Rant ‘N’ Roll: Multi-Hyphenate Talent

Sous Le Vent (Zoho) by the Foreign Affair Trio is propelled by Swiss drummer Raphael Nick who, when combined with Brazilian bassist Dudu Penz, makes the pianistics of New York City composer-educator Hector Martignon come gloriously alive. Opener “Prelude X” is from the soundtrack of Cita a Ciegas, a play by Mario Damient, depicting the last days when Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges went blind. It’s followed by “Pasilleando,” which Hector wrote about his Bogata birthplace, featuring a Venezuelan-Columbian rhythm spurred on by special guest Jean-Lou Treboux of Puerto Rico, who adds just the right amount of vibes. Herbie Hancock’s arrangement of Don Henley’s “NY Minute” features another guest, trombonist Luis Bonilla. Billy Strayhorn’s 1944 “Johnny Come Lately” gets a Latin treatment. There’s so many highlights here! 

Some of the most cherished trios of jazz history have had no drums, from Ahmad Jamal and Oscar Peterson to Nat King Cole and Roy Hargrove. The self-released and self-produced new gem by Toronto composer/arranger/bassist Mike Downes, The Way In, has 12 originals with guitar and keyboards. Downes has released solo bass, trio, quartet, and 11-piece ensemble recordings. Something new is revealed with each listen. Bravo!

It’s definitely A Caribbean Thing (Continuo Jazz) for composer, arranger, soprano/baritone saxophonist Xavier Richardeau. Although, based on the island of Guadeloupe in the West Indies, French “chanson” music still inhabits his soul due to the years he spent in Paris. The title track opener sets the scene for this magnificent album. A strong drum’n’bass presence sparks its island groove while Jocelyn Menard’s tenor sax – from Quebec – playfully wrestles with the soprano. The sterling cover of Edith Piaf’s 1951 “Sous Le Ciel De Paris” is in waltz time before morphing into a reggae. “Linea Oceanica” is the big ballad. “Broussa Samba” goes the Brazilian bossa nova route. “Sonne Laverite,” buoyed by pianist Leonardo Montana, could’ve been a Coltrane outtake. And dig that electric guitar on “Blue Sunlight” by Anthony Jambon. Man, this thing is wild! 

Multi-Genre pianist-composer-arranger-producer Andy Ezrin’s I Was Here traverses the schools of cool jazz, free jazz and acoustic fusion all in a post-bop swingin’ mode. Opener “Grapes” features trumpeter Randy Brecker playing off of Donnie McCaslin’s tenor sax, the first in a three-song cycle of dance/funk/fusion with Ezrin pounding the electric piano. “Luna” is a gorgeous acoustic trio where highly-acclaimed bassist John Patitucci shines. After all sorts of adventures (highlight: “Ain’t That Some Shit”), it all ends with Ezrin taking full advantage of his instrument’s 88 keys solo-style.

Joe Henderson [1937-2001] died at 64 from smoking too many damn cigarettes, but he was a giant on the sax. During his 40-year career (after serving in the U.S. Army), his string of 30 Blue Note albums defined hard bop. The Lori Bell Quartet brings eight of his compositions to life on the self-released, self-arranged Recorda Me (Portuguese for Remember Me). The only original is “Outer Urge,” written in response to Henderson’s “Inner Urge.” It’s a Latin-Fest of feel-good proportions. Bell, a Brooklyn educator, plays the flute so sweet yet so daring, she crosses Herbie Mann with Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Backed by piano, bass and drums, she goes from the blues to adventurous tracks with multiple time signatures within the same song and, of course, the highlight wherein she takes Henderson’s iconic “Serenity” swing and morphs it into an Afro groove fit for the ages.