For her impressive self-released debut, 20something New York City pianist/composer Tania Stavreva has taken solo piano to rare heights on 'Rhythmic Movement,' 14 tracks of a wildly experimental jazz/classical/folk synthesis. Forward-leaning, yet firmly rooted in the folk music of her native Bulgaria, the accents fly by in dizzying whirlwind.
That's no spelling mistake on the title of the Mark Dresser Seven's seven-track new 'Sedimental You' (Clean Feed). Although the title tune is, indeed, taken from Tommy Dorsey's 1932 "I'm Getting Sentimental Over You," Dresser is hardly sentimental. He's talking sediment here. Like rocks, man. Yet there's no rock here. Go figure.
It's been a rough year. Most of my friends are sticking up their middle finger to 2016, as am I. I can only wonder which heroes of mine will bite the dust in 2017...but that's for another Blogarrhea. The following annual all-list blog is not supposed to represent the most important or the best-selling or even the most accomplished CDs of 2016. I have done nothing my entire life but listen to music and tell people about it. So these are the ones I got the most excited about. Before the lists commence, please note that Leonard Cohen's 'You Want It Darker' (Columbia) and Paul Simon's 'Stranger To Stranger' (Concord) are my two favorite CDs of 2016. That said, on with the show.
Galactic trombonist Corey Henry debuts on Louisiana Red Hot Records with 'Lapeitah.' The eight vocalists, four trumpeters, five saxophonists, two tuba men, four bassists, three keyboardists, four drummers and an electric violinist on Henry's co-production and co-written barn-burners strut their considerable stuff on a funked-up joyous ode to life itself. THIS is the CD Trombone Shorty has yet to make.
Although the Alex Levine Quartet always seems to gravitate 'Towards The Center' (Outside In Music), they veer sharply left toward the end of this all-original 63:40. Levine is an intuitive New York City guitarist who interacts with sax man Marcus Elliott, bassist Ben Rolston and drummer Stephen Boegehold in a way that presents the strengths of all four. As a composer, he doesn't necessarily take a straight line to his goal. He likes the roads less traveled, be they bumpy, unpaved or filled with potholes. Although the first 10 compositions contain mystery, drama, taut emotion and languorous sensuality, the last three tracks-"Implosion," "Adama" and "Wax"-go wild with uninhibited wanderlust.
'The Long Slog' (Browntasauras Records) by Snaggle is a hoot! Like their American counterparts in Snarky Puppy, Canada's Snaggle challenges with its differing tempi, alt-jazz solos, funny song titles, inspired group chemistry and groovy experimentation. Randy Brecker loves them and that's good enough for me.
Carly Simon's 'Boys in the Trees' is riveting. Blessed to be born into a wealthy Manhattan family with a father, Richard L. Simon, who co-founded the giant publishing house Simon & Schuster, Carly's childhood was a whirlwind of dinner parties with guests like Benny Goodman, Vladimir Horowitz, Jackie Robinson, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Rodgers, James Thurber and Oscar Hammerstein dining at their elegant abode at 133 West 11th St., their Martha's Vineyard beach house in Massachusetts or their palatial Connecticut estate.
I've been waiting for Melissa Etheridge to do this kind of album. 'Memphis Rock and Soul' (Stax/Concord) rocks with the same kind of staccato horns, fatback bass and organ spills that Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Rufus Thomas and Booker T used to use back in the day. She has the perfect voice to sing their songs. Her tribute to 1960s Memphis R'n'B has her seething with the kind of pent-up grit like never before.
Scott Morgan makes his belated debut to sing his 'Songs of Life' (Miranda Music). It's a heartfelt session that transcends genre with material by Paul McCartney, James Taylor and Sammy Cahn/Julie Styne among others. The 13 tracks draw upon his own emotional experiences with love (both consummated and unrequited) and death. Morgan doesn't so much sing these songs as inhabit the characters within.
Free Nelson MandoomJazz is a punk-jazz-metal alternative from Scotland who have been freaking people out since 2013's 'The Shape of DoomJazz To Come/Saxophone Giganticus' and their 2014 'Awakening of a Capital' follow-up. Rebecca Sneddon, Colin Stewart and Paul Archibald are musical anarchists. It's safe to assume you have never heard anything like 'The Organ Grinder' (RareNoise Records).
Charles Mingus once said he didn't so much as play jazz but express the sounds of his life. Doyle Bramhall II has taken that as his credo. Thus, his first CD in 15 years, 'Rich Man' (Concord) is a perfect example. The multi-talented singer/songwriter/producer/arranger is back from extensive travels through Mali and Morocco and it's all within the grooves of this epic 13-track 70+ minutes.
Singer/songwriter/harmonica man/producer Matthew Skoller left his native New York in 1987 for the blues-drenched history of Chicago and he's been there ever since, soaking it all up, and spewing it back out in his own inimitable style. He considers himself a 'Blues Immigrant' (Tongue'N Groove Records) and on this, his fifth CD, in which he wrote 9 of 11, he states his case.
Shirley Horn was in her prime at 54 when she played the 4 Queens in '88 Vegas. Reveling in the success of her 'I Thought About You' comeback album, she was back on top after a 19-year hiatus to raise her daughter. 'Live at the 4 Queens' (Resonance) is the entire 52-minute set with longtime trio of bassist Charles Ables and drummer Steve Williams. It has never, until now, been released.
New York City 'bone man Jimmy O'Connell likes to call his group a Sixtet. The transplanted Detroiter blows big on his impressive-as-hell 'Arrhythmia' debut (Outside In Music), where he achieves a stunning synthesis of swing, groove, post-bop, fusion, balladry and prog-jazz. The eight tracks keep surprising with their dexterity, chops and personality-plus.
First thing folks usually think of when they think fusion is jazz/rock and rightly so but Mehmet Ali Sanlikol's Whatsnext? bigband fuses jazz with Turkish folk melodies and classical for a worldbeat treat. 'Resolution' (DUNYA) is not only delicious but it's good for you.