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.

Dan Blake

Da Fé

“Cry of the East”

(Sunnyside)

The title of saxophonist and composer Dan Blake’s latest album Da Fé (Sunnyside) translates to “of faith,” a term many may link to the “auto da fé,” a particularly grim component of the Spanish Inquisition in which heretics were burned alive. Blake, a practicing Buddhist, hopes to reclaim the words and to gin up faith in a better future for the Earth and its inhabitants. He’s particularly alarmed by the climate catastrophe that’s engulfed the planet, while realizing that faith — as opposed to hopelessness — is the only way to right the ship. The saxophonist, whose credits run from Esperanza Spalding to Anthony Braxton, expresses concern for other pressing world matters through his music, including the plight of the Palestinian people — indeed, all people who’ve suffered because of policies of the West — to which he dedicates the track “Cry of the East.” Inspired by John Coltrane, Blake plays a sinewy soprano, his buoyant, yearning tone supported by pianist Carmen Staaf, keyboardist Leo Genovese, bassist Dmitry Ishenko and drummer Jeff Williams. Interestingly, Blake says his purchase of Coltrane’s rather thorny album Meditations when he was 12 years old nearly scared him away from jazz. However, he stuck with it and now lists the album among his favorites.


Cowboys & Frenchmen

Our Highway

“Where Is Your Wealth?”

(Outside In Music)

With touring on hold for the foreseeable future, Cowboys & Frenchman’s latest release, Our Highway (Outside in Music), seems almost nostalgic. The album was conceived of before the COVID lockdown, a project documenting in music and video the travels of the New York-based quintet as they traversed the country. Saxophonist Ethan Helm had come up with the theme as a way to stitch together the disparate cultures and attitudes that make up the nation, as expressed in song. Certainly, the group’s rambles had exposed them to both divisions and commonalities across the U.S., the former ever widening during a time of intense political conflagration. Helm took it as his mission to remind Americans of the beautiful, complex land they inhabit, musically chronicling the hustle of the big city and the serenity of less urban locales. The meditative “Where Is Your Wealth?” begins with pianist Addison Frei, bassist Ethan O’Reilly and drummer Matt Honor’s moody rhythmic intro. Helm and fellow saxophonist Owen Broder entwine in melancholy unison lines, and the tune’s title would indicate that it’s questioning priorities of either (or both) a material and spiritual nature. The music was recorded live at SubCulture in New York City, and the audience’s applause at song’s end may leave you wistful for a night out at a jazz club.


Elise Morris

Dancin' with the Boys

“Mardi Gras”

(Jazzbo)

As with many Northerners, Elise Morris is familiar with the winter doldrums. Her solution? Head south to a land with warmer climes and brighter colors, namely, New Orleans. “Don’t give me New York City,” she sings on “Mardi Gras,” the kickoff tune to her album Dancin’ With the Boys (Jazzbo), “I just want something pretty from the Mardi Gras.” While the music doesn’t conjure Professor Longhair or Walter “Wolfman” Washington, it definitely rings with the exuberant spirit of Carnival, which wrapped in February, when snow blanketed a good portion of the country above (and below) the Mason-Dixon Line. Supported by her Band-o-Matic band and a contingent of top-shelf horn players, Morris speaks for anyone dreaming of ditching the snowboots and trekking down Bourbon Street for some fried fish and hot jazz. Apparently, the song hit a nerve, not just with the snowbound, but perhaps with those longing to escape the confines of their own homes during COVID lockdown; released as a single, “Mardi Gras” went to No. 1 on the U.S. iTunes Jazz Charts and No. 3 on the Billboard Jazz Digital Sales Charts.


