“Now in Stores” XVIII

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. The Absence by Melody Gardot (Verve – May 29, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

The Absence is the third record from Grammy-nominated Melody Gardot. Produced by Heitor Pereira, renowned for his work as a film composer (Despicable Me, It’s Complicated, From Prada to Nada) and world-class session guitarist (Sting, Seal, Caetano Veloso), the Brazilian-born, US-based artist shared Melody’s enthusiasm for driving off the beaten path of Western pop, jazz, blues and soul. And he was as adventurous as Melody when it came to inventive sonic ideas. From the deserts of Morocco to the streets of Lisboa, from the tango bars of Buenos Aires to the beaches of Brazil, The Absence captures the essence of each of these exotic locales, while at the same time remaining quintessentially Melody Gardot.

2. Ode by Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch – March 20, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Ode is pianist Brad Mehldau’s long-awaited 2012 studio set playing trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, their first studio recording since this “graceful powerhouse” of a lineup, as the New York Times recently put it, made its Nonesuch debut in 2005 with Day Is Done. This time, however, all the tunes are Mehldau originals, written with Grenadier and Ballard in mind. As the pianist elaborates, “I feel that what they bring to the music in the performance here is inseparable from the tunes themselves. It was music I wrote to play with them specifically.”

3. Be Good by Gregory Porter (Motema Music – February 14, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Since his solo debut Water in May 2010, Grammy nominee Gregory Porter has rocketed from talented unknown to one of the most relevant and virtuosic vocalists on the international jazz scene today. Over 10,000 physical and digital units of Water have sold so far, and the album continues to sell steadily.

4. All Our Reasons by Billy Hart (ECM Records – March 26, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

The quartet heard here was formed in 2003, and originally billed as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. When Billy Hart asked if it could be his band for a gig in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, the other members unanimously voted to give it him permanently. As the Billy Hart Quartet, the four musicians have continued to play a number of dates each year, often at New York’s Village Vanguard. In 2005 the group recorded a well-received debut album for hard-bop label High Note. Since then, as Ethan Iverson notes, the music has become more free and spacious, qualities that fit well with ECM’s priorities. “All Our Reasons” was recorded in June 2011 at New York’s Avatar Studios, with Manfred Eicher producing.

5. Strictly Romancin’ by Catherine Russell (World Village – February 14, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Strictly Romancin, Catherine Russell’s fourth album for World Village, is a paean to natural attractions: to a lover, an art form, to one s family heritage. Our heroine explores love s foibles, failures and bliss, from amorous to humorous. This acclaimed vocalist embodies the lost art of song savvy, inhabiting the lyric and allowing each melody to shine. On this fourteen song collection, Russell takes us on a journey from Harlem dance hall to Parisian CafĂ©, from Store Front Church to Uptown Cabaret blurring distinctions between the carnal and the eternal in a musical tour-de-force. For these sessions, Russell reunites with the team from her previous chart-topping album Inside This Heart of Mine, including recording engineer Katherine Miller, producer Paul Kahn and Musical Director/Guitarist/Banjoist/Arranger Matt Munisteri, who contributes his expansive vision to the project.

“Now in Stores” XVII

Emerging Artist: Melody Gardot

melodyPerhaps singer Melody Gardot has already emerged, but I feel that it is safe to say that while her popularity has risen quickly, Melody is still in the early stages of what will be a long, wonderful career.

What is most interesting, and truly inspiring, is the story of how twenty-four year old Melody Gardot came to be a singer and songwriter.

Melody was 19 at the time of the accident. She was in fashion school, and played piano at a handful of nightclubs in the Philadelphia area. She was riding her bicycle when a car took a turn and hit Melody, fracturing her pelvis and skull, among other injuries.

It was music that she held to for inspiration during the several months she spent in the hospital, and through rehabilitation. She stayed positive writing music and singing, and even recording from her hospital bed.

Life since leaving the hospital has not necessarily been easy. Melody is extremely sensitive to light and sound, and is prone to headaches. She is forced to wear dark glasses, and requires the assistance of a cane to walk.

Even with the great pain she deals with on a daily basis, and the fact that loud noise can only enhance that pain, Gardot continues to take her music career to the next level. Following a wonderful debut release Worrisome Heart, her new album My One and Only Thrill has peaked at number two on the jazz charts. With the exception of Over the Rainbow, the album is made up entirely original compositions, and offers a mellow, laid-back feel to compliment her warm, smokey tone.

I’m never one to suggest that anyone buy an album or listen to a musician out of sympathy, or the story behind the musician…so I wont. The music itself is worth the purchase. But to know not only what a person went through, but what she goes through on a daily basis while still managing to produce such wonderful music only heightens my appreciation for what one musician can do.

Watch Melody Gardot sing Worrisome Heart:

Other blog entries from the Emerging Artist Series

Grace Kelly

Ryan Keberle