Derrick Gardner – ‘Still I Rise’ 78

Derrick Gardner takes a grand leadership role on Still I Rise leading his Big dig! Band, arranging, producing and composing all of the music. The North American band has many musicians from Manitoba where Gardner resides, and they all stand tall. The layered brass on “Push Come To Shove” is excellent on top of a strong rhythm section with Zen Zadravec (p), Luke Sellick (b) and Curtis Nowosad (d). Nowosad and guitarist Kasey Kurtz shine on “Soulful Brother Gelispie” dedicated to Randy Gelispie, an unsung jazz drummer. There are bluesy ballads like “Melody for Trayvon”, swingers like “8 Ball, Side Pocket” and lots of hot takes with ample entertaining solos.

Kemuel Roig – ‘Genesis’ 77

Cuban pianist Kemuel Roig came to the US when he was twelve and developed a musical palate that includes Afro-Cuban jazz, classical and gospel music. With Genesis Roig pays homage to musicians who have influenced his path. The program is mostly original music and fresh arrangements of classics. Highlights are “Pare Cochero”, “Inner Urge” featuring Chris Potter (t-sax), “Conversation” with Randy Brecker (t), and “Cafe Con Leche”.

Nicole Zuraitis – ‘All Wandering Hearts’  72

Vocalist, pianist, composer, arranger and producer Nicole Zuraitis has been decorated at every step of her musical career. You can enjoy her performing in New York regularly. All Wandering Hearts is her most recent effort with mostly new originals. Her voice is soothingly soft on “Lullaby” and “What A Wonderful World”. That delicacy gets a touch edgy (appropriately) on the blues tracks like “I Would Die 4 You” and then rocking on the finale “Send Me On My Way”. Nicole’s balance illustrates her appeal to a wide audience.

Benn Clatworthy – ‘Bennie’s Lament’ 74

Born in London and now in LA, Benn Clatworthy (t-sax, fl, cl) is a reputable bandleader and composer. System 6 is his sextet with Ron Stout (t), Joey Sellers (tb), Bruce Lett (b), Bryan Velasco (p) and Yayo Morales (d). Bennie’s Lament is mostly fresh originals that have a familiarity that makes them easy to embrace. At the same time the tunes explore new directions. That makes this a meaningful recording, imparting emotion to the audience.

Champian Fulton – ‘Birdsong’ 84

Pianist, vocalist and producer Champian Fulton has an affinity for Charlie Parker that started before and at birth when her dad (professional musician Stephen Fulton) serenaded her with Bird’s orchestral album including strings. Champian has a wonderful voice, deep, soft and romantic. She has fine accompaniment with Hide Tanaka (b), Fukushi Tainaka (d), Scott Hamilton (t-sax) and dad, Stephen Fulton (flugelhorn). This is a swinging instrumental session with some knock-out vocals as well, easily one to sit back and enjoy!

Teodross Avery – ‘Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk’ 82

The genius of Thelonious monk is like fine wine; it gets better by the year. Saxophonist Teodross Avery celebrates Harlem Stories: The Music of Thelonious Monk on his latest release. He splits the session into two quartets, the first with Anthony Wonsey (p), Corcoran Holt (b), and Willie Jones III (d), and the second with D.D. Jackson (p), Marvin Smith (d) and Holt (b). Band 1 opens swinging hard on “Teo” followed by “Monk’s Dream”. Guest artist Allakoi Peete (cajón) sets the mood for “Ruby My Dear, and Wonsey keeps the memories of Monk alive on tracks like “Rhythm A Ning”. Jackson pushes the second band’s character into a more rolling groove on “In Walked Bud” and “Trinkle, Tinkle”. The uniqueness of this program is Avery’s fine lead lines on Monk’s compositions.

Tomoko Omura – ‘Branches Vol. 1’ 82

Japanese violinist and composer Tomoko Omura currently resides in Brooklyn where she assembled a quintet for Branches Vol. 1. Her music is inspired by Japanese folktales and popular music but comes through as modern jazz. Omura shares the spotlight with her accompanying cast, namely pianist Glenn Zaleski and drummer Jay Sawyer on “The Revenge of The Rabbit”. Our favorites are “Konomichi” and “Moonlight In Vermont”.

Julian Shore – ‘Where We Started’ 81

Pianist, composer Julian Shore assembles a fine band with Edward Perez (b), Colin Stranahan (d) and Dayna Stephens (t-sax, s-sax). Ben Monder adds guitar of four selections, Caroline Davis (a-sax) plays on two songs and Oded Tzur (t-sax) steps in on the title track. The program is mostly relaxing piano and peaceful jazz-fusion. We especially enjoyed “Nemesis”, “Winds, Currents” and “Marshes, Amphibians”.

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