We Are the Drum – Kendrick Scott Oracle

We are the Drum is drummer Kendrick Scott’s Blue Note debut. With his Oracle ensemble of saxophonist John Ellis, keyboardist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Mike Moreno, and bassist Joe Sanders, Scott takes the listener through an expansive, immersive musical experience. Out of 11 tracks, the drummer has provided six compelling new originals, and each of Oracle’s members has a songwriting credit. “It’s not a percussion centered recording,” Scott says. “The accent is on ‘we’ in the title. There is a sense of community in how it was created and how we work together. There is a lot of space for each player to have their say.” And each member certainly has something worth saying.

Blue Note, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sun Ra Arkestra: Live in Babylon, Istanbul

Celestial mayhem, gleeful abandon, vestigial swing and a joyously loose big band come together beautifully in this live recording by the Sun Ra Arkestra, post-Sun Ra. The visionary and impossible-to-categorize jazz legend, who claimed to have come from Saturn…died in 1993, but he would most likely approve of the project, which was recorded on the road in 2014 for what would have been Sun Ra’s centennial year” (DownBeat).

In+Out Records, 2015

Royal Bopsters Project – London, Meader, Pramuk & Ross

Jazz vocalist Amy London – a progeny of the recently deceased Mark Murphy – recruited vocal arranger/tenor Darmon Meader, alto Holli Ross, and newcomer Dylan Pramuk for this special Royal Bopsters Project, a “historic, multi-generational vocalese summit.” Along with veteran jazz singers Jon Hendricks, Annie Ross, Sheila Jordan, and Bob Dorough, the quartet has released a breakthrough album of truly masterful vocal work. From guest Murphy’s spoken-word on a selection from Kerouac’s On the Road to London’s vocalese on Charlie Parker’s “Chasin’ the Bird,” to nimble scatting and theatrical flair, The Royal Bopsters Project is a collection for which you should make room in your music library.

Motema, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Solo – Fred Hersch

Pianist Fred Hersch is well known for the remarkable balance of considerable technical expertise and rich emotional expression in his music. He is such a good pianist that one can almost overlook his skills; and his life experiences – living with full blown AIDS for over 30 years – are so well known that people expect rich emotional expression. Still, the sum of those qualities continues to grow, and this Solo set is the perfect showcase. Hersch is right at home in compositions by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Duke Ellington, and Thelonious Monk. He delivers a stately homage to Robert Schumann on ‘Pastorale, and a version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Both Sides Now’ that, as All About Jazz reports, “sounds as if it drifted up out of a prayer book.” Solo is another jewel by one of this generation’s finest pianists.

Palmetto Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Children of the Light – Perez, Patitucci & Blade

The three brilliant instrumentalists, pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patittucci, and drummer Brian Blade, originally formed in the Wayne Shorter Quartet behind the master saxophonist and composer, and have united as a group only in that setting, from its early 2000 origins until this 2015 release. Having honed their group chemistry in this chance-of-a-lifetime setting, and their individual talents in a myriad of group-leader and side-man settings, these three masters bring a sense of inevitability and an arsenal of incredible firepower to this spinoff trio, whose name, Children of the Light, is itself a twist on the Wayne Shorter composition, ‘Children of the Night.’ NPR music says, “in most ways, the group functions as a collective….with lively group improv like a family dinner where everyone’s talking at once yet somehow, everyone’s being heard”.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Conduct of Jazz – Matthew Shipp Trio

Along with long-time Seattle bassist, Michael Bisio, and drummer, Newman Taylor Baker, composer/pianist Matthew Shipp has released a trio album that beautifully combines his hard-bop influences with his renown as a free improviser. Matt Shipp has been widely recorded over the years, and has enjoyed a lengthy relationship with Thirsty Ear, of whose Blue Series Continuum he was curator. This release is a joy of progressive jazz, especially for the deep swing underpinning the music in the gorgeous tone and time of Bisio’s bass. Listen for the Thelonious Monk-inspired title track, the free form of “Primary Form,” the fanfare of “Instinctive Touch,” and the hard grooves of “Blue Abyss,” all of which combine for an accessible yet adventurous album.

Thirsty Ear, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Looking Forward, Looking Back – Symphonic Jazz Orchestra

The 67-member Symphonic Jazz Orchestra, with special guests Christian McBride, Lee Ritenour, Dave Grusin, John Beasley, Chris Coelman, and Marvin “Smitty” Smith, recorded a live performance at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center in Long Beach, California, as part of the “Arts for Life” series. Conducted by SJO Music Director Mitch Glickman, the concert featured George Duke’s “Dark Wood: Concerto for McBride” and Lee Ritenour’s “Symphonic Captain’s Journey.” The orchestra, joined by pianist Bill Cunliffe, also performed Gerswhin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” – the work that started the symphonic jazz genre 90 years ago.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Two – Chick Corea & Bela Fleck

The collaboration of the legendary pianist/composer Chick Corea and distinctive banjoist/composer Bela Fleck may seem unlikely at first blush, but turns out to be a magnificent meeting of musical minds. Corea’s ever-serious and often precious approach is contrasted beautifully by Fleck’s playful virtuosity, often at break-neck speeds. It’s all about the engaging, spontaneous inventions of two disparate masters.

Concord Jazz, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath