Wednesday, February 16, 2022

Brief Notes On New Jazz Releases

Sometimes I think that if the kooky cult members and assorted fascists on the far right heard a key song or album they would suddenly snap out of their bizarre state and return to humanity, like waking from a nightmare or coma. Perhaps the right album is among these new jazz releases. Who knows?

Aaron Bazzell: “Aesthetic” – The debut full-length album from saxophonist Aaron Bazzell features all original compositions. Joining him on this release are Keith Brown on piano, Brandon Donald on drums, and Jonathan Michel on bass, with Rachel Robinson on vocals for one track. The album opens with “Tomorrow Today,” which has a wonderful warmth right from its start, particularly in Aaron’s work on alto sax. There is a light element to this piece, giving the sense of the brevity of life, that these dances are just a few breaths and we should do our best to enjoy them before we pass into dust. But there is nothing depressing about this track. Rather, it unites us in a strange joy, for this brevity is something we all have in common. As it reaches toward its climax, there is a sense of determination. Then “Asked And Answered” has a relaxed, somewhat soothing vibe as it begins, and features a good lead on bass. This track picks up some energy as it goes, particularly during the conversation between piano and saxophone. “Unrequited” is a moving piece, one of reflection and pain, but yet perseverance. Then “First Period Prep” is about getting ready for a busy day, in this case specifically a day of teaching. Aaron Bazzell has been teaching music in New York, and this piece comes from his experiences, and features a nice groove. Teachers are not valued nearly as much as they should be in this country, even now when their jobs are made even more difficult (and dangerous) by the pandemic. But you don’t have to be a teacher to appreciate this excellent track. The one track to feature vocals is “Eventually,” a song about pursuing one’s dreams, told from the perspective of that dream itself. Here is a taste of the lyrics: “I’m closer to you than I may appear/All that’s separating you and I is fear/Beware the test that I will put you through.” The album concludes with “Increase And Persist,” a lively piece featuring some exciting work on saxophone, an excellent lead on piano and a beat to propel us all forward. This album is scheduled to be released on April 22, 2022.

Jorge Garcia: “Dedicated To You” – This new album from guitarist Jorge Garcia features a couple of previously unreleased tracks recorded with saxophonist Richie Cole back in 2009. Those are the first two tracks on this release, and also feature Rick Doll on bass. The first, a cover of Gigi Gryce’s “Minority,” moves at a great pace and really highlights Richie Cole’s talent. His playing here is like some wild entity racing up a mountainside with a delirious joy. Rick Doll, Jorge Garcia and drummer James Cotman all find their own ways to match that enthusiasm and energy, that sense of abandon. The second track is “This One’s For Richie,” composed by Jorge Garcia, and while it might not have quite the same energy, it certainly has the same joy, and is a delight, and at certain moments Jorge Garcia’s guitar sounds like it is dancing. This track also features some excellent work by James Cotmon, including some brief solos. Those two tracks are followed by “With You Always,” another original composition, this one with a wonderful Brazilian vibe, and featuring some beautiful work by Hendrick Meurkens on harmonica. Then Jorge Garcia delivers an unusual rendition of “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” featuring Wendy Pedersen on vocals. It has a rhythm I wouldn’t ordinarily associate with this song, one that shakes and moves, and features some excellent work on guitar. That’s followed by a cool rendition of “You Fascinate Me So” that features some wonderful interactions between guitar and piano. That’s Paul Banman on piano. There is also a good lead on bass. We then get a fun, fast-paced version of “‘S Wonderful” (which is here incorrectly titled “S’ Wonderful” on the CD case), featuring some delicious work on bass and some seriously impressive work on guitar. The album concludes with its title track, an original composition that has a pretty, gentle sound. This album is scheduled to be released on CD on February 22, 2022.

