Praising a previous incarnation of Steve Swallow’s quintet, The Times of London described the band “as near a perfect display of small-group jazz—robust yet exquisitely poised.” The description holds true for the latest edition of the bassist’s quintet and its album, “Into the Woodwork.” Swallow leads the group—including his longtime partner in music and life, Carla Bley, on organ—in multi-hued performances of a dozen original compositions. Rounding out the ensemble is saxophonist Chris Cheek, guitarist Steve Cardenas and drummer Jorge Rossy.
Award-winning pianist Geri Allen explores the Great American Songbook of her hometown with “Grand River Crossings: Motown and Motor City Inspirations.” Named for the major thoroughfare near her childhood home in Detroit, the disc is a highly personal reflection on an influential time and place in America—a cultural crossroads—with Motown at the center of it all. She carefully crafts a collection of songs into something truly personal. Compositions by NEA Jazz Master Gerald Wilson, Detroit drum legend Roy Brooks and Allen’s mentor Marcus Belgrave along with Allen’s own compositions, sit comfortably next to known anthems and pop hits. Belgrave on trumpet and David McMurry on alto sax are special guests of the pianist on this new one.
Also this week, New Orleans legend Allen Toussaint was recorded in the fall of 2009 at Joe’s Pub in New York City performing a program of his classic compositions for “Songbook”; Ted Nash presents a commissioned big band work dedicated to the seven Chinese chakras on “Chakra”; and saxophonist Diego Rivera offers up an exciting blend of originals and standards on his second release, “The Contender.”