Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Dave Stryker: Prime

Dave Stryker is a guitarist who quite some years ago established himself as a funk player. As he’s done for years, he’s in the company of an organist and drummer. I have not held jazz organ in the highest esteem for a long time, but organist Jared Gold can really produce its heavy duty funk sound. But to me the organ is mostly what one hears in church. The one familiar choice here is “I Should Care”, a gold standard from way back in the day. Other than that, this is rather predictable guitar-organ trio stuff. As is said now and then, if you’ve heard one, you’ve heard ‘em all. It has its followers, to be sure. And it’s way better than the ultimate insult, smooth jazz. But for me---well, give me a piano and not an organ. Nearly every time!

Strikezone Records, 2022, appx. 58 min.

Saturday, December 2, 2023

Jim Snidero: Far Far Away

Alto saxman Jim Snidero continues his ascension of the jazz ladder with his most recent session for Savant Records. In a quintet setting he is joined by seasoned colleagues Kurt Rosenwinkel, guitar; Orrin Evans, piano; Peter Washington, bass; and Joe Farnsworth, drums. This meeting finds the group examining seven original compositions by Snidero, and one standard. The album’s title tune, “Far Far Away”, suggests something perhaps exotic or somehow other worldly. Not at all! The opener is a rip snortin’, in your face high altitude adventure. Things cool off considerably with “Infinity”, well named because of its “spacey” outdoor feeling. The standard, an alto and guitar duo, is “It Might As Well Be Spring”, done very impressively with no unneeded garnishes. The album continues with Snidero’s compositions, some accessible and creative, and others “out there” for my bop and swing ears. There’s no doubt however, that Jim Snidero is a monster alto player. Rosenwinkel’s guitar on the other hand is so electrified that it often sounds like an electric violin. Evans gets in some sparkling highlights here, such as on “Search For Peace”, Snidero’s statement of beauty and tenderness. For me, this is a mixed bag affair but then that’s truly in the ear of the beholder.

Savant; 2023; appx. 53 min.

Tuesday, June 27, 2023

Samara Joy; Linger Awhile

Recently my wife Laura and I were invited by friends to dinner. At a certain point, our hosts said, "You have to listen to a young singer we've discovered". I thought to myself, "Be polite, George". It was my first introduction to Samara Joy, a 23-year-old sensation. At that tender age, she has absorbed an entire earlier generation of jazz history's greats, such as Sarah, Ella, Billie, and Carmen. It's almost miraculous that someone so young has been able to engage an important and revered part of jazz history. And she does all this with spot on phrasing, incredible scatting, and a once in a lifetime dreamlike voice. In addition to all that, she chooses tunes that her predecessors leaned on but keep in mind, she is ALL Samara Joy at the same time. There are ten tunes in all (twenty would have been even better!) including "Can't Get Out Of This Mood", "I'm Confessin'", "'Round Midnight", "Misty", and the title tune, "Linger Awhile". A few that particularly spun my head around were "Sweet Pumpkin", a charmer I associate with the underrated great singer Bill Henderson; a Betty Carter winner called "Social Call"; the Tadd Dameron classic "Nostalgia"; and a revisit of the Nancy Wilson hit, "Guess Who I Saw Today". Samara Joy is a modern miracle who draws upon the prime jazz singers of the past, but she adds her very own brilliance at every special turn of a phrase.

Verve; 2022; appx. 45 min.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Nightcrawlers; Get Ready

The descriptive note enclosed with this CD describes this group as greasy, a complimentary term in jazz circles. I may take the liberty of going a step further by calling them a funky, boppy ensemble. Anyone who has read my reviews for any length of time knows that I'm far from a proponent of "organ jazz". Well, here's the exception. This group, so heavy into the blues, could ONLY work with the featured role for organist Chris Gestrin. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he performs alongside other dedicated players like Cory Weeds, tenor sax; Nick Hempton, alto sax; and Dave Sikula, guitar. The group is completed by Jesse Cahill, drums, and Jack Duncan, percussion. Seven of the eight tunes heard are groove specials dripping with with fun, excitement, and exuberance. The only standard in the set is the Gershwin brothers' "A Foggy Day". And don't miss out on "Tin Tin Deo", a certified bop creation done to perfection in this funky setting. Hats off to Cory Weeds, owner of Cellar Records. He just keeps on exploring every real deal aspect of jazz. He's one of the few these days, and a real breath of fresh air.

Cellar Records; 2022; appx. 62 min.

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Marc Jordan; Waiting For The Sun To Rise

I was vaguely familiar with the name Marc Jordan. But in reading about him, I learned that a couple of decades ago he was associated with rock musicians. His slightly grainy voice might suggest such a background. But he puts his all into this set of originals of his and others. The lyrics to these songs are heartfelt and often quite poetic. The orchestral arrangements are dramatic but never excessive. Guitarist Jordan has found a new means of expression. It's jazz with a touch of pop. For some reason, it works; maybe because it's virtually all ballads and pretty stuff, and for that reason I surprise myself by saying I liked it!

Cafe Records; 2023; appx. 58 min.

Friday, June 23, 2023

Lafayette Harris, Jr.; Swinging Up In Harlem

Recordings like this remind me that the glorious, renowned, historic piano-bass-drums is alive and well. In this case, Lafayette Harris, Jr. leads a formidable group featuring all-stars Peter Washington on bass and Lewis Nash on drums. Harris has all the tools. An elegant touch which brings thoughts of Hank Jones. A touch of the blues when applicable and of course, jazz chops influenced by generations of great piano giants. Harris opens with the title tune, a cousin, one might say, of Tadd Dameon's "Nostalgia" which was in turn inspired by "Out Of Nowhere". Most of the remainder of the album is given to "forever" choices like "The Nearness Of You", "Stardust", "Over The Rainbow", and "Solitude". Harris and friends even hearken back to the 1950s with two hits of that era: "Teach Me Tonight" and "It's All In The Game", a hit back for singer Tommy Edwards. Remember him?! For me, a superb piano always resonates. This one will warm your heart.

Savant Records; 2023; appx. 55 min.

Thursday, June 22, 2023

Matt Barber; The Song Is You

How often do young MALE singers come along, singing everlasting American Songbook material? Not very often, I'm sorry to say. Well, here's one who puts his all into a menu of tunes deserving of their "forever" status. Want proof? Okay, how about "Oh Look At Me Now", "The Song Is You", "East Of The Sun", "I Remember You", and much more. Barber is accompanied by horns and various rhythm sections. All are perfectly up to the task at hand. Suffice to say that Matt Barber is a musician who navigates his way through these wonderful tunes with ease and sincerity.

MB Records; 2022; times not indicated.