Live at the Cota Jazz Festival – Hal Galper and the Youngbloods

Pianist Hal Galper has seen an impressive career. Whether as a valued sideman, alongside the likes of Chet Baker and Cannonball Adderley, or as an established leader, Galper has been passing the post-bop torch to young players and improvisers for many years. On this record, he is joined by saxophonist Nathan Bellot, bassist Dean Torrey, and drummer David Frazier, revisiting compositions of his seminal recordings from the ‘70s. Recorded during the 2016 Cota Jazz Festival, the quartet was celebrating the life of the legendary alto saxophonist Phil Woods.

Origin, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Monochrome – Emi Meyer

Seattle native Emi Meyer has carved out a strong career in Asia, but returns to her hometown for her debut US recording on the Emerald City’s Origin label. Working with Seattle elite including pianist Dawn Clement, drummers Eric Eagle and John Bishop, and bassists Jeff Johnson and Keith Lowe, the pianist/singer-songwriter records new originals to feature alongside music from a set recorded in Paris.

Origin Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dusk – Corey Christiansen

Guitarist Corey Christiansen has an innate skill at bridging traditional Americana music with jazz. This wonderful recording is as much a showcase for his emotive and fluid band, as it is for Christiansen’s prodigious chops and laser sharp focus. As a suite of original compositions, plus one traditional, “Didn’t Leave Nobody But the Baby,” Dusk is evocative of feelings, people, and places, both imagined and familiar.

Origin Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Harmony of Difference – Kamasi Washington

Saxophonist/composer Kamasi Washington has been at the forefront of making jazz more accessible to modern listeners while continuing to push the boundaries of the art form. Following his celebrated (and aptly titled) three-hour, three-disc debut The Epic, Washington delivers an equally spiritual and prodigious (albeit much shorter) listening experience on this six-track EP. It’s a absolutely gorgeous record that is not to be missed.

Young Turks, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Nat “King” Cole & Me – Gregory Porter

On his third Blue Note album, Grammy-winning vocalist Gregory Porter pays heartfelt tribute to his idol, legendary singer Nat King Cole. Porter cites Cole as an inspiration for his music and his life, giving credit to the titles and integrity of Cole’s work as standing in for the lessons he imagines that his absent father would have taught him. Featuring the London Studio Orchestra and a core band of pianist Christian Sands, bassist Reuben Rogers, and drummer Ulysses Owens, plus special guest trumpeter Terence Blanchard, Porter takes listeners through cherished classics including “L-O-V-E” and “Nature Boy.”

Blue Note, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Little Giant Still Life – Dave Douglas with the Westerlies & Anwar Marshall

Internationally celebrated trumpeter/composer Dave Douglas continues to meld with the acclaimed emerging talents of The Westerlies (known recently for their work with Fleet Foxes, as well as their Seattle mentorship with pianist/composer Wayne Horvitz) and Philadelphia-based drummer Anwar Marshall. The Westerlies is a two-trumpet & two-trombone brass quartet with roots in the award-winning jazz education programs of Seattle’s Roosevelt and Garfield High Schools. On Little Giant Still Life, the sextet journey through 12 original compositions by Douglas, each grooving, swinging, lyrical, and distinct.

Greenleaf Music, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Jersey – Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet

Drummer Mark Guiliana, noted for his contributions to David Bowie’s celebrated Blackstar, is steeped in eclectic sounds from electronic to rock and jazz, becoming one of the most influential drummers of his generation by pairing stunning technical facility with a sublime musicality. On Jersey, he is joined by saxophonist Jason Rigby, pianist Fabian Almazan, and bassist Chris Morrissey, exploring intriguing originals driven by improvisational energy that is both explosive and nuanced.

Motema, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Handful of Keys – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra

With Wynton Marsalis at the helm, the JLCO has become the gold standard for repertory big bands. This recording, taken from three nights of concerts at Jazz at Lincoln Center in NYC, focuses in a range of five guest pianists, from the 89 year-old Dick Hyman to the 13 year-old Joey Alexander, and from the traditionalist Isaiah J. Thompson to the avant-gardist Myra Melford. It’s Melford who takes this recording to places it certainly would not have otherwise gone, reminding us that the jazz tradition is both rooted in New Orleans, and free to expand with the universe around us. Helen Sung, who was in the piano chair when the JLCO visited Seattle in 2016, is also a driving force on this date.

Blue Engine Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live @ Ronnie Scott’s – John McLaughlin & the 4th Dimension

Guitar master John McLaughlin can do it all — and has — but many would argue that it is the driving, incendiary fusion of the 1970’s that best showcased his astounding speed and spirit. On this 2017 live date at London’s Ronnie Scotts club, McLaughlin, and band mates Gary Husband (keys), Ettiene M’Bappe (bass), and Ranjit Barot (drums) create a fusion that is tempered by experience, but not at all diminished in fire and excitement. This program opens with “Meeting of the Spirits,” the same as McLaughlin’s legendary Inner Mounting Flame release, and sails through a program of new and familiar material with the same jaw-dropping skill and deep spirit connection that have become McLaughlin’s trademark.

Abstract Logix, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Lester Young: The Classic Albums Collection 1955-1958

Here is a great overview, in 58 individual tracks, of an important time in the life of one of the most important saxophonists in jazz. Lester Young (The Prez), was a genius of the music, spanning the shifting expression from the Swing years into Bebop, and becoming a pivotal figure in both. Yes, he was also persecuted and self-destructive, and plagued by mental and physical illness for most of his life, but his marvelous mind not only set the standard for generations of jazz saxophonists, but gave us an entire lexicon of hipster/beatnik language that has become part of American popular culture. Someone should make a movie about Lester Young.

Enlightenment, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath