Book of Rhapsodies Vol. 2 – Ghost Train Orchestra

With incredible musicianship, stop-on-a-dime arrangements, brilliant concepts, and a fair dose of humor, Brian Carpenter and the 11-piece Ghost Train Orchestra carry forth the earlier tradition of the Boston-based little big bands of Orange Then Blue and the Either Orchestra, also on the Accurate record label. The program is varied and engaging, with the music sounding both old and new. Everybody brings something to this party!

Accurate, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Blue Maqams – Anouar Braham

The sound of Tunisian oud master Anouar Brahem can be bone chilling and warmly embracing in the same moment. After a years-long series of gorgeous collaborations with European and North African artists, Brahem joins forces with three brilliant jazz improvisers—bassist Dave Holland, drummer Jack DeJohnette, and pianist Django Bates— for this special date. The title derives from the combination of its players: “Maqams” refers to the Arabic modal music system, while the jazz musicians bring a kind of “blue” to the program. It’s an elegant pairing, providing music that haunts, inspires, and demonstrates the beauty of cultural collaboration.

ECM, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Dance Hall – Jerry Granelli

Drummer Jerry Granelli invites guitar greats and longtime friends Bill Frisell and Robben Ford on a personal journey of reworking songs that have been crucial to his development as an artist. Featuring re-imaginings of Bob Dylan’s “Meet Me in the Morning,” Charles Mingus’ “Boogie Stop Shuffle,” Max Roach/Oscar Brown Jr.’s “Driva Man,” and more, Dance Hall reflects Granelli’s “deep gratitude” towards these artists and his “sheer joy of playing the drums”—a joy that is purely contagious upon listening.

Justin Time, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Piano Song – Matthew Shipp Trio

Pianist/composer Matthew Shipp brings together a stellar trio of longtime collaborator, and former Seattleite, bassist Michael Bisio, and relative newcomer, drummer Newman Taylor-Baker, for an accessible, and incredibly crisp recording, pulsating with tradition and innovation – key traits of Shipp’s work. With elements of Monk on “Micro Wave,” pure hard bop on “Cosmopolitan,” and the incredible solo opener “Links,” Piano Song is yet another solid release from one of the best modern pianists.

Thirty Ear, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Body and Shadow – Brian Blade and the Fellowship Band

This long-anticipated release since the group’s last Blue Note recording, 2014’s incredible Landmarks, finds the beloved drummer/bandleader, along with pianist Jon Cowherd, bassist Chris Thomas, and sax men Myron Walden and Melvin Butler, on a thoughtful meditation through light and dark themes. Written, arranged, and produced by Blade and Cowherd, and recorded at the historic Columbus Theatre in Providence, Rhode Island, Body and Shadow is an appropriately stunning way to mark the group’s 20th anniversary—well worth a listen for any music lover today.

Bluenote, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Anti-Hero – Kneebody

For more than 10 years, Kneebody has been delivering an incredible, modern fusion of jazz, electronic, hip-hop, and rock to the (almost) masses, with their youthful flair and indisputable talent. Now, on Anti-Hero, saxophonist Ben Wendel, trumpeter Shane Endsley, keyboardist Adam Benjamin, bassist Kaveh Rastegar, and drummer Nate Wood perform a set that’s true to their swirling sound, filled with style and uniqueness. The music, as always, is incredibly complex while remaining totally accessible and absolutely slamming.

Motema, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Bells for the South Side – Roscoe Mitchell

Multi-instrumentalist and composer Roscoe Mitchell releases an exhilarating double album, recorded live at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, where he had been invited to premiere new music in honor of the exhibition The Freedom Principle, which celebrated the directions in music and art set in motion by the AACM on the titular South Side of the city. Mitchell is joined by a stellar ensemble that includes Craig Taborn and Tyshawn Sorey, weaving and galloping through 11 original Mitchell compositions. It’s a colorful, thoughtful avant-exploration of some of the finest these improvisers can offer.

ECM, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

I Know I Dream: the Orchestral Sessions – Stacey Kent

Vocalist Stacey Kent has maintained a uniquely respected place in the ever-ebbing and flowing pantheon of jazz vocalists. Her soprano voice is both refined and powerful, and her personal poise allows her to assert with a whisper, what others may have to shout. Here, as the title announces, Kent works with the lush arrangements for a 52-piece studio orchestra, striking a remarkable balance in the mix. The closing tune, “The Changing Lights,” is gorgeous.

Sony Music, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Creekside – Phil Parisot

Seattle drummer Phil Parisot delivers strong compositions on his second OA2 release, Creekside. Featuring his quartet of PNW regulars Steve Treseler on tenor sax, Dan Kramlich on piano, and Michael Glynn on bass, the album also welcomes New York trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt, “an imaginative composer and an extraordinarily musical soloist” (Paul de Barros, Seattle Times). Creekside is a well-delivered reflection on how nature manifests itself within urban environments.

OA2 Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Happy Song – Anat Cohen Tentet

Celebrated the world over for her expressive virtuosity and infectious charisma, Israeli clarinetist/composer Anat Cohen releases an appropriately titled album that draws on her diverse musical loves, from Brazilian music to African grooves, from vintage swing to touching ballads. The recording sees her tentet—Rubin Kodheli (cello), Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nick Finzer (trombone), Owen Broder (sax, clarinet), James Shipp (vibes, percussion), Vitor Goncalves (piano, accordion), Sheryl Bailey (guitar), Tal Mashiach (bass), Anthony Pinciotti (drums), and Cohen (clarinet)—performing arrangements by Cohen and Oded Lev-Ari, who also directs the band. This album is rich and sparking with energy.

Anzic Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath