Jazz CDs to keep you in the swing this summer
Jazz hangs heavy in the air this summer. Two musical highlights to date have been appearances by Herbie Hancock, and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. This week should add two more from the jazz realm: the Aspen Music Festival’s all-Gershwin Season Benefit (Saturday, July 14), and a bass summit (Thursday, July 19) featuring jazzman Christian McBride, and Edgar Meyer.Also ahead: Argentinean pianist Pablo Ziegler and his Trio for New Tango at Harris Hall (Friday, July 20); McBride and his band in a free show at the Silvertree Hotel (Friday, July 20); Latin jazz trumpeter Arturo Sandoval leading an 18-piece band at Jazz Aspen Snowmass’ benefit (July 21); back-to-back shows at Belly Up with New Orleans pianist Henry Butler, and South African trumpeter Hugh Masekela (July 25-26); and the Music Festival’s mini-fest, Made in America: Jazz (July 30-Aug. 5).Following are reviews of recent jazz CDs.
produced by Brecker, Gil Goldstein, Steve Rodby & Pat Metheny (Heads Up)Michael Brecker, the saxophone titan who died in January from leukemia, leaves behind something well worth remembering him by. “Pilgrimage” continues the legacy of adventurous, energetic post-bop that Brecker became known for. The recordings were made last August, while he was struggling with the disease and looking for a cure, but the illness doesn’t seem to have affected his technique or creativity. The compositions, all by Brecker, are sharp and smart; the playing – in a combo featuring guitarist Pat Metheny, and Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau alternating on piano – is inspired. A high point, appropriately, is the album-closing title track, which starts with Brecker’s spacious sax solo.
produced by Redman (Nonesuch)Saxophonist Joshua Redman arrived in the mid-’90s on a wave of funk-inspired playing. The extroverted, crowd-pleasing style – and the fact that he was the son of saxophonist Dewey Redman – earned him plenty of attention, and probably branded him as a certain kind of musicians for many people.But Redman has spent the 15 years since continually broadening his range, with consistently satisfying results. Here the 38-year-old makes his first album of trio recordings, with a shifting cast of rhythm sections (including McBride on bass on two tracks), plus some guest sax players (including Dewey, who died last year). It is also a return of sorts to the California-based Redman’s musical beginnings: playing acoustic jazz in Boston and New York. The title refers to those origins, but also to the interest in Eastern music reflected in takes on Coltrane’s “India” and Wayne Shorter’s “Indian Song,” and Redman’s own “Mantra #5” and “Indonesia.” “Back East” shows that Redman’s more meditative side has become as noteworthy as his flashier mode.
produced by Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend (Blue Note)Floratone is a four-member combo: two instrumentalists – guitarist Bill Frisell and drummer Matt Chamberlain, and two producers – Tucker Martine and Lee Townsend. There are, in fact, three additional instrumentalists who appear on the group’s debut CD – bassist Viktor Krauss, cornetist Ron Miles and violinist/violist Eyving Kang – but it is indicative of the kind of music made here that the producers get top billing. “Floratone” is electric and grooving, leaning most often toward modern techno. But in its best moments – as on “The Wanderer,” and the bluesy “Swamped”- it is also structured and infused with melody.
produced by Jay Newland (Blue Note)Electric violinist – and Aspen Music School alum – Nigel Kennedy made his reputation by mixing classical and popular elements. His 1999 album “The Kennedy Experience,” for instance, turned Jimi Hendrix tunes into a classical work in six movements. On “Blue Note Sessions,” he turns his attention to jazz. It’s hard to fault the company Kennedy keeps (bassist Ron Carter, drummer Jack DeJohnette, saxophonist Joe Lovano), and when he keeps his mind on jazz, this swings admirably. But Kennedy, being Kennedy, can’t help wandering outside the lines, as on the scattered, but interesting, “Expansions,” with Raul Midón on vocals and guitar.Stewart Oksenhorn’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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