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.

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.


Jason Palmer

Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village

“Self Portrait (Rembrandt)”

(Giant Step Arts)

Along with the Burton/McPherson Trio, the Jason Palmer Quartet was among the jazz groups invited to perform for the Walk With the Wind concert series in Central Park during pandemic lockdown. Also like the trio, the trumpet player and his group were recorded during their performance, the results of which can be heard on Live From Summit Rock in Seneca Village (Giant Step Arts). Palmer selected material from his previous two albums for Giant Step Arts, including “Self Portrait (Rembrandt),” an extended version of which unfolds here in the company of tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Edward Perez and drummer Johnathan Blake. The tune begins with a richly melodic solo bass statement and a compelling bass-drums exchange that ratchets up the excitement. Turner, then Palmer, take their time developing emotionally complex solos, each beautifully supported by Perez and Blake. The song hails from Palmer’s 2020 recording The Concert: 12 Musings for Isabella, which was inspired by works of art heisted from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990; pieces by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and Degas were never recovered.


Roberto Occhipinti

The Next Step

“The Next Step”

(Modica Music)

Like so many musicians, bassist Roberto Occhipinti had some time on his hands during the pandemic lockdown. With clubs shut down in his native Toronto, and touring at a virtual standstill, he holed up in his studio, inviting other musicians to come by and play. Among them were pianist Adrian Farrugia and drummer Larnell Lewis, whose excellent rapport with the bassist can be heard on their subsequent trio recording The Next Step (Modica Music). Having played in Afro-Cuban jazz ensembles, classical orchestras and even in Stevie Wonder’s touring band, Occhipinti realized his dream to helm a piano trio album. His exceptional technique is on display throughout, but always in service of the music, which spans Jimmy Rowles, Jaco Pastorius and Alessandro Scarlatti. Occhipinti’s original compositions also reveal wide-ranging tastes and influences, as he intertwines jazz and classical sensibilities on pieces such as the album’s title track, included here. Yearning arco and pizzicato statements open the tune on a wistful note, the mood of which is mirrored by Farrugia and Lewis’ sensitive playing. The song takes a hopeful turn as it progresses, opening up to joyful expression that seems all the sweeter for that which preceded it.


Manel Fortia

Despertar

“Circular”

(Segell Microscopi)

Barcelona-born bassist Manel Fortià caught the jazz world’s attention last year with the release of Arrels, a potent combination of free-jazz and flamenco that proved both a signature sound and a palimpsest for future work. His latest project, Despertar, arrives just one year later but brings with it a fresh direction. Fortià is a masterful composer of great breadth and imagination, and his new album seeks to distill his recent tenure in New York City — from 2016 to 2020, a pivotal four years for the city, the country and the world — into a nine-song meditation on the rhythms and spirit of the Big Apple. “Circular,” our pick, resides on the sharpened edge of modern jazz, occupying a similar space once inhabited by Fortià’s heroes: bassists Charlie Haden and Gary Peacock. With a spiraling motion befitting of its title, the song takes on a shimmering quality, alive with layers. Throughout, Spanish pianist Marco Mezquida and French drummer Raphaël Pannier are the song’s animating breath.


Caleb Wheeler Curtis

Heatmap

“Limestone”

(Imani Records)

French composer Claude Debussy famously declared that “music is the space between the notes” (a quip that, in the jazz world, has also been attributed to Miles Davis). With the release of Heatmap, multi-instrumentalist Caleb Wheeler Curtis seeks to celebrate that space. Over the course of two previous leader albums, Curtis has established himself as a songwriter of great talent and complexity, penning tunes that shift, transform, unfold and surprise like origami. And yet his latest effort is a more searching affair, one that is built around his own unhurried excursions and those by pianist Orrin Evans and drummer Gerald Cleaver. To provide the album’s foundation, he recruited bassist Eric Revis, whose flickering solo through the cavernous chordscapes of “Limestone” is one of the disc’s brightest points. Each step is deliberate, each pause has meaning.  


Alex Sipiagin

Ascent to the Blues

“Blues for Wood”

(Posi-Tone)

With his latest outing, Ascent to the Blues, Russian trumpeter Alex Sipiagin adds yet another chapter to the evolving narrative that is hard-bop. For his own part, Sipiagin, a jazz faculty member at New York University, brings a mix of influences to the style in an effort to push against its boundaries — folding in elements of the ‘80s downtown New York scene (fitting, as he’s played with Michael Brecker and Dave Holland), Mingus-post-Mingus (he was a member of the Mingus Big Band for more than a decade) and the Cubist jazz renderings of trumpeter Woody Shaw (whom Sipiagin considers an idol). In fact, it’s on a cover of “Blues for Wood,” a Shaw original, that Sipiagin displays some of his most ambitious work, using the composition’s sturdy blues foundation as a platform for his leaping, twisting, somersaulting lines. Hats off to saxophonist Diego Rivera, pianist Art Hirahara, bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Rudy Royston — who together have become something of a Posi-Tone house band — for sustaining the momentum.


