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Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn, The People I Love (Pi) — Two top-rank players — altoist Lehman and pianist Taborn — front a quartet that blazes through a riveting set of angular melodies and fleet, knotty solos. Splendid avant-bop with nods to late-Ornette funk, drum ‘n’ bass and myriad other elements.
John Yao's Triceratops, How We Do (See Tao) — Like its prehistoric namesake, John Yao’s Triceratops has three horns (plus bass and drums). Saxophonists Billy Drewes and Jon Irabagon and trombonist Yao display terrific chemistry through punchy originals that inject a dose of sleaze into a post-bop framework.
Noah Preminger Group, Zigsaw: Music of Steve Lampert (Dry Bridge) — Tenor man Preminger leads an ace septet (including electronics) through a labyrinthine 48-minute Lampert composition that lays the groundwork for some of the most intense, accomplished soloing you’ll hear anywhere. Challenging, but well worth it.
Mark Winkler, I’m With You: Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup (Rhombus) — Vocalist Winkler hews to Troup’s grabby melodies (including “Route 66”), bends notes and phrases and adds swagger, but rarely if ever over-sings. Swinging, small-group martini jazz that goes down easy.
Chris Lightcap, SuperBigmouth (Pyroclastic) — An octet (including Craig Taborn, Tony Malaby, Chris Cheek and Gerald Cleaver) renders bassist Lightcap’s densely layered, cyclical compositions with gusto. Agile solos spar with surging ensemble crescendos, and heavy guitars add elements of prog-rock. Just the right portions of thick and messy.
Veronica Swift, Confessions (Mack Avenue) — Backed by piano trio, the vivacious, crystalline-voiced singer, just 25, interprets a set of 12 tunes from the Songbook — both familiar and obscure. Her vocals are swinging and confident, but come up short on emotional resonance.
Four Visions Saxophone Quartet, Four Visions Saxophone Quartet (Sunnyside) — Who needs a rhythm section when you’ve got Dave Liebman (soprano), David Binney (alto), Donny McCaslin (tenor) and Samuel Blais (baritone) locking horns on a structured set of originals that ranges from neoclassical to Ellington-esque? Free blowing in measured doses.
Caroline Davis & Rob Clearfield’s Persona, Anthems (Sunnyside) — Saxophonist Davis and pianist/keyboardist Clearfield lead a quartet through nine originals that emerge in mostly soft pastels, with a couple of uptempo diversions. Passingly pleasant, but this session could’ve used some more fire. - Eric Snider