Archive for Robert Glasper

Best Jazz Albums I Heard in 2016

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2016, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2017 by curtjazz

melissa-morganLet’s start with a confession: I got to hear fewer jazz albums this year than in any year in the past two decades. Which is a shame, because there was a TON of worthwhile music released during the year. My crazy schedule in 2016 often limited me to snippets or tracks from discs that I vowed to get back to, but never did.  So, here’s my list of the best albums that I actually got to hear during the year. Also, there’s a track from an extremely promising young artist, who needs to put more on the market, ASAP; a couple of outstanding 2015 releases that didn’t catch my ear until 2016; and finally, a few of the many fine 2016 releases that I plan to catch up with in January:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
ArtScience Robert Glasper Blue Note
Back Home Melissa Aldana Wommusic
Beginning of a Memory Matt Wilson Palmetto
Book of Intuition Kenny Barron Trio Impulse
Chasing After the Wind Gregory Tardy Steeplechase
Convergence Warren Wolf Mack Avenue
Days Like This Melissa Morgan CD Baby
Do Your Dance Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Feet in the Mud Mimi Jones Hot Tone
In Movement DeJohnette, Coltrane and Garrison ECM
Jersey Cat Freddie Hendrix Sunnyside
Live at Maxwell’s DE3 Sunnyside
Nihil Novi Marcus Strickland Revive/Blue Note
Notes from New York Bill Charlap Impulse
Once and Future Brian Charette Posi-Tone
Perfection Murray, Allen and Carrington Motema
Presented by the Side Door Jazz Club Black Art Jazz Collective Sunnyside
Restless Idealism Roxy Coss Origin
Soul Tree Ed Cherry Posi-Tone
The Sound of Red Rene Marie Motema
Stranger Days Adam O’Farrill Sunnyside
Take Me to the Alley Gregory Porter Blue Note
TriAngular III Ralph Peterson Trio Onyx/Truth Revolution
The Way We Play Marquis Hill Concord
Written in The Rocks Renee Rosnes Smoke Sessions

2016’s most compelling single in search of an album:

  • “Chicken Day” – Harvey Cummings II

Two 2015 albums (heard in 2016) that deserved to be on last year’s list:

  • Back to the City – Amos Hoffman (CD Baby)
  • Some Morning – Kim Nazarian (CD Baby)

Probably excellent 2016 albums that I look forward to hearing as soon as possible:

ALBUM ARTIST LABEL
#KnowingIsHalfTheBattle Orrin Evans Smoke Sessions
Away With You Mary Halvorson Octet Firehouse 12
Day Breaks Norah Jones Blue Note
Habana Dreams Pedrito Martinez Group Motema
Harlem on My Mind Catherine Russell Jazz Village
Inner Spectrum of Variables Tyshawn Sorey Pi
Madera Latino Brian Lynch Hollistic Music Works
San Jose Suite Etienne Charles Culture Shock
Something Gold, Something Blue Tom Harrell High Note
Upward Spiral Branford Marsalis Okeh

 

 

 

Right Back Where We Started

Posted in Jazz in Charlotte, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 30, 2016 by curtjazz

Before writing reviews, before the “Browsing the Bins” column, before Live365 and Curt’s Cafe Noir and before this blog, there was live jazz radio… The mid-90’s as a jazz DJ on what was tCurtis with Birdhen WPBX, on the East End of Long Island, was the best gig of my life, of any kind, one I reluctantly gave up, when I moved south almost sixteen years ago. As I signed off in October 2000, I always knew that I would be back one day. I just didn’t think that my son, who was less than a month old when I left, would be ready to start driving when that day came!

THE DATE IS SET!!!

Thursday, May 12; 6 pm – 9 pm (EDT). The premiere of my new radio show “JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz” on Charlotte Community Radio. The show will be a continuation of the passion that developed in me during the twelve years of Curt’s Cafe Noir – jazz by active musicians.

We will play jazz from across the spectrum, from modern to bop to swing to avant-garde. So, what will all of the artists have in common? They are all still living and playing great jazz.

