Brothers in Jazz

Elliott Simon By

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Curtis Brothers Quartet Blood, Spirit, Land, Water, Freedom Truth Revolution Records 2009 Derrick Gardner & The Jazz Prophets + 2 Echoes of Ethnicity Owl Studios 2009 Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Honesst Jons Records 2009

While in a metaphorical sense we are all brothers and sisters in jazz there is an abundance of musicians who are genetically as well as musically connected. These releases highlight three stylistically diverse ensembles with sibling musicians at their centers. Blood· Spirit· Land· Water· Freedom, from the Curtis Brothers Quartet, successfully invites other genres and musicians to interact with a solid Latin jazz nucleus. Echoes of Ethnicity has trumpeter/flugelhornist Derrick Gardner and trombonist brother Vincent expanding the Jazz Prophets' lineup and style into 'little big band territory.' And finally, an octet of brass playing brothers collectively melds brass band with a host of styles for the aptly named Hypnotic Brass Ensemble.

Pianist Zaccai and bassist brother Luques, along with a double-threat percussion section of conguero Reinaldo DeJesus and drummer Richie Barshay, make up the Curtis Brothers Quartet. "Curtis Anew" and "El Calderon" open and close Blood· Spirit· Land· Water· Freedom, boldly exposing these musicians' Latin jazz roots. In between, the group explores funk, bop and classical, invites in numerous guests, all while defining a new Latin sensibility. Tunes like "Bouncing with Bud" and Chopin's "Op. 25 No. 2" speak to versatility and musicianship while originals that stray a bit further from traditional Latin prove to be more fertile ground: "Thoughts Not My Own" mixes in poetry courtesy of stunning vocalist Giovanni Almonte; Frank Kozyra's soprano sax and Michael Dease's trombone turn "Taino Revenge" and "Song to Break the Spell" into superbly Latin-tinged modern jazz; guitarist Mark Whitfield lends his inventive bop guitar to a soulful "Solutions" and beautiful string voicings from Jee Youn Hong's cello and Sung Hee Choi's viola gorgeously decorate "Memories in Ether."

A three-horn front, piano, bass and drums and newly composed music has been the Jazz Prophets successful recipe for playing some of NYC's freshest and hardest swinging bop. For Echoes of Ethnicity that powerful front, anchored by the Gardner brothers and funky tenor saxophonist Rob Dixon, adds alto saxophonist Brad Leali and Jason Marshall on bari sax. This greatly increases the harmonic possibilities and the charts—six by Derrick, two each by Vincent and Dixon—are spectacular. The result is rife with full ensemble playing, exquisite coloration, marvelous dynamics and magnificent voicings in addition to the hot soloing that has come to be expected from these first-rate hardboppers. Things kick off quickly with "4Newk," a hard swinging tribute to saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and don't let up with guest conguero Kevin Kaiser providing the rhythm for "Afros & Cubans." The outside blues of "Mercury Blvd" and intriguingly arranged "Natural Woman" and "Autumn in New York" are lovely parts of a holistic program that gels around a rare blend of broad musicianship and deep arrangements.

Taking the concept of brotherhood to its most extreme, the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble consists of the eight youngest sons of Chicago trumpeter and AACM co-founder Kelan Phil Cohran. Their low brass lineup of two trombones, sousaphone and euphonium lay down a rock-solid pumping beat throughout these selections, allowing the four trumpets to chorus majestically. The result is an infectious brand of jazz that, on the surface, is equal parts street corner brashness and football field brassiness. There is much more to this, however, than happy marching music. The songs are well constructed both melodically and harmonically and reflect a social and cosmic consciousness borne of brotherhood. This is another excellent addition to the expanding catalogue of new brass-band music.

Tracks and Personnel

Blood, Spirit,Land,Water,Freedom

Tracks: Curtis Anew; Thoughts Not My Own; Twisted Histories; Yuba Citrico; Taino Revenge; Bouncing With Bud; Memories In Ether; The Spoiler; Op 25 No 2; Take That Seat; Maria Cervantes; Alkalinity; Solutions; Song To Break The Spell; El Calder�n.

Personnel: Zaccai Curtis: piano, keyboards; Luques Curtis: - bass; Reinaldo De Jesus: congas; Richie Barshay: drums; Michael Dease: trombone, Frank Kozyra: tenor/soprano saxophone, Mark Whitfield: guitar; Camilo Molina Gaetan: bata; Giovanni Almonte: vocals; Julie Acosta: vocals; Tiffany Ente: vocals; Jee Youn Hong: cello; Sung Hee Choi: viola.

Echoes of Ethnicity

Tracks: 4 Newk; Afros & Cubans; We Jazz June; Natural Woman; Mercury Blvd.; The Melting Pot; Autumn in New York; Crystal Stair; The Blackamoor; Miss'ippi Man.

Personnel: Derrick Gardner: trumpet, flugelhorn; Vincent Gardner: trombone; Rob Dixon: tenor saxophone; Rick Roe: piano; Gerald Cannon: bass; Donald Edwards: drums; Brad Leali: alto saxophone; Jason Marshall: baritone saxophone; Kevin Kaiser: percussion; Brandon Meeks: bass.

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble

Tracks: Alyo; Gibbous; War; Ballicki Bone; Flipside; Marcus Garvey; Jupiter; Party Started; Rabbit Hop; Sankofa; Hypnotic; Satin Sheets; Rabbit Hop (Version).

Personnel: Gabriel Hubert (Hudah): trumpet; Saiph Graves (Cid): trombone; Tycho Cohran (LT): sousaphone; Amal Hubert (Baji): trumpet; Jafar Graves (Yosh): trumpet; Seba Graves (Clef): trombone; Tarik Graves (Smoov): trumpet; Uttama Hubert (Rocco): euphonium; Sola Akingbola: drums (3,4,5,7,8,9,10,13); Malcolm Catto: drums (1,2,11,12); Tony Allen: drums (6); Flea: bass (4); Damon Albarn: moog (13).


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