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Delfeayo is the third of
Eddie Henderson is
Sean Jones was once
Jeremy Pelt is always
by Andrew Elias
The Last Southern Gentleman
From the very first sultry moments of the opening track on Delfeayo Marsalis excellent new album, The Last Southern Gentleman, you know youre in for a special experience. It is his first recording with his father, the miraculous New Orleans piano legend, Ellis. And it is the first to showcase the matured musician and new man Delfeayo has become.
With The Last Southern Gentleman, Delfeayo establishes himself as an original and formidable artistic voice, one of the leading jazz trombonists of any era (admittingly, a relatively small group). His new record measures up to the best of jazz giants Curtis Fuller and Jay Jay Johnson.
As you might expect, theres a whole lot of New Orleans in these tracks, from soulful takes on standards Autumn Leaves and I Cover the Waterfront to the playful romp on the Sesame Street theme; from the lush ballad Shes Funny That Way to the syncopated and tropical The Secret Love Affair.
At age 81, Ellis has never played with more grace and class and has some elegantly tender solos, most notably on Nancy (with the Laughing Face) and Im Confessin (That I Love You).
With background rhythm provided by John Clayton and Smitty Smith, a seasoned combo, father and son play together and work off each other with a genuine chemistry. The sessions are intimate, with the sound and feel of a small club. At times the songs seem more a like a personal conversation than a public performance.
Its never been in question as to whether Delfeayo was an excellent trombonist. But what would he do with that talent and skill? What could he accomplish? I think having the best jazz CD of 2014 and possibly the best of all the Marsalis brothers albums is quite an accomplishment (and thats saying a lot since his older brothers Wynton and Branford have made so much great music). This CD is a gem.
Not too far into the first track on trumpeter Eddie Hendersons new album, Collective Portrait, I thought it sounded a lot like late-60s Miles Davis. By the time I heard the eighth track, Jimmy Heaths Ginger Bread Boy, my hunch was validated. Ginger Bread Boy is also on the classic album Miles Smiles, featuring Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter, Tony Williams, and Wayne Shorter. Hendersons playing is muted and spartan, sometimes just cooly coloring a soundscape and then exploding with hot, darting exclamations at others.
Inspired by Miles statement that a collective portrait is better than a self-portrait, Henderson has gathered a quintet to rival Miles best: bassist Doug Weiss and drummer Carl Allen are joined by saxophonist Gary Bartz and the great pianist George Cables. Two of the best tracks were written by Cables the funky Morning Song and Beyond Forever, both reminiscent of late great Eddie Harris.
The comparisons to Miles Davis are unavoidable and justified, but Hendersons musical identity, although formed, informed, inspired, and influenced by Miles, is original, entertaining and exciting.
Smoke Sessions Records continues to consistently release top shelf, straight ahead jazz CDs by veteran artists making new music.
After ten years and six albums, Sean Jones decided he was going to make it simple. Paring down to basics, he recorded Im.Pro.Vise: never before seen in one room, playing live. Collaborating with the always adventurous pianist Orrin Evans and bass/drum duo of Luques Curtis and Obed Calvaire, the gambit seems to have paid off. The new record showcases Jones tasteful playing and renewed writing skills. His rowdy I Dont Give a Damn Blues and soulful Well Meet Under the Stars are standouts. Also outstanding are the standard How High the Moon and Sondheims Not While Im Around.
The quartets tone is reminiscent of mid-60s Miles, with the band offering a new version of Jackie McLeans Dr. Jekyll (known from Davis Milestones album). But Jones blowing is bluesier. A strong and sassy album throughout, Im.Pro.Vise was certainly another of the best jazz releases of 2014 as well.
One of post-pops leading stars, Jeremy Pelts new release, Tales, Musings and Other Reveries finds the trumpeter still exploring new sounds fusing the traditional and the modern, swing and soul, improvisation with polish. Whereas much of the CD is expressionistic and stretches to the outer fringes of popular jazz, a few tracks such as Wayne Shorters Vonetta and Everything You Can Imagine is Real are lyrical and stylish and easy on the ears. The ballad, I Only Miss Her When I Think of Her is sure to be enjoyed by even the biggest smooth jazz fans although Harlem Thoroughfare might be a bit too avant garde for most tastes. It is that range that makes Pelt one of the brightest musicinas of his generation.
Pelt is joined by pianist Simona Premazzi, bassist Ben Allison and one separate channels, two veteran drummers: Billy Drummond (right) and Victor Lewis (left). Its interesting to hear how they play with and against each other, creating unified and complimentary rhythms.
Tales, Musings and Other Reveries is one of Pelts better recordings of late, with him building on the musics traditions while always pushing the envelope for arts sake.