Tuesday, July 20, 2010

CDs of Note...

Christine Jensen, Treelines (Justin Time)
Canadian saxophonist and composer Christine Jensen has added another strong branch to the musical tree that is rooted in the Gil Evans orchestral jazz tradition. (She credits Evans in her notes as “one of the coolest sound shapers in music history.”) Her Montreal-based musicians make her latest project bloom with great depth, nuance and texture. Her sister, trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, is featured as guest soloist on this Christine Jensen Jazz Orchestra premiere recording. The leader's seven compositions on this CD are mostly inspired by the landscape in her native Nanaimo, British Columbia. Ingrid Jensen’s thoughtful flugelhorn feature on saxophonist Joel Miller’s “Dropoff” is a beauty (starting with an electronic looping segment that opens the piece. The sisters share the lead (Christine on soprano sax and Ingrid on trumpet) on “Seafever.” The Len Dobbin tribute “Red Cedar” is a stunning remembrance for Montreal’s longtime jazz stalwart who died in 2009.

Chris Washburne and The SYOTOS Band, Field of Moons (Jazzheads)
For about two decades, trombonist Chris Washburne has led one of the more adventurous and interesting Latin jazz units in New York City. This latest CD leans toward Latin-tinged love songs and ballads rather than the fire longtime listeners are accustomed to. My favorites: their interesting Latin jazz twist on the Ahmad Jamal-associated “Poinciana,” Pedro Flores’ “Obsesion” and Mingus’s “Duke Ellington’s Sound of Love.” Other gems: Washburne’s energetic “Seas of Slumber” and saxophonist Ole Mathiesen’s “Evening Rites.”

Susie Hansen, Representante de la Salsa (Jazz Caliente)

Yes, salsa is for dancing. And the L.A.-based Susie Hansen Latin Band took that feeling to heart in its latest recording. This uptempo session will even make you want to dance in place while listening - even if you’re sitting down. But I dare you not to stand and move. The leader’s electric violin rides the band’s percussive cushion like a surfboard on a great wave. At times one with the horn section, at times contrasting with it, she often sounds like a trumpeter. Some of my favorites are their takes on tunes not associated with salsa: a remake of Blood, Sweat & Tears’ “Vehicle” (vocals compliments of Kaspar Abbo [lead], George Balmaseda and Hansen) and something called “Frank Sinatra Cha Cha Cha.” The latter is a salsa medley, arranged by trombonist David Stout, of four tunes closely linked to Ol’ Blue Eyes: “Fly Me to the Moon,” “It Could Happen to You,” “It Had to be You” and “All of Me.” The title track is one of the many burners here.

Chris Massey’s Nue Jazz Project, Vibrainium (self-released)
The members of drummer Chris Massey’s quintet each have one foot firmly planted into bebop’s strong roots, and the other stepping boldly into their musical future. This ambitious project swings hard and with purpose. Fresh takes on Joe Henderson’s “Inner Urge” and Chick Corea’s “Windows” are wrapped by three originals by Massey and one apiece from trumpeter Donald Malloy and saxophonist Benjamin Drazen. Their other bandmates are pianist Evgeny Lebedev and bassist David Ostrem. Favorites: Massey’s 11-minute title track and Drazen’s “Mr. Twilight.” Serious drum fans will enjoy “Chango,” the leader’s solo tribute to leader/innovators Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Max Roach and Roy Haynes.

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