Jazziz Discover

Enjoy listening to some of the best new jazz available in hi-res audio and with information about each featured album below. For subscribers only.

Rafael Greco

Signs of Life

“Once Upon a Time”

(Blue Canoe)

Man finds harmony with machine on Rafael Greco’s Blue Canoe debut Signs of Life (Blue Canoe). The Venezuelan saxophonist and vocalist has constructed a unique and highly personal framework within the chilled-out groovescape of the Blue Canoe aesthetic, using rhythms of Caribbean music — from salsa and merengue to joropo and calypso — to prop up a canopy of silky, Milesian synths. “Once Upon a Time,” our selection, takes the amalgamation a step further, pitting a winding, harmonically liberated keyboard solo by Santiago Bosch against a heavily churning montuno. The effect is like a building storm, whose developing center is never entirely predictable. Synth stabs pierce through the clouds and vanish into thin air, while Greco’s voice is the ibis flying calmly amidst the swirling clouds and musical thunder.


Cody Carpenter

Balance of Extremes

“Hold On”

(Blue Canoe)

Cody Carpenter’s Balance of Extremes (Blue Canoe) is a fitting title for an album that tilts the scales between the far-flung limits of the jazz-rock spectrum. The keyboardist — whose father is film director John Carpenter, of Halloween fame — had already made inroads in the synthwave and scene under the alias Ludrium, releasing three acclaimed albums that showed off his solid songwriting and synthcraft skills. Balance of Extremes has a decidedly harder edge, harnessing the most potent elements of prog-rock, power metal, glam-rock and Eric Johnson-esque guitar artistry and channeling them into a united front. Our selection, “Hold On,” is the album’s opening track, launching the proceedings with boosters at full thrust. Marco Sfogli’s guitar rips across the song with laser precision, and Jimmy Haslip’s bass adds a supercharge to the momentum. For jazz-rock fans who like their jazz and rock in at full measure, this is the album for you.


Yellowjackets

Parallel Motion

“Parallel Motion”

(Mack Avenue)

Jazz-fusion innovators Yellowjackets prove they have plenty to add to the game with the release of Parallel Motion (Mack Avenue), their 27th album in a remarkable 40-year career. Though the band is still capable of ripping into a hard-charging groove — as tunes like “Early” and “Onyx Manor” certainly demonstrate —  there’s a spaciousness to Parallel Motion that lends the album a refreshing lightness and bounce, all the better for its members to spread out and get comfortable. The title track perfectly exhibits this open-aired feel. Its ethereal cymbal groove (laid down by the impeccable Will Kennedy on drums) is the jetstream along which Russel Ferrante’s pulsing keyboard chords and Bob Mintzer’s feathery plumy tenor saxophone intertwine and exchange. Toward the song’s end, however, the energy begins to solidify and become dense. Led by Dane Alderson’s thumping bass, the song hurdles to its conclusion like a sonic boom.


Emmet Cohen

Uptown in Orbit

“My Love Will Come Again”

(Mack Avenue)

Pianist Emmet Cohen was a hero of the pandemic era in jazz, launching a web series, Live from Emmet’s Place, that served as both a lifeline for jazz fans yearning to experience live jazz and a haven for musicians to convene and make music during lockdowns. What began as a loose jam session between roommates livestreamed from his Harlem apartment became an internet sensation that drew millions of viewers and musicians ranging from Christian McBride to Sheila Jordan. Still riding that artistic wave, Cohen has released Uptown in Orbit, his sophomore album for Mack Avenue Records. The disc features a few Emmet’s Place regulars, including battery mates Kyle Poole on drums and Russell Hall on bass, and rounding out the frontline are saxophonist Patrick Bartley and trumpeter Sean Jones. Stylistically, the album runs the gamut from early jazz standards to modern impressionistic fare. The Cohen original “My Love Will Come Again” is of the latter sort, a romantic, breathy affair that finds Bartley and Jones (on flugelhorn), whispering back and forth in lovely melodic phrases. Poole’s feathery bass drum is the song’s pulse, Hall’s bass rings with pristine clarity and Cohen, as always, plays with the kind of precision and grace that allows his bandmates to shine.


Jane Monheit

Come What May

“I Believe In You”

(Club 44)

With the release of Come What May (Club 44) in 2021, vocalist Jane Monheit celebrated more than 20 years as a recording artist in what has become an ever-evolving jazz landscape. Despite the genre’s incessant changes, Monheit’s M.O. has remained the same: bringing an undeniable sense of swing and suavity to jazz classics and mid-century pop gems. Come What May is an emphatic testament to that point, as its brimming with tunes that sparkle and shine with the kind of polish only Monheit can provide. Our selection, the Frank Loesser-penned “I Believe in You,” comes from the 1961 Broadway hit How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. In Monheit’s hands, it’s a supremely swinging affair, driven by the luxurious cymbal work of Rick Montalbano and featuring a lean-and-mean piano solo from Michael Kanan. Monheit’s scatting embellishments, laced throughout the second half of the song, are treasures.


Connie Han

Secrets of Inanna

“Prima Materia”

(Mack Avenue)

With a nod to the hyper-cool jazz fusion of the 1980s, pianist Connie Han has released Secrets of Inanna on Mack Avenue Music. The album, which takes its name from an ancient Sumerian goddess, seems duly inspired by the electro-acoustic stylings of Chick Corea, Gary Burton and others of the Return to Forever ilk. The album is a winning showcase for Han, who proves just how gifted she can be behind an electric piano or Fender Rhodes. A clear standout is “Prima Materia,” our selection, which derives much of its energy from the tension between a stepwise acoustic bass motif (laid down by the meticulous John Patitucci) and Han’s fluid chord work. Drummer Bill Wysaske (who also composed the tune) is a stellar timekeeper, making it all the more magical when flutist Katisse Buckingham weaves herself in and out of the song’s rhythmic swirl.


Troy Roberts

Nations United

“Funkafarian”

(Toy Robot)

Australian-born saxophonist and composer Troy Roberts’ fourth album with his Nu-Jive five-piece, Nations United (Toy Robot), is a multi-national affair drawing from the cultural heritage of each of its members and the countries they represent. Lead-off track “Funkafarian” introduces this concept by opening with a deep groove recalling the funk and modern jazz fusion of the bulk of the band’s previous outings. However, it switches gears about halfway through by introducing a rousing reggae element. Such is the spirit of Nations United, an album that with crafty compositional skills and exceptional musicianship represents a coming together of worlds through the universal language of music.


Cavanagh/Miley/Hollenbeck

Another Life

“The Dawn Wall”

(S/N Alliance)

Keyboard masters Dan Cavanagh and James Miley explore new avenues for expression on Another Life (S/N Alliance) In their hands, the two-piano format — occasionally augmented by electronics — sounds like a full orchestra. Add the renowned drumming of John Hollenbeck to the mix and you’ve got yourself one of the most unique sounding trio projects of the year. “The Dawn Wall,” one of the record’s originals, is a fine balance of virtuosic nuance and compositional focus. The track is packed with dramatic suspensions, dense harmonies and a touch of cinematic mystery; a crescendo building up to a cascading finale. Elsewhere, the three musicians apply their craft to wide-ranging material, from Radiohead to Jerome Kern and beyond.


Jennifer Hartswick

Something in the Water

“By the River”

(Brother Mister)

“My music is blossoming,” says vocalist, trumpeter and composer Jennifer Hartswick in a press release accompanying her recent release Something in the Water (Brother Mister Productions). Listening to the track “By the River,” it’s hard to disagree. The song gleefully reflects the current moment in her evolution as an artist, building on a career that includes her tenure as a founding member of the Trey Anastasio Band. An upbeat celebration of childlike wonderment, it marries inspirational lyrics with the vitality of New Orleans’ signature second line sound and serves as a sanguine centerpiece to Something in the Water. The album reprises Hartwick’s collaboration with bassist Christian McBride, whose Brother Mister Productions imprint released the record in collaboration with Mack Avenue.


