by: Hobart Taylor
Nicholas Payton - Afro-Caribbean Mixtape - (Paytone Records)
A perfect blend of head and heart. Composer/trumpeter Nicholas Payton has a rigorous commitment to analyzing African inspired musics and a commitment to the passionate performance of them. "Playing an instrument," he says in the tune "#BAMboula", "is a form of worship." In the selection of influences he celebrates he uses not only musical expression, but spoken word, rap,overdubs, and effects to enhance his explicit commentary. This is both art and criticism. This is both historical reflection and ripped from the streets. Truly a masterwork.
Terence Blanchard - The Comedian - (Blue Note Records)
Another denizen of the motherland of Black American music, New Orleans is fellow trumpeter/composer Terence Blanchard. His original score for the Robert De Niro film, "The Comedian" reconnects to many of the sounds of '60's jazz. "Jackie in the Rain" sounds like a Freddie Hubbard blues based tune from the "Red Clay" era, there are mellow ballads, up beat bop jams, and Art Blakey precision straight ahead melodies. Close your eyes and drift back in time.
Jimmy Greene - Flowers: Beautiful Life Volume 2 - (Mack Avenue Records)
Greene plays all the saxes from soprano to baritone. His tunes swing, have straight ahead melodies, then take left turns into wow land. Backed by two of the most innovative pianists going now, Kevin Hays as well as Renee Rosnes, the phenomenal drumming of both Jeff "Tain" Watts and Otis Brown III, and either Ben Williams or John Patitucci on bass, Greene has made a beautiful statement with this record, one that is reflective, heartfelt, and joyful.
Hermon Mehari - Bleu - (Self Released)
Composer/trumpeter Mehari joined by Aaron Parks on keys and Logan Richardson on alto sax has an ambling angular style akin to the classic hip hop acid jazz fusions of the '90's.On one cut Parks plays a highly distorted synth that give a psychedelic edge to the proceedings. There's a nice cover of Coltrane's "Moments Notice" which allows Richardson a chance to stretch out.
Chris Greene - Boundary Issues - (Single Malt)
Tenor player Greene and his quartet add a tinge of reggae here, a dash of soul there, (checkout "Summer Song") and as the album title implies this record is genre fluid. Recorded gorgeously with a rich and full presence this one's a keeper.
Mas Que Nada - Sea Journey - (blujazz)
Alum from the celebrated jazz studies program at Western Michigan University came together to cover mainly Brazilian and Latin tunes and the sound of the vocals with their tight harmonies is as clean and pure as the first wave of Samba that broke over the sea of jazz in the early '60's. Highlights are "Voce Ja Foi A Bahia", Chris Washburn's "Pink", "Ponteio" and the title tune, Chick Corea's "Sea Journey."
Corbin Andrick - Bonzo Squad - (Self Released)
Sort of like the Herbie Hancock/Weather Report pop jazz fusion albums, this recording by a north side Chicago good times bar jazz band has a lot of punch. Andrick on alto, tenor and flute can be sultry and sassy with a bite, and Andrew Lawrence on Fender Rhodes, organ, synth, and even a piano is deft and graceful with the melodies while the rhythm section, Andrew Vogt, bass, and melodic drummer Zack Marks are tight as a fist on a nine iron. Special kudos to Matt Gold on guitar who in another life might be a rock god.