Bud Powell defined bebop piano, then Hasaan Ibn Ali belongs to a group of
pianists, including Thelonious Monk, Elmo Hope, and Herbie Nichols, who devoted
themselves to extending the style into new territories. Or at least he should
be in that group, and quite possibly would be if Atlantic Records had released
this 1965 session as a follow-up to the Max Roach Trio’s Featuring the
Legendary Hasaan LP. It’s a shame bordering on tragedy that Hasaan’s second
and final commercial recording did not see the light of day until now. Had it
been released at the time, it would have fit perfectly alongside the work of
the many bop-rooted musicians who were exploring new paths in composition and
improvisation during this exciting period of music.
Title: The Ancestors’ Call Artist: Marques Carroll Label: JMarq Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: April 16, 2021
Within the musical canon of the genre traditionally known as “jazz,” Chicago’s legacy as birthplace or training ground for some of the genre’s most innovative and technically adept trumpeters is solidified by musicians such as Ray Nance, Louis Armstrong, Lester Bowie, Marquis Hill, and Corey Wilkes. With his stellar debut quintet album, The Ancestors’ Call, Chicago-based trumpeter and composer, Marques Carroll, rightly adds his name to this list.
Title: We Are Artist: Jon Batiste Label: Verve Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: March 19, 2021
Fresh off of winning a Golden Globe and Critic’s Choice Awards
for his score to the animated film Soul, pianist/composer Jon Batiste has released a new album
with similar sensibilities. We Are is a masterful synthesis of musical
styles, most notably those reflecting Batiste’s upbringing in New Orleans
amidst a family dynasty of notable jazz, blues, and R&B musicians. Add to
this mix Batiste’s classical training at Juilliard and his roots in the church,
and you get a musician who is fluent in every major musical genre, all of which
are seamlessly integrated in this album.
Title: AfroFuturism Artist: Logan Richardson Label: Whirlwind Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: March 12, 2021
Kansas City-born saxophonist Logan
Richardson made his debut as a bandleader in 2007 with Cerebral Flow, an
album that reflects his time performing with jazz musicians such as Pat
Metheny, Joe Chambers, Billy Hart, Butch Morris, Stefon Harris and Jason Moran.
Since then, Richardson’s work has become increasingly eclectic, ranging from
performances with the urban jazz supergroup NEXT Collective to his 2018 release
Blues People, which busted through any boundaries limiting what jazz
fusion could aspire to. Now back in Kansas City and sheltering from the
pandemic in an apartment once inhabited by Charlie Parker, Richardson imagines
an even broader universe of sound on his latest project, AfroFuturism.
Title: Breathe Artist: Dr. Lonnie Smith Label: Blue Note Formats: CD, Digital Release date: March 26, 2021
The reigning master of the Hammond B-3 organ, Dr. Lonnie Smith has ruled the soul jazz scene from his keyboard for over five decades. Still a prolific recording artist, the musical icon has just released Breathe, his third album for Blue Note in the last five years, all produced by the label’s president, Don Was. The majority of the tracks were recorded live at the Jazz Standard in New York City in 2017 during Smith’s 75th birthday celebration, in the seemingly long-ago days when one could hang out at a crowded club on the weekends. Fans weary of social distancing can now vicariously join the celebration through album’s eight tracks.
Title: NOW Artist: Damon Locks & Black Monument Ensemble Label: International Anthem Formats: Digital (CD, LP available July 9, 2021) Release date: April 9, 2021
Following his auspicious 2019 debut, Where Future Unfolds,
Chicago-based multi-media artist/activist Damon Locks and his jazz-based Black Monument Ensemble return with
their latest release, NOW. Featuring six new tracks, this multi-generational
collective of Chicago artists continues their mission of presenting vibrant,
uplifting music and dance that draws “from all facets of the diverse
wellspring of Black artistic excellence.” The new project is also a response to
the group’s previous release: “the future has unfolded and taken a new
and dangerous shape… what happens NOW?’”
Title: Vessels of Wood and Earth Artist: Dan Wilson Label: Brother Mister Productions/Mack Avenue Formats: CD, Digital Release date: April 23, 2021
Grammy-nominated guitarist and composer Dan Wilson’s debut album, Vessels of Wood and Earth, exhibits a rich range of tones and textures. Joined by pianist Christian Sands, bassist Marco Panascia, drummer Jeff “Tain” Watts and guest vocalist Joy Brown, this incredibly talented band showcases a mastery of musical expression, revealing robust musical perspectives from each and every artist. Produced by bassist, composer, arranger, and Philadelphian jazz icon, Christian McBride, the project is a mix of both original compositions and arrangements of classic songs from the likes of Stevie Wonder and Ray Charles, assembled to illustrate Wilson’s foundation that is “rooted as much in tradition as it is in moving the music irresistibly forward into the modern world.” The album is the first release on Brother Mister Productions, McBride’s own record label under the Mack Avenue Music Group.
Title: The American Negro Artist: Adrian Younge Label: Jazz Is Dead Format: CD, Digital Release date: February 26, 2021
In the wake of social
unrest and political trauma, composer Adrian Younge, like many before him, has
now become part of a canon of musical and literary expression that will likely live
on for generations. Younge’s new album, The
American Negro, offers 26 tracks of message songs and soulful instrumentals
interjected with Younge’s spoken word treatise on racism in America. Through the
album, he “dissects the chemistry behind blind racism, using music as the medium to
restore dignity and self-worth [of Black people]… It should be evident that
any examination of black music is an examination of the relationship between
black and white America. This relationship has shaped the cultural evolution of
the world and its negative roots run deep into our psyche.”