Michael Orenstein

Aperture

“Ode to Manuel”

(Origin)

Michael Orenstein’s debut album as a leader, Aperture (Origin) feels like the affirmation of a promising young talent of piano jazz to come. His music matches theory, practice and invention, drawing from an impressively wide range of influences and styles. Among them, an exploration of the temporal organization of the Cuban clave on “Ode to Manuel,” written by Orenstein in tribute to pianist Manuel Valera. This track is a vigorous showcase of style and groove, as well as the tight chemistry between the California-based musician and his core trio members, bassist Logan Kane and drummer Myles Martin.


Cameron Graves

Live From the Seven Spheres

“Sacred Sphere”

(Mack Avenue)

Visionary keyboardist Cameron Graves created “thrash-jazz” by blending classical, jazz, fusion and heavy metal. He continues to propel this unique music forward on his new live album, Live From the Seven Spheres (Mack Avenue). The record features reimaginings of selected tracks from his previous studio outings, Planetary Prince (2017) and Seven (2021), performed with his powerhouse quartet. Among them, “Sacred Sphere” from the latter album that, despite clocking in at around the three-minute mark, unravels with great intensity and packs a mean punch. A manifestation of focused virtuosity, this version features guitarist Colin Cook’s shredding acrobatics in an even more prominent role.


Christopher James

A Rose in the Canyon

“Blue in the 2nd Degree”

(Val Gardena Music)

For his latest project, composer Christopher James assembled a cast of some of New York’s finest first-call instrumentalists and talented orchestrators. Each of its tracks feels like a journey. The title of the record, A Rose in the Canyon (Val Gardena Music), suggests imagery that is strongly poetic. It draws attention to the evocative nature of its music, which originated as a set of piano improvisations and eventually evolved into a final, beautifully orchestrated coup de maître. On ”Blue in the 2nd Degree,” an elegant and breezy composition with exotic flourishes, James tiptoes around the blues scale with explorative purpose. And when Jim Beard breaks free to take his glorious piano solo, he sounds like the manifestation of insatiable musical wanderlust.


John Armato

The Drummer Loves Ballads

“The Shadows of Paris”

(Self Release)

On the surface, drummer John Armato’s full-length debut album may appear to be a collection of reimagined ballads written by or made famous by some of the world’s most acclaimed bandleaders. However, it doesn’t take long for one to realize that the self-released The Drummer Loves Ballads is much more than that. The hint is in its prelude, one of the program’s three spoken-word tracks through which Armato provides an autobiographical narrative arc highlighting his connection with the art of the ballad. It’s also worth mentioning that the sole original composition, “At the Trocadero,” the most personal piece on the album, is a song commemorating a now-forgotten jazz club in Kansas City that was a favorite destination for Armato’s parents when they were dating.

Another hint, of course, is in the album’s title. Its premise is fulfilled by Armato’s beautiful arrangements, often marrying wide-ranging influences and giving new meaning to the cliché “breathing new life into well-worn standards.” Take, for instance, his version of Henry Mancini’s passionate tale of illicit love, “The Shadows of Paris,” from the 1962 film A Shot in the Dark. Here, Armato’s chiaroscuro arrangement enhances the emotional charge of the original piece with the melancholic charge of Johannes Brahms, while occasionally nodding to the vintage Parisian jazz scene of the fabled days of Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli with tasteful flourishes. Elsewhere, his version of Ahmad Jamal’s “Poinciana” utilizes an even more radical approach by reimagining the famous original as a shuffle. Examples are countless and additional facts and stories behind each of the tracks on The Drummer Loves Ballads can be found on a web site that Armato has created especially for this release.

At the core of the project is a quartet that is occasionally complemented by lush string and wind arrangements provided by Paul Roberts. The sweeping orchestral arrangements are performed by more than 25 musicians, including jazz greats Houston Person and Warren Vaché. Vocalists Lisa Henry and Lucy Wijnands are also featured — the latter’s sultry vocals are heard on “The Shadows of Paris.” “Passion,” “romance” and “midnight” are some of the words that come to mind upon listening to The Drummer Loves Ballads. Armato manages to evoke the warmth of classical jazz recordings, while maintaining the clarity of contemporary sound.


