Danilo Perez, the global Panamanian pianist.
Danilo Perez, the global Panamanian pianist. Raj Naik
The other day, I had a chance to speak with Guy Raz at Weekend All Things Considered about a few intriguing new and upcoming jazz releases. That conversation is archived online, where you can also hear full cuts from albums by Howard Wiley, Rebecca Martin, Henry Threadgill's Zooid and Herculaneum. Here's a link. [Weekend All Things Considered: Angola, Spare Standards And A Zooid: New Jazz Albums]
In making picks, I tried to avoid some of the other records and artists which have made NPR Music bandwidth lately. (Excepting this Henry Threadgill feature, of course.) If I had four more picks though, I might have spotlighted these albums.
And you? What new jazz records have you been listening to lately?
1. Danilo Perez, Providencia
Josh Jackson wrote this disc up for a First Listen; here, I co-sign. Perez is a scarily good pianist, of course, but he's also at the forefront of a certain globalism in the music today. He'll take Latin American standards or percussion elements, mix it up with the postbop jazz aesthetic (and his trio), and come out with something that feels fresh. He'll also do this with a distinctive Indian-American saxophonist who has listened to a lot of Carnatic music (Rudresh Mahanthappa); a Portuguese wordless vocalist (Sara Serpa) and a string and woodwind section with a European classical bent. It all comes together in the wash, and appealingly so, with bounding rhythms and multi-directional improv. You can't exactly say "this is Panamanian," or American, or South Indian, and that's kind of the point. Here's an interview with performance clips.
2. The Cookers, Warriors
David Weiss is a trumpeter with an clear affection for the later generations of hard bop. He maintains a band called Point of Departure (after the Andrew Hill album, ostensibly) inspired by the spirit of the late '60s; there and otherwise, his compositions and arrangement start from that hard-driving feel and harmonic richness. And he's the organizing force behind this band of underrecognized veterans, many of whom have been on the scene since the '60s and '70s. As The Cookers, Billy Harper, Eddie Henderson, George Cables, Cecil McBee, and Billy Hart — joined by Weiss and saxophonist Craig Handy — have this one disc out now, and another already in the can. These are their original tunes, and they all burn, conveying intensity with a loose, ragged feel.
3. Jason Adasiewicz, Sun Rooms
Jason Adasiewicz plays the vibraphone, a not new but not common jazz instrument, especially now. Yet somehow, he's made his voice essential in myriad progressive Chicago jazz groups. As a leader, he has a quintet called Rolldown; like The Cookers, its sound is rooted in classic inside-outside postbop, though more on the abstract outside. This recording is a trio date (with Nate McBride and Mike Reed, bass and drums), and there's a certain spacious simplicity to it: As opposed to the intricate interplay of Rolldown, Adasiewicz's lyricism on the vibes comes to the forefront. His tunes are resonant and smartly played, and the disc ends with lesser-played, crafty covers from Sun Ra, Hassan Ibn Ali and Duke Ellington.
4. Mary Halvorson Quintet, Saturn Sings
Here's another disc which we've featured as a First Listen at NPR Music, and another I personally dig on immensely. It starts from the core trio of Halvorson on guitar, John Hebert on bass and Ches Smith on drums; they've developed a certain responsiveness which brings out the best in Halvorson's unconventional guitar sounds. And then you throw in horns in harmony and/or counterpoint for an expanded palette of framing flavors — some of which are classic jazz sounds. If you look at Halvorson's charts on a bandstand, there's a lot written out to execute. But it's done with such a limber feel, and such contained virtuosity from everyone, that it feels fluid, direct, natural.