by: Hobert Taylor
George Colligan - Risky Notions - (Origin)
Colligan is a renowned pianist composer who also whetted his chops on trumpet from time to time. On this new outing on Seattle's Origin label he switches to drums. He has worked with the great Jack Dejonette and Billy Hart on some of his previous recordings, and some of it has rubbed off. He is a very melodic drummer, fluid, casual and precise. The tunes are slightly spacey post bop with some Latin Jazz whispers, and they are all killer no filler. I really like "Transparent" and the Strayhorn like ballad "Phantom Friend".
Jack Mouse & Scott Robinson - Snakeheads & Ladybugs - (Tall Grass)
Drummer Mouse and horn player Robinson (tenor and c-melody saxes, cornet, and e-flat clarinet) recreate the excitement of the duets of say Rashied Ali and John Coltrane. What you hear is what you don't hear. if free jazz is playing all the notes between the notes then this is the form stripped down to bare essentials. Too cool for school, and my favorite CD of 2015 so far. Check out "Shapeshifter", "Fandango" "Orcan" and "Funk Infestation".
Calvin Keys - Close Enough For Love - (Lifeforce Jazz)
Guitarist Keys has been a bay area standout for fifty years. This collection of recordings stretching from 1992 to 2013 show him in a variety of settings and playing a variety of jazz sub genres. to each song he brings a truly unique voice, clear, authoritative but not flashy. He is, forgive the expression, a musician's musician. Check this out.
Dawan Muhammad/Billy Higgins Sextet - Smoke Signal - (Lifeforce Jazz)
This is a re-issue of sessions recorded in 1993 originally as a tribute to the godfather and chief mentor of modern jazz, Art Blakey. Like Blakey before him, Muhammad performs missionary work by shining a key light on the brilliant but neglected corners of the jazz stage. By reissuing recordings that he carefully stashed away over the years like the Calvin Keys cuts reviewed previously and this perfect expression of cool jazz history refined by years of performance
Lifeforce Jazz is re-generating near moribund forms. Higgins was in superior form here. In the seven selections on this CD we have a clear lesson on what the best of straight ahead can sound like. Climb aboard the wayback machine, you're in for a delightful ride.
Jamie Cullum - Interlude - (Blue note)
Like Kurt Elling or the young Harry Connick Jr. Cullum has the chops. Phrasing, intonation, and the ability to crawl inside a song and live there are traits of his music. This CD is basically a '60's soul jazz collection with subtle modern touches that make it fresh. Highlights include Ray Charles' "Don't You Know", Cannonball Adderley's "Sack of Woe", and an amazing rendition of the Harold Arlen standard "Out of this World".
Virginia Schenck - Interior Notions - (Airborne Ecstasy)
This Bobby McFerrin collaborator and Atlanta based vocal instructor has a purity of tone and an eccentric "I know how it should be done" style that smashes all the cliches associated with female jazz singers. Her style is incomparable. If you held a gun to my head I'd might admit that she sits in the pocket of a melody like Carmen McCrae, but that's just a fraction of what she is about. Whether re-inventing chestnuts, "Nature Boy", and especially her duet with bassist Rodney Jordan on "Midnight Sun" or introducing newer tunes (the African tinged McFerrin song "Say Ladeo") Schenck's "Interior Notions" are superior notions.
Polly Gibbons - Many Faces of Love - (Resonance)
From England where soul singers seemingly grow on milkwood (Adele,Amy W., etc) comes this jazzier version of the new British invasion. Reminiscent of a young Aretha, that is to say jazz rather that R&B based, or more precisely like Dakota Staton (look her up), Gibbons is a jazz singer whose soulfulness emerges from her persona rather than from her attempts to create a style. At least that what it sounds like to me. The ballads "I Have the Feeling I've Been Here Before" and "Make It Last" are my picks for best cuts, but her soulful "City Lights" and the up-tempo "So Good" are cool as well.
Cynthia Felton - Save Your Love For Me - (Self-Released)
This is a tribute album to one of the greatest jazz singers ever, a woman who sits in the pantheon of jazz singers like Ella Fitzgerald, Carmen McCrae, Sarah Vaughn,Betty Carter, and Billy Holiday. Nancy Wilson (no not the singer from Heart) was the gold standard for '6o's vocalists, and it is a treat to hear some of her finest songs, and some that were more obscure re-created here. Fortunately Felton is no slouch. From the bittersweet irony of the hit "Guess Who I Saw Today" to surprisingly the subtle and earnest "A Sleeping Bee", Felton returns us to the "Mad Men" era with precision and a subtle comprehension of the spirit of the time, at least as old geezers like myself who were children then remember it. Best cut: "I Never Will Marry".