The Solo Sessions, Vol. 1 – Bill Evans

(Originally released as part of multi-volume package, and offered here in part) – “Recorded January 10th 1963, Bill Evans on piano, unaccompanied, produced a body of music that was emotionally revealing and stylistically quite unlike anything he played at any other time.” –liner notes

Milestone – Fantasy, 1989

I Long to See You – Charles Lloyd & The Marvels

This profound release finds the iconic saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master in the company of a new band, featuring guitarist Bill Frisell and pedal steel guitarist Greg Leisz, along with his longtime quartet members, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. The record also features two guest vocal appearances by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones. It’s a sumptuous collection of 10 songs ranging from traditional hymns to anti-war folk protests to re-envisioned Lloyd originals from his earlier recording. “We don’t need to say much when we get together,” Lloyd says of this collaboration with Frisell. “It’s all expressed in the music, in the sound, the feeling.”

Blue Note, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Black Star – David Bowie

On January 10 – two days after his 69th birthday, and the release of his 25th and final studio album – the world lost David Bowie. In a career spanning more than five decades, the chameleonic, ever-evolving artist graced us with seemingly endless incarnations. And yet, in 2016, he was ready to show us David Bowie the Jazz Artist. According to NPR, it had been a dream of his to make a jazz record with a big band; and once Blackstar was released, it has been one of the most highly critically acclaimed albums of the year already. Crafted with producer Tony Visconti and featuring saxophonist/band leader Donny McCaslin, Blackstar pulls back the curtains to what new sounds Bowie was on the cusp of releasing in this new incarnation. One listen to the title track, or “Lazarus,” and Bowie’s legacy as one of the best musicians of our time is assured.

Columbia Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Bell – Ches Smith

One of the most exciting drummer/composers on the fertile Brooklyn jazz scene appears with veterans of the jazz vanguard, Craig Taborn (piano) and Mat Maneri (viola), on The Bell. The title song is one of the very first pieces Smith wrote for the new group, and it’s almost a blueprint for what follows on this album of chamber music for master improvisers of wide experience.What started as a one-off gig turned into a collaboration that drew positive critical reactions even early on. After the trio’s appearance at the 2014 Winter Jazzfest, Chicago Reader’s Peter Margasak said, “The best thing I caught all weekend was a superb trio led by drummer Ches Smith with pianist Craig Taborn and violist Mat Maneri, which expertly infused seductively draggy, narcotic writing with a mixture of brooding melody and rich texture.”

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Live From the Detroit Jazz Festival – 2015 – Mack Avenue Superband

This recording documents the third incarnation of the Mack Avenue Superband, an ensemble of all-stars from the Detroit jazz label. Under the leadership of bassist Rodney Whitaker, the Superband – Carl Allen (drums), Aaron Diehl (piano), Tia Fuller (alto sax), Evan Perri (guitar), Kirk Whalum (tenor sax), and Warren Wolf (vibraphone) – ignited the stage and dazzled the festival audience. “A super festival, a super label and indeed, a Superband,” says DownBeat.

Mack Avenue, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

D-Stringz – Jean-luc Ponty, Stanley Clarke, & Bireli Lagrene

Though celebrated fusion violinist Ponty and influential bassist Clarke had collaborated years past, neither had worked with French jazz guitarist Lagrene. In a collection of 10 acoustic tracks, comprised of standards and originals, each artist delivers flawless technique. The album is bright flashes of soul-jazz and funk, brushstrokes of 21st century blues and gypsy jazz, and brawny bop and post-bop. A deep influencer of all three musicians, Django Reinhardt naturally is covered, with his iconic “Nuages” appearing on the record. D-Stringz is a wonderful, feel-good outing of three string masters.

Verve, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Trip Mode – Joey DeFrancesco

The Grammy-nominated organist once again asserts his chops on Trip Mode, which also features Jason Brown on drums, Dan Wilson on guitar, and Mike Boone on bass. Several tracks showcase his additional talents on trumpet and vocals, and nearly all are DeFrancesco originals – with the exceptions of Wilson’s own “Who Shot John,” and classic jazz composer Ray Noble’s hit “The Touch of Your Lips.” The swinging, hard-grooving artist and his band simply rock the house on this album.

Highnote, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Tenebrae – Gregg Belisle-Chi

Seattle-based guitarist and UW Masters student Gregg Belisle- Chi recently released his debut album Tenebrae, which features music for solo guitar and duo (with vocalist Chelsea Crabtree). Belisle- Chi, who’s studied and performed with many Seattle heavy-hitters including Cuong Vu, Ted Poor, and Bill Frisell, has crafted an album rich in beauty, character, and emotion. Earshot Jazz’s Andrew Luthringer writes: “There is a somber beauty, and ethereal, almost spiritual quality to the music, which offsets dark and even jarring textures with a pastoral radiance, often within the same piece.”

Songlines, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Out of the Blue – Clare Fischer

Though the noted keyboardist, composer, arranger, and bandleader passed away in 2011, Clare Fischer’s son, Brent, has brought together a collection of previously unreleased recordings of his father’s music. Featuring Brent, drummers Peter Erskine and Mike Shapiro, and vocalists Denise Donatelli and John Proulx, Out of the Blue is a wonderful collection of songs old and new, including a lovely arrangement of the classics “When You Wish Upon a Star” and “Someday My Prince Will Come.”

Clavo Records, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath