With a voice that stops you in your tracks, Inga Swearingen’s latest release, First Rain, is a compelling vocal music showcase. The album of 12 tracks features some wonderfully unique arrangements of original compositions and standards given a stripped-down acoustic treatment that blends so well with the singer’s lovely melodious tone. Swearingen is backed in this effort by guitarists Larry Koonse and Jeff Miley, bassist Dylan Johnson and drummer Darrell Voss. Violin and cello are also included on several tracks adding even more richness to the aural brilliance of this fantastic singer.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Blackbird”.
Tracks: April Afternoon, Black Is The Color of My True Love’s Hair, Brick By Brick, Blackbird, Heart and Soul, Two Trees Rooted, Before The Journey, Indian Summer, Skylark, Visa från Järna, Ample.
Straight Ahead Soul
(Paul Carr Music)
Veteran Houston-born saxophone Paul Carr says his objective is to reach the “soulful essence of jazz”, and he achieves just that on his latest recording, Straight Ahead Soul. The title describes quite well the feel of the album. In this effort, Carr is mostly featured on the soprano saxophone and the interplay between it and Bobby Broom’s guitar makes the songs as interesting, as they are enjoyable. The project also includes the great talents of Lewis Nash on drums, Allyn Johnson on piano, Michael Bowie on bass, Sam Turner on various percussion and Chelsea Green on viola, with singer Lori Williams contributing coda vocals to one of the tunes. The combination of these talents and Carr’s very warm and inviting sound make this an excellent recording.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Between Worlds”.
Tracks: Side Yard Tracks, Dreams of You, Straight Ahead Soul, Scrappy, Love Wants To Dance, Light and Lovely, Healing Song, Between Worlds, Blessed Assurance / We’ve Come This Far By Faith.
Chamber Music Society
(Heads Up International Records)
Beyond all of the hype and attention regarding her looks or playing for the President or Nobel Prize ceremonies, or Prince, Esperanza Spalding is an artist of immense depth in a mad love affair with music that not even lofty accolades or occasions seem to equate. Her latest and much-anticipated recording, Chamber Music Society, is a further testament to this supposition and to her brilliance as bassist, singer, arranger and producer. Spalding enlisted the talents of Gil Goldstein to arrange strings and co-produce most of the album’s 11 tracks, nine of which she wrote. Their collaboration is a series of magical events that fit together in a colorful aural mosaic. Her wonderfully interwoven duet with the great Milton Nascimiento on “Apple Blossoms” is one such piece in the tapestry, as is her lilting exchange with vocalist Gretchen Parlato on Jobim’s “Intuil Paisagem”. Other guests on the project include drummer Terri Lyne Carrington, cellist David Eggar, percussionist Quintino Cinalli and pianist/keyboardist Leo Genovese. This is an exquisitely beautiful work of a rare and singular artist whose passion for the language of music is inescapably infectious.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Knowledge of Good and Evil”.
Tracks: Little Fly, Knowledge of Good and Evil, Really Very Small, Chacarera, Wild Is The Wind, Apple Blossom, As A Sprout, What A Friend, Winter Sun, Intuil Paisagem, Short and Sweet.
Vocalist Bobby McFerrin’s latest, Vocabularies, is the result of seven years of writing, arranging and editing. McFerrin’s manager had an idea for vocal ensemble music that would expand some things he’d done before. Classical arranger and composer Roger Treece joined the effort studying McFerrin’s vocal style and sounds to build a musical framework for the new project, while lyricist Don Rosler was tasked with translating a collage of languages, including McFerrin’s improvisations, into words. More than 50 singers, including Janis Siegel, Lisa Fischer, and Luciana Souza make up the choral tapestry of sound on the project. The result is soulful, operatic and awe-inspiring. This recording is an absolutely spectacular musical work.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Say Ladeo”.
Tracks: Baby, Say Ladeo, Wailers, Messages, The Garden, He Ran To The Train, Brief Eternity.
Recorded before a live audience at the Oberlin Music Conservatory in Ohio, pianist Gerri Allen fuses jazz and dance in a work that is an incredible listening experience. Tap dancer Maurice Chestnut’s blazing footwork adds a powerful percussive element to the already stellar musicianship provided by Allen and a solid rhythm section of Kenny Davis on bass and Kassa Overall on drums. The project’s seven tracks are comprised mostly of Allen’s compostions, with takes on works of McCoy Tyner, George Gershwin, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker. The quality of the sound makes this a fantastic project even more spectacular, from start to finish.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Philly Joe”.
Tracks: Philly Joe, Four by Five, The Western Wall/ Soul Eyes, LWB’s House, Embraceable You/Loverman, Ah Leu Cha, In Appreciation.
Icons Among Us is a documentary film series that covers the wide expanse that is jazz today. Filmed over a seven year timespan, this DVD is derived from the 4-part series which focuses on musicians in the current jazz scene from East to West. In addition to a serious discussion about the state of jazz there are plenty of great live performance to check out on the video. In a narrative style in which the musican are the only speakers, we hear a lively discussion about where jazz is headed from some of the biggest names in the artform today, as well as some names that are more known in jazz’s underground scene. In one the film’s more poignant scene, the camera follow Donald Harrison back to his home in New Orleans after the devastation of Katrina, You’ll have to see the film to appreciate what happens while there. Icons Among Us is a brilliant film that will make aficiandos and novices appreciate and respect the music and the people who make it all the more.
Note: Check out our conversation with the Icons Among Us producer, John Comerford and see a clip for the film here.
‘Part fusion, part funk’ best describes the music of saxophonist-extraordinaire Vincent Herring and the band Earth Jazz on Morning Star, their latest release. The supergroup of outstanding talent includes Richie Goods on bass, Joris Dudli on drums and Anthony Wonsey on piano. Percussionist Danny Sadownick also guests on several cuts. The hybrid energy of this band is built around grooves which can reach non-hard boppers, without becoming ‘smooth’. The album’s 10 tracks are compromised mostly of originals compositions from each of the band members, but there are also new takes on Coltrane’s “Naima”, “Soul Leo” by Mulgrew Miller and the title track by Rodgers Grant that are also worth checking out.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Never Forget”.
Tracks: Do You Remember Me?, Naima, Black Fairytales, Tom Tom, Soul Leo, The Thang, Never Forget, Citizens of Zamunda, Morning Star, You Got Soul.
(Blue Note Records)
Double Portrait is the musical marriage of pianists-extraordinaire Bill Charlap and Renee Rosnes, who were fittingly wed three years ago at Jazz at Lincoln Center. That they like playing together is audibly evident in the recording, as there is a joyous quality to the music produced. The album is comprised of a mix of standards and songs by more contemporary composers such as Lyle Mays, Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson, among others. Recorded at the Kaufman Concert Hall in New York City, instead of a traditional studio, the acoustics of the performances are brilliant, as is the choice of songs. There is no doubt this work is a labor of love in the truest sense.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Ana Maria”.
Tracks: Chorino, Double Rainbow, Ana Maria, The Saros Cycle, My Man’s Gone Now, Dancing In The Dark, Inner Urge, Little Glory, Never Will I Marry.