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

A trailblazer’s first album of unreleased material in 22 years; an exploration of the songbooks of three female icons of the turbulent ’60s and a revisitation of music from Miles Davis’ electric period. All that and more in this month’s list of the ten albums you need to know about.


Branford Marsalis Quartet, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (OKeh Records)
Release date: March 1

Saxophonist Branford Marsalis’ quartet has been a model of daring, unapologetic artistry for the past three decades. Pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis have been part of the group for 20 of those years, while drummer Justin Faulkner has been aboard since 2009. On their new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul, they reach a new peak, addressing a kaleidoscope of moods with inspiration and group commitment. This is their first album since 2016’s Upward Spiral with guest vocalist Kurt Elling and their first pure quartet effort since 2012’s Four MF’s Playin’ Tunes. “Staying together allows us to play adventurous, sophisticated music and sound good. Lack of familiarity leads to defensive playing, playing not to make a mistake,” explains Marsalis. “I like sophisticated music, and I couldn’t create this music with people I don’t know.”


Catherine Russell, Alone Together (Dot Time Records)
Release date: March 1

Alone Together is vocalist Catherine Russell’s seventh album as a leader. It is a search for truth that draws on the celebrated composers and lyricists of the Great American Songbook and the songwriters of the swing and blues eras. In fact, the 13 timeless songs on her new outing ask timeless questions. This is true of Irving Berlin’s contemplative “How Deep is the Ocean,” Russell’s philosophical reading of the popular swing era hit “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes,” and Louis Jordan’s fun blues tunes “Early in the Morning” and “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” among others. Alone Together features the core musicians of Russell’s touring band, including guitar virtuoso and musical director Matt Munisteri, pianist Mark Shane, bassist Tal Ronen and drummer Mark McLean.


Dave Liebman, On the Corner Live: The Music of Miles Davis (Ear Up Records)
Release date: March 1

Saxophonist and NEA Jazz Master David Liebman began his musical relationship with trumpet legend Miles Davis in the summer of 1972 when he participated in the recording date that would birth On the Corner. On his new album, Liebman revisits the music from this prolific electric period in Davis’ career. On the Corner Live: The Music of Miles Davis was recorded live in 2015 at the 3rd & Lindsley venue in Nashville, Tennessee, and also features saxophonist Jeff Coffin – the brainchild of the album who spearheaded the project from its inception to conclusion and whose independent label Ear Up Records is releasing the album – plus bassist Victor Wooten, drummer Chester Thompson, guitarist James DaSilva and keyboardist Chris Walters.


Jim Snidero, Waves of Calm (Savant Records)
Release date: March 8

Waves of Calm is arguably saxophonist Jim Snidero’s most personal album to date. It is dedicated to his father’s struggle with the late stages of a specific strain or Parkinson’s disease marked by periods of intense hallucinations followed by extreme calm. Snidero emphasizes restrained and careful solos on the three ballads and other uptempo funk romps of Waves of Calm. Reflecting on the theme of the album, he says: “I’ve been playing saxophone for a long time, so I could easily play a lot more notes. But I’ve been so attracted to Miles lately, and as I get older that way of playing a ballad, where you’re just looking for the right note at the right moment, searching for that one perfect thing – it’s all you need.”


Steve Davis, Correlations (Smoke Sessions Records)
Release date: March 8

Steve Davis is one of the most acclaimed trombonists of his generation. He has been a member of some of jazz’s premiere ensembles, including Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers and Chick Corea’s Origins, among many others. On his new album, Correlations, he debuts his new sextet with a set of inspired new tunes and classic compositions from jazz masters and mentors. It is an album galvanized by tradition, but also pushing forward. The sextet includes saxophonist Wayne Escoffery trumpet and flugelhorn player Joshua Bruneau, pianist Xavier Davis, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Jonathan Barber, and Correlations was recorded live in New York at Sear Sound’s Studio C.


