can be no dispute: Ella Fitzgerald is one of the elite vocalists in the history
of jazz. In my opinion, Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes, presents one of the
most enjoyable concert recordings in her career. Accompanied by Paul Smith on piano, Wilfred Middlebrooks on
bass and Stan Levey on drums, the rhythm section provides a solid foundation
for Ella’s creative and intensely personal performance – absolute perfection.
This is a newly discovered treasure. Verve first released Ella in Berlin
(1960) on LP from a concert on February 13, 1960, then Ella Returns to
Berlin (1991) on CD from a concert on February 11, 1961, but overlooked,
until now, this third performance in Berlin from her concert on March 25, 1962.
The stereo sound mix, remastered from the original tapes, closely captures Ella’s
voice, giving listener’s the impression they are sitting right in front of her
in the auditorium.
Title: Weekend In London Artist: George Benson Label: Provogue/Mascot Format: CD, LP Release Date: November 13, 2020
For the first time in 30 years, 10-time Grammy winning
guitarist and vocalist George
Benson has released a live recording highlighting his favorite
hits and improvisational skills. Weekend In London, which harkens back
to his groundbreaking 1978 Weekend in LA, pays homage to many of the
guitarist’s career peaks that effortlessly fused jazz, R&B and pop.
Although Benson has played at some of the biggest venues in the world during
his acclaimed six-decade career, this newest release features his performance
at London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club, an intimate 250-seat venue with
exceptional acoustics that has been hosting the world’s most influential jazz
musicians since 1959.
Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band
Years of Louis Armstrong is the second biography of the famous trumpeter from Louis
Armstrong scholar and enthusiast Ricky Riccardi. Where Riccardi’s first
biography focused on Armstrong’s later years, Heart Full of Rhythm paints a portrait of Louis Armstrong as a
popular performer in the years between 1929 and 1947.
Boone continues his fascination with poetry and jazz on his latest album, The Poets Are Gathering. The Cal State
University Fresno professor, who has released two previous collections devoted
to this pairing, notes that jazz and poetry have been inextricably linked since
the Harlem Renaissance. Following the tradition of artists such as Langston
Hughes and Charles Mingus, who collaborated on the album Weary Blues (1958), Boone’s new project features eleven acclaimed
poets—including Black poets Tyehimba Jess, Patrick Sylvain, Patricia Smith, and
Donald Brown, II—who narrate their own works. Boone, who performs on soprano
and alto sax, leads the various backing ensembles, featuring contributions from
guitarist Ben Monder, pianist Kenny Werner, bassist Corcoran Holt, and drummer
Ari Hoenig. Recorded over the last three years, the content reflects the
political and social turmoil of the present, providing “up-to-the minute,
Title: America the Beautiful Artist: Kahil El’Zabar Label: Spiritmuse Formts: CD, LP, Digital Release date: October 23, 2020
musician and composer Kahil El’Zabar, former chairman of the legendary AACM
(Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians) collective, is also
known as a pioneer of spiritual jazz. A master multi-percussionist and
instrumentalist, El’Zabar founded the Ethnic Heritage Ensemble in 1973, the
Ritual Trio a decade later, and other ensembles including JUBA Collective, the
Kahil El’Zabar Quartet, and more recently the Ethnics featuring Nona Hendryx.
His new release, Kahil El’Zabar’s America the Beautiful, was inspired by
music he scored for Daryl Roberts’s award-winning three-part documentary series,
America the Beautiful (2007-2014). Joining El’Zabar on these selections
are a number of notable Chicago musicians, including cellist Tomeka Reid,
trumpeter Corey Wilkes, alto saxophonist Dennis Winslett, and the late baritone
saxophonist Hamiet Bluiett, to whom this recording is dedicated.
Title: Live from the Prison Nation Artist: Alonzo Demetrius Label: Onyx Productions Formats: CD, Digital Release date: October 16, 2020
On his debut album, Live
from the Prison Nation, trumpeter Alonzo
Demetrius strives for an educational as well as a musical experience.
