Wednesday, May 27, 2015

New Music Monday for June 1, 2015

New Music Monday Playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

     The title of “Old Friends and New Friends,” the latest release from award-winning pianist/composer David Berkman, refers specifically to the exceptional sextet that he assembled for the recording. The band joins two members of Berkman’s recently formed quartet—saxophonist Dayna Stephens and bassist Linda Oh—with three renowned musicians who can definitely be considered old friends: drummer Brian Blade, who appeared on three of Berkman’s albums in the late ‘90s and early 2000s; and saxophonists Adam Kolker and Billy Drewes, both of whom Berkman has known for more than 30 years. The disc also reunites Berkman with Palmetto Records founder Matt Balitsaris, who issued four of the pianist’s CDs between 1998 and 2004.
     A certain naturalism and hard-earned grace run through the compositions and playing of Cyrus Chestnut, the Baltimore-bred modern-mainstream player best known for his work as a resourceful solo pianist and dynamic ensemble leader. Those qualities shine through again on “A Million Colors in Your Mind,” his first recording as a leader on the High Note label. Gospel-blues shades color several pieces and Chestnut slides easily from lush Art Tatum-like voicings to austere single note statements, from Powell-like flurries of scales to two-handed forays into Jaki Byard territory. With bassist David Williams and drummer Victor Lewis, Chestnut delivers ten great tunes and puts his own unique spin on all of them.
     Also this week, veteran trombonist Bob McChesney is joined by keyboardist Larry Goldings, drummer Bill Stewart and saxophonist Bob Mintzer on “Chez Sez”; organist Jared Gold, a highlight of last summer’s jazz festival in Iowa City, delivers “Metropolitan Rhythm”; and Dallas-based drummer Stockton Helbing offers up a new suite of tunes in honor of modernist jewelry artist Arthur Smith on “Patina.”

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

New Music Monday for May 25, 2015

New Music Monday Playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

     Musicians always strive to capture the spirit and energy of a live performance in the recording studio—a formidable challenge with the mirror of the live audience. With “Night and Day,” the brilliant alto saxophonist Vincent Herring achieves this elusive goal unequivocally. Renowned for his soulful and powerfully expressive playing, Herring is joined on the front line for six pieces by the equally combustible trumpeter Jeremy Pelt. The rhythm section of Mike LeDonne on piano, Brandi Disterheft on bass, and Joe Farnsworth on drums are ideally suited to the fierce energy and take-no-prisoners context, performing with exuberant fire and impeccable taste throughout.
     The time honored legacy of jazz is to look upon its heritage to build its future. The remarkable organist Pat Bianchi is totally dedicated to that tradition, which is in full evidence on his extraordinary new CD, “A Higher Standard.” With his outstanding arrangements and the shared commitment of the other members of his trio—guitarist Craig Ebner and longtime associate Byron Landham on drums—Pat delivers a scintillating and captivating set of ten sonic landscapes. Building upon Larry Young’s liberation of the instrument from its previous confines, Bianchi combines fiery adventurousness with a highly lyrical imagination, equally at play on beautiful ballads and blazing drivers.
     Also this week, reedman Grant Stewart pares his ensemble down to a threesome for the first time on disc with “Trio”; pianist Dana Landry presents a swinging set of tunes from the golden age of song with his quartet on “Standard Elevation”; and saxophonist Tom Tallitsch includes trombonist Michael Dease and keyboardist Brian Charette in his sextet for “All Together Now.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

New Music Monday for May 18, 2015

New Music Playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

     Through a series of critically acclaimed releases over the past decade, saxophonist and composer Rudresh Mahanthappa has explored the music of his South Indian heritage and translated it through the vocabulary of his own distinctive approach to modern jazz. On his latest release, “Bird Calls,” Mahanthappa trains his anthropological imagination on an equally important cultural influence: the music of Charlie Parker. With a stellar quintet of forward-thinking musicians, which includes some long-time collaborators as well as 20-year-old trumpet prodigy Adam O’Farrill, Mahanthappa offers an inspired examination of Bird’s foundational influence and how it manifests itself in a decidedly 21st-century context. The saxophonist will be bringing this music to the Iowa City Jazz Festival on July 3rd.
     “Triangles and Circles” is the sixth album by Dafnis Prieto as a leader and his sextet’s long-awaited second release. The new recording brightly illuminates the drummer and McArthur Fellow as a composer of considerable depth, with a penchant for complex but infectious melodies that meld the folklore of his Afro-Cuban roots with modern harmonies rich with counterpoint and virtuosic rhythmic concepts. His bandmates, including saxophonist Peter Apfelbaum and pianist Manuel Valera, are all brilliant soloists but also exemplary team players who, like Prieto, are experts at crafting a musical narrative from Pan-American source material.
     Also this week, the Grammy Award-winning Brooklyn-based collective Snarky Puppy are joined by the famous Metropole Orkest for their new project, “Sylva”; Johnson County Landmark, the University of Iowa’s premiere jazz ensemble,  plays the music of their director John Rapson on “Crescendo”; and Canadian saxophonist Cory Weeds takes on the Jackie McLean songbook on “Condition Blue.”

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New Music Monday for May 11, 2015

New Music Monday Playlist on YouTube and Spotify.

     Revered by The Washington Post as “successfully translating the musical pulse of his era into jazz,” acclaimed bassist Ben Williams delivers his sophomore release, “Coming of Age.” Continuing to implore the common elements of jazz, hip-hop, rock and soul, the young bandleader embarks on a bolder journey on this CD with more music by his own hand and a reflection of his new outlook as a seasoned musician.  Williams has secured a masterful selection of special guests on the project including renowned trumpeter Christian Scott and vibraphonist Stefon Harris
     Guitarist Andrew DiRuzza holds an undergraduate degree in jazz performance from the University of Massachusetts as well as a Masters in jazz performance and composition from the University of Iowa. A featured performer at the Iowa City Jazz Festival the last two years, DiRuzza currently teaches at Augustana College in Rock Island. His newest CD, “Shapes and Analogies,” is a combination of both traditional and contemporary jazz styles and forms. His quintet features other familiar players from the Eastern Iowa jazz scene including bassist Blake Shaw, keyboardist Michael Jarvey, saxophonist Robert Espe and drummer Marcelo Cardoso.
     Also this week, trombonist Chris Washburne and the SYOTOS Band showcase Latin jazz instrumental versions of 1960s and ‘70s classic rock songs by Led Zeppelin, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and others on “Low Ridin’”; keyboardist and vocalist Ben Sidran unveils his 31st recording as a leader, “Blue Camus”; and guitarist Matt Panayides features a program of his original compositions on his second disc as leader, “Conduits.”