Snarky Puppy, Immigrance (GroundUP Music)
Release date: March 15

Grammy-winning and genre-defying collective Snarky Puppy’s new album, Immigrance, celebrates multiculturality and the idea that humanity can benefit immensely when different cultures come together. This is the band’s first album since 2016’s Culcha Vulcha, and it features most of the same musicians and the same dynamic creative spirit of that outing. However, it is also rawer and moodier than its predecessor. Immigrance is produced by bassist-composer Michael League, who founded Snarky Puppy in 2003 and helped it into one of the most popular and influential bands of the current jazz and instrumental music renaissance. “Like Culcha Vulcha,” he explains, “this record is largely informed by our travels and we’re always trying to pass specific ideas through our filter and into our idiom without being disrespectful to the tradition at hand.”


Ulysses Owens Jr., Songs of Freedom (Resilience Music Alliance)
Release date: March 15

On Songs of Freedom, drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. explores the songbooks of three female icons of the turbulent ’60s: Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln and Joni Mitchell. To convey the emotions of their works, he enlisted René Marie, Theo Bleckmann and Alicia Olatuja, three of today’s most acclaimed jazz vocalists, along with rising star Joanna Majoko. Originally premiered in September 2016 as part of the Jazz at Lincoln Center celebration of “100 Years of Song,” the program of Songs of Freedom culls inspiring songs from the catalogs of the three icons that express the value of and struggle for freedom in America. “Art has the ability to help you bide the time and get through,” the drummer says. “Nina, Abbey and Joni were doing that while in even crazier times … My ultimate goal with Songs of Freedom is to unite people.”


Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, The Transitory Poems (ECM Records)
Release date: March 15

The Transitory Poems was recorded live in the concert hall of the Franz List Academy of Music in Budapest, Hungary, in March 2018 and it is the first release from the duo of pianists Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn, two of creative music’s most resourceful players. They began playing together inside Roscoe Mitchell’s Note Factory in 2002. Since then, they have continued to play concerts together, meshing and melding their distinctive artistic approaches. The Transitory Poems is a marvel of improvisation and shared invention, and listening back to it, Iyer and Taborn heard it as a series of homages to some of their formative influences, including pianists Cecil Taylor, Muhal Richard Abrams and Geri Allen, and the painter-sculptor Jack Whitten. In fact, the title of the album derives from a Taylor interview, in which humanity and its endeavors are considered transitory poems, unfolding against a backdrop of the mountains that are here to stay.


Betty Carter, The Music Never Stops (Blue Engine Records)
Release date: March 29

The Music Never Stops is vocalist and Jazz at Lincoln Center trailblazer Betty Carter’s first posthumous album as well as her first release composed entirely of previously unheard material in 22 years. This new album documents a live tour-de-force performance at New York’s Aaron Davis Hall from 1992, six years before Carter’s untimely passing and during the early days of Jazz at Lincoln Center. It also arguably represents the pinnacle of her musical ambition, as she enlisted a full jazz orchestra, a string section and three distinct piano trios, darting back and forth between the different ensembles, transitioning seamlessly and effortlessly between burning bebop and deeply felt ballads, wearing out the musicians with her stamina over the course of a two hour set.


Joshua Redman Quartet, Come What May (Nonesuch Records)
Release date: March 29

Come What May is saxophonist Joshua Redman’s first album with his longtime friends and colleagues pianist Aaron Goldberg, bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson. “They’re some of my favorite musicians in the world,” Redman recently said of them in Denver’s Westword newspaper. “We’ve played so much over the years and have been on the road so much, on and off the bandstand, there’s just that sort of camaraderie and friendship and genuine love for and understanding of each other that, for me, [is] the ideal situation for making music.” The four have, in fact, been touring together internationally for several years and have released two albums: Beyond (2000) and Passage of Time (2001). For Come What May, the quartet recorded seven Redman hard bop originals.


Feature photo by Monica Jane Frisell.

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