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17 Hot CD Discoveries

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I finally had time yesterday to review the CDs I set aside over the past month to share with you. Here are 17 albums that I think you'll enjoy...

Enoch Smith Jr.: Misfits II Pop (Misfitme). Pianist-composer Smith and vocalist Elizabeth Charles embrace soulful jazz of the 1970s, when songs on independent labels leveraged '60s spiritualism. What's fascinating about this album is that Charles's phrasing brings a folk feel to the mix, which adds a new dimension. Smiths' piano is a joy. It shifts, twists and turns at so many intervals, and your ear wind up locked in. A favorite of the year. Go here.

J.B. Hutto & His Hawks: Hawk Squat (Delmark). This late '60s blues classic sounds as raw as rust on a stripped down Plymouth. Hutto, a Chicago blues vocalist-guitarist, wails away with a tight band that includes guitarist-organist Sunnyland Slim. The National Blues Foundation inducted this one into its Hall of Fame last year. Go here.

Branford Marsalis Quartet: A Love Supreme (Okeh). This tribute to John Coltrane's 1964 classic is superb. But more exciting than the Marsalis CD is the DVD of the same live performance at the Bimhuis Jazz Club in Amsterdam on March 30, 2003. From the dramatic lighting to the spirited interpretation, Marsalis brings the drama of this masterpiece to life. For the CD, go here. For the DVD, go here.

Grant Stewart: Trio (Cellar Live). The trio here features Grant on tenor saxophone, Paul Sikivie on bass and brother Phil Stewart on drums. The song choices are compelling. The album opens with Freddie Redd's A Time to Smile from his Music From the Connection. Everything's Coming Up Roses from Gypsy gets a swell workout. The trio also takes on Walter Davis Jr.'s Uranus and Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber's Is That All There Is, a fine jazz instrumental treatment of the song. Grant is in terrific form here, and it's terrific to hear him uninterrupted in a trio setting. Go here.

Elaine Elias: Made in Brazil (Concord). Easily Elias's most sublime album since Bossa Nova Stories in 2009. Backed by a full orchestra, Elias curls her seductive voice around originals and familiar bossa classics while her jazz piano digs into each song with determined elegance. Elias also arranged the orchestra with a sultry Claus Ogerman feel. Perfection! Go here.

Wild Bill Davison: The Jazz Giants (Delmark). Cornetist Davison was often heard with Eddie Condon in the 1940s, '50s and '60s. This album, recorded in 1968, featured Davison with Herb Hall on clarinet, Benny Morton on trombone, Claude Hopkins on piano, Arvell Shaw on bass and Buzzy Drootin on drums. This Sackville recording was one of hot jazz's last stands. The giants had been assembled for a live engagement at Toronto's Colonial Tavern. The music is wonderful throughout. And Struttin' with Some Barbecue never sounded so good. Same goes for I Surrender Dear, Three Little Words and Black and Blue. Go here.

Alex Norris Organ Quartet: Extension Deadline (BJU). Trumpeter and flugelhornist Norris is a hard-bopper. Organist George Colligan only adds fuel to Norris's fire. Then Gary Thomas jumps in with his bossy tenor saxophone. Add drummer Rudy Royston, and this quartet is looking for trouble. And they find it on a pack of burning originals. For a break, they add Bobby Hutcherson's Little B's Poem, so you know these guys are down. Tiger music all the way. Go here.

Minas: Symphony in Bossa (Blueazul). Terell Stafford conducts the Jazz Orchestra of Philadelphia behind Minas, a husband-and-wife duo (guitarist-singer Orlando Haddad and pianist-signer Patricia King). Savvy arrangements by Bill Zaccagni sift brass and strings, resulting in a sound the size of Rio's Sugarloaf. Go here.

Emie R. Roussel Trio: Quantum (Effendi). Trio jazz in the modern vernacular is featred here, with pulsating riffs and solos by pianist Emie Rioux-Roussel, a fat bass line from Nicholas Bedard and tossing-and-turning drums by Dominic Cloutier. Exciting music that packs a hypnotic fusion punch. Go here.

