For more than 20 years, the world-renowned jazz group Fourplay has set the benchmark for contemporary jazz. From their eponymously titled debut in 1991, to their 2012 Heads Up release, Esprit du Four, pianist Bob James, bassist Nathan East, drummer Harvey Mason and guitarist Chuck Loeb have continued to innovate and charm listeners with their precise, dynamic instrumental jazz/pop sound. On record and on stage, their tasty grooves and virtuosity remain impressive.
Bop Goes the Opera - In 2002, the brilliant saxophonistÂ Joe LovanoÂ took the jazz-meets-classical music concept outside of the box when he recorded jazz versions of tunes from the songbook of opera legend Enrico Caruso. While Viva Caruso was critically acclaimed and did well for Lovano and Blue Note Records, it represented, at the time, the beginning and end of jazz versions of operatic compositions and vice-versa. Until now.
For a jazz pianist, New York-based Helen Sung certainly fits into the â€śdeserves to be better knownâ€ť category. For those who do know and appreciate her art, Sungâ€™s club gigs are adventurous, disarming, and always have an unexpected surprise or two. It was at one of these small club dates where I caught her during a late set in the summer of 2013 with much of the same band that accompany her on Anthem For A New Day, her glossy and rewarding debut record for Concord Jazz.
A Manhattan backdrop substitutes for prairie land and open sky on Jazz Country, the big-hearted hybrid album from singer Amy Cervini thatâ€™s as endearing and tender as a vocal recording can be in 2014. She smartly transcends genre boundaries or anything else that gets in the way of the purity of a song. The spare musical accompaniment by guitarist Jesse Lewis and bassist Matt Aranoff frame Cerviniâ€™s renditions of these classic American songs simply and earnestly, underscoring her candor and crystalline delivery.
Powerhouse records were released in 2013 from some of the most respected jazz musicians (Wayne Shorter, Tomasz Stanko and Chucho Valdes could take the top spots on an alternate list), but my choices for top jazz releases in 2013 were shaped by newer voices and rising stars, all of them uniquely notable for their artistry and leadership. Â 1. Terri Lyne Carrington, Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue (Concord Jazz)