Title: Seven Artist: Cameron Graves Label: Artistry Music/Mack Avenue Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: February 19, 2021
Cameron Graves initially achieved acclaim as a member of the West Coast Get Down, a collective of L.A. jazz
musicians that includes Kamasi Washington and Stephen “Thundercat” Bruner. More
recently he has performed and recorded with fusion pioneer Stanley Clarke, who
has served as a mentor to the younger musician. Releasing his widely acclaimed debut
album Planetary Princein 2017,Graves now returns with his own brand of
progressive jazz on Seven. Referring to his new style as thrash-jazz,
Graves draws upon his jazz and classical studies as well as his love of Living
Colour, Meshuggah, and other heavy metal bands to create a stunningly inventive
jazz-rock fusion that will blast you into another galaxy.
Title: Freedom Fables Artist: Nubiyan Twist Label: Strut Format: CD, LP, Digital Release date: March 12, 2021
Since their formation in 2009 at the Leeds College of
Music, Nubiyan Twist
has gone on to sell out major concerts and collaborate with iconic musicians
like Ghanaian highlife king Pat Thomas and pioneering Afrobeat drummer Tony
Allen. The London-based collective is known for their captivating and unique
blending of jazz, Afrobeat, and highlife music with electronic touches. Nubiyan
Twist’s much-anticipated third album, Freedom Fables, builds on the
group’s past success with the new feature of rising star vocalists.
Title: Let My People Go Artist: Archie Shepp & Jason Moran Label: Archieball Formats: Digital Release date: February 5, 2021
A living legend in jazz, saxophonist Archie Shepp’s six decade career is
notable not only for expanding the cannon towards avant-garde and free jazz,
but also for the socially conscious and Afrocentric themes of his albums. Five
years ago, he met pianist-composer Jason
Moran backstage at Belgium’s JazzMiddelheim Festival, and the two have
performed together on many stages since that auspicious occasion. In addition
to Moran’s many albums and soundtracks, the 2010 MacArthur “Genius” Grant
awardee is also known for groundbreaking productions with his wife, Alicia Hall
Moran, including Two
Wings: The Music of Black America in Migration. Shepp and Moran’s new
album, Let My People Go, seems like a natural progression for these two
musicians who both actively promote an appreciation for Black history through
Title: Live Artist: R+R=NOW Label: Blue Note Formats: CD, LP, Digital Release date: February 12, 2021
Musical giant Robert Glasper is one of the music industry’s heavy hitters that just can’t miss. The Houston native, who became most iconic during the development of the neo soul and late hip hop music era, has had the pleasure of touching numerous projects and performing with countless artists over the past three decades including the likes of Bilal, Yassin Bey (formerly known as Mos Def), Jill Scott and many others. Glasper has also been awarded multiple Grammy and Emmy awards for his contribution to both music and film. His latest project, R+R=NOW Live, is yet another addition to his substantial legacy.
Title: The Democracy! Suite Artist: Wynton Marsalis, The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra Septet Label: Blue Engine Formats: Digital Release date: January 15, 2021
After the ambitious critique of social and
political divisiveness in last year’s The
Ever Fonky Lowdown, Wynton Marsalis returns to his affable, tuneful self
with The Democracy! Suite, an album with a message that promotes
optimism in the future of democracy while acknowledging the struggles of recent
history. With a few exceptions in his career, Marsalis is a conservative in
jazz, though that doesn’t make his music any less enjoyable to listen to, and The Democracy! Suite is a solid
collection of perfectly swung tunes given life by players at the top of their
game. Using a common argument from Marsalis, jazz itself is taken as a metaphor
for democracy, a way of keeping us all together, working for unity while
recognizing our individuality.
Like most artists, trumpeter and composer Gabriel Alegría and members of his Afro-Peruvian
Sextet have been profoundly affected by the pandemic. But thanks to their
“determined fans and a poem-gone-viral,” the group has been able to persevere
in the face of adversity. The result is their new concept album, Social
Distancing, a “musical memoir (& protest)” based on artistic
collaborations inspired by the 2020 pandemic as well as issues of social
justice that have surfaced over that past year. “Every sound and rhythm,” says Alegría, “is an attempt to
guide you safely away from the confusion” into the band’s safe space:
Afro-Peruvian jazz music.
Jazz ensembles fronted by a vocalist and trumpeter in equal roles are far and few between, and that’s a major part of the charm of Sounds of A&R. Led by April May Webb (vocals) and Randall Haywood (trumpet and flugelhorn), who are musical partners as well as partners in life, the duo calls to mind the classic pairing of Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Rounding out this family affair are two of Webb’s siblings—Jacob Webb on bass and Nathan Webb on drums—plus guitarist Charlie Sigler, pianist James Austin, and harpist Riza Printup. On their impressive third studio album, Questions Left Unanswered, S.O.A.R. offers a mix of new arrangements of romantic classics and bold, fresh originals that speak to contemporary issues.
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.