Archive for ahmad jamal

Best Jazz Albums of 2017 (Second Half) – Instrumental Albums: Closer Look – Pt. 2

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, CD Reviews, curtjazz radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2018 by curtjazz

brenda navarreteOur last look at 2017, covers six more fine instrumental albums; from a living legend, who just keeps getting it done; a thrilling young Cuban percussionist/vocalist; a drummer who has been setting the world on fire; a venerable jazz label, restocking for the future, and an exciting young vibraphonist, who has come of age.

 

In alphabetical order:

Jersey – Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet (Motema)

The master percussionist drops a fine album of modern jazz, in a totally acoustic setting. The first thing that caught my attention was the pacing; though it is far from languid, it never feels rushed. It is Guiliana’s album but he leads, while never overpowering his sidemen, as will sometimes happen on drummer albums. The revelation for me, is the fine tenor work of Jason Rigby, a powerful player, who to these ears, sounds like frequent Guiliana collaborator Donny McCaslin, filtered through Stan Getz. There are a couple of strong Morrisey penned tracks (“Mayor of Rotterdam” is my fave), another with a swinging, melodic hook, that I have been unable to get out of my head (“Big Rig Jones”) and a David Bowie tune (“Where are We Now”), in a beautiful and fitting tribute to the late legend, who employed Guiliana as the drummer on his last two albums. Call me a dinosaur, if you must but as much as I appreciate Mr. Guiliana’s electronic, beat based work, I love his group in this situation.

Marseille – Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village)

I’m going to stop mentioning Ahmad Jamal’s age, when I speak of his artistry because it is irrelevant. It is not necessary to make any allowances, as he plays circles around some of the so called top cats, who are less than half his age. He has been inspiring jazz musicians for the past seven decades; his ideas and his energy are still fresh and when he hits the pocket, with his regular sidemen; James Cammack (bass), Herlin Riley (drums) and Manolo Badrena (percussion), you know where a lot of these young pianists who claim to be hip-hop influenced, really got their groove from. On this disc, he pays tribute to the French port city, with three different and equally compelling, versions of the title track: an instrumental; a spoken word, featuring French rapper Abd al Malik and a haunting French/English vocal version, by Mina Agossi. “Autumn Leaves” is given a bright Jamal treatment, which rides high on Badrena’s percussion and a quick quote from “Stolen Moments”. There’s also the funkiest version of “…Motherless Child” that I’ve ever heard. All I can say is, Mr. Jamal, keep on doing what you do, for as long as you want to do it!

Mi Mundo – Brenda Navarrete (ALMA)

I must admit that I made a small error with this album. When I first heard it, I was so impressed with Brenda Navarrete’s skill as a percussionist, that I categorized it as an instrumental album, even though every track includes Ms. Navarrete’s vocals. Now that I taken the time to listen to her singing, I realize that in addition to being one of the best young Afro-Cuban percussionists, that I have heard in many years, she is also an impressive vocalist. Mi Mundo is Ms. Navarrete’s debut album as a leader. It was released digitally, in September, though the CD version will not be out until January 2018. Regardless, I was floored from the first notes of “Baba Eleggua”, as in this young woman’s playing and vocalizing, I felt the spirits of Carlos “Patato” Valdes and Armando Peraza. Yes, she is that good. The album, which includes four of Brenda’s compositions, is deeply rooted in Afro-Cuban traditions, with a touch of modern influences, such as American R&B. Her version of “Caravan”, is a killer, as is her original, “Rumbero Como Yo”, with its multi-tracked vocal line. She demonstrates her jazz chops on “A Ochun”, with its flute driven mid-section and a call and response finish, over insistent jazz chords. There’s not a bad track here. My only minor quibble, is the album’s length (a scant 37 minutes). A very impressive instrumental and vocal debut. I pray that stupid politics, will not keep Brenda Navarrete, from being heard by a wider audience.

