DownBeat Editors' Picks

Editors’ Picks
APRIL 2015

Anat Cohen, Luminosa (Anzic)
Clarinetist Anat Cohen has always been a world musician, bringing sounds from around the globe into her style of jazz. On Luminosa, she expands on these eclectic musical passions to deliver a beautiful, 11-tune album. Cohen sets the scene with her touring band—Jason Lindner on keyboards, Joe Martin on bass and Daniel Freedman on drums—then sprinkles in Brazilian musicians from her new band Choro Aventuroso and tops it off with guest spots from guitarists Romero Lubambo and Gilad Hekselman as well as percussionist Gilmar Gomes. And the results are stunning. Cohen continues her exploration into the music of Milton Nascimento, including three tunes he is known for, on this outing. “Lilia” has a beautiful loping groove. “Cais” is a gorgeous ballad with Cohen displaying her dedication to a full, rich tone on bass clarinet while Lubambo brings South American elegance with his nylon-string guitar. The two return later to deliver a heartbreaking rendition of “Beatriz.” Special mention has to go out for Lindner on the first two of these songs. If there’s anyone playing more interesting, tasteful piano in music today, please let me know. And another special mention has to go out to Martin on the second two of these tunes. His arco work on these ballads is as deep and chill-inducing as anything I’ve ever heard. There are so many elements of this album that display why Cohen is one of the true masters of instrumental music today. One of them is a good sense of humor. Her take on Flying Lotus’ “Putty Boy Strut” is a hoot. She notes that Lindner brought the tune to the band, and she got into the concept of making acoustic instruments imitate electronic music. Then her own “Happy Song” breezes along like a top-down ride along the Pacific Coast Highway. Another is her love of “aventuroso.” Luminosa includes two choro-inspired creations. “Ternura” takes you to another time and place with Vitor Gonçalves on accordion, Cesar Garabini on seven-string guitar and Sergio Krakowski on pandeiro. “Espinha De Bacalhau” is a take-your-breath-away daredevil packed with amazing musicianship. And that’s another element that makes Cohen and Luminosa so damned good. Her dedication to craft is fantastic. And she surrounds herself with world-class players. Sounds simple, but it’s so hard to execute. That’s why Anat Cohen and this recording are luminous in any language.

Anzic Store | iTunes

By Brian Zimmerman
Pat Martino/Jim Ridl, Nexus (HighNote)
If you really want to hear two musicians communicate, listen to them in a duo setting. Solo performances are great, and trio recordings can mesmerize, but there’s nothing like watching two jazz artists hold a musical tête-à-tête. With Nexus, a newly released duo recording from guitarist Pat Martino and pianist Jim Ridl, listeners get the rare opportunity to eavesdrop on an intimate dialog between two masters of their craft. Friends since the early ’90s, Ridl and Martino have an effortless rapport. Though their styles are different—Martino’s, soulful and percussive; Ridl’s sweeping and graceful—they are somehow the perfect match, individuals who combine to form a stronger, more vibrant whole. And while it is a joy to listen to Martino’s trademark licks alongside Ridl’s rolling accompaniment, the brightest spots on this album are when the musicians’ styles bleed together. It happens on the Harold Mabern tune “The Phineas Trane,” when Ridl’s bouncing piano riffs begin to sound unmistakably like Martino’s bluesy guitar lines, and also on the touching ballad “Sun On My Hands,” in which Martino adopts Ridl’s slow, cascading phrases. Other tunes are noteworthy for their compositional originality. “Country Road,” a bright and tender pop ballad, is beautiful in its simplicity. “Interchange” (originally recorded by Ridl and Martino on a 1994 album of the same name) is like a blues heard through a dark, smoky prism. This album also marks the recording debut of Martino’s now-famous arrangement of “Oleo,” on which he plays the chorus over a minor vamp instead of the traditional “Rhythm” changes. Nexus is a must-have album for any Martino fan, a musical conversation we’ll be talking about for years.

Amazon | iTunes

Reggie Quinerly, Invictus (Redefinition)
Reggie Quinerly embodies style, substance, soul and swagger. The drummer burst onto the scene as a leader in 2012 with a tribute to his old neighborhood in Houston, Texas. Music Inspired By Freedman Town was a blast of pride and an indication of great things to come. Well, the future is now—and Quinerly delivers with Invictus. This is an album full of power and grace, taking its title from a William Ernest Henley poem. In the liner notes, Quinerly points out that this recording serves as a declaration of taking control of his future as an artist. “And while critics, musicians and fans continue to debate the commercial sustainability of an entire industry,” he noted, “I firmly believe its sustainability rests solely within us creators: No matter who is (or isn’t) listening, we must persevere, we must create and we must document, because only that which is documented lives on.” Amen. Quinerly backs up what he says here, working with a quintet of bright, next-gen stars—Warren Wolf on vibes, Christian Sands on piano, Yotam Silberstein on guitar and Alan Hampton on bass. They blaze on tunes like “Tavares” and “Light Work.” They groove old-school on “My Blue Heaven” and “Lester Grant.” They tug at the heart on ballads like “Variation 24” and “Kunst Uberlebt.” The latter is a Sands solo piece written by Quinerly. It’s just breathtaking. And every now and then some hip-hop beats flash by on “The Child Of The 808 Interlude,” “The Child Of The 808” and “That Right There.” It’s all seamlessly programmed and performed. Quinerly is an artist who has a clear vision of what he wants to do and where he wants to go. So, enjoy Invictus and look forward to where Reggie Quinerly is heading next. (Check out the online video trailer for Invictus by clicking here.)

iTunes | CDBaby

Kevin Eubanks/Stanley
Jordan, Duets
(Mack Avenue)
If you ever want to know what perfection sounds like, just listen to Duets, the great new recording by Kevin Eubanks and Stanley Jordan. Here we have two of the world’s finest guitarists, playing in the most intimate of settings: the duet format. Knowing how different each of them is stylistically makes the concept fascinating. Both have been musical searchers and can play in the tradition, but have refused to be pigeonholed or categorized in any way. Both have kept their musical vision wide open, free to follow their muse of the day. But here, we see a real simpatico, respect and joy in playing together that is so rare. “Morning Sun,” one of four originals on this 10-track masterpiece, is a melodic piece that’s full of tone, taste and technique. It builds into the perfect platform for both musicians to show of their chops—make that their artistry. “Old School Jam” is exactly that and a bag of chips, a fun, old-school blues jam. “Vibes” is a lovely, thoughtful ballad that delivers a shiver and a sigh. “Goin’ On Home” is a beautiful blues ballad. Duets also features six well-chosen covers ranging from chestnuts like “Summertime,” “Nature Boy,” “A Child Is Born” and “Blue In Green” to Adele’s “Someone Like You” and Ellie Goulding’s pop hit “Lights.” What’s amazing about these two artists is the breadth of their ability. For example, Eubanks plays bass on “Nature Boy,” “Summertime” and “Lights,” and piano on “Someone Like You,” “A Child Is Born” and “Vibes.” Jordan plays piano on “Blue In Green.” No one misses a beat. They just seem to be wrapped up in a great conversation. And that’s the beauty of Duets: It’s a conversation where no words are needed between two old friends. (To view a clip of Eubanks and Jordan performing “Morning Sun” live in the studio, click here.)

Amazon | iTunes

By Brian Zimmerman
Avishai Cohen Trio, From Darkness (RazDaz)
For bassist Avishai Cohen, the trio is a natural fit. Though his latest album, From Darkness, is only his second release as a trio leader, it achieves what every trio recording aspires to: the unity of three voices becoming one. That Cohen can create such genuine chemistry with his bandmates speaks to his profound vision and inspired leadership. He honed his trio chops early on as a member of Chick Corea’s New Trio ensemble, and would later pilot his own trio featuring pianist Sam Barsh and Mark Guiliana. On this album, the Israeli bassist is joined by pianist Nitai Hershkovits (with whom he recorded the 2012 duo album Duende) and drummer Daniel Dor—emotionally attuned players who take easily to Cohen’s compositional style. Hershkovits’ touch is stately and refined, especially on the gentle “Halelyah,” which finds his delicate phrases hovering above Cohen’s waltzing bass. Dor is brave and inventive. On “C#–,” a pulsing tune built on a jagged ostinato line, he uses the cymbals to masterful effect. As is typical for a Cohen album, the songs on From Darkness draw from diverse influences, with styles ranging from electro-funk (“From Darkness”) to tone poem (“Ballad For An Unborn”) to Latin groove (“Lost Tribe”) to jazz standard (“Smile”). In each one of these idioms, Cohen and his crew prove to be fluent and articulate speakers, intent on realizing a shared vision. It’s the kind of cohesion all trios strive for, but only the very best attain.

