BEST OF 2013: J Hunter’s Best Jazz Albums, Part II

December 19th, 2013, 3:00 pm by Greg

Reviews by J Hunter

Having given credit where credit was due in our last episode… let’s count ’em down:

ETIENNE CHARLES: Creole SoulNumber Ten…
ETIENNE CHARLESCreole Soul (Culture Shock Music)
Want some impressive numbers? This native son of Trinidad has four discs to his name, all on his own label – and he’s still in his 20s! Heeding the words of mentor Marcus Roberts that “going backwards is the only way to go forward,” Etienne Charles mixes the Afro-Caribbean beats of his native land with modern jazz idioms to create a set that makes you dance as much as it makes you think. Along with tasty originals like “Creole” and “Doin’ the Thing,” Charles re-shapes Monk’s “Green Chimneys” and Bo Diddley’s “You Don’t Love Me (no no no).” George Allen said, “The future is now” in the ’70s, but with young players like Charles on the scene, it’s jazz’s future that’s now!

ANTONIO SANCHEZ: New LifeNumber Nine…
Many artists try to do too much on their first release as a leader, and it usually turns into a train wreck in short order. But Antonio Sanchez – a big-time sideman who’s visited Greater Nippertown with Pat Metheny and the New Gary Burton Quartet – threads the needle perfectly, serving up 8 superb originals that are just complex enough to make the brain bubble but not boil over. Next-level keyboardist John Escreet joins sax monsters David Binney and Donny McCaslin on the front line, and Sanchez teams with bassist Matt Brewer to drive this beautiful machine up and up and up. Maybe next time we see Sanchez in these parts, it’ll be with his own band.

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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

September 7th, 2012, 12:00 pm by Greg

Reviews by J Hunter

Welcome to the Greater Nippertown jazz scene’s version of the Bermuda Triangle: That amazon nine-day stretch that gives us the Port of Albany Riverfront Jazz Festival, Lake George Jazz Weekend and the start of another season for A Place For Jazz… which means, of course, that we need some music to talk about between sets:

Ahmad Jamal: Blue MoonAHMAD JAMAL
Blue Moon
Not all 80-plus guys mumble incoherently to empty chairs. Some, like 81-year old piano icon Ahmad Jamal, take that chair and smash it over the heads of any stereotypes that stand in their way. Jamal still paints beautiful, pastoral pictures on his original “I Remember Italy” and Johnny Mercer’s “Laura”, but he also hits his lines on the reboot of “Autumn Rain” with a haymaker punch that’ll rock you back, and his reboot of the title track to his latest release Blue Moon takes one of the Great American Songbook’s more treacly woe-is-me tunes and flips it soundly on its head. Jamal’s muscular, veteran back-up band gives no quarter, either: Reginald Veal prefaces Jamal’s pulsing attack on “Morning Mist” with an in-the-clear bass solo that will give your sub-woofers some extra work; drummer Herlin Riley’s backbeat on “This Is the Life” lets Jamal dance the way he wants to – floating lightly on some sections, stomping hard on others – while Manolo Badrena’s percussion adds driving, industrial urgency to Bronislau Kaper’s “Invitation” and the Dizzy classic “Woody’n You.” Some things may get meaner as they get older, but when it comes to Ahmad Jamal, they also get better – way better!

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