Our Point of View – Blue Note All-Stars (Blue Note)

Six of the best young musicians in jazz today, come together to form a supergroup, in celebration of the 75th Anniversary of arguably, the greatest record label in jazz history, Blue Note Records. Those expecting to hear these young cats rehash the old Blue Note catalog of “hits”, are going to be sorely disappointed. The two-disc set consists mostly of original compositions by these young lions. The music has energy, imperfections and thrills. And it also has a future. It is the sound of great musicians, who have respect for where they have come from but who are trying to create something new, relevant and deeply personal. They are, in the words of the group’s keyboardist/co-producer, Robert Glasper, “Making our own history now”. There are a couple of nods to the label’s storied past, in the appearance of two living legends, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter, on a new (and different) version of Shorter’s “Masqualero”. There is also a thrilling, almost 18-minute-long, version of Shorter’s classic “Witch Hunt”, with the core sextet getting to find out where that great old vehicle, will take them. It takes them to a blazing tenor statement by Marcus Strickland and after a slow start, a terrific trumpet solo by Ambrose Akinmusire. As long as minds can remain open and younger cats like these, can keep finding vehicles for their creativity, the music and this label, will have a bright future.

Strykin’ Ahead – Dave Stryker (Strikezone)

The latest in a series of fine albums from this veteran guitarist, takes him out of the soul jazz bag that he has been in for a number of years and back into straight ahead territory. It’s his best album in at least a decade. Click HERE to read our full album review.

 

Walk of Fire – Behn Gillece (Posi-Tone)

This up and coming young vibraphonist reaches his potential with this excellent date, inspired, in part, by Joe Henderson’s Blue Note classic, Mode for Joe. Click HERE to read our full album review.

 

And that’s a wrap for 2017.A reminder of the instrumental albums, on our first half of the year list:

Tracks from all of these albums can be heard on CurtJazz Radio, our new 24/7 Jazz Radio station, on the new Live365.com. Click HERE to listen, it’s free.

Much new music to hear in 2018. Let’s enjoy it together!

Best Jazz Albums of 2017 (Second Half)

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2017, curtjazz radio with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 19, 2017 by curtjazz

don't blinkThere are good and bad things about writing a mid-year “Best of” list, as I did last July: It cuts down your work at year’s end but it also makes it harder to pare that year end list down to a precious few, especially in a year like this, that was filled with great jazz albums, especially on the instrumental side.

Enough of my whining. Here now, is a list of my favorite albums, released in 2017, that I first heard between July and December. As with the previous list, I’ve split them into instrumental and vocals. They are listed in alphabetical order, by album title, not in order of preference. Because all of these living jazz artists would appreciate your support, clicking on the album title will take you to a place where you can purchase the album, with delivery in some cases, before Christmas.

Instrumental

Album Title Artist Label
Bringin’ It Christian McBride Big Band Mack Avenue
Don’t Blink Unhinged Sextet Origin
Handful of Keys JALC Orchestra (w/multiple pianists) Blue Engine
Harmony of Difference (EP) Kamasi Washington Young Turks
Honey and Salt Matt Wilson Palmetto
Hybrido Antionio Adolfo AAM
Jersey Mark Giuliana Jazz Quartet Motema
Marseille Ahmad Jamal Jazz Village
Mi Mundo Brenda Navarrete ALMA
Our Point of View Blue Note All Stars Blue Note
Strykin’ Ahead Dave Stryker Strikezone
Walk of Fire Behn Gillece Posi-Tone

Vocal

Album Title Artist Label
Code Noir Carmen Lundy Afrasia
Dreams and Daggers Cecile McLorin Salvant Mack Avenue
Grace Lizz Wright Concord
Nathaniel Ori Dagan Scat Cat
Rendering Kellye Gray Grr8

 

We will feature a closer look at each of these discs in several posts, over the remainder of the year.

And lest we forget (and we shouldn’t). Here are the albums that were included in our first “Best Of 2017” post, back in July:

Vocal 

Instrumental 

Tracks from all of these albums will be featured, starting on Wednesday, December 27, as we celebrate the Year in Jazz, on CurtJazz Radio, as it returns to the new Live365.com. We are on the air now, with our JazzMas Party (Holiday Jazz), until then. Click HERE to listen. It’s free.

