by: Hobart Taylor
The BABA Orchestra - Another Ride on the Elephant Slide - (Thirsty Owl Records)
Composer/conductor Lauren Elizabeth Baba has staked out her corner of the Stravinsky inflected jazz rock that critics like to call Zappaesque. Zappa was definitely a popularizer of this admixture, but artists from Don Ellis to Roscoe Mitchell and Carla Bley to King Crimson have taken 20th century avant garde classical, the blues, and free jazz and come up with killer jams.
L.A.'s Baba and her 17 piece ensemble do this exceptionally well. Like the Bley bands, she gives soloists freedom to elaborate her vision while making editorial decisions on the fly. The frequent mercurial changes in tempo, dynamics, rhythm, and timbre require astute attention and emotional commitment. Done.
Joris Teepe & Don Braden (with Gene Jackson & Matt Wilson) - Conversations - (Creative Perspective)
Tenor saxophonist and flautist Don Braden is one of those performers who seem so casual and in the pocket when they play that you could take their mastery for granted and just be enveloped in the tunes. He has ability to shape shift like Ernie Watts so he can be playing free jazz or Turrentine soul, Gene Ammons long note reveries or Eddie Harris funk. Joined here by bassist/arranger Teepe who has worked with stellar free jazz and chamber jazz ensembles and two of the best drummers on the planet these tunes revolve around interplay. Their intimate and low key reading of the Mingus classic "Goodbye Porkpie Hat" is a grand example of what many deem the essential element of conversation. I can almost hear the players listening.
Cyrille Aimee - Live - (Mack Avenue)
French singer Aimee has a hint of Lady Day in her timbre, but she seems to be a lot happier. Pop tunes from jazz standards to Michael Jackson driven by warp speed guitar solos make this a feel good trip. Recorded live at NYC's Le Poisson Rouge, this is almost too much fun.
Jarod Bufe - New Spaces - (OA2 Records)
Honey rolling down hill. Delicate finish of an ancient claret. The refreshed feeling waking from a pleasant but unremembered dream. Jarod Bufe on tenor sax, Tim Stine, guitar, Matt Ulery, bass, Jon Deitemeyer, drums.
Brad Mehldau Trio - Seymour Reads the constitution! - (Nonesuch)
Pianist Mehldau, joined here by Larry Grenadier on bass and drummer Jeff Ballard, continues his savvy and sophisticated take on chamber jazz. He always stays between the lines, but the lines are not straight. On his originals "Spiral" and "Seymour Reads the Constitution!" he stays true to forms while inserting subtle and wry commentary throughout. The covers range from Lerner and Lowe to the neglected be-bop master Elmo Hope,loft jazz denizen Sam Rivers (with my favorite cut "Beatrice"), to Paul McCartney and the Beach Boys. What all these tunes have in common is Mehldau's devotion to melodic expansion.
Harold Lopez Nussa - Un Dia Cualquiera - (Mack Avenue)
Pianist/composer Nussa explodes with a deep blues/Latin admixture in a fiery trio format. Caribbean rhythms
are propelled by piano solos in hyper drive on the up tempo numbers, and underscored by lilting pianistic commentary on the ballads. Produced by the Brazilian guitarist Swami Jr. with a commitment to pristine fidelity and arrangements.
Ethan Sherman - Building Blocks - (pfMentum)
I don't know why I haven't added this extraordinary record formally to the KUCI library yet. It came out months ago. I have played it often on the air and it is a favorite of mine. Perhaps it is because it is so spot on, so pure in tone and timbre, that like a clear blue sky I've taken it for granted. L.A. guitarist Sherman wastes not a note. His style isn't minimalist, it is economical, eco-friendly, sustainable. Jazz, rock, classical, atmospheric musings, yeah you can hear all that, but those are the shells. Inside these stacked to eternity are meditative turtles.
Rob Dixon (w/ Charlie Hunter and Mike Clark)- Coast to Crossroads - (Self-released)
Saxophonist/composer Dixon holds down the fort in Indianapolis. Perfect funky soul inflected jazz performed with precision and panache seems appropriate for folks evoking the feel of Wes and Monk Montgomery's home town. This release is produced by renowned 7 string guitarist Charlie Hunter who also plays on it. He often makes his guitar sound like an organ giving the whole project an after hours lounge vibe. It's all great. Check out the one cover, Tupac's "California Love" for it's mahogony vibe.