A Light in Darkness – Eric Reed

This release returns pianist Eric Reed to the musical roots in the Black church of west Philadelphia that originally led him to mentoring stints with jazz greats like Freddie Hubbard, Joe Henderson and Wynton Marsalis. A Light In Darkness is a nourishing release that shows Reed as a musical minister, with support from bassist Ben Williams, and the talented drummer/vocalist Jamison Ross, with virtuosity that goes straight to the soul of the music, and the listener.

WJ3 Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Awase – Nik Bartsch’s Ronin

The mastery of Nik Bärtsch’s contribution to the art of jazz is in his ability to convey tangible feeling in highly complex, overlapping rhythmic and melodic structures. Appealing to both the high intellect and the deep gut, Awase takes the Euro-centric genius of this ensemble to ever more dense layers of sound and rhythm, creating an absolutely unique brain-funk for the new millennium.

ECM, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Retro Report – Mike Clark & Delbert Bump

The revered drummer Mike Clark has always been at the forefront of most nourishing collisions between jazz and funk. His jazz drumming chops are text-book clean, and the way he brings them to bear on funk repertoire has yielded the gold that includes Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters, and the often-sampled masterpiece, “God Make Me Funky.” This deep session of original tunes, with B-3 organist Delbert Bump, guitarist Elias Lucero, and saxophonists Vince Denham and Rob Dixon brings today’s jazz-funk to new levels.

Ropeadope, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6 – Miles Davis & John Coltrane

This fascinating set documents the final, never-before-heard European concerts of the band that (barely) contained the two most titanic powers in jazz, Miles Davis and John Coltrane, at a time in 1960 when their creative trajectories were clearly heading in different directions. Though every Miles Davis band crackled with tension, the performance on these dates reveal the searching fury of Coltrane’s progression, almost in juxtaposition to Davis’ own shifts in direction. In some cases the band fights against Coltrane’s cries for freedom, in others, all, or some of, the other musicians seem to join in. Mostly, this shows two revolutionary giants, in separate revolutions on the same stage.

Sony/Legacy, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Unheard Artie Shaw – The New York All Star Big Band

Fans of the iconic swing clarinetist/bandleader Artie Shaw will enjoy this fresh and reverently swinging visit to music – some familiar, some not – from Shaw’s 1930’s broadcasts from the Blue Room, in New York’s Hotel Lincoln. From the ominous opener, Nightmare, which Shaw used as his show’s theme music, to the unusual, mid-tempo arrangement of Hoagy Carmichael’s Stardust, this release is at once familiar and new. As with the six vocal tracks here, the entre project satisfying and refreshing

HEP Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Concentric Circles – Kenny Barron Quintet

Having been named an NEA Jazz Master in 2010, the refined pianist Kenny Baron is officially “venerable,” though, true to the art form, shows no predictability or lack of progression. This set expands Baron’s usual circle of bassist Kiyoshi Kitagawa and drummer Jonathan Blake, with young(ish) saxophonist Dayna Stevens and trumpeter, Mike Rodriguez, and uses the full band to great effect. But Baron’s solo take on Thelonious Monk’s Reflections, which shows his early stride piano influences, puts this recording firmly into the lineage from which it comes.

Blue Note, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Starebaby – Dan Weiss

Drummer/composer Dan Weiss has always been his own, well-rounded artist; from his explorations of tabla in Indian classical music, to his complex, critically-acclaimed compositions in new jazz. Starebaby brings together some of the most accomplished players on the NYC scene to combine jazz improvisation with the power of heavy metal and electronic new music. The compositions are all his, but could easily pass for covers of metal classics done by really good jazz musicians. People in jazz have shied away from heavy metal. With top pianists Matt Mitchell and Craig Taborn, guitarist Ben Monder, and bassist Trevor Dunn, Da Weiss goes there with conviction and success.

PI Recordings, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Deuce – Hans Teuber & Jeff Johnson

The longtime Seattle stalwarts, Hans Teuber, on saxophone and flute, and Jeff Johnson, on bass, are two of the most casually masterful musicians working in any city. Though Teuber’s attack is breathy and refined, his ideas and execution on this collection of standards and originals is no less forward thinking. And Jeff Johnson’s considerable bass skills are the perfect match, both as friend and foil to the music. Johnson’s lyrical sensibilities are always in evidence, even as he slips into the greasy blues on the Jimmy Reed’s, Bright Lights, Big City. This release is a joy, from start to finish.

Origini Records, 2018
Notes by John Gilbreath

Jazz Flute Traditions – Nestor Torres

Right down the main highway, Torres opens this tour of Jazz Flute Traditions with Moe Koffman’s well worn Swingin’ Shepherd Blues, and jumps right into a favorite Herbie Mann piece, Memphis Underground. But the tour continues over some more challenging terrain – covering Chick Corea, Yusef Lateef, and Hubert Laws — and the playing remains first-rate throughout. This is a lesson in jazz flute well worth the tuition.

Alfi Records, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath

Latin Lover – Richie Cole

Bebopper Richie Cole is one of the last men standing who can play the alto saxophone with the fluid style and stunning speed first introduced by Charlie Parker many years ago. Like Phil Woods before him, Cole has probably worked through, or over, the entire American songbook. He lands here on some not-entirely-rewarding Latin versions of tunes you know (If I only Had a Brain, Stormy Weather, Laughter in the Rain) but never imagined quite like this. Still, here’s a chance to catch one of the last of a breed.

RCP, 2017
Notes by John Gilbreath