Comments, as always, are welcome.

Until then, the jazz continues.

JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz: Interactive Playlist 4/27/17

Posted in Charlotte Community Rado, CLTC Playlists, Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, Under The Radar with tags , , , , , , , , , on May 28, 2017 by curtjazz

CurtJazz Studio 225Our show on Thursday, April 27 was our first since learning of the station’s impending demise. No guests that evening; I just spent a lot of the show playing Carolinas based artists and those who had been guests on the show over the last year. A bit sentimental but still some great jazz.

A link to a recording of the entire program is below, as are a couple of terrific video clips from a couple of the tracks on the playlist. Enjoy!

 

TRACK TITLE ARTIST(S) ALBUM LABEL
I’m Old Fashioned Elli Fordyce Songs Spun of Gold Self-Release
Moanin’ Tony Allen A Tribute to Art Blakey Blue Note
It’s Only A Paper Moon Denise Jannah A Heart Full of Music Timeless
Here to Help Chris Greene Quartet Boundary Issues Single Malt
Lucid Lullaby Linda May Han Oh Walk Against Wind Biophilia
Little Pigs Amos Hoffman Back to The City Self-Release
Phryzzinian Man Wynton Marsalis Black Codes from the Underground Columbia
The Coaster Kevin Mahogany Songs and Moments Enja
Epitaph III – J. Mac Chad Eby Broken Shadows Cellar Live
Absolute-Lee Brandon Lee Absolute Lee CD Baby
Johnny Come Lately Don Braden / Mark Rapp The Strayhorn Project Premium Music
Crazy Baby Nicci Canada Twenty Twelve Self-Release
Screwball Mike Hackett New Point of View Summit
Think Tank Will Campbell Think Tank Origin
Chicken Day Harvey Cummings Chicken Day Self-Release
West End Blues John Michael Bradford Something Old Something New CD Baby
Thelonious Ali Jackson Amalgamations Sunnyside
Black Coffee Tenya Coleman Tenya Self-Release
Clapper Dapper Geoff Clapp Bend in the River CD Baby
Unit 7 Ellis Marsalis Sextet Live at Jazz Fest 2014 Self-Release
Afro Samurai Mark Whitfield Grace Self-Release
It Could Happen to You Eric Nemeyer Blessing in Disguise Self-Release
Speak No Evil Wayne Shorter Speak No Evil Blue Note
On the Red Clay Royal Bopsters Project Royal Bopsters Project Motema
Butterfly Gretchen Parlato In a Dream ObliqSound
Red, Black and Green Roy Ayers Red, Black and Green Polydor
Sweet Georgia Brown Anat Cohen Clarinetwork – Live Anzic
Benny’s Bounce Michael Dease All These Hands Posi-tone
Lady Bird Adia Ledbetter Take 2: Rendezvous with Yesterdays CD Baby
Boio Moio Brent Rusinow Old Guy Time CD Baby
Gypsy Ahmad Jamal Blue Moon Jazz Village

 

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014: Preview – Sunday on the Main Stage

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , on May 25, 2014 by curtjazz
Ahmad Jamal

Ahmad Jamal

While Saturday’s Main Stage lineup at the Atlanta Jazz Festival is designed as a celebration of the artists of the 21st Century, the lineup that Freddy-Cole--This-And-Thatwill closeout the AJF on Sunday is anchored by some of jazz’s living legends. We will hear a big band with roots that stretch back to Glenn Miller;, a vocalist from a legendary jazz family who has become a legend in his own right; a guitarist who is widely considered to be one of the vital and productive artists in America and finally one of the greatest living pianists in jazz, a man who has influenced artists from Miles Davis to Robert Glasper and beyond. The Atlanta Jazz Festival will surely end on a high note.

The full Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage Schedule for Sunday, May 25:

1:00 pmMilton High School Jazz Ensemble – The Youth Jazz Band Competition allows young jazz musicians from all over the metropolitan area the opportunity to showcase their talent. Three winners are selected to receive a financial contribution to their music program and a guaranteed spot to perform on the Atlanta Jazz Festival Main Stage.  The Milton High School Jazz Ensemble finished third in the competition and will open the Main Stage performances on Sunday.

