Terence Blanchard featuring the E-Collective - Live - (Blue Note)
Recorded live in cities struggling through conflicts between law enforcement and their African-American communities, Cleveland (Tamir Rice), Dallas (James Harper), New York (Eric Garner) and the site of the Philando Castile officer involved homicide, St. Paul Minnesota, this work by composer/trumpeter Blanchard has an immediacy and depth that comes from real engagement with the harsh realities of the street.
The E-Collective, Charles Altura, guitar, David Ginyard Jr., bass, Fabian Almazan, Keyboards/piano, and Oscar Seaton, drums, and Blanchard juxtapose sinuous melodic intertwinings with sharp arrhythmic interjections. The tune "Kaos" lurches from scene to scene in my mind's eye as I listen, evoking scenes of rain splattered midnight streets, careening pedestrians scattering at the sound of sirens, and hard blows landing four square. "Unchanged" is a meditation on the seemingly unanswerable question, "Why do we keep hurting each other?"
The penultimate song of the CD asks the perhaps the most cogent question of them all, "Can Anyone Here Me?"
Brian Blade and The Fellowship Band - Body and Shadow - (Blue Note)
Drummer Blade and pianist Jon Cowherd write some of the most charming melodies in jazz. Informed by a non-intrusive religious sensibility, these mainly short tunes each seem like tender embraces that comfort and reassure. They are performed with extraordinary sensitivity and as ensemble pieces that dissolve the barriers between instruments, between the performers, and ultimately between the act of listening and the listener in acts of communion.
Renee Rosnes - Beloved of the Sky - (Smoke Sessions)
Rosnes as a composer is as fresh and vibrant a soul as any out out way out there, and should be a touch point for folks wanting to connect to their jazz soul. Swing or think, she does both superbly. The pianist is joined here by Steve Nelson on vibes, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Lenny White, and the ever brilliant Chris Potter on woodwinds. Every tune is outstanding whether the melodies are neo-classical or frenetic free jazz. My fave, "Black Holes".
Charlie Peacock When Light Flashes Help Is On The Way - (Twenty Ten)
Art jazz, an admixture of cabaret and funk with a soupcon of New Orleans makes this sweet ear candy. Contradicting the old adage "use an accordion, go to jail", Jeff Taylor' s sly asides augment Peacock's keyboard jabbings and saxophonist Jeff Coffin's and trumpeter Matthew White's swelling figures. Jerry McPherson on electric guitar and mandolinist/fiddler Andy Leftwich bring their tickling fingers. A perfect Tuesday night in Brooklyn.
Lauren Henderson - Armame - (Brontosaurus Records)
Singing in both Spanish and English, this stylist sings with brilliant ease and comfort. Hers is a voice so perfect in unassuming presence that the perfection itself melts away and we are left with a deep sense of satisfaction. Flanked by the cleverest of arrangements and musicians,she chooses carefully from standards to new pop tunes (Amy Winehouse) and writes some fine tunes as well. Highlights include "Tanto Amor", the Blossom Dearie ballad, "Inside a Silent Tear", "Better Days", The Donny Hathaway tune, "We're Still Friends" (a masterwork), and her tune, the title cut, "Armame.
Sharel Cassity & Elektra - Evolve - (Self-Released)
Composer/saxophonist Cassity, like Alison Au, Roxy Coss, Claire Daly, Melissa Aldana, and so many other women sax players does not get her due, either in the jazz press or in pop culture. The sax, that most phallic of instruments and the trumpet have long been considered ( please excuse the pun) men's tools. That doesn't stop Cassity from blowing her heart out. Joined by two women jazz icons, acclaimed bassist Linda Oh and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, as well as pianist Miki Hayama these women chip away at the jazz glass ceiling. There are some tunes that address exclusionary behavior explicitly, "Evolve", "New Day" and "Be The Change", and these she plays with Stanley Turrentine soulfulness and passion but even better for me is the last cut on the record, “Outlier", a tune pulsing with possibilities.