by: Hobart Taylor
Kitt Lyles - Real Talk - (Saluda Records)
Composer/bassist Lyles is a sterling example of why Chicago is, in my view, the capital city of modern working jazz musicians. New York has stars and or academics, New Orleans tradition, L.A. gloss and/or various fusions , the Bay Area, globalism, while Chicago jazz musicians of every color and gender, whether native or drawn there by the its vibrant scene, seem to make a living being true to themselves while expanding the genre via thoughtful composition and playing that celebrates artistry without hooking onto trends. A dangerous generalization I know, but the records that come my way from the windy city scream "authentic" and "personal" to me more often than from anywhere else.
On this debut release Lyles' music is like the music of many of his local peers, a pastiche calling on bop traditions, the blues, soul jazz, avant garde, be-bop, and third stream (jazz/classical). Resolutely and authoritatively played by artists of the first rank, (Justin Copeland -trumpet, Roy McGrath-tenor sax, Hans Luchs-guitar,Joaquin Garcia-piano, Gustavo Cortinas-drums), this record is no passing fancy. It should reside on a shelf of honor here at KUCI as long as there is a KUCI.
Arjun - Gravity - (Pheromone Records)
If you were so inclined, you could write this off as another guitar based rock instrumental record celebrating technique over improvisation... but wait...how did this riff pop up here , that one there, and eight more after without jarring our engagement with the "tune". This is an example of how jazz emerges in any genre when a spiritual connection is made with the gods of infinite possibilities. Check out "Ascent" featuring the organ work of Cory Henry. Think Roy Buchanan. And if you have never heard of Roy Buchanan, stop what you are doing right now and google up "The Messiah Will Come Again".
Jeremy Warren - I Can Do All things. - (Self Released)
Like Lyles', this is another debut release from a young man full of ambition with the talent to back up that ambition. Drummer Warren has a contemporary sound based on the fact that he , like Robert Glasper, is of the generation raised on hip hop and beats. Like Herbie Hancock in the '70's and '80's, his compositional style expands the range of popular music. Check out "Modern Warfare" and the beautiful "Lost Friends".
Greg Murphy - Summer Breeze - (Whaling City Sound)
A piano trio record that zips along delightfully. It swings, it sings, it does all the right things. I also wish it would sting.
Steven Kirby - Illuminations - (Whaling City Sound)
Composer/guitarist Kirby is a thoughtful swinger. The up tempo "Parabola" is a kaleidoscope of mood swings sets the stage for a record with depth and passion.
Kirby's runs and fills, slightly ahead of the beat, are stunning. The title tune played on an acoustic and with vocalese flourishes by Aubrey Johnson is a movie in music. Think Paul Winter Consort in their heyday. My fave, "May The 4ths Be With You".
Kristen Lee Sergeant - Inside Out - (Whaling City Sound)
She has the pipes. The arrangements are aces. The pop tunes and standards on this release are bent to her purpose. They demonstrate her range, phrasing, dynamic control and tonal purity.