3:00 pmAirmen of Note – The Airmen of Note is the premier jazz ensemble of the United States Air Force. Created in 1950 to carry on the tradition of Major Glenn Miller’s Army Air Corps dance band, today the “Note” features 18 of the most talented jazz musicians in the country and is one of the last touring big bands. As a result, it has earned an international reputation as one of the finest and most versatile big bands of its kind in the world.

5:00 pmFreddy Cole Quartet – It is almost impossible to hear Freddy Cole and not think of his older brother, the immortal Nat “King” Cole but as Freddy reminded us in the title of his 2004 album I’m Not My Brother, I’m Me, he has steadily and determinedly carved out his own impressive musical niche. While Nat started in the jazz world and moved on to pop super stardom, Freddy Cole has never abandoned his roots, something for which we are all grateful.

Now at the age of 82, Freddy Cole’s always raspy voice has developed an even deeper level of expression as he uses time and space impeccably to tell his story. His recent album releases have included some surprisingly good interpretations of relatively recent pop hits, in addition to the Great American Songbook selections; including a terrific version of Bill Wither’s “Lovely Day” on Talk to Me and “Everybody’s Talkin’” on This and That. We hope to hear these and much more from this current Atlanta resident during his set.

7:00 pm – Bill Frisell’s Guitar in the Space Age – Bill Frisell’s project, Guitar in the Space Age is an homage to the inspirational popular music of his formative years made in the wake of “the birth of the Fender Telecaster guitar” – (1951) that, he recalls, “got me super fired-up” about his instrument of choice.  Frisell and his band mates explore material, recently recorded for release on Okeh/Sony Masterworks, associated with The Beach Boys, Junior Wells, Pete Seeger,  The Kinks, Chet Atkins, Jimi Hendrix, Merle Travis, Johnny Smith and many others, as well as original material by Mr. Frisell himself. Frisell has always injected generous doses of humor in his music and we expect the same from this all-star group which will include guitarist Greg Leisz, Tony Scherr on bass and one of my favorite drummers working today, Rudy Royston.

Recognized as one of America’s 21 most vital and productive performing artists, Frisell was named an inaugural Doris Duke Artist in 2012.  He is also a recipient of grants from United States Artists, and Meet the Composer, among others. Currently he is the Guest Curator for the Roots of Americana series at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Resident Artistic Director at San Francisco Jazz.

9:00 pm – Ahmad Jamal – One of jazz’s greatest living pianists, a Downbeat Jazz Hall of Fame member, a man whose style has influenced so many of the greatest jazz musicians of the last seven decades (including, most famously, Miles) ; will close out the Atlanta Jazz Festival on Sunday night.

As he approaches his 84th birthday, a time at which even most jazz musicians are considering slowing down a bit, Mr. Jamal is, on the contrary, undergoing a career renaissance. His last two albums, Blue Moon and Saturday Morning, have earned Grammy nominations and critical bouquets, the likes of which the Pittsburgh native had not heard in years. Jamal’s sound on these albums, while true to his tradition has; thanks in large part to his new rhythm section of Herlin Riley on drums, bassist Reginald Veal and percussionist Manolo Badrena; become fresh, hip and born again funky. Ahmad Jamal did not “sell out”; the jazz world came up to meet him. Younger pianists such as Robert Glasper have taken notice and have given Jamal the respect that many critics denied him in his early years.

Mr. Jamal is also known for having a top 40 pop hit in the early sixties, with his recording of “Poinciana” and for now being the last living major participant in the famed 1957 CBS television broadcast The Sound of Jazz (I love how the great Hank Jones is standing right by the piano as Jamal plays, intently studying Ahmad’s work). Opportunities to see someone like Ahmad Jamal are growing rare and a chance to see him for free is virtually unheard of. So if I were you and anywhere near Piedmont Park in Atlanta on Sunday night around 9. I would be there to hear this man play. And if by chance you run into Ahmad Jamal, remember not to call his art “jazz” but his preferred term, “American Classical Music”.

