Music Reviews

On Chicago Fire, Eric Alexander demonstrates again why he is one of the busiest saxophonists on today's jazz scene. Alexander has a fully developed voice on the saxophone and can blow with the best of them. Harold Mabern, one of the greatest jazz pianists ever, is in the studio, as is bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth.  Additionally, special guest Jeremy Pelt steps in for a few tracks and demonstrates his mainstream credentials. This gathering of total professionals creates a smoking session!

A remarkable orchestral jazz work recorded in France in the last two years, I Hear The Sound is a live performance of material from saxophonist Archie Shepp, "Attica Blues". The big band effort brings to a new generation of listeners material first presented in 1972 on Impulse.

The vitality of funk music connected to the traditions of New Orleans second line music is hard to resist. The Revolutionary Snake Ensemble, led by saxophonist Ken Field, brings this exciting, easily danceable groove into focus on the new effort, Live Snakes (Accurate 2014). It's the third album from this ensemble of musicians with a changing cast, but rock solid second line performances.

In the not too distant past we have had the pleasure of hearing previously unreleased live recordings from artists such as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, Wes Montgomery and Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane. Now comes an album from guitarist Pat Martino's personal collection recorded during the waning days of the “chitlin' circuit” at Club 118 in Louisville, KY. The tracks are culled from different appearances at the club during 1968 and 1969 although the program sounds cohesive, as if it were a one night engagement.

Every now and then you slip a disc into the CD player and immediately become engaged in a thrilling experience. Such is the case with alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo's new album “Threshold”. Firmly ensconced in the post-bop idiom, this smoking quintet session is full of captivating delights for the listener.

Legendary Chicago Drummer & Bandleader Kahil El'Zabar continues to add fine recordings to an already impressive discography of discs firmly in the jazz avant-garde but rooted in straight-ahead jazz. Zabar's latest effort with his longstanding Ritual Trio band, Follow The Sun, continues in that direction. 

Here's a release that is going to write it's own review, a session so inspired and intuitively right-there that it all bubbles to the surface propelled by the buoyant trombone sound of Steve Davis. This quintet session is Davis's seventeenth album as leader and a gem among a steady succession of strong recordings.

Creativity, innovation, and artistry help define the rich body of work that cornetist Rob Mazurek has released. Mazurek's relentless exploration of the frontiers of jazz in recent years has put him at the forefront of adventuresome music. In a career spanning over 25 years, Mazurek has written nearly 200 original compositions. His latest work may be his most ambitious yet. Mazurek has returned with his Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble on one of the most profound discs in recent memory, The Space Between(Delmark Records).

Shauli Einav is a saxophonist from Israel based in New York. His new cd, Generations, captures him and his band burning brightly on a varied program of jazz standards and two original tunes from Einav. The sound harkens back to the Blue Note sessions of the 1960's and if you didn't know this was a new album, you might think you were listening to some long lost Blue Note bop session from the vault.

Miles Davis Quintet/Live In Europe 1969/Columbia/Legacy
Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Electro Acoustic Ensemble  / The Space Between / Delmark
Dr. Lonnie Smith / In The Beginning Volumes 1 & 2 / Pilgrimage
Etienne Charles / Creole Soul /Independent Release
Nicole Mitchell's Ice Crystals/Aquarius/Delmark
Jeremy Pelt / Water and Earth / High Note
Gretchen Parlato / Live In NYC / ObliqSound
Frank Rosaly / Cicada Music / Delmark
Corey Christiansen / Lone Prairie / Origin Records
Dave Holland / Prism / Dare 2 Records

Janis Siegel - Nightsongs: A Late Night Interlude-Palmetto Records
Brian Lynch- Unsung Heroes Volume 2 – Hollistic Music Works
Kathy Kosins- The Space Between-Resonance Records
David Weiss-Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter-Motema
Steve Turre- Bones of Art- High Note
Andy Bey- World According to Andy Bey-High Note
Kenny Garrett -Pushing The World Away- Mack Avenue
Giacomo Gates- Miles Tones- Savant
Ted Nash Big Band- Chakra- Plastic Sax Records  
Gregory Porter-Liquid Spirit- Blue Note

JAZZ JUNCTION TOP TWELVE OF 2013

Dec 2, 2013

Yes, it's that time of year when we take a fond look back at some of the delightful releases of the year and attempt to whittle so many worthy contenders to a dozen, because only ten was just too difficult. Come to think of it, twelve is kind of tough – so here's our baker's dozen at the Jazz Junction:

Jim Alfredson's Dirty Fingers – A Tribute to Big John Patton – Big O Records – Nothing like good meat and potatoes Hammond organ music and here's an outing that encompasses the thrill and energy of the genre in this savory dedication to organist Big John Patton.

The pantheon of jazz trumpet players includes familiar names such as Davis, Gillespie, Brown, Hubbard and Morgan. There are, however, numerous lesser known trumpet players whose music comprises an essential part of jazz history. One of our contemporary trumpet masters, Brian Lynch, embarked upon a project focusing upon some of the unsung heroes – and thus the title for this project, the second volume of which is our album of the month for December.

Dr. Lonnie Smith's Hammond B-3 wizardry has dazzled this listener for years. Smith's first live recording on his own Pilgrimage imprint, The Healer, was a deeply powerful organ trio experience. On the new release,  In The Beginning Volumes 1 & 2,  the liner notes declare that "Dr. Lonnie Smith revisits, recontextualizes and reimagines a dozen songs from his first decade as a recording artist."

