by: Hobart Taylor
Marcus Strickland - Nihil Novi - (Blue Note)
It's here. The record Robert Glasper predicted. The perfect hybrid of soul, hip hop, and jazz. Glasper was tilling these fields...Kamasi Washington planted the seeds last year with The Epic. Here is the fruit.
Strickland and producer Meshell Ndegeocello have created arrangements that speak to the soul tradition with the authority of say an Issac Hayes and the spiritual with the conviction of Coltrane and the here and now with the snap of J. Cole.
Especially resonant cuts are "Alive", "Tic Toc", the African inspired "Sisoko's Voyage", "Cycle", the earworm "Drive", as well as the jazz classics to be "Celestelude" and "Truth".
Cory Henry - The Revival - (Ground Up Music)
Young man on the church organ. Tears it up. Consumed with the spirit, Henry improvises and riffs to the edge of the known galaxy. Sometimes he takes church hymns like "That's Why I'm Happy" and abandons the melody for the essence of the tune, sometimes he goes deep in the tradition teasing out every ounce of emotion from each note as in "Precious Lord". Sometimes he grooves along baptizing the listener in the holy waters of of jazz like in his take on "Giant Steps". In a year when we have so many excellent organ albums out, Brian Charette, Larry Young, Dr. Lonnie Smith etc, this in my view contains the most extraordinary individual moments of music.
Larry Young - Larry Young in Paris - (Resonance)
Resonance Records is doing a wonderful job of finding classic lost recordings by jazz masters. recent releases include Getz/Gilberto, Thad Jones/Mel Lewis, Wes Montgomery, and Sarah Vaughn. Larry Young may not be as familiar a name, but he is an artist of similar stature. Young was a pioneer in expanding the jazz organ, and is credited in the liner notes with being the first modal player of that instrument, building on fourths like the pianist McCoy Tyner. In the '60's he played with Woody Shaw (featured on this release), Sam Rivers, Elvin Jones, Lionel Hampton and Jimi Hendrix. Young later played with John McLaughlin, Tony Williams, and Carlos Santana. He died at age 38 in 1978. These recordings are from the mid '60's and fall in bop style of Miles Davis's recordings of the time.
Various Artists - Oscar with Love - (Two Lions)
Canadian piano great Oscar Peterson's widow has assembled many of the jazz world's leading pianists in this tribute to his compositions and playing style. Gerald Clayton, Michel Legrand, Bill Charlap,
Chic Corea, Kenny Barron, Hiromi, Monty Alexander, Justin Kauflin, and Ramsey Lewis and others provide a comprehensive portrait of Peterson's work in this three disc release.
Bob Kenmotsu - I'm in Love with You - (Rodoken)
On tenor playerKenmotsu's newset release every other song is innovative and interesting, and these are interlaced with pleasant and ingratiating melodies that don't say much to me... a very schizophrenic record. Go for the even numbers. My fave, #8, "Brilliant Bicycle".
Peter Horvath - Absolute Reality - (Foreign Matter Records)
As palatable as smooth jazz can get. Pianist Horvath is joined by superstars Victor Bailey, Randy Brecker etc. in a well crafted da da da. Why add it? Because on four songs, "Escape from Oakland", "Waltz for Ella", "Fake Out", and Foreign Matter" the music transcends the mundane and reaches out for something special.
Kevin Mahogany - The Vienna Affair - (MJR Records)
Great pipes...like Billy Eckstine and Joe Williams, Mahogany is legendary for his intimate deep masculine resonance. Check out the scat tune "Sneak Thief" and his signature hit, "The Nearness of You".