Higher Ground: Hurricane Relief Benefit Concert – Various Artists

“An extraordinary hurricane benefit concert took place at Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York on September 17, just two weeks after Katrina washed away much of New Orleans. The five-hour show brought together a dazzling array of jazz and pop stars, and notables from stage and screen who recited tributes to the birthplace of jazz and urged Americans to give generously and to make sure their government fixes the levees and helps the city revive.” –All About Jazz

Bluenote 2005

Bird Calls: Rudresh Mahanthappa

Saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa teams up with Adam O’Farrill (trumpet), Matt Mitchell (piano), François Moutin (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums) on Bird Calls, a non-tribute album to Charlie Parker. Rather, “each track is directly based on a Parker composition or solo,” Mahanthappa writes in the album liner notes. The quintet delivers fine, fiery material two-fold: first, with straightforward homages to Bird in terms of runs and articulation, and second with imaginatively crafted montages. “This album is not a tribute to Charlie Parker. It is a blissful devotion to a man who made so much possible. Bird Calls on all of us to embrace the beauty of the world as it exists here and now.”  – John Gilbreath

ACT Music, 2015

Swingin’ on the Korner: live at the Keystone Korner – Red Garland Trio

2 CD Compilation – This late-career trio recording captures the perennially under-rated piano master in the company of drummer Philly Joe Jones and the bassist Leroy Vinnegar, at San Francisco’s legendary Keystone Korner. The two-disc set is remarkable in my mind, not for the pristine, distinctive block-chord blues of Garland’s early work with Miles Davis and John Coltrane, but for conveying the loose, road-tested ease with which three veterans can put together real magic by just seeming to “shake it out of their sleeves.” The recording is a little rough, and the playing is not what you’d call “tight,” but you can feel the vibe, hear the glasses clink, and almost smell the cigarette smoke in this notorious jazz joint. – John Gilbreath

Elemental Music, 2014

Imaginary Cities: Chris Potter Underground Orchestra

Saxophonist Chris Potter, who has always been a thoughtful composer and a stunning instrumentalist, has applied his remarkable skills to a wide variety of musical projects over the years. Continuing this musical progression here, he expands the existing “Underground” quartet with the judicious and compelling use of a first-rate string section. This disc rewards the serious listener with some fascinating visits to the Imaginary Cities of one of the truly distinctive artists of our era. – John Gilbreath

ECM Records, 2015

Beautiful Life: Jimmy Greene

The accomplished saxophonist Jimmy Greene tragically lost his six-year-old daughter, Ana Márquez-Greene, in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012. With Beautiful Life, he delivers a heartbreakingly beautiful musical eulogy for her. “Much attention has been paid to the way in which my precious Ana died,” he writes in the liner notes, “but this album attempts to paint the picture of how she lived — lovingly, faithfully and joyfully.” – John Gilbreath

Mack Avenue, 2014

Lathe of Heaven: Mark Turner Quartet

With trumpeter with the first-rate band of trumpeter Avishai Cohen, bassist Joe Martin, and drummer Marcus Gilmore, tenor saxophonist Mark Turner creates an articulate, cohesive six-track record – his first on ECM. Influenced by Warne Marsh and John Coltrane, Turner crafts textured, intricate tunes, such as the distinctive title track and “Year of the Rabbit.” The quartet also pays homage to pianist Ethan Iverson on “Ethan’s Line” and Stevie Wonder on “Sonnet for Stevie.” – John Gilbreath

ECM Records, 2014

Quartet: Frank Kimbrough

The brilliant, but under-recognized pianist Frank Kimbrough was a founding member of the Jazz Composer’s Collective in the 1990’s and has been a thoughtful contributor to the New York jazz scene jazz. His chops as a bandleader are on ample display here. Pop Matters points out that Kimbrough’s “… quartet is a very balanced band, and it’s a tribute to the leader that he neither dominates the program nor is he swallowed up by superb sidemen. Quartet sounds in every respect like the document of a band that operates with respect and encouragement, with daring but tradition. With four players all planted firmly on the ground but not afraid to take flight, this is recording that tells you just how beautifully the scene today balances adventure and beauty, lift-off and landing”. – John Gilbreath

Palmetto Records, 2014

Live in NYC: Gretchen Parlato

Released in 2013, this stunning live recording was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for the Best Jazz Vocal Album. With superb pitch and control, Parlato’s restrained but soaring vocals, accompanied by pianist Taylor Eigsti and saxophonist David Binney, create pure aural bliss. An extremely listenable album, Live in NYC features tracks from her earlier records, such as “Weak,” “Butterfly,” and “Alo, Alo,” as well as a striking cover of Simply Red’s “Holding Back the Years.” “She pushes boundaries without offending any musically liberal or conservative sensibilities…This is one of the futures of jazz vocals,” says AllAboutJazz.com.

ObliqSound, 2013

Worker: Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey

Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey is the acclaimed, road-sharpened trio of Brian Haas (piano/Fender Rhodes/bass Moog/synth), Chris Combs (electric guitar/lap steel guitar/synth), and Josh Raymer (drums). While navigating 20 years, 16 members, 25 albums, and countless tours around the world, JFJO has become an institution in modern music. Defined by evolution and change, the band has invented a language so clear that it defines the JFJO sound regardless of configuration. Worker is a yet another collection of songs that defy expectation.  – John Gilbreath

The Royal Potato Family, 2014

The Hot Sardines

“One of the most delightfully energetic bands on New York’s burgeoning ‘hot’ music scene is this swinging ensemble fronted by the charismatic singer ‘Miz Elizabeth’ Bougerol and featuring the happy feet of resident tap dancer ‘Fast Eddy’ Francisco. Led by the talented old soul pianist Evan ‘Bibs’ Palazzo, this charming retro octet tackles such tunes from yesteryear as the Andrews Sisters’ ‘Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen’ and Fats Waller’s ‘Honeysuckle Rose’ with great gusto and panache.”  — DownBeat

Decca, 2014

Wallflower: Diana Krall

The alluring and incredibly popular songstress brings her sensual singing and piano skills to a “collection of songs from the late ‘60s to the present day that inspired Krall in her early years.” These include The Eagles’ “Desperado,” The Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin,’” Bob Dylan’s “Wallflower,” and a new composition by Paul McCartney, “If I Take You Home Tonight.”   – John Gilbreath

Verve, 2014