Tuesday, August 12, is a big day for contemporary jazz fans. It’s the day that several legends will drop new music – and all of them on two recordings. In fact, four of the five artists who were on the Legends tour about a decade ago are on them.
David Sanborn is back with an album that likely will serve as a highlight in his career. What upfront was to funk, Here and Gone might be to soul and blues. Sanborn pays homage to the music that inspired him, especially the music of Hank Crawford. “Hank was the great saxophonist and arranger for Ray Charles in the 1950s and early ’60s, and his arrangements and playing were central to me in forming my ideas about what music was and should be,” states Sanborn. “He had such a wonderful economy in what he did: He didn’t waste any notes, and there was nothing superfluous about his playing.” To help realize the vision he had for this recording, the saxman brought in some names: Christian McBride and Steve Gadd are the rhythm section and Eric Clapton sings and plays “I’m Gonna Move to the Outskirts of Town.” Also contributing are Joss Stone, Sam Moore, Gil Goldstein, Russell Malone, and Wallace Roney. I didn’t receive an advance on Here and Gone but I did hear three cuts. I don’t know if it’s a word but I’m describing it as “rootsy.” I mean, it’s Sanborn playing the style that influenced him, and it doesn’t sound like it’s a slick, overly polished record. Rootsy.
Thunder. Rhythmic, melodic, rock you out, funk you up. Thunder! Back in the spring when I interviewed Marcus Miller, I asked him what was in the pipeline. He mentioned that there was a bass trio recording that he Stanley and Victor were working on – and oh what a recording it’s turned out to be. I can’t imagine a better name for this all-star collaboration between these three Bass Masters of the Universe. The thunderous power that is conjured up by SMV is awe-inspiring, not just in the low and middle registers, but in the compositions and arrangements as well. This isn’t some ego driven free-for-all that’s all chops and no meat. In my opinion, it’s the compositions that drive this recording, with each bassist unselfishly contributing for the benefit of the whole. I have to admit that of the three players, I’m least familiar with Victor Wooten; but I was easily able to identify each distinctive voice, in fact, this is probably the best setting I’ve heard Stanley play in in quite sometime. To have three of today’s leading bassists, each of which bring much more to the table than just being a recording artist, creating such a cohesive project, speaks volumes of their talents and obvious kinship. One could only hope that this doesn’t end up being a one-off project. Also, kudos to Heads Up for having the guts to release this project, in a year that has been extremely lean for anything remotely approaching quality jazz, yet alone fusion. One last opinion if I may: I’ve purchased maybe five actual physical CDs this year, but I’ve purchased at least 60 downloadable, complete jazz recordings thus far. How come they don’t come with downloadable digital booklets?
Victor Wooten is a musician with a penchant for creativity and this is clearly heard on his latest release, Palmystery. The disc captures this versatile artist in his element as he succinctly takes listeners on a genre-bending tale during which themes of mysticism and spirituality are explored. This premise is shared in Wooten’s concurrently released novel The Music Lesson which tells the story of a young musician’s encounter with a mysterious music teacher who expounds upon him spiritual lessons in music and life. The album opens with the playful and energetic “2 Timers” featuring Derico Watson and JD Blair on drums. The piece is further aided by Howard Levy’s harmonica, Eric Silver’s violin and a full horn section. On “Left Right & Center” guitarist Mike Stern shares the spotlight with Wooten and Neal Evans (Soulive) on the Hammond B3. Perhaps the track’s biggest accomplishment lies in the enlistment of Dennis Chambers, Will Kennedy, and Blair on drums whose combined force provides a fluid backbeat that keeps things moving along at a steady clip. A lively cover of Horace Silver’s “Song For My Father” is included on the release as well. Wooten states that “A song is just an idea until someone brings it into the world,” adding “That’s the great mystery of music or any creative endeavor. The power is in the palm of your hand. You just have to release it to the world.” And release it to the world he did on the satisfying and eclectic Palmystery. Keep an ear out for this one.