For more information about the Atlanta Jazz Festival, please visit their website at http://atlantafestivals.com/

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 – The Lineup

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2014 by curtjazz
Russell Gunn

Russell Gunn

As you may recall, I reluctantly chose to miss last year’s Atlanta Jazz Festival. As much as I wanted to be there, I took the advice of family, friends and doctors to stay close to home a little while longer as I recuperated from cancer surgery. Well, a year has gone by and thank God, I’m feeling GREAT. So the fam and I will be back in Piedmont Park this Memorial Day weekend, attending the best free jazz festival in the country and maybe the world.

A few things will be different this year than in the recent past. The organizers have scrapped the performances on Memorial Day Monday. Instead they are kicking things off in a big way on Friday night with Roberta Gambarini and Roy Hargrove on The Main Stage. Saturday will bring Russell Gunn’s latest group and Christian Scott. On Sunday the wonderful Freddy Cole and the exciting young chanteuse Cyrille Aimee will be performing simultaneously on two different stages (tough choice!) but all will be back at the Main Stage later that evening as the legendary Ahmad Jamal closes out the festival.

Also new this year will be The Locals Stage, which will feature some of the best jazz artists that are working in the ATL. Thankfully, one of my favorite locales, The International Stage, will be going strong on Saturday and Sunday.

All in all, the lineup is strong as usual, with a true international flair. As someone who prefers to check out new and unfamiliar artists in addition to the recognizable, the 2014 AJF has a lot to offer for me and I plan to sample as much as possible.

As we get closer to May, we’ll start with our usual preview reports and video clips. We’ll also drop some “live” videos from the festival and maybe some interviews with the artists. Hopefully we’ll see some of y’all in Piedmont Park Memorial Day Weekend as we make our triumphant return!

Visit the AJF 2014 Website for more info: http://atlantafestivals.com/

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2014 – The Lineup

Friday, May 23

MAIN STAGE

  • 5:00PM: NORTH ATLANTA CENTER FOR THE ARTS JAZZ BAND
  • 7:00PM: ROBERTA GAMBARINI QUARTET
  • 9:00PM: ROY HARGROVE QUINTET

 

Saturday, May 24

MAIN STAGE

  • 1:00PM: TRI-CITIES HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ BAND
  • 3:00PM: RIALTO YOUTH JAZZ ORCHESTRA
  • 5:00PM: ESTER RADA
  • 7:00PM: RUSSELL GUNN’S KRUNK JAZZ ORKESTRA
  • 9:00PM: CHRISTIAN SCOTT

INTERNATIONAL STAGE

  • 1:30PM: EDMAR CASTAÑEDA TRIO
  • 3:30PM: SOMI
  • 5:30PM: ELDAR TRIO

LOCALS STAGE

  • 12:30PM: J.C. YOUNG MIDDLE SCHOOL JAZZ ORCHESTRA
  • 2:30PM: WILLIE ZIAVINO AND THE C.O.T. BAND
  • 4:30PM: BRIAN HOGANS QUARTET

 

Sunday, May 25

MAIN STAGE

  • 1:00PM: MILTON HIGH SCHOOL JAZZ ENSEMBLE
  • 3:00PM: AIRMEN OF NOTE
  • 5:00PM: FREDDY COLE QUARTET
  • 7:00PM: BILL FRISELL’S GUITAR IN THE SPACE AGE FEATURING GREG LEISZ, TONY SCHERR AND RUDY ROYSTON
  • 9:00PM: AHMAD JAMAL

INTERNATIONAL STAGE

  • 1:30PM: ALI AMR
  • 3:30PM: DIEGO FIGUEIREDO TRIO
  • 5:30PM: CYRILLE AIMÉE

LOCALS STAGE

  • 12:30PM: RIALTO JAZZ FOR KIDS
  • 2:30PM: DARREN ENGLISH QUINTET
  • 4:30PM: KEMBA COFIELD QUARTET

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2013 – The Final List

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2013 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 25, 2013 by curtjazz

tim greenMerry Christmas everyone!

