+ 12 Recommended Albums - Retrospective 2015 Part III

The third and last part of my recommended Jazz records from 2015. Don't miss them!


Vijay Iyer: piano; Stephan Crump: double bass; Marcus Gilmore: drums 

As one of the most accomplished progressive pianists, Vijay Iyer still exceeded expectations, surprising everyone with the grandiose sound of his latest album ‘Break Stuff’, recorded in trio with the bassist Stephan Crump and the drummer Marcus Gilmore. The taut compositions, revealing the pianist’s advanced language, are pelted with unexpected mood changes and brave crescendos. One can find a variety of styles here: abstract/exploratory musical pieces, syncopated waltzes, movements in the vicinity of hard-bop and classical music, and even shades of reggae in ‘Taking Flight’. This is an unmissable work!

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Diptych
06 – Taking Flight
11 – Geese


Seamus Blake: tenor saxophone; Adam Rogers: guitar; John Escreet: piano; Thana Alexa: vocals; Matt Brewer: bass; Antonio Sanchez: drums, keyboards.

Antonio Sanchez is a skilled drummer and composer whose name traveled the world after he has won a Grammy award for Birdman’s movie soundtrack. The wide-ranging vision of Sanchez is patented in ‘The Meridien Suite’, which provides us positive energies caused by the fervent grooves and impetuous improvisations of his Migration band. The musicians had the opportunity to fully express themselves individually and also demonstrate a salutary understanding in regard to the collective.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Grids and Patterns
04 – Magnetic Currents
05 – Pathways of the Mind


Juhani Aaltonen: tenor saxophone, flutes; Iro Haarla: piano, harp, chen, percussion.

If you’ve never heard the music of this pair of Finnish musicians, do yourself a favor and get “Kirkastus”, a beautifully mounted set of psalms and prayers whose inspired tonal palettes urge us to search for light while enjoying heart-warming expansions, a poetic minimalism, and a reflective musicality. In the past, both individuals were associated with the late drummer, composer, and avant-garde bandleader, Edward Vesala.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Evening Prayer
04 – Kirkastus
10 – Lead Me to the Rock


Maria Schneider: conductor/composer; Donny McCaslin, Steve Wilson, Rich Perry, Dave Pietro and Scott Robinson: reeds; Tony Kadleck, Greg Gisbert, Augie Haas and Mike Rodriguez: trumpet/flugelhorn; Keith O'Quinn, Ryan Keberle, Marshall Gilkes, George Flynn: trombone; Gary Versace: accordion; Lage Lund: guitar; Frank Kimbrough: piano; Jay Anderson: bass; Clarence Penn: drums. 

The big band leader and composer, Maria Schneider, keeps on working to impress us every time she releases a new album. Unsurprisingly, her orchestra counts on some of the most inspired musicians of the current jazz scene, and ‘The Thompson Fields’ is another triumph. Schneider’s emotionally charged pieces range from descriptions of the open landscape of her home in southwest Minnesota to happy recalls of the first time she heard a samba school rehearse in Rio. Take your time to stroll through these magnificent fields.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – The Monarch And The Milkweed
03 – Arbiters of Evolution
04 – The Thompson Fields


Chris Dingman: vibraphone; Loren Stillman: alto saxophone; Fabian Almazan: piano; Ryan Ferreira: guitar; Linda Oh: bass; Justin Brown: drums.

Teaming up with a group of talented musicians, the vibraphonist Chris Dingman digs into the subliminal with a sublime attitude and confidence. The five parts that comprise this record try to capture the profound wonders of nature. I don’t know if that purpose was achieved, but I can tell that the sumptuous movements flow lucidly, often in the form of contemplative meditations.
Pleasurably layered and enriched by atmospheric interludes, ‘The Subliminal and the Sublime’ surpasses Dingman's debut album ‘Waking Dreams’.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – Voices of the Ancient
03 – Plea
05 – All Flows Forth


JD Allen: saxophone; Gregg August: bass; Rudy Royston: drums.

