That's It! (Sony Legacy) is a hell of a fun album: the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the treasure of New Orleans music, wailing with cylinders wide open.
Purists might protest. All the songs on this record are new (a first for the PHJB), and the solos tend more toward R&B riffs than trad-jazz polyphony. In short, the vibe seems to pulse more from the rowdy late-night clubs up on Frenchman Street than the band's usual stately sanctuary in the heart of the French Quarter.
Bill Frisell’s new CD, Big Sur (Sony Masterworks/OKeh Records), is at once a reprise and a departure. It features the string musicians from his 858 Quartet, last heard two years ago on Sign of LifeFrisell on guitar, Jenny Scheinman on violin, Eyvind Kang on viola, Hank Roberts, cellothis time augmented by the versatile young drummer Rudy Royston. The album also features 19 new Frisell compositions, lithe and lyrical, yet laced with more complex harmoniessubtler, darker, and more sinuousthan anything I’ve heard from him before. . .
ArtistShare, the musicians' self-owned label, has two live albums just out by the guitarist Jim Halla 3-disc set of trio sessions from 1975, revealing Hall at his peak as a leader, and a quartet date from 2010, showing him still in fine form at age 80.
Readers of this space know of my near-boundless admiration for Maria Schneider, the most accomplished and imaginative big-band composer of our time and high up in the pantheon for all time. Her swaying lyricism, muscular rhythms, and kaleidoscopic harmonic voicingsaccented with both a Latin tinge and an airiness as spacious as her native Minnesotarival and, in some ways, exceed the heights of erstwhile mentors, Bob Brookmeyer and Gil Evans.
Now, with Winter Morning Walks, Schneider leaps to still loftier terrain, fusing her jazz sensibility with classical idioms, while staying true to both. . .
The Jazz Journalists Association, of which I'm a member, announced its awards yesterday. Here are the winners in the major categories (a full list of the nominees and the winners can be found here and here), followed by my own choices (which, as you will see, differ from the consensus more than usual).
(It's worth noting up top that Sonny Rollins was declared "Emeritus Jazz Artist / Beyond Voting," which, though a bit of a cop-out, is sort of fitting.)
Trumpeter-composer Dave Douglas turned 50 last month and remains one of the most exciting and versatile musicians in jazz. Time Travel (on his own Greenleaf Music label) is his 40th album in 20 years as a leader. And, as has often been the case, it's a brash departure from his previous record, even though the bandmates are (with one exception) the same.
A little over two years ago, I raved in this space over Rhino's 180-gram vinyl pressing of Ornette Coleman's 1959 album The Shape of Jazz to Come, one of the greatest and most important in all of jazz. Now I'm here to rave louder still (with one frustrating caveat) about another reissue, mastered by Bernie Grundman at 45rpm for the audiophile label ORG.
Ben Goldberg's Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues (on his self-owned BAG Production label), is an album as seriously playful as its title. There's a deceptive looseness in the music's rhythm, veering toward New Orleans bar stomp, but braced by modern harmonies (Steve Lacy, Monk, and Andrew Hill are heavy influences), and swung from an early Ornette-ish sense of blues (one of Goldberg's 9 originals on the album, "Study of the Blues," is a Cubist riff on the opening bars of "Lonely Woman"), though rooted more in Coleman's deep melody than his Free velocity.
Dave Brubeck died today, just short of 92 years old. He was a plodding pianist and a less inventive composer than many obits are suggesting. (It was his alto saxophonist Paul Desmond who wrote the biggest hit "Take Five" in 5/4 time, and while Brubeck wrote many pieces in more exotic times still, they didn't swing or flow like Desmond's.) Still, Brubeck was a colossal figure of modern jazz in many ways.