Monday, March 23, 2009

CDs of Note

Richie Goods & Nuclear Fusion, Live at the Zinc Bar (RichMan Productions)
Bassist Richie Goods' latest recording project is a contemporary jazz gem – in the finest, non-smooth sense. This is a fusion project that pulls from the best aspects of the genre. Goods’ band includes Helen Sung on keyboards, guitarist Jeff Lockhart and ex-Headhunters drummer Mike Clark. It is quite a treat to hear Sung stretching out on the sonic possibilities of an electronic keyboard rather than the acoustic piano we have heard her on since her emergence from the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz Performance’s first class in 1997, and her work with the T.S. Monk Band and Mingus Dynasty Band among many others. My favorites here include their exploration of Wayne Shorter’s “Elegant People” and the centerpiece, Goods’ own “Desert Song,” which is featured (after a 90-second introduction track) as a spectacular 6:29 main track that indeed creates a Middle-Eastern aura, and, for those who thirst for more, the CD winds down with a 13:25 minute extended version. Goods also includes two Herbie Hancock tunes that from the Headhunters era –“Sly” tribute to the leader of Sly & The Family Stone and “Palm Grease.”

Avery Sharpe Trio, Autumn Moonlight (JKNM Records)
This session, is filled with great group interplay and dynamics. Sharpe, the ex- longtime McCoy Tyner bassist is joined by pianist Onaje Allan Gumbs and drummer Winard Harper. There is a wonderful extended exploration of James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain,” a tune that ought to be heard more often in a jazz context because this trio shows that the melody lends itself to wonderful improvisational possibilities. This version swings very hard. Gumbs’ original “Palace of the Seven Jewels” sparkles like a melodic gem. This CD offers an hour of clean, tasty swing – mighty swing at that. This is an April 14 release.

Melissa Morgan, “Until I Met You,” (Telarc Jazz)
Once in a great while, and thankfully so, a project arrives from a fresh voice that is fully formed. From the first bars, you know it is something special – and far above the dozens of vocal discs you’ve sifted through recently that are ordinary at best. Such is the case here with Melissa Morgan, a young vocalist who was born in New York City, raised in northern New Jersey and now lives in Los Angeles. She was a 2004 Monk Competition semi-finalist. Telarc was wise to sign this singer, whose many strong influences meet at the intersection of Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson. Her project is filled with very individual takes on vintage material, including Louis Jordan’s “Is You Is or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” “Cool Cool Daddy” and “Save Your Love for Me,” among others. These tunes have been around for a long time, but none of them are tired. The session was co-produced by Chris Dunn and trumpeter Christian Scott, who is also aboard as a player. Gerald Clayton is a standout on piano on this session where the instrumentation ranges from quartet to a full-blown, horn-rich octet. This is an April 28 release.

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