Monday, April 26, 2010

New Music - Nnenna, Trombone Shorty, Stanton Moore - Bob

Esteemed jazz vocalist and six-time Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon offers up her first studio album in five years, "Homefree", a soulful swinging disc that she calls her "home brew." The collection is comprised largely of contemporary interpretations of classic American Songbook tunes, along with a new original and spirited arrangements of two anthems. "Most of the songs are part of our repertoire," Nnenna says. "We've tested them on the road, getting insight on what works and what doesn't...the music was deeper in our bones. These are all songs that were loved and ready to record."

Troy 'Trombone Shorty' Andrews' new CD, "Backatown", is the work of a rare artist who can draw both the unqualified respect of jazz legends and mesmerize international rock stars and audiences alike. With an unprecedented mix of jazz, funk, soul, and hip-hop, Andrews is the kind of player who comes along maybe once in a generation. Surrounding him is Orleans Avenue, the same band he brought to the Iowa City Jazz Festival last summer. The album title comes from the locals' term for the area of New Orleans that includes the Treme neighborhood in the city's 6th Ward, where Shorty was born and raised. The cultural backdrop of the area is at the very root of his music, on top of which he's built his own sound.

Another New Orleans mainstay, drummer Stanton Moore, brings his funky, Crescent City second-line swing to his fifth release as leader, "Groove Alchemy", featuring keyboardist Robert Walter and guitarist Will Bernard.

Other new releases -- the legacy of Stan Kenton in good hands with Mike Vax and the Kenton Alumni Band on a new live disc, "Have Band Will Travel"; and the band Playdate reunites three childhood friends, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Noah Baerman and guitarist Amanda Monaco, for their self-titled debut release.

Monday, April 19, 2010

New Music from Tom Harrell, JCLO, Others - Bob

Hailed by Newsweek for his pure melodic genius, Tom Harrell is widely recognized as one of the most creative and uncompromising jazz instrumentalists and composers of our time. Each of his discs has found its way onto various critics "Top Ten" lists worldwide. His newest, "Roman Nights", is the third CD to feature his current quintet. The remarkably cohesive unit includes tenor saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, pianist Danny Grissett, drummer Johnathan Blake, and his bassist of 12 years, Ugonna Okegwo. Harrell once again exhibits the talent, creativity and touch of genius which led both Whitney Balliet of the New York Times and Bill Milkowski of Jazz times to proclaim him "the premiere trumpeter of his generation."

The world-renowned Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis is back with a new project, "Portrait in Seven Shades." Each of the seven movements of this new suite, composed by long-time JCLO reedman Ted Nash, is inspired by a master of modern art who worked in the century around the apex of jazz: Chagall, Dali, Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Pollock and Van Gogh. The writer Will Friedwald once said, "Music is like painting in time, painting is like music in space." This new disc illustrates this point masterfully.

Pianist Ehud Asherie, an Israeli native who's now a mainstay on the New York club scene, is out with his third disc as a leader, "Modern Life", featuring saxophonist Harry Allen.

"Alive & Kickin'", is the first live disc from the Michigan-based soul-jazz organ trio Organissimo and the incomparable vocalist Maysa reinvents the classics of Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, and Nina Simone, and offers up her own originals on "A Woman in Love."

Monday, April 12, 2010

New Music from Mehldau, Mose, Taylor, Garcia and Holland - Bob

Although Brad Mehldau is best known as a jazz composer and improviser, he has written several long-form compositions and songs, including those for orchestra and voice. Highway Rider is a new double-disc set of original work by the pianist, composer and arranger which features a chamber orchestra, along with regular trio mates Jeff Ballard on drums and Larry Grenadier on bass and special guests Joshua Redman on sax and drummer Matt Chamberlain.

Mose Allison occupies a hallowed place in American songwriting, bringing a witty, urbane sensibility to modern blues and jazz. His subtle, laid-back singing style meshes nicely with his nuanced piano stylings, with nods to Monk and Garner. Allison's influence can be heard in everyone from Diana Krall and Norah Jones to John Mayall and Van Morrison. The Way of the World marks his return to the recording studio after a 12-year absence with five brand new Mose compositions.

To mark the 100th anniversary of the birth of Django Reinhardt, UK guitarist Martin Taylor has re-formed his award-winning group "Spirit of Django" for the first time in 15 years for Last Train to Hauteville.

Other new music includes Brazilian-born, Chicago-based guitarist/composer Paulhino Garcia offers up a new collection of originals on My Very Life and bassist Dave Holland and his octet are live at Birdland on Pathways.

Monday, April 5, 2010

New Music from Anat Cohen, Chris Tedesco, Carolyn Leonhart - Bob

Anat Cohen is a veteran of five residencies at the renowned Village Vanguard in New York and is the first female horn player and first Israeli to headline and record there. Her new release, Clarinetwork Live at the Village Vanguard, coincides with the 75th anniversary of the Vanguard, recorded on the final night of a six-night stand. Cohen's first live album showcases her virtuoso skills as an instrumentalist and improviser on the clarinet at the end of a global event celebrating the centennial of jazz legend Benny Goodman.

Over the past few decades, many Los Angeles big bands have made indelible impressions on the jazz scene. Those led by Bob Florence, Terry Gibbs, or Bill Holman knew how to stoke up the heat with the best collection of arrangements. Now there's another name to add to the list. Chris Tedesco has been on the L.A. jazz scene since 1987 and has managed to corral the cream of the studio crop, the most proficient readers and swingers on the West Coast, to put together a cohesive 18-piece band. Living the Dream is an impressive big band debut thanks, in part, to the arrangements of Jim McMillen and the first-rate studio soloists they wisely chose.

Carolyn Leonhart, the daughter of legendary bassist Jay Leonhart who's known for her 10-year tenure as lead back-up vocalist for Steely Dan, is joined by her husband, saxophonist Wayne Escoffery, on her latest CD, Tides of Yesterday; trumpeter Christian Scott has teamed up with legendary producer Rudy Van Gelder on Yesterday You Said Tomorrow, a 10-song collection combining jazz, hip-hop and rock; and Argentine-born, New York-based bassist Pablo Aslan sets out to reinvent twelve 20th century tango classics with a superb ensemble of tango and jazz musicians on Tango Grill.