Singer Lizz Wright is back with another sterling effort. Grace finds the Georgia-born singer teaming with producer Joe Henry to weave together an effort with a decidedly bluesy, gospel Southern flavor. The 10-song set is highlighted by compositions by Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Allen Toussaint, Bob Dylan, K.D. Lang and Frank Perkins and Mitchell Parish. The band of musicians here is first-rate, anchored by longtime keyboardist Kenny Banks, Sr., David Piltch on acoustic basss, Jay Bellerose on drums and percussion, Chris Bruce and Marvin Sewell on guitars among others. On a couple of tunes, Banks Sr. orchestrates an 8-member choir (that sounds much larger) and adds even more power to Wright’s already commanding vocal thrust. Once again, another amazing work from Lizz Wright.
Click to listen to a clip of “Barley”:
Tracks: Barley, Seems I’m Never Tired of Loving You, Singing in My Soul, Southern Nights, What Would I Do Without You, Grace, Stars Fell On Alabama, Every Grain of Sand, Wash Me Clean, All The Way Here.
Composer/saxophonist Michael Pedicin continues his consistent track record focusing on ballads, add this one to that collection. As It Should Be: Ballads 2 focuses almost entirely on the compositions of guitarists Johnnie Valentino, who also plays on and co-produced the recording. The tunes have a great touch of the familiar heard in popular ballad tunes, without becoming cliché. The effort only include two covers by John Coltrane and Paul Simon respectively. The performances of Pedicin and Valentino are excellent, as are the contributions of pianist Frank Strauss, bassist Mike Boone, drummer Justin Faulkner and percussionist Alex Acuña. Excellent recording and fantastic exploration of the gentler side of instrumental music in a contemporary context.
Click to listen to a clip of “As It Should Be”:
Tracks: As It Should Be, Storyteller, No Hard Feelings, Bridge Over Trouble Water, Crescent, Bellagio, By Itself, Facing the Night, From Afar, Last Words.
3 Divas is the outstanding trio and album of three tremendously talented musicians. Pianist Jackie Warren, bassist Amy Shook and drummer Sherrie Maricle comprise this fantastic unit. In addition to their individual mastery, there’s an evident chemistry in their performance that is simply superb. To add to this, the arrangements of the tunes, which includes compositions by David Mann, Johnny Mercer and Jimmy Van Heusen, Pee Wee King and Anotnio Carlos Jobim, among others, are superb. Whether they playing up or downtempo selections, the three are in perfect sync. A fantastic recording from a fantastic group of musicians.
Click to listen to a clip of “I Thought About You”:
Tracks: Beautiful Love, Sunshine on My Shoulders, Tennessee Waltz, I Thought About You, Favela, In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning, The Beat Goes On.
Pianist Mike Longo’s latest is one of his finest recordings to date. Only Time Will Tell offers a substantial glimpse at Longo’s versatility and virtuosity. The production covers an array of musical moods, from toe-tapping swing to contemplative ballads. The trio, which is anchored by Paul West bass and Lewis Nash on drums, clicks like a Swiss watch as they move artfully through the tune. The playlist is a nice blend of Longo originals and nice reboots of compositions by Jimmy McHugh, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Eubie Blake. It’s Longo’s writing that stands out most in the collection, providing a substantial stage for showcasing his and the talents of his collaborators on the effort. A truly excellent work.
Click to listen to a clip of “Track Title”:
Tracks: Tomorrow, Stepping Up, Nutty, Bohemia After Dark, Only Time will Tell, Why Not Me, Exactly Like You, Just A Thought, Ruby, Brilliant Corners, Conflict of Interest, Wheatleigh Hall, Memories of You .
Tales & Tones is the impressive latest recording from saxophonist Troy Roberts. Roberts is adroit in an array of musical moods here with an engaging tone that shines through on every tune, whether it’s a ballad or a swing feel. The mostly original compositions on the effort are outstanding, as are the wonderfully arranged covers of tunes by Bernie Miller, Billy Strayhorn and John Sangster. Helping to propel the music forward are the fantastic talents of Silvano Monasterios on piano, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums and Robert Hurst on bass, with each providing great performances throughout the set. Roberts is a tremendous player as this superb production makes clear .
Click to listen to a clip of “Trams”:
Tracks: Decoration, Trams, Rivera Mountain, Bernie’s Tune, CotuChiChi Chi, Take the ‘A’ Train, Pickapoppy, Mr. Pinononnk, Boozy Bluesy .
