this potentially unfamiliar music as if they’ve been playing it all of their lives. With this release, Gonçalves, a gifted composer and pianist, has emerged into the U. S. jazz community grace and brilliance.

Sunnyside, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live from Jazz at the Bistro – Sean Jones

This release captures the hard driving and brightly burning hard bop, of trumpeter Sean Jones and his first-rate New York band in a 2015 small jazz club setting. Oh, to have been there. The music owes a debt to the 1970’s groups of Woody Shaw, but the similarities a fun to notice here. Jones, who frequently matched chops with Wynton Marsalis (and won!) when he was with the Lincoln Center band, is an incredible instrumentalist, educator, and mentor, who is just now getting well deserved recognition.

Mack Avenue, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live in Sant’Anna Arresi, 2004

The 2016 release of this 2004 live duo set is definitely more of a blessing than an afterthought. The brilliant pianist Matthew Shipp and the powerful (and now deceased) tenor saxophonist David S Ware are master improvisers who had performed and recorded together many times before the tour that brought them together in Europe in 2004. The clarity and fidelity of this recording is gorgeous, remarkably so for a live setting. With just two long improvised pieces and one encore, the music is raw and powerful, unsettling and meditative, distinctive and necessary.

AUM Fidelity, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Duopoly – Kris Davis

The adventurous pianist Kris Davis has created her dream project in Duopoly. This is a series of two duo performances each – one improvised and one original – with forward-thinking artists with whom Davis had never played before this session. The artists are Don Byron, Bill Frisell, Tim Berne, Craig Taborn, Julian Lange, Marcus Gilmore, and Billy Drummond — two reed players, two guitarists, two drummers, and another improvising pianist – and the results are fascinating.

Notes by John Gilbreath

Listening to You – Judy Niemack

Vocalist Judy Niemack joins forces with pianist Dan Tepfer for a lovely outing on Listening to You. Since releasing her debut album in 1977, Niemack has gone on to collaborate with Toots Thielemans, Lee Konitz, Fred Hersch, Joe Lovano, and many others. A “bright, imaginative, inventive, beautiful, swinging” vocalist, she has matured into a strong performer, “her voice deeper and with some of the darkness that comes with time…, always singing into new musical horizons” (Michael Bourne, WBGO).

Sunnyside, 2017