Whether playing ebullient fast tempos or tender ballads, JD Allen always guarantees those lavish energy transferences that make us think he should get much more attention than what he actually gets. The title ‘Graffiti’ fits perfectly here since ornamentation and multicolor are associated with the stirring music played by the energetic trio.
The musical ideas sound urban and ambitious, and ‘Graffiti’ sparks with intentional melodies and celebratory rhythms.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Naked
02 – Jawn Henry
05 – G-Dspeed, B. Morris


Charlie Hunter: 7-string guitar; Curtis Fowlkes: trombone; Bobby Previte: drums

Charlie Hunter’s palpable guitar notes find brilliant ways to flow when in the company of Bobby Previte’s jovial drums and Curtis Fowlkes’ expressive trombone. 
“Let the Bells Ring” has the ability to be effortlessly absorbed due to its adroit blend of present-day jazz and conventional folk/blues styles, often presented with crafted riffs and spins. Evoking the past with the present in mind, Hunter’s compositions are a source of both amusement and relish.

Favorite Tracks:
03 – Pho-Kus On-Ho-Ho-Kus
05 – Hillbilly Heroine Chic
09 – Vernel


Jason Rigby: saxophone; Shai Maestro: piano; Chris Morrissey: bass; Mark Guiliana: drums.

Besides being a tremendous drummer, Mark Guiliana proves to be a great composer. His acoustic jazz quartet deserves praise for ‘Family First’, a rewarding album that is fertile in good ideas. 
The tunes succeed one another with different flavors and tempos, showcasing the ability of its executants. I was particularly impressed with the airy ballads, ‘2014’ and ‘Family First’, where Maestro, Morrissey, and Guiliana set the classy harmonic tones to receive Rigby’s melodious saxophone. There’s also a passionate cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Johnny Was’.

Favorite Tracks:
03 – 2014
04 – Long Branch
09 – Family First


Dave Liebman: soprano saxophone; Matt Vashlishan: alto saxophone, clarinet, flute; Bobby Avey: piano, keyboard; Tony Marino: bass; Alex Ritz: drums.

The gifted soprano saxophonist, Dave Liebman, at the age of 69, is in great shape and expresses himself in a clear and profound way. His group, Expansions, includes both veteran and younger musicians, who also contributed with compositions of their own. Together with Liebman, they are masters in the art of deconstructing the obvious and create musical puzzles of great intensity. 
This is an adventurous, sultry, and straightforward ride that takes us to the delicious crossroads of post-bop and avant-garde jazz.

Favorite Tracks:
02 – For J.A.
04 – Good Bait
06 – The Puzzle


Greg Ward: alto saxophone; Tim Haldeman: tenor saxophone; Marquis Hill: trumpet; Matthew Shipp: piano; Jason Roebke: bass; Mike Reed: drums.

The 10th album of the drummer Mike Reed, a representative of the Chicago modern jazz scene, features three enthusiastic reedists and an explosive rhythm section that highly benefits with the unparalleled atonal chords of the pianist Matthew Shipp. 
Bridging the gap between heritage and modernity, “A New Kind of Dance” can be seen as a trippy celebration filled with broken swing songs, cheerful dispositions, disrupted cross-rhythms, and exultant melodies that superimpose one another. One can really dance to this record.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – A New Kind of Dance
05 – Reesie’s Waltz
09 – Fear Not of Man


Steve Turre: trombone; Bruce Williams: alto/soprano sax; Xavier Davis: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Willie Jones: drums; Chembo Corniel: congas.

In “Spiritman”, the influential trombonist, Steve Turre, opts to play standards and originals, the latter in the form of inspiring spiritual blues. Even with one foot in the jazz tradition, Turre manages to inject the required refreshing vibes into the bouncing funky creations, swinging standards, soothing ballads, and Latin explorations. 
Joy and relaxation are two keywords to define this album.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Bu
04 – Trayvon’s Blues
05 – It’s Too Late Now


Joe Fiedler: trombone; Rob Jost: bass; Michael Sarin: drums.

Joe Fiedler is an understated trombonist whose album “I’m In” is as gutsy as it is playful. Here, he plunges headfirst in the crazy grooves created by the bassist Rob Jost and the drummer Michael Sarin, showing he’s equally comfortable in a variety of styles, including hard-bop, funk, Latin jazz, and modern free. 
The symbiotic rapport of the trio is transferred to the tunes, which are delivered with attitude, keenness, and exuberance.

Favorite Tracks:
01 – Grip
02 – Erstwhile
07 – Completely ‘Peccable