In a musical world where keeping a working band has been difficult for many bandleaders, drummer Steve Smith has managed to keep three bands working for the past three decades. His jazz-rock band Vital Information has been touring and recording for more than thirty years, while his straight-ahead groups Buddy’s Buddies, made up of Buddy Rich alumni, and Steve Smith’s Jazz Legacy have each been in existence for the last five years. Therefore, it makes perfect sense for the drummer to blend all three bands for a new studio disc, “Viewpoint,” with a band called Vital Information-NYC Edition. It includes saxophonist Andy Fusco and pianist Mark Soskin from Buddy’s Buddies and Jazz Legacy, guitarist Vinny Valentino from Vital Information, and bassist Baron Browne from all three bands.
Organist Brian Charette takes it to the streets and brings it all back home with his ninth release as a leader, “Alphabet City,” so named for the area of Manhattan where he lives. While the compositional focus and musical crux of the CD rests squarely on the shoulder of Charette and his Hammond B-3, the additional contributions of guitar Will Bernard and drummer Rudy Royston also provide melodic highlights and the necessary rhythmic support to keep the session deeply in the pocket. Those who caught the trio at the Iowa City Jazz Festival this month can attest to tightness of the ensemble.
Grammy nominee Wayne Wallace celebrates the ever-developing cultural conversation between the U.S. and Cuba with “Intercambio,” the fifth, and strongest, release by his acclaimed Latin Jazz Quintet; British saxophonist Steve Kaldestad, who has now relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia, is joined by pianist Renee Rosnes and her trio for his third disc as leader, “New York Afternoon”; and “Butterfly Blue” finds vocalist Halie Loren drawing inspiration from blues and soul with a mix of jazz and Songbook standards, re-imagined pop songs and original pieces.