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Path of Seven Colors(Pyroclastic)
Drummer-composer Smith, who has immersed himself in Haitian vodou music for nearly two decades, delivers a sublime magnum opus. Seven Colors blends traditional songs — sung in earthy call-and-response by four Haitian vocalist-percussionists — with jazz compositions and solos. Pianist Matt Mitchell and alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón not only contribute stirring work, but fully grasp the ambitious concept. It’s all underpinned by the drum ensemble’s high-spirited percolation.
Fred Johnson/Andre Reiss
Veteran singer Johnson, a long-time Florida resident, is a bona fide hidden gem. On Duo, he teams with guitarist Reiss for a set of eight standards and one original that range from mostly buoyant (“Almost Like Being in Love”) to jaunty (“Willow Weep for Me”) to tender (“When I Fall in Love”). Johnson bends and shapes melodies without overstretching, while Reiss provides supple accompaniment and concise solos. Johnson’s vocal range, gusto, innate swing and powers of interpretation reveal a master at work.
Westward Bound(Reel to Real)
These nine unearthed tracks chronicle a fertile period (1962-65) for Land, a vastly underappreciated tenor man. On Westward Bound, he burns and dazzles in Seattle nightclub sets recorded for radio. The quartet and quintet dates include sidemen Philly Joe Jones, Hampton Hawes, Buddy and Monk Montgomery, and trumpeter Carmell Jones. The hard-swinging post-bop brims with verve, evincing a time-capsule flavor. Sound reproduction is spot-on.
Gary Bartz JID006(Jazz Is Dead)
The 80-year-old alto sax legend gets the ’70s-inspired jazz-funk treatment by L.A. producers-instrumentalists Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. The results are uneven — be it spacey (“Blue Jungles”), awkward (“Distant Mode”) or cheesy (“Visions of Love”). Most of Bartz’s solos don’t find the flow, making you question if he’s fully engaged with the material. Still, the eight-song effort, with its swirl of analog keyboards and rugged drumming, earns solid marks for overall feel.
Live in Glasgow(Radio Legs Music)From the archives of bassist Mark Helias comes a valuable document of a short-lived all-star band led by trumpeter Don Cherry and including alto saxophonist Carlos Ward, drummer Ed Blackwell, percussionist Naná Vasconcelos and Helias. A sense of discovery and delight courses through the music, which favors spontaneity over precision. The quintet relies mostly on swing grooves, and never delves into free playing. Cherry’s trumpet work (open and muted) is exuberant and occasionally sloppy. He’s also a loquacious emcee. The 46-minute set, recorded in 1987, benefits from crisp sonics.
The pianist, who died in 2015 at age 75, once claimed, “I don’t have any technique.” On his final studio album, a solo set, Kikuchi plays it slow and loose on six pieces that include “Summertime” and two versions of “My Favorite Things.” He unspools the melodies gradually, arrhythmically, with hard-won deliberation, heavy-fingered rumbles, liberal amounts of space and a propensity to wander down back alleys. The music can become ponderous if taken in one helping, but Kikuchi’s idiosyncratic approach — his anti-technique — wins out.
The Latin Side of Wes Montgomery(Zoho)
Guitarist Riveros’ quintet plays Montgomery staples like “Four on Six” and “West Coast Blues” with carefree vivacity. His liquid playing skews toward single-note lines and sparingly employs Montgomery’s trademark sliding octaves. Percussionist Jonathan Gomez cranks up the energy and amplifies the Afro-Cuban dimension. The Latin Side would have benefited from a fews tunes that run at slower tempos.
This Song Is New(Modica Music)
Toronto guitarist Lofsky’s first album in more than two decades is 100 percent mainstream. His five worthy originals are bookended by jazz classics “Seven Steps to Heaven” and “Stablemates.” With a light touch and rubbery tone, Lofsky builds elegant solos that blend slippery-fingered runs and sly chordal accents. Kirk MacDonald — a solid, energetic alto saxophonist who plays the melodies, and solos as long and frequently as the leader — sucks up a bit too much oxygen. Feature photo of Ches Smith courtesy ChesSmith.com/Peter Ganushkin