by: Hobart Taylor
George Burton - The Truth of What I Am: The Narcissist - (Inner Circle Music)
Pianist/Composer Burton like Marcus Strickland, Derrick Hodge, and Robert Glasper is a jazz melodicist of the first order who refuses to limit himself to the familiar roads of jazz performance, but instead seeks to reach across various traditions of contemporary urban music. With a trio base and a lot of wonderful guests, (particularly reed players Tim Warfield and Chris Hemingway, and guitarist Ilan Bar-Levi) this is the 21st century version of the soul jazz stylings of say Cannonball Adderley. Check out "Song 6", "Second Opinion", "In Places", the up tempo "Ambition and Pride", and "From Grace To Grass".
Shirley Horn - Live at the 4 Queens - (Resonance Records)
Horn is a favorite of the cognoscenti, an extraordinary mid-century jazz pianist who also happens to be a great jazz vocalist as well. Due to the sexism that relegated women jazz instrumentalists to the "she's pretty good for a chick" realm, Horn, like Nina Simone, is popularly and unfairly, to my mind, perceived as a singer first. While this live recording features her exquisite phrasing and deep characterization as vocalist, what really stands out for me is her imaginative and innovative piano vamps and fills. Recorded live in a Las Vegas casino lounge late in her career, 1988, this recording is an intimate gem.
Throttle Elevator Music - IV - (Wide Hive)
A high energy jazz with a punk attitude band fronted by trumpeter Erik Jekabson and saxophonist Kamasi Washington (Kendrick Lamar) with rhythm section Matt Montgomery and Mike Hughes, on this release Throttle focuses on more melodic snippets as well. A hallmark of this band has always been it's short songs, in and out with no fuss. Most clock in between 3 and 4 minutes in length. That remains. There is a lot of really expressive playing here, solos that are piercing. This fits lots of formats for KUCI and I hope this release escapes the jazz ghetto on radio nationwide.
John Scofield - Country for Old Men - (Impulse)
Like Charlie Haden or Bill Frisell, Scofield is a jazz master who also can reach into the country catalog and emerge with soul filled renditions of tunes that make you wistful and weepy. "Mr. Fool" and "Wayfaring Stranger" do that. But he also swings and goes way outside for a stellar rendition of Hank Williams’ "I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry".
Jay Azzolina Dino Govoni Adam Nussbaum Dave Zinno - Chance Meeting - (Whaling City Sound)
This leaderless quartet has all the artists share writing credits, two or three songs each, yet the release is consistent in tone and merit. These guys listen to each other intently and form Vulcan mind melds that propel their improvisations. Guitar, tenor sax, bass and drum. Faves: "N.T.I", "1 of 3", the ballad "Asha", and "Insight, Enlight".
Robert Glasper Experience - ArtScience - (Blue Note)
Not my favorite release of his, some of it seems a little non-descript to me, but then there are plenty of flashes of his genius like the opener, "This is not Fear", the soulful slow jam "You and Me", the hard driving "Find You", "In My Mind", the spaciously produced "Let's Fall in Love" and "Human". I wonder if I am alone in seeing this as an homage to Marvin Gaye.
Lang Lang - New York Rhapsody - (Sony)
Taking music by great NYC popular/jazz/classical composers and adding lush atmospheres and unbridled romanticism to them, Lang Lang, the world's most popular classical pianist, and producer Larry Klein, (Billy Childs, Joni Mitchell), have made a document codifying the big sound...the way Roy Orbison or Neil Diamond did. Starting out with an instrumental, Aaron Copeland's tune, "Story of Our Town", and featuring special guests like Andra Day on Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind", Herbie Hancock in a duet with Lang on "Rhapsody in Blue", and Lindsey Stirling on a neo-classical/Philip Glass like interpretation of "The Spider Man Theme" (my favorite cut), this is bigger than any genre classification, sort of like New York itself.