The Sharp Nine Sessions – John Stowell, Brian Cunningham

John Stowell, Brian Cunningham – “The culmination of three days of recording over the past two years…The Jazz Project’s affiliation with the featured performers, guitarist John Stowell and Brian Cunningham, spans more than 20 years.” –liner notes

The Jazz Project, 2013

Blue Serenade – Brian Cunningham Quartet

Brian Cunningham Quartet – “Blue Serenade is Brian Cunningham’s third recording as composer and leader. While his last quartet CD paired two guitars, this one brings fresh new voices to his original compositions with saxophonist Josh Cook, Tom Anastasio on bass, and Jud Sherwood on drums.” –JazzProject.

The Jazz Project, 2012

Jimmy Heath: the Endless Search – Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra

After a guest spot with the Seattle Repertory Jazz Orchestra in 2001, longtime sax player Jimmy Heath went back to work at Queens College. Letting a few years pass, the SRJO came back with a commission — an attempt to create new music for the older structured form of big-band jazz. The result was a three-part tour de force of harmony that manages to showcase the formidable horns of Seattle individually without simply resorting to solos. Along with the outstanding set from (and featuring) Heath, the album throws in a bonus with live recordings of “Haitian Love Song” (which uses the deeper horns incredibly) and “Creole Love Song” (which brings the big-band aesthetic back to its roots, but uses Ellington‘s composition to highlight individuals yet again). There’s a smoothness to any big-band recording, but the SRJO, especially with Heath at the compositional helm, falls into the realm of Tadd Dameron more than Lawrence Welk. This is outstanding music with a bevy of fine musicians behind it.” –AllMusic

Origin, 2010

Mette Henriette – Mette Henriette

(2 CDs) – The young Norwegian saxophonist/composer delivers a contemplative, gentle, and fascinating two-disc debut album. The production is simply wonderful and engaging, as The Guardian notes the record “often catches the moistness and crackle of her sax-reed” and “sounds not unlike an insect buzzing in the sun…gong-like piano repetitions that draw the saxophonist out of hiding.” Though the record “may be an acquired taste for some,” Henriette “is a contemporary-music star on the rise.”

ECM, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Arclight – Julian Lage

The phenomenal jazz guitarist/composer has a seemingly relentless recording stamina, having just released the well-received World’s Fair last year and the beautiful ROOM with Nels Cline the year before, all amidst touring and sideman appearances. Though a veteran of sorts, he is still young, having first appeared as the subject of a film at age 8. Now, with Arclight, Lage makes his Mack Avenue debut, and presents his first recorded outing on electric guitar and in a trio format, backed by double bassist Scott Colley and drummer Kenny Wollesen. Produced by Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Jesse Harris, the album is thoughtful, well-paced, and subtly dazzling. Standout tracks include the gorgeous “Nocturne,” as well as the bluesy album closer “Ryland.”

Mack Avenue, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Energies of Change – David Gilmore

The “multifaceted guitarist” demonstrates on his new record that he is “a thoughtful composer and ambitious performer” (DownBeat). Add to that now “bandleader,” as he simply commands on Energies of Change, his fourth release. Compositionally, Gilmore offers seven original tunes out of the nine on the record. The title track “opens the album with broad, flowing strokes” and “sets the stage for pensive alto saxophone and bass clarinet solos by reedist Marcus Strickland and extended explorations by Gilmore and pianist Luis Perdomo.” The remaining two tracks, including Wayne Shorter’s “Over Shadow Hill Way,” are equally captivating.

Evolutionary Music, 2015
Notes by John Gilbreath

Restless Idealism – Roxy Coss

The Seattle saxophonist’s sophomore effort, from Seattle’s Origin Records, proves that she is “an exceptional young talent among millennial jazz musicians” (DownBeat). Coss, a cross-country transplant who now resides in New York, performs 10 originals, in a grooving post-bop, on Restless Idealism, focusing in large part on demonstrating her “impeccable technique” and “brawny tone.” With a backing band including pianist Chris Pattishall, guitarist Alex Wintz, bassist Dezron Douglas, drummer Willie Jones III, and guest trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, Coss is in good company to take on dense, unpredictable melodies and showcase her “strong lyricism and piercing intellect.”

Origin Records, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Return of the East West Trumpet Summit – Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott

Ray Vega & Thomas Marriott – After hitting #1 on the jazz charts with their 2010 release East-West Trumpet Summit, Vega and Marriott have returned to the studio, joined this time by Portlander George Colligan on B3 organ and Seattleite Matt Jorgensen on drums, to explore a collection of originals, standards, and jazz classics, including Wayne Shorter’s “United,” Lee Morgan’s “Totem Pole,” and Curtis Fuller’s “The Egyptian.” It’s a collaboration that International Trumpet Guild says is “brimming with creative imagination, technical fluency, and a deep respect for the jazz tradition.”

Origin, 2016

Into The Silence – Avishai Cohen

The Israeli trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s latest album (his first as a leader for ECM) is a tribute to his father, who passed away in 2014. The compositions on Into the Silence (a JazzTimes Editor’s Pick) reflect the album title: they’re introspective, contemplative, and beautiful. Working with pianist Yonathan Avishai, drummer Nasheet Waits, bassist Eric Revis, and tenor saxophonist Bill McHenry, Cohen produces a lush, at times soaring, sound on this record, honoring his late father, and the musical legacy that includes his sister, the noted clarinetist Anat Cohen.

ECM, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

At This Time – Steve Kuhn Trio

The master pianist/composer/bandleader releases At This Time… with a contemporary, bassist Steve Swallow, and an important innovator of a later generation, drummer Joey Baron. Kuhn has an illustrious career having worked with some of the most important voices of his generation: John Coltrane, Sheila Jordan, and Kenny Dorham. But it is his work as bandleader of smaller groups, particularly the trio, where he has made his name. Swallow, an important figure on both acoustic and electric bass, and Baron, who has cemented himself as one of the most well rounded musicians, join Kuhn on this timeless, inspired outing featuring a solid mix of standards and a few originals.

Sunnyside, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Sarabande – Fred Hersch, Charlie Haden, & Joey Baron

Recorded 30 years ago, Sunnyside Records issues a re-master of this outing of pianist Fred Hersch, drummer Joey Baron, and the late legend Charlie Haden on bass. Sarabande is lyrical yet thrilling, with each track standing the test of time: three Tin Pan Alley classics, standards each from Ornette Coleman, Miles Davis, and Jimmy Rowles, and three Hersch originals, including the sumptuous waltz that is the title track. Wistfully, the pianist writes in the liner notes, “Though – unfortunately – this trio never played a live gig after the recording, I felt like the three of us danced through the music together in a very special way.”

Sunnyside, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath

Emily’s D+Evolution – Esperanza Spalding

The great Wayne Shorter once said, “We should use the best of the past like a flashlight into the future.” In an interview with NPR, the remarkable bassist/singer Spalding reveals that she used this quote as a talisman in creating her ambitious, emboldened record Emily’s D+Evolution, a project three years in the making. Crafting an alter ego from the middle name she went by as a child, she says, “Emily is exploring these ways of performing and means of expression that I was curious about as a kid.” Many genre elements are at play to create a theatrical experience. The curtain opens on the playfully dissonant rocker “Good Lava,” and the act is carried through on thoughtfully composed and intricate tracks. With this record, the Grammy Award-winner/revolutionizer solidifies her status as a force in modern jazz.

Concord, 2016
Notes by John Gilbreath