by: Hobart Taylor
Various Artists - Detroit Jazz City - (Blue Note)
The thing about Detroit and music is that there is a small town/big city dichotomy that allows for collaboration and mutual support rather than fierce competition. A lot of mentoring goes on, a lot of conversation. The pressure to be a star is off, the yearning to just find a groove and lay in the cut predominates. Blue Note Jazz's current head honcho, super producer Don Was, came from Detroit, and here he reaches back to those who taught him jazz. These are not world famous names, but in the jazz world, they are famous for keeping the lamp lit in the jazz lounge. Marcus Belgrave is a trumpeter who was the essence of subtle and cool. James Carter is a young man whose joyful exuberance on saxes drives his playing to special melodic corners. Bassist Marion Hayden (you may remember her from collaborations with Regina Carter) has brilliant moments on this disc, both as a leader and as part of various ensembles. The late great Joe Henderson has a star turn here as do other more familiar names, Elvin Jones, Donald Byrd, and Sheila Jordan. But the real hidden gem is guitarist A. Spencer Barefield. His composition "Ghost Dancers" is extraordinary.
Big Picture Holiday - Shimmer and Melt - (Ropeadope)
Avram Fefer, a multi reed player and composer, drives this African infused avant retro ensemble. With strong funk elements the music keeps making turns toward the light. Electric guitars and keyboards are counterpoint to his multi tracked reed leads. It is veddy veddy kewl. Check out "Squid", the Nels Cline like "Lumbar Strut", "Wishful Thinking", and the low key funk of "Seventh Heaven". The prettiest and most African cut is "Essaouira".
Joseph Daley/Warren Smith/Scott Robinson - The Tuba Chronicles - (JoDa)
The Tuba Trio is not three tubas, but rather composer Joseph Daley on various tuba and tuba like instruments, drummer Warren Smith and Saxophonist Scott Robinson. These dreamlike free jazz explorations took me places in my heart and mind I yearn to go. Evoking ephemeral mood changes and meditative states punctuated with barely controlled outbursts of understanding and passion, Daley adds to his prolific canon of explorations on the edge of jazz.
Cowboys and Frenchmen - Rodeo - (Outsidein Music)
Melodic, edgy, and full of verve, these young New Yorkers take one from column "A" and 12 from column "Q". Folk songs and a Beatle tune get bent out of shape,and Ornette keeps whispering in the background. I am enamored of the nervously energetic "Jazz Styles", "A Bridge Inside my Mind", and "Bells of Mindfulness".
Robert Irving III-Generations - Our Space in Time - (Sonic Portraits)
Back on the street, away from the museum/club world of jazz comes players just playing. Chicago veteran pianist/composer Irving has gathered a bunch young and fresh players to fulfill his vision. This isn't the most innovative music, but it is earnest, well played, and thoughtful. Straight ahead with funk tinges. "Roads Less Traveled" is a super cut, and check out "Poznan Dream" and "Every Today".