Forgive and Forget – Terell Stafford

Trumpeter Terell (TARE el) Stafford is one of a small group of straight-ahead jazz musicians at the top of the list for solo performance and education opportunities around the world, but rarely released records under his own name. A veteran of Bobby Watson’s burning bop band, Horizon, Stafford has mellowed his attack and refined his brilliance to wide public appeal. Check him in person some time at Jazz Port Townsend. Meanwhile, enjoy this great quintet recording.

Herb Harris Music, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sixteen Drummers Suite – Dan Weiss

This tribute to jazz drummers, by a jazz drummer, defies what may be perfectly natural expectations. It is not a collection of drum solos. These seven compositions for a large ensemble of musicians, including Whidbey Island native Miles Okazaki on guitar, are complex and rewarding. Going further inside of the compositional concept, you find that the compositions; Elvin (Jones), Max (Roach), Tony (Williams), etc., are based on a particular phrase, or “lick,” in a particular solo by each of the drummers named. The ensemble includes harp, flutes, tuba, and remarkable wordless vocal sections.

Pi Recordings, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Charlie Watts Meets the Danish Radio Big Band – Charlie Watts

The Rolling Stone’s drummer has always had a love of jazz, and has done a variety of projects in his “down time” over the years. Yes, his rock drumming is solid and steady, but, as he proves in the company of this crack European Big band, we can swing – hard. There are a few covers of Stones’ tunes, but the tour de force is a two-part tribute composition to Coltrane’s drummer, Elvin Jones. The Elvin Suite has gorgeous orchestral colorings and comes to a powerful finish with Jones’s dominating 6/8 feel.

Impulse, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Music From Our Soul – Charnett Moffett

The powerhouse bassist Charnette Moffett is a force of nature in live performance settings, sometimes picking up the double bass instrument by the neck with his left hand and storming around the stage while playing. He has worked with masters from Ornette Coleman to Wynton Marsalis, and has 13 recordings of his own as a leader. This music comes from the soul for sure, with band mates like Cyrus Chestnut, Jeff “Tain” Watts, and Stanly Jordan, and Charnette playing both acoustic and electric bass.

Motema, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Hudson – DeJohnette/Grenadier/Medeski/Scofield

This refreshing “supergroup” recording is engaging on a number of levels. Though all of the musicians are established – well, let’s just say legendary – through their work over the years in other contexts – going back to Miles Davis in the case of Jack DeJohnette and John Scofield – they come together beautifully here to make music that is brand new. Everyone contributes new compositions, and there are a couple of unusual covers. The group name comes from the Hudson Valley, in upstate New York, where they all live. This will be one of the top releases of 2017.

Motema, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Ella: Accentuate the Positive – Regina Carter

The MacArthur-Award winning violinist greets the 2017 centenary of the legendary jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald with appropriate reverence but, in the jazz tradition, but with unique musical direction all her own. There are only a few vocals, calling in the skills of Carla Cook and Miche Braden, but the music is closer to the back woods than to Carnegie Hall. Bassist Chris Lightcap always shines, as does long-time drummer, and Carter’s husband, Alvester Garnette. The sly and slippery blues of guitarist Marvin Sewell, and the perfect addition to Carter’s visions of Ella.

Okeh, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

A Rift in Decorum: live at the Village Vanguard – Ambrose Akinmusire

The brilliant Oakland-born trumpeter, of Nigerian heritage, is a rising star, wise beyond his years, with a firmly developed and quite distinctive artistic voice. Having won the prestigious Thelonious Monk competition and the Carmine Caruso trumpet competition in the same year, Akinmuisre landed an equally prestigious contract with Blue Note Records and has not looked back. This two-disc release, his third on Blue Note, finds them in New York’s legendary Village Vanguard, and hyper-aware of the spirits of the jazz legends that preceded them down the narrow stairwell and onto the Vanguard stage. Pianist Sam Harris shines. The band is incredible, and the music challenging but rewarding.

Blue Note, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dialogue – Myra Melford & Ben Goldberg

This adventurous set of duo improvisations is not for the faint of heart. Both Melford’s piano work and Goldberg’s extended technique playing on a variety of clarinets, are studied and virtuosic, but the music is not restrained by traditions of time, melody, or conventional scales. Dialogue captures the ongoing conversation between these two geniuses, and delivers it in a language not immediately or easily understood.

BAG, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Wake Up Call – David Weiss & Point of Departure

Trumpeter David Weiss’ Point of Departure project re-examines some of the most innovative music of the late 1960s. Among the composers being re-examined and re-imagined on this, the fourth Point of Departure outing, are John McLaughlin, Wayne Shorter, Charles Moore, and Joe Henderson. With saxophonists Myron Walden and J.D. Allen, featured guitarists Ben Eunson, Travis Reuter, and Nir Felder, bassist Matt Clohesy, and drummer Kush Abadey, Weiss performs with a fully realized, harmonically adventurous band with a unique sound and approach.

Ropeadope, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath