By Ron Schepper, Textura
01. Brandee Younger: Soul Awakening (Brandee Younger)
An immensely satisfying portrait of harpist Brandee Younger, Soul Awakening sounds as fresh as if it were recorded yesterday, even if it was completed six years ago. It’s somewhat of a summative portrait, too, as it checks many of the critical boxes associated with the NY-based artist: it was recorded under the direction of producer and bassist Dezron Douglas; features contributions from two of Younger’s mentors, saxophonists Antoine Roney and Ravi Coltrane; and in addition to originals and a Marvin Gaye cover, includes compositions by harpists Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane, muses of Younger. The album’s loveliest track is “Love’s Prayer,” a lilting ballad whose melody Coltrane caresses with deep feeling and which makes the album’s greatest argument for the harp as a lead instrument. But every tune’s a winner here and the performances, collectively and individually, stellar.
02. Zach Brock, Matt Ulery, Jon Dietmeyer: Wonderment (Woolgathering Records)
Wonderment is the debut trio album from violinist Zach Brock, double bassist Matt Ulery, and drummer Jon Deitemyer, but the performances are as locked-in as one would expect from musicians who’ve played together for almost fifteen years. Melodically, the heavy lifting’s largely handled by Brock, his violin by default the instrument naturally tailored to shoulder that load. The trio’s sound is so engaging, one wonders why more featuring violin don’t exist; certainly Brock does everything here pianists, saxophonists, and guitarists do in their own units. No matter: Wonderment is trio playing of an inordinately high order, the sound of three advanced musicians bringing material they clearly love into being.
04. Matt Ulery: Delicate Charms (Woolgathering Records)
As a choice of album title (and band name), Delicate Charms is certainly credible, but perhaps an even better one for Matt Ulery’s latest would be the title of its third track: “Mellisonant,” whose meaning ‘pleasing to the ear’ succinctly summarizes the experience of listening to the recording. Issued on his Woolgathering Records, Delicate Charms is quintessential Ulery, packed as it is with ravishing melodies, intricate structures, and exemplary performances. Whether commanding the stage with this new quintet—the double bassist plus Greg Ward on alto sax, Zach Brock on violin, Rob Clearfield on piano, and Quin Kirchner on drums—or guiding a larger ensemble through its paces, everything Ulery does is branded with his personal signat
06. Daniel Rotem: Serenading the Future (Daniel Rotem)
This wonderful double-album set by Israeli saxophonist Daniel Rotem aspires to serenade the future, but it most definitely serenades the listener. With five-string violinist Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, pianist Miro Sprague, acoustic bassist Alex Boneham, and drummer Roberto Giaquinto involved, the instrumental resources Rotem mustered for the sessions are plentiful, yet the album’s tone is generally mellow and appealingly so. All perform with sensitivity to texture and dynamics, with the leader’s breathy tone enveloped by the sometimes rubato-styled playing of his partners.