Monday Recommendation: Stefano Bollani

Bollani Joy In Spite...

Stefano Bollani, Joy In Spite Of Everything (ECM The Italian pianist, his Danish rhythm section mates and two American stars emphasize the joy of the title, but Bollani’s album also has moments of thoughtful stateliness. Tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, guitarist Bill Frisell, bassist Jesper Bodilsen and drummer Morten Lund join Bollani in various combinations from duo to quintet. Bollani’s eight compositions reflect inspiration from the Caribbean, Africa, bebop and his fertile imagination. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Dayna Stephens

Dayna Stephens Peace

Dayna Stephens, Peace (Sunnyside) With blissful slowness, Stephens explores ballads in the company of superior sidemen. On soprano, tenor and baritone saxophones, he plumbs the emotional and harmonic content of 11 songs. Among them are Horace Silver’s title tune, Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke,” two Ennio Morriconne film themes and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Zingaro.” In “Body and Soul, with spare accompaniment by Larry Grenadier’s bass, Stephens’ baritone playing emphasizes the brilliance of Johnny … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Hush Point, Blues And Reds

Hush Point

Hush Point, Blues And Reds (Sunnyside) Suspended ageless between neo-traditionalism and the iconoclasm of free jazz, trumpeter John McNeil and alto saxophonist Jeremy Udden continue adventures in the Shangri-La of their pianoless quartet. Blues And Reds picks up more or less where the first Hush Point album left off in 2013, but with even more attention to sound dynamics, and with deepened symbiosis between the horns. Replacing Vinnie Sperrazza, drummer Anthony Pinciotti brings his own brand … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Good Old Zoot

Zoot Down Home Cover

Zoot Sims, Down Home (Bethlehem) One of the later albums in Bethlehem’s reissue series presents the tenor saxophonist in a rollicking 1960 quartet session. Sims and pianist Dave McKenna were often together in the New York loft scene of the fifties and sixties. Bassist George Tucker broke in with Earl Bostic, Sonny Stitt and John Coltrane. Drummer Dannie Richmond was most often employed with Charles Mingus. What might have seemed an unlikely combination of musicians from different branches of … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Art Jackson

Underground Masterpiece

Art Jackson: Underground Masterpiece (Independent) The CD is in general release, and its title claim of masterpiece status could be questioned. Nonetheless, it is impressive music from contemporary Latin bands arranged and led by Jackson. From track to track, the groups range in size from a percussion-voice trio to a nine-piece ensemble. The musicians include some of the west coast’s most able Latin and studio musicians, among them drummer Alex Acuña, pianist John Beasley, tenor saxophonist … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Dee Daniels

Dee Daniels Intimate

Dee Daniels, Intimate Conversations (Origin) Accompanied only by Martin Wind’s forthright bass lines, the singer sets her story-telling course with the imperishable 84-year-old “Exactly Like You.” She and Wind are so convincing again in “I Wish You Love” that this listener found himself wishing for an entire album with just the two of them. However, Daniels is equally effective accompanying herself on piano and coloring “All The Way” with blues feeling as Wycliffe Gordon provides wa-wa … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Ali Jackson

Ali Jackson Amalgamations

Ali Jackson, Amalgamations (Sunnyside) In this appropriately titled collection, the irrepressible drummer and 13 colleagues from the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra and elsewhere combine in groups as small as two. Jackson's precision and drive stimulate trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, pianist Eldar Djangirov and saxophonists JD Allen and Ted Nash, among others. Performances include the laconic “Done Tol’ You Fo’ Five Times” in which trombonist Vincent Gardner and electric pianist Jonathan Batiste … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Mark Turner

Lathe of Heaven

Mark Turner, Lathe Of Heaven (ECM) The tenor saxophonist bases the CD’s title on an Ursula K. LeGuin sci-fi novel in which dreams seem to change reality. Her story line turns on unclear perceptions, but Turner’s music is unambiguous in its extension of modern mainstream jazz tradition. Though the harmonized lines he plays with trumpeter Avishai Cohen bear intimations of Miles Davis and Wayne Shorter, Turner’s compositions and the emotional unity of the quartet’s playing, particularly in … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Brookmeyer For The Vanguard

Over Time, Vanguard

The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Over Time: Music of Bob Brookmeyer (Planet Arts) This is the album Bob Brookmeyer was preparing for the Vanguard orchestra before he died at the end of 2011. As a composer and arranger, Brookmeyer was a creative force in the Vanguard’s predecessor, the Mel Lewis Jazz Orchestra, and its forerunner, the big band co-led by Lewis and Thad Jones. With Jones-Lewis, he was also a principal soloist, on valve trombone. Brookmeyer's rich history with all of the band’s … [Read more...]

