Copenhagen Live, 1964

Free-Jazz pioneer Albert Ayler was a force of nature in performance. In this live concert date his virtuosic extended lines are surrounded and propelled by bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Sonny Murray, with fellow traveller Don Cherry on trumpet. This release captures the intensity and importance of Ayler’s creative convictions. The fertile jazz environment of 1964 was blessed with genius and itching for expansive change. Coltrane would record A Love Supreme that year, and Miles would convene his groundbreaking second great quintet. Yes, Ornette was already shaking up that world, but it was the brief, bright arc of Albert Ayler’s creative life that really pointed the way to the future, free from the shackles of form.

Hat Hut, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Morphogenesis – Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse

Like the universe of jazz itself, the relentlessly inventive force of saxophonist Steve Coleman seems to be expanding in all directions at all times. This release expands the size of the ensemble, reaches beyond any previous harmonic possibilities, and, though grounded in relentlessly funky rhythm, opens up the issue of time itself. Having won a MacArthur Fellowship relative late in his long career, Coleman shows that his blazing intellect is still on an outward arc. It’s kind of difficult to wrap words around this one. Block out some time, and dive in … or … out.

Pi Recordings, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Mr. EP: A Tribute to Eddie Palmieri – Charlie Sepulveda

New York trumpeter Charlie Sepulveda, originally from Puerto Rico, has been a mainstay of Latin Jazz for years, leading his own groups and lighting up the trumpet section of top Latin Jazz orchestras around the world. This tribute to, and showcase of, the famous pianist/bandleader Eddie Palmieri, keeps the fire burning brightly through a series of Palmieri compositions and solo improvisations, and a variety of Sepulveda originals, from traditional Bomba y Plena styles to jazz hip-hop, with an oration by rapper, SieteNueve. Caliente indeed!

Highnote, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Passion of Charlie Parker – Various Artists

With the fascinating premise to treat the music of Charlie Parker as if he were still alive and working today, the producer Larry Klein, who is known primarily for his very successful work with vocalists, has assembled an impressive group of artists to consider the arc of Parker’s work. Vocalists Gregory Porter, Luciana Souza, Madeleine Peyroux, and Kurt Elling, work with new lyrics for blazing Parker’s instrumentals. The band includes instrumentalists like Donny McCaslin, Ben Monder and Mark Guiliana, who are known for their work on David Bowie’s last record, Blackstar, alongside many of today’s top jazz players. It’s a bold idea, perhaps sacrilegious to some, but beautifully realized.

Impulse, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Destinations – Scenes

This beautiful release is the sixth by Scenes, a collective trio by top-flight Seattle bassist Jeff Johnson and drummer (and Origin label owner) John Bishop together with Portland guitarist John Stowell. The musicians are almost telepathic with empathy, and the music, though complex and virtuosic, is almost ghost-like in its manifestation. That it’s smooth and chunky at the same time says more about the confidence and stature of the musicians than about any contrived “sound.” This is beautifully understated perfection.

Origin Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Passin’ Thru – Charles Lloyd

Passin’ Thru is both a welcome follow up to the brilliant 2008 release by this quartet, and a reference to a point much further back in Lloyd’s storied career. The musicianship and spirit of this quartet ranks among the finest in the history of the art form. And Lloyd, always the Shaman, cooks up fresh inventions every time he walks on stage or into the studio. Though pianist Jason Moran, bassist Reuben Rodgers, and drummer Eric Harland are probably two generations younger than Lloyd, there is no hip-hop reference or new invention that they can throw at him, that he doesn’t smash back across the net with greater force. Even the older Charles Lloyd classics like Forest Flower are given fresh treatment that is pure truth.

Blue Note, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

What Time Is It – Giacomo Gates

Of the two male vocalists that have worked in and out of the shadow of the late Mark Murphy, Giacomo Gates has himself been too long in the shadow of Kurt Elling. This release deals with time, and it’s about time that Mr. Gates gets the recognition he deserves, especially after eight self-assured jazz releases. Gates draws in two other inspirations on this release; Oscar Brown Jr. and Betty Carter, and the music hits a serious good-time vibe of things already passed, as well as an enlightened encouragement for us all to use the time we have a little more wisely. Giacomo Gates is a jazz singer with depth, swing, and clear love of the tradition.

Savant Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

One Minute Later – Diego Barber

With clear devotion to the spirit of Granada in the south of Spain, guitarist Diego Barber delivers an exciting set of original music that calls freely on the considerable talents of his assembled band mates; Alejandro Coello on marimba and percussion, Ben Street on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. Harland, in particular, ignites this music, and undoubtedly propels the group to places it might not otherwise have gone.

Sunnyside, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Musician – Chick Corea

This three-CD set documents the pianist’s month-long 70th Birthday celebration at New York’s Blue Note jazz club in 2011. The cast of collaborating artists is long and distinguished, and the performances, far from “pat” celebrity turns, are demonstrations of some jaw dropping music making. Check out Bobby McFerrin, Stanley Clark, Herbie Hancock, John McLaughlin, and on and on. It’s no wonder that Jazz Times calls Chick Corea, “a pianist virtually without peer.” We can’t wait for the recordings for his more recent 75th Birthday run at the Blue Note.

Stretch Records, 2016
3-CDs, 1 Blu-Ray
Notes by John Gilbreath