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Here's a Dozen New Releases Well Worth Checking Out

IN THE DAILY DELUGE OF DISCS that cross my desk, some noteworthy new releases do pop out. And while I'm not always assigned to review them for Downbeat or Jazziz or Absolute Sound magazines (the three remaining magazines that I continue to contribute to following the sad 'demise' of Jazz Times), I am happy to bring them to your attention. Because each is a stellar outing worthy of wider recognition:

1. Lisa Rich, Long As You’re Living (Tritone Records) — I must confess that I was not aware of Rich, an adventurous and eminently hip vocalist who came up in the '80s before health problems forced her to put her career on the shelf in the '90s. After a long hiatus, Rich is back with her fourth album. On this collection of well-chosen standards she is backed by the superb pianist and harmonic provocateur Marc Copland and the great though underrated bassist Drew Gress, with trumpeter Dave Ballou making potent contributions on six of the eleven tracks. Produced by her teacher and mentor Jay Clayton, the revolutionary free jazz vocalist who passed away this past New Year's Eve at age 82, this stirring release finds a radiant Rich scatting with uncanny abandon on Clayton's "New Morning Blues" and Joe Henderson's "Isotope," delivering Abbey Lincoln's anthemic "Throw It Away" with an understated power and glory, and reinventing Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" and the standard "Bye Bye Blackbird" with a playful kind of phrasing and scatting prowess inherited from elders like Clayton, Sheila Jordan and Annie Ross. But perhaps her most compelling performances here come on dramatic interpretations of Horace Silver's "Lonely Woman," Jimmy Rowles' "The Peacock's" and Thelonious Monk's "Ask Me Now," all showcasing her gift for patient storytelling and Copland's gift for reharmonization. She closes out the album in tender fashion with an ethereal "Drifting Dreaming" that has Don Read lyrics set to Erik Satie's "Gymnopedie I."

2. Bob Mover/Walter Davis Jr., The Salerno Concert (Reel to Real Records) — Alto saxophonist Mover, a Phil Woods protege, came up in the early '70s playing in Charles Mingus band during a five-month residency at The Five Spot Cafe in New York City. He

subsequently played and recorded through the '70s and '80s with the likes of Chet Baker, Lee Konitz and Paul Bley while also recording ten albums as a leader, the most recent being 2013's My Heart Tells Me on the Motéma label. This archival recording from 1989 finds the alto burner performing in an intimate duo setting with pianist Walter Davis, Jr. while on tour in Italy. Together the two kindred spirits dip heavily into the bebop canon with inspired renditions of staples like Miles Davis' "Donna Lee," Dizzy Gillespie's "Salt Peanuts" and Charlie Parker's "Bird Feathers" as well as the familiar standards like "Star Eyes," "All the Things You Are" and "You Don't Know What Love Is." While Mover shines here, it's Davis' Bud Powell-inspired piano work, particularly his driving bass lines and syncopated comping, that provides the glue for this dynamic duo.

3. Julieta Eugenio, Stay (Cristalyn Records) — The Argentinian-born, New York-based tenor saxophonist stunned with her 2022 debut album, Jump, on Dave Douglas' Greenleaf Music label. She returns with the same fantastic rhythm tandem of bassist Matt Dwonszyk

and rising star drummer Jonathan Barber (both graduates from the Jackie McLean Jazz program at the Hartt School of Music at the University of Hartford). Eugenio showcases her forceful and expressive tenor playing on nine probing originals along with a dramatic reading of Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Lady" that has her channeling her inner Ben Webster. Pianist Leo Genovese guests on two intimate and probing duets with Eugenio on "Breath I" and "Breath II," which find him playing Fender Rhodes electric piano. Stay is another sparkling effort by the gifted saxophonist-composer, who calls her sophomore release "an inward spiritual journey" and "an enlightening process of self-discovery." Definitely a talent worthy of wider recognition.