New Recommendation: Tom Harrell

Harrell Trip

Tom Harrell, Trip (HighNote) A dozen compositions by trumpeter Harrell provide a framework for variety and surprise in this recording by the pianoless quartet he calls Trip. The centerpiece, “The Adventures of a Quixotic Character,” is a six-part suite inspired by Miguel de Cervantes’ 15th century novel Don Quixote. Harrell’s solo on “The Ingenious Gentleman” is a highlight among highlights. If some of the tracks summon thoughts of Gerry Mulligan and Chet Baker, it may be more than a … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Mehmet Ali Sanlikol

Sanlikol, WhatsNext

Mehmet Ali Sanlikol, What’sNext? (Dünya) Using orchestral techniques that stem in part from his early training as a classical pianist, Sanlikol blends aspects of music of his native Turkey and of Arabic countries into contemporary jazz. A graduate of the Berklee School of Music and the New England Conservatory, he studied arranging with Bob Brookmeyer, whose influence is one ingredient in Sanlikol’s eclecticism; the audacious “On the Edge of the Extreme Impossible” is a dramatic instance. … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Ahmed Abdul-Malik

Spellbound cover

Ahmed Abdul-Malik, Spellbound (Status) Of Sudanese heritage, the bassist Ahmed Abdul-Malik (1927-1993) was born Jonathan Timms in Brooklyn. After working with Art Blakey and Thelonious Monk, among others, Abdul-Malik studied music of other cultures. He was among the first to incorporate Middle Eastern and Indian influences into jazz. Except for a straight-ahead blues, this 1965 album consists of themes from movies: “Spellbound,” “Never on Sunday,” “Body and Soul” and “Delilah.” Sudanese oud … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Duke Ellington

Ellington Jazz Haus

Duke Ellington, BigBands Live (Jazz Haus) Watching the Ellington band perform in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, the listener was likely to be struck by the contrast between the sidemens’ laconic demeanor and—on a good night—the joy of their performances. March 6, 1967 was a good night at the Liederhalle in Stuttgart, Germany. Beautifully recorded, the concert combines famous and barely known pieces. Good humor reigns in the ensemble performances, passion in the solos. Trumpet star … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Jarrett And Haden

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Keith Jarrett, Charlie Haden, Last Dance (ECM) Following Haden’s death last Friday, this duet recording of the bassist with his former boss takes on poignancy even beyond the empathy that he and the pianist develop in nine standard songs. The exceptions to ballad tempos are a brisk bop excursion through Bud Powell’s “Dance of the Infidels,” and “Everything Happens to Me” at the pace of a leisurely walk. The session also produced Jasmine, released in 2010. It took place shortly before Haden’s … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Denny Zeitlin Trio

Denny Zeitlin Stairway to the Stars

Denny Zeitlin, Stairway To The Stars (Sunnyside) Stairway To The Stars comes from the same engagement as Zeitlin’s Trio In Concert, released in 2009. If anything, the sequel finds the pianist even more intimately engaged with the veteran bassist Buster Williams and the young drummer Matt Wilson. When this was recorded in 2001 at the Jazz Bakery in Los Angeles, Wilson’s drive, rhythmic inventiveness and humor were just becoming widely known. He and Williams give Zeitlin sensitive support on … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Theo Croker

Theo Croker cover

Theo Croker, Afro Physicist (Okeh) Much of the verbiage about the elimination of borders between musical categories is the work of publicists. It is marketable to be, or claim to be, cross-genre. However, in the case of Croker, an impressive 28-year-old trumpeter, his new album substantiates the claim. It touches on hip-hop, R&B, bebop and 1970s soul, but at its core his playing extends the mainstream jazz tradition of which his grandfather, the great trumpeter Doc Cheatham, was a vital part. … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Sonny Rollins

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Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Volume 3 (Okeh) Thriving on the energy he gets back from his listeners, Rollins can electrify them. In the third volume of his Road Show series the formidable tenor saxophonist sends currents through audiences in Japan, the United States and four places in France. The solitary listener to the recording may find himself joining in the ovations for Rollins’s audacity, humor and explosions of creativity. From 2001 to 2012, his accompanists vary, although the stalwart … [Read more...]

