Archive for justin robinson

Album Reviews – A Sack Full of Sax

Posted in CD Reviews, curtjazz radio, Uncategorized, Who's New in Jazz with tags , , , , , , on March 11, 2019 by curtjazz

Our first review post of the year, features four new albums from veteran saxophonists who should all, be better known than they are. Start to right that wrong, by picking up these projects, which are all recommended.

Chris Greene Quartet – Playspace (Single Malt)

The native of Evanston, IL has spent most of his career close to home, which means the Chicago jazz scene. Readers of this blog are aware of my fondness for his sound, indicated by multiple appearances of Mr. Greene’s albums on my year end “Best of” lists. On his twelfth album as a leader, Greene gives us more of what his best qualities – that full bodied, gritty, tenor attack and a surprisingly rich tone, when he switches to soprano.  Playspace finds Greene and the CGQ in a deeper soul jazz vein than usual, and I loved every minute of it. “The Crossover Appeal/Uno Mas”, locks into the pocket and doesn’t let go, with Marc Piane’s electric bass setting the stage and Greene getting into a sweaty sax duel with guest star Marquel Jordan. A Latin reading of Wayne Shorter’s “Speak No Evil”, is surprisingly effective, with drummer Steve Corley taking center stage with a relentless groove and a killer solo. “Blues for Dr. Fear”, which appeared in a studio version, on 2017’s Boundary Issues, is back and funkier than ever, with Damian Espinosa’s cool keys weaving around Greene’s tough tenor. Playspace is another winning album from one of the true working groups in jazz today. Looks like we’re not going to get them out of the Windy City, y’all, so we’ll have to make the trip there, to experience in person, what we hear on this disc.

Nick Hempton – Night Owl (Triple Distilled)

Nick Hempton, who has called New York home since 2004, announces his intention from the first notes of this album. This a truly greasy session, influenced by the organ dates led by Stanley Turrentine, Lou Donaldson, Sonny Stitt and so many of their brethren, in the dives and after-hours clubs of the Big Apple, since the 50’s. He has assembled the perfect cast for the date: Peter Bernstein on guitar, Kyle Kohler on organ, and Fukushi Tainaka on drums. These cats have all logged many hours, backing up similar dates and they inspire Mr. Hempton to lay down the most soulful playing that I’ve ever heard from him. Most of the tracks are Hempton originals but they perfectly capture that long-ago vibe. Mr. Hempton switches between the alto and the tenor without missing a beat and is equally effective on each horn. The standout tracks are the Latin-tinged “I Remember Milady’s”, with Hempton getting a nice assist from Bernstein; “After You’ve Gone”, with Hempton’s alto, recalling ‘Sweet Lou’, during his Blue Note heyday and Koehler evincing a Big John Patton influence; and the nasty title track, which sounds like a lost track from one of those classic Jimmy Smith; Stanley Turrentine; Kenny Burrell dates. Buy this album, pour a glass of your favorite libation and put on your best “funky face”, because Night Owl is the real deal. 

Ralph Moore – Three Score (WJ3)

Hard to believe but it’s true. Three Score is Ralph Moore’s first album as a leader in nearly 25 years. He hadn’t left the scene during that time; Moore spent the better part of the last twenty years, on the West Coast, playing in Jay Leno’s Tonight Show band. He also was a sideman for Oscar Peterson, Roy Hargrove, Ray Brown, Tom Harrell and many other jazz greats; so, he was here; he just wasn’t leading any dates. He has returned with a stellar album, on the best boutique label in jazz – Willie Jones III’s WJ3. Joined by Eric Reed on piano, Gerald Cannon on bass and Jones on drums, Mr. Moore’s sound, which for me, always landed in the niche between John Coltrane and Joe Henderson, is as captivating as ever. The band of top tier pros doesn’t miss a beat and the compositions, mostly by Moore and Reed, are uniformly excellent. If you’re going to skip around, you must first check out “Another Time”, a Reed original, which opens the proceedings and throws down the hard bop gauntlet; the infectious, toe tapping (and too brief) “Donny” and the reflective title track, which features Mr. Moore’s finest solo on the date. But don’t sleep on the rest of the disc because it’s all choice. Ralph Moore is back, y’all and Three Score is one of the best albums that I’ve heard so far, in 2019.

Justin Robinson – At First Light (WJ3)

Justin Robinson spent most of the last 15 years, alongside the late, great Roy Hargrove on some of the trumpet master’s finest live shows and recordings. His work with Hargrove, often overshadowed the impressive music that Mr. Robinson released as a leader. At First Light, is his first album in five years and his second for WJ3 Records. He is backed by a solid group of young cats, that he has worked with over the years, with Hargrove and in other settings; Sharp Radway on piano, Ameen Saleem on bass and Jeremy Clemons on drums. Mr. Robinson lists Jackie McLean among his influences and it shows in his sound, as do elements of Bobby Watson. His tone is in your face and hard swinging. Robinson composed six of the project’s eight tunes and there are many standouts: “Lamentations for R and D” starts with a mournful, wandering theme, which leads unexpectedly to a light bossa beat, while Robinson, sticks with the mood that he set in the opening. It’s compelling, and Radway and Clemons are especially good here. The beautiful “Love Thy Father”, allows Robinson to fully access his melodic side. There’s also “Cool Blues”, the Charlie Parker classic, that seems to be a rite of passage for alto players. Mr. Robinson’s take is a very good one, true to the structure of Bird but adding his own flourishes during his solos. It is Parker meets JMac meets Robinson and I liked it a lot. At First Light is another fine release from WJ3 Records. We don’t hear from them often but when we do, it’s consistently first-rate.

