Bassist Ben Wolfe keeps a low profile on The Whisperer and his subtle presence clues you in to the album’s title. It’s as if he’s inviting you to listen to how good his band sounds. A refined musician, Wolfe stealthily defers to the vibrant soprano and tenor saxophonist Stacy Dillard to voice his compositions while rounding out his quartet with an essential Orrin Evans on piano and the surefire drummer Donald Edwards. Continue reading
As interesting and involving as pianist Art Hirahara’s debut recording, Noble Path (Posi-tone, 2011) was, his sophomore release gives him the chance to expand his creative palette. The intriguingly titled Libations and Meditations pairs Hirahara with superior musicians, the much in-demand bassist Linda Oh and furiously creative drummer John Davis. As a unit, they open up the leader’s compositions to their fullest, improvising together with a capacious degree of ingenuity. Continue reading
This album from New York-based saxophonist Kenny Shankar, is the kind of unpretentious straight-ahead jazz record that goes down easy. Shanker’s strong, all original set hearkens back to the Prestige-era’s classic quintets—tight melodies and urbane solos are the rule here and it’s a fine combination. Continue reading
A TOP JAZZ RECORD OF 2014: Orrin Evans is a true jazz advocate. One of the busiest leaders on the scene, with more than 20 solo albums in his discography along with countless sideman appearances, Evans has a second-to-none work ethic in and around New York as well as his hometown of Philadelphia. An industrious musician with an impetuous streak (despite recognizing the economies of scale, he stated that he “can’t stand the trio format” in a July 2012 Village Voice interview), Evans thinks bigger, refusing to see limitations in presenting jazz or performing it. Pairing once again with Posi-Tone Records, Evans’ sophomore studio recording of his Captain Black Big Band is a particularly satisfying album that challenges the status quo. Leading a big band within today’s economic realities seems to defy reason, but Mother’s Touch marks a magnificent return of the CBBB and it scores in every way imaginable.
Ace organist Brain Charette delivers equal amounts of funk and frolic on Square One, a zip line ride through mostly post bebop originals in the Jimmy Smith tradition. Charette is a frequent collaborator with saxophonist Mike DiRubbo (I reviewed his solo CD last month) and though he’s a smooth groove pianist in that group, he sure can kick up some dust on the organ. Apart from Charette’s absorbing set list, the measure of the album’s success rests directly on the shoulders of his amazing trio mates, guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber, each of them fixtures on the NY scene. Charette’s pop-inflected strokes at the outset of “Aaight” and spacey sonic effects on “People On Trains” and “Things You Don’t Mean” give these strong tracks an unexpected buzz and root them in present day. Obsessively soulful, whether swinging through the changes on the Meters tune, “Ease Back” or exploring his own love affair on “Three For Matina,” Charette zig-zags through plenty o’ grooves with superb contrasting harmonics from Silberstein and on target beats by Ferber. Though Square One is his seventh solo record, it’s a highly recommended starting point to discover the diverse and accomplished Brian Charette. (Posi-tone Records, 11 tracks; 46 minutes)
The kinetic energy on alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo’s 8th solo project, Threshold, pops like a Roman candle. This is thrilling modern bop, enriched by DiRubbo’s appreciation of the art and teachings of legendary Blue Note alto-saxophonist Jackie McLean. He sheds notes as fast as Jackie Mac, soloing with gratifying intensity and a hint of swagger that’s in lockstep with his quintet.
Brooklyn based pianist Noah Haidu brings his estimable talent and fleet lyricism to his sophomore release, Momentum, an above average trio recording of old and new standards and three well-crafted originals. A gifted interpreter who appreciates the melodic structure of songs, Haidu digs into pliable tunes like the charming opener, “I Thought About You,” which swings gracefully. Further on, he navigates fast changes on a shifty arrangement of “The End Of A Love Affair” with an impressive skill that embodies the essence of post bop piano masters like former teacher, Kenny Barron. Continue reading
Backed with impressive credentials as a musician, teacher and sideman, the persuasive East Coast guitarist Ed Cherry takes his diverse experience with trumpeters Dizzy Gillespie, Roy Hargrove and saxophonist Henry Threadgill to fashion a rather rewarding career as a leader. His current “It’s All Good” (Posi-tone) builds on the classic guitar-organ-drum format popularized by artists like Grant Green or Wes Montgomery back in the day yet Cherry’s melodic flair and affinity for the groove gives this combo a boldly updated sound. Continue reading