Jarrod Lawson

Be the Change

“Love Isn’t Always Enough”

(Dome)

Among the many admirers of neo-soul singer, composer and keyboardist Jarrod Lawson count veteran percussionist Sammy Figueroa. A sideman with Miles Davis, Herbie Hancock and Chaka Khan to name a few, Figueroa was knocked out by Lawson’s 2014 debut recording, eventually tracking him down to let him know that he’d like to collaborate. The results can be heard on Lawson’s latest release, Be the Change (Dome), a collection of the singer’s original songs which range from the personal to the socio-political. Lawson composed the album’s title track, which borrows Mahatma Gandhi’s instruction to “be the change you want to see in the world,” after meeting Figueroa in 2017, and the percussionist subsequently toured and recorded with Lawson’s band. The song could hardly be more timely, as the singer urges listeners to look beyond the political divisions that have riven the country in recent years. But with touchstones such as Stevie Wonder and Donny Hathaway, the Califonia-and-Oregon-raised singer also knows his way around a love song. Written while he was going through a divorce, the heartbroken “Love Isn’t Always Enough” sounds like a vintage 1970s soul tune, testing the tensile strength of Lawson’s tremolo and falsetto. The song reached the top of the Indie Soul Chart in February.


Yoko Miwa Trio

Songs of Joy

“Largo Desolato”

(Ubuntu)

Pianist Yoko Miwa had every reason to record an album of sorrowful music. During the pandemic, her home club, Les Zygomates in Boston — where she and her trio held a long-running Saturday night residency — was forced to close. Sessions for her next recording were put on hold. And, tragically, her father died. However, when she, bassist Will Slater and drummer Scott Goulding finally returned to the studio after a four-month performance hiatus, the joy they felt in reuniting spilled over into the recording. Miwa had been productive during the lockdown, vowing to compose music every day and to try to remain positive even as she was beset by challenges, and the contrasting emotions can be felt throughout the trio’s resultant recording, Songs of Joy (Ubuntu). That’s certainly true of her composition “Largo Desolato,” which moves forward with an irrepressible momentum, while also containing an undercurrent of anxiety just below the surface. Ultimately, though, Miwa’s exuberance wins out, like the sun bursting through clouds or like traffic returning to previously deserted streets.


Jana Herzen

Jana Herzen Live

“With an Open Heart”

(Motema Music)

Singer-songwriter and Motéma label chief Jana Herzen leads a five-piece band on an album she recorded at Joe’s Pub in New York City in October 2019. With her husband, Charnett Moffett, on bass; Brian Jackson on piano and keyboards; Irwin Hall on saxophone and flute; and Corey Garcia on drums, Jana Herzen Live (Motéma) offers a collection of Herzen’s jazzy, Caribbean-influenced pop songs driven by her accomplished lead and rhythm guitar. These were no random selections, but rather a preview of the music from her January 2020 studio release, Nothing but Love. Herzen points out that the studio album featured violinist Scott Tixier and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., and carried more of an Americana vibe, while the live album contains more of a swing feel and features a greater degree of improvisation. As with several of her tunes, “With an Open Heart” moves to a gentle Caribbean groove also reflected in Herzen’s playful vocals. Her rhythmic strum is bolstered by Moffett’s ever-melodic fretless electric bass lines and punctuated by Jackson’s sunny piano and Hall’s ebullient soprano sax. Performed before the COVID lockdown, the show at Joe’s Pub was intended as a teaser to the studio album, which was released just as the world was becoming aware of the coronavirus and responding accordingly.


David Garfield

Jazz Outside the Box

“Rainbow Seeker”

(Creatchy)

As a sideman with Freddie Hubbard, George Benson and Willie Bobo, pianist and keyboardist David Garfield learned how to inject plenty of excitement into his performance. And, naturally, he accrued a stellar Rolodex over the years, which came in handy when he started his Outside the Box series in 2017; the Chicago native and Los Angeles resident called on all-star friends and colleagues to join him in the studio on a string of singles and albums such as Vox Outside the Box and Jammin’ Outside the Box. For Jazz Outside the Box (Creatchy), Garfield assembled a typically outstanding ensemble comprising a who’s who of contemporary jazz luminaries. Honoring Joe Sample, an important mentor, Garfield interprets one of the late keyboardist’s compositions, “Rainbow Seeker,” from his 1978 album of the same name. The track features guitarist Dean Parks, who played on Sample’s original version, and percussionist Lenny Castro, a longtime member of Sample’s band, as well as the top-shelf rhythm team of bassist Marcus Miller and drummer Steve Jordan. Guitarist Chuck Loeb, who died in 2017, also contributes sparkling leads in one of his final recorded performances. Garfield’s percolating keyboards power the proceedings, as he alternates between electric and acoustic instruments and evinces the positivity at the heart of so much of Sample’s music.


