by: Hobart Taylor
Michael Zilber - Originals for the Original - (Origin)
Lets start out by saying that these are incredible melodies. The compositions are deeply engaging and the ensemble beautifully supports Zilber's intensely personal voice on tenor and soprano saxes. The tunes are homages to other jazz greats, Wayne Shorter, Michael Brecker,Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson Dave Liebman, John Coltrane and Paul Desmond, but while they sometimes mirror the feel of these artists, they are not derivative. They are Zilber's interpretations of the spirits of these artists. This release is a perfect marriage of head and heart.
Throttle Elevator Music - Retoretrospective - (Wide Hive Records)
Kamasi Washington is fronting the band a little more, and this release is less punk influenced and has some of the loping meditative jams found on his record "The Epic". Previous releases by Throttle elevator Music rarely held tunes over four minutes and sometimes ran a minute some. The opener here, "Limnality" with its Coltranesque searing solos and horn choruses is velvet, not broken glass, and runs for a whopping eight engrossing minutes. "Playing the Alleyway" is an out and out ballad, granted with the drum providing hip-hop counterpoint in broken time. Key to the sound is trumpeter Erik Jekabson whose rep but not his playing is overwhelmed by Kamasi's fame. The Punk based stuff is still here, check out "Flux and Solder" and "Subtract Limited", but this release displays much more of the range of the band.
Nate Smith - Kinfolk: Postcards From Everywhere - (Waterbaby/Ropeadope)
Drummer Smith has made a multiplicity of influences talk to each other. "Skip Step", the second cut has Brazil, electronica and hip hip, "Bounce Parts 1 and 2" are James Brown meets Sonny Rollins with stellar saxophonist Chris Potter doing the honors. Pianist Kris Bowers, who with Robert Glasper has been leading the fusions of African American musical traditions (a movement many of us hope will save jazz from becoming an historical relic), is a godfather of this project and plays on it. Five Stars.
Bill Laurance - Live at Union Chapel - (Verve)
Pianist Laurance is most famous for being a founder of Snarky Puppy. On this release he goes back home to England to record live in Union Chapel, an historic London Church which is also a major concert venue. His earworms are delightful, sprightly, charming, poppy jazz.
Paul Yonemura - Kindred Spirits - (Girod Records)
Yonemura is a Bay Area drummer who keeps the flame of Norcal bop alive. He picks swinging tunes and swinging players and the groove always feels right. I love this release simply because it is pure unadorned in the moment jazz.