Here’s a compilation list of our choices for the Best Jazz Albums of 2013 from our three prior Best of the Year posts. A click on the links in each title will take you to the Amazon or CD Baby page for each album (a great way to spend those gift cards you may have gotten from Santa).

From Best Jazz Albums of 2013 (So Far)

From Best Jazz Albums of 2013 – The Second Half

From Best Jazz of 2013 – A Few More Good Things; Plus!

And 5 great 2012 albums that we missed until 2013:

Tracks from all of the albums listed here will be featured on Curt’s Café Noir WebJazz Radio, starting on December 27, 2013 and into January 2014 as part of our Year End / New Year programming. Click HERE to go to the station and listen. It’s Free!

May you all have a happy, prosperous and jazz filled 2014!

Best Jazz Albums of 2013 – The Second Half

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2013 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 16, 2013 by curtjazz

Rene Marie - evilI have to confess that this year’s list of the best jazz albums feels somehow incomplete. The albums on the first list, posted in early August and the ones in this article are all outstanding but as much as I get to hear, due to my vocation and avocation, I still have missed so much this year.

In part, this is a good thing because artists now have more freedom than ever to self produce and release their works without having to beg for record company crumbs. However, one of the bad things is that the distribution of these projects often leaves much to be desired. So there’s much out there that I’ve heard of but haven’t been able to get my hands on in any format. Something tells me my “Ones I’ve Missed” list in 2014 is going to be pretty large.

That being said, here are the favorite releases that I’ve heard  since July. As always, they are in alphabetical order by album title, not preference:

Aquarius – Nicole Mitchell’s Ice Crystals (Delmark)

It’s a marriage of several disparate elements that come together to create musical perfection: Ms. Mitchell’s flute playing off of Jason Adasiewicz’s vibes, producing the sound that gives the group its name; their AACM sensibility, leavened by a hint of Chicago Soul and some of the best compositions that I’ve ever heard from Ms. Mitchell. They have managed to stay true to their artistic roots yet make the music more accessible. No small feat but they pull it off with aplomb.

Creole Soul – Etienne Charles (MRI)

Mr. Charles, a young trumpet player originally from Trinidad, creates a successful marriage of straight ahead jazz and the musical styles of the Caribbean and New Orleans. Many have tried to do the same thing with only moderate success. Etienne Charles nails it, big time. Those who want to understand how to fuse groove and jazz without “selling out” should use this disc as a primer.  (Read my full review for Jazz Inside  Magazine HERE.)

I Wanna Be Evil (With Love to Eartha Kitt) René Marie (Motéma)

Leave it to Rene Marie to wait until the tail end of the year to release a masterpiece. She clearly has a strong affinity for her subject and instead of imitating the legendary performer; she draws Ms. Kitt’s style inside of her own and creates some fresh renditions of some of Eartha’s classics. She also creates a smoldering original tune “Weekend” which might have made even the legendary Kitt blush.  Ms. Marie’s performances are sexy, playful, charming, foreboding and thought-provoking; often at the same time.  It’s Ms. Marie’s best album since Vertigo and it may even top that classic.

Liquid Spirit – Gregory Porter (Blue Note)

With his third outstanding album in three years, Mr. Porter continues to carve out a niche for himself as either the most soulful jazz singer or the jazziest soul singer working today. Porter has melded the low-key sensitivity of Bill Withers to the jazz sensibility of a young Al Jarreau. He is also a damn good composer, dropping a few of his own tunes on this album, such as “Hey Laura” and “Brown Grass” that I expect to hear being covered by other singers in the near future. Plus he does a dynamite cover of one of my faves from Max Roach and Abby Lincoln, “Lonesome Lover”. Will Porter take home the Grammy this year? Knowing Grammy’s unpredictability, who knows?  But I think that he has a good shot in at least one of the two categories that he’s nominated in.

