Rant ‘N’ Roll: Come Alive Again

Tidal Currents: East Meets West (Chronograph Records), the seventh album by the Winnipeg Jazz Orchestra, is a beautiful, adventurous, meandering suite with many colors. It’s a kinetic, action-packed adventure, stoked by five saxophones, four trumpets, four trombones, piano, guitar, bass, and drums, conducted by Jill Townsend and featuring soprano sax soloist Christine Jensen. Founded in 1997 as a non-profit with support from the Manitoba Arts Council and other entities, the WJO, over and above making gorgeous records like this, has developed educational programs for Canadian students including a play-along app with original pieces designed for developing musicians.

Clark Terry [1920-2015] was a pivotal figure in jazz history, making the transition from swing star to bebop pioneer. In his 94 years on the planet, he played trumpet/flugelhorn, wrote, taught and sang. His work with Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Quincy Jones and The Tonight Show band from ’62 to ’72 is well-documented. CT! (Capri Records) takes 13 of his compositions, puts them in the capable hands of bari sax man Adam Schroeder and arranger Mark Masters with a cast of 12 and makes them come thrillingly, enticingly, wondrously alive again.

I’m already invested enough in the pure artistry of pianist Art Hirahara to listen intently to anything that has his name on it, the latest of which is With Just A Word (Posi-Tone), by tenor saxophonist-composer Diego Rivera. It’s a beautiful, captivating, trad-yet-contemporary effort with 10 riveting tracks of melodic invention and dizzying improvisation. Solos abound. The complex arrangements demand repeated listening. Pete Rodriguez on trumpet, flugelhorn, and congas provides some sterling moments. Bassist Luques Curtis does much more than just hold down the bottom. Rudy Royston – who I’ve been thrilled by on other Posi-Tone releases – is his usual awesome self. Santana’s 1976 “Europa” is my personal highlight, but “Pee Wee,” written by Tony Williams for the 1967 Miles album Sorcerer, is a close second.   


Pianist-Composer-Producer Lawrence Fields finally has a debut album – To The Surface (Rhythm Flow Records) – after being a main man in the bands of Joe Lovano and Branford Marsalis. He roared out of St. Louis, landing in New York City as a go-to guy with fire in his fingers. That fire is amply on display with bassist Yasushi Nakamura and drummer Corey Fonville on nine of his irresistible originals plus one delightful cover of “I Fall In Love Too Easily,” introduced by Sinatra in the 1945 film Anchors Away.

Twelve years and four albums after his debut, Houston-raised, Los Angeles-based drummer-composer-producer Reggie Quinerly has added an Afro-Latin tinge. The Thousandth Scholar (Redefinition Music) leans on Havana-born pianist-arranger Manuel Valera and native Columbian percussionist Samuel Torres in adding the spice to his stew. His eight new compositions are highlighted by opener “She That Steps In Bull’s Blood,” a waltz, a mambo, and tributes to pianist Ray Bryant [1931-2011] and Wynton Marsalis. 

The 30 tracks on Rhythm & Blues Hell Raisers Volume #2:  Jailbird (Koko Mojo Records, Ireland) made me want to commit petty larceny. The Crawford Brothers swear “I Ain’t Guilty.” (Their father was the first Black FBI agent but J. Edgar Hoover only used him as his personal driver.) From Sonny Knight’s “Jail Bird” and Fats Domino’s “You Done Me Wrong” to Cab Callaway’s “Papa’s In Bed With His Britches On” and Pig Meat Markham’s “Your Wires Have Been Tapped,” these forgotten relics from the dustbin of time are absolutely delicious, especially Thunderbird Ward’s musical question, “How Wild Can A Woman Be.”