Boris Kozlov

First Things First

“Flow”

(Posi-Tone)

A staple in the Posi-Tone rhythm section, bassist Boris Kozlov makes his anticipated label debut as a leader with First Things First. Having proven his versatility in bands led by Michael Brecker, Bobby Watson, Lew Tabackin and Bobby Watson (not to mention holding down the bass chair of the Mingus Big Band on their Grammy-winning album Live at Jazz Standard), he arrives at his latest album with a kaleidoscope of styles and a novel perspective. In addition to his own compositions, the album features contributions from bandmates Donny McCaslin (saxophone), Art Hirahara (piano) and Behn Gillece (vibraphone), as well as the Mingus gem “Eclipse.” “Flow,” our selection, is a Kozlov original that conjures the lapping waters of some faraway shore, McCaslin’s flute rolling effortlessly through Royston’s percussion and Gillece’s rippling chord work. Through it all, Kozlov’s electric bass is a comforting presence, unfurling arpeggios that ground the harmony without disturbing the song’s unflappable calm. 


Diego Rivera

Mestizo

“Rasquache”

(Posi-Tone)

Contrasts — those both real and imagined — have been a theme in saxophonist Diego Rivera’s work since he first arrived on the scene in the 1990s. As a composer and arranger, he is known for crafting melodies that balance brawny, self-propelling drive with lithe, balletic grace. Stylistically, he has made it his mission to walk the line between jazz and the music of his Chicano heritage, identifying points at which they overlap and, even better, complement each other through their singularity. His latest album, Mestizo, plays up to these strengths, amplifying all voices in a potent mix of styles without watering them down. “Rasquache,” which in Chicano slang refers to the attitude of the underdog, is an example of Rivera’s idiom-making at work. In Rivera’s melody — not to mention the incandescent drumming of Rudy Royston — one hears multiple conversations: between the musicians, definitely, but also between cultures and across time.  


Out to Dinner

Episodes of Grace

“We Create”

(Posi-Tone)

Posi-Tone’s Out to Dinner recordings have become much-coveted items in the label’s discography, starting with the group’s first release — Different Flavors — in 2018. More a musical vehicle than a rigid ensemble, each Out to Dinner release features a rotating cast of musicians and a heavy dose of improvisation, with equal emphasis on communication and composition (think Eric Dolphy’s Out to Lunch!, from which the group gets its moniker and raison d’etre). The 2022 affair, Episodes of Grace, features Behn Gillece on vibes, Patrick Cornelius on saxophone, Ryan Keberle on trombone, Boris Kozlov on bass and Rudy Royston on drums — whose cohesion here borders on the telepathic. The sleek and minor-tinged “We Create” features a groove that builds like a thunderstorm. Keberle and Cornelius are emphatic in their solo turns, but it’s not until the whole crew starts wailing that lightning really strikes.


Farnell Newton

Feel the Love

“A Child Not Yet Born”

(Posi-Tone)

Portland-based trumpeter Farnell Newton has always been about lifting up the jazz community. His Jam of the Week group on Facebook is one of the hippest cliques in jazz, in which musicians from around the world post video of themselves improvising to a new tune each week. (It was a godsend during the pandemic years.) His latest album, Feel the Love, is very much about celebrating that community — and the many styles, personalities, moods and grooves that make it up. On the slower side of the set is the tune “A Child Not Yet Born,” a solemn ballad with a joyous heart. In his poignant solo, Newton serves his heroes well, firmly staking out his own voice while hinting at influences from Donald Byrd, Lee Morgan, Kenny Dorham and other trumpeters of the hard-bop ilk. For those in the jazz family — listener and practitioner, living and living on — this album feels like a love letter. 


Art Hirahara

Open Sky

“Open Sky”

(Posi-Tone)

Pianist Art Hirahara’s Open Sky offered a refreshing dose of jazz optimism when it was released in 2021, back when the world was still held captive by the pandemic. Not only was the music full-hearted and uplifting — with melodies that seemed to ride, effortlessly, the winds of jazz and contemporary classical — but the tone of the album was one of purpose-driven accomplishment, the sense of something major being achieved. The album’s title track is emblematic of this “we’ll get through it” attitude. It is triumphant and joyous, but not without its moments of tension and release. Hirahara, vibraphonist Behn Gillece, drummer Rudy Royston and bassist Boris Kozlov are a unified force in evoking the song’s powerful emotional message, employing wide-open harmonics, ringing chords and ascending lines to paint a picture of high spirits and limitless bliss.


Michael Dease

Best Next Thing

“Doxy”

(Posi-Tone)

Trombonist Michael Dease assembles an all-star ensemble for his latest release, Best Next Thing (Posi-Tone), which also includes his frequent collaborator, celebrated pianist Renee Rosnes, in its ranks. Insightfully straight-forward and refreshingly melodic, the record offers a series of new original compositions, plus inventive rearrangements of songs crafted by some of Dease’s musical mentors. As the trombonist points out, there’s more than a little Mingus in his approach to Sonny Rollins’ “Doxy.” “I let my adventurous colleagues inspire my free approach to the melody, solo and group improvisation,” he says in a press release.


Alexa Tarantino

Firefly

“A Moment in Time”

(Posi-Tone)

Among the brightest young voices on saxophone today, Alexa Tarantino positively shimmers on her latest Posi-Tone release, Firefly. The centerpiece of this record is a multi-movement suite titled “A Moment in Time,” described as a semi-autobiographical journey in the mind of an artist during the challenging times of quarantine. The suite opens with the dazzling and joyful original “Daybreak,“ a sonic invitation to “seize the day” and a fine showcase for Tarantino’s compositional prowess. This confident ode to the promise of a brand-new day finds the saxophonist backed by an excellent quartet, and Behn Gillece particularly radiates on vibraphone, lending “Daybreak“ a stimulating accented backdrop of hopefulness and joy.