E.J. Strickland is an artist with a clear and sensible vision: that a drummer-led jazz record should give listeners an opportunity to get their groove on. The all-original program on his The Undying Spirit isn’t infused with long, indulgent percussion solos — snuff out any recollection you have about drumming from the movie Whiplash — because Strickland has gratifying knack for hip melodies and a soulful strut that clicks frequently on this highly listenable album. Continue reading
A TOP RECORDING OF 2015. A WRTI CD RECOMMENDATION. It was easy to see why Ben Williams’ debut, State Of Art (Concord, 2011), made such a splash. It had a deserved buzz around a rising talent and remains a primer for how to make a modern jazz record. Since then, besides heavy side gigging and touring with his Sound Effect band (Christian Sands, Marcus Strickland, Matthew Stevens and John Davis), the 30-year-old Williams had a key role in Pat Metheny’s Unity Group – the band played over 150 shows internationally in 2013. That’s a lot of experience in a compressed time frame, so it’s not surprising his follow up, Coming Of Age, is a rush of pleasure from beginning to end. Read my full review at www.wrti.org
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.