by: Hobart Taylor
Trombone Shorty - Parking Lot Symphony - (Blue Note)
If jazz, which is among the most respected and least listened to genres in all music, is to survive as a commercial enterprise then jazz sensibilities must manifestly appear in other genres and must be promoted.
I refuse to qualify that last statement in any way. The problem is too severe to ignore.
Uber Producer and Blue Note Records president Don Was is clawing tooth and nail to re-introduce awareness of jazz's essential contribution to American popular music. Whether championing the next generation of younger music geniuses who draw upon multiple traditions and add jazz chops to their jams (Troy Andrews,Robert Glasper, Marcus Strickland,Takuya Kuroda,Logan Richardson, Lionel Loueke), or providing context for mature artists at the height of their powers, (Terence Blanchard, Nels Cline, Jason Moran, Charles Lloyd), or paving the way for new jazz audiences using the tried and true pathway of introducing jazz to mass song oriented audiences via extraordinary female vocalists (Kandyce Springs, Norah Jones), Don Was is trying it all, while also maintaining one of the most significant catalogs in all recorded music.
With this release by New Orleans icon Trombone Shorty, (Troy Andrews), on vocals, trombone, and trumpet, Was and Blue Note have chosen an artist who comes from a distinct and crucial community in jazz, New Orleans brass bands, but an artist who consistently lets all the other musics around him wash over his tunes so that folks who couldn't hear the vibrant and nuanced changes in his writing and arranging quickly grok his brilliance because of the references to familiar idioms. Yeah I mean hip hop variations, and rock and roll. There is a brilliant cover of master pop songwriter Allen Toussaint's "Here Come the Girls", the deeply rock style production on "It Ain't No Use" (A Meters tune) and especially "No Good Time", the pure funk of the title tune,"Parking Lot Symphony", (down to the hand claps and falsetto harmonies), and the Sly and the Family Stone/Prince vibe on "Dirty Water".
None of these elements conflict with the pure examples of NOLA brass band explosiveness on the recording, rather they set you up for it in tunes such as the 2 minute gem of perfection, "Tripped Out Slim" which is chased by the deeply beautiful offspring of hip hop and brass band, "Familiar". That jam ought to be all over the damn radio
Sean Jones - Live from Jazz At The Bistro - (Mack Avenue)
Live records used to be staples in jazz. Since the music is about improvisation, live shows often provided authentic and unedited "bright moments". This release goes back to that tradition.Trumpeter Jones is an ascending star in the ever changing constellations in the jazz heavens. Joined here most notably by the brilliant Orrin Evans on piano, Luques Curtis, bass, either Mark Whitfield Jr. or Obed Calvaire on drums, and Brian Hogans on alto and soprano saxes, Jones' tunes contain melodies that dissolve like lap fades in cinematic montages with gorgeous recurring motifs. There are blues undertones (who was it who said all music is blues or not blues?), but here also are the sax, trumpet duets of '60's cool jazz, as well as that era's bop energy. But really folks, stylistic references are less important than the spontaneous joy of performance captured here.
Billy Porter - The Soul of Richard Rodgers - (Masterworks Broadway Records)
This is a soulful take on many of the finest art songs ever written in this country. Like Sondheim today, Rodgers used the vehicle of the Broadway show to embed songs that define the American spirit. The fact that they are easily funkified is confirmation of their inherent versatility. Highlights for me are "My Romance", (sung by Leslie Odom, Jr.), Ledisi's hip hop version (with a rap from Zaire Park) of "Bewitched", the profanity laced re-write of "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Outta My Hair" with new rap lyrics addressing our current Commander in Chief, and India.Arie and Billy Porter's take on the simple and deeply profound tune about racism, "Carefully Taught".
Mark Lewis - The New York Sessions - (Audio Daddio)
Lewis on sax and flute records here with giants of the genre, George Cables, piano, Victor Lewis, bass, and drummer,Essiet Essiet. This is intensely personal music, beautiful and often delicate. The recording encompasses multiple moods and is deceptive in its easy and clean performance of work that is deeply nuanced and playfully serious. A great record.
Sweet Lu Olutusin - Meet Me at the Crossroads - (Self released)
Atlanta blues singer works in the Joe Williams tradition, lots of bop and scat mixed in with down home funk and rapid fire jazz changes. There are a couple of Brazilian jazz tunes, and a special message song "Skin Game".
Peter Campbell - Loving you: Celebrating Shirley Horn - (Self released)
Tenor Campbell has a near operatic voice, and he gently caresses the elegantly romantic melodies favored by the supremely disciplined and artful pianist/singer Horn. She was a particular favorite of Miles Davis which I guess is the premier stamp of approval. Campbell sings backed by a drumless quartet, piano, bass, guitar, and occasional trumpet. The arrangements tread no new ground, but are perfect settings for the repertoire. It's all wonderful listening, but of particular excellence is Dmitri Tiomkin's "Wild is the Wind".
Chaise Lounge - The Lock and the Key - (Modern Songbook Records)
Every record doesn't have to be "profound and important", and this one certainly isn't. Cheery fluff skips from crowd pleasing riff to crowd pleasing riff like the soundtrack to a French comedy. Wanna smile? Play this.
Colorado Jazz Repertory Orchestra - Invitation - (OA2 Records)
Big Band with a bit of cool, not the macho head rush you so often get. One cut rises above the formulas, Joe Zawinul's tune "Birdland" which is very thoughtfully arranged. It reminds me of just how open and ear tickling the Weather Report jams could be.
Ben Markley Big Band - Clockwise: The music of Cedar Walton - (OA2 Records)
Markley reaches into the catalog of one of the last of the straight ahead big band composer/arrangers of the golden age. Basie is the referent here, lots of swing. Check out "Bolivia", the bluesy "I'll let you Know", and the soulful up tempo "Black".
Michael Morreale - Love and Influence P- (epjack Records)
Large ensemble straight ahead that really takes off on the second disc.
Erik Applegate - Two's Company - (Artist Alliance Records)
Bassist Applegate duets with pianists, a trombonist, a guitarist and a sax player in a series of pleasant straight ahead melodies.
Dave Singley - Good hope - (WrenSing Records)
Starts off as pop jazz lounge stuff from this guitarist that goes to a far better place on the nicely orchestrated "No Goodbyes" (a potential piece of film music), the funky "First Principle", the very American and majestic melody, "Good Hope", then goes to an ethereally rocky place a la Larry Coryell on "Inside the Mobius" and ends with the Coltrane influenced gem "Take It Out" featuring Dave Milne on tenor.
Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre - The Art of Latin Jazz - (Origin Records)
Safe as milk, still very well performed. I was never surprised. I was never disappointed, except by the fact that i was never surprised. The version of"Fort Apache" here is definitive.