Charles Mingus

The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s

“The Man Who Never Sleeps”

(Resonance)

Charles Mingus’ two-week residency at Ronnie Scott’s is the stuff of legend. In her insightful book Tonight at Noon, Sue Mingus wrote about her husband’s 1972 stint at the celebrated London jazz club, detailing a phone call between her (back in the States) and Scott, in which the club owner initially reported that Mingus had thrown tenor saxophonist Bobby Jones down a flight of steps. (Apparently, Jones was drunk and fell on his own, but was well enough to return to the bandstand.) One thing Scott did get right was his assessment of the music, which he described as “utterly fantastic.” The proof is now available on the triple-disc set The Lost Album From Ronnie Scott’s (Resonance), featuring never-released recordings from August 14-15, 1972. A 19-year-old Jon Faddis instrumentally converses with Mingus on the introduction to “The Man Who Never Sleeps,” our selection, trumpet and bass bantering like a squabbling couple. Mingus’ elegant composition displays deep Ellingtonian roots, as he and Faddis are joined by pianist John Foster, saxophonists Jones and Charles McPherson and drummer Roy Brooks, the ensemble unwinding the bluesy melody over 18 and a half captivating minutes.


Scott LaFaro

Pieces of Jade

“Woody ‘N’ You”

(Resonance)

Although he died at the age of 25, Scott LaFaro made a tremendous impression on the jazz world. The bassist is best remembered for his work in the Bill Evans Trio, although his tragically truncated career also included assignments with Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton, Ornette Coleman and Chet Baker, among others. LaFaro was at a creative peak in the summer of 1961, having just recorded the landmark Evans Trio albums Sunday at the Village Vanguard and Waltz for Debby, when he was involved in the car accident that took his life. Sometime earlier that year, LaFaro had recorded a brief, impromptu session with pianist Don Friedman and drummer Pete LaRoca, which was released on disc in 2009 as Pieces of Jade (Resonance). The trio works out on energetic reads of the standards “I Hear a Rhapsody” and “Green Dolphin Street,” offers a couple of takes of Friedman’s jaunty “Sacre Bléu,” and dives headlong into Dizzy Gillespie’s “Woody’n You,” our selection. Taken at breakneck speed, the bop classic is propelled by LaFaro’s fast-walking bass line and LaRoca’s driving rhythms, which light a fire under Friedman’s rocket-fueled keyboard attack.


Alex "Apolo" Ayala

Bambula

“Bozales”

(Truth Revolution)

With Bámbula (Truth Revolution), his debut album as a leader, Alex “Apolo” Ayala crafted a deeply personal statement of identity that harks back to forebears both ancient and immediate. The bassist and composer incorporates the rhythms and textures of bomba, a musical form that came to the shores of his native Puerto Rico centuries ago with enslaved Africans, and also pays heartfelt tribute to his late mother and grandmother. Ayala, a busy player on the New York City jazz and Latin music scenes, recruited simpatico sidemen to help him realize his musical vision of combining Afro-Puerto Rican roots with straightahead jazz sizzle: saxophonist Ivan Renta, drummer Fernando García and bomba drum specialist Nelson Mateo Gonzalez. The results are thrilling, as evidenced on the track “Bozales,” included here. Ayala and Renta kick off the tune with unison lines, as García thunders away on his kit. The bassist’s swift and melodious solos punctuate the piece in meaningful interludes, and his interaction with Gonzalez’s fiery percussion toward song’s end is simply mesmerizing.


