10 New Jazz Albums You Need to Know About: April 2019

The return of one of today’s most powerful jazz ensembles; new music imagining the unrecorded sound of a New Orleans legend’s cornet and a bass great’s most intimate and revealing release yet. All that and more in this month’s list of the ten albums you need to know about.

Anat Fort Trio, Colour (Sunnyside Records)
Release date: April 5

Pianist Anat Fort and her trio mates, German drummer Roland Schneider and bassist Gary Wang, have been making music together for 20 years. While their recordings up to now are characterized by a more minimal and introspective approach to music making, their latest outing Colour shines a new light for listeners by fully incorporating Fort’s pop and rock inspirations and opening ears to the full potential of the trio’s dynamic breadth on a program of original compositions. From the lively “Tirata Tiratata” to the poignant “Part,” from the churning “Free” to the somber “Goor Katan” and beyond, Colour evinces the continuous evolution of the Anat Fort Trio, providing ample proof of the group’s enlivening spirit and the warm hues that their sound provides.

John Patitucci, Soul of the Bass (self-released)
Release date: April 5

Soul of the Bass is John Patitucci’s 16th solo record and it may be his most intimate and revealing one yet. Somewhat of a follow-up to his acclaimed 1991 album, Heart of the Bass, which featured acoustic bass and 6-string in an orchestral setting, Soul of the Bass is centered around solo melodic and concise improvisation, whether Patitucci interprets Bach’s “Cello Suite No. 5” with drummer Nate Smith layering additional bass guitars on top in a historic nod to the instrument, or whether he is inspired by the current tumultuous political climate in such aptly titled tracks as “Seed of Change,” “Truth” and “Trust.” Patitucci explains: “I think as you get older, you prioritize the sound and feel of everything you play, which if rendered with integrity, will result in a clarity that communicates to the listeners and draws them in.”

Kendrick Scott Oracle, A Wall Becomes a Bridge (Blue Note)
Release date: April 5

Drummer-composer Kendrick Scott’s longtime working group Oracle – including pianist Taylor Eigsti, guitarist Mike Moreno, saxophonist-reedist John Ellis and bassist Joe Sanders – is recognized as one of the most powerful jazz ensembles of its generation and on their new album, A Wall Becomes a Bridge, they welcome a new member: turntablist Jahi Sundance, who adds a little extra magic to an already winning formula. A Wall Becomes a Bridge comes four years after Oracle’s Blue Note debut, We Are the Drum, and deals with the universal and the intimate, drawing equally from the current political situation as much as it refers to the period of self-doubt that Scott had to overcome in order to make the album. He explains: “The project is … a response to a personal struggle that is also a collective one: how we are more connected than ever, but also more separated; and the opportunities that lie before us within that awareness.”

Mark Guiliana, BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! (Motéma Music)
Release date: April 12

Drummer-composer Mark Guiliana’s Beat Music is an ensemble of forward-thinking musicians who share a passion for electronic music, genre-defying and in-the-moment creativity. Their new album, BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! traverses the world of electronic and acoustic music and explores the possibilities that such exploration creates. The end result is at once personal and communal; while the music on BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! BEAT MUSIC! is through-composed by Guiliana, it draws from the extensive interactions with his fellow musicians and finds each of his collaborators bringing a distinctive voice to the eclectic mix. “Even when I’m asking the musicians in Beat Music to play a part, I’m still very much asking them to play it in the way they play,” Guiliana explains. “No decision I could make would be better than what these guys choose to do; they really bring the music to life.”

Quiana Lynell, A Little Love (Concord Jazz)
Release date: April 5

In 2017, Texas-born vocalist extraordinaire Quiana Lynell won the coveted Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocal Competition Award, which earned her the opportunity to record an album for the Concord Jazz label. The result, A Little Love, is produced by the renowned Brian Michel Bacchus and announces Lynell as a force to be reckoned with. The songs on this album cover a wide range of genres – from soul to gospel to R&B to jazz – and whether performing standards from the Great American Songbook, classics by such greats as Duke Ellington and Nina Simone, or powerful modern compositions like the album-opening “We Are” by Alina Engibaryan, on A Little Love, Lynell shines and establishes herself as a mesmerizing artist able to truly communicate with and captivate the listener whether singing about love, trying times, longing, searching or social action.

