By Chris Spector, Midwest Record
ROXY COSS/Quintet: It wasn’t that long ago that Coss was wearing an evening gown and looking like a member of a society band. In the intervening years, she’s shown herself to be a top shelf, hard core swinger that can be a first class leader whether politicized or not because after all is said and done, the swing is the thing. All told, that doesn’t make this stopping point for her fifth album a veritable greatest this set because her signature tunes should be reconsidered in light of her accomplishments and advancements. You can’t help but listen to this set and rate if a solid five goddamns!!! Mixing art and commerce in a way that you can only find in landmark albums by Fleetwood Mac or Dire Straits where art and chops rise above all else, her future is so bright she has to wear shades. Coss is taking her place as a once in a generation player.
(Outside In 1921)
MIKE BOND/Honorable Ones: A limitless modern piano jazz cat inspired by Orrin Evans finds his footing by not bothering to look before he leaps and finding his way through civil rights free jazz, mainstream works and other excursions in the company of pals that feel glad to get the chance to work out in an off the clock manner. A solid, ear opening exploratory work that makes the most of a debut recording in showing off just how many chops you can accumulate in 30 years. Hard to peg, easy to like, this is a clear cut auspicious debut of a talent that’s here to stay.
CLARK SOMMERS’ BA(SH)/Peninsula: It takes a while to get those new records out when you’re on the road with Kurt Elling but number three is finally out of the shoot. A Chicago bass cat that plays Chicago jazz with a progressive edge, he knows his way around the bandstand as a writer and leader serving up solid work that might be sitting down jazz but it keeps you on the edge of your seat. Solid stuff throughout, this is a must for listeners that like to let their ears do the heavy lifting while they sit back and take it all in. Well done by a real pro.
(Outside In 2001)
SAM HIRSH/Quite Frankly Introducing: An original jazz pianist that doesn’t tip the cap to Sinatra no matter what you imply to the title, Hirsh is a solid swinger in the Ramsey Lewis tradition. Surrounding himself with solid cats that could easily pass as original members of said trio, his originals are so in the groove and in the pocket that shady gray marketers could easily repackage this as a lost Lewis date from the Chess years and get away with it. A really tasty workout throughout, it’s time this 30 year old stepped out of the shadows and claim some well deserved spotlight. Well done throughout.
YVONNICK PRENE/New York Moments: No matter how hard they might try, not everyone can raise the level of harmonica player to the levels of Toots Thielemanns or Henrik Meurkins but Prene hits it out of the park on this harmonica trio date with Brian Charette bringing up the rear on B3 being both ear catching and unobtrusive a the same time. Hallmarked by sprightly playing, this bunch of originals has just the right amount of special sauce to make it a taste treat throughout and always a joy to hear. Solid throughout.
THANA ALEXA/Ona: World jazz meets political expression as woke comes to the genre. Alexa has beenr radicalized by contemporary times picking up the call to sisters everywhere to realize what Tom Paine originally told us, ‘the cost of freedom is eternal vigilance’. The sound of the struggle as coming up from the streets as opposed to fighting the glass ceiling, this musical call to arms is as subversive as it is wild.
THINKIN’ BIG/Reclamation: Civil rights big band jazz from Chicago as filtered through Mexican heritage, this encompassing work has all the radical elements needed to make it essential listening to all those who are involved in the daily struggle. Not exactly the kind of thing where you need Western Union to send a message, it makes it’s point and sends it’s message quite clearly that you have to rely on yourself. Music for the times across the board.
ROBIN McKELLE/Alter-Ations: There’s a certain knowingness in this jazz vocalist’s voice that makes this album of strangely chosen covers come across as oddly compelling. Never falling into the art chick trap, it feels like she’s crafting a cabaret set for nostalgic millenials that want to harken back to time when they weren’t born yet, back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and people wore work boots to social events. Interestingly different.