Chick Corea

Plays

“Someone To Watch Over Me”

(Concord Jazz)

On the cusp of 80, Chick Corea remains a master of communication — with audiences and, of course, with his piano. On the live double-album Plays (Concord Jazz), Corea briefly discusses the music he’s about to share before diving into the songbooks of Mozart, Gershwin, Bill Evans, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Thelonious Monk, alone at the piano. The sprawling collection, recorded at venues in Florida and Europe, also includes Corea’s improvised portraits as well as a selection of his beloved Children’s Songs. “I’m gonna begin with an improvisation that leads into a Mozart sonata,” he explains at the start of the first section. “Then, after that, I’m gonna put Gershwin together with Mozart, you know, as if the two of them sat down together to have a talk. In my mind, these two pieces mix together very well.” Corea proves his thesis as he launches into a lovely and emotional, but never maudlin, read of “Someone To Watch Over Me,” eroding the divisions between classical music, pop standard and dazzling jazz improvisation and providing a blueprint to the music he’s been creating for decades.


Sonny Rollins

In Holland

“Tune Up”

(Resonance)

By 1967, Sonny Rollins was no stranger to European audiences. The saxophonist had been a frequent presence on the continent for about a decade when he traveled to the Netherlands and performed with the Dutch rhythm team of bassist Ruud Jacobs and drummer Han Bennink. Live and studio performances from that mini-tour, some unheard since then, have been released on the new two-disc (three-LP) set In Holland (Resonance), capturing a period during which Rollins was in the midst of a six-year recording hiatus. The trio plumbed Rollins’ repertoire, including standards as well as the original “Sonnymoon for Two” and a couple of Miles Davis songs Rollins had made his own, “Four” and “Tune Up.” Originally recorded on his 1957 release Newk’s Time, the latter number receives a sprightly update from the threesome, beginning with Bennink’s cracking snare-drum intro. Rollins, in excellent voice, unspools a trademark speed-of-thought improvisation over the galloping rhythms, at once edgy and incredibly tuneful. Jacobs and Bennink each have plenty of space to blow, the bassist unleashing a dexterous solo followed by the ever-creative drummer’s explosive yet textured solo. One of four performances captured during a studio session in Hilversum, the tracks were rediscovered and digitalized in 2017 by Dutch journalist and researcher Frank Jochemsen. The Resonance package includes detailed liner notes by Rollins biographer Aidan Levy, as well as photographs from the tour.


Christian Sands

Be Water

“Crash”

(Mack Avenue Records)

In an oft-quoted aphorism about adaptability, martial arts master Bruce Lee touted the mutability of good old H2O. “You put water into a cup, it becomes the cup,” he explained. “You put water into a bottle, it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow, or it can crash. Be water, my friend.” This advice wasn’t lost on pianist and composer Christian Sands, whose latest recording, Be Water (Mack Avenue), utilizes the principles extolled by Lee in various musical settings. Sands and his rhythm team of bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Clarence Penn remain at the center of the 10 tracks, which variously add guitar, electric piano, organ, horns and strings. However, the quietly exuberant “Crash” showcases the unadorned trio, with Nakamura’s resonant bass lines and Penn’s splashy cymbals providing depth and motion beneath Sands’ silvery shimmer, truly evoking the forward propulsion of a rushing river. Whether crashing or flowing, Sands’ piano retains its essential qualities of creative expression.


The Royal Bopsters

Party of Four

“On a Misty Night/Gipsy”

(Motéma)

