Each Friday, I will post five new jazz albums that were released over the past week that are worth giving a listen to.
Here are this weeks five, released between April 18th and April 24th, 2010.
1. The Cycle of Love by Maurice Brown (Brown Records, 4/20/2010)
With the release of his new album, The Cycle Of Love, trumpet virtuoso Maurice Brown takes another giant step forward as an internationally acclaimed musician, composer, bandleader, and performer. Brown’s soulful melodies and infectious personality are a dynamic package that uniquely marries traditional be-bop to hip-hop. The road to The Cycle Of Love has been a long, albeit creative, trek for the Chicago native. Six years after his critically acclaimed, chart-topping debut, Hip To Bop, hit the jazz world with staggering force, Brown is back with his stellar band for his sophomore album. Maurice Brown is beginning 2010 with dates all over the word, including Jakarta, New Delhi, and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. To quote the legendary trumpeter, Clark Terry: ‘Brownie is the young trumpeter to watch for sure. I see young cats all over the world and Maurice has it.’ And The Cycle Of Love delivers it.
2. Homefree by Nnenna Freelon (Concord, 4/20/2010)
The new album is Freelon’s 7th Concord release and is a soulful, swinging album that Freelon calls her “home brew.” The collection is comprised largely of contemporary interpretations of classic American Songbook tunes as well as a new original (the witty, playful and poignant “Cell Phone Blues” composed by the singer) and spirited arrangements of two anthems (the gospel treasure “Lift Every Voice and Sing” and the national hymn “America the Beautiful”) that close the album.
Ramsey Lewis Plays the Beatles Songbook: Great Songs/Great Performances by Ramsey Lewis
The Great Performances/Great Songs series by Verve is a new attempt to get prospective buyers interested in its vast jazz catalog; introducing them to large-scale hits by artists who appeared either on its label proper or on one of its licensees’. In the case of Ramsey Lewis, it’s his famous Beatles covers that were cut for Cadet with producer Esmond Edwards. There are eight tracks here clocking at just under 36 minutes, including the live versions of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “And I Love Her,” from Hang on Ramsey, featuring the original trio with the rhythm section of Redd Holt and Eldee Young, and “Day Tripper” with Cleveland Eaton and Maurice White from Wade in the Water (both 1966). The remainder of these cuts were taken from an ambitious, all Beatles album released by Lewis in 1968 called Mother Nature’s Son on Chess. This was the first album on which he played Fender Rhodes piano, as well as acoustic and Hammond B-3 (check “Back in the U.S.S.R.”), and is backed by his own group and an orchestra arranged and conducted (brilliantly) by Charles Stepney. There is a stark contrast between the trio cuts and the orchestrated ones, but they all simply groove — even the ballads “Dear Prudence” and “Julia.” For the super-budget price tag, this is a collection worth picking up. ~ Thom Jurek
4. If Only for One Night by Wallace Roney (HighNote, 4/20/2010)
The inventive and adventurous open-minded approach of Wallace Roney’s first three HighNote releases is firmly maintained on IF ONLY FOR ONE NIGHT. Here Roney has succeeded in taking all of his influences and forging them into a coherent whole which is somehow more than the sum of its parts. IF ONLY FOR ONE NIGHT is full of provocation. Roney and company aren’t necessarily presenting an ideal of where jazz is today, but rather a lush representation of the genre’s possibilities. This music is challenging, vivacious and, above all, soulful.
5. Horace to Max by Joe Chambers (Savant, 4/20/2010)
Joe Chambers is one of the drummers from the fifties and sixties who, along with Max Roach and Art Blakey has influenced an entire generation of drummers. With an ensemble that includes stalwarts Eric Alexander on tenor saxophone, Xavier Davis on piano and others, Chambers here breathes fresh life into a number of well-known jazz classics. While the overall approach is mainstream, the sound is unequivocally contemporary. It remains reverential to tradition yet with a clear regard for jazz as a living, breathing entity.