This week it's our periodic round-up of some recent releases, some by vocalists, others by instrumental acts. Artists featured on the show include:
Jose James and Jef Neves
Jose James, who was born in Minneapolis, now lives in London, and has won a following in Europe and Japan, recording under his own name and with a number of jazz, club, and hiphop acts such as Basement Jaxx and Christian McBride. His new CD on the Impulse label, For All We Know, is his first to come out in America, and it came about after he and pianist Jef Neve performed together on a Belgian TV show. James liked their initial chemistry so much that he suggested they do some recording the next day. They didn't use a producer, did no overdubs, and recorded hardly any alternate takes; the result is a quietly charged set of standards.
Pianist Brad Mehldau has put out quite a few CDs in the past 15 years, but his new release Highway Rider is the first to feature him with an orchestra. It also reunites him with indie pop-rock producer Jon Brion, who worked with Mehldau a few years ago on the pianist's Largo, which has become a sort of touchstone record for many young jazz artists, and with saxophonist Joshua Redman, who's performed and recorded with Mehldau several times over the course of their careers. On Highway Rider Mehldau does a composition called "Sky Turning Grey" that he dedicates to Elliott Smith, the indie pop-rock singer-songwriter who died under somewhat cloudy circumstances in 2003, and whose songs Mehldau has interpreted from time to time.
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Another tribute shows up this week in the form of two songs from singer Dee Dee Bridgewater's new CD Eleanora Fagan: To Billie With Love. Eleanora Fagan was Billie Holiday's original name, and in a recent JazzTimes article Bridgewater talks about how she actually avoided listening to Billie Holiday when she was younger, not wishing to be influenced by the legendary singer. Now a jazz veteran decades later, she puts her own spin on the Holiday oeuvre of song, including a very gospel-ish rendition of "God Bless the Child."
Drummer Paul Motian was a part of the incredible Bill Evans trio between 1959 and 1961 that also included bassist Scott La Faro. The trio changed irrevocably when La Faro died in a car crash in the summer of 1961, only a few days after the group made some recordings at the Village Vanguard that have come to be regarded as some of the greatest live piano-trio sessions in jazz history. Motian has a new CD out that takes him back to the Village Vanguard, live recordings he made in February 2009 with his own trio, which includes two young-to-middling age luminaries of the jazz world, saxophonist Chris Potter and pianist Jason Moran.
Other artists on the program include:
- Pianist Ahmad Jamal
- Trumpeter Jeremy Pelt