4. The Bobby Broom Organi-sation, Jamalot (Steele Records) — Veteran guitarist Broom, a New York native who has been based in Chicago for the past 40 years, spent time during the '70s and '80s playing with everyone from Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Walter Davis Jr., Stanley Turrentine, Tom Browne, Charles Earland and Kenny Burrell. Through the '90s he

was a member of Dr. John's touring band and recorded four albums with the Crescent City's

favorite son. In 2014, he formed the Bobby Broom Organi-sation, his working group which puts a jazzy slant on familiar pop, funk and soul fare. On 2018's Soul Fingers, he applied that swinging Pat Martino- George Benson vibe to tunes by the Beatles, Steely Dan, Seals & Crofts and Procol Harum. Once again accompanied by Ben Paterson on Hammond B3 organ and Kobie Watkins on drums, they have their way here with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition," Eric Clapton's "Layla" and the Beatles' "The Long and Winding Road." Elsewhere, they turn in an uptempo swinging version of Fats Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz," settle into a soulful version of Pee Wee King's "Tennessee Waltz" and fervently swing their way through the tradtional "House of the Rising Sun," a tune famously covered by British Invasion band The Animals. Recorded in 2014 during the band's tour as opening act for Steely Dan and also in 2019 during a week-long engagement at Chicago's famous Jazz Showcase, Jamalot finds Broom and crew cooking on all burners.

5. Larry Goldings/John Sneider, Chinwag (Sticky Mack Records) — Keboardist Larry Goldings, a longtime member of James Taylor's group and 30-year member of an acclaimed organ trio with guitarist Peter Bernstein and drummer Bill Stewart, also happens to be one of the funniest people in jazz, as his quick, dry wit and appreciation for the absurd will attest (check out his various YouTube video of his musical alter ego, Austrian-born Thelonious Monk specialist Hans Groiner). On this deliciously eccentric, endlessly appealing duet outing, Goldings joins forces with fellow Massachusetts native, trumpeter John Sneider. Playing an odd assortment of keybards, including a Wing & Son upright piano, Critter & Guitari pocket piano, Jenko celeste, Hammond organ, harmonium and Yamaha CS Reface mini analog

modeling synthesizer, Goldings gets myriad

tones and textures behind Sneider on a wide-ranging program running from Ted Fiorito's "Laugh Clown Laugh," Eubie Blake's "Love Will Find a Way" and Stephen Foster's "Beautiful Dreamer" to a straightforward reading of W.C. Handy's "Hesitation Blues" and novel takes on Monk's "In Walked Bud" and "Gus Arnheim's "Sweet and Lovely." Goldings' original, "The Great Zamboni," is as wacky as his "Diary of a Lost Girl" is poignant. And Sneider's bright, ringing tone, clear articulation, high note bravado and soulful expression throughout serves as the perfect foil. Sneider's mournalful "Sepia" is the darkest thing on the album while Goldings' relaxed "Salad Days" is the most hopeful (also offering a taste of one of his earliest piano teachers, Woonsocket's own Dave McKenna). The title track is an appropriately giddy encounter while "Napolean Contest" is a freeform tug-o-war. The album ends on a heartfelt note with a sublime reading of Rodgers & Hammerstein's beautiful ballad, "If I Loved You." The musical chemistry between Goldings and Sneider is magical. This is a match made in heaven...or at least Massachusetts.

6. Michael Shrieve, Drums of Compassion (7D Media) — While drummer Shrieve is perhaps best known for his work with Santana on the group's first seven albums (and for his appearance with the rock supergroup at Woodstock in 1969 shortly after he turned 20), he has also explored more experimental projects throughout his career, including collaborations with electronic music pioneer Klaus Schulze in the '80s and on separate

projects with Bill Frisell, Shawn Lane and Jonas Hellborg in the '90s. This album, 20 years in the making, is a compelling world music undertaking on the order of Mickey Hart's ongoing Planet Drum project. Guests on this celebration of the drum in all its facets include tabla master Zakir Hussain, Brazilian percussion ace Airto Moreira and jazz drummer extraordinaire Jack DeJohnette. Released on guitarist Trey Gunn's 7D Media label, this engrossing musical journey is both a nod to the title of Nigerian percussionist Babatunde Olatunji's classic album from 1959, Drums of Passion, one of the first records to popularize African Music to the Western World, and a nod to the Dalai Lama's call two decades ago for a Time of Compassion.

