Solitary Moon: Ginger Berglund & Scott Whitfield Sing The Johnny Mandel Songbook (Bi-Coastal Music). This swinging, singing duo is backed by a big band smartly arranged by trombonist Whitfield. Fifteen tracks provide an iceberg's tip of Johnny's gorgeous and eclectic output, including Cinnamon & Clove, The Shadow of Your Smile, You Are There, Emily and Where Do You Start? Most important, this is exactly how Johnny's music is best showcased—with the emphasis on vocal harmony that enriches his melodic gifts.
Marty Napoleon: Try This! Starting in the 1940s, pianist Marty Napoleon was heard behind the best players in jazz—from Louis Armstrong to Benny Goodman. Now Marty can be heard front and center on an album of previously unreleased original compositions recorded in New York in 1994. Tracks 2-11 were recorded at Gary Chester's Edison Recording Studios as a demo, with Marty backed by clarinetist Ron Odrich, bassist Gary Mazzaropi and drummer Joe Cocuzzo. That's Marty singing on track 7. Pure bliss from a 93-year-old legend still going strong.
Duane Eubanks Quintet: Things of That Particular Nature (Sunnyside). Trumpeter and flugelhornist Duane Eubanks plays with enormous tenderness, slow heat and melodic strength on this 10-track album that features 9 bright and splendidly arranged originals. A soulful, patient album that will speak to you at any hour of the day—from midday hours to late at night. I was thrilled every time I put it on.
Thelonious Monk: Jackie-ing (Dutch Jazz Archive). In May 1961, pianist Thelonious Monk was in Amsterdam at the Concertgebouw with tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, bassist John Ore and drummer Frankie Dunlop. The result is a stunning previously unreleased performance. Monk's swing through Europe in the spring of '61 is well documented on seven albums. But here, Monk and Rouse are at ease, spinning art without the bombastics. The result is a beautifully paced, rare concert album. It's a hard one to find. Click above to see the title and album cover. You may need to translate the site into English.
Kenny Barron and Dave Holland: The Art of Conversation (Impulse). Piano and bass duets are notoriously seductive, and this one is no exception. The configuration forces the piano to assume many gentle personalities while the bass must become more melodic. With the right players, the music nearly always is perfect. Here Barron and Holland spar, perform neck-and-neck and set each other up on 10 tracks. Most are originals but Monk's In Walked Bud and Billy Strayhorn's Daydream are here too. The jazz duo at its very best.
Keith Jarrett: Hamburg '72 (ECM). Joined by bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Paul Motian, Jarrett here is top notch, throwing off beautiful notes like a snow globe. Even Piece for Ornette retains charm within its free-jazz orbit as Jarrett performs on soprano sax. Haden and Motian both bring enormous energy, as evidenced on Life, Dance. Strong-brewed acoustic jazz in an age when jazz instruments were plugging in.
George Van Eps: Once in Awhile (Delmark). Recorded in Los Angeles in 1946 and 1949 for the Jump label, the tracks bring to life music by an long forgotten seven-string rhythm-guitar great whose recording career dated back to 1930 and lasted until 1999. Here, Van Eps was teamed with tenor saxophonist Eddie Miller, another lost giant who recorded on 460 sessions from 1930 to 1978. Songs like Once in a While, It's Easy to Remember and Stars Fell on Alabama get the slow-groove treatment.
Laurie Antonioli: Songs of Shadow, Songs of Light—The Music of Joni Mitchell (Origin). Singer Laurie Antonioli avoids the mistake of trying to duplicate Joni's originals and instead gives the material a big jazz twist. Backed by a highly sensitive and carefully arranged quintet that includes jazz pianist Matt Clark, Antonioli delivers a fascinating Both Sides Now that turns the original inside out. All of the tracks here convert Joni's work into jazz standards. A coiled, innovative approach from a sensitive singer.
Sugar Ray and the Bluetones: Living Tear to Tear (Severn). Rockabilly meets the blues by way of Connecticut. Sugar Ray Norcia is a soul-blues singer and harmonica player who will break your heart. This album jumps, swings and settles scores. A bump-and-grinder from the get-go, with the Bluetones quartet riding right on Sugar Ray's tail.
Bobby Sanabria: Que Viva Harlem! (JazzHeads). Bobby conducts the Manhattan School of Music Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra, perhaps the most authentic-sounding student-based Latin-jazz band in the city. Every track on this one is power-packed with rhythm and brass. Tremendously exciting music thanks to one of the great Latin percussionists, educators and historians of our time. Dig this...
Danny Green Trio: After the Calm (OA2). San Diego jazz pianist Green sails through 10 lyrical originals with polish and elegance. He's backed here by bassist Justin Grinnell and drummer Julien Cantelm. Fortunately for us, Green's priorities start with ensuring that his chord voicings and lines always sound seductive rather than manic. A highly impressive album that will knock you out.
Carlton Holmes: You Me and I. I caught Carlton for the first time at Bill Kirchner's New School concert earlier in the fall and was stunned. The pianist has a way of exploring songs in-depth with a rolling intensity. A strong technique combined with thoughtful execution.