As the middle child of 11 children, Mary Stallings probably didn’t stand out right away, but it’s not the case today. The experience she gained singing in a family gospel group with her mother and two older sisters from the age of ten, certainly has served her well over the course of lengthy singing career. Stints with Ben Webster,Cal Tjader, Teddy Edwards and Wes Montgomery couldn’t hurt either in fostering a well-earned reputation as a seasoned jazz vocalist. Her latest recording, her first for HighNote Records, is a testament to the fact that Stallings is still as good as ever. Dream finds her collaborating again with pianist/arranger Eric Reed for some beautiful new presentations of notable jazz standards by Cole Porter, Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, Artie Shaw and others from various musical periods. Also joining in is a rhythm section of Ralph Penland on drums and Hamilton Price on bass. Stalling’s daughter Adriana Evans joins her on a duet on one track on the project. This recording is another excellent effort by one of the jazz world’s great vocalists.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Hey Now”.
Tracks: Close Enough For Love, That Old Black Magic, Moon Ray, Never Knew, Weaver of Dreams, Mad About The Boy, Dream Dancing, Hey Now Watching You Watching Me, Before You Know It, Timeless Place (The Peacocks).
For this recording, David Weiss assembled a group of veteran sidemen who have played with every major name in jazz over the past 45 years. The group known as The Cookers is comprised of drummer Billy Hart, bassist Cecil McBee, alto saxophonist Craig Handy, tenor saxophonist Billy Harper, with Eddie Henderson and Weiss on trumpet. Together, they’re a powerhouse unit taking on a range of mostly original tunes composed by McBee, Harper and Cables. They also include a Freddie Hubbard tune. As one might expect from musicians of this calibur, the interplay is impeccable and makes for a thoroughly captivating listen.
Click here to listen to a clip of “U Phoria”.
Tracks: The Core, Spookarella, Close To You Alone, Close To You Alone, Priestess, Sweet Rita Suite, Part 2: Her Soul, Capra Black, LadyBugg, U Phoria.
Vocalist Lizz Wright deserves her own category in the record stores. The category name? Lizz Wright. The 30-year old Georgia-born, preacher’s daughter so wonderfully interprets any lyric she takes on that they become new songs. This is no exception to this idea with her latest release Fellowship, which is less a gospel album than a Lizz Wright record with songs that have a spiritual bent. While there are certainly gospel standards here, such as “God Specializes” and “Hold On”, there are also versions of songs made famous by Eric Clapton, Gladys Knight and Jimi Hendrix.Wright is joined here by guests vocalists Angelique Kidjo, Joan as Policewoman, and Dr. Berniece Johnson Reagon, who wrote one of the projects. Her daughter, Toshi Reagon, who has collaborated with Wright since 2005′s Dreaming Wide Awake, produced half the tracks on this effort. Me’Shell Ndegéocello wrote the very evocative and thought-provoking title track, which quotes Bob Marley’s anthem “Stand Up”. If there’s any message that runs through the music it is that great lyrics from the mouth of an artist of Wright’s calibur can be incredibly spiritually uplifting no matter their original source.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Fellowship”.
Tracks: Fellowship, (I’ve Got To Use My) Imagination, I Remember, I Believe, God Specializes, Gospel Medley (various selections), Sweeping Through The City, All The Seeds, Presence of The Lord, In From The Storm, Feed The Light, Oya, Amazing Grace .
In 2008, multi-reed instrumentalist Geof Bradfield was a member of a month-long musical tour of the African countries of Rwanda, Uganda, Congo and Zimbabwe sponsored by the U.S. State Department and Jazz at Lincoln Center. It was part of a program to take American music abroad. Bradfield, however, received as much as he gave to the experience, soaking in a great deal of African music while on the tour. African Flowers is the product of his inspiration. The project is a suite of nine songs and several solo interludes all written by the Chicago-based musician. Bradfield’s saxophone playing is as rich and warm as the songs he composed. The performances of his bandmates are high quality, as well. The project features Victor Garcia on trumpet, flugelhorn, percussion and congas, Jeff Parker on guitar, Ryan Cohan on piano, Clark Sommers on bass, and George Fludas on drums. This is a truly outstanding recording.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Lumbabashi”.
Tracks: Butare, Piano Solo, The Children’s Room, Lumbabashi, Mama Yemo, Drum Solo, Nairobi Transit, Prelude, Kampala, Bass Solo, The Nurse from Nairobi, Harare/Leaving Africa.
The venerable jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell is back with a new album titled, Be Yourself. Recorded live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola at Jazz @ Lincoln Center in New York City, is a 10-selection musical tribute to Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie, featuring songs associated with both musical stalwarts, with whom Burrell played. The project showcases the outstanding support and performances of pianist Benny Green, bassist Peter Washington, drummer Clayton Cameron and saxophonist Tivon Pennicott. Yet another outstanding recording by one of jazz’s true standard-bearer.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Bass Face”
Tracks: Spoken Introduction, Tin Tin Deo, Raincheck, Listen To The Dawn, Blue Bossa, Be Yourself, Bass Face, In a Sentimental Mood, Mark I, Bag’s Groove.
Vocalist Charmaine Clamor cut her musical teeth as a 3-year old performing for fellow bus passengers in her native Philippines and went on to be discovered as a college student in the United States, where she immigrated as a teen. The singer possesses a rich, soulful voice that echoes with a confidence of singers beyond her years. Something Good, Clamor’s fourth U.S. solo outing, is a 12-song recording which, with the exception of the Rodger and Hammerstein-penned title track, is comprised of mostly newer compositions. The singer is accompanied by outstanding musicianship from, among others, Eli Brueggemann on organ, piano and other keys, Bo Razon on guitar and various percussion and Dominic Thiroux on electric and acoustic basses. Clamor, who interprets parts of several tunes in her language of origin, is an ascending talent who should be exciting to listen to over the course of her career.
Click here to listen to a clip of “Sweet Spot”.
Tracks: Every Single Moment, Doodlin’ in Taglish, Something Good, Feelin’ Stevie, Motherless Ili Ili, Let’s Take a Trip, Flow, Maalaala Mo Kaya, Ikaw, Sweet Spot, The Farther You Go, Believe in Love, Breakfast with Bubba .
Mirror, the latest recording from saxophone legend Charles Lloyd, is not only one of our favorites of the year, but ranks among the best of his recordings. Much of Lloyd’s music has possesed a contemplative feeling, but on this project it seems especially true. Lloyd re-creates several well-known standards and his own previously recorded tunes with an outstanding ensemble of musicians that breathe new life into the material. Joining him on this effort are pianist Jason Moran (who recently became a recipient of the MacArthur Genius Award), bassist Reuben Rogers and drummer Eric Harland. The rhythm section provides an excellent framework for Lloyd, who clearly demonstrates, at the tender age of 72, that he is still performing at the top of his game.
Tracks: I Fall in Love Too Easily (For Lily), Go Down Moses, Desolation Sound, La Llorona, Caroline, No, Monk’s Mood, Mirror, Ruby, My Dear, The Water Is Wide, Lift Every Voice And Sing, Being And Becoming, Road To Dakshineswar with Sangeeta, Tagi.