I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it – For jazz to survive in the 21st century, we have got to open our ears to some of the great young musicians who are bringing some fresh ideas from their own 21st century experiences. This means that on JAZZ LIVES!!!, we will play Sonny Rollins AND Kamasi Washington. We will play Kenny Barron AND Robert Glasper. We will play Dave Holland AND Esperanza Spalding. And you will definitely hear from Mimi Jones and the marvelous ladies of Hot Tone Music.

Hot-Tone-Music-to-Release-CDs-By-Bassist-Mimi-Jones-Saxophonist-Camille-Thurman-Drummer-Shirazette-Tinnin

(l to r) Camille Thurman; Mimi Jones and Shirazette Tinnin

And, thanks to the tireless efforts of people like my friends Ocie and Lonnie Davis and the Jazz Arts Initiative, Charlotte is gaining a national reputation for producing some terrific young jazz players. So expect to also learn more about some of the QC’s contributions to  jazz’s future, like Eleazar Shafer, Phillip Whack, Harvey Cummings II, Tim Singh; Troy Conn and Tim Scott, Jr. And a few amazing talents even younger than those I just mentioned, such as Sean Mason and Veronica Leahy.

tim scott, jr

Tim Scott, Jr.

We are also blessed to have a studio that will be big enough for interviews and live performances and we plan to take advantage of that space for chats and mini concert sets with some of the greats and soon to be greats who live in or visit the Charlotte area.

All we ask from you is to give us a listen. And let us know what you think – on Facebook (CurtJazz Radio); on Twitter (@curtjazz); or on Instagram (curtjazz).

To hear JAZZ LIVES!!! with CurtJazz and all of the great programming that Charlotte Community Radio has to offer, just click this link http://charlottecommunityradio.org/
We will also be available via Mixlr (http://mixlr.com/)

More to come over the days leading up to our premiere. Watch this space!!!

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!

2013 Jazz Grammy® Preview #6 – Jazz in “Exile”

Posted in 2013 Grammys with tags , , , , , , on February 6, 2013 by curtjazz

For our penultimate (I know that I said this would be the last one, but there will be one more after this) look at jazz artists nominated for Grammys in 2013, we will look at three categories in the R&B field that feature one artist who is generally considered to be a jazz musician. These albums/performances got no love from the Jazz Grammy nominating committee but those in the R & B area had the good taste to recognize them.

Best R&B Performance

“Thank You” – Estelle (from All of Me [Home School/Atlantic])

“Gonna Be Alright (F.T.B.) – Robert Glasper Experiment Featuring Ledisi (from Black Radio [Blue Note])

This is one of two nominations for Glasper’s much discussed Black Radio album. The heralded young jazz pianist let his R&B and hip hop influences show all over the disc. I for one found it exciting and refreshing (see CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012). Many other jazz traditionalists scoffed at it. On this track Glasper featured Ledisi, an R&B vocal powerhouse, who has also shown a past appreciation for jazzy things. If the track sounds familiar it’s because this is a vocal version of “F.T.B.”, which is a track on Mr. Glasper’s 2007 album In My Element. The lyrics and the stronger beat are a nice touch. Glasper is up against some tough competition here but to my ears “Gonna Be Alright” compares favorably with the other nominees… I wish him the best.

“I Want You” – Luke James [Mercury]

“Adorn” – Miguel [RCA/Bystorm Entertainment]

“Climax” – Usher (from Looking 4 Myself [RCA])

Best Traditional R&B Performance

(“Grown Folks Music”… Now we’re back in my wheelhouse! Therefore, I will drop a few comments)

“Lately” – Anita Baker [Blue Note]

Good to hear from Anita. Sounds like something from her classic ‘80’s period. Looking forward to the rest of the album.

“Love on Top” – Beyoncé (from 4 [Columbia])

Catchy tune by Mrs. Carter – great beat; irresistible hook.

“Wrong Side of a Love Song” – Melanie Fiona (from The MF Life [SRC])

My goodness! This girl can SANG! A memorable retro torch song.