Phil Woods’ soulful brilliance glows everywhere you turn in this 2013 release from Chiaroscuro Records . His soloing on alto, his compositions and arrangements sparkle throughout, enhanced by a fine array of soloists hailing from parts of the U.S. east. But, be warned; listening to it all at one sitting could diminish the effect.  It’s like trying to consume too many slices of a superb and rich birthday cake when the party’s just started. Don’t take in too many pieces at once. Savor the flavor gradually.

Veteran jazz bassist Dave Holland is back with one of his boldest sessions in years. Fans of his straight ahead jazz recordings may be startled to hear the relentless intensity of Prism, but it shouldn't be surprising given Holland's roots in the electric jazz explosion of the late 1960s.

Our CD of the Month at KIOS is from legendary pianist and bandleader Chick Corea. His latest release, The Vigil, features a new lineup of players along with the keyboard legend in an energetic program that recalls Corea's legendary group Return To Forever.

Certainly one of the most potent dates in recent years by some of the today's top Chicago avant-garde players. Frank Rosaly leads this group of top notch instrumentalists in a program of dense rhythm and unusual musical conversations.

Etienne Charles is a trumpeter from Trinidad whose three previous albums have featured calypso music as interpreted through an engaging post-bop focus. Charles continues to grow as an artist as evidenced on his latest, Creole Soul.  His latest recording reflects his interest in Carribean music and the music of New Orleans.

One of the most eclectic guitarists in jazz is back with his associates for another enjoyable journey into music. Big Sur is the new recording from Guitarist Bill Frisell and his band.  Composed by the guitarist at Glen Deven Ranch in Big Sur, California, the new effort presents a kaleidoscope of musical colors listeners have grown accustomed to expect from the veteran guitarist. Frisell is joined by Eyvind Kang, viola; Hank Roberts, cello; Jenny Scheinman; violin and Rudy Royston, drums.

A new release by a Chicago-based outfit headed by tenor saxophonist
Shelly Yoelin is an intoxicating mix of straight ahead bop, ballads and Latin
sounds. Five of the seven members provide material.The highlights include
Diddley Dance, the Bo Diddley beat would be right at home in New Orleans.
Beautiful Sweetheart, composed by pianist Bobby Schiff is a lovely ballad
dedicated to his wife Natasha. Eastern Fun incorporates Klezmer music into
the mix. One of the highlights of the year so far.

In the last ten years a number of jazz artists have released recordings that attempt to fuse jazz and country music; these efforts have yielded results of varying success.  Guitarist Corey Christiansen's latest effort is without doubt an exception.

Nicole Mitchell's Ice Crystal project is at the forefront of the discs we're featuring this month on the Last Call. Nicole Mitchell is a veteran, award-winning flutist.

Vocalist Gretchen Parlato will perform in Omaha at the 1200 Club at the Holland on May 11th. This is the first Omaha concert for the rising vocal star, whose 2011 effort "The Lost And Found" was the #1 Jazz CD of the year as awarded by this program. Click on the link to listen to an interview with Gretchen Parlato.(Recording Engineer: Mike Hansen.)

For more information about Parlato's concert in Omaha you may visit omahaperformingarts.org

Here is the review of the record from our archives:

The new release from bassist and bandleader McBride is a straight-ahead affair with an acoustic group consisting of Steve Wilson on alto sax, Warren Wolf on vibes , Peter Martin on six of the eight tracks on piano with Christian Sands on the others. Carl Allen handles the drum duties on most of the session and Ulysses Owens Jr. filling in on two tracks.

Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt is an accomplished trumpeter with a string of critically acclaimed albums.  A solid straight-ahead artist, he has released two albums (2005's Identity) and (2007's Shock Value) that explore electric jazz directions.  For Water and Earth, the noted trumpeter, bandleader & educator is back with his longtime bandmates Frank LoCrasto, keyboards; Dana Hawkins, drums; and newcomers including Roxy Coss on saxophone.

Cuneiform Records has just released a new batch of adventuresome jazz discs. Their usual high standard of creative brilliance continues with a number of fine recordings, most notably The Rob Mazurek Octet's  Skull Sessions.

Giacomo Gates – Miles Tones – Savant SCD 2124

The music of Miles Davis, so firmly entrenched in the instrumental heart and soul of jazz music, has also been embellished with lyrics in several instances. Vocalist Giacomo Gates' latest release gathers a variety of these selections and serves them with his inimitable stylings and superb musical accompaniment.

The music of Miles Davis was changing dramatically in the late 1960s. Most fans of the legendary trumpeter know that in 1969 he recorded Bitches Brew, the hugely successful dawn of jazz-rock that was one of the best selling jazz records ever released. Lesser known is the working unit that Miles took with him on the road was one of the most artistically daring and visionary bands that Miles ever led. Recordings of that outfit have recently surfaced and have been released on a multi-disc set, Live In Europe 1969, The Complete Bootleg Sessions Vol. 2.

Guitarist Pat Metheny, whose artistry has been rewarded with multiple Grammys over the years, has won another award for his fine 2012 recording.  Metheny won in the jazz instrumental category with the album Unity Band.

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