So goes the world of the Jazzbeaux, whose aim is to eliminate the snob of jazz-snobbery. There’s no previous experience or expertise required because this is a place where beginners and experts peacefully co-exist — just bring your ears and an open mind.
**Snarky Puppy, **Cucha Vulcha
The ever prolific Snarky Puppy are headquartered in Brooklyn, fronted by bassist Michael League. While they cram themselves under the extended umbrella of jazz, funk, world, soul and pop, SP are actually deliriously unclassifiable. You may hear traces of Medeski, Martin & Wood, Charlie Hunter or Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express. They are a large ensemble — check that, a gigantic ensemble — who are at times organ-fueled and horn-blasted funky. On Cucha Vucha they claim to be moodier and restrained, though I’m happy to report, not too restrained.League, as well as other players in the band, came from the well-respected University of North Texas jazz music program in Denton, Texas. No strangers to the studio (this is their 11th recording), these nine songs were recorded five minutes walking distance from the Mexican border, plopped in the middle of a studio amid a pecan orchard. Since there was no overdubbing, what you hear is what you get, out-and-out playing.
**Sonny Rollins, **Holding the Stage (Road Shows Vol. 4)
Sixty-five years treading the boards, if you’ve seen Sonny Rollins recently, he’s as much a hurricane as he’s always been, a furious cotton-topped buzzsaw blowing havoc into his horn. Holding the Stage is more from Rollins’ road archives dating from 1979 in Finland to 2012 in Prague. The meat of the material are the concluding tracks recorded just four days after 9/11 at a special tribute concert. The performances are quirky, mostly well-recorded and faithful to the moment. Sonny swings hardest on “Keep Hold of Yourself” and ends with a medley of “Sweet Leilani” that erupts into a frantic solo closing with one of Sonny’s signature tunes, “Don’t Stop the Carnival.”
Yellowjackets practically invented jazz fusion back in 1977 with guitarist Robben Ford, a few years after Ford toured as part of Joni Mitchell’s live band. Other YJ alum include founding members and session legends Jimmy Haslip, Ricky Lawson, Marc Russo and master drummer Peter Erksine. However, original member Russell Ferrante is still front and center where he and longtime Jacket drummer William Kennedy lay the foundation for “Inevitable Outcome.” The opening “Golden State” careens between melody and dissonance while “Guarded Optimism” fares a little sweeter. The high point is when Ferrante revisits his Les McCann and Eddie Harris Swiss Movements roots as he and longtime YJ sax man and noted big band arranger Bob Mintzer tip their hats to the late, great Harris with “Eddie’s in the House.”
**Renee Rosnes, **Written in the Rocks
While the first seven tracks comprise The Galapagos Suite, tracks like “Galapagos” ably stand alone, particularly as the project’s opus composition. From there Rosnes plays in close melodic proximity with vibist Steve Nelson. “From Here to a Star” is a gorgeous ballad where Rosnes’ music stands toe-to-toe with that of her pianist/husband Bill Charlap’s recent release, Notes From New York. Incidentally, Charlap is most famous as Tony Bennett’s accompanist while Rosnes is known for having earned her rep playing in ensembles fronted by no less than the likes of Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter and, most prominently, J.J. Johnson and James Moody. My favorite on Written in the Rocks is the concluding, “Goodbye Mumbai,” which, if you’ve ever been to Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), you’ll immediately notice how the song personifies India’s chaotic wonderfulness.## **Brian Bromberg, *****Full Circle***
Prepare to be amazed. If you look carefully at the cover artwork, you’ll notice the same dude in the photo playing drums and electric and upright bass. Bromberg does it all — with a little help from his friends. Known to many as the master bassist, it’s a miracle that Full Circle was recorded at all. Bromberg broke his back in two places after a freak accidental fall in his home and when he recovered, he was inspired to follow his musician/father’s footsteps by recording a more straight-up, traditional set of tunes. “Naw-lins” ends with swatches of musical references, including the theme from the Andy Griffith Show. However, Bromberg’s rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” is not only instantly identifiable, it’s also a fresh interpretation, performed full stop.