The term jazz can refer to many different styles within the genre and with each passing year artists not only continue to uphold the tradition, but also make bold moves to expand the norms within it.
This month there’s a handful of new works and takes on hallmark pieces from some of the greatest in the game, Bill Frisell, Dr. Lonnie Smith, Frenchman Pierrick Pédronand a collection representing the late George Adams.
Aside from his incredible skills as a guitarist with a unique sound, Bill Frisell is first and foremost a music fan.
It’s hard to pinpoint Frisell’s style as he delves into nearly every type of music, sometimes within the same song or record. Having collaborated with saxophone giant, Charles Lloyd on his recent album, I Long to See You, Frisell has found himself playing straight-ahead fusion and free jazz, world music, folk, ‘60s-style surfy garage rock and even classical chamber music.
While the title may imply Disney, Frisell and company successfully barrel through several television and film theme songs
For his umpteenth record, When You Wish Upon a Star, Frisell returns with his acoustic band format that includes violinist, Eyvind Kang and vocalist Petra Haden (daughter of the late bassist Charlie Haden) on several tunes. While the title may imply Disney, Frisell and company successfully barrel through several television and film theme songs.
Paying homage to some his favorite composers, Frisell doesn’t veer too far from each original’s arrangement. Early on, the theme from Psycho provides a welcoming jolt to the listener. But along with lovely versions of the title track, the irresistible Bonanza and the predictably haunting theme to The Godfather, the record flows through each familiar tune seamlessly. Taken together, it’s the theme songs influence on Frisell’s playing that shines throughout.
Jazz organ dynamo Dr. Lonnie Smith returns to the Blue Note label after 45 years with a poppin’ collection of new originals and standards that is sure to delight longtime fans as well as gain some new ones.
In a field where there are very few jazz organ players, Smith helped set the standard for the term “soul jazz” organ ever since he started playing with guitarist George Benson in the ‘60s.
Honing his craft with fellow jazz pioneers Lou Donaldson, Lee Morgan, Grover Washington Jr., Dizzy Gillespie, as well as backing Etta James, Dionne Warwick and Gladys Knight, Smith recorded many of his sessions for various record labels, including Blue Note, over the years.
A very rewarding run for the record’s lengthy six tracks
On Evolution, Smith and his band triumphantly take on some super heavy and funky workouts. He generously shares the stage with several guest musicians, including Robert Glasper on the kicking lead track “Play it Back,” sax man Joe Lovano on the mellow “For Heaven’s Sakes,” trumpeter Maurice Brown on “Talk About This” and Monk’s “Straight No Chaser” and the beloved standard “My Favorite Things,” which also features John Ellis on saxophone.
A very rewarding run for the record’s lengthy six tracks, Evolution embodies all the elements of aclassic ‘60s jazz sound in its style and simplicity, but with new breath and subtle execution from all the players. For a legend who’s traversed the outer realm of jazz for decades now, Dr. Smith has the finesse and delivery of a true master.
Pierrick Pédron may not yet be a household name in the States, but the French saxophonist has worked with some of the top-notch players in the business, including Wynton Marsalis and pianist Mulgrew Miller.
The term “jazz fusion” sometimes has negative connotations, but on And The, Pédron utilizes electricity sparingly, allowing for wonderful solos and a full range of dynamics. Most notably, on the scorching “Procession” Pédron and players slowly creep in with a staccato groove that erupts into giant flares of heavy piano and percussion, only to fall back gently into a melodic meditation. The soothing “Elise” bounces with electronic beats and keyboards, then transitions with a flowing melody that floats gracefully, echoing the sound of ‘70s fusion jazz with a modern sonic wash.
The Afrobeat rhythms of “Clock Road” help place And The into the category of electronic dance music. Fitting easily into multiple genres, Pédronpromises another look into the future of the jazz form and gives listeners a taste of international flavor with his splendid unpredictability.
Finally, from the Dopeness Galore label we have Finest, a compilation from the late saxophonist George Adams. Adams’ frantic style and rapid horn jumps are accompanied by pianist Don Pullen and drummer Dannie Richmond, among others.
Similar to his influences, John Coltrane and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Adams knows how to carry a ballad. On a somber version of “Send in the Clowns,” he captures the essence of the melody, all the while injecting his own flourishes to put his mark on the tune.
Finest works as a wonderful introduction to Adams
No doubt channeling Eric Dolphy, we hear a solo sax on “Reflexions Inward.” Hitting highs and lows and every note in between, the piece illustrates Adams’ flexibility on his horn, at times abstracting the melody beyond recognition, while drifting between chaos and subtlety, only to return to its original theme.
Like so many jazz collections, Finest works as a wonderful introduction to Adams, an artist once again taken away from us without truly receiving his due, but this album allows him to live on.