Brent Laidler: “Wouldn’t Be Here Without You” – Guitarist Brent Laidler’s new album, his second, features all original material. Joining him on this album are Mark Buselli on trumpet and flugelhorn, Ned Boyd on saxophone and flute, Jamie Newman on organ, Scott Pazera on bass, and Richard “Sleepy” Floyd on drums. The album opens with “Keeping It Simple,” which has a rather cheerful sound and a bossa nova flavor. The pleasant vibes continue with “Sunday Mood,” which has some catchy elements, particularly in the work from the brass section, and also features a good lead on keys and some brief but wonderful drum solos. That’s followed by the playfully titled “You Ain’t The Bossa Me,” a lighthearted number that features some good work on saxophone. One of my favorite tracks is “A Second Chance,” in large because of the New Orleans flavor it has. Brass is boss here, and it sounds so good! I also really dig the rhythm. And of course, there is an excellent and fun lead on guitar. Then “City By The Bay” features a nice lead on flute. That’s followed by “Foo’s Blues,” a cool track with some great work on drums, and a series of interesting and exciting leads. “Walt’s Waltz” is another playfully titled track, this one written in honor of a high school teacher. Brent Laidler’s guitar playing is joyous and lively. The album’s title track is another of its highlights, with that delicious bass line and fantastic work on guitar, moving along at a good clip. This album is scheduled to be released on March 11, 2022.

Doug MacDonald And The L.A. All-Star Octet: “Overtones” – Doug MacDonald is certainly one of the busiest and most prolific musicians around, as well as being one hell of a talent. The guitarist’s latest project finds him leading a group of incredibly talented musicians, including Aaron Janik on trumpet, Kim Richmond on alto saxophone, Rickey Woodard on tenor saxophone, Ira Nepus on trombone, Bill Cunliffe on piano and organ, Chuck Berghofer on bass, Roy McCurdy on drums and Paul Kreibich on shaker. Most of the tracks on Overtones were composed by Doug MacDonald. The album opens with “Night By Night,” the horns having a delicious big band vibe as the track begins. Not only is there a wonderful lead on guitar, as you’d expect, but moments for most of the other musicians to shine as well, in relatively brief leads, including a cool lead on bass. That’s followed by a relaxed bossa nova tune, “Bossa For PK,” which features some excellent guitar work. One of the grooviest, most delightful tracks on this release is “Blues By Eight,” Doug MacDonald’s guitar work just dancing and swinging and smiling from the moment it begins. The horns deliver some bright work, and everything feels just right. Let some swinging sunlight into your day by playing this track. That’s followed by “Hortense,” a tune Doug MacDonald also included on last year’s Serenade To Highland Park, as well as 2019’s Organisms. I love this tune’s light vibe. “Over #21” is a fun, funky number, featuring a lot of great work from the brass section, especially the trombone. Then “Ground Up” features more excellent work on guitar, and has an interesting, exciting vibe. That’s followed by the cheerful, swinging “Rickey Speaking.” The only piece not written by Doug MacDonald on this release is a cool rendition of “Lover Man.” This album was released on February 15, 2022.

Kenny Shanker: “Vortex” – The new album from saxophonist and composer Kenny Shanker features mostly original material. Joining him on this release are Daisuke Abe on guitar, Mike Eckroth on piano, Yoshi Waki on bass, and Brian Fishler on drums, with Bill Mobley playing trumpet on a few tracks. The album opens with its title track, one of the tracks to feature the work of Bill Mobley. There is an interesting pace and energy to this piece, and I am especially taken with Brian Fishler’s work on drums and Mike Eckroth’s lead on piano, both of which have an exciting aspect. That’s followed by “Lulu’s Back In Town,” one of only three covers chosen for this release. That piano work at the beginning announces this as a fun, playful rendition. Kenny Shanker takes us on a cool, groovy stroll with his work on this one, supported by some good work on bass. “Winter Song” has a gentle, warm, relaxed vibe, reminding me of those days when we had no obligations, when family was gathered inside, and the snow was pretty rather than oppressive. This track features a good lead on bass in its second half. Then “Hunter” features some lively, exciting work on saxophone, particularly toward the end. “Ramble” includes a wonderful lead on guitar, and features Bill Mobley on trumpet. “Nightfall” has a more somber vibe as it begins, and Kenny Shanker’s work on saxophone is beautiful and engaging, gaining power until it is time for the piano to lead. And Mike Eckroth delivers some absolutely wonderful work on piano before then giving way to the guitar, which continues in that vein. This is an excellent piece, one of my personal favorites. The mood gets lighter again with a cover of Dave Brubeck’s “The Duke.” “Midnight Snack” is another highlight, with a cool bass line and some pensive, interesting guitar work before Kenny Shanker takes over on saxophone. He plays soprano sax on this one. The album concludes with a cover of “Autumn Leaves.” This album is scheduled to be released on March 4, 2022.

No comments:

Post a Comment