Vocalists have played a notable role in the history of jazz, including women such as Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, and Sarah Vaughn, who collectively defined vocal artistry in the ongoing jazz tradition. Ella 100: Live at the Apollo! showcases the continuing role of today’s artists, vibrantly celebrating the 100th birthday of another legendary jazz vocalist, Ella Fitzgerald. This recording of the Ella Fitzgerald tribute concert on October 22, 2016, transports you to the stage of the Apollo Theater in New York City, the site of Ella’s performing debut in an amateur contest when she was only seventeen years old. The selections are drawn from Ella’s recording legacy, which extends from her first recording with Chick Webb’s Orchestra on June 12, 1936 for Decca Records to her final complete album recorded for Pablo Records on March 20 & 22, 1980. This represents a span of 44 years, which is truly remarkable for any artist.
Title: Love and Liberation
Artist: Jazzmeia Horn
Label: Concord Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: August 23, 2019
On her stunning 2017 debut, A Social Call, singer-songwriter and bandleader Jazzmeia Horn demonstrated a maturity that belied her age, deftly fusing jazz vocal techniques of the ‘50s and ‘60s with R&B and gospel music while also issuing a call for social responsibility and change. Horn’s sophomore album, Love and Liberation, continues in a similar vein, featuring eight original songs that reflect her personal mantra: An act of love is an act of liberation, and choosing to liberate—oneself or another—is an act of love.” Joining her on the album are drummer/vocalist Jamison Ross who, like Horn, is a past winner of the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition, as well as special guest pianist Sullivan Fortner. All three were raised within the Southern Baptist church, allowing their shared lived experiences and gospel roots to permeate the tracks. Other backing musicians include pianist Victor Gould (Horn’s regular accompanist), tenor saxophonist Stacey Dillard, trumpeter Josh Evans, and bassist Ben Williams.Continue reading →
Title: A Little Love
Artist: Quiana Lynell
Label: Concord Jazz
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: April 5, 2019
Born and raised in Tyler, Texas, Quiana Lynell, like so many great singers before her, first began to sing in the church, then later attended Louisiana State University to study classical voice. She quickly found that the classical world didn’t necessarily suit her, and when a friend allowed Lynell to sit in with a blues band, she “learned that singers can have pretty voices and be entertainers.” Since then, Lynell has gone on to perform with such acclaimed artists as Terrence Blanchard, Herbie Hancock, Bilal, Ledisi, and many more. In 2017 she really made her name in jazz by winning the famed Sarah Vaughn International Vocal Competition. Now, Lynell is presenting her debut album. Continue reading →
Chicago trumpeter Marquis Hill, who studied under Ronald Carter at Northern Illinois University and earned a masters in jazz pedagogy from DePaul University, released several projects of his original music on Skiptone Music. In 2014, Hill won the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Trumpet Competition, which awarded him a recording contract with Concord Records. From this contract comes his debut album for Concord Jazz, The Way We Play, which pays homage to jazz standards reinterpreted by Hill and his ensemble, the Blacktet, featuring Christopher McBride (sax), Justin Thomas (vibes), Makaya McCraven (drums), and Joshua Ramos (bass).
The title track, “The Way We Play/Minority” is playful mashup of a Gigi Gryce tune and features spoken word by Harold Green III. It can be listened to as a manifesto (“the way we play is / the way we love”), or as Hill emphatically states, “this is the sound of my band, which is uniquely Chicago.” Green enters after the intro, claiming the music’s blackness, stating “the way we play signify from which we came/Black always in season.” Light and fast paced, Hill’s rendition never numbs a gut or unseats a listener as free jazz strove to do. This is a fantastic piece, which describes many of the songs on this release. It dances the spirit in a comforting way and is great at romancing the beings that this society has had us become. The drumming is singularly superb and so the trumpet playing.
Other highlights are Horace Silver’s “Moon Rays,” which inspires idealism in its listener, and the Afro-Cuban take on “Fly Little Bird Fly” (by Donald Byrd), which also features spoken word by Harold Green. His prose asks “the descendants of sharecroppers” to “sprinkle black girl magic” and “rise and dance.” Are these songs politically romantic? Marquis Hill seems to intend to transform at least some of the tracks into statements of political activism or even protest. Also included on the album is an Afro-Latin version of “Smile,” the Charlie Chaplin tune, while “My Foolish Heart” is a love ballad with R&B influences featuring Christie Dashiell on vocals.
Marquis Hill’s The Way We Play is a delightful album that combines the best of two worlds: Archie Shepp without the jagged edges, post-bop with overt protest.