by: Hobert Taylor
Jane Bunnett - Maqueque - (Justin Time)
Soprano saxophonist and flautist Bunnett, a Canadian national treasure, joins an outstanding group of young Cuban women musicians and singers to expand upon the tradition of Cuban jazz. With astoundingly complex polyrhythms and melodies that haunt or taunt in turns and supported by deep African percussion and classical string arrangements Bunnett and her sax wail, whisper, and chant. For pretty, play "Manqueque", the name of the band is Manqueque and it is the name given the spirit of young women in an Afro-Cuban dialect. For excitement and and intellectual stimulation "Tormenta" and "Canta a Babba" are songs that give you a lot to chew on.
Ann Reynolds and Clave Gringa - Para Cuba Con Amor - (Self-Released)
Seattle based pianist Reynolds, like Jane Bunnett went to Cuba to research various styles of Cuban jazz and popular folk musics, but she sticks closer to the authentic sound in her compositions. The arrangements are spot on and this provides an excellent starting point for folks interested in learning to grok the variety encompassed in Afro-Cuban music.
Adam Meckler Orchestra - When The Clouds Look Like This - (Self-Released)
The re-invention and re-definition of the big band or jazz orchestra is a constant sub text in the idiom. The popular notion of the big band is that it is a dinosaur, a remnant of '40's swing with vanilla edges... Glenn Miller to Stan Kenton to Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band. But while that poppy stuff has hogged the limelight, complex and innovative music from Sun Ra to Carla Bley has percolated just below the common mindset sometimes erupting as Frank Zappa. Adam Meckler is a composer and arranger in the Mingus tradition, which is to say smart and interesting. With young players and no commercial constraints, this music has a purity and freshness that I think should be celebrated. Check out "Sparkly Eyes" and "Beautiful Beatrice".
Larry Corban - The Corbanator - (Nabroc Records)
Guitarist Corban is a fusion between Les Paul and Sonny Sharrock... which is to say that he has super precise chops and can play outside while being solidly based in tradition. The CD is divided into tree sections. The first five cuts with a backing trio are dynamic, swinging, up tempo, and challenging. The music and energy slow down for cuts 6 through 9 and then the record is reborn as Corban plays some outstanding duets with himself, both electric and acoustic, for the last 4 cuts. Highlights, "Sea of Fire" and "One Two Three Steps" for the band stuff, and "Limits Of Inquiry" and "Blue In Green" for the duets.
Dana Landry - Memphis Skyline - (Artist Alliance)
A tribute record to Memphis's straight ahead jazz tradition, this record helps us remember that Memphis wasn't all just Graceland, Stax and Al Green. A vibrant straight ahead jazz world co-existed there (and don't get me started on Memphis punk). Pianist Landry has selected classics by composers Phineas Newborn, Harold Mabern, James Williams, Charles Lloyd, Donald Brown and Hank Crawford, and he and a trio play them with authority and care. I like "To Wane", "Yolonda's Storybook", "Sugar Ray" ( a true Memphis classic) and best of all "Basically simple".
Andy Waddell - Alive - (Rhombus Records)
Guitarist/composer Wadell has assembled a tight ensemble (Tom Cantanzaro, tenor sax, Josh Nelson, piano, Dan Lutz, bass and Aaron McLenndon, drums,) that has energy and a nuanced tension that explodes into manic joy or controlled passionate assertiveness. This CD was meant as an auto-biography for a soul in transition, and the message gets across loud and clear.
Alicia Olatuja - Timeless - (Self-Released)
Gorgeous voice, not too challenging arrangements, but the Brazilian tune "Serrado", "Speak The Words", and especially "The One" point the way to interesting things to come.
The Last Taxi - A Conversation - (Self-Released)
Like those of Jason Adasiewicz and Rob Mazurek and the Chicago avant garde , these tunes are like looking at negatives... you can read the images but everything's inside out and backwards. These are all the notes not played in the melody while the expected melody is left out. This is Third Stream, that is to say that place where modern classical and jazz meet. Cerebral and intuitive, these compositions both invite closes listening and can also serve as a back drop to creative free association.
Ryan Keberle & Catharsis - Into The Zone - (Greenleaf Music)
With straight ahead performances containing a slight edginess trombonist Keberle provides a deeply mellow and slightly jumpy tour of his musical consciousness. With occasional fluid vocals by Camila Meza. I like "Without A Thought", "Simple Sermon", and "Cheryl".