Or Bareket

Sahar

“Temperance”

(Enja)

Sahar, the title of Or Bareket’s new album for the Enja label, carries several different meanings: In Bareket’s native Hebrew, it translates to “crescent,” while in Arabic languages it can be interpreted as the time just before dawn or early morning. As the Israeli-born, New York-based bass player and composer told JAZZIZ’s Jonathan Widran, he was aiming for that dreamy territory on “the edge of night right before dawn, and the state of mind associated with that.” Bareket certainly succeeds, his contemplative playing and compositions combining deep Middle Eastern roots with modern-jazz sensibilities. Like-minded colleagues — saxophonist/organist Morgan Guerin, pianist Jeremy Corren, drummer Savannah Harris and producer Joel Ross — provide a cohesive, mood-rich sound palette. Corren’s melancholy piano opens “Temperance,” our selection, and he’s soon joined by Guerin’s emotive tenor and Harris’ light percussive touch, all underpinned by Bareket’s sensitive bass motif. The piece grows in intensity, sparkling with the electronic sounds of EWI, before returning to its introspective origins.


Brian Landrus

Red List

“Leatherbacks”

(Palmetto)

Baritone saxophonist and bass clarinetist Brian Landrus has carved out a niche as a go-to player on the New York City jazz scene. A life-long animal lover, he’s now helping creatures whose niches are not so secure. Landrus’ 11th album as a leader, Red List (Palmetto), raises both funds and awareness for existentially threatened wildlife. The reedist penned songs that point out the plight of vaquitas, rhinos and elephants, as well as the dwindling habitats upon which they and other species depend. His sense of urgency is echoed by his band mates on Red List, who bring a shared purpose to these sessions. The reggae groove of “Leatherbacks,” propelled by bassist Lonnie Plaxico, drummer Rudy Royston and percussionist John Hadfield, conjures the motion and milieu of these ancient sea turtles, who are slaughtered by the thousands for their meat, skin and eggs, as well as victimized by net fishing. Like filtered sunlight broaching the waves, Geoffrey Keezer’s keyboards, Nir Felder’s guitar and Corey King’s wordless vocals offer testimony to the beauty of these animals, as does Landrus’ poignant bass clari solo.


Burton/McPherson Trio

The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village

“Low Bridge”

(Giant Step Arts)

During the pandemic lockdown, while jazz fans were jonesing for live music and musicians anxiously awaited the reopening of venues, Jimmy Katz had an inspiration: Why not start an outdoors concert series in Central Park? In 2020, the veteran jazz photographer and Giant Step Arts founder inaugurated the Walk With the Wind series, which presented some of New York’s top jazz practitioners on the former site of the historic Seneca Village. Among the bands who performed for the series at Summit Rock, the park’s highest natural elevation, were the Burton/McPherson Trio, one of two acts whose concert was recorded and recently released by the Giant Step Arts imprint. The Summit Rock Session at Seneca Village showcases the remarkable synergy of saxophonist Abraham Burton, bassist Dezron Douglas and drummer Eric McPherson. Douglas kicks off “Low Bridge,” included here, with a thrilling bass solo; he’s soon joined by McPherson for an intriguing duet that establishes the underlying rhythmic motif. McPherson enters tentatively at first before his bluesy, expressive blowing engages in captivating conversation with his trio mates.


John Lee

The Artist

“September in the Rain”

(Cellar Live)

Vancouver jazz scenester John Lee had a difficult decision to make. More than proficient on bass, drums, piano, organ and guitar, the South Korean-born Berklee grad pondered which instruments he should play on his debut recording, The Artist (Cellar Live). Ultimately, he heeded the advice of Cellar Live chief and frequent collaborator Cory Weeds and opted to remain behind the double bass, while leaving other instrumentation to his band mates. Pianist Miles Black and drummer Carl Allen round out Lee’s trio, while Weeds lends tenor sax to three tracks. Lee’s taste is obvious in his playing as well as his song selection; he culls tunes from the songbooks of Mulgrew Miller, Benny Green, Joshua Redman and George Robert, and completes the song cycle with a couple of original tunes and a couple of standards. Among the latter is a jaunty, tempo-shifting romp through Harry Warren and Al Dubin’s “September in the Rain,” with Black sauntering happily in the company of Lee’s walking bass lines and Allen’s dancing drum patterns. It all adds up to a rather cheerful rendition of a durable melody that’s been covered by everyone from Al Jolson and Dinah Washington to The Beatles and Rod Stewart.