Drummer Joe Chambers has found a way to tip his hat to a range of classic and contemporary jazz composers, and showcase his under-acknowleged mallet playing on this project. And he brought a splendid team along for the ride: tenor player Eric Alexander, pianist Xavier Davis and bassist Steve Berrios, with pianist Helen Sung, bassist Dwayne Burno and bassist Richie Goode subbing on the Max Roach/Abbey Lincoln tune “Lonesome Lover.” Nicole Guiland adds vocals to that track and Roach’s clever “Mendacity.” My favorites: their takes on “Mendacity,” Horace Silver’s “Ecaroh,” Chambers’ own “Afreeka” and Marcus Miller’s “Portia,” which was one of Miles Davis’s finest late-career recordings. I particularly like Alexander’s interplay with Chambers when the leader takes to the vibes and marimba.
Thomson Kneeland, Mazurka for a Modern Man (Weltschmerz Records)
Bassist Thomson Kneeland has delivered a modern jazz gem, containing purely original material (plus his arrangement of a traditional Polish folksong, “Moja Tesknota”) that is delivered by his 2007 quintet. The band at this session included guitarist Nate Ridley, trumpeter David Smith, alto saxophonist Loren Stillman and late percussionist Take Toriyama. There is an eclectic vibe to this session with spirited playing. Radley, Smith and Stillman are wonderful foils for each other. My favorites: “Hyperion,” ”Libretto” and “Nebuchadnezzar.” Another fine piece, the poignant “Rhapsody” is dedicated to Toriyama, a close musical collaborator who took his own life two weeks after the session.
organissimo, Alive & Kickin’! (Big O Records)
Michigan-based organissimo has been presenting its take on modern soul-jazz for 10 years. Alive & Kickin’! is the trio’s first live CD and was released simultaneously with a 75-minute DVD that has two additional tracks. All CD tracks, except Frank Zappa’s “Blessed Relief,” are collaborative compositions by organist Jim Alfredson, guitarist Joe Gloss and drummer Randy Marsh. My favorites: “Jimmy Smith Goes to Washington” (compete with a Smith-like greasy funk), “Groovadelphia,” “Blessed Relief” and the extended jam “Pumpkin Pie.”
Other worthy listens:
- Wallace Roney, If Only For One Night (HighNote) – Whether or not you dig his technique on uptempo material, the trumpeter knows his way around a ballad. Check out “I Have A Dream” and Let’s Wait A While.”
- Christian Scott, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (Concord Jazz) – The young trumpeter is out with a blend of hard bop, hip hop and musical commentary on life in the 21st century as he sees it. His take on Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke’s solo debut title track “The Eraser” is a balm for the surrounding Scott edginess.