Following in the footsteps of Lambert, Hendrix and Ross and The Manhattan Transfer, The Royal Bopsters display a dazzling mastery of vocalese, a jazz idiom in which singers fit lyrics to instrumental jazz solos. The group’s latest recording, Party of Four (Motéma), also marks a sad milestone with the passing of alto vocalist Holli Ross (no relation to Annie Ross of L, H & R fame), who lost her battle with cancer earlier this year. Ross is in excellent voice throughout the album’s dozen tracks, blending with fellow Bopsters Amy London, Pete McGuinness and Dylan Pramuk on a set of classic tunes that include entries from Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer and Wayne Shorter and Doug Carn. Along the way, they expand the party to include venerable guest vocalists Sheila Jordan and Bob Dorough, as well as bassist Christian McBride, who features on Pramuk’s arrangement of a mash-up of Tadd Dameron’s “On a Misty Night” with Billy Reid’s “Gipsy.” The Bopsters’ silky harmonies and solos on the former mimic the Dameron big band sound, whereas their rendition of the latter makes use of Georgie Fame’s vocalese writing for a Chet Baker trumpet solo. Pianist Steve Schmidt and drummer Steve Williams, as throughout, provide superb rhythmic accompaniment. Party of Four is an excellent and engaging example of vocalese and a fitting tribute to Ross.


Conrad Herwig

Latin Side of Horace Silver

“Nica’s Dream”

(Savant)

For two and a half decades, trombonist Conrad Herwig has been putting an Afro-Latin spin on straightahead jazz with his “Latin Side of” recordings. For his latest project, The Latin Side of Horace Silver (Savant), Herwig dives into the songbook of the “Hardbop Grandpop,” whose grounding in the folk music of Cape Verde makes him an ideal subject for Afro-Latinization. Joined by a band of A-listers — saxophonists Igor Butman and Craig Handy, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, pianist Bill O’Connell, bassist Ruben Rodriguez, drummer Robby Ameen and conguero Richie Flores — Herwig emphasizes the Latin rhythms of the Silver repertoire, reimagining classics such as “Song for My Father” and “Filthy McNasty,” with arranging assistance from O’Connell. The album kicks off with a sterling read of “Nica’s Dream,” as Flores’ congas drive the action on the bottom end, and the horns play in joyous unison. Maestro Herwig takes the first solo spot, setting a high bar for his band mates, which they reach with aplomb, cheered on by a live audience (remember those?). Similarly, the flag-waving opener is a hard act to follow, but Herwig and company (including pianist Michel Camilo, who guests on three tracks) are more than up to the task, providing fresh interpretations from a beloved songbook.


Rudresh Mahanthappa

Hero Trio

“Barbados/26-2”

(Whirlwind)

With Hero Trio (Whirlwind), saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa honors his influences and inspirations by offering updates of their classic works. As he notes in the liners, after 15 albums of original music, he was more than ready to re-examine the music that set him on his path. Of course, Charlie Parker and John Coltrane are represented, as are Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman and Lee Konitz, all of whom worked in the sax-trio format Mahanthappa hews to here. But he also includes scrupulously jazzified tunes by Stevie Wonder and June Carter Cash, recognizing their imprint on his aesthetic from outside the jazz world. Mahanthappa offers a two-fer with his mash-up of “Barbados” and “26-2,” numbers by Parker and Coltrane, respectively. The leader’s piquant alto maintains an edgy urgency throughout, as he balances atop a jagged rhythm supplied by bassist François Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston. While borrowing from the stylistic vocabulary established by Bird and Trane, Mahanthappa is hardly imitative; he and his rhythm team take a uniquely 21st-century approach to the jazz canon.


John Beasley's MONK'estra

M'ONKestra Plays John Beasley

“Be.YOU.tiful”

(Mack Avenue Records)

On their previous albums, John Beasley’s MONK’estra offered imaginative takes on music from Thelonious Monk’s enduring songbook. For their third release, M’ONKestra Plays John Beasley (Mack Avenue), the band certainly evokes its namesake —they interpret a quartet of Monk classics — while also adding compositions by its piano-playing leader, who penned eight of the 14 tracks. Various permutations of the MONK’estra are featured throughout, from the full 16-piece big band to smaller ensembles, and utilize guests such as harmonicist Grègoire Maret, Hammond B3 wizard Joey DeFrancesco and vocalist Jubilant Sykes. Beasley pares down to a trio on his composition “Be.YOU.tiful,” a twinkling, bluesy gem, accompanied by bassist John Patitucci and drummer Vinnie Colaiuta. Unrushed by the rhythm section, Beasley luxuriates in mood and melody, his playing almost meditative as Patitucci shadows his steps and Colaiuta lays down a silvery scrim with brushes. As with other songs on the album, the tune powerfully calls to mind the era in which Monk thrived, while commenting on the man and his times through a 21st-century prism.