“Real Good Hands” – Gregory Porter (from Be Good [Motéma])

Jazz vocalist Gregory Porter’s sophomore album was every bit as good as his debut.It was one of our Best of 2012.  But again, it was criminally ignored in the Jazz Vocal Grammy category. At least he did get a nod from the R&B voters for this soulful track. The cut is a winner but Porter is up against some real stiff competition. It’s a Grammy night long shot.

“If Only You Knew” – SWV (from I Missed Us [Mass Appeal/E1 Music])

SWV (Sisters With Voices). It’s good to hear this trio of NYC natives reunited. They sound as good as ever and they demonstrate excellent taste with their cover of this Philly Soul classic made famous by Patti Labelle.

Best R&B Album

Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note)

This nomination speaks volumes. The jazz world isn’t open minded enough to consider this work of art but the supposedly shallow, profit minded world of R&B is. I’ll say it again; I view this album as breaking needed new ground in a 21st century direction for jazz. But I admit to being in the minority. There are some fine albums in this category that are more along the lines of mainstream R&B, so a win here by Mr. Glasper isn’t probable but it is definitely possible.

Back to Love – Anthony Hamilton (RCA)

Write Me Back – R. Kelly (RCA)

Beautiful Surprise – Tamia (Plus 1)

Open Invitation – Tyrese (Voltron Recordz) 

You can hear tracks from Robert Glasper, Gregory Porter and other Grammy nominated jazz artists and albums on Curt’s Café Noir, our 24/7 web radio station,through February 10. We feature these tracks daily, from 4 pm – 6 pm on “The Grammy Show”. Click here to listen.

Our last post (we mean it this time!) about the 2013 Grammys will feature the nominees for “Best Instrumental Composition”, a category which happens this year to feature all jazz artists.

Until then, the jazz continues…

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – The Complete List

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2012 by curtjazz

To wrap up our discussion about our favorite jazz albums of 2012, we’ve brought everything mentioned in the three prior posts together into one comprehensive list. The link in each album title will take you to the album’s page on Amazon.com, if you’re interested in buying or downloading it.

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz of 2012 – The Complete List

In Alphabetical Order by Album Title

Album Title

Artist(s) Label
Accelerando Vijay Iyer ACT
Angelic Warrior Tia Fuller Mack Avenue
Be Good Gregory Porter Motéma
Be Still Dave Douglas Greenleaf
Black Radio Robert Glasper Experiment Blue Note
Blue Moon Ahmad Jamal Jazz Village
Claroscuro Anat Cohen Anzic
Don’t Look Back Mary Stallings HighNote
Flip The Script Orrin Evans Posi-tone
Four MFs Playin’ Tunes Branford Marsalis Marsalis Music
Girl Talk Kate McGarry Palmetto
Heritage Lionel Loueke Blue Note
House of Legends Courtney Pine Destin-E
I Carry Your Heart (Alexis Cole Sings Pepper Adams) Alexis Cole Motéma
Lyrical – Volume 1 Milton Suggs Skiptone
Mary Lou Williams: The Next 100 Years Virginia Mayhew Renma
The Only Son of One Wayne Escoffery Sunnyside
Prisoner of Love Marianne Solivan Hipnotic
Seeds From the Underground Kenny Garrett Mack Avenue
Triveni II Avishai (Trumpet) Cohen Anzic
     
A FEW MORE GOOD THINGS    
Colombe David Reinhardt Trio 101 Distribution
Echoes of Indiana Avenue (Best Historical Album) Wes Montgomery Resonance
Hot House Chick Corea and Gary Burton Concord
Lifesize Mirror Monét Entertainment One
Radio Music Society Esperanza Spalding Heads-Up / Concord
     
2011 Album Revisited    
Keep It Movin’ Shimrit Shoshan

Self-Release / CD Baby

CurtJazz’s Best Jazz Albums of 2012 – Part I

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2012, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 20, 2012 by curtjazz

In another year in which another uninformed, self-important magazine writer chose to declare it dead, jazz took greater advantage than ever of social media and the internet to declare that writer like, so many who came before him, to be full of hot air. As young artists took advantages of their musical roots and influences, I saw things that made this writer very hopeful about the future of this music:  Young people came out in throngs, fist pumping and dancing at Robert Glasper’s Atlanta Jazz Festival appearance. Esperanza Spalding, Tia Fuller and Anat Cohen, released albums that demonstrated the growing power of women instrumentalists. And some veterans proved that they still “got game”.

