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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Jeremy Pelt; The Art Of Intimacy, Vol. 2: His Muse

Somehow I missed out on volume 1, but I'm sure thrilled that I got my hands (and my ears!) on volume 2. The sensational trumpet player Jeremy Pelt meets up here with gorgeous strings and a sympathetic rhythm section to give us the gift of his Miles-like sound on a dozen ballads. Whether playing muted or open horn, Pelt feels the depth and passion of these exquisite selections. Among the familiar but not often heard songs, consider "Slow Hot Wind", "If I Ruled The World", "When She Makes Music", "Two Different Worlds", and one of my personal faves, "Two For The Road". His vocal on the latter tune is sheer beauty, and no doubt composer Henry Mancini would have loved it. In addition to the subtle backdrop of strings, Pelt works to perfection with jazz pals Victor Gould, piano; Buster Williams, bass; Billy Hart, drums; and Chico Pinheiro, guitar. On these and all other equally beautifully performed tunes, Jeremy Pelt and friends give us a rare lesson in what heartfelt music is all about.

High Note Records; 2023; appx. 51 min.

Monday, June 19, 2023

Mike Allen; To A Star

Tenor man Mike Allen makes his own very personal and creative musical statements on this quite remarkable recording. Performed before a live audience at the Vancouver international Jazz Festival, Allen is joined by veteran all stars John Lee, bass and Carl Allen, drums. Notice: no piano. And that very fact raises the directness and intimacy level of this stirring trio. I am reminded a little of the tenor work of Warne Marsh who sometimes worked without a piano and dug deeply into the heart of every song he played. Mike Allen's intense but accessible improvisation is the driving factor. Never excessive but always exploratory and a joy to hear, Allen, Lee, and Allen find every fascinating nook and cranny on standards "Invitation", "What Is This Thing Called Love", "Stars Fell On Alabama", and "Isfahan". Especially disarming and imaginative standards complete what I think of as a real deal jazz album.

Cellar Records; 2023; appx. 68 min.