I'm sorry to cost you money, but trust me, these will be dollars well spent. Two albums crossed my desk recently that are close to perfect. One is a jazz orchestral album and another is a bossa nova release by way of Spain. I've listened to both from top to bottom multiple times and I can say without reservation that I could repeat this listening process all day long without ever changing the music.
First, the orchestral album. It's Balance (Acoustical Concepts) by Adam Unsworth, Bryon Olson and John Vanore. Unsworth plays the French horn, Olson is the album's composer, arranger and conductor, and Vanore plays the trumpet and flugelhorn. But they're not alone. They're joined by Bob Mallach on tenor saxophone, Bill Mays on piano, Mike Richmond on bass, Danny Gottlieb on drums and the Byron Olson Chamber Ensemble.
The album is an elegant blending of jazz playing and cinematic writing. Olson is an old hand at merging jazz and the chamber ensemble without losing the muscle jazz fans want or the grace that arrangers like Lalo Schifrin, Ralph Burns, Johnny Mandel and Neal Hefti employed on scores. His recording career began by arranging and conducting Carmen McRae's I Am Music (Blue Note) in 1975 and continued through Sketches of Miles (Angel) and Sketches of Coltrane (Angel).
Unsworth was on Ryan Truesdell's Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans (Artist Share, 2011) and has a West Coast sound on the French horn reminiscent of John Cave, Richard Perissi and John Graas. Vanores last album was John Vanore & Abstract Truth (Acoustical Concepts, 2012). There hints of modern classical n here, but for the most part the terrific soloists are given a gorgeous soundtrack backdrop.
The release date was supposed to be January 28, according to my press release. But the album is nowhere to be found online. Puzzling.
Toda Una Vida< (CD Baby). Cuesta is from Spain, and this CD was recorded in Madrid, with Paco Ortega producing. The arrangements are by Chuck Loeb, who plays guitar here. Loeb has worked with Jim Hall, Pat Williams, Steps Ahead, Bob Mintzer and dozens of other artists. In additon to Loeb, the album features Kike Perdomo on flute, Antonio Serrano on harmonica, Moises P. Sanchez and Oli Rockberger on piano, Antonio Tono" Miguel on bass, Jose San Martin on drums and Yuvisney Aguilar on percussion.
Cuesta's voice is fabulous and sensual all the way through. The melody lines twist and turn with aching sophistication yet her delivery remains round, engaging and in tune. Her yearning on the album's boleros that never drifts into the overly dramatic while her bossa novas are playful without being pop. And Loeb's guitar is the perfect instrumental mate for her sound.