by: Hobart Taylor
Chris Ziemba - Manhattan Lullaby - (Outside In Music)
Lightning in a bottle. This tight ensemble (trio or sometimes quartet with Michael Thomas on woodwinds) led by pianist/composer Ziemba has the Thelonious gene in its DNA, but more importantly, these guys make skew and poly-angular juxtapositions of tempo and kaleidoscopic and permeable collisions of modes and melodies that constantly surprise and satisfy simultaneously. An example? The title tune begins with a Richard Rodgers classical sophistication before shifting into majestic moodiness worthy of Mingus. This is the complete package, sensitive performance, precise arranging, and most importantly of all, outstanding composition.
Walt Weiskopf - THE WAY YOU SAY IT - (Positone)
Saxophonist Weiskopf is joined here by the swinging Hammond B3 player Brian Charette, Behn Gillece on vibes, and drummer Steve Fidyk. The record has a classic blues infused jazz feel built on the interplay between Charette and Weiskopf. Weiskopf's solos are the cornerstone on which this admirable project is built.
Gregory Porter - Take Me to the Alley - (Blue Note)
For those not following jazz trends let me announce to you now that Porter has been anointed as the Millennials' designated incipient male jazz vocalist superstar. He is huge in Europe, honored by his peers in music, and a top ticket in New York. He has the chops, a soulful voice that is intimate, full of character, sincere. The arrangements and melodies in the Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway tradition are earworms that won't let go. While the songs are uneven, some feel slightly clicheed to me, the sound is consistently alluring. Faves: "Holding On", the energetic gospel tinged "Don't Lose Your Steam", the title tune "Take Me to the Alley" which is gorgeous and majestic, and the slow jam "Insanity".
Axel Tosca Laugart - Axel Tosca - (Alfi)
Cuban born pianist Laugart loves dancing on the thin ice of romantic orchestration in counterpoint to driven rhythms. There are several nods to his roots, a cover of the classic Cuban tune "Siboney" for example, the congas in Robert Glasper's tune "One for Grew", and Afro-Cuban chanting on some tunes. Laugart's electric piano work is stunning. Checkout the poly-rhythmic "Fulani in Love" with James Genus' amazing bass solo, my favorite cut.