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The Dave Brubeck QuartetTime Outtakes: Previously Unreleased Takes From the Original 1959 Sessions (Brubeck Editions)
Regardless of how you regard Time Out on the masterpiece scale, it’s illuminating — and fun — to hear these early versions of tunes that have become stamped into the jazz canon. Upon hearing the nervous, unfocused initial attempt at “Take Five,” you’d never guess it would become one of most recognizable jazz standards of all time. Make a comparison study if you like — or just enjoy. And raise a glass to Brubeck, whose centennial was celebrated in December.
Monty AlexanderLove You Madly: Live at Bubba’s (Resonance)
Another valuable find for the vault-digging Resonance label, Love You Madly serves up 92 minutes of pianist Alexander at the peak of his powers and in frisky form at a 1982 South Florida club date. Percussionist Robert Thomas Jr. adds extra zing to the quartet. Impeccably recorded and mastered.
Cowboys and FrenchmanOur Highway (Outside in Music)
While the band name hints at playful subversiveness, this New York City quintet, with a dual-saxophone frontline, serves up mostly strait-laced contemporary post-bop on its second album. Heaps of expert, scholarly playing and meticulously crafted arrangements do not make for a terribly compelling journey, but it’s not a dead end either.
Ed Palermo Big BandThe Great Un-American Songbook Vol. III: Run For Your Life (Sky Cat)
The 17-piece ensemble’s lively renditions of British rock songs from the ’60s and ’70s (with Zappa segments sewn in here and there) walk a fine line between the sublime and the silly. The Beatles material fares best, especially “Within You Without You” and “Strawberry Fields.” Finishing with four vocal versions of songs by Jethro Tull, Procol Harum and The Moody Blues was a bad idea.
Leon Lee DorseyThank You Mr. Mabern (Jazz Ave.)
This sturdy piano-trio date, led by bassist Dorsey and anchored by drummer Mike Clark, chronicles the last recording of hard-swinging, hard-bop pianist Harold Mabern, who died at age 83 last year, two months after the session. The soul-jazz numbers — “Rakin’ and Scrapin,’” “Watermelon Man,” “I’m Walkin’” — are the standouts in a largely appealing nine-song set.
Shai MaestroHuman (ECM)
American trumpeter Philip Dizack joins Israeli pianist Maestro’s trio, adding lush sonic texture to a collection of mostly placid originals with a neo-classical bent — like smoldering embers not meant to catch fire. A slinky version of Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood” adds a little spark, and the ballad “Hank and Charlie” is tenderly performed.
Ray RussellFluid Architecture (Cuneiform)
What sets this nine-song set a cut or two above other neo-fusion albums is the wide scope of 73-year-old British guitarist Russell’s compositions and playing: smoldering electro-jazz, crunchy rock riffs, spiky acoustic picking, washes of sheer texture, manic note clusters, slurs, slides and warbles, as well as the all-too-familiar echoey wail. This six-string showcase is about more than just flash.
Omar SosaAn East African Journey (Otá)
This ambitious project — on which Cuban pianist Sosa melds field recordings he made during an African tour with subtle piano, bass and drums — is rife with percolating beats, indigenous string instruments and vocals by African collaborators sung in native languages. The music is breezily enjoyable but ultimately lacks heat or edge. Call it world-music lite.