10 Albums You Need to Know About: June 2019

The return of a South African jazz legend; new records redefining the role of the harp within jazz; the debut of a new, boundary-defying ensemble. All this and more on this month’s list of ten albums you need to know about.

Sam Newsome, Chaos Theory: Song Cycles for Prepared Saxophone (Some New Music)

Release date: June 3

Soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome continues to contribute to the solo saxophone canon via his new LP, Chaos Theory: Song Cycles for Prepared Saxophone. This effortless interplay between appeal and avant-garde features familiar sounds from previous Newsome projects, alongside new ones, including the augmentation of the soprano with plastic tubes that elongate the sound waves emitting from the horn and deepen its octave range. “There’s noise, grooves, pretty melodies and sometimes straight up craziness,” says Newsome about Chaos Theory. “But at the end of the day, what I hope you hear is music.”

Brandee Younger, Soul Awakening (self-released)

Release date: June 7

Genre-defying harpist Brandee Younger’s fourth album, Soul Awakening, is a collection of eight unearthed gems surfacing years after they were originally recorded, that blend freewheeling improvisation and spiritual jazz with classical and experimental music. Produced by acclaimed bassist Dezron Douglas and featuring such first-rate musicians as saxophonist Ravi Coltrane and Antoine Roney, and drummers Chris Beck and E.J. Strickland, Soul Awakening includes some of Younger’s first compositions, as well as heartfelt tributes to jazz harp pioneers Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane.

David Sánchez, Carib (Ropeadope)

Release date: June 7

Carib is a new ensemble making music that demonstrates the deep connections between musical cultures all too often separated and compartmentalized. Led by Grammy-winning saxophonist David Sánchez, the group uses a modern context to explore the relationships between West African drums, and the traditional music of his native Puerto Rico and Haiti within a jazz syntax. “I decided to concentrate in these musical traditions because it still amazes me, the similarities in the musical flow of both cultures,” Sánchez, who wrote all the songs on Carib. “I have always felt the interconnectivity between musical genres throughout the Americas.”

Fred Hersch and the WDR Big Band (arranged and conducted by Vince Mendoza), Begin Again (Palmetto)

Release date: June 7

Begin Again features Vince Mendoza orchestrations of original Fred Hersch compositions, plucked from throughout the acclaimed pianist’s various projects and preferred formats, performed by the Grammy-winning WDR Big Band. The program, which includes one previously unrecorded piece (“Song Without Words #2: Ballad”), serves both as an expertly curated overview of Hersch’s oeuvre and a singular new entry in his expansive discography. “Vince was very respectful and attuned to the fact that each one of these pieces has its own world,” Hersch says. “And the fact that we had these 17 musicians at our disposal to create each piece on its own terms was really great. It was a thrill for me to be able to amplify the uniqueness of each piece.”

Jamie Cullum, Taller (Blue Note)

Release date: June 7

Five years since his last album, Interlude, musician/vocalist Jamie Cullum takes his music into new directions with his new LP, Taller. Its ten tracks – written and recorded at his home or in the studio of his longtime friend and collaborator Troy Miller – are perhaps his rawest and most intimate yet, marked by a refusal to be boxed into a specific style or genre. “I was really focusing on this being an album of my songs,” he explains. “I wanted it to be about my songs, about my writings … I wanted to put aside whether it was a jazz record, whether it was ticking this or that box. The songs would be king and they would be honest.”

Ron Carter and Danny Simmons, The Brown Beatnik Tomes – Live at BRIC House (Blue Note)

Release date: June 7

Bass legend Ron Carter and acclaimed poet/Emmy Award-winner Danny Simmons will release a new album together, The Brown Beatnik Tomes – Live at BRIC House, via Blue Note. The album documents a night of jazz and poetry that took place last autumn at Brooklyn’s house and is part of a project that began as a book, became an event and is now an album. Along with tracks where Carter’s raw-plucked bass lines meet Simmons’ hotly read poetry, The Brown Beatnik Tomes also includes Carter’s trio on a pair of instrumentals, and playwright/actor Liza Jessie Peterson.

Anat Cohen Tentet, Triple Helix (Anzic)

Release date: June 14

Led by Grammy-nominated clarinet virtuoso Anat Cohen and featuring some of today’s most adventurous musicians, the Anat Cohen Tentet has become one of today’s most exciting album. Its follow-up to their 2017 album debut, Happy Song, is titled Triple Helix after a three-piece concerto piece composed by the group’s musical director Oded Lev-Ari. The new LP also includes new Cohen compositions and other tracks – including a standout arrangement of Astor Piazzolla’s “Milonga Del Angel” – that both suit the Tentet’s idiosyncratic strength, and mark an evolution in its sound.

Edmar Castañeda and Grégoire Maret Duo, Harp Vs. Harp (ACT)

Release date: June 14

Swiss-born harmonica player Grégoire Maret and Colombian harpist Edmar Castañeda have rewritten the rulebook for their respective instruments, redefining what they are capable of, particularly within the jazz spectrum. Having already done several performances as a duo, they join forces on a new album, Harp Vs. Harp, recording in New York City, where they’re both based. Here, they continue to innovate, exploring such themes as spirituality and nostalgia, expressing their shared love of Brazilian music and jazz, and showcasing their strong musical affinity, with guest spots from Béla Fleck and Andrea Terra on a few of its tracks.

Philip Bailey, Love Will Find a Way (Verve/UMe)

Release date: June 21

The genre-defying spirit of Earth, Wind and Fire lives on in the long-anticipated new solo album of its co-founder and unmistakable falsetto voice – Philip Bailey. Love Will Find a Way is the title of his star-studded LP, set for release on Verve/UMe. Presenting an exciting blend of tradition and modernity, and traversing different styles and genre, Love Will Find a Way also includes appearances from some of the biggest names of jazz, R&B, pop and more, including Christian McBride, Chick Corea, Steve Gadd, Kamasi Washington, will.i.am, Robert Glasper, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, Lionel Loueke and many more.

Abdullah Ibrahim, The Balance (Gearbox)

Release date: June 29

The Balance is 84-year-old South African jazz legend Abdullah Ibrahim’s first full-length album in five years. Recorded in London, released on Gearbox Records and featuring the pianist’s longtime septet Ekaya, The Balance encapsulates Ibrahim’s unique vision of jazz. “We push ourselves out of our comfort zones all the time,” he says of the release. “So that we can present to the listener our striving for excellence. So that we can engage with our listeners without any barriers of our ego. It’s not jazz. For us, it’s a process of transcending barriers.”

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