No Morphine; No Lilies – Allison Miller’s Boom Tic Boom (The Royal Potato Family)

The prodigiously gifted drummer takes us all over the jazz map in a little over 50 minutes; from swing to post-bop, to free, with numerous stops in between. Her working band of three years, which includes pianist Myra Melford; bassist Todd Sickafoose and the wonderful violinist Jenny Scheinman, has coalesced into a solid unit who play off of each other incredibly well.  Their musical trust for each other has allowed them to bring out the best in Ms. Miller’s compositions and for them to turn performances in different directions on a dime.

Out Here – Christian McBride Trio (Mack Avenue)

It’s no surprise that Mr. McBride is a fan of James Brown, because he is the hardest working bassist in jazz. Besides being the first call sideman for almost everyone in jazz today, he managed also to release two albums in 2013 under his own name, one with his Inside Straight aggregation and the other was this album, a back to basics trio date with two very exciting young cohorts; pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. There’s nothing new here but what they do, they do stunningly well. It’s three world-class musicians, playing some standards, some originals and a couple of fun surprises. I hope that this isn’t just a one-off but if it is, it’s an impressive one.

Saturday Morning – Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village)

What has gotten into Ahmad Jamal? All of a sudden, in his eighties, Miles Davis’ favorite pianist has become not only incredibly relevant again but I daresay, downright funky. First on last year’s Blue Moon and now on Saturday Morning.  Egged on by the percolating grooves laid down by bassist Reginald Veal and drummer Herlin Riley, the octogenarian reminds Robert Glasper and Co., where they got it from. His piano lines are still tasty and tasteful and not the least bit stale. Long live Mr. Jamal, I hope that he keeps going and continues to create music like this for many years to come. 

Soul Brother Cool – Cyrus Chestnut (WJ3)

This album is here for two reasons: one is its remarkable leader, who I consider to be one of the best jazz pianists of his generation. Mr. Chestnut is the natural successor to Bobby Timmons in the “Soulful Jazz Pianist” category and his teaming over the last few years with bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Willie Jones III seems to have re-energized him.  The second reason is the presence of trumpeter Freddie Hendrix on this album. Mr. Hendrix is a remarkably talented musician who has been criminally under recorded. In fact, as of this writing, he has yet to lead a recording date. Hendrix stylistically (and even physically, somewhat) reminds me of another more well-known jazz trumpeter with the same first name and last initial. Throughout the album, he threatens to steal the show from the leader and at times, he does. And for bonus points, Chestnut and Jones used Max Roach’s rare album Drums Unlimited as an inspiration for the cover. Very cool indeed!

Tootie’s Tempo – Albert “Tootie” Heath (Sunnyside)

Here’s another jazz veteran undergoing a bit of a career renaissance.  The youngest of the Heath Brothers has recorded abundantly as a sideman on some of jazz’s greatest albums and quite a bit with his brothers over the years but very little as a leader. So here we have the 78-year-old “Tootie” working with relative youngsters Ethan Iverson of The Bad Plus on piano and NY avant-garde scene darling Ben Street on bass. On paper it sounds like a mismatch but in reality it is pure magic. Tootie will never be accused of being a bombastic drummer but everything he does is exactly as it should be. You can hear Mr. Heath taking care of his musical partners and vice versa. This is one of the most interesting working trios out there today. If you like this, check out this same group’s 2010 live recording from NYC’s Smalls Jazz Club.

Wolfgang Warren Wolf (Mack Avenue)

Vibraphonist Wolf’s follow up to his Mack Avenue debut is the most mature and cohesive album of his burgeoning young career. Split between tracks with his working band and an all-star group, Wolf’s growth as a musician, composer and arranger are all evident from first note to last. (Read my full review for Jazz Inside Magazine HERE.)

And in case you’ve forgotten, here are the albums/artists who were included in our post Best Jazz of 2013 (So Far), which first appeared in August 2013:

And I’m still not done! There will be one more post in which we will bring you a few more albums from 2013, that I still cannot get out of my head. Plus, in what has become an annual tradition, we will pay homage to some albums from 2012 that I somehow managed to miss until 2013.

As always, your comments, for and against, are welcome but spam is not.

Until the next time, the jazz continues…