John Surman Lucian Ban Mat Maneri

Transylvanian Folk Songs

“The Dowry Song”

(Sunnyside)

Early in the 20th century, Hungarian composer Béla Bartok began his investigations into the Romanian folk music of Transylvania. Traveling through the countryside, he made field recordings documenting the region’s indigenous music, eventually amassing more than 3,000 songs comprising six catalogues, which certainly had an imprint on his own work. One hundred years later, Lucian Ban, John Surman and Mat Maneri look to Bartok’s collections for inspiration on their release Transylvanian Folk Songs (Sunnyside). Pianist Ban, who grew up in Transylvania, has frequently found sustenance in the music of his homeland. Maneri, who grew up in Boston, also came to the music of Bartok early in his development, recognizing the folkloric connection to rock and modern classical music. After conceiving of a project that would launch from the Bartok field recordings, Ban and Maneri recruited master reedist John Surman, who grew up in the English countryside, as the third side to their triangle. Among the tunes they interpret, allowing plenty of space for personal expression, “The Dowry Song” opens the collection on a sprightly note. Surman’s edgy baritone saxophone engages in a stately dance with Ban’s rhythmic piano motif, the pair soon joined by Maneri’s stringent viola. The piece grows in intensity as it unfolds, whirling like revelers at a wedding who have enjoyed the free libations before quieting into somewhat somber reflection.


Liberty Ellman

Last Desert

“The Sip”

(Pi)

For 20 years, Liberty Ellman’s tart, taut guitar lines have provided an essential color to Henry Threadgill’s Zooid ensemble. So perhaps it’s inevitable that his latest solo recording, Last Desert (Pi), would bear some sonic echoes of his work with Threadgill, particularly in that Zooid bandmate Jose Davila joins him once again on tuba. Also returning to the guitarist’s side are saxophonist Steve Lehman, trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Damion Reid, all of whom appeared on his 2015 release Radiate. Ellman’s sparse and economical playing blends beautifully with the group sound, a carefully constructed tapestry in which texture and mood triumph over displays of individual virtuosity. Which isn’t to say that the players aren’t masterful, just that they’re willing to subsume their egos for the sake of the song. Such is the case with leadoff track “The Sip,” in which Ellman quietly begins the tune in conversation with Crump’s resonant bass notes before the horns slip into the mix. Reid lends pattering support, Davila’s low-end growl teases the ear, and Lehman and Finlayson offer eloquent unisons and solos. While understated, Ellman’s charismatic playing, whether at the fore or in support of his bandmates, proves that the most interesting voices aren’t necessarily the loudest or flashiest.


JD Allen

Toys/Die Dreaming

“The G Thing”

(Savant)

The trio setting has proven a particularly fertile one for tenor saxophonist JD Allen. His latest trio, with bassist Ian Kenselaar and drummer Nic Cacioppo, is a powerful iteration, as heard on 2019’s Barracoon and its followup, this year’s Toys/Die Dreaming (Savant). Allen remains a compelling voice on his instrument, recalling the examples of John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins and David Murray, while also forging a sound unique to the times that shaped the 47-year-old Detroit native. Demonstrating his ability to graft new branches onto his roots, Allen reconceptualizes the jazz standard “You’re My Thrill” in a thrillingly modern fashion, makes a granular examination of the ballad “I Should Care” and nods to even older antecedents with his volcanic closer, “Elegua (The Trickster),” named for a Yoruban deity. His composition “The G Thing” begins with an almost Rollins-on-the-Williamsburg-Bridge type of meditation, as he blows an introspective introductory statement shaded by Kenselaar and Cacioppo’s sensitive support. The tempo evolves into a sultry strut, as the rhythm team shifts into a brisk but unhurried trot. With bluesy brio, Allen evokes an urban, nocturnal excitement not unlike Rollins did with his “Alfie’s Theme.”