Expressing a sense of urgency, he hopes to inspire listeners into taking action
against the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC). A recent graduate of the Berklee
Global Jazz Institute Masters Program, Demetrius conceived of this project
while taking classes that dealt with the social and political significance of
activism for musicians. His website
not only delves into the thoughts behind each track, but also offers ‘conversation
starters’ that provide discussion questions and workshops
to facilitate the development of community action plans. Backing him on this
project is his band, The Ego, featuring tenor saxophonist Yesseh
Furaha-Ali, pianist Daniel Abraham Jr., bassist Benjamin Jephta, and drummer
Brian Richburg Jr.
Title: 25 Years Artist: Edward Simon Label: Ridgeway Records Formats: CD, Digital Release date: October 9, 2020
In celebration of a quarter century of inventive and trailblazing
music, Venezuelan-born pianist, composer and bandleader Edward Simon has
released two-disc career retrospective 25
Years. This project is a collection that celebrates his 50th
birthday, featuring tracks from thirteen of Simon’s albums that span from
1995-2018. Featuring collaborations with members of the SFJAZZ Collective and
other brilliant musicians such as tenor saxophonist Mark Turner, altoist David
Binney, bassists Scott Colley, John Patitucci and Ben Street, drummers Brian
Blade and Adam Cruz, and vocalists Luciana Souza, Lucia Polito, Genevieve
Artadi, and Gretchen Parlato, this is a self-curated album that uses jazz to
reflect the variety of musical styles that Simon has grown comfortable with
over his career, from Latin American folk and popular idioms to Afro-Latin
rhythms and European classical forms.
Title: Now Artist: Lafayette Gilchrist Label: Lafayette Gilchrist Music Formats: CD, Digital Release date: October 2, 2020
Baltimore-based composer and jazz pianist Lafayette Gilchrist offers a new double album, Now, that’s brimming over with his signature genre-spanning tunes. Though his recordings over the past decade have featured larger ensembles, for this project Gilchrist returns to the more intimate trio format with bassist Herman Burney and drummer Eric Kennedy. Addressing topics that range from the state of race relations and daily struggles faced by many within and beyond the city of Baltimore, to the more romantic aspects of love and life, the music reaches deep into the heart and soul of the community and the nation as a whole.
Title: Jupiter Conjunct Artist: Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine Label: Fresh Sound New Talent Formats: CD, Digital Release date: November 6, 2020
From Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine
comes Jupiter Conjunct, a follow up
to their 2019 album Anomaly. Drawing
on hip-hop and electronica influences, this album pushes the sound of jazz along
the trajectory of other current artists like bassist and vocalist Esperanza
Spalding, who is a featured guest on this project. Led by Burnett on saxophone,
the group consists of trumpeter Adam O’Farrill, keyboardist Carlos Homs,
bassist Nick Jozwiak, drummer Kush Abadey, and Joel Ross on vibraphone.
Title: Dialogues on Race, Volume One Artist: Gregg August Label: Iacuessa/dist. Bandcamp Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: August 21, 2020
An extremely versatile artist, double bassist and composer Gregg August performs and records with groups spanning multiple genres. Currently a member of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and American Composers Orchestra, he also performs regularly as a jazz bassist with the JD Allen Trio and Arturo O’Farrill’s Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra. In 2009, shortly after the inauguration of President Barack Obama, August was inspired to compose Dialogues on Race, an extended suite for large jazz ensemble, vocalists, strings and narrator. Drawing upon poems by Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Marilyn Nelson and other notable American poets, August hoped to “create a musical conversation that would help bring awareness and foster understanding on the issue of race” in support of the nation’s first Black president. Following the premiere at The Jazz Gallery in New York, the work was set aside for a time. But as the political discourse in the U.S. grew increasingly toxic and more Black lives were lost to violence, many of the musicians that premiered Dialogues urged August to revive and record the suite. The result is a stunning achievement that deftly combines jazz, blues, classical and Latin influences with gripping poetic verses to create a provocative work that is even more relevant and necessary today.
Soprano and tenor saxophonist Teodross Avery developed a keen
interest in the music of Thelonious Monk as a teenager, after hearing the acclaimed
jazz pianist’s landmark 1963 album Monk’s
Dream. After repeated listening, Avery says, “It became clear to me that
Monk wanted his complex melodies and harmonies to affect the musicians and the
listeners alike with non-stop swing rhythms…He wanted that swing beat to just
permeate the sound while he delivered his unique sound on top.” Avery went on to
earn a Doctorate in Jazz Studies from the University of Southern California and
along the way performed and recorded with many jazz titans as well as artists
ranging from Leela James and Lauryn Hill to Mos Def and Talib Kweli. But for
his latest project, Avery decided to return to his early fascination with Monk and
take a much deeper dive into the complexities of his music on Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk.