So here in alphabetical order, are the first ten on my list of my favorite jazz albums that were released in 2012. Since I didn’t get to publish a midterm list this year, there will be another ten coming in the next post, plus a few others that are also worthy of more than several listens.

Accelerando – Vijay Iyer (ACT)

accelerando

This is Mr. Iyer’s third appearance on our list in the last four years. The pianist is releasing music on an album per year basis and each year, he manages to top his previous offering with an approach that never covers the same ground twice. On Accelerando, Iyer is back with his trio mates from 2009’s Historicity, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore and as on that now classic album, the trio delivers a mix of intricate original compositions with reworkings of little heard jazz and pop tunes. Each is fired up by Crump and Gilmore’s unshakable rhythms, which are now showing a touch of a hip-hop influence. Anyway it comes at you, Vijay Iyer has done it again and I can’t wait to see what 2013 brings.

Angelic Warrior – Tia Fuller (Mack Avenue)

tia fuller

Still known mostly for her work as the saxophonist in Beyonce’s touring band, Ms. Fuller has come home again to produce another dynamite straight ahead jazz album. Angelic Warrior leaps out of the gate with the fiery “Royston Rumble” and doesn’t let go until “Ode to Be”, the closing outro. Ms. Fuller has developed into a strong composer, as proven by “Ralphie’s Groove” and “Tailor Made” and she is also an exciting and creative soloist, who makes an uptempo medley of “So In Love” and “All of You” work like a new Rolex.  Wake up and take notice jazz world, Tia Fuller is the real deal.

Be Good – Gregory Porter (Motéma)

gregory porter

The best new hope for male jazz singers to come along in at least a decade knocked aside any thought of a sophomore jinx on this disc, which also drew some attention in the R&B/Pop idioms. It’s easy to see why. Porter has a voice that is equal parts Donny Hathaway and Al Jarreau and as a writer, he has learned how to write an irresistible hook.  Porter has married the best of jazz and soul singing by taking the best of both worlds and bringing them together in beautiful harmony. Don’t miss his towering take on “Work Song”, the melodic “When Did You Learn” and the closer, an a cappella version of “God Bless The Child”.

 Be Still – Dave Douglas (Greenleaf Music)

dave douglas

Be Still is another in a long line of brilliant and original works by Mr. Douglas. This album was born out of the hymns that Douglas’ mother requested him to play at her memorial service. After meeting Aoife O’Donovan, an ethereally voiced young singer, with bluegrass roots, Douglas began to envision an album of these hymns as a kind of folk-jazz music. The result is an album of remarkable intimacy, Ms. O’Donovan, Mr. Douglas and a quartet of up and coming young jazz stars (Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh and Rudy Royston) create works that are starkly beautiful. Be Still manages to be reflective, even moody but never maudlin. I’ve always been someone who looks to find God in places that others don’t look. I found Him in the sincerity of the performances on this album.

Black Radio – Robert Glasper Experiment (Blue Note)

robert-glasper

This album arrived this spring on the wings of massive hype. And it delivered. Though he has amassed unquestionable credentials in the mainstream realm, Mr. Glasper has strong hip-hop roots, as you might expect from an artist of his age (34). What he has done here is taken what was hinted at on the second half of his last album, Double Booked, to its logical conclusion, with a mixture of jazz, hip-hop, R&B, neo-soul and rock. What we get is something that can’t be pigeonholed into any genre but has reached fans of many ages and musical preferences. With help from guest stars from across the musical universe, Black Radio gives us a peek at where the next generation wants to take what we called jazz. I suggest that we “Old Schoolers” get on board and enjoy the ride.

