Toronto has long been one of the focal points for the Canadian jazz scene. Trombonist/composer Christian Overton has been leading Toronto-based The Composers Collective Big Band since 2005. The band is dedicated to presenting “new works for large jazz ensembles by Canadian composers.” The latest undertaking is The Toronto Project (self-produced). The work represents various aspects of Toronto life, neighborhoods, specific locations, and experiences, presented in musical form by seven different composers, most of whom are members of the ensemble. The music is eclectic, capturing many moods and stylistic approaches. Some are swinging, while others are more atmospheric. Most pieces are like mini-suites, with shifts in feeling throughout. The ensemble is tight, with sparkling soloists sprinkled throughout each of the eight selections. It is hard for one not familiar with Toronto to judge how well the pieces reflect their subjects, as they are explained at The Composers Collective Big Band page at christianovertonmusic.com. But for others, the album presents an interesting and challenging listening experience in and of itself. (christianovertonmusic.com)
There is an exciting young alto saxophonist on the New York City scene named Nick Green. He has just released his debut recording, Green on the Scene (Cellar Music – 070522), and it suggests that there should be many more to come. A scintillating bebopper, he has assembled an impressive group to surround him — trumpeter Joe Magnarelli, pianist Jeb Patton, bassist Mike Karn, and drummer Kenny Washington. Green shows off his bop chops right from the get go with a sizzling take on Charlie Parker’s “Red Cross.” Two of his mentors were alto master Charles McPherson, composer of two of the selections on this album, “Horizons” and “A Tear and a Smile;” and pianist Barry Harris who is honored by the Green tune “Barry,” one of three Green originals on the program. Three standards, “A Handful of Stars,” “The Song Is You” and “All the Things You Are” complete the program and are placed consecutively towards the middle of the set. Green and Magnarelli sound like they have been playing together for many years, while the trio of Patton, Karn, and Washington lend precisely the kind of support that makes jazz the special music that it is. Nick Green affirms that jazz is still in good hands. (www.cellarmusicgroup.com)
The Canadian Jazz Collective includes trumpeter/flugelhornist Derrick Gardner, guitarist Lorne Lofsky, tenor saxophonist Kirk MacDonald, clarinetist Virginia MacDonald, pianist Brian Dickinson, bassist Neil Swainson, and drummer Bernd Reiter. This super group of Canadian jazzers was organized by manager Judith Humenick to feature music composed by Gardner, Lofsky, and Kirk MacDonald. The eight selections, three by Gardner, three by Lofsky, and two by MacDonald, show why Humenick was anxious to bring them to the public with a band that would do them justice. She scheduled a tour of Europe that had seven live dates. Since they were in Europe, it was decided that would be a wonderful opportunity to record the group in the legendary MPS studio in southern Germany where the most renowned of all Canadian jazz players, Oscar Peterson, had recorded several highly acclaimed albums. The results on Septology: The Black Forest Session (HGBS Blue Records – 202170 are impressive. These musicians not only know how to create wonderfully listenable tunes, but their execution is flawless. (www.canadianjazzcollective.com).
A truly intriguing album is about to be released called Hymns (self-produced). It features saxophonist Carlo Muscat and pianist Tony Tixier playing their impressions of eight popular French songs. Many are known stateside by their English versions, so where appropriate, the English title is also provided. They are “Hymne a l’amour” (“A Hymn to Love”), “Nuages,” “Des ronds dans l’eau” (“Circles in the Water”), “Plus je t’embarasse” (“The More I Kiss You”), “Belle Doëtte,” “Si tu vois ma mére,” “Jardin d’hiver” (“Winter Garden”) and “Petite Fleur.” Muscat, originally from Malta, splits his time between Paris, Kiev, and Malta, while Tixier, born in France, now resides in New York City. They are a well-matched duo. Both have extensive French connections and a deep feeling for the material. Their approach to each selection draws you into their musical orbit, creating a mood of dreamy escapism, a perfect tonic for coping with today’s craziness. (This is a digital only release that will be available on May 12 at Amazon, Apple Music and Bandcamp)
The Gabriel Latchin Trio finds the British pianist, Latchin, in the company of British bassist Jeremy Brown and American drummer Joe Farnsworth. They perform a dozen Latchin originals with great taste and elegance. Latchin has a true gift for melodies that have the style and feeling of the best of mainstream jazz. His tunes are immediately accessible. He renders them with great touch and sensitivity, and the man does know how to swing! The members of the trio feed off of each other empathetically to create an outcome that seems more special with repeated listening. (www.gabriellatchin.com)–JOE LANG