by: Hobart Taylor
Corey Kendrick Trio - Rootless - (Self-Released)
There is a keenness and energy in this group that revitalizes the deep '60's soul and bop grooves and the Bill Evans style meditations that permeate their music. They are an essentially an equilateral tri-angle (Kendrick, piano, Nick Bracewell, drums, Joe Vasquez, bass), and like Golden State at their best, it's team play that wins the day even though they have a stellar three point shooter in Kendrick. There is nothing tired, trite, or lazy in their music, every moment is fresh. They play inside, faithful to the tunes and their melodies, so a casual listener may assume this is just another pleasant mainstream record. But the innovation comes in the careful attention to each and every note and moment which elevates this to far more than a homage to a great tradition.
Warren Wolf - Convergence - (Mack Avenue Records)
Vibraphones and marimbas provide sky sound, the pealing bell tones that fall like gentle rain.
Percussionist Wolf, (backed by jazz royalty, John Scofield, on guitar, pianist Brad Mehldau, drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts, and producer and bassist, Christian McBride), is a deft and quietly persuasive visionary of his instruments. The tunes include more abstract modal explorations, bouncy bop, hip hop and funk tinged jams, and ballads. All of them are on the money.
Keefe Jackson/Jason Adasiewicz - Rows and Rows - (Delmark)
While on the subject of vibraphones, Chicago's Jason Adasiewicz has been a major force in utilizing that instrument in avant-garde and more abstract musical settings. Whether in his own groups, with Rob Mazurek's Exploding Star Orchestra, or in duets like this recording, he provides an expansive range of tonal and rhythmic variation not usually associated with the instrument in jazz. Presently many new classical composers use vibes and marimbas in the same way. Keefe Jackson on tenor sax and bass clarinet Adasiewicz engage in fervent dialog in many seemingly completely improvised pieces. Sometimes it sounds like parallel play to me, call and response built of fragmentary phrases. Sometimes they connect, meld, and then the sum is more than it's parts.
Alex Goodman - Border Crossing - (OA2 Records)
Guitarist Goodman like John Fahey or many other virtuosi of the instrument, is not wed to genre. The instrument's fluidity allows for rapid and subtle shifts between styles. Goodman does this gracefully and beautifully. There are Mozart inspired melodies, blues riffs, French jazz, and abstract noodlings accompanied by a vibraphone. Vocals on some cuts by Felicity Williams often give this outing an airy feel.
Jason Miles - To Grover with Love/Live in Japan - (Whaling city Sound)
Electronic keyboardist Miles, with saxophonists Andy Snitzer and Eric Darious, has gotten under the surface of the over-produced and saccharine hits of Grover Washington in order to emphasize their melodic genius and unalloyed funkiness. The excitement of a live set helps bring this music to life.
Dominick Farinacci - Short Stories - (Mack Avenue)
Trumpeter Farinacci has a smooth and polished sound that feels cool, unchallenging, and satisfyingly precise. Produced by the legendary Tony LiPuma (Miles Davis, Diana Krall, The Crusaders, Joe Sample, Dr. John), this has a major label feel in a time when there are no major labels. It helps to have Christian McBride, Steve Gadd, and Dean Parks along for the ride. The ballads are often intensely beautiful, and beautifully arranged like Tom Waits' "Soldier's Things", and there are tasty re-workings on classics like Horace Silver's "Senor Blues". Particularly interesting is Farinacci's composition "Doha Blues" and the Brazilian inflected electronica piece with vocals "Somebody I Used to Know".
Dave Flippo Trio - Life on Mars - (Oppilf Records)
These are jazz re-workings of rock standards. They are faithful to the spirit of the originals and are not the sometimes hokey imposition of jazz changes on popular melodies. The extended solos work to expand musical ideas inherent in the tunes. Having said this, for me the most successful cut on the album is not a Bowie tune, or Joni Mitchell, or Dylan, it is a Nat Adderley/Curtis Lewis composition,
Danny Bacher - Swing That Music - (Whaling City Sound)
This is the coolest wedding band in the world. Maybe. Anyway they are sharp, incredibly on top of the beat, and Bacher's vocals are so smooth in the tradition that stretches from Rudy Vallee to Bobby Short that the fun is irresistible. "That Old Black Magic", "Is You Is or Is You A'int My Baby?",
"St. James Infirmary Blues", you've heard them all before but in this iteration, you want to hear them again.
Steve Wiest and Phontrange - The High Road - (BluJazz)
Wiest is a trombone meister and composer with aspirations to revive jazz-rock, midis and all. Supported by the blazing guitar of Mike Abbott and other stalwarts of the Denver scene, this goes to "Zappaville" at it's best, "Yes Town" at it's not so best. The level of performance is uniformly expert.