Blue Moon – Ahmad Jamal (Jazz Village)

ahmad jamal

I’ll be damned! At 81, the artist formerly known as Fritz, a man who Miles Davis called one of his greatest influences, has turned in his finest album in at least four decades.  The tracks are mostly from the Great American Songbook or jazz standards, but this is by no means a tired romp through familiar territory. What has happened is the veteran rhythm section of drummer Herlin Riley, bassist Reginald Veal and percussionist Manolo Badrena, light a percussive fire under Mr. Jamal that has clearly inspired his artistry. Their 10 minute deconstruction of “Blue Moon” will compel you to listen to it repeatedly. For a real treat, listen to Black Radio and this album back to back. You’ll realize that the generations are not that far apart at all.

Claroscuro – Anat Cohen (Anzic)

anat cohen

IMO, the finest clarinetist in jazz today, Anat Cohen takes us on a joyously eclectic stylistic tour. Through West Africa, to Brazil to swing to bop, Ms. Cohen covers a tremendous amount of ground. With fine guest spots from the great Paquito D’Rivera (a killer clarinet duet on Artie Shaw’s “Nightmare”) and a fun loving Wycliffe Gordon (on trombone and vocals), this disc did not lose my interest for one second.  And for those like me, who are big fans of Ms. Cohen’s tenor sax work, she brings the proceedings to a nice close with a rich version of Abdullah Ibrahim’s “The Wedding”. In Spanish, one of the definitions of Claroscuro is “a contrast of light and shadows”. Now knowing that, I can’t think of a better title for this disc.

 

Don’t Look Back – Mary Stallings (HighNote)

mary stallings

Mary Stallings has always been one of those singers who makes you scratch your head and wonder why she isn’t more well known.  With a career that spans five decades, a still fabulous and nuanced vocal instrument and now with the great pianist Eric Reed as her musical partner, at 73, it’s not paradoxical to say that Ms. Stallings’ future is brighter than ever.  Don’t Look Back is the third album for the Stallings/Reed team and Reed by now compliments her the way that Tommy Flanagan complimented Ella.  The selection of somewhat familiar but not overexposed tunes is excellent and the intimate performances from Stallings and Reed’s trio are unhurried and flawlessly executed.

Flip the Script – Orrin Evans (Posi-Tone)

orrin evans

Orrin Evans is not only prolific; he’s damn good as well. Last year he gave us two well received albums (Captain Black Big Band and Freedom) and he’s back now with another extremely strong trio set. Like the aforementioned Tommy Flanagan, Evans is a pianist’s pianist. Whatever he plays flows effortlessly and he never seems to be phoning it in. On Flip The Script, Mr. Evans joins forces with the hard swinging bassist Ben Wolfe and the rock solid drummer Donald Evans to put together a tremendous set. These cats are deep in the pocket from first note to last. Then Evans wraps things up with a wonderful surprise, a solo piano version of the Soul Train theme “The Sound of Philadelphia”, slowed down to “last call at the bar” speed. It’s sweet icing on a beautiful cake.

Four MFs Playin’ Tunes – Branford Marsalis Quartet (Marsalis Music)

branford marsalis

One of the many beauties of this disc is that the title tells you all that you need to know.  For as much as I love Branford Marsalis, some of his recent works had drifted into the realm of blowing great sounding solos over chords, without discernible structure. It sounded impressive but sometimes left me cold. On this disc Branford, his longtime musical partners and new drummer Justin Faulkner are relaxed and having fun, with some great musical foundations to work with – “tunes”, if you will.  Branford on soprano and tenor is as impressive as ever (I’ve always considered him to be the most musically exciting of the Marsalis brothers) and he and Joey Calderazzo are by now, one musical mind. To hear them bump their way through Monk’s “Teo” is worth the price of admission all by itself. It’s back to basics and it’s all good.

Again, another ten selections will be included in the next post.  They include a few more unheralded singers making their presence known; a couple of formidable British born sax men, with different stylistic approaches and the other half of the first brother-sister duo to make our list.