Toronto-based pianist/arranger/composer Hilario Duran and His Latin Jazz Big Band has released its second recording Cry Me a River (Alma Records – 90832), its first since 2006. While there is a Latin influence throughout the album, Duran has produced a program that is varied in approach and feeling. Five of the compositions are by Duran with the others being Chucho Valdes’s “Claudia,” with some wonderful alto sax from Paquito D’Rivera who appears on four selections; a Latin take on “Cry Me a River,” with a vocal by Elizabeth Rodriguez who also adds a hip violin interlude; “Night in Tunisia” and “Fantasia Impromptu” where Chopin meets Latin rhythms with help from D’Rivera’s clarinet. Duran’s contributions on piano are nicely sprinkled throughout the album. Duran has created an album with many shadings that should be attractive to both Latin jazz fans and those who simply like fine and imaginative big band music. (www.almarecords.com)
In his first album as a leader, drummer Brandon Sanders has shown that it is never too late to take that step. This 52-year-old has selected a fine band to play the eight-song program that appears on Compton’s Finest (SAVANT – 2211), and the music that it creates provides pleasurable listening from start to finish. His mates on this outing are tenor saxophonist Chris Lewis, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Keith Brown, and bassist Eric Wheeler. An added bonus is the contribution by vocalist Jazzmeia Horn on two selections, “I Can’t Help It” and “In a Sentimental Mood.” The other tunes are “Softly as in a Morning Sunrise,” Kenny Barron’s “Voyage,” “Body and Soul” and “Monk’s Dream,” plus two nifty originals by Sanders, “Compton’s Finest” and “SJB.” The music is wonderfully accessible. The contributions of Lewis, Brown and Wolf are ear-grabbing. Sanders and Wheeler offer perfect rhythmic support. In his liner notes, drummer Lewis Nash states, “One of the most appealing aspects of a recording is whether it can pass the ‘multiple/repeated listening’ test.” There is no doubt that Compton’s Finest passes this paradigm with ease. (www.jazzdepot.com).
High Quote (J Mood Records – 009) finds Italian jazz pianist Roberto Magris surrounded by a cast of Kansas City musicians to perform an eight-song program arranged by Magris for a nonet including Matt Otto on tenor sax, Jim Mair on alto sax, Jason Goudeau on trombone, Josh Williams on trumpet, Aryana Nemati on baritone sax, Magris on piano, Elisa Pruett on bass, Brian Stever on drums, and Pablo Sanhueza on congas and percussion. The eight tunes include seven Magris originals, “Black Coffee” and Hank Mobley’s “The Changing Scene.” Magris has mixed his love for mainstream swing with some more contemporary approaches to create a musical canvas that is interesting and often surprising. Vocalist Monique Danielle adds a nice touch on Magris’ “Together in Love” and “Black Coffee.” Small big band groups have a special sound, one that Magris nicely captures on High Quote. (www.jmoodrecords.com)
If you like straight-ahead jazz, Standards and Then Some (self-produced) by The Steve Husted Quartet is right up your alley. Bassist Husted is abetted by saxophonist Dayna Stephens, pianist Damian Garcia, and drummer Israel Yanez for a winning program of seven selections. As the tittle of the album indicates, the songs include two pop standards, “It’s You or No One” and “What’s New;” two jazz standards, Phil Markowitz’s “Sno’ Peas” and Oscar Pettiford’s “Tricotism;” plus three Husted originals, “Brainteaser,” “Dena’s Lullaby” and “Normandie Gardens.” The most prominent presence is Stephens, who, despite his lengthy and impressive career, is a new, but welcome name for this reviewer. Garcia adds plenty of tasty piano interludes, while Husted and Yanez provide steady and solid rhythmic support. Do not be surprised if you play it again once you have listened to Standards and Then Some. (This is a digital only release – amazon.com) (Release date -10/13/2023)
East Lansing, Michigan, is hardly the first place that comes to mind when you mention jazz; however, Michigan State University has an active and well-respected Jazz Studies program. Some of the East Lansing musicians have formed a group named TechnoCats that has released The Music of Gregg Hill (Cold Plunge Records), a program of 10 tunes by Hill who has a close association with the MSU jazz scene. The group includes Chris Glassman on bass trombone, Nathan Borton on guitar, Xavier Davis on piano, Javier Enrique on bass, and Michael J. Reed on drums. This is an unusual band, given that the lead horn is a bass trombone, but Glassman is a fluid player who give this instrument an impressive feature presence. Borton’s guitar is the other major instrument front and center, and his studies with Randy Napoleon have obviously been well absorbed. The songs are well conceived, lend themselves to the imagination of the TechnoCats, and should find a place in the programs of other bands. Kudos go to Hill and the musicians for creating a highly enjoyable recording.-JOE LANG