Here are three recent releases that look back a little, and then take the idiom a step forward at times.
Produced by Edward Kennedy Ellington II (who also plays guitar here) and Gaye Ellington, this session is a fitting tribute to the sound and compositional skills of THE jazz master. The album is bookended by a pair of lovely piano solos, notably the title track and “Lotus Blossum,” and in between the band swings with swagger on tunes like “Happy Go Lucky Local” (with a smoking solo by Person) and a clever cha cha take of “Lotus Blossum.” Vocalist Nancy Reed is spotlighted on a few tunes, and charms her way through “In A Mellow Tone” and a cozy “Squeeze Me.” The remaining team of Virgina Mayhew/ts-cl, Noah Bless/tb, Jami Dauber/tp, Tom DiCarlo/b, Paul Wells/dr and Sheila Early/perc sizzle on “Upper Manhatten Medical Group” and a shuffling original “Home Grown.” Tone and sound rules the day here on this fun and impressive outing.
Jazz Compass puts out 2-3 releases a year, and each one is always a breath of fresh air. Nothing new in terms of idiom-changing, just good old fashioned jazz that is done the way you want it. Nice straightahead cookers like the bopping “Three Hip Mice” have the team of Steve Allee/p, Steve Houghton/dr, Jeremy Allen/b, Clay Jenkins/tp and Bob Sheppard/ts-ss-fl run on all 8 cylinders. A few trio tracks keep the sounds varied with some intimate interplay on “Land of Another” and “Never Never land” while the horns burn the candle at both ends on “Looking.” Excellent work by underappreciated session stalwarts.
Eric Erhardt wrote and arranged all of the material here for his septet, as well as joined in on tenor, clarinet and flute. Along with Russ Johnson/tp, Sebastian Noelle/g, Mike Davis/dr, Linda Oh/b, Nick Paul, and James Shipp/perc, he produces intellectual and cerebral tunes that sway and swing with a complexity that will please they grey matter lovers of jazz. Noelle’s electric guitar is a bit edgy and distracting on a couple of the tunes such as “Liddle Rittle,” but you hang in there, as the plots twist like an Agatha Christie novel. A Satie-inspired piano dominates “Ten Years,” while a pair of Brazilian tunes like “Tyler Park” have an alluring blend of woodwinds, particularly when guest Dan Willis joins in with his flute. Intriguing and thoughtful, for the mind more than the viscera.
Jazz Compass Records