Jazz2K: CD Picks of the Month

August 27th, 2013, 3:00 pm by Greg

CD reviews by J Hunter

It’s “Back To School” time, and speaking from experience, you need good tunes to get through the first few weeks… and the following nine months. Here are a few suggestions to relieve the tedium – whether you’re a student, a parent or a teacher:

Christian McBride Trio: Out HereCHRISTIAN McBRIDE TRIO
Out Here
(Mack Avenue)
On the surface, Out Here is a logical extension of the fervor bassist Christian McBride put into his mad trad group Inside Straight, a killer quintet that puts a straight edge onto straight-ahead jazz; below the surface, McBride is morphing slowly into former mentor/leader Ray Brown by building solid platforms for the next generation of jazzers to show their stuff. Out Here strips Inside Straight’s attack down to the bare essentials, giving us a piano-trio date that has something most piano-trio dates don’t have – teeth! The savory blues “Ham Hocks & Cabbage” might burn your mouth here and there, but you’ll revel in the taste of it. Pianist Christian Sands gives Billy Taylor’s “Easy Walker” the heart and the touch of its late, great composer, while Johnny Taylor’s iconic shouter “Who’s Making Love” gets stamped into the New Great American Songbook with a soul-jazz arrangement that’s unerringly driven by drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr. Sands and Owens both feature on Inside Straight’s latest disc People Music, so they’re dialed right in to McBride’s vibrant take on all things jazz. Sands’ roaring keyboard work on the superfast gospel “Hallelujah Time” is one of those calling-card solos people will remember, and his vast exploration of “My Favorite Things” almost makes you forget that some guy named Coltrane recorded it, too. But that’s Christian McBride, who’s been playing fearless music for over three decades – and, for once, “more of the same” is a really, really GOOD thing!

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JAZZ 2K: CD Picks of the Week

March 1st, 2012, 3:00 pm by Greg

Reviews by J Hunter

Five bright new arrivals and proof that everything old can become new again:

Jack DeJohnette: Sound Travels

“Sound Travels”
(Entertainment One)
It’s no surprise that Jack DeJohnette still kicks ass at age 70: As Art Blakey, Elvin Jones and Roy Haynes have proven, the jazzers who age the best are the drummers. But on “Sound Travels,” it’s how DeJohnette kicks ass – and, believe it or not, it ain’t on drums! Yes, he does get behind the kit on this collection of nine originals, all written or co-written by DeJohnette. Most of the backbeat heroics, though, go to percussionist Luisito Quintero, who completes the Latin feel infused in tracks like the sensual “Indigo Dreamscapes,” the East-meets-West-and-goes-South bop of “New Muse” and the African/Cuban crossover title track. But for the most part, DeJohnette eschews his famed rolling-thunder attack in favor of making space for an all-star band featuring bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding, guitarist Lionel Loueke, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, reed wizard Tim Ries and a heretofore-unknown keyboardist named… Jack DeJohnette! Yup, the heir to Tony Williams’ legacy plays beautiful, evocative piano – most notably backing Bobby McFerrin’s glistening vocalese on the meditative three-hander “Oneness” and all by himself on the whisper-soft coda “Home.” DeJohnette even plays piano on the twisting NOLA-survives anthem “Dirty Ground,” leaving co-author Bruce Hornsby nothing to do but sing! Take heart, fellow members of the Silver Headed Society! You’re never too old to re-invent yourself!

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