7. Nduduzo Makhathini, uNomkhubulwane (Blue Note) — South African pianist-composer-healer-philospher Makhathini conjures up an almost hypnotic quality to meditative pieces like "Omnyama" and "Kwakhangelaamankengana" from his third Blue Note release. A transcendent three-movement suite, the album takes its title from the Zulu name of "God's

only daughter and a manifestation of God’s

very creation purpose,” as he explains. With Makhathini on piano and vocals, accompanied by Johannesburg-born, New Haven-bred bassist Zwelakhe-Duma Bell Le Pere and Cuban drummer Francisco Mela, this affecting trio touches on mellower moments recalling South Afircan icon Abdullah Ibrahim, like on the peaceful "Uxolo" from the Libations movement and the warm, gospel-tinged "Izinkonjana" from the Water Spirits movement. On the other side of the dynamic coin, Makhathini's more forceful approach on "Amanxusa Asemkhathini" from the Water Spirits movement and "Umlayez'oPhuthumayo" from the Inner Attainment Movement is closer in spirit to McCoy Tyner's intense playing with latter day John Coltrane. The collection of scintillating sounds from South African closes on a calming note with the solo piano piece "Ithemba." Prepare to be transported by Makhathini's profound vision of creative mysticism.

8. Benjamin Koppel, Story of Mankind: A Requiem (Cowbell Music) — An incredibly ambitious undertaking on the scope of Joe Zawinul's Mauthausen (Chronicles from the Ashes), an electronic tone poem created as a memorial to the victims of the Holocaust, this 2CD set

is Danish saxophonist-composer Benjamin Koppel's profoundly moving meditation on the evils of war and the cruelty of man. With a B&W cover photo depicting the ravages of war in Ukraine, Koppel's operatic anti-war statement is a powerful showcase for theatrical vocalist Frederikke Vedel, who sings the lyrics of French poet Apollinaire and contemporary Danish poets Tomas "TT" Krag and Morten Søndergaard in both English and Danish. Guest trumpeter Randy Brecker augments the dramatic proceedings with some stellar playing throughout, and he particularly shines on the swing section of "Civilization," which is paced by the rhythm section of pianist Søren Møller, bassist Johnny Aman and drummer Frenc Nemeth. And leader Koppel wails with Bird-like abandon throughout, sounding particularly inspired on "Toc Toc La Dame" and in his intense, rapid-fire exchanges with Brecker on "I Don't Believe," Rehearsing Dying" and the explosive instrumental closer, "The Story of Mankind." An extraordinary undertaking delivered with virtuosity to match its righteous vision.

9. Koppel/Blade/Koppel, Time Again (Cowbell) — Danish alto saxophonist Benjamin Koppel rekindles his chemistry with drummer extraordinaire Brian Blade (they played together on 2017's The Collective, 2022's Mulberry Street and 2023's Perspective) on this potent trio outing featuring the saxophonist's own father, the highly regarded Copenhagen-based composer Anders Koppel, on organ. A virtuosic and adventurous player, Time Again finds the saxophonist deep into a soulful David Sanborn bag on tunes like the ballad "If You Forget Me" and the upbeat "Mavis." The suite-like "Bazaar Revisited," composed by the elder

Koppel, unfolds gracefully and gradually against the backdrop of Blade's rubato brushwork on the kit while the punchy title track pops on the strength of spitting rhymes from rapper Al Agami, a hip hop artist of African descent living in Denmark. The trio also turns in a faithful reading of Kenny Werner's solemn, Bach-derived hymn "Fall From Grace" that has Benjamin delivering some of his most impassioned testifying on his horn. And his playing on the buoyant, gospel tinged "Should Have Put a Ring on It," has a ring of Sanborn in the high note alto squealing and R&B-tinged abandon. The collection closes on a spellbinding note with the noir-ish "Blind Man," which opens with a stirring duet performed by father and son before Blade enters with his signature melodic touch and dramatic flair on the kit.