Monty Alexander

Love You Madly: Live at Bubba’s

“Arthur’s Theme”

(Resonance)

South Florida jazz fans of a certain age have fond recollections of Bubba’s, a Fort Lauderdale nightspot that attracted jazz giants such as Ahmad Jamal, Sonny Stitt and Carmen McRae. Pianist Monty Alexander, who had moved to Miami from his native Kingston, Jamaica, as a teenager, was already an international star when he played the room with his quartet in 1982. Fortunately, the performances were captured on tape by Criteria Studios founder Mac Emmerman, the music comprising the new double-album release Love You Madly: Live at Bubba’s (Resonance). Culled from Alexander’s own collection, the tapes reveal the pianist at the peak of his powers, as he delves into a wide-ranging set that dips into jazz and Brazilian standards, blues and reggae, each expertly evinced by the pianist and his group. Doubling down on rhythm, Alexander is supported by drummer Duffy Jackson and percussionist Bobby Thomas Jr. (of Weather Report fame) as well as superb bassist Paul Berner, who had played with Lionel Hampton. Alexander has long been among the most engaging of performers, honing his communicative skills with audiences at hotels, bars and restaurants throughout South Florida. That charm is evident from the jump, as the pianist kicks off the set with an instrumental read of “Arthur’s Theme,” the hit from the then-new movie. Alexander and his rhythm team start out with loungey, laid-back swing, before taking improvisational flight into the Caribbean and Latin America for a heart-racing finish.


Richard Baratta

Music in Film: The Reel Deal

“Everybody’s Talkin”

(Savant)

Before becoming a Hollywood producer, Richard Baratta was a serious jazz drummer on the New York City scene of the 1970s and ’80s. Seeking a change, he moved out west and worked his way up the ladder in the film industry, eventually producing hit films such as Joker and The Irishman. But the music still called to him. After finding himself back on the bandstand alongside top talents such as Eric Alexander, Mike LeDonne and Marcus Printup, Baratta decided to trade the film set for the drum set once again. The Tenafly, New Jersey, resident put together a crack ensemble and hit the studio for what would be his debut recording, Music in Film: The Reel Deal (Savant). The concept was simple — he’d play music from films he’d loved or been involved in making. So the session includes the Bacharach-David title song from Alfie; tunes from the movie musicals Rent, West Side Story and The Sound of Music; themes from the big screen (The Godfather) and small (Peter Gunn); and even The Beatles’ “Come Together,” which was used in the film Across the Universe. Baratta and company bring a lively, almost blithe interpretation to Fred Neil’s wistful “Everybody’s Talkin’,” from the Oscar-winning Midnight Cowboy. Saxophonist Vincent Herring and guitarist Paul Bollenback deliver engaging solos over the unrelenting swing laid down by Baratta, pianist and arranger Bill O’Connell and bassist Michael Goetz. O’Connell also unleashes a corker of a solo, more than keeping pace with the swift-moving rhythm section.


Eddie Daniels

Night Kisses: A Tribute to Ivan Lins

“D’Aquilo Que Eu Sei”

(Resonance)

Reed master Eddie Daniels follows his 2018 tribute to Egberto Gismonti with an album dedicated to the music of another compositional genius — Ivan Lins. Having started out as a tenor saxophonist, Daniels is widely celebrated for his clarinet playing; for Night Kisses: A Tribute to Ivan Lins (Resonance), he also adds flute to his arsenal, an instrument he hadn’t played in years. “I feel that the lightness and the spirituality of the flute gave the music another color,” he says in the album’s liner notes. “Even when the music is not so fast, it’s sparkly, it’s exciting.” That’s certainly the case with his version of Lins’ “D’Aquilo Que Eu Sei,” a tune on which Daniels’ breezy flute sails over the brisk strings of the Harlem Quartet and is bolstered by the jazz rhythm section of pianist Josh Nelson, bassist Kevin Axt and drummer Mauricio Zottarelli. The tune, from Lins’ 1981 album of the same name, carries a message of hope and reaffirmation for those who had fought against and triumphed over Brazil’s dictatorship; its title translates to “That Which I Know,” and Kuno Schmidt’s arrangement certainly bears an optimistic tone. In addition to Schmidt and Nelson, Bob James and Dave Grusin also lend their arranging and playing skills to the album, Daniels’ 30th since his 1966 debut.