A TOP JAZZ RECORD OF 2014: Recently, there’s been no shortage of excellent, forward-looking jazz albums led by drummers. For jazz fans who put groove and swing in their plus columns, Grammy®-winner Terri Lyne Carrington, Kendrick Scott, Antonio Sanchez, Matt Wilson and Rudy Royston are taking music to new and satisfying heights. You can add Ulysses Owens, Jr. to this exceptional lineup – he’s a drummer determined to blaze his own trail with sonically inspired beats. Continue reading
Out Here is a seriously entertaining and musically affecting trio record from monster bassist Christian McBride that also serves as an splendid introduction to two of the best up and coming players in jazz, pianist Christian Sands and drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. The Philadelphia-born McBride, whose solo career launched in 1995 with Getting’ To It (Verve,) has sideman credits on over 300 recordings in addition to 10 of his own as leader, but this is his first trio recording. Now fully acknowledged as a jazz standard bearer, an astonishing feat for the 41 year old, McBride has adroitly exploited his encyclopedic knowledge of music to find success as a bandleader, mentor, composer and producer.
After a bumpy start to his pop career, mostly involving the cumbersome process of making music in a major label sausage factory, the singer/songwriter Abiah (formerly Jeremiah Abiah) has crafted a sophomore album of emotive ballads, an audacious idea for a relative newcomer. But with delicacy and warmth, Abiah makes it work. To cement his vision Abiah adds pianist Robert Glasper, guitarist Marvin Sewell (Cassandra Wilson) and the accomplished drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. who co-produces as well. Having jazz musicians on board adds class to the project, but Abiah’s voice and music is the star.
I’m not sure what strings bassist Matthew Rybicki had to pull to get his first album made, but “Driven” is a rare bird – a memorable, sharply attenuated date with a steady momentum and standout solos. His collaborators include drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. and trombonist Michael Dease (the album’s co-producers), saxophonist Ron Blake, trumpeter Freddie Hendrix and the hotshot twenty-something, Gerald Clayton, a pianist who plays with grandeur and a deft touch that belies his age. Happily unpredictable, the band rips it up on boppish originals (“The Slow Stride,” “Seventh Sign” and “Mean Lean”) that comb through styles associated with Oscar Peterson, Ellington and a former teacher, Wynton Marsalis. It’s not easy to tread on Sonny Rollins’ turf, but the band takes what’s theirs on the languid calypso, “Yellow Bird.” Tight, swinging and breezily melodic, “Driven” is a winsome debut. Find it at www.matthewrybickimusic.com. (11 tracks; 67:05 minutes)