10. Ron Miles, Old Main Chapel (Blue Note) — The late cornetist, who died in March 2022 at age 58, had forged a beautiful musical partnership with guitarist Bill Frisell beginning in the mid '90s and continuing through 13 albums over time (six of Miles', including 2020's brilliant Rainbow Sign; seven of Frisell's, beginng with 1996's Bill Frisell Quartet). Drummer Brian Blade entered the picture on Miles' 2012 Quiver, and the potent triumverate continued

making music together on Miles' 2014 followup, Circuit Rider, as well as on Miles' 2017 quintet album, I Am a Man. This archival document, recorded at a 2011 performance at the Old Main Chapel on Colorado University's Coulder campus, captures the inherent playfulness, lyricism, quirkiness and zen-like flow of the trio on a program of Miles originals and one meditation on a well-worn blues, "There Ain't No Sweet Man That's Worth the Salt of My Tears." "Mr. Kevin" opens with Miles and Frisell gently conversing on the melodic theme while Blade underscores with melodic brushes. "Quest of Honor" has an ethereal, bygone era/Stephen Foster feel to it while "Queen B," named for Miles' daughter, conveys precious, deep feelings in his crystalline cornet playing. "Rudy-Go-Round," named for Denver native and frequent Frisell collaborator, drummer Rudy Royston, is the lone swinger of the bunch. All of these tunes had been previously recorded on Quiver, but each is stretched to twice the length in this live setting, showcasing the sheer elasticity, inventiveness and telepathy of this rare, remarkable trio.

11. Zaccai Curtis, Cubop Lives! (Truth Revolution) — Since making their move to New York City in the early 2000s, the Hartford-born-and-bred Curtis brothers -- bassist Luques and pianist Zaccai -- have performed and recorded with such artists such as Eddie Palmieri, the Mambo Legends, Little Johnny Rivero, Albert Rivera, Ray Vega, Brian Lynch, Ralph Peterson,

Christian Scott, Donald Harrison, Cindy Blackman Santana and Avery Sharpe. They have

also released three albums jointly as The Curtis Brothers. On Cubop Lives!, pianist Zaccai's second album as a leader, he is once again joined by borther Lueques on bass along with drummer and timbales player Willie Martinez III, conguero and panderio player Camilo Molina and bongo, chekere and guiro player Reinaldo De Jesus on Afro-Cuban rendtions of bebop classics like Thelonious Monk's "52nd St. Theme," Dizzy Gillespie's "Woody'n You," Kenny Dorham's "Minor's Holiday" and Charlie Parker's "Moose the Mooche." Even their renditions of Great American Songbook staples likle "When I Fall in Love" and "Someday My Prince Will Come" are steeped in the spirit of Mario Bauzá while Scott Joplin's "Maple Leaf Rag" is imbued with the clave. Zaccai's playing is dazzling throughout while Luques' tumbao groove runs deep on these 17 tracks. Irresistible.

12. Marta Sánchez Trio, Perpetual Void (Intakt Records) — The Madrid-born, New York-based pianist-composer reflects on her mother’s passing in December of 2020 in this highly personal and revealing followup to 2022's SAAM (Spanish America Art Museum). While her previous quintet recordings featured a two-horn frontline and focused more on her considerable compositional and arranging skills, her formidable piano skills come to the fore in this stripped down trio setting. Joined by bassist Chris Tordini and drummer Savannah

Harris, Sánchez dives headlong into risk on this musical journey. The intricate, shape-shifting opener, “I Don’t Wanna Live the Wrong Life and Then Die,” sets the daring tone. From tightly executed unisons at the outset to a virtual free fall off a cliff into seeming chaos, Sánchez and her empathic rhythm tandem operate on a kind of blind faith that binds each track.

The dissonant, spiky “3:30 AM” conveys the anxiety that Sánchez felt while dealing with insomnia during her most trying moments. She then embraces peace on the ruminative solo piano piece, “Prelude to Grief,” and acceptance on the introspective brushes ballad, “The Absence of the People You Long For.” The title track is a contrapuntal conversation between piano and bass, underscored by Harris’ rhythmically charged, highly interactive drumming. There’s a tinge of darkness and sorrow expressed on tunes like “The End of That Period” and “The Love Unable to Give,” while more angular tunes like “Black Cyclone” and “This Is The Last One About You,” show Sánchez defiantly fighting back against the tide of sorrow. And her purely improvised solo piano piece, “Prelude to a Heartbreak,” sounds as cathartic and crystalline as anything on Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert. A magnificent fourth outing by a singular talent.

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