Music Monday

This week was supposed to offer me more time to relax and listen to music. While I did find some time to unwind, I didn’t end up listening to as much music as I would have liked. That said, I did get a chance to listen to one new album that really caught my attention.

Maquis Hill’s latest, New Gospel Revisited, is absolutely worth your time. I don’t want to call this album “straight ahead jazz” because it clearly reflects Hill’s longstanding interest in hiphop, soul, and and R&B, but unlike his past albums, which often feature vocalists prominently, this album is all instrumental. This gives Marquis Hill a bit more space to stretch out and showcase his impressive trumpet chops. Saxophone player Walter Smith III’s playing is pretty great and vibraphone player Joel Ross add his characteristic shimmer to the entire proceedings. The results are good and locate this album somewhere in the hard bop, post-bop universe. 

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It also got me excited about Joel Ross’s forthcoming release on Blue Note, The Parable of the Poet, which thought was going to drop last Friday, but is now schedule to appear on April 15. As so often happened, it did not, and this nudged me back to his earlier 2020 release, Who Are You? There are real similarities between this and New Gospel Revisited. Walter Smith III produced the album and perhaps his guiding hand shaped the sound. That said, Immanuel Wilkins, one of the key new voices on alto saxophone provided a distinctly different sound that Smith on Hill’s album. Wilkins tone complements Ross’s vibe playing and the two seem to work in tandem setting out melodies and working them through. Anchoring the entire album is Kanoa Mendenhall remarkable (and prominent) bass work. This is post-bop work at a very high level.

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Two more little odds and ends from this past weekend. Mad About Records released the New Jazz Orchestra’s 1965 live set Western Reunion London 1965 on vinyl and offered it, albeit briefly, as a free download. It’s a good album and completely in the spirit of mid and late 1960s big band. If you missed the download, you can check out the album here on YouTube.

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I was also excited to see the re-release of of David Wertman’s Sun Ensemble’s early 1980s album Wide Eye Culture. If mid- to late-1960s big bands tried to carve out more space for individual soloists without abandoning the large ensemble sound, guys like Wertman, taking cues from the loft jazz scene of the 1970s, sought to create a unified experience from the free improvisation of individuals. Wertman’s Sun Ensemble lacks the intense pyrotechnics of some of the loft recordings, but it shares their earnest desire to make music as a kind of spiritual exercise.

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