Joe Alterman, Georgia Sunset (self-produced)
Atlanta native Joe Alterman, based in New York City for the past eight years, is a complete young pianist with great chops and a deep appreciation for his 1950s and ‘60s keyboard forbears who have influenced his taste and style. They include Ahmad Jamal, Ramsey Lewis, Les McCann and Cedar Walton. This is primarily a trio session with bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Gregory Hutchinson, CD producer Houston Person joins the fun with his bluesy tenor sax on five tracks, including a terrific rendition of his own “Snake Eyes” and “The Theme” which Alterman co-wrote with McCann. Alterman goes solo on the beautiful Nat Cole-associated ballad “That Day, That Summer,” Walton’s “I’ll Let You Know” and a no-frills melodic exploration of the Bee Gees’ “How Deep is Your Love?” His own “Georgia Sunset” is a wistful gem loaded with musical imagery.
Don Braden & Organix Quartet, Luminosity (Creative Perspective Music)Call this soul-jazz for the new millennium. Tenor saxophonist and flutist Don Braden has had a B-3 based group for more than a dozen years with organ player Kyle Koehler and drummer Cecil Brooks III. The terrific guitarist Dave Stryker is a more recent addition to the quartet. Trumpeter Claudio Roditi and alto saxophonist Sherman Irby join the fun on one track apiece (Roditi on “If I Could Write a Book” and Irby going mixing it up with Braden on Herbie Hancock’s “Driftin’”). This is a hot session. Favorite tracks: Stryker’s showcase solo on the Chick Corea tune “Bud Powell,” Braden’s lush solo version of Billy Strayhorn’s “Chelsea Bridge,” “Driftin’” and the band’s take on Braden’s own “The Time We Shared.”
Laszlo Gardony, Life in Real Time (Sunnyside)Boston-based pianist Laszlo Gardony’s trio with bassist John Lockwood and drummer Yoron Israel has produced both memorable performances and recordings for more than 13 years. So how do you top that legacy? Gardony did it by expanding the group to a sextet featuring three tenor saxophone players: Don Braden, Bill Pierce and Stan Strickland, who is also featured on bass clarinet on several tracks.
Life in Real Time features six Gardony originals and two covers (George Shearing’s “Lullaby of Birdland” and the traditional “Motherless Child”). Favorite tracks: “Bourbon Street Boogie” and “Breakout” (the latter tune featuring solos by Braden and Pierce). This was recorded live in concert at the Berklee Performance Center in September 2014. Five of the six band members are longtime members of the Berklee faculty; Braden directs Harvard’s Monday Night Jazz Band.
Paul Keeling, Ancient Lights (self-produced)Vancouver-based pianist Paul Keeling is a versatile composer and player, as evidenced on his latest project Ancient Lights. He wrote eight of the nine tracks, the lone exception being late trumpeter Kenny Wheeler’s “’Smatter.” With his core band and guests, the band size ranges at various times from quartet to sextet. Favorite tracks: the Keeling ballads “Hearth” and “Keep Telling the Story,” and the gorgeous “I’m Going With You,” which is a beautiful feature for trumpeter Brad Turner. There is much here to savor.
German vibes player Wolfgang Lackerschmid, who has worked with Chet Baker, Lee Konitz and many more well-known bandleaders, collaborated on this project with pianist Lynne Arriale, bassist Mike Sharfe and drummer Steve Davis. The quartet was recorded in November 1999, right after a European tour, but was just released this year. The leader contributed all of the compositions except Arriale’s “The Dove” and “Calypso.”
The opening track is of special interest. Lackerschmid's “Ain’t No Sunflower” is a beautiful instrumental blend that mashes melodic fragments of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” and Freddie Hubbard’s jazz classic “Little Sunflower.” Other treats: the Latin-tinged “Shoe It Yourself,” “The Dove” and “Waltz for Berlin.” File this gem under the “Well Worth the Wait” category.