Jason Miles and Ingrid Jensen: Kind of New (Whaling City Sound). Miles Davis veteran and keyboardist Jason Miles and trumpeter Ingrid Jensen have at it here on a tightly wound collection of fusion originals. Jason works the Fender Rhodes and organ for maximum texture behind a piercing Jensen while a funky electric bass and power drums are joined by a range of horns and percussion support. A new chapter in fusion's evolution. Go here.

Itaiguara Brandao: Awakening. The New York-based Brazilian bassist has a dynamic rhythmic sense that is deeply rooted in the samba. On songs like Meu Rio, Cerro, O Voo da Mosca and Chorinho pro Cidinho, Itaiguara delivers muscular beauty, running both tender and explosive lines. The music flowers early and continues to open until the end. Go here.

Jackie DeShannon: All the Love—the Lost Atlantic Recordings (Real Gone). Jackie was the first pop-rock female singer-songwriters in Hollywood at the dawn of the 1960s. She wrote for other artists and recorded demos before becoming a star in her own right and touring with the Beatles. In 1972, she left Liberty and signed with Atlantic. Her first album (Jackie) was released but her second album in '73 was shelved except for one single, Sweet Sixteen. Here, all of her Atlantic tracks are together on one release, including her All the Love That's In You and Santa Fe, which she wrote with Van Morrison. Singing, songwriting and artful phrasing by a master. Go here.

Dan Brubeck Quartet: Celebrating the Music and Lyrics of Dave & Iola Brubeck (Blue Forest). Dan, the drummer son of the Brubecks, recorded this album at The Cellar in Vancouver, Canada, in August 2013. The group performed this tribute material less than a year after Dave's passing and a year prior to Iola's death. Dan was joined by pianist Tony Foster, saxophonist Steve Kaldestad and bassist-vocalist Adam Thomas. What I dig most about this two-CD set is its gentle approach. I only wish it featured more instrumentals. This takes nothing away from Thomas's voice. It's just that Dave and Iola's spirits shine through best on instrumental pieces like The Duke, Take Five and For Iola. I miss Dave and Iola. Go here.

Terence Blanchard: Breathless (Blue Note). I love what Blanchard has done here. There's funk and soul combined with his blistering trumpet. Like many jazz artists today, Blanchard is taking jazz to new places through an eclectic mix of updated '70s and '80s motifs and grooves. On this album, he's joined by his E-Collective quintet, which creates a mighty bed of rich grooves. The album opens with Compared to What, which was recorded by Roberta Flack in 1969 before becoming a hit for Les McCann and Eddie Harris. Fight the power. The album is a little talky but the music is gorgeous. Go here.

Pat Martino: Nexus (High Note). Guitarist Martino still has the old attack. In some respects he's one of fusion's fathers, shifting the electric guitar from a polite swinger to a manic, percussive sewing needle. Here, Martino is joined only by Jim Ridl. Martino and Ridl are so active they sound as though they're backed by four other instruments. Go here.

Glenn Crytzer's Savoy Seven: Uptown Jump. I'm always astonished by artists who form groups that are passionate about music of the 1920s and '30s. They never do things halfway. Here, this septet sounds as if they recorded back then. What's even more astonishing is that Crytzer wrote all of the songs, convincing me that he's actually from the past. You won't believe your ears. A fun album with plenty of foot-tapping numbers and authentic arrangements. Go here.

Swamp Dogg: The White Man Made Me Do It (Alive). If you like your funk hot and sweaty with a dose of horns and blues, Swamp Dogg is for you. There's lots of sass and soul here. Swamp Dogg is Jerry Williams Jr., a big-beat singer-songwriter and producer who began his career at age 12 in the 1950s. He covers a wide range of styles, creating an earthy, fragrant stew that's irresistible. Go here.

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This story appears courtesy of JazzWax by Marc Myers.
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