by: Hobart Taylor
Marcos Varela - San Ygnacio - (Origin Records)
Bassist Varela can swing, that is tread the middle path of the jazz small ensemble tradition, but while doing so he makes wry asides and astute musical comments that encourage these tunes to transcend norms. I think it's because the players he's working with all respect what came before in jazz, but remain relaxed and in the moment as they play allowing for the new and startling to emerge. Varela is joined by jazz royalty, pianist,George Cables, drummer, Billy Hart, and saxophonist, Logan Richardson (check out his new release "Shift" reviewed earlier on this website). It's all great... my fave "Colinas de Santa Maria".
Will Bernard - Out and About - (Positone)
Bernard is a guitarist who frequently collaborates and propels the music of other recording artists from Don Cherry to Tom Waits and most recently with the organist Brian Charette who appears on this disc.
The sound is edgy and catchy at once and his playing is smart and endearing (I can see him cringe as he reads this). Why "endearing"? Perhaps because it not macho rock guitar god influenced or spiritual ephemera like John McLaughlin. It is not "the American " folk based sound like Pat Metheny. It is understated yet authoritative, you know kinda unselfconscious and real.
Sarah Vaughn - Live at Rosy's - (Resonance)
Recorded in 1978, this live shot sends you back to the immediacy and intimacy only live recordings can provide. Backed by her erstwhile trio, Vaughn is at the height of her interpretive powers and her harmonic arrangements are astounding. Famous for her three octave range, often on display in these recordings, she demonstrates why she often makes lists as the greatest jazz vocalist of all time.
Tom Tallitsch - Gratitude - (Positone)
Tallitsch is a sax player who has a golden tone and pop sensibilities. Working with pianist Jon Davis, Rudy Royston, drummer, and bassist Peter Brendler he has hit the sweet spot between accessibility and music that is interesting. I particularly like his revision of Stevie Nicks' "Gold Dust Woman". His own tunes "Alternate Sides" and "Gratitude" are also picks.
Willie Jones III - Groundwork - (WJ3 Records)
Drummer composer Jones is flashy and melodic, tight, precise, and can swing. He is an Art Blakey type compelling force in the music he plays. A young man, Jones is supported by deans of jazz, bassist, Buster Williams, and trumpeter, Eddie Henderson (both Blakey alums) as well as Stacy Dillard on sax.
This record is a throwback to the great melodic era or small ensemble composition, the late 1960's. These are all new and original tunes, but sound like classics. Watch this space.