Soaring spiritual sounds from bassis Omer Avital – a musician we love more and more with each new record, and one who only seems to be honing his vision even more strongly over recent years! The material is all original by Avital – performed by a core quintet that features sparkling trumpet lines from Avishai Cohen, tenor from Joel Frahm, piano from Yonathan Avishai, and drums from Daniel Fredman – a lineup that's often so well-fused, they've got this cohesive power that goes well beyond the individual spirit of the instruments. Avital's lines often have this flowing, buoyant quality that recalls classic lines from Abdullah Ibrahim, or maybe some of Randy Weston's more African-oriented compositions – and the set features a bit of vocalizations at points, but more than draws enough power from the five musicians in the lead. Titles include "New Song", "Hafla", "Aviskhes", "Tsafdina", "Bedouin Roots", and "Ballad For A Friend". CD
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Mark Guiliana Jazz Quartet —
Jersey ... CD Motema, 2017. Used ...
That's the state of New Jersey on the cover – represented with an image that's as beautiful as the music on the set – a nicely bold statement from drummer Mark Guiliana, who works here with a mighty strong quartet! The group features some especially great tenor from Jason Rigby – a player who can soar forward on waves of sound one minute, then bring things back to carefully creative sonic territory – all in a way that's beautifully illustrative, with almost a painterly quality to his performance – but never in a way that feels forced or overly intellectual – given the organic quality of his horn. Pianist Fabian Almazan's great too – able to burst out these beautiful tones that really set the whole picture on fire – and bassist Chris Morrissey gets some great time in the spotlight, sometimes even to set the tunes up from the start – which he does wonderfully, then rolls them along as strongly as Guiliana's drums. Titles include "Our Lady", "Where Are We Now", "Big Rig Jones", "BP", "Rate", and "September". CD
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Hudson (DeJohnette/Grenadier/Medeski/Scofield) —
Hudson ... CD Motema, 2017. Used ...
A group who take their name from the Hudson River Valley – beautifully pictured here on the front cover – and a quartet who work in an equally expansive array of sounds – all sharp elements of tone and timing from a lineup that features Jack DeJohnette on drums, John Scofield on guitar, Larry Grenadier on bass, and John Medeski on piano, Fender Rhodes, and Hammond! The Hudson influence doesn't just stop at the name, though – because all these upstate New York musicians often pay tribute to other artists who left the city for points north – Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, and The Band – each of whom gets a tribute track on the album. About half the set is originals by members of the group – and if we had to pick one instrument that seems to have the strongest voice in the group, it might be the guitar of Scofield – maybe in part because he can skirt the two different worlds so well. Titles include "Tony Then Jack", "Dirty Ground", "El Swing", "Hudson", "Lay Lady Lay", "Woodstock", "Wait Until Tomorrow", and "A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall". CD
The first full album from Deva Mahal – a relatively young singer, but one who comes across with a power that makes us think that she's been recording for years! Deva's definitely got a contemporary soul approach, but works with a rasp in her vocals that's a bit blues-influenced too – balanced out with some occasional smoother, more fluid moments at a level that really keeps things interesting. A few tunes here are so catchy, you might think that you've already heard them – and we mean that as a compliment, given that Mahal's just getting her start. The album features guest appearances from Binky Griptite, Allen Stone, and Coco Peila – and titles include "Snakes", "Fire", "Shards", "Run deep", "Take A Giant Step", "Optimist", "Can't Call It Love", and "Turnt Up". LP, Vinyl record album
Donny McCaslin —
Blow ... CD Motema, 2018. New Copy ...
Saxophonist Donny McCaslin opens up a whole new side of his music here – by letting in a host of guests vocalists, whose presence links the record to some of the work that Donny did with David Bowie near the end of his life! We're not saying this is a Bowie record, and with the presence of McCaslin on so many solos, it's also not entirely a rock record either – but there are some strong rhythms and plenty of guitars – and about half the tracks have vocals, from singers who include Ryan Dahle, Jeff Taylor, Sun Kil Moon, and Gail Ann Dorsey. Dahle kicks off the record, and maybe sets the tone for a bit – but things change up nicely, as McCaslin hits some more familiar moments too – on tenor, flute, alto flute, and clarinet. Titles include "Club Kidd", "What About The Body", "Break The Bond", "New Kindness", "Eye Of The Beholder", "Tempest", "Beast", "Great Destroyer", and "Tiny Kingdom". CD
David Murray finds a fantastic new outlet for his many talents here – working with the younger songwriter Saul Williams – who delivers some fantastic lyrics throughout! Saul's as much a spoken word artist as he is a singer – and his passages on the album have this righteous power that takes us back to the hippest sort of music like this from the 70s – but also filtered through some of the lyrical possibilities of the better side of the hip hop generations, especially in the way the power of his messages come across! Murray is fantastic, too – really soulful and swinging, both on tenor and clarinet – and the songs often have Williams or Murray soloing first, then the other taking over. The rest of the group is pretty great as well – with Orrin Evans on piano, Craig Harris on trombone, Jaribu Shahid on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums, and a bit of Fender Rhodes from Jason Moran. Almost all tracks are originals – with titles that include "A Mirror Of Youth", "Kush", "Forever Brothers", "Music Of The Mind", "Deep In Me", "Positive Messages", "Obe", and "Citizens" – and the album also features a version of the Sun Ra tune "Enlightenment". CD
Ben Wendel's got a nicely edgey sound to his music here – blowing both tenor and bassoon with these raspy elements that are powerful, even when subtle – set up in a set of 12 tracks that follows the calendar month by month! In truth, we at first didn't even notice this gimmick – just marveled at the nicely poetic way that Wendel delivers the music – maybe somewhere in an ECM mode, but with a bit more bite – in a quintet with Aaron Parks on piano, Gilad Hekselman on guitar, Matt Brewer on bass, and Eric Harland on drums. Park and Hekselman definitely add a lot to the sound – their contributions here are as strong as on their own records – and titles include "January", "February", "March", "April", and so on. CD
Believe ... CD Motema, 2012. Used ...
