by: Hobart Taylor
Sherman Irby & Momentum - Cerulean Canvas - (Black Warrior Records)
Trombonist Irby is an integral element in the sound of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra under the direction of Wynton Marsalis. Stepping out on his own, (although Marsalis plays on a couple of the tunes), Irby displays a freer range of performance styles as his palette includes not only straight ahead tunes and blues, but also touches on tone poems with greater chromatic variation. His crystalline perfection performing the canon is augmented by a masterwork composed for this release, a tribute to the painter Sam Gilliam entitled "Blue Twirl" which has Ellingtonian elegance.
Ryan Keberle - Music Is Emotion - (Alternative Side Records)
Another trombonist/composer, Keberle joins the ranks of folks expanding swinging brass arrangements that possess smartness and passion (in the tradition of Dave Douglas). Working from a tight quartet format, Mike Rodriguez, trumpet, Jorge Roeder, bass and drummer Eric Doob, Keberle's music is relentlessly engaging. Most of the tunes are originals, and these are cogent, eloquent, deeply expressive. The covers range from a deconstruction of the Lennon/McCartney tune "Julia" to a precise and jumping homage to Art Farmer's bebop classic "Blueport". The star of the show is an outstanding rendition of Billy Strayhorn's "Blues in Orbit".
Hazelrigg Brothers - Songs We Like - (Self Released)
George and Geoff Hazelrigg on piano and bass respectively along with drummer John O'Reilly, Jr.are perfectionists. Their intense attention to recording technique comes from their work as engineers at D.W. Fearn, manufacturers of high end audio gear. Not only is this record a sonic marvel, the instruments used have deep resonance, (19th century Steinway, bass of the same era, etc.). And the mofos can play. These are mainly jazz covers of classic rock tunes with a Bartok tune,(done with reggae underpinnings), and another classical piece thrown in. The performances are intense and passionate.
Dr. Lonnie Smith - All In My Mind - (Blue Note)
I saw the set of music 2017 National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master Dr. Lonnie Smith performs on this live recording at the New York club The Jazz Standard last summer at the San Jose Jazz Festival, and on the record it is almost as mesmerizing. When jazz tries to be psychedelic, it mimics a style of music. When jazz is psychedelic, the music disappears and the trails linger as nubile fingers caressing your brain. This trio gets to that special place. Here is a link to my review of the San Jose Jazz Festival which includes a review of Dr. Lonnie Smith's performance.
Steve Slagle - Dedication - (Panorama Records)
Straightest ahead, at least on the surface, saxophonist Slagle weaves in and out through the tunes, conversationally adept, speaking whatever on his mind, in the Sonny Rollins tradition.
A great band serves as the ground for this towering figure. One of my favorite drummers, Will Stewart holds the beat, and blows it up when necessary as well, (check out the section where he trades fours with the band on "Sun Song" or his riffs on "Niner"). Pianist Lawrence Fields and bassist Scott Colley and especially guitarist Dave Stryker swing swing swing. Layered and nuanced this one got by me the first time, ("nice jazzy jazz"), but a deeper listen revealed underlying complex and beautiful structures. Faves, "Major in Come" and "Niner".
Justin Gray & Synthesis - New Horizons - (Self Released)
Cross pollination, seeds of Indian music, jazz, classical and rock when done carelessly or mechanically can sound like so much new age muzak. This record by Canadian composer and bassist and bass veena player Justin Gray contains some fresh takes on how genre intersections can open doors to new musical ideas.
Akira Sakata, Masahiko Satoh, and Chikamorachi - - Proton Pump (Family Vineyard Records)
Another hybrid, this time punk and avant garde jazz, comes from Japanese saxophonist Sakata and the rhythm section Chris Corsano, drums, and bassist Darin Gray who perform as "Chikamorachi" along with pianist Masahiko Satoh. This is like watching drunks meander through a minefield, step, stumble, trip, roll, and BOOM. It is improvised music unencumbered by generic referents. Fun fun fun. All the titles allude to biological processes, and this music is insistently organic. Faves, "Bullet Apoptosis" and the semi-melodic piece "Voyage of Eukaryote".
Lucky Peterson - Tribute To Jimmy Smith - (Jazz Village Records)
Peterson is a master on keyboards and guitar. Here he takes over duties on the Hammond B-3, the king of keyboards. Playing hits from the man who did the most for popularizing that instrument, Jimmy Smith, it's like Peterson cooked up a mess of the finest greens, and started out ladelling the essence, what educated diners call the pot likker. With New Orleans drummer extraordinaire Herlin Riley,Keyln Crapp, guitar, and avant garde master saxophonist Archie Shepp getting down on the blues for a couple of numbers, "Jimmy Wants To Groove", and "Back At The Chicken Shack", Peterson's made a classic. Play this after you played Dr. Lonnie Smith's new release and you will have fully mended any hole in your soul.
George Cotsirilos Quartet - Mostly In Blue- (Oa2)
Electric guitarist Cotsirilos has an unique and identifiable sound. Some notes are precisely plucked and the decay is consistently even. Others slowly fade or rise and fall like balanced sine waves. While there is a great tribute to Wes Montgomery on this release, and Montgomery was known for his crispness and tonal control, Cotsirilos is doing his own thing, and what a fine thing it is. His tunes are sound timeless, in the pocket, casual and graceful. The cover of the Barry Harris bebop tune "Crazeology" lets the entire ensemble shine like new chrome on an El Dorado.