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Kat Edmonson, Dreamers Do (Spinnerette)
With her fey, girlish voice, Edmonson imbues a series of Disney (and Disney-esque) tunes with engagingly fresh treatments of vintage swing, orchestral cabaret and wistful ballads. A sinister, tabla-driven reinvention of “When You Wish Upon a Star” highlights a sly subversiveness that courses through the entire album.
Avishai Cohen, Big Vicious (ECM)
Eschewing the meditative “ECM sound” of his first two records for the label, Cohen expands his sonic palette to include electronics, full-tilt rock guitars, psychedelic sound sculptures and more — all while keeping his full-bodied trumpet front and center. A different kind of fusion album that really works.
Nina Simone, Fodder for My Wings (Verve)
Recorded in the early ’80s while Simone was exiled in Paris, this reissue of an obscure French release is a fascinating portrait of an erratic artist under duress. The album features several bright calypsos and Afro-grooves, but Simone’s underlying anger and sadness are palpable.
Brian Landrus, For Now (BlueLand)
There’s an easy elegance to this romantic quintet session, highlighted by Landrus’ splendid work on baritone sax, bass clarinet and alto flute. His nine original tunes (along with three standards) are straightforward and lovely. A string quartet adds lushness to several tracks.
Dayna Stephens, Liberty (Contagious Music)
In the ever-expanding world of tenor trio albums, Liberty is neither mangy dog nor show pony, although it tilts toward the latter. Stephens, drummer Eric Harland and bassist Ben Street showcase a relaxed, open chemistry, letting the music meander while keeping it cohesive.
Kirk Knuffke, Brightness: Live in Amsterdam (Royal Potato Family)
Cornetist Knuffke, drummer Bill Goodwin and bassist Mark Helias form a potent trio, confidently wandering down whatever thematic avenue beckons during this 45-minute live set. They use space with aplomb and provide each other ample room to explore, both individually and collectively.
Connie Han, Iron Starlet (Mack Avenue)
Pianist Han places her considerable chops in the service of risk-free, by-the-book post-bop on her hour-long second album. Tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt contribute credible work — and the 23-year-old Han wisely mixes in Rhodes on a couple of tunes — but overall the music feels curiously inert.
Walter Smith III & Matthew Stevens, In Common 2 (Whirlwind)
Saxophonist Smith and guitarist Stevens, long-time collaborators, have made a terrific 40-minute quintet album built around ear-grabbing melodies and inventive rhythms, elevated by tight, accomplished solos and deft interplay. The music, which hews to current post-bop conventions, finds just the right blend of sophistication and accessibility. -Eric Snider