Archive for Warren Wolf

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

 

 

 

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…

Album Review: Warren Wolf – Wolfgang

Posted in CD Reviews with tags , , , on September 9, 2013 by curtjazz

THe following review first appeared in the September 2013 issue of Eric Nemeyer’s Jazz Inside Magazine

Warren Wolf

warren wolf

WOLFGANG – Mack Avenue Records MAC 1077 www.mackavenue.com  Sunrise; Frankie and Johnny; Grand Central; Wolfgang; Annoyance; Lake Nerraw Flow; Things Were Done Yesterday; Setembro; Le Carnaval de Venise

PERSONNEL: Warren Wolf, vibes, marimba; Benny Green, piano; Christian McBride, bass; Lewis Nash, drums; Aaron Goldberg, piano; Kris Funn, bass; Billy Williams, Jr., drums; Aaron Diehl, piano; Darryl Tookes, vocals

By Curtis Davenport

It seems that Warren Wolf appeared out of nowhere a couple of years ago and immediately became the hottest young vibraphonist in jazz. In addition to his work as a leader he is a member of Christian McBride’s terrific quintet, Inside Straight. He also plays with pianist Aaron Diehl who has grabbed a lot of attention with his debut album; and he recently took over the vibes chair in the SF Jazz Collective, following in the formidable footsteps of Stefon Harris and Bobby Hutcherson.  Though he also is proficient on drums and piano, Mr. Wolf has done most of his recording on the vibes, with Wolfgang being his second album for Mack Avenue and sixth overall. I found his eponymous prior Mack Avenue release to be promising but uneven. On Wolfgang, those rough spots have been filed away, leaving an artistic statement that is strong, cohesive and musically diverse.

Wolf employs two different groups on this album, each one helping to push his sound in a different direction.  The first features a younger generation of musicians – pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Kris Funn and drummer Billy Williams, Jr. The second trio is comprised of better known veterans, Mr. McBride on bass, Lewis Nash on drums and pianist Benny Green. The younger cats employ a lighter touch which fit nicely with Wolf originals such as “Sunrise”, a sprightly waltz tempoed number that gives Wolf plenty of room to stretch out and display his virtuosity. McBride’s influence (and bass) is all over the three tracks anchored by the veteran trio. The tempos are more defined and the sound is decidedly more soulful. On “Frankie & Johnny” they pay an obvious tribute to the version of this tune that was performed by Ray Brown and Milt Jackson on their late ‘60’s live album That’s the Way It Is. Wolf and company kick off with a repeat of the unforgettably nasty bass and low-end piano vamp that Brown and Monty Alexander patented on the original. McBride even repeats Brown’s shout of “yeah” at just the right moment. Wolf then jumps in, swinging like “Bags” and they are off to the races. If you aren’t at least bobbing your head by the end of this one, check your pulse. “Grand Central” featuring the “youngsters”, is a hard-driving post-bop exploration, with Wolf spraying line after line over Goldberg’s block chords, building the tension until it explodes into a joyous 4/4 sprint. “Things Were Done Yesterday” sounds like an outtake from one of the Inside Straight albums, with its extremely catchy melody line, Mc Bride’s bass almost forcing your fingers to snap and Benny Green showing his Bobby Timmons influence on his piano solo.

Most striking are the two selections performed as duets with Mr. Diehl. Like Diehl, Wolf cut his teeth on classical music and has a great appreciation for the music of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart and other classical composers, in addition to a love of jazz. Together they display this love and their striking technical proficiency on the title track, an obvious nod to Amadeus, in name as well as style. Through most of the album, Wolf sounds a little like the post MJQ Milt Jackson. Here, it is Jackson and John Lewis and absolutely beautiful.

Wolfgang is the most mature album of Warren Wolf’s brief career. His growth as a musician, composer and arranger are all evident from first note to last. Wolf is someone to keep your eyes on, as his future looks extremely bright.

Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011 – Warren Wolf

Posted in Atlanta Jazz Festival 2011, JazzLives!, The Jazz Continues... with tags , , , , on May 23, 2011 by curtjazz

If you’re a jazz fan, you’ve probably heard Warren Wolf’s work, even if you’ve never heard his name.  Though Mr. Wolf has not yet released an album domestically as a leader (his Mack Avenue debut is due out this fall), the multi-instrumentalist has made some very impressive guest appearances with headliners such as Jeremy Pelt, Bobby Watson, Tia Fuller and Christian McBride, as a member of McBride’s group “Inside Straight”.  Christian will return the favor by joining Wolf in his AJF performance.

Though he is also a virtuoso on piano and drums, Mr. Wolf is known mostly for his work on the vibes.  Originally from Baltimore, he was a child prodigy, whose musical education began at three.  Mr. Wolf is a graduate of the Baltimore School for the Arts and the prestigious Berklee College of Music.  He has recorded two albums that have been released in Japan: Incredible Jazz Vibes, with Mulgrew Miller on piano, Vicente Archer on bass and Kendrick Scott on drums; and Black Wolf with Miller, Rodney Whitaker and drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts.

Warren Wolf is sure to bring some powerful and exciting jazz to the Atlanta Jazz Festival this weekend. Wolf, with special guest Christian McBride, will take the stage at 7 pm on Saturday, May 28. We hope to see you there!

For further information about the 2011 Atlanta Jazz Festival, visit their website: http://atlantafestivals.com/