Ben Monder, Day After Day (Sunnyside Records)
Release date: April 12

New York City-born guitarist-composer Ben Monder has long been admired for his personal sound, versatility and command of his instrument. Day After Day is a new 2xLP set on which he presents a collection of new arrangements of other composers’ works. The first LP finds him playing solo, while for the second one he convenes his favored trio, including bassist Matt Brewer and drummer Ted Poor. Thus, Day After Day provides a fascinating look at the two distinct sides of Monder’s artistic nature: the highly analytical and structural side and the more freely improvisational one. Opening with an elaborately worked solo take on Henri Mancini’s “Dreamsville,” the collection includes versions of such songs as Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman,” Jimmy Webb’s “Galveston” and Burt Bacharach’s “The Windows of the World.”

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan, Epistrophy (ECM Records)
Release date: April 12

Epistrophy captures the spellbinding chemistry shared by guitarist Bill Frisell and bassist Thomas Morgan in an intimate setting. Named after Thelonious Monk’s 1957 funky, angular composition, the album was recorded at New York City’s famed Village Vanguard in 2016 – the same year they released their first duo LP Small Town – and features a bundle of great interpretations of a wide range of tunes, including the aforementioned title track, Frank Sinatra’s hit “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” and “Mumbo Jumbo,” which was written by Paul Motian, an artist they both know very well. Another highlight from Epistrophy worth noting is the enthusiastic take on John Barry’s “You Only Live Twice,” which feels like the partner-track to Frisell and Morgan’s version of another immortal 007 theme song, “Goldfinger,” from their previous record Small Town.

Eric Reed, Everybody Gets the Blues (Smoke Sessions)
Release date: April 12

There’s something reassuring about the title of veteran pianist Eric Reed’s new album, Everybody Gets the Blues, an album on which he not only revitalizes the gospel roots of his passion for jazz but also draws strength from music to face down struggles both personal and global – whether via original compositions or by reimagining works of a wide range of artists, bridging the generations between Cedar Walton and Stevie Wonder, as if wanting to uncover hidden truths within their art. To help him on this quest, the pianist assembled a top-class group, including saxophonist Tim Green, drummer McClenty Hunter and bassist Mike Gurrola. “I always look for answers in the past,” Reed says. “What is there in history that I can draw from? Who else has gone through what I’m going through? Who has felt what I’m feeling? That helps me to answer the questions that I have in life right now.”

Norah Jones, Begin Again (Blue Note)
Release date: April 12

Begin Again is a new collection gathering seven eclectic songs that Norah Jones began releasing last summer. It is produced by Jones and features her on vocals, piano and organ, along with drummer Brian Blade, bassist Christopher Thomas, trumpeter Dave Guy and saxophonist Leon Michels. The songs, including collaborations with Jeff Tweedy and Thomas Bartlett, run the gamut from riveting electronic experiments to folk ballads to organ-and-horn drenched songs and were a way for Jones to quietly return to the studio after the extensive promotional campaign for her 2016 album Day Breaks. The process offered her a chance to experiment and try out new things with a little help from talented friends, and each session was largely improvised. “It’s been fun and I feel very inspired right now and love all the different directions this is going,” she says.

Wynton Marsalis, Bolden (Original Soundtrack) (Blue Engine Records)
Release date: April 19

Blue Engine Records will release the original soundtrack for Bolden, a new film imagining the life of cornetist Buddy Bolden, one of the most obscure yet influential figures in the pantheon of American music. Bolden is often credited as the first true legend of jazz, despite the fact that he reached his peak before recording music became a common practice. The music for the film is composed, arranged and performed by Wynton Marsalis, who convened some of today’s most virtuosic jazz musicians – including drummer Ali Jackson, vocalist Brianna Thomas, bassist Carlos Henriquez and trombonist Wycliffe Gordon to name but a very few – and imagined what his cornet would have sounded like. The 26 songs on the album comprise a comprehensive mix of classic tunes associated with Bolden and his greatest descendant, Louis Armstrong, plus Marsalis’ own original compositions.

Featured photo by: Luigi Beverelli.

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