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Cochemea, Vol. II: Baca Sewa (Daptone)
Cochemea Gastelum has forged his own brand of transcendental groove music. Baca Sewa celebrates his indigenous Mexican heritage with 10 tribal-style tunes, the driving force of which is the irresistible percolation of a large drum ensemble. Cochemea plays alto saxophone (laced with electronic effects) and flute over the top. He’s no chops-smith, but his rugged playing is a plus. Call-and-response chants add sauce. The result is a sound that’s both ancient and futuristic.
Jeff Lederer, Eightfold Path (little (i) music)
Eight simple tunes, each consisting of eight bars, form the backbone of this potent effort by tenor saxophonist Lederer’s Sunwatcher Quartet. Jamie Saft’s spiky organ work is the ideal foil for the leader’s bold, brawny excursions. Recorded outdoors in single takes, the album is fueled by unrelenting vigor. Two meditative tunes (on which Saft switches to piano) add welcome changes of pace.
Julian Lage, Squint (Blue Note)
Guitarist Lage steps up to Blue Note and delivers another enjoyable trio album showcasing his considerable skills and knack for texture — just right measures of fluidity, bite and his signature twang. Lage is effectively the only soloist on Squint, which he’s been on most of his records. At this point, he could use a companion improviser or two.
Anthony Braxton, Quartet (Standards) 2020 (New Braxton House)
Avant-garde icon Braxton’s 13-disc, 67-track box set documents his European tour from last January. The tart-toned saxophonist, backed by a British rhythm section, shines on the more searing jazz standards (e.g. “The Bridge,” “Impressions'') and struggles on the prettier standard tunes, especially ballads (“Prelude to a Kiss,” “Alfie”).
Steven Bernstein's Millennial Territory Orchestra, Tinctures in Time (Community Music, Vol. 1) (Royal Potato Family)
The trumpeter — who turned out brassy, rowdy renditions of rock classics in the late ’90s-early 2000s with his band Sex Mob — showcases his own beguiling compositions with the nine-piece MTO, which includes five horns. Bernstein has a knack for making old jazz styles sound very now. Most of the eight succinct tunes strut or creep at slow to medium tempos, evoking a New Orleans-meets-noir flavor.
The Baylor Project, Generations (Be a Light)
The second album by the husband-and-wife team of drummer Marcus and singer Jean Baylor is an ambitious affair, with songs ranging from spirited Ray Charles-style R&B (“Strivin’”) to contemplative jazz (Wayne Shorter’s “Infant Eyes,” with lyrics by Jean). A strong gospel influence courses through it all. The record gets a lift from artists such as Dianne Reeves, Jazzmeia Horn and Kenny Garrett, and succeeds on the soulful assuredness of Jean’s vocals. But with ultra-high-gloss production and all songs exceeding five minutes, Generations suffers at times from overreach.
William Parker, Painters Winter (AUM Fidelity)
Bassist-composer Parker is joined by drummer Hamid Drake and reed man/trumpeter Daniel Carter for this mostly rewarding effort consisting of five long pieces. Bookend tunes “Groove 77” and “A Curley Russell” fare best due to their relentless swing, powered by the collision of uber-muscular bass work and ferocious drums. Unfortunately, two meandering, drone-style pieces — with Parker on trombonium and Carter on flute — put a drag on things.
Barry Altschul’s 3Dom Factor, Long Tall Sunshine (Not Two)
At 78, drummer Barry Altschul remains a dervish. These five pieces, recorded live in Europe in spring 2019 with saxophonist Jon Irabagon and bassist Joe Fonda, dance between clamorous free jazz and frenetic post-bop. 3Dom is very much a collective engine, with Irabagon proving himself a virtually limitless improviser and Fonda restlessly pushing the trio to new levels of energy. - Eric Snider