Mack Avenue Superband 2015 (Mack Avenue)
Beginning in 2012, the Detroit Jazz Festival has teamed players of varied backgrounds in all-star bands. At the 2015 festival, thorough preparation resulted not in a typical festival jam session, but a program of new music by participants who played with zeal and combined into a genuine unit. The sophisticated vibraharpist Gary Burton and the smooth-jazz tenor saxophonist Kirk Whalum may seem unlikely colleagues, but this album shows that combining them with hard-core, hard-bop members of younger jazz generations was a fine idea. Trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and pianist Christian Sands inject youthful surges of adrenalin that the veteran drummer Carl Allen and bassist Christian McBride match. In an impressive example of her mature style, soprano saxophonist Tia Fuller’s solo on her composition “Decisive Steps” stirs the festival audience to full-cry response. Hendrix nearly matches her passion, and Allen explodes with drum power on the out-chorus.