Ella Fitzgerald – Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes

 

Title: Ella: The Lost Berlin Tapes
Artist: Ella Fitzgerald
Label: Verve
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 2, 2020

 

There 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.

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George Benson – Weekend In London

 

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.

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Ricky Riccardi – Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong

 

Title: Heart Full of Rhythm: The Big Band Years of Louis Armstrong
Author: Ricky Riccardi
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Formats: Hardcover, Kindle
Release date: September 2020

 

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.

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Benjamin Boone – The Poets Are Gathering

 

Title: The Poets Are Gathering
Artist: Benjamin Boone
Label: Origin
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: October 16, 2020

 

Composer-saxophonist Benjamin 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, ripped-from-the-headlines” messages.

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Kahil El’Zabar – America the Beautiful

 

Title: America the Beautiful 
Artist: Kahil El’Zabar
Label: Spiritmuse
Formts: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: October 23, 2020

 

Chicago 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.

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Alonzo Demetrius – Live from the Prison Nation

 

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.

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Edward Simon – 25 Years

 

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.

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Lafayette Gilchrist – Now

 

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.

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Aaron Burnett & the Big Machine – Jupiter Conjunct

 

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.

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Gregg August – Dialogues on Race

 

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.

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Teodross Avery – Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk

 

Title: Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk
Artist: Teodross Avery
Label: WJ3
Formats: CD, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

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.

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Charles McPherson – Jazz Dance Suites

 

Title: Jazz Dance Suites
Artist: Charles McPherson
Label: Chazz Mack Music
Formats: CD, Digital  
Release date: September 25, 2020

 

Distinguished alto saxophonist, composer and bandleader Charles 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.

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Cindy Blackman Santana – Give the Drummer Some

 

Title: Give the Drummer Some
Artist: Cindy Blackman Santana
Label: Copperline
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: September 18, 2020

 

Virtuoso 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.

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Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers – Just Coolin’

 

Title: Just Coolin’
Artist: Art Blakey & the Jazz Messengers
Label: Blue Note
Formats: CD, LP, Digital
Release date: July 17, 2020

 

This 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 years later.

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Regina Carter Freedom Band – Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground

 

Title: Swing States: Harmony in the Battleground
Artist: Regina Carter Freedom Band
Label: Tiger Turn
Format: Digital
Release date: July 31, 2020

 

Virtuoso 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.

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Javier Nero – Freedom

 

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).

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