When albums come out of the mailbox in batches of five, six, eight a day—or more—it is possible to overlook, set aside or misplace some that are worthy of mention. Here are recommendations of a few that have languished on the shelf, some briefly, others for a while.
Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints, Scandal (Greenleaf Music)
Years of playing together have refined the compatibility that saxophonist Lovano and trumpeter Douglas have displayed since their initial collaboration in the San Francisco Jazz Collective in 2004. Their fascination with the music of Wayne Shorter is evident in Sound Prints not only in their arrangements of two of Shorter’s best-known compositions, “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum” and “Juju,” but also in original pieces by the co-leaders. Bluesy, riff-like repeats in Douglas’s “Ups and Downs” constitute one example of Shorter’s influence. Two others are Lovano’s reflective “Full Moon” with its entwining horn lines, and the skittering energies in his short “High Noon,” a track whose solos would be welcome at greater length. Douglas’s “Libra” opens with the harmonic riches of Lawrence Field’s piano chorus. Douglas and Lovano achieve an album high point in their rich unison ensemble in that piece. Bassist Linda Han Oh and drummer Joey Baron round out the quintet. They and Fields constitute a tight rhythm section, abetted in Lovano’s “Full Sun” by Baron’s stick work and joyous cymbal splashes, Douglas’s rising swoops of high notes and Linda Oh’s crisply intoned bass solo.
Allen Toussaint, American Tunes (Nonesuch)
The late paragon of New Orleans music (1938-2015) recorded this album shortly before he died. The playlist includes two of his pieces, including the celebrated “Southern Nights.” It also has his piano performances of compositions by Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn, Fats Waller, Earl Hines and—perhaps to the surprise of some listeners—Bill Evans’ “Waltz For Debby.” Toussaint’s appreciation ran a wide gamut. Sidemen here can be surprising, among them guitarist Bill Frisell, saxophonist Charles Lloyd and lap steel guitarist Greg Leisz. On 19th Century New Orleans composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk’s “Danza,” Amy Shulman is at the harp. In his playing, Toussaint gives his chords a flow akin to running water. He sings one song, Paul Simon’s 1973 “American Tune.” It remains as moving as when Simon did it.
Idrees Sulieman Quartet, The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier (Sunnyside)
Sulieman (1923-2002) was a distinctive early bebop trumpet player. His experience as a young man included McKinney’s Cotton Pickers, the Earl Hines big band, Sid Catlett and Cab Calloway. His range and flexibility allowed him later to be featured with Thelonious Monk, the Kenny Clarke/Francy Boland band and Gerry Mulligan’s Concert Band. Sulieman was notable for his fluency, a kind of edgy lyricism, and the cavernous sound he achieved with a cup mute. This double CD album was recorded in Algeria at a Tangiers radio station and in a New York City studio. It features the little-recognized pianist Oscar Dennard, bassist Jamil Nasser and drummer Buster Smith. Dennard’s harmonic gift triumphs over a piano that it would be kind to call adequate, but his solos are so interesting that the unfortunate instrument barely matters. Sulieman and company are particularly incisive in Charlie Parker’s “Visa.” This is a good way for anyone unfamiliar with Sulieman to learn what he was all about.
Hal Galper Quartet Featuring Jerry Bergonzi, Cubist (Origin)
In his album notes, pianist Galper writes that he was unaware of what “an interesting and unique composer” his longtime bass-playing associate Jeff Johnson is. The three pieces that Johnson contributed to Cubist leave no doubt about his writing ability. The title tune plus “Kiwi,” “Artists” and “Scene West” give Galper, Johnson and drummer John Bishop plenty of challenging material. They make the most of it. Galper’s post-bop credentials with Cannonball Adderly, Chet Baker and Phil Woods, among others, are part of his solid history. A few years ago he began to explore the challenges and charms of time-play, rubato, bypassing strict tempo—”stealing time,” as the Italians sometimes put it. The approach requires that all hands feel the time or non-time at the same intensity, with the same flexibility. Galper, Johnson, Bishop and tenor saxophonist Jerry Bergonzi feel it together. “Scene West” is thirteen minutes of slowly building intensity capped by a bear-growling Johnson bass solo. Galper rounds out the album with compatible pieces not written by Johnson; Miles Davis’s “Solar,” Johnny Carisi’s “Israel,” a relaxed Ellington “In A Sentimental Mood” with another superb Johnson solo and laid-back, adventurous Bergonzi, and Galper’s own “Scufflin’,” which has stretches of Bishop in strict time that is not entirely unwelcome.
Cubist is a stimulating experience throughout.