by: Hobart Taylor
Bill Anschell - Rumbler - (Origin records)
Bill Anschell is a pianist arranger who provides here that subtle miracle of jazz performance, making an elephant walk on stilts. Deep in tone and soul his tunes and a couple of covers, (most notably Monk's "Misterioso" with a super performance from Seattle's Richard Cole on sax),have solidity and assuredness, and yet seem casual and airy at the same time.
Gustavo Cortinas and Snapshot - Esse - (OA2 Records)
Debut recording for this drummer and composer originally from Mexico. Here he is working with some of Chicago's finest, the wonderful Kitt Lyles on bass, Hans Luchs, guitar, Joaquin Garcia, piano, Justin Copeland, trumpet, Adam Thornburg, trombone, and tenor sax work from Roy McGrath or Artie Black .
I mention the entire cast of characters because this is ensemble work at the highest level. The compositions are thoughtful, engaging, and heartfelt.The tunes sound super fresh, sui generis. Often tied to philosophical dilemmas with titles referring to classical references, i.e. Plato's "The Allegory of the Cave", this is perfect music for when you need a think instead of a drink.
Quiet Life Motel/ David Shulman - Anhinga - (Self Released)
Anhingas, some times called water-turkeys, are graceful marsh dwellers. The title cut from electric violinist/composer Schulman featuring elegant glissando overdubbed with staccato pizzicato (plucking) conveys for me an image of the birds in flight and in stride. Generally, this is an extraordinarily atmospheric recording, one in which the various string elements mixed with electronic effects lose their instrumental identities and guide listeners into realms both dreamlike and everyday.
Shawn Maxwell - New Tomorrow - (OA2 Records)
Maxwell on alto and flute and his band New Tomorrow continue to confirm my conclusion that Chicago is the capital of jazz in America. The tunes are vibrant, contemporary and innovative, forward looking...expanding the jazz horizon rather than repeating the grand riffs of the past. The beats of the street are here as well as transcendent visions. Special kudos to Matt Nelson on keys, and the incredible rhythm section of Junius Paul, bass (some special solos here ) and Phil Beale on drums. Three of Chi-towns top trumpeters are on this release as well, Victor Garcia, Chad McCullough, and Corey Wilkes.
Troy Roberts - Tales and Tones - (Inner Circle)
Descended from the Mingus/Monk school of skew bop, the music of Roberts on both tenor and soprano saxes, (joined here by Silvan Monasterios, piano, Robert Hurst, bass, and the super in demand drummer Jeff "'Tain' Watts), swings with focused passion.
David Friesen/Circle 3 Trio - Triple Exposure - (Origin records)
Bassist composer Friesen, Greg Gobel, pianist, and drummer, Charlie Doggett, play the most elegant of chamber jazz. The jazz trio, like the string quartet in classical music, is an ideal form for balance between solo and ensemble play. Friesen, long a recognized virtuoso, gently leads the tunes but does not overwhelm them. Check out "Rainbow Song" for a very special tour de force.
Tom Collier - Impulsive Illuminations - (Origin Records)
Not for the inattentive listener, this deeply engrossing music composed by vibraphone/marimba player Collier treads the ground of "pure", non-generic music. This music could be at home in a symphonic concert hall, a jazz night club, an electronic music seminar, or a Zen Center. Collier and his renowned colleagues, (Bill Frisell, guitar, Cuong Vu, trumpet, etc) stay gloriously true to their abstractions and improvisations.
Clay Gibberson - Pastures - (Origin Records)
Pianist/composer Gibberson is elegant and eloquent, both on his own charming earworms, but also on a jazz reworking of elder Joseph Brackett's Shaker hymn, "Simple Gifts". He is joined by Donny McCaslin on various reed instruments, and occasionally a string quartet.
Paul the Trombonist - Journey to the World - (Self-Released)
Trombone overdubs with electronica, this is mood music for the Trump era, sometimes abrasive, sometimes nostalgic. All of the compositions are short snippets of what could be expanded into interesting explorations of his sound. Very Hollywood and poppy and very well played.
Michael Dease - All These Hands - (Positone Records)
Sticking with trombone, we have a new release from one of the modern masters of the instrument, Michael Dease. This is straight ahead jazz jazz with some deep blues influences. The titles are primarily geographic, (Creole, Delta city, Chi-Town, Memphis, Brooklyn) and this is basically a musical tour of Black America.