I take my job seriously. Finding music like the following five CDs was no easy task. From a big-band with 13 trombones and a genre-bending post-bopper to a crazy alternative band, a tribute to pianist Oscar Peterson by a guitarist and a Canadian duo who favors ragtime gypsy jazz, there's something here for every open ear.
Christian Weidner's alto saxophone flies over the piano/bass/drums rhythm section of his groundbreaking quartet on 'Every Hour of the Light and Dark' (Pirouet Records). It's a heady concoction whose circuitous road is so delicious that while the destination remains unknown, it's the getting there that's all the fun.
There's a subtle sophistication at work on Mats Eilertsen's ECM 'Rubicon' debut. His bass has already graced 12 previous ECM sessions of other artists as produced by Manfred Eicher, but now, just like Julius Caesar in 49 B.C., whose army crossed the Rubicon River knowing it was too late to turn back, Mats has laid the gauntlet down. His septet is rather wondrous. And there's no looking back.
She came to New Orleans from Chicago 15 years ago and now owns two restaurants and holds court at a third every Thursday at The Spotted Cat on Frenchman Street. Miss Sophie Lee's 'Traverse This Universe' (KingMoon Recordings), her fourth, is a worthy follow-up to her 2013 'Love Street Lullaby.' She sings in a lightly lilting and totally swinging sophistication, making each song into a one-act play.
There's a new sound emanating out of L.A. these days called West Coast Get Down. These cats don't give a flying fig about genre classifications so it's not unusual to hear the craziest sound coming out of their come'n'go collective. Heretofore, it's been a live phenomenon but as Kamasi Washington's 'The Epic' showed last year, their hip grip is tightening, the scene is set, and now it's time to swallow whole 'Planetary Prince' by Cameron Graves.
Sax To Tango' (Zoho Music) is the second time around for Argentine saxophonist Julio Botti and arranger/pianist/composer/producer Pablo Ziegler on this lush project that also has Saul Zaks conducting The University of Southern Denmark Symphony Orchestra on nine by Astor Piazzola [1921-1992], three by Ziegler and a traditional waltz, and you've got one sumptuous romantic hour-plus.
Martin Tillman's instrument is the electric cello. His resume is power-packed, which is why he has members from the bands of Elton John (guitarist Davey Johnstone), Frank Zappa (drummer Vinnie Colaiuta), James Taylor (bassist Leland Sklar) and Toto (keyboardist David Paich) on his self-released 'Superhuman' which sounds like a soundtrack to a movie that doesn't exist.
The 12 musicians on 22 instruments of the Lou Caputo Not So Big Band-trumpet (2), flugelhorn (2), trombone, tuba, alto sax (2), flute (2), tenor sax, baritone sax, soprano sax, piano, bass, guitar, drums (2), vibraphone, percussion (3)-positively shine on 'Uh Oh!' (Jazzcat 47 Records), their third in 10 years.
This is the live Van Morrison motherlode we've been expecting ever since Van The Obstinate Man finally signed a deal that would let his voluminous catalog be properly archived by Legacy over the next few years. The complete title of this great four-CD boxed set is ...It's Too Late To Stop Now: Volumes II, III, IV & DVD. The news here is that this is ALL previously unreleased, culled from his 1973 tour with the 11-piece Caledonia Soul Orchestra.
Warren Wolf has friends in high places. For his third Mack Avenue Records release, 'Convergence,' the vibraphonist/composer of superstar bassist Christian McBride's Inside Straight quintet lets loose with a torrent of styles delivered by McBride, and his personally hand-picked all-star assemblage of pianist Brad Mehldau, guitarist John Scofield and Marsalis drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts. Still, it's Wolf's show.
The Chicago Jazz Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble's 'Havana Blue' on 316 Records, a "new" Elvis double-album from Memphis ('Way Down In The Jungle Room' on RCA/Legacy), a Brazilian samba-soaked sampler Boston Pops-style (the self-released 'Concerto Para Moviola') by Ricardo Bacelar and--the gem of the batch--17 year old red hot mama wanna-be Ally Venable from deep in the heart of Texas ('No Glass Shoes' on Connor Ray Music) all combine for one hell of a Blogarrheah.
Jeff Denson, 39, might be too brilliant for his own good. The music he writes on 'Concentric Circles' (Ridgeway Records) is so difficult to play-and oftentimes to listen to-that one must clear away the detritus of everyday life to make room for it in your brain's ear.
'The Outlier' (Pine Eagle Records) by The Rich Halley 5 has the saxophonist/composer leading a talented quintet with multi-reed player Vinny Golia, trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, bassist Clyde Reed and drummer Carson Halley on an album of originals and extemporaneous studio improvisations. The addition of Golia sounds especially satisfying as his twin axes of bari sax and bass clarinet add color, dynamics and a sophistication to an already well-oiled unit.
'Do Your Dance!' (Mack Avenue) is yet another chapter of a book long unfinished traversing Kenny Garrett's time in the Mercer Ellington Orchestra, the Five Peace Band with Chick Corea and John McLaughlin, his apprenticeships in the bands of Freddie Hubbard, Woody Shaw, Donald Byrd, Miles Davis and as an international phenomenon both solo and with Sting. Most Garrett CDs are among the best of the year. This is no exception.
One realizes just how special 'Allied Forces' (Posi-Tone) by Steve Fidyk is about halfway through Monk opener "Evidence." Dealing with Monk's myriad changes and convoluted thought processes in a shiny new irresistible way has that good new-car smell about it that hooks you right in, and it's like that for the duration, partly because guitarist Shawn Purcell and tenor saxist Doug Webb make the absolute most of their opportunity here.