Pianist/Composer Harold Lopez-Nussa, 33, may be from Havana Cuba but his 'El Viaje' debut (Mack Avenue) spans the globe in a jazz travelogue accentuated by his longtime piano/bass/drums trio now with Mayquel Gonzalez on trumpet and flugelhorn plus three heavily percussive guests.
Who better than Monk Institute Music Director John Beasley to finally create something that might have been thought of years ago: the concept of a "Monk'estra," which is, of course, a full-fledged 15-man orchestra doing nothin' but the hard, complex, circuitous compositions by The High Priest Of Bebop, baby, Thelonious Monk [1917-1982].
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.
'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.
They said it couldn't last. When Yellowjackets came to be, critics scoffed and Yellowjackets seemed doomed from the start. 35 years later, 'Cohearence' (Mack Avenue Records) makes that thought laughable.
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.'
Herlin Riley stands on the shoulders of giants. He comes from a long line of New Orleans drummers who are so deeply entrenched in the pocket and in the tradition, that their swinging styles have set a standard. For Riley's Mack Avenue Records debut after drumming in the bands of no less than Wynton Marsalis and Ahmad Jamal, he's taken a 'New Direction.'
In 2012, Mack Avenue Records sent a good portion of its artist roster to perform together (many for the first time) at the annual Labor Day weekend Detroit Jazz Festival. It went so well, they've been invited back for the fourth straight year. Last year, bassist Christian McBride took over for fellow bassist Rodney Whitaker as Musical Director. The results can be heard on the new in-concert jam, 'Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2015.'
As the follow-up to singer Cyrille Aimee's promising 2013 Mack Avenue Records It's 'A Good Day' debut, 'Let's Get Lost' should catapult this intriguing woman into the upper echelons. At 31, she stands on the brink of stardom. Beautiful, talented, precocious, funny, cultured, with the kind of instantly-recognizable voice that has no known precedent, she goes from Sondheim and Piaf to jazz legend Oscar Pettiford ("Laverne Walk") and Dominican superstar Juan Luis Guerra. Her band is also unique, boasting an Australian bass/drums rhythm section and two guitarists, one doused in Gypsy Jazz, the other an electric lead.
What a great idea. More labels should host blow-outs like this of artists who lead their own bands yet play this annual jam. Oh to have been in the Motor City last year on Labor Day weekend at Hart Plaza when Detroit-based label Mack Avenue hosted its 'Live From The Detroit Jazz Festival 2014'.
It's the long time Wayne Shorter quartet...without Shorter. On the mysteriously beautiful and wholly accessible 'Children Of The Light' (Mack Avenue), pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade take lessons learned and apply them to an 11-track all-original hour (except for a loving remake of Shorter's "Delores"). Although they're all leaders in their own right, this is their first trio outing.
In keeping up with the pre-Grammy hysteria this week, we here at Classicalite want to keep you readers abreast of only the most pertinent news. This one comes as an update (and perhaps our projected winner) to the category of Best Jazz Instrumental Album.