Monday, February 25, 2013

Matta's Black Orpheus; Goode's Other Side - Bob Stewart

When Nilson Matta was a young child in his native Brazil, his father brought home an LP of the music from the play Orfeu da Conceicao by the playwright Vinicius de Moraes, which retells the Greek legend of Orpheus and Eurydice in the then-contemporary setting of Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval. Matta was entranced by the music composed by Antonio Carlos Jobim with lyrics by de Moraes. The burgeoning bassist's attachment to the music only increased when the film version of the play, titled Black Orpheus, was released in 1959 with new songs by Jobim and Luis Bonfa. Five decades later, Matta's long-time love affair with the music from both productions finds consummation with the new CD -- "Nilson Matta's Black Orpheus" -- a jazz-flavored reimagining of the music featuring Randy Brecker, Kenny Barron and Gretchen Parlato.

Long known for his highly swinging recordings and performances, trumpet virtuoso Brad Goode also has his "other" side, first exposed on the 1988 release, "Shock of the New."  Twenty-five years and 13 albums later, having established himself as a soloist of immediacy and warmth and a composer of striking originality, Goode is still stretching. With his culture-spanning band of Ghanian drummer Paa Kow, Brazilian bassist Bijoux Barbosa, Lebanese percussionist Rony Barrak, guitarist Bill Kopper and keyboardist Jeff Jenkins, "Chicago Red" also features Goode's explorations in polytonal chord cycles-no less bold a break from standard procedure than fusion once was-to create an eclectic, electric and thoroughly grooving CD.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Marsalis Vibes; New Pelt Ensemble - Bob Stewart

Fresh from touring with acclaimed banjoist Bela Fleck and pianist Marcus Roberts, Jason Marsalis returns to his role as band leader and vibraphonist extraordinaire on "A World of Mallets." The youngest member of the Marsalis family has an established reputation a one of today's most talented jazz percussionists. As the All Music Guide says, "Just as his drumming is steeped in both modern and New Orleans rhythmic styles, his vibes playing draws on the rich tradition of that instrument... with commendably ardent swing." The new disc boasts a marvelous collection of intriguing instrumentals centered around his lush vibes stylings.

For most jazz trumpeters today, it must be difficult to walk the tightrope stretched between the pits of history and progress, but Jeremy Pelt has been doing it with ease. From his first professional gig with the Mingus Big Band through his 10 CDs as a leader, Pelt has maintained remarkable forward momentum. Today, at the peak of his powers, his bands have been lauded for their intense interplay which calls to mind Miles, Wayne Shorter and Tony Williams. It is the spirit of the 1969-70 Miles Davis that is conjured with Jeremy's latest ensemble and newest recording, "Water and Earth."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Sax and Violins - Bob Stewart

Saxophonist Chris Potter, who has been featured on several ECM albums by his mentor Dave Holland as well as a collaboration with Paul Motian and Jason Moran, makes his ECM debut as a leader with "The Sirens." The disc features a cycle of original compositions by Potter inspired by Homer's The Odyssey. "I'd re-read The Odyssey after many years and was inspired to write music with that epic, mythic mood in mind," Potter explains. "The stories are ancient but human emotions never change...and nothing's more human than melody." The pieces are conveyed by a subtly virtuosic, strikingly textured band which includes pianist Craig Taborn, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland.
Throughout his life and career, Christian Howes has thrived on venturing outside of his comfort zone. He's taken the violin into the relatively unexplored territory of modern jazz, combining classical training with soulful expressiveness; and he's been on the vanguard of digital-age entrepreneurship with his online classes and virtual string orchestra. For his new CD -- Southern Exposure" -- Howes takes another unexpected turn, this time into the realm of Latin music, exploring a diverse range of repertoire from Brazil, Argentina, Cuba and Spain. His chief companion on the journey is French accordion master Richard Galliano, buoyed by the smoking rhythm section of bassist Scott Colley, drummer Lewis Nash and pianist Josh Nelson.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Shorter Returns to Blue Note; New Work from Green - Bob Stewart

Legendary saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter makes his triumphant return to Blue Note Records after 43 years with the release of "Without a Net" -- joined by his long-running quartet featuring pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade. Shorter first recorded for Blue Note in 1959 as the precocious 26-year-old tenor saxophonist in Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, which brought him to the attention of label founder Alfred Lion, who eventually signed the reed man to his own recording deal. Shorter went on to make a spectacular run of classic discs for the label from 1964-1970 during a period of time that also paralleled his years with Miles Davis. The new disc consists of live recordings from the Quartet's European tour of late 2011.

Benny Green possesses the history of jazz at his fingertips. Combine mastery of keyboard technique with decades of real world experience playing with the most celebrated artists of the last half-century and it's no wonder Green has been hailed as perhaps the most exciting, hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist to emerge from Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers. For his new CD -- "Magic Beans" -- Green has crafted ten new pieces performed by his working trio, featuring bassist Peter Washington and drummer Kenny Washington. Remarkably, this release marks Benny's first self-produced trio recording of all original compositions in a career that spans decades: notably as a star sideman with Blakey, Betty Carter, Freddie Hubbard, and Ray Brown and culminating in over 20 years as a leader.