Temporarily Out Of Stock
A great one from this all-star group – an incredibly righteous combo that's given Billy Harper one of his best chances to play in years! As with the previous album by The Cookers, the Harper influence really runs strong – not just in the use of some of his great tracks in the performance, but also in the way the tunes build and work together – that bold, powerful energy that Billy first unleashed on the world in the 70s – driven to new heights here by a lineup that also includes Eddie Henderson on trumpet, Craig Handy on alto sax, George Cables on piano, Cecil McBee on bass, and Billy Hart on drums! But key thanks should also go to trumpeter David Weiss – also in the group, and producer for the record – a great talent for getting these guys to work together so well. Titles include tunes by McBee, Cables, and Hart as well – with tracks that include "Ebony Moonbeams", "Believe For It Is True", "Free For All", "Quest", "But He Knows", "Tight Squeeze", and "Naaj". CD
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Amy London/Darmon Meader/Dylan Pramuk/Holli Ross —
Royal Bopsters ... CD Motema, 2015. Used ...
Temporarily Out Of Stock
We've been loving the vibes of Stefon Harris for years – and each new record with his Blackout group seems to have the musician pushing his envelope more and more! The vibes are still very strongly in place, but there's also some soulful elements that really shine through in the overall arrangements – linking Harris' more modern inclinations with a style that might help him grab all those ears he's deserved over the years, but who've not yet found his music! The set's not commercial at all – but has some qualities that put Stefon's righteous musical mission a bit more upfront – as he takes on songs by Wayne Shorter, Horace Silver, Bobby Timmons, and even the team of Bobby Hutcherson and Eugene McDaniels – whose "Now" is one of the best cuts on the record, delivered here with vocals from Jean Baylor and violin from Regina Carter. Other tracks include "Song Of Sampson", "Chasin Kendall", "Let's Take A Trip To The Sky", "Dat Dere", "Go", "Gone Too Soon", and "Throw It Away". CD
Pure brilliance from Babatunde Lea – an artist who sounds as deeply soulful in the 21st Century as he did on his first recordings from a few decades back! This time around, Lea's working with the wonderful Frank Lacy on trombone and trumpet – in a set of work that's all arranged by Lacy, with bold piano lines from Hilton Ruiz – whose playing here really takes us back to those early moments when we first discovered his genius – that unique blend of Latin and spiritual jazz roots that's perfect for a record like this. Things are plenty righteous, but very warm too – and the record stretches out magnificently without trying to hit anyone over the head – that beautiful balance you'd find in a rare Strata East record, maybe even more amazing here, given the contemporary date of the recording! Mario Rivera plays tenor, soprano sax, and flute – and titles include "Soul Pools", "Carolyn's Dance", "1055", "Round The World", "Ejercito Moreno", "Yerba Buena", and "Jackie & The Beanstalk". Also comes with a full bonus CD – Live At Rasselas – a quartet performance with Ernie Watts on tenor, Hilton Ruiz on piano, and Geoff Brennan on bass – on a 25 minute version of "Footprints". CD
Round, warm sounds from bassist Charnett Moffett – working here on both acoustic and electric bass, always with that laidback sense of flow that always made his older work so great! Moffett seems to shape each tune in a different way – and he's joined in this pursuit by guitarist Stanley Jordan, who reminds us of his wonderful sense of tone throughout – and by pianist Cyrus Chestnut, who's on most of the tracks on the set – save for a few that feature Jordan on piano. Jeff Tain Watts handles most of the drums – and tenor legend Pharoah Sanders makes a surprising appearance on three of the album's best tracks. Titles include "Music From Our Soul", "Freedom", "We Are Here To Play", "Love In The Galaxies", "Freedom Swing", "Sound World Suite", and "Celestial Dimensions". CD
DJ Qbico spins tracks from his collection of rare work by OK Jazz – that important West African combo of the 60s and 70s, whose music helped transform a generation! There's elements in the rhythms that feel as if they floated over from Havana – and the instrumentation is heavy on guitar in the grooves, but also features wonderful saxophone lines over the top – not entirely the jazz you might expect from their name, but still mighty nice! Titles include "Motema Na MJ", "Merengue", "Ku Kisantu Kikusenda Ko", "Ba OK Batele Wo", and "Asili Abebi". LP, Vinyl record album