New Music Monday for March 10, 2014
Drummer and composer Jeff Ballard makes his long overdue, much-anticipated debut as a leader with the diverse and wide-ranging “Time’s Tales.” A master of the trio format who anchors the renowned Brad Mehldau Trio and is one-third of the inventive collective group Fly with Larry Grenadier and Mark Turner, Ballard documents his own longstanding trio with guitarist Lionel Loueke and saxophonist Miguel Zenon. With sounds ranging from forward-looking modern jazz to traditional African and Latin rhythms to heavy metal intensity, the disc reflects the trio’s adventurous, multi-faceted identity, which has been honed on stages around the world since its formation in 2006.
Bassist and composer Ben Wolfe as gained a large following as a result of being an integral member of groups led by a who’s who in jazz, including Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Diana Krall and Harry Connick, Jr. His new recording, the latest in the MaxJazz string series, features all original compositions presented in a standard jazz quartet format. Most of the pieces are ballads combining the quartet with a string quartet, and some feature special guests including Marsalis and guitarist Russell Malone.
Also this week, the Japanese-born, New York City-based trumpeter Takuya Kuroda offers up his first release for Blue Note Records, “Rising Sun,” a funky soul and hip-hop infused jazz affair; “The Invasion Parade” is pianist and composer Alfredo Rodriguez’s second release since defecting from Cuba a few years ago; and drummer David M. Bromberg unveils “Forth & Back,” his first recording after over 40 years in the business.
New Music Monday for March 3, 2014
In her 15-year recording career, Stacey Kent’s storytelling, voice and style have been mesmerizing audiences and creating devout fans. Because it’s so hard to categorize her—an American who speak fluent French as well as Portuguese, Italian and German—she can transcend genres and cross borders and cultures with an ease matched by few others artists. With the U.S. release of “The Changing Lights,” Kent re-imagines her truly personal sound through the prism of Brazilian music. She once again has collaborated with her professional and personal partner, Jim Tomlinson, and the acclaimed novelist Kazuo Ishiguro on some original compositions while also including classic songs from some of the biggest names in Brazilian music like Jobim, Caymmi, Marcos Valle and Roberto Menescal.
Frank Wess, who passed away in October at the age of 91, developed his extraordinary artistry within the context of a tradition where every saxophonist prided himself on expressing a unique voice, as recognizable as his own face. That voice is at the heart and soul of “Magic 201,” recorded during the same sessions in 2011 that produced his previous disc, “Magic 101.” The new disc delivers another feast of ballads, blues and swing, and although the music hearkens back to the glorious days of Webster, Hawkins and Prez, this is not nostalgia by any means. This is pure of-the-moment, immediate, yet timeless music in the classic tradition of jazz expression that could never be dated. Returning from the previous disc are pianist Kenny Barron and drummer Winard Harper, joined this time by bassist Rufus Reid and guitarist Russell Malone.
Also this week, guitarist Nir Felder, whose credits include work with Jack DeJohnette, Esperanza Spalding and Greg Osby, debuts as a leader with “Golden Age”; guitarist Dave Stryker’s new CD, “Eight Track,” is a celebration of classic pop tunes from the ‘70s re-imagined by his working trio and special guest vibraphonist Stefon Harris; and pianist Ben Wolfe and his trio offer up “Essential Elements.”
New Music Monday for February 24, 2014
Danilo Perez—UNESCO Artist for Peace and exemplary pianist in fact, occupier of the piano chair in Wayne Shorter’s vaunted quartet—embarks on a literal musical sojourn: the celebration of the historic trip by explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa spanning the width of the narrow Panama isthmus, finding the vast Pacific Ocean at journey’s end. That was 500 years ago. On “Panama 500,” composer Perez finds musical interpretations and inspiration in two groups of players—one featuring John Patitucci and Brian Blade, with contributions from Rogerio Boccato and Sachi Patitucci. The other group features Adam Cruz, Ben Street, Alex Hargrave and Roman Diaz. Both groups are musical allies and stunning collaborators of Danilo’s vision.
Trumpeter Nick Phillips is a longtime staff producer and Vice President at Concord Records, has worked on hundreds of albums--by noted artists ranging from Karrin Allyson to Poncho Sanchez to Gary Burton—and overseen the label’s acclaimed jazz reissue program, where his personal involvement has elevated collections of work by such giants as Brubeck, Coltrane and Monk. Pianist Cava Menzies teaches music at the Oakland School for the Arts and leans on a rich family history. Her grandmother danced at the legendary Cotton Club in New York, her mother is a classically trained flutist, and Menzies’ father is jazz trumpeter Eddie Henderson. “Moment to Moment” represents Phillips and Menzies recording debut as a collaborative duo, their improvisations having a quiet wakefulness, a deceptive simplicity that reveals a carefully constructed, unassuming majesty.
Also this week, alto saxophonist Vincent Herring and his quartet featuring pianist Cyrus Chestnut are captured live at the Smoke Jazz Club in New York City for “The Uptown Shuffle”; drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., who spent 12 years working with his mentor Mulgrew Miller, releases his third disc as a leader, “Onward & Upward’; and vocalist Dianne Reeves is joined by Gregory Porter, Sean Jones and George Duke, among other special guests, on her new disc, “Beautiful Life.”