iTunes | Amazon

The Brecker Brothers, The Bottom Line Archive (BFD)
This exciting album, capturing a Brecker Brothers set at New York City’s Bottom Line on March 6, 1976, is an important document for those who feel that fusion ruled. This disc is evidence of the sonic combustion that happened in the mid-’70s when versatile musicians mixed the accessibility of rock arrangements and the deep groove of funk with the harmonic language and improvisation of jazz. The Bottom Line Archive is the only official live release of this lineup of the Brecker Brothers Band: Randy Brecker (trumpet), Michael Brecker (tenor saxophone), Don Grolnick (keyboards), Steve Khan (guitar), Will Lee (bass), Chris Parker (drums) and Sammy Figueroa (percussion). Contributing to three tracks is alto saxophonist David Sanborn, who shows off the chops that would make him a superstar in the ensuing years. As Randy Brecker explains in the album’s liner notes, this band didn’t hit the road very often because its members were too busy working as session musicians in New York City’s recording studios. Many of the musicians in this lineup were close friends who played on each other’s recordings. Grolnick—who plays Fender Rhodes, organ and clavinet during this set—is in the spotlight for a version of his composition “Cactus,” which had appeared on guitarist Joe Beck’s 1975 album Beck. The band’s set list at The Bottom Line includes three songs from the Brecker Brothers’ self-titled Arista debut, including a rendition of “Rocks” that is spiced with muscular solos from both siblings. Fans of Michael Brecker will want to check out the album’s two versions of his early composition “Night Flight,” and Sanborn fans can soak in the smooth tones of “It Took A Long Time,” which Randy composed as a showcase for the altoist. This album, which is part of a series of concert discs recorded at The Bottom Line, is a funk-fueled time capsule that transports the listener back to the height of the fusion era. (See the April 2015 issue of DownBeat for a recap of a concert tribute to the late Michael Brecker, featuring Randy Brecker. See the May 2015 issue for a Players profile of Sammy Figueroa, and see the November 2014 issue for a Players profile of Steve Khan.)

Cassandra Wilson, Coming Forth By Day (Legacy)
Vocalist Cassandra Wilson avoided a predictable approach for Coming Forth By Day. This disc, which includes 11 songs recorded by Billie Holiday, functions as an admirable tribute, but it doesn’t sound like Lady Day. Wilson employs her own husky, occasionally hushed singing style, not attempting to re-create Holiday’s famous vocal inflections—and certainly not copying her arrangements. Instead, Wilson assembled a stellar, “outside the box” ensemble to interpret this material for a new generation of listeners. Her eclectic cast of collaborators includes producer Nick Launay (celebrated for his work with alt-rockers Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds), guitarist T Bone Burnett (who helped Diana Krall incorporate Americana sounds into her 2012 album, Glad Rag Doll) and drummer Thomas Wydler and bassist Martyn P. Casey of The Bad Seeds. Van Dyke Parks—famous for his work with rock acts such as Brian Wilson and U2—wrote intricate string arrangements that bolster Wilson’s voice without diluting its power. Holiday’s hit version of “The Way You Look Tonight” in 1936 was a chipper swing number. In contrast, Wilson slows down the tempo for her version, Parks provides a lush cushion of strings, and Robby Marshall’s clarinet adds a somber tone. Wilson and her team also offer an unusual arrangement of the anti-lynching song “Strange Fruit,” one of the most harrowing compositions of the 20th century. Wilson’s interpretation has layered digital effects, ominous bass notes and cascading, chaotic strings, all of which reinforce the sense of violence and injustice conveyed by the unforgettable lyrics. The album concludes with Wilson’s original composition “Last Song,” in which she imagines a final message from Holiday to her recently deceased lover, Lester Young. Wilson delivers the lyrics with obvious, tremendous respect. But thankfully, on this remarkable album, Wilson’s reverence for an icon didn’t prevent her from using Holiday’s music as a point of departure, rather than a static template.

