by: Hobart Taylor
Ahmad Jamal - Marseille - (Jazz Village)
At 87, Jamal continues to astound this listener with tunes of simple grace and profundity. The title tune appears thrice on this release, beginning, middle and end. The first iteration is a repetitive unfolding, like fractals aswirl, anchored by a martial tattoo maintained by New Orleans drummer Herlin Riley. This is followed by a minimalist reading of the folk tune "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" which is marked by witty interjections and dynamic irony. This is followed by the sweetly melodic "Pots en Verre" where Jamal and bassist James Carmack float over Afro-Cuban rhythms from percussionist Manolo Badrena, and then Jamal returns to the gentle fluidity of "Marseille", but this time with spoken word from Abd Al Malik. This version is more focused on a straight rendering of the melody rather than exploration, and evokes a cinematic rendering of "a city of eternity, on a sea of eternity". Next, Jamal performs the chestnut "Autumn Leaves" in his subtle and soulful style, and follows it up with my favorite cut, "I Came To See You/You Were Not There". This tune features rich pianistic orchestration and moment to moment seamless shifts in tempo, voicings, and dynamics. Oh and it is gorgeous. "Baalbeck" sees a return to the military snare drum rolls as backing for spooky blues inspired melodic snippets much in the Thelonious Monk vein before we hear the final version of "Marseille", this time performed with singer Mina Agossi. This concludes the whole set with classic elegance. Carmack who is outstanding on the whole disc, really shines here.
Jimmy Chamberlin Complex - The Parable - (Make Records)
Former Smashing Pumpkins drummer Chamberlin has made superb jazz records, notably with Chicago saxophonist Frank Catalano ("Love Supreme Collective"). Working here with the renowned Chris Speed on clarinet and tenor sax, keyboardist Randy Ingram, guitarist Sean Woolstenhulme, and bassist Billy Mohler these tunes are densely atmospheric, built on the contrasts between the relentless rhythm section and Speed, Ingram, and Woolstenhulme's fragile but not tentative performances. Never venturing too far from easy to follow melodies, this release is still innovative and thoughtful.
Andy Adamson Quintet - First Light - (Self-Released)
This Ann Arbor ensemble featuring composer/pianist Adamson in a set of all originals is deep and in the groove. Propulsively driven by the sax work of Dan Bennett, the entire collaboration swings with gale force verve. It's all world class...check out the mini epic "Twilight In The Making".
Christian McBride Big Band - Bringin' It - (Mack Avenue)
The ubiquitous Christian McBride, bassist/composer/band leader/NPR host, picks up where Basie left off with tight big band music that is firmly rooted in the blues, and by doing so he earns pop cred. The arrangements can dance off the speakers like sprites in "Fantasia" ("Gettin To It" and the superb "Used 'Ta Could"). When the band goes retro the sound is still fresh. The ballads stand out for nuance and sophistication, specifically "I Thought About You" and "In The Wee Small Hours". If you like the big sound of a big band, check out "Optimism".
Phil Parisot - Creekside - (OA2 Records)
Drummer's drummer Parisot can't be easily categorized. Whether holding a New Orleans second line in a post bop de-construction of New Orleans funk "Emerald Crescent", delving into deep dark melodic depths, or exploding in carefully controlled cacophony, he leads a super swinging trad quintet, (sax, trumpet, bass, piano, and drums) in grand and seemingly quite personal explorations.
Michelle Coltrane - Awakening - (blujazz)
John and Alice Coltranes' daughter joins brother Ravi in carrying on an astounding tradition. While she is unsure whether to play it safe and go jazz pop, or explore outer dimensions like her parents and brother, she sings with assurance and great personal presence. The strongest work on this disc is her interpretation of the Coltrane earworm "Moment's Notice", a stripped down version of "All The Things You Are", and the spiritually profound "Out Of The Shadows".