Not sure why it took one of the most in-demand hired guns in New York City to debut as a leader at 52 (he’s only been at it since 22) but trumpeter/flugelhorn man/composer John Bailey is In Real Time (Summit Records). Handpicked by Buddy Rich, Ray Charles, Ray Barretto, Mighty Max Weinberg and Arturo O’Farrill for their various bands, Bailey has been on 70+ albums and also teaches at two Florida universities.
His seven originals and two covers — Gilberto Gil’s 1966 “Ensaio Geral” and Milton Nascimento’s 1967 “Morro Velho” — span the gamut of straightahead jazz, Brazilian, post-bop, swing, waltz and complex balladry. To that end, he has enlisted tenor and soprano saxophonist Stacy Dillard, guitarist John Hart, bassist Cameron Brown and drummer Victor Lewis to fulfill his vision…and, boy, do they ever!
With nods to Armstrong (“My Man Louis!) and Fitzgerald (“Blues For Ella”), this quintet burns with passion, intelligence, creativity and an unerring feel for what’s right in such a context. Every turn, every whim and every convoluted back road of mysterious, circuitous adventure is couched in such terms that even dilletantes can get righteously down with this sound. Try it. It’s good for you. Bailey has cooked up some real tasty health food here.
Latin Jazz has traversed a meandering road from Cal Tjader and Mongo Santamaria to Machito. Now a San Francisco tribe, Tribu, positively percolates on the 12 sizzling poppers of El Matador (Mandala Records). The beat is the thing as they mix in the Afro-Caribbean while maintaining a sturdy post-bop framework. This is totally akin to how Dizzy Gillespie [1917-1993] made his pioneering bebop sparkle when he added that all-important percussive clave to his arsenal. Pianist Steve McQuarry knows this well as he spent some time in one of Dizzy’s bands. Cuban bassist Marcus Lopez comes out of San Francisco fully formed. He was in Malo (my favorite Santana-type band). Add vibes, alto sax, soprano sax, flute, chants, drums, timbales, congas, Nigerian Bata drum, West African Shekere drum, Hammond B-3 organ and synthesizer and you’ve got one bad-ass party. Pass the rum.
Nu-Jive! Saxophonist/Composer/Producer Troy Roberts is one impressive cat. He came out of Australia to land in New York City, but not before getting his Masters in Miami. He’s played behind Van Morrison and Aretha Franklin. He was part of Herbie Hancock’s 2014 International Jazz Day in Japan. He’s on his eighth CD as a leader (fifth with this terrific quintet). He blows like he means it, taking from the past, yet putting his smarts into this free-wheeling no-holds-barred amalgam of post-bop, swing, funk, gospel and straight-a-head jazz. He calls it his Nu-Jive Perspective (Inner Circle Music). He’ll take you anywhere he pleases and you best be ready, especially when he goes all misterioso on the 10-minute highlight “Through The Eyes Of Psychoville.” His guitar/keyboard/bass/drums band provides plenty of action. Wholeheartedly Recommended.
Rhythm Is Their Daddy Everything Allen Toussaint ever did was funky. The late New Orleans legend is smiling somewhere as Toronto power-blues trio Sons of Rhythm covers his 1970 mission statement “Everything I Do Gonna Be Funky (From Now On)” on its self-released, self-produced, self-titled six-song EP. In concert, lead singer/bassist Mick Maratta, guitarist Federico Luiu and drummer Mike Carbone get positively primal. Here, though, with added piano, organ, saxophone, background vocals and tambourine, the five originals — soul, folk, shuffle, blues, rock ’n’ roll –come out exquisitely tasty.
The Real Thing With so much fake country music hogging the airwaves, it’s downright refreshing — like a cool mountain breeze — to hear such a Wayward Troubadour (Northwind Records) as Mike Aiken. His seventh CD is an 11-song gem and a worthy follow-up to his 2013 Dan Baird-produced Captains & Cowboys. So many highlights! Aiken wrote “Two Lane Highway” with Outlaw Henry Paul (who sings and plays mandolin). Opener “Everything Changed” swings. “A Little Lazy In Your Life” strays into Gypsy Jazz territory. “Hard Working Working Girl” and “Hangover Helper” are funny yet rockin’. Originally from Chicago, Aiken recorded this gem in Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The band is absolutely sterling: a tight-knit, rough-hewn amalgam of players on acoustic and electric bass, acoustic and electric guitar, drums, fiddle and harmony vocals to go along with Aiken’s sandpapery voice of experience. Dude reminds me of Willie Nelson…and that’s the ultimate compliment.
Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches When the 2016 Very Next Thing debut of New York City’s Banjo Nickaru & Western Scooches came out, it blew me away. Here was a post-modern jukebox of a band that harnessed the frenetic energy of prohibition-era jazz (back then bandstand musicians played with guts and daring because they knew everyone could be busted at any moment; it gave an edge to the music itself) and juxtaposed it with Crescent City joyousness, post-bop flair and Broadway-styled theatricality. They do all that and more on the self-released follow-up, Get Us Out of Fearland. From folkloric Americana seasoned with worldbeat and still cut with Roaring Twenties jazz and tribal New Orleans soul, this nine-song, 25-minute blast even gets down with an old cowboy song from the 1800s, “A Hundred Miles.” Vocalist Betina Hershey wrote the other eight as arranged and produced by Nick Russo, he of the banjo, guitar, resonator, electric bass, organ, harmonium, rainstick, handclaps and foot stomps. Bravo!