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More Jazz From 2022

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The year 2022 produced a bumper crop of worthwhile jazz recordings, so many it was impossible to give all of them their due in a timely fashion. Here are belated appreciations of six titles that deserve praise.

Doug Wamble
Blues In The Present Tense
Halcyonic Records
2022

This is an album of swampy but topical blues and soul that is equal parts Bill Withers, Terry Callier, and James Blood Ulmer. Guitarist Doug Wamble soulfully croons over sinuous guitar and darkly cackling saxophone about America's recent hard times both from the viewpoint of the downtrodden poor man and, with tongue in cheek, of the MAGA apologist. His guitar chops and burrows while bassist Eric Revis and drummer Jeff "Tain" Watts lay down nasty, creeping funk grooves. Songs like "If I'm Evil" and "Along The Way" seduce with their slinky rhythms as Wamble's words sting with sarcasm.

Jeff Denson / Romain Pilon / Brian Blade
Finding Light
Ridgeway Records
2022

Bassist Jeff Denson, guitarist Romain Pilon, and drummer Brian Blade purvey another sort of guitar music on their album. The trio sounds even tighter and livelier than they did on their first CD, Between Two Worlds, (Ridgeway, 2019). Pilon's lines sparkle and wriggle beautifully in concert with Denson's and Blade's intricate dip and drive on "Daily Jubilee of Dancing Herbie D." and float through a mellow tango groove on "Finding Light." "Terre" lopes like a Bill Frisell country tune and "This Way Cooky" has the trio working out neatly on a percolating funk rhythm. These three musicians have a joyful and mischievous empathy with each other and their work together is delightful.

Jim McNeely
Rituals
Double Moon
2022

"Rituals" was composed and conducted by Jim McNeely for the Frankfurt Radio Big Band with saxophonist Chris Potter as soloist. It is based on Igor Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring," not copying the music but using many of its recognizable ideas and structures. Potter is the only solo voice and he sounds elegant and forceful as he plays over the ominous waves and sharp attacks expertly laid out by the big band. Potter gets to show the full range of his abilities here, going from low croons to violent shrieks. The album is filled out by McNeely's enjoyable arrangements of four older Potter tunes. These include the placid "Dawn" where Steffen Weber and Tony Lakatos join Potter in a three-tenor conversation, the bubbling funk of "The Wheel," and the expansive, folkish beauty of "Okinawa."

Anat Cohen
Quartetinho
Anzic
2022

Clarinetist Anat Cohen has gone in many directions before such as klezmer, classic swing, and Brazilian music but she makes a real left turn with this latest group which draws its identity mostly from the ambient fusion style that Gary Burton and Chick Corea played together in the Seventies. Vitor Goncalves' acoustic and electric piano and James Shipp's vibraphone create a mellow, floating mood on tracks like "Birdie" and "Palhaco" with Cohen's clarinet weaving through the mix, providing more drama and body. Goncalves turns to accordion on "The Old Guitar" and "Vivi & Zaco" giving a more continental tang to the sound and the band really proves its versatility by sliding into a bit of New Orleans funk on "Louisiana."

Owen Broder
Hodges Front And Center Vol. 1
Outside In Music
2022

Here saxophonist Owen Broder pays tribute to alto master Johnny Hodges, focusing more on his small group work rather than his better-known playing with the Duke Ellington orchestra. Broder does not always consciously try to sound like Hodges but he works here in a quintet format that captures the authentic bounce of small group swing. He does go for the familiar sighing Hodges tone on "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter" and "Just A Memory" which also show off the elegant playing of pianist Carmen Staaf and trumpeter Riley Mulherkar. Broder also gets to show his baritone sax skills on Gerry Mulligan's fiery "18 Carrots for Rabbit" and evokes Harry Carney on the lovely "Ballade for the Very Sad and Very Tired Lotus Eaters." In addition, the album contains a jaunty turn through "Take The A Train" where Broder's fluid alto gets so wild it approaches Ornette Coleman territory.

Ethan Philion
Meditations on Mingus
Sunnyside Records
2022

Bassist Ethan Philion has done an impressive album dedicated to the compositions of Charles Mingus, leaning towards the more politically engaged part of his canon. Philion assembles a strong ten-piece band and arranges a selection of both well-known and lesser-known Mingus titles to powerful effect. "Haitian Fight Song" is highlighted by Philion's deep-souled bass introduction and a sense of growling menace. "Pithecanthropus Erectus," originally written for a quintet, gets added punch from the addition of flute and brass. Alto player Rajiv Halim really preaches on "Prayer for Passive Resistance" and "Meditations for a Pair of Wirecutters" carries an urgent grandeur and explosive soling from several members of the band. Alexis Lombre's piano, Geof Bradfield's bass clarinet, Brendan Whalen's and Norman Palm's trombones, and Dana Hall's drums all stand out.

Tracks and Personnel

Blues In The Present Tense

Tracks: Homesick; MAGA Brain; No Worries; If I'm Evil; Along The Way; Blues For The Praying Man; Blues To The Unfound; Blues In The Present Tense.

Personnel: Doug Wamble: guitar, vocals; Eric Revis: acoustic bass; Jeff "Tain" Watts: drums; Prometheus Jenkins: saxophones.

Finding LIght

Tracks: Daily Jubilee of Dancing Herbie D.; Finding Light; This Way Cooky; A Moment in Time; Wishing Well; The Tipster; Terre Intro; Terre; Espoir; Sixto.

Personnel: Jeff Denson: double bass; Romain Pilon: guitar; Brian Blade: drums.

Rituals

Tracks: Rituals -Adoration I; Rituals -Adoration II; Rituals -Adoration III; Rituals -Sacrifice I; Rituals -Sacrifice II; Rituals -Rebirth; