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2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Jazz Instrumental Album

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 9, 2019 by curtjazz

BEST JAZZ INSTRUMENTAL ALBUM

In the second of the two biggest jazz categories, we have a race between a great saxophonist who is finally earning a little recognition; two of the finest pianists working today; a respected veteran who is still getting it done and a true legend, admired and respected by all.

The nominees are:

DIAMOND CUT
Tia Fuller

The crackle from the moment her alto enters…twenty seconds into the first tune (“In the Trenches”), I had that feeling that this album was going to be a great one. Ms. Tia Fuller has been on the scene for over a decade. She has paid the bills for a while, working with Beyonce’s road band, but whenever she steps into the studio under her own name, she is an unapologetic jazz player. She hadn’t released a project in six years, prior to Diamond Cut. She has been missed. This project is different in many ways, from her previous four albums; for one thing, it is produced by the amazing Terri Lyne Carrington. For another, there’s no piano. Guitarist Adam Rogers handles the chordal duties. And, there are two different bass/drum duos, splitting the work; James Genus and Bill Stewart are one set and the other two, you may have heard of: Dave Holland and Jack DeJohnette. As for Ms. Fuller’s sound, clearly, the Berklee professor was ready to take everyone to school. She masters what she needs to be in that moment; she is at turns, gritty, soulful and even a bit on the outside. Diamond Cut is a very strong album and Ms. Fuller deserves her first Grammy nomination for it. However, this category also features someone who has been making great music since before Tia was born. Most likely, it will be his night.


LIVE IN EUROPE
Fred Hersch Trio

This Fred Hersch album has been nominated for two Grammys. The odds of Hersch winning either are fairly long, despite the fact that it is another excellent disc, from one of the finest pianists of our time. What is the problem? Part of it may be timing; Mr. Hersch seems to often run up against a hot project that has caught the attention of the jazz public and media. When this happens, other master musicians, like Hersch, get lost in the noise. Another issue may be his steady excellence. Hersch is not flashy. Even though he wrote an interesting and well received autobiography in 2017, and he has had some fascinating life issues over the past few years, he still generally, flies under the radar. Fred Hersch is so uniformly good, that he is taken for granted. He has been nominated for 14 Grammys. Hopefully, the voters will wise up soon. This year, I don’t think it will be in this category.


SEYMOUR READS THE CONSTITUTION!
Brad Mehldau Trio

The story behind this album’s title, is as interesting as it should be. Apparently, Mr. Mehldau has a dream, in which the late, Oscar winning actor, Seymour Phillip Hoffman, was reading the U.S. Constitution. The tune that Mehldau heard, accompanying Hoffman’s voice, became the inspiration for the title track. Despite the odd title, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is the most accessible album that I’ve heard from Brad Mehldau, in quite a while. The trio swings hard through a collection of originals, standards, minor jazz classics and Beach Boys tunes (yes, you heard right), with gusto and without condescension. Like Hersch, Mehldau is double nominated for this album (his 9th, without a win, so far). It’s fine work but he’s likely to run into a “Shorter” wall here. In the Best Instrumental Solo category, however, he’s got a good shot.


STILL DREAMING
Joshua Redman, Ron Miles, Scott Colley & Brian Blade

I can’t believe that the saxophone wunderkind of the 90’s, Joshua Redman, has just turned 50. I can believe that he is still evolving and getting stronger at his craft, more than 25 years after he first floored us jazzheads with his debut album. Though he is the son of a famed avant-gardist, his early years were deeply in the tradition (as I’m sure Warner Bros. wanted it). On this latest album, which garnered his seventh nomination, he pays tribute to his dad, Dewey, and Old and New Dreams, a group that Dewey played in, from the mid 70’s through the mid 80’s. That group, which also included legends Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, itself paid homage to their mentor, the patron saint of avant-garde jazz, Ornette Coleman. Still Dreaming is excellent, start to finish – terrific compositions and it stretches the boundaries of form, without completely breaking them. It is similar to Christian McBride’s New Jawn album, also from last year. I confess that I only gave this album a passing listen upon its release, but now that I’ve returned to it, I truly dig it, a lot. Perhaps it should have been on my Best of 2018 list. However, we are talking Grammy here, folks. Redman has never won one. He is a respected veteran and his star has stretched outside of the insular jazz world at times, over the past quarter century. But, due to the presence of our next nominee, I’m afraid that his wait is likely to extend beyond this weekend.


EMANON
The Wayne Shorter Quartet

Wayne Shorter is a true musical legend. He one of the greatest jazz saxophonists and composers of our time. In addition to his work as a leader, he has been an integral part of three of the greatest groups in jazz history. He has created transcendent musical art in every decade since the early 1960s. He has been nominated for a Grammy 21 times and has, so far, won 10, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2015. He is also now 85 years old. So no one would blame Wayne Shorter, if he were to simply sit back, at this point and collect all of the accolades that are due to him, no one would be upset. So what does he do? He creates a symphonic masterpiece and releases it, in an epic three CD (God only knows how many LP) set, that includes a graphic novel. These new and challenging compositions are performed by a symphony orchestra and then live, by his current working quartet! Emanon is a brilliant work of musical art (I confess that I have not yet seen the graphic novel). I hope that Mr. Shorter has more in him and keeps sharing it with us, for at least another 20 years. If, as some have said, this is his final work, then it is a towering valedictory. Will he win this Grammy? Ummm, Yeah.

As for the opinions and unscientific predictions:

Should have been nominated:

Origami Harvest – Ambrose Akinmusire; Both Directions at Once (The Lost Album) – John Coltrane; The Future is Female – Roxy Coss

Who should win: Wayne Shorter

Who will win: Wayne Shorter

I would not be disappointed to see them win: Tia Fuller

2019 Jazz Grammys Overview: Best Improvised Jazz Solo

Posted in 2019 Grammys with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 4, 2019 by curtjazz

We’re about a week out from the 2019 Grammys, which will be held on Sunday February 10. As is now customary, the jazz awards will be presented during the Premiere Ceremony, which is streamed live before the televised show.

As is also now relatively customary, I like to take a look at each of the jazz category nominees and make my comments and totally unscientific (but usually accurate) predictions.

Lets start with the category that is closest to Record of the Year, for jazz. “Best Improvised Jazz Solo”

The nominees are:


SOME OF THAT SUNSHINE
Regina Carter, soloist
Track from: Some Of That Sunshine (Karrin Allyson)

First off, the fact that the album that this track comes from, Karrin Allyson’s Some of That Sunshine, is not nominated for the Jazz Vocal Album Grammy, is a crime, in itself. Nevertheless, I’m happy to see it get some recognition, through violinist Regina Carter, doing her usual impeccable work in a solo as a guest on the easily swinging title track. First with a joyous pizzicato, followed by bowing, and then trading fours with a scatting Ms. Allyson in the fade-out, Ms. Carter’s work is the cherry on top a beautiful musical sundae. Due to the lack of name recognition and the fact that this is an indie production, it is not likely to take home the trophy but I would not be at all disappointed if it did.

There is no clip of Regina Carter performing “Some of That Sunshine”, but here’s a nice one of Karrin Allyson & her trio, swingin’ it at WBGO


DON’T FENCE ME IN
John Daversa, soloist
Track from: American Dreamers: Voices Of Hope, Music Of Freedom (John Daversa Big Band Featuring DACA Artists)

I love the concept of this album, on which trumpeter John Daversa’s Big Band is comprised mostly of “Dreamers” young people who came to the United States as children under DACA, and now face potential deportation as adults due the current political nonsense. That said, I don’t love this track, nor am I fond of Mr. Daversa’s performance on it. I get why this old Gene Autry tune was re-purposed for this particular album (the irony is quite rich) but the arrangement is messy and unfocused. I think this track arrived in this category on the coattails of the album, American Dreamers, which is also nominated for the Best Large Jazz Ensemble Grammy. While I wish them the best, I think that there are far more deserving nominees.

WE SEE: Fred Hersch – Soloist

Track from the album Live in Europe (Fred Hersch Trio)

Fred Hersch, is one of our generation’s finest jazz pianists. Because of this, he has earned 14 Grammy nominations, over the course of his career. Fred Hersch also happens to during a time in which cats named Corea, Hancock and Shorter, among others, are still actively working and recording. As much as we hate to admit it, in the Grammy world, your chances of winning are directly proportional to your name recognition. “We See” is a terrific performance, of the Monk classic tune, off of a very fine Hersch album, Live in Europewhich is also nominated in the Best Jazz Instrumental Album category. Without any of those name recognition giants around to suck up the oxygen and with 14 nominations to get his name into the minds of the voters, I’d say that Mr. Hersch has a legitimate shot at winning in this category. The only one potentially in his way, is our next nominee.

DE-DAH
Brad Mehldau, soloist
Track from: Seymour Reads The Constitution! (Brad Mehldau Trio)

Brad Mehldau has been on the jazz scene for over two decades, as a sideman, leader and soloist but like Fred Hersch, he has also been overshadowed by the cats with greater name recognition. Like Hersch, he also has a large number of Grammy nominations (nine), without any hardware to show for it. This nominated track was also written by a great jazz composer, albeit one who has never gotten the recognition he deserved (Elmo Hope), and the album from which the track is pulled, Seymour Reads the Constitution!, is also nominated for Best Jazz Instrumental Album. So in this tight race, I give the nod to Mehldau. It’s a longer track, which gives Mr. Mehldau more of a chance to stretch out and show his considerable skills. It also swings in an ingratiating manner, which will make it easier on the ears of a potential voter, who may be inexperienced in jazz idioms. I’m not surprised if it goes either way but I expect it to be Brad Mehldau, by a nose.

CADENAS
Miguel Zenón, soloist
Track from: Yo Soy La Tradición (Miguel Zenón Featuring Spektral Quartet)

Another of our double nominees competing in this category Mr. Zenón has been making some incredible music over the last decade, much of it celebrating his Puerto Rican heritage and a rich musical tradition, beyond the popular rhythms of salsa. On the album Yo Soy La Tradición , as well as on this selection, “Cadenas”, Zenón weaves the sound of his alto sax, into, through and around the rich colorings of the Spektral [String] Quartet. This is the most different and musically compelling of the nominated pieces, by far. There is something new to discover on each of the dozen or so times, that I have heard it. The album itself, is nominated for Best Latin Jazz Album, bringing the career total of Mr. Zenón’s nominations to seven. It would be a deserving winner in either category but sadly, I don’t think it will happen.

My unscientific comments and predictions

Should have been nominated (but wasn’t): “Females are Strong as Hell”; Roxy Coss, soloist; Track from The Future is Female; “Untitled Original 11383 (Take 1)”; John Coltrane, soloist; Track from Both Directions at Once [The Lost Album] “DPW”; Kenny Barron, soloist; Track from Concentric Circles

Should Win: Miguel Zenon

Will Win: Brad Mehldau

It would be nice if they did win: Regina Carter/Karrin Allyson

My Best Jazz Albums of 2018 – The Complete List

Posted in Best Jazz Albums of 2018 with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2018 by curtjazz

Yeah. I know. I’ve been away from the blog since, well, since my last year-end review.

It’s been quite a year folks. A lot of time on the road and a lot of “spare” time devoted to getting CurtJazz Radio back up, running and viable. But you didn’t come here to hear my problems. In the midst of it all, I did manage to hear a good amount of music. Some not so good and some that was very good, to excellent. Those in the latter category are included in the list below.

They are in alphabetical order, by album title. I’ve divided the projects into Instrumental and Vocal. I also wanted to recognize a couple of outstanding EPs, so I did. Each title includes a link that will take you to a place where you can purchase the music, if you feel so moved.

At the bottom of the post are three CD length Spotify playlists, which will give you a chance to sample a track from most of the albums/EPs on our list.

Tracks from all of these albums and EPs will be featured on CurtJazz Radio, from now, through the end of January 2019. CurtJazz Radio, on Live365.com, is always on and always FREE. Click HERE to listen.

I will try to not be such a ghost in 2019.

Instrumental

Album Title Artist Label
All in My Mind Dr. Lonnie Smith Blue Note
Armor of Pride Black Art Jazz Collective HighNote
Both Directions at Once John Coltrane Impulse
Christian McBride’s New Jawn Christian McBride Mack Avenue
Concentric Circles Kenny Barron Quintet Blue Note
Diamond Cut Tia Fuller Mack Avenue
Exiled Thandi Ntuli Ndlela Music Co.
Future is Female Roxy Coss Posi-Tone
Get It How You Live Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra Ropeadope
Heaven and Earth Kamasi Washington Young Turks
In Common Walter Smith III; Matthew Stevens Whirlwind
In Real Time John Bailey Summit
In the Moment Pat Bianchi Savant
Interstellar Adventures Theo Hill Posi-Tone
Introspection Roni Ben-Hur and Harvie S Jazzheads
Jazzland Tim Warfield Criss Cross
Live from San Pedro Jeff Hamilton Trio Capri
Love Stone JD Allen Savant
Master’s Legacy Series; Vol. 2Emmet CohenCellar Live
Modern Flows; Vol. 2 Marquis Hill PR
Movement Kobie Watkins Grouptet Origin
Origami Harvest Ambrose Akinmusire Blue Note
Pardes (Orchard) Amos Hoffman & Noam Lemish CD Baby
Remember Love Houston Person and Ron Carter HighNote
Straight Forward New Faces Posi-Tone
Telepathy Christopher Hollyday CD Baby
Warriors for Peace E.J. Strickland Quintet JamminColorS

Vocal

Album Title Artist Label
Art Market Sasha Masakowski Ropeadope
Genius of Eddie Jefferson Allan Harris Resilience
Looking at the Moon Allegra Levy Steeplechase
Math Camp Lorraine Feather CD Baby
My Mood is You Freddy Cole HighNote
Some of That Sunshine Karrin Allyson CD Baby
Sung with Words Helen Sung CD Baby
Unbroken Tiffany Austin Con Alma
Waiting for the Sunrise Camille Thurman Chesky
The Window Cecile McLorin Salvant Mack Avenue

EPs

Title Artist Label
Alfred Sergel IVtet Alfred Sergel Self-Release
G8S Giacomo Gates 9th Note

Best of the Carolinas

Title Artist Label
Cola Jazz II Cola Jazz Jangly
The SeekerThomas TaylorSelf Release
Shanghai Decade Sean Higgins Trio Self Release
Playlist #1
Playlist #2
Playlist #3

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

 

 

 

Album Review: Jeremy Pelt – Face Forward, Jeremy

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , on March 15, 2014 by curtjazz

This review first appeared in the March 2014 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s JazzInside Magazine

Jeremy Pelt

Jeremy Pelt

FACE FORWARD, JEREMY – HighNote Records HCD 7259 www.jazzdepot.com  Higby Part 1; Stars are Free; Princess Charlie; The Calm Before The Storm; Glimpse; Rastros; In My Grandfather’s Words; The Secret Code; Verse

PERSONNEL: Jeremy Pelt, trumpet; Roxy Coss, soprano saxophone, tenor saxophone, bass clarinet; David Bryant, piano, organ, Fender Rhodes, Wurlitzer; Frank LoCrasto, Fender Rhodes; Chris Smith, acoustic bass, electric bass; Dana Hawkins, drums, drum programming; Fabiana Masili, vocals; Milton Suggs, vocals; Brandee Younger, harp; Jennifer Shaw, cello

By Curtis Davenport

While some of his contemporaries have been grabbing the headlines, Jeremy Pelt has been quietly amassing an impressive and diverse résumé consisting of some of the more compelling jazz performances of this brief century. Though his recorded performances have mostly leaned toward the mainstream, Pelt has of late begun to delve into the fusion side of his persona with musically satisfying results. I always get the sense that Mr. Pelt is seeking; looking to bring a fresh perspective to his projects. As look back at his catalog as a leader, which now stands at a dozen albums, I realized that each of his records was in some way different from the last. And his latest album, Face Forward, Jeremy is no exception.

This album can be considered a sequel of sorts to Pelt’s prior release, the moodily gorgeous Water and Earth. The same musicians appear on both albums and in each case David Bryant’s dreamy Fender Rhodes is a centerpiece; serving as an atmospheric foil for Pelt’s trumpet and Dana Hawkins’ complex rhythmic patterns. Mr. Pelt states that one of his biggest influences for this album was Herbie Hancock’s Mwandishi recordings of the early ‘70’s, which would also explain the prominence of the electronic keyboards.  But whereas the group seemed at times to be finding its way on Water and Earth, their performances on Face Forward, Jeremy are more confident. They have played together for a while as a unit and they are certain of what they want this music to sound like.

Among the cuts that I have revisited numerous times are “Stars Are Free”, which brings bassist Chris Smith to the fore for some strong Jaco-like fretwork, supported by guest star Frank LoCrasto’s insistent comping on the Rhodes, which then slides into a fleet fingered solo. “Princess Charlie”, dedicated to Pelt’s two-year old daughter, has a distinct Brazilian influence, a hummable melody line that will stick with you long after the track is done, tasty solos by Mr. Pelt and Roxy Coss on soprano sax and a Flora Purim-like wordless vocal from Fabiana Masili. In fact, I loved both of Ms. Masili’s appearances on the disc, the other being “Rastros”, a brief track of quiet beauty, which in addition to Ms. Masili, is elevated by Jennifer Shaw’s cello and the support of the finest jazz harpist working today, Brandee Younger. “The Calm Before The Storm”, a Coss composition, will grab you, starting with a soulfully compelling bass line (Chris Smith is one bad cat), with Bryant’s Rhodes layered on top, before Pelt and Coss (on tenor) hit us with a sharp melody statement and brief but rich solos. The leader’s showpiece however is “Glimpse” an uptempo romp that gives Pelt plenty of room to blow; and he does, demonstrating that a great trumpet solo doesn’t need flashy pyrotechnics, just an inspired musician with numerous ideas. Ms. Coss follows the leader with a strong tenor statement of her own. I haven’t heard her yet outside of Pelt’s group but I like Roxy Coss. She has already developed her own voice on her horns and she sounds like she is just beginning to put it to excellent use.

Though Jeremy Pelt has found a nice groove with his fusion group and turned out a very good album here, I get the feeling that we’ll hear something different from him next time. I hope so because that kind of restless creativity will help Pelt and those of his generation to keep jazz alive and relevant.