Genius sometimes has its limitations. In the case of brilliant pianist Vijay Iyer and his self-admitted hero, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, you have to turn your insides out to get behind what they're laying down on 'A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke.' Usually, everything, and I mean everything, on this great German label headed by the esteemed Manfred Eicher, is worth worth listening to. Yet I had trouble with this one.
Pianist/composer Leslie Pintchik is a unique talent who's been gigging between New York City and Boston with her trio for years. 'True North' (Pintch Hard Records), her seventh, has a samba feel in most of its six originals and four covers, in which she utilizes her expert sidemen in sextet, quartet and trio settings.
Sweet. Real sweet. Alto saxophonist/composer Matt Criscuolo's seventh release, 'The Dialogue' (Jazzeria Records) is a straight-up affair of blowing some John Coltrane ("Giant Steps"), Duke Ellington ("Prelude To A Kiss") and Wayne Shorter ("Fall") as well as five originals as played by guitarist Tony Purrone, drummer Will Calhoun and bassist Dave Anderson.
Tenor sax man George Coleman, 80, doesn't like the studio. He's made that perfectly clear. The last time he was even in a studio was 14 years ago in 2002 for the all-star tribute CD 'Four Generations of Miles.' His last album as a leader was 19 years ago in 1997 ('I Could Write A Book: The Music of Richard Rodgers'). This is why the release of 'A Master Speaks' is such big jazz news.
When rock'n'roll first sprouted regionally in 1950s New Orleans, New York City, Memphis and a few other towns, the new music liberally borrowed from the blues. As rock mutated into prog, metal, glam, fusion, punk, etc., something was lost along the way. In 2016, it's hard to find rock'n'roll but maybe we're looking in all the wrong places.
It's all in the songs you choose. Early in her career, vocalist Marty Elkins had some help from the legendary New Orleans kingpin Allen Toussaint. Now the native New Yorker has had her third CD, 'Walkin' By The River,' released by German label Nagel Heyer. Backed by a hot band of trumpet, guitar, organ, piano, bass and drums, her 13 songs have some real doozies.
David Krakauer, a free-thinking clarinet-playing bandleading avant-garde native New Yorker, has paid tribute to his Ancestral Roots by writing, producing, arranging and performing 'Checkpoint' (Table Pounding Records), in tribute to his Berlin trip where his family emigrated. Here, he blows wild and free, almost as a declaration of his family's independence.
Go to the Northern California town of Boonville and the 'Native Sons' there say "nonch harpin'" as slang for "dirty talkin'." So when saxophonist Chinh Tran, bassist Shawn Ellis, drummer Alan Spearot, keyboardist Daniel Raynaud and guitarist Andy Markham jammed at the 150-year old 'Native Sons' Hall in Pescadero to the point where it sounded so good, they formed a band, guess what they named themselves?
Saxophonist Dave Anderson's 'Blue Innuendo' (Label 1), is a sweet funky little affair with plenty of spillage by Hammond B3 organ hotshot Pat Bianchi. Guitarist Tom Guarna mostly stays out of the way except when he comes up for air with some tasty curly-cue soloing. Thus, we're talkin' 10 tracks of all-original lite-jazz-plus. Hint: it's the "plus" that's important.
Pianist/composer Alfredo Rodriguez, 30, has outdone himself. His 2011 'Sounds of Space' debut was promising. His 2014 'The Invasion Parade' dissected his Cuban cultural influences into slivers of modernism. 'Tocororo' (Mack Avenue Records), though, beats all. In purposely collaborating with musicians from France, Lebanon, Cameroon, Spain and India, his new-found world-jazz reaches heights unimaginable for the 15-year old kid so taken with Keith Jarrett's 'The Koln Concert.'
Singer/songwriter/guitarist Joe Bonamassa just keeps getting better. His second collaboration with Beth Hart, 'Seesaw,' was a real corker, as was his 2014 'Different Shades Of Blue.' On 'Blues of Desperation,' he shakes it up a lot, writing with the cream of the Nashville crop on 11 originals produced by Kevin Shirley.
She's one of the most stunning piano players in years. Japanese composer Hiromi is back with her newest 'Spark' (Telarc), her tenth CD since her 2003 'Another Mind' debut. She delivers eight super-charged tracks with her Trio Project and one dreamy solo track ("Wake Up and Dream").
One of the supreme pleasures of my life is hearing music for the first time. That all-important first-listen can only happen once. To make matters even more dramatic, I purposely do not want to have any inkling whatsoever what I am about to hear. The instantaneous shock-of-recognition that accompanies, for instance, a riveting new cover version of an old favorite song, can keep me enthralled and talking about it for days on end to friends and family. They're used to it. Some of them are sick of it. So I write. The four CDs by Melissa Aldana, Jon Stickley, Cristian Perez and Bastian Stein made me smile. They're all keepers.
Ratatet's 'Arctic' debut (Ridgeway Records) comes out of San Francisco fully formed. OK, fine, hold a gun to my head and I'll have to admit it's jazz. But with a front line consisting of trombone and electric bassoon, the SOUND is so scintillatingly different and passionate, let's for once throw away the concept of genre, shall we?
This one is a real find. Hammond B3 organist Larry Young, like many of his jazz contemporaries, found himself living and working in Paris in 1964. The music on the two-disc 'In Paris: The ORTF Recordings' (Resonance Records) has been heard exactly once: live on French radio. These tapes have been meticulously maintained by the French National Audiovisual Institute for the last half-century and released now, for the first time.