By Brian Zimmerman
Sarah Elizabeth Charles,
Inner Dialogue
(Truth Revolution)
On her 2012 debut EP, Red, vocalist Sarah Elizabeth Charles delivered an impassioned blend of jazz, neo-soul, r&b and world music that revealed an emerging artist with a nuanced delivery and a poetic ear. On her sophomore effort, Inner Dialogue, she returns to that fertile ground with renewed ambition and a vivid imagination. The resulting album proves why she is one of today’s most dynamic young vocalists. Given her impressive career, this should hardly come as a surprise. A graduate of The New School, Charles has worked and studied with artists such as George Cables, Geri Allen, Nicholas Payton, Sheila Jordan, Jimmy Owens and Carmen Lundy. She is also an active educator, working as a teaching artist with Carnegie Hall’s Musical Connections program and giving private lessons in New York City and at Larchmont Music Academy. In addition to teaching, she is currently developing an early childhood music education program with Rise2Shine, a non-profit organization based in Haiti, a country that has long served as a source of inspiration for Charles, whose father is from Port-au-Prince. Her new album features two arrangements of Haitian folk melodies—“Yo-Yo” and “Choucoune”—and an original composition called “Haitian Sunrise.” On this track, Charles’ lyrics are quietly commanding. “Harmony has found me/Time moving slow,” she sings, and the music pauses as if holding its breath. Other tracks find her voice soaring. On “Breathe,” featuring guest trumpeter and co-producer Christian Scott, she holds long, powerful notes over a churning rock groove. On her artful arrangement of Miles Davis’ “Nardis,” she imbues the haunting melody with passion and poignancy. Accompanying musicians Jesse Elder (piano), Burniss Earl Travis II (bass) and John Davis (drums) are consummate collaborators, lifting Charles’ pure, unaffected vocals to transcendent heights.

Duo Dorado, New Colors From Argentina (Acoustic Music)
With so many talented vibraphonists on today’s jazz scene—including Stefon Harris, Warren Wolf, Jason Adasiewicz, Jason Marsalis and Chris Dingman—it’s a great time to be a vibes fan. One rising star to keep an eye on is Lucas Dorado, whose father is acoustic guitarist Carlos Dorado. The father and son have teamed up as Duo Dorado for the exquisite album New Colors From Argentina. Carlos—whose previous releases on the Acoustic Music label include Ciao Villa Sonja—is a masterful fingerstyle guitarist, and Lucas has inherited his father’s ability to add subtle harmonic coloration to a strong melody. One highlight here is Carlos’ composition “De Varese A Cabo Corrientes,” a beautiful track on which Lucas’ use of the sustain pedal creates a memorable, haunting effect. The only instruments on this gentle 11-song collection are acoustic guitar, vibraphone and occasional percussion, resulting in a cohesive disc. Eight of the tracks were penned by Carlos, including four brief songs titled “Sombras” that are interspersed throughout the program. Elsewhere, Carlos’ version of iconic Argentine folk musician Atahualpa Yupanqui’s “Punay” is a powerful, straightforward nod to his roots, delivered without vibraphone accompaniment. The duo offers a nuanced reading of the Gershwin classic “I Loves You Porgy” that sounds completely organic, as opposed to merely an exercise in novel instrumentation. One integral quality that Carlos and Lucas share is an appreciation for the space between the notes: These musicians eschew grandstanding in service of a hypnotic melody.


Royal Conservatory—Oliver Mtukudzi

Royal Conservatory—Buffy Sainte—Marie




Jody Jazz

DC Jazz Fest

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