Jazz: Winter 2021

Monarch Jazz Recommendation

Bill Evans
Live at Ronnie Scott’s

Resonance Records — the multi-Grammy Award-winning label that creates beautifully designed, informative packaging to accompany previously unreleased recordings by the jazz icons — has released another jazz masterpiece. “Live at Ronnie Scott’s” features Evans’ short-lived but dazzling trio with two other jazz heavies, bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette. The 20 tracks, drawn from DeJohnette’s personal archives, document a band playing at the highest level, continually riveting, astoundingly tight, remarkably simpatico. Evans’ imaginative interpretations, lyrical style and unique harmonic approach are evident throughout. Gracing the cover of both the LP and CD is artwork drawn from a never-before-published, one-of-a-kind lithograph by the late, legendary artist/illustrator David Stone Martin. Historical context is provided by critic Brian Priestley’s overview essay, as well as interviews with Gomez, DeJohnette, Chick Corea and Evans’ good friend, comedian Chevy Chase. From gorgeously rendered standards like “Autumn Leaves” and “Embraceable You,” to “Nardis,” the Miles Davis composition that became one of Evans’ signature tunes, the collection is a welcome addition to the Evans canon.

Craig Taborn
Junk Magic Compass Confusion

Since hitting the scene in 2004 as the title of an album by Craig Taborn, the pianist’s sonically compelling, utterly original ensemble has evolved to convey a singular aural experience incorporating electronic sound design, production techniques and improvised music. “Compass Confusion” features composer and producer Taborn on piano, keyboards and synth, heading up a band of first-rate creative artists including saxophonist Chris Speed, bassist Erik Fratzke, violist Mat Maneri and drummer David King. Taborn’s textured, probing compositions, inventive use of ambient techniques and artful sound design reveal a true musical visionary at work. The album’s sonic meanderings often possess a narrative quality, inviting listeners to follow pathways of diverse sound, jagged grooves and angular melody which alternately murmur and swell in satisfying arcs and swirls, making “Compass Confusion” one of the most imaginative, rewarding records of the year. It’s another excellent, cutting-edge release from Pyroclastic Records, founded by pianist-composer Kris Davis in 2016.

South Florida Jazz Orchestra
Cheap Thrills: The Music of Rick Margitza

The lifelong friendship between bassist and bandleader Chuck Bergeron and saxophone great Rick Margitza spurred this exceptional new big band release featuring eight Margitza originals and one standard. Bergeron’s South Florida Jazz Orchestra brings respect and pizzaz to Margitza’s effervescent, always engaging compositions, including a crisp performance of his sophisticated, dramatic “Premonition.” The arrangement of “Embraceable You” is lovely, with Martin Bejerano’s featured piano inviting listeners to relax into the tune’s silky elegance. The South Florida Jazz Orchestra, a world-class group comprised of some of the Miami area’s best players, hasn’t received the buzz of some other big bands, mainly because they’re not located in New York City. Let’s hope this worthy album helps to change that. Bergeron and his South Florida Jazz Orchestra deliver the goods on a record full of skillfully composed music exhilaratingly executed with chops, unity, excitement and swing.

Ben Rosenblum Nebula Project
Kites and Strings

With the buoyant, breathtaking debut recording of his sextet, rising star Ben Rosenblum demonstrates a multitude of talents as composer, arranger, bandleader, pianist and accordionist. While the recording incorporates a wide variety of influences, from rock to klezmer to Latin American to Bulgarian, Rosenblum’s music is firmly rooted in jazz. Whether it’s Rosenblum’s tribute to Cedar Walton, his beautiful arrangement of Leonard Bernstein’s “Somewhere,” his transformation of Neil Young’s “Philadelphia” into a jazz ballad, or his blues based “Laughing on the Inside,” every track is sonically engaging, musically ingenious and artistically satisfying. Born and bred in New York City, Rosenblum has engaged a stellar band featuring some of the scene’s brightest players. Their collective talents create a sound that is, like their name, out of this world. “Kites and Strings” is full of eminently listenable, consistently gratifying and expertly performed music. With it, Rosenblum establishes himself as a significant composing and arranging talent, and one of a handful of musicians with the heart and skill to deliver the highest level of expression on both piano and accordion.

Edward Simon
25 Years

Venezuelan-born, San Francisco Bay Area-based pianist, composer and bandleader Edward Simon marks half a century of life and a quarter century of music making with a two-disc retrospective that clinches his status as one of the world’s best Latin American jazz musicians. Drawing tracks from 13 albums, Simon offers listeners a personally curated tour through some of his highlights as a recording artist. The discs feature a first-rate lineup of collaborators, among them saxophonists Mark Turner and David Binney, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Brian Blade. It’s music that could only flow from players bonded at the deepest level. “It’s an extended family that has played such an essential role in this music,” Simon says. “25 Years” is a broad sampling of Simon’s career, showcasing his luminous, sensitive pianism, mastery of diverse jazz and Pan-American stylings and expansive musical sensibilities.