Change of Address is the fifth recording as a leader from baritone saxophonist Jared Sims. The production is an outstanding display of Sims’ versatility, on a recording that leans in the funk-organ groove direction. The saxophonist is the pulse of the recording, playing with both, power and tremendous dexterity on the large horn. Engaging original compositions provide an outstanding framework for the fantastic musicianship on the effort. The synchronous band includes Steve Fell on guitar, Nina Ott on organ, Chris Lopes on bass and Jared Seabrook on drums. The combination of all of the above makes for a great listening experience.
Click to listen to a clip of “Ghost Guest 1979”:
Tracks: Offer for Wilson, Seeds of Shihab, Ghost Guest 1979, Forest Hills, Tower of Fazenda, Lights and Colors.
Backlog is guitarist Steve Khan’s fifth recording since his return from a decade-long absence and a real pleasure to hear. The production filters the work of some of jazz’s great players through Latin-rhythm and percussive rhythms. The body-moving grooves are derived from compositions by Thelonious Monk, Greg Osby, Bobby Hutcherson Stevie Wonder and Ornette Coleman. On the more laidback side are compositions by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, as well as Johnny Mandel and Johnny Mercer. The band, like the music on this effort, is stellar. The lineup includes Mark Walker on drums, Rubén Rodriguez on bass, Marc Quiñones and Bobby Allende on bongos and other percussion. Guests on the set include Rob Mounsey on keyboards, Randy Brecker on trumpet, Mark Mainieri on vibraphone and vocalist Tatiana Parra. Fantastic performances by all involved in an outstanding package of music .
Click to listen to a clip of Head Start:
Tracks: Criss Cross, Concepticus in C, Latin Genetics, Our Town, Head Start, Rojo, Invisible, Emily, Go Home, Catta.
Vocalist Sidney Jacobs brings a contemporary flair to an approach that has a connection to the great vocal improvisers of our time. First Man, his second recorded outing, is an eclectic showcase for his talents as a singer, composer and producer. There’s a compelling freshness to his approach, with a nice mix of original compositions and custom tailored re-workings of classic and modern standards. Joining Jacobs on this effort are Josh Nelson on piano, Michael Jarvey on viola, electric and acoustic pianos, Zephyr Avalon on basses, Efa Etoroma on drums an percussion, Greg Poree on guitars, Josh Johnson on alto sax, Justin Thomas on vibraphone and marimaba, Nolan Shaheed on trumpet, Wendell Kelly on trombone and Francesco Canas on violin. Cathy Segal-Garcia delivers backing vocals on the production. Jacobs is a modern singer with a fitting style who definitely should be heard.
Click to listen to a clip of “Fly”:
Tracks: First, First Man, Last Night, Undercurrent, My Favorite Things, Sabine’s Grind, Fly, The Story Teller, Lonely Town Lonely Street, Say WhatYou Will, You Aint Gotta Lie, The Good Life, The Love Within You, Long Walk, Secret O’ Life .
Singer Virginia Schenck’s latest is a wonderful homage to the great Abbey Lincoln. Aminata Moseka: An Abbey Lincoln Tribute avoids the attempt at evoking the spirit of Abbey’s approach, but instead presents her compositions from a different perspective with a new voice. Clever arrangements and Schenck’s own way into a song lend themselves in a very engaging way. The singer and band work well together here. The band on the recording is comprised of Kevin Bales on piano, Rodney Jordan on bass and Marlon Patton on drums, with a guest performance by Kebbi Williams on alto sax. A really solid production from Schenck.
Click to listen to a clip of “Bird Alone”:
Tracks: Talking to the Sun, Another World, Bird Alone, The River, Learning How to Listen, Blue Monk, Caged Bird, Being Me, Throw It Away, The Music Is The Magic, When I;m Called Home, Wholly Earth.
Organist Greg Hatza’s latest is a fantastic tribute to the music he grew up hearing as a child in Reading, PA. Diggin Up My Roots is Hatza’s take on some classic r&b and blues he heard on a jukebox in the restaurant owned by his father. The band does the classics by the likes of Ray Charles, Percy Mayfield, Jimmy Smith and Johnny Otis, among others, a great service. The music is smoking and the musicianship is stellar. The members of the group are Robert Shahid on drums, Brain Kooken on guitar and Peter Fraize on saxophone. Hatza wrote several of the tracks on the production and provides the vocals on a number of the tunes as well. A thoroughly entertaining recording.
Click to listen to a clip of “Headin on Down South”:
Tracks: Baltimore Strut, Big Big Back, High Heel Sneakers, Headin on Down South, I Got A Woman, Back At The Chicken Shack, Night Train, Please Send Me Someone To Love, Hand Jive, Something You Got, Stagger Lee.