The story of the second album of The Delines would make a great movie. In 2014, the Portland, Oregon Americana band with the country-soul female singer made many a Top 10 list with its Colfax debut. With most of its follow-up record already in the can, vocalist Amy Boone had both her legs broken when hit by a car in an Austin parking lot. Three painful years later of nine surgeries, skin grafts, and re-learning to walk, that follow-up is finally out.

The Imperial (El Cortez Records) is rife with dark tales sung with passion and played with a daring exactitude. Guitarist/composer Willy Vlautin can spin a good yarn (as evidenced by two of his four novels being made into movies). From the girl-gone-wrong of “Holly The Hustle” to the prison saga of “Where Are You, Sonny,” his words and melodies hit home hard. (He’s also recorded 11 albums with his other band, Richmond Fontaine.) The Delines—vocals, keyboards, trumpet, pedal steel, percussion, bass, and guitar—are augmented here by flugelhorn, sax, and strings. It was worth the wait.

Like A Good Cup Of Coffee

Resonance, the self-released debut of Florida drummer/composer Dave Rudolph’s Rudolph Quintet, is a heady affair filled to the brim with aromatic colorings, flavors, and tinctures that tickle the ear. Over the course of nine jammy tracks, guitar, tenor sax, piano, bass, vocals, and drums coalesce into a mighty strong brew of steaming post-bop, complete with essences of waltz, folk, Monk, balladry, New Orleans, Bill Evans, and enough improvisation to satisfy the most hardcore of jazz fans down to the dilatant.

A Serendipitous Reunion

Pianist and composer Aaron Goldberg has been plying his trade for the last two decades all around the world—in the bands of Wynton Marsalis and Betty Carter, among others—but not with good friend/bandmate/drummer Leon Parker, who disappeared somewhere in France in 2001. Then in 2011, Goldberg found himself in Paris needing a drummer. The reunion was so spectacular that it turned into a trio with bassist Matt Penman.

At The Edge Of The World (Sunnyside Records) has that trio comping madly on a beautifully arranged and produced project that hits all the right notes, including a new take on Ahmad Jamal’s 1958 “Poinciana” (written in 1936 from a Cuban folk song). “Luaty” is for Angolan rapper Luaty Beirao, wrongly imprisoned for over a year, and whose 36-day hunger strike brought down a dictator. There’s two from the pen of vibraphonist Bobby Hutcherson and one from pianist McCoy Tyner. Add some blues and you’ve got a satisfying and deeply resonant barrage of absolutely exquisite musicianship. 

Two Guitars

Heart Songs (CPG Sounds/30 Tigers), by guitarists Tommy Emmanuel and John Knowles, is great listening because these two are up there amongst the greatest acoustic guitar masters in the world. But, more importantly, they have chosen material that you most likely know and love. The fun part comes in the shock of recognition when you might be grooving to their playful interplay without realizing at first what song it is. Then, when the melody becomes manifest, it’s like a pinprick of delight. That said, it is highly recommended to listen without knowing what’s upcoming. It’s not a stretch to say you’ve never quite heard songs associated with the likes of Hank Williams, the Bee Gees, Ray Charles, Michael McDonald (who said that hearing what these two did to one of his songs was “the experience of a lifetime”), Billy Joel, Bonnie Raitt, Nat King Cole, and Broadway done quite like this.

Blood Harmony

If Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt had a baby, it would grow up to be California troubadour Alice Wallace, who is deeply Into The Blue (Rebelle Road) on her fourth album. Wallace writes newsworthy topical songs laced with pretty ornamentation that belies the darkness. She sings of the “Santa Ana Winds” that push wildfires into multiple explosions. In “The Lonely Talking,” she makes you question gender stereotypes. “Elephants” promotes female empowerment. “Desert Rose” tells the heartbreaking story of a mom trying to give her baby a better life by crossing the border. “The Blue,” though, features unbridled optimism, buoyed by the family harmony of her parents and brother. As her musical bed, members of the bands of no less than Bonnie Raitt, Elton John, Aimee Mann, Jackson Browne, and Graham Nash provide comfort.

Poetry Is Meant To Be Read Aloud

Last year, The Poetry Of Jazz wound up being on a lot of 2018 “Top 10” lists. It was the result of three years of work between alto/soprano saxophonist-composer Benjamin Boone, and his fellow Cal State professor-poet Philip Levine, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2015 at the age of 87. They recorded enough during their sessions for this year’s The Poetry Of Jazz Volume Two (Origin Records).

Spoken word poetry on jazz albums is getting to be a trend. And It works. It’s popping up all over the place these days on albums by numerous jazzers. Hearkening back to the days when Allen Ginsburg and Jack Kerouac would recite their beat poetry to the accompaniment of a lone sax and/or bongos, here it’s the late poet on 14 of 18 tracks with bass, piano, wordlessly sung vocals, and drums by Brian Hamada—who own struggle with cancer took him in 2018 at the age of 58. North Carolinian Boone blows a mighty sax. Partially deaf, he has not only beat his disability but has gone on to perform in 26 countries, on 27 albums, while winning 18 awards in the process. Poet Levine was from Detroit, always loved jazz, and has a way with words to the point where you get totally caught up in his demeanor, delivery, and meanings. Plus, the jazz winds up accenting his obvious cool.

Dead Jazz

“Truckin’” has been a favorite of Deadheads ever since the Grateful Dead recorded it in 1970 for their greatest album, American Beauty. In 1997, the song was declared a “National Treasure” by the United States Library of Congress. Now it could wind up being a jazz standard. It’s on Tony Monaco’s The Definition Of Insanity (Chicken Coop Records) and it swings! Monaco plays the Hammond B-3 organ, accordion, and piano. He sings, produces, and arranges with a Brazilian flair. You gotta love his choices for a jazz quartet:  “Cars Trucks Busses” by Phish, “Root Down” by the Beastie Boys (done more in line with the 1972 original by B-3 legend Jimmy Smith), Italian pop song “Non Ti Scodare Di Me,” Leon Russell’s 1970 “A Song For You,” and Antonio Carlos Jobim’s 1966 “Triste.” It’s a groove, man.

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