Monday CD Recommendation: Orrin Evans

O. Evans Mother's Touch

Orrin Evans’ Captain Black Big Band, Mother’s Touch (Posi-Tone) Regulars at the uptown New York club Smoke relish not only the musicianship but also the slap-dash camaraderie that pianist Orrin Evans’ big band exhibits during performances. Without the fun and games, the band is just as compelling in this studio recording. Evans’ “In My Soul,” slow and slinky with gospel overtones, sets the high standard that his contingent of bright youngsters and experienced veterans maintains throughout. … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Artt Frank On Chet Baker

Artt Frank Book Cover

Artt Frank, Chet Baker: The Missing Years, A Memoir Frank’s personalized story is a valuable adjunct to James Gavin’s dark biography of Baker, Matthew Ruddick's balanced bio and Jeroen de Valk’s exploration of the trumpeter’s music making. In an unpolished, conversational narrative, the drummer tells of his long friendship with the trumpeter and of sharing exhilarating high points and depressing low points in Baker’s life. In more than one sense, Frank was instrumental in Baker’s late-1960s … [Read more...]

Recommendation: Three 21st Century Trumpets

Titterington 3 trumpets

Dick Titterington & The Three Trumpet Band, Three Trumpets, No Waiting (Heavywood) Trumpet stars of the Portland jazz scene, Dick Titterington, Paul Mazzio and Thomas Barber blend and challenge one another. From the outset, the leader sets a high standard with the range, technical skill and crafty ideas of his extended improvisation on Michael Brecker’s “African Skies.” Mazzio’s reflective solo and Barber’s brief exercise in wit on John Scofield’s “Gil B643” are highlights. The harmonic … [Read more...]

This Week’s Pick: Jessica Williams

Jessica W With Love

Jessica Williams, With Love (Origin) This masterpiece of quiet reflection is the pianist’s first recording since surgery repaired spinal deterioration that kept her out of action for more than two years. With exquisite slowness, she explores eight standard ballads and her composition “Paradise of Love.” In her notes, Williams writes, “I wanted to make an album that while still rooted in jazz, relied less on technique and improvisation and more on emotive depth, melodic purity and space.” Her … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: Armen Donelian

DonelianSayat-Nova

Armen Donelian, Sayat-Nova: Songs Of My Ancestors (Sunnyside) Alone and with a trio, Donelian plays works that inform his sense of who he is and confirm that great music is timeless and universal. The music of the Armenian composer Sayat-Nova (1712-1795) is redolent of Middle Eastern values, but as we become accustomed to musical idioms of the world melding, it would sound astonishingly modern even without the jazz and classical sensibilities that Donelian applies to it. Some of the solo … [Read more...]

The Monday Recommendation: CD, Alan Broadbent

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Alan Broadbent And NDR Big Band, America The Beautiful (Jan Matthies Records) Broadbent, a New Zealander who migrated to The United States, writes a tribute to his adopted land and records it with a German band. The shimmering complexity of his arrangement of Samuel A. Ward’s 1892 title tune portrays his affection for the country. That track and his eight other pieces reconfirm Broadbent’s stature among jazz composers and arrangers. His original works include what he calls a “study” on the … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: George Cables

Cables I&I

George Cables, Icons and Influences (High Note) After nearly 50 years during which he himself has become a piano icon and influence, Cables offers a dozen pieces that have affected his approach. They are by, about, or reflect the inspiration of an eclectic assortment of musicians including Duke Ellington, John Coltrane, Bill Evans, Dave Brubeck, Nat Cole, Dexter Gordon and Tony Bennett. He begins with new compositions in memory of the recently departed pianists Cedar Walton and Mulgrew … [Read more...]

Monday Recommendation: The Girls In The Band

Girls In The Band

The slow acceptance of women as jazz artists is a microcosm of the larger struggle for equality of females in society. For decades, women jazz performers were largely relegated to ghettos known as all-girl bands. Today, increasing numbers of gifted women jazz artists are accepted on an equal footing with men. The Girls In The Band, created with skill, sensitivity and documentary professionalism, is the story of the women who opened the way. There were, and are, many more of them than the handful … [Read more...]