Newman's Life" (HighNote HCD 7166) -- a tribute to his close friend and colleague, the late pianist John Hicks -- features Steve Nelson on vibes, Peter Bernstein on guitar, David Leonhardt on piano, John Menegon on bass and Yoron Israel on drums. The CD presents Newman in an intimate setting that showcases his distinctive sound that effortlessly bridges the jazz and R&B traditions whether emoting on a ballad or swinging a blues. The program includes the standards Girl Talk," Alfie," I Can't Get Started," Autumn In New York" and What A Wonderful World," John Coltrane's Naima" and the title track penned by Hicks.
Russell Gunn Plays Miles" (HighNote HCD 7161), presents the talented trumpeter- flugelhornist Russell Gunn and his band Elektrik Butterfly (Orrin Evans on keyboards; Mark Kelley on electric and acoustic bass; Montez Coleman on drums and Kahlil Kwame Bell on percussion) in a progressive tribute to music spanning a period from the mid-'50s to the mid-'80s by or associated with Miles Davis. Highlights include the songs Tutu, Bitches Brew, Blue in Green, Footprints, Nardis, All Blues and Eighty One.
Willis's Blue Fable" (HighNote HCD 7163) continues the pianist's celebration of hard bop begun in the 1980s when he embraced mainstream jazz after exploring freer forms of the music. Willis -- whose credits include collaborations with Jackie McLean, Hugh Masekela, Lee Morgan, Robin Kenyatta, Cannonball Adderley, Joe Henderson, Groove Holmes, Blood, Sweat And Tears and Alphonse Mouzon, among others - is heard here in a quintet setting featuring the front line of alto saxophonist Joe Ford and trombonist Steve Davis backed by the dynamic rhythm section of Eddie Gomez on bass and Billy Drummond on drums. The CD, recorded at Rudy Van Gelder Studios, balances up-tempo and slower numbers that showcase Willis's consummate pianism in a program including Rhythm-A-Ning, Insidious Behavior, Nardis, Blue Fable, Never Let Me Go, Landscape, Who's Kidding Who and Prayer for New Orleans.