There’s a lot more that’s new and good out there, to tell you about. We’ll be dropping more reviews shortly. In the meantime, you can hear tracks from these albums and more on CurtJazz Radio, on Live 365. We’re always on and always FREE.

Until then, the jazz (and BAM) continues…

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 of 2013 – A Few More Good Things, Plus!

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2013 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2013 by curtjazz

eugenie jonesI tried to cut off my Best Albums list at 20 but there are a few more that I feel that you must know about if you don’t already. Plus as usual, during the year, I discovered a few outstanding albums that were released in 2012, that I didn’t hear until sometime in 2013.

The last five 2013 releases are:

Black Lace Blue Tears – Eugenie Jones (CD Baby)

An extremely impressive debut album from this Seattle-based singer. Even more impressive is that she wrote most of the songs on this set. Ms. Jones possesses a finely tuned lyrical wit and she sings like a grown woman who knows what she is talking about. We expect to hear a lot more from her.

Black Radio II – Robert Glasper (Blue Note)

The follow-up to the Grammy Winning Black Radio, is an all vocal affair with more strong R&B laced tunes and more terrific guest stars to sing them. A minor quibble – I would have liked to hear RG step out and solo a bit more but it doesn’t change the fact that this is another winning album.

 

Latin Jazz/Jazz Latin – Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet (Patois)

The best Latin Jazz trombonist working today does it again, with another strong album. East coast people, WAKE UP! and check this cat out. But I’m not the only one who has noticed, as the album has copped a 2014 “Best Latin Jazz Album” Grammy nomination. Read my full review for Jazz Inside Magazine HERE.

Understanding – Wallace Roney (HighNote)

I’ve always considered Wallace Roney to be an incredibly gifted trumpet player. However, he has wandered a bit in the wilderness on his recordings over the last decade.  Thankfully he has ditched the electronics that never really served him well, hooked up with a quartet of talented and hungry young players and found his musical footing again. It’s his best record of the 21st Century. Welcome Home, Wallace.

Willie Jones III Plays the Max Roach Songbook – Willie Jones III (WJ3)

What doesn’t Willie Jones III do well? He’s one of the best drummers in jazz today, he runs maybe the best small label in jazz, WJ3 Records, which has dropped three albums on our “Best Of” list this year in addition to a few in years past and he also records under his own name for his label turning out a first-rate tribute to the legendary Max Roach. Jones, with support from Eric Reed, Jeremy Pelt, Stacy Dillard and others has made an album that doesn’t feel like a tribute but like a bunch of top flight cats just swinging their asses off.  And I mean that as a compliment of the highest order.

 

And then, there are always albums from the previous year that due to release date, spotty promotion or other assorted reasons; I miss until the next year. But some are so good that I would feel bad if I didn’t tell you about them.

Here are five 2012 releases that you have to check out:

Here We Go Again – Renee Yoxon (Self-Release)

Renée Yoxon is a young and incredibly talented jazz singer who hails from Canada. On Here We Go Again, her second album, she teams up with veteran Ottawa pianist Mark Ferguson to create an album of original compositions that are so good that they should be standards. And that singular voice… It’s youthfully fresh but with mature soul. Either we have to get Renée to come south to perform more often in the U.S. or we’ll just move up north to hear her.

In The Spur of the Moment – Justin Robinson (WJ3)

He first came to public attention as a member of the Harper Brothers group  during the “Young Lions” craze of the early ‘90’s and he has certainly paid his dues as a sideman over the years, working with other “lions” such as Stephen Scott and Roy Hargrove. On this, his third album as a leader, the alto saxophonist turns in his strongest work to date under the production wing of drummer Willie Jones III.  Veterans Larry Willis, Dwayne Burno and Hargrove himself join in to get things smokin’. This project flew under the radar but you should catch it while you can.

It’s All Good – Ed Cherry (Posi-Tone)

Ed Cherry is a veteran guitarist who spent ten years with Dizzy Gillespie during the legend’s twilight. He has released a number of projects since then, always swinging hard and playing impeccable lines. I missed It’s All Good in 2012 but I’ve been making up for it ever since. It hasn’t left my CD Jukebox over the past eight months. When you hear it you’ll understand why.

Portraits – Shamie Royston (CD Baby)

Pianist Shamie Royston is the sister of saxophonist Tia Fuller. Ms. Fuller has garnered much attention for her work as a solo artist in the jazz world (Ms. Royston is her pianist) and in the pop world as the sax player in superstar Beyonce’s touring group.  Portraits is Ms. Royston’s debut album as a leader and she shows that she deserves to come out of her sister’s shadow. Her compositions are compelling and her playing is consistently interesting. She swings hard with a touch of Horace Silver in her sound. Ms. Royston is definitely an artist that deserves wider recognition.

Yo – Roberto Fonseca (Concord Jazz)

Not only did I miss Roberto Fonseca’s Yo in 2012, I almost missed it in 2013 as well. I didn’t manage to finally hear it until early December! Shame on me as the Cuban pianist knocked my socks off with his command of the keyboard that can turn from percussively powerful to lyrically soft at the drop of a hat. It’s Jazz cum Afro-Cuban cum R&B and it just flows from beginning to end. I’m not familiar with much of Mr. Fonseca’s previous work – looks like I’ve got some catching up to do. And I will, if I can just stop playing “80’s” over and over again…

This finally concludes our look at the Best Jazz Albums of 2013. The albums in this post and in the two prior ones 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!

This has been a year of many challenges for me and I thank all of you who have stuck with me through them all, via Twitter, Facebook, this blog and in person. I pray that 2014 will be a great year for us all.

Until the next time, I wish all of you and those you love a very Merry Christmas, a belated Happy Chanukah, a glorious Kwanzaa and a healthy and prosperous New Year. As always…The Jazz Continues!