by: Hobart Taylor
Ed Neumeister - Suite Ellington - (Pao Records)
Trombonist/arranger Neumeister was concurrently in the Mel Lewis and Duke Ellington Orchestras in the '80's and '90's, before moving to Europe to spread the gospel of superior arranging and jazz large ensemble play. These recordings made in Austria are faithful to the spirit, precision and grace of the Ellington bands, but performed here by a core band, trombone, trumpet, sax, piano, bass, and drums, they have a contemporary immediacy that make them sound fresh and new. The work is from the heart the later canon, "Caravan", "Come Sunday", "The Queens Suite", and melodies from "The Far East Suite". A fitting tribute to America's Mozart.
Lenny Marcus Trio & Friends - Moving Fourth - (Self Released)
Pianist Marcus can be straight ahead, pop,or neo-classical, but a distinct musical personality floats gently above his stylings. His playing is fluid but at the same time clear in its outlines and definition. Faves, "Ode to McCoy", "Moving Fourth", "Cool Rondo", the spritely "Mocha", and "Beethoven's Blues".
Corey Christiansen - Factory Girl - (Origin)
Guitarist Christiansen takes American melodies and by shining a light through the prism of his playing deconstructs them so he can examine their colors one by one. Like Bill Frisell, Wayne Horvitz, Robin Holcomb, Lyle Mayes, and Charlie Haden, he is genre bender extraordinaire.
Sonny Rollins - Holding the Stage Road shows Vol. 4 - (Okeh)
Rollins is one of the greats. However these live recordings are uneven. The tone is always there, a warm embrace. The improvisational flights seem vibrant and engaged. The problem lies in the distance between him and his bands. On some of the more recent cuts (2012) they just don't seem to me to be in synch. Highlights for me were the 1996 "Keep Hold of Yourself" (Paris), 2006, the wonderous cut,"H.S", (Touloouse), and a medley recorded in Boston in 2001 that closes out the disc.
Roberta Piket - One for Marian - (Thirteenth Note Records)
This tribute to the pianist/composer Marian McPartland does her more than justice. Familiar to some as the host of the Piano Jazz radio program on National Public Radio, McPartland had a long and storied career as a composer, arranger, and pianist. Piket has collected a wonderful selection of her tunes. All of theme are masterful and perfectly arranged, but my faves are "Kaleidoscope', "Time and Time Again", and "Twilight World".