April Jazz Picks from ICON Magazine
Check out Jazz writer Nick Bewsey's CD suggestions for April.
Taylor Haskins: Fuzzy Logic - Innovative trumpeter Taylor Haskins has skillfully toggled between jazz and other genres, most recently on his terrific electro-kissed album Recombination (2011) and his playing catches you off-guard in a most wonderful way. A member of Guillermo Klein’s Los Gauchos, flutist Jamie Baum’s Septet+ and Dave Holland’s Big Band, Haskins thinks and plays outside the box, the opposite of free-form improvisation actually, with welcoming compositions and a sweetly emotive tone that sets him apart.
Fuzzy Logic is both a surprise and welcome next step in his process as a musician and artist. The album has a cinematic sweep (Haskins has written compositions for film and commercials for 15 years) complete with high-grade melodies and lush harmonics courtesy of a trio of string players that Haskins added to his quartet.
The strings add color, drama, and a confident beauty to his compositions, which are textural and involving. There’s a hint of Ennio Morricone and Nina Rota in this music that I credit to Haskins’ deft use of strings and his own grounded, magisterial tone that airbrushes the songs with a native emotionality.
As a composer, Haskins makes boldly modern music, adding guitarist Ben Monder to strike all the right notes around the trumpeter’s solos, but this album is consistently anchored in a jazz realm. Bassist Kermit Driscoll and drummer Jeff Hirschfeld underscore the vitality of every tune with captivating work on “Four Moons,” the title track and “Airwaves” where Haskins’ band and the strings align in flawless formation. Alluring to the last, the album concludes with a buoyant arrangement of Thomas Dolby’s “I Believe In You” and Tom Waits’ “Take It With Me,” a fillip of heartfelt Americana with Haskins on melodica. There’s nothing fuzzy about Haskins’ logic on this superb and special album.
Lisa Hilton: Kaleidoscope - A jazz musician who lists influences as diverse as Muddy Waters, Steve Reich and Green Day is somebody I’d like to hear from and pianist/composer Lisa Hilton doesn’t disappoint, delivering a whiz-bang listening experience on Kaleidoscope, a mostly peaceful album of uncommon pleasure.
The California-based bandleader distinguishes her 16th recording with open, airy compositions that are richly lyrical and deliciously ripe for interpretation by a trio that includes bassist Larry Grenadier and the astonishingly inventive drummer, Marcus Gilmore. They dig into an accessible playlist (“When I Fall In Love”) with quiet intensity, especially saxophonist J.D. Allen who guests on three tracks, including the edgy opener, “Simmer.”
A tenor player with an admirable solo career, Allen is a majestic player with a big, naturalistic sound you could listen to all day. Hilton has a gifted ear for fresh interlocking melodies (“Sunny Side Up”) and repeated motifs that compels the allegiance of both her band and listeners. Sonically, the recording is superior with a resounding depth due to engineer James Farber and mix by Al Schmidt (Diana Krall). With Hilton at the helm of a Steinway D, all her guys help give her music a glorious presentation.
Tim Hegarty: Tribute - Saxophonist Tim Hegarty gets down to brass tacks on a blues-drenched album, succinctly titled, Tribute. A player on the NY scene for 25 years, Hegarty finds himself among jazz royalty on this one, with the estimable pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Rufus Reid, drummer Carl Allen and vibraphonist Mark Sherman on half the tracks. The gratitude that Hegarty has for the teachers and musicians that inspired him (and still do) is woven deeply into the texture of this recording, particularly Jimmy Heath. Tribute is highlighted by four classic tunes by Heath, including his lovely, smoky ballad, “Ineffable,” and also two strong originals by Hegarty who’s notably charismatic on soprano sax, “Not To Worry,” as well as an impressive swinger, “Low Profile.”
The supporting band plays with precision and gives Hegarty’s turns on tenor or soprano a fertile foundation to build his sparkling, tuneful solos. Hegarty played in Gil Evans’ band on Monday nights at Sweet Basil in NYC back in the day, and his own playing is satisfyingly based in the tradition of great tenor saxophonists. “Simone,” a tune by bandleader and Basie alum Frank Foster sets up dynamic and classy solos for Hegarty, Sherman and Barron.
Solid with a decent dose of charm, Tribute satisfies Hergarty’s mission as a younger man to study and find his own voice—the communication among these pros will easily be appreciated by anyone who digs upright, straight-ahead jazz.
Brian Charette: Square One - Ace organist Brian Charette delivers equal amounts of funk and frolic on Square One, a zip-line ride through mostly post bebop originals in the Jimmy Smith tradition. Charette is a frequent collaborator with saxophonist Mike DiRubbo (reviewed last month) and though he’s a smooth groove pianist in that group, he sure can kick up some dust on the organ. Apart from Charette’s absorbing set list, the measure of the album’s success rests directly on the shoulders of his amazing trio mates, guitarist Yotam Silberstein and drummer Mark Ferber, each of them fixtures on the NY scene. Charette’s pop-inflected strokes at the outset of “Aaight” and spacey sonic effects on “People On Trains” and “Things You Don’t Mean” give these strong tracks an unexpected buzz and root them in present day.
Obsessively soulful, whether swinging through the changes on the Meters tune, “Ease Back” or exploring his own love affair on “Three For Matina,” Charette zig-zags through plenty o’ grooves with superb contrasting harmonics from Silberstein and on target beats by Ferber. Though Square One is his seventh solo record, it’s a highly recommended starting point to discover the diverse and accomplished Brian Charette.
Takuya Kuroda: Rising Son - For listeners who want to put the usual standards and post-bebop swing on pause, the 33-year-old trumpeter Takuya Kuroda stands tall on his Blue Note debut, Rising Son, a polished wedge of jazz, retro R&B riffs and hip hop sonics. Produced by singer/songwriter José James whose own records, particularly 2013’s No Beginning, No End (Blue Note), smartly braid jazz with pop-glazed rhythm and blues, Kuroda’s album sets an after-hours party mood that starts with the rousing title track and flows throughout. Kuroda’s compositions fuse infectious urban rhythms with in-the-pocket Afro-centric grooves inflated by keyboardist Kris Bowers (an artist blowing up on the national scene with his Concord Jazz debut CD, Heroes + Misfits), electric bassist Solomon Dorsey, drummer Nate Smith and the satin-laced tones of trombonist Corey King. Kuroda and King redefine the classic two-horn frontline that Blue Note built their reputation on sound and style, an architecture that remains on Rising Son. As a player, the trumpeter falls somewhere between Lee Morgan’s sweet tone and Art Farmer’s capacity for storytelling, especially on the closing track, “Call,” an opus of sorts, characterized by a classic CTI-style arrangement melded with a Prince-like jam coda.
In much the same way that Prince’s band made their own records under the Madhouse moniker and others, José James’ fingerprints the recording with first class accompaniment and he gives the trumpeter a gold-embossed stage for Kuroda to shine. It’s easy to be enamored with the half-steppin’ bounce that makes “Piri Piri” sound so terrific or the back-to-back re-imagination of Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine” with James’ behind-the-beat vocals along with his “Green and Gold,” featuring a super-tight, electric solo by Bowers. The eight tracks are awash with good feeling, the sharpest riffs and heaviest beats—all pulled together by Kuroda’s melodious magic and his evolutionary exploration of jazz.
This article is from the April 2014 edition of ICON Magazine, the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. More Information.