Gregory Porter, Be Good (Motéma)
Singer-songwriter Gregory Porter is the real deal. This second recording in as many years is a delight in so many ways. Let’s start with his firm, clear voice and uncanny musicality of his phrasing. Then we take a closer listen to the lyrics. He wrote nine of the dozen tunes here. Each is a gem, painting vivid pictures of moments in time, emotions, relationships real or imagined, and values. He’s part poet, part storyteller – both in service to his music. The fact that he created the music from within, and isn’t just covering someone else’s thoughts makes this stand high.
Personal favorites: “Painted on Canvas,” “On My Way to Harlem,” and “Real Good Hands.” The allegory in the title track is quite charming. As far as the covers go, he digs deep to find his own meaning in “Work Song” and “God Bless the Child.” His working band provides excellent support throughout. It features Chip Crawford on piano, Aaron James on bass, Emanuel Harrold on drums, Tivon Pennicott on tenor sax and Yosuke Sato on alto sax, with guest appearances by Keyon Harrold on trumpet and horn arranger Kamau Kenyatta on soprano sax. Five stars. This is a February 14 release.
Jon Gold, Bossa of Possibility (BluJazz)
Pianist/composer Jon Gold is a Renaissance man whose jazz interests dig deeply into the multi-flavored rhythms of Brazil, as well as a clear respect for American popular song, classical music and bebop. This new album leans heavily toward influences and interests absorbed during his time living, teaching and studying music in Brazil from 1990-1995. He’s brought saxophonists Dave Liebman and Jon Irabagon, harmonica player Howard Levy, bassist Harvie S and horn player Tom “Bones” Malone, among others, along for the journey on Bossa of Possibility.
The music is varied and deeply moving. So is Gold’s perspective as shared in his notes: “Making music can be difficult but thinking about it the right way helps. I now understand that when I send a composition out into the world, it is no longer about me or even of me. It is helpful then to remember that the listeners will eventually add their own contribution (or possibilities of experience)…” Everything here is original material.
Wanda Stafford, Something Cool (self-produced)
West Coast singer Wanda Stafford is not a belter. This is a good thing. She celebrates the laid-back side of jazz, reveling in the spaces between notes, on Something Cool. The project is a nod to the path set by June Christy, Chris Connor, Anita O’Day and Billie Holiday. There is much to enjoy in the approach she’s taken and you may find yourself putting the CD player on repeat mode for some time. Standouts among the dozen tracks include “Something Cool,” “All of You,” “The Man I Love,” “Dancing on the Ceiling” and “You Turn the Tables on Me.” Pianist Grant Levin, bassist Chris Amberger, drummer Lorca Hart, saxophonist Noel Jewkes and trumpeter Bob Switzer provide fine support. Levin and Switzer, in particular, really locked in with Stafford’s intent here and helped put the project over the top.