Title: Jazz Dance Suites Artist: Charles McPherson Label: Chazz Mack Music Formats: CD, Digital Release date: September 25, 2020
Distinguished alto saxophonist, composer and
McPherson, known for his bebop and bluesy style and
improvisational ingenuity, adds to his plethora of notable works with Jazz
Dance Suites. Inspired and
dedicated to his daughter Camille, a soloist in the San Diego Ballet, McPherson’s
album of ballet music is a fusion of refreshing harmonies and unique lyrical
melodies that wonderfully combine with inventive rhythm and syncopation,
creating a bouncy and vibrant project that is a beautiful compliment to dance.
Title: Give the Drummer Some Artist: Cindy Blackman Santana Label: Copperline Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: September 18, 2020
drummer Cindy Blackman Santana is well-known for her versatility, especially in
the realm of jazz and rock. A member of Lenny Kravitz’s band from 1992-2007,
for the past decade she has been the regular touring drummer for Santana (and
later married Carlos Santana). Heavily influenced by her mentor, the late
drummer Tony Williams who initially rose to fame in the 1960s as a member of
Miles Davis’ group, Cindy has extended and expanded his jazz-rock fusion
legacy. On her new album, Give the Drummer Some, Cindy reaches new
heights, on vocals and percussion, as she collaborates with four of the world’s
top fusion guitarists: Carlos Santana, John McLaughlin, Kirk Hammett (Metallica),
and Vernon Reid (Living Colour). Produced by Narada Michael Walden, the album
was three years in the making, and the results are no less than spectacular.
Title: Just Coolin’ Artist: Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers Label: Blue Note Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: July 17, 2020
reissue of Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers’ Just Coolin’ is from a 1959 studio album that was never released,
most likely due to the fact that four of the six tracks were included several
months later on a pair of live albums recorded at the legendary jazz club
Birdland in New York City—Art Blakey and
the Jazz Messengers at the Jazz Corner of the World (vols. 1 & 2, later
reissued as a two-CD set.). Consequently, the original studio sessions
comprising this release were shelved and are finally seeing the light of day 60
jazz violinist Regina Carter has a history of releasing music that celebrates Black culture,
whether commemorating the 100th anniversary of Ella
Fitzgerald or her
father’s roots on Southern Comfort. Yet at this pivotal point in history, with the COVID-19 pandemic
surging unabated in tandem with protests and civil unrest, Carter has chosen a
more politically charged theme. Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground is
her urgent message to those who have not taken part in the democratic process,
extolling them to get out and exercise their right to vote. The title, she explains,
speaks to the current state of the nation: “We are living in surreal times…we
have become a divided country of Red vs. Blue, Us vs. Them or Not Our Kind, and
that pot is starting to boil over.” Rest assured, however, that both hope and harmony
are encouraged across the album’s 14 tracks as Carter and her band of jazz
luminaries take the listener on a tour from sea to shining sea.
Title: Freedom Artist: Javier Nero Label: Outside In Music Formats: CD, Digital Release date: August 7, 2020
The winner of multiple prestigious jazz trombone
competitions and recipient of a Ph.D. from Frost School of Music at the
University of Miami, Dr. Javier Nero appears
more than ready to present his debut solo album, Freedom. The title, he
explains, reflects the very essence of jazz, as well as “the beauty that can be
created by learning from and appreciating disparate cultures.” Nero draws upon
his own multi-cultural ancestry and extensive training as a jazz and classical
musician, as well as his experience as a member of the Haitian band Klass, to seamlessly
incorporate elements of multiple genres across the 12 tracks of the album.
Joining Nero in the ensemble are Tom Kelley (sax/flute), Melvin Butler
(tenor/soprano sax), Jean Caze (trumpet/flugelhorn), Tal Cohen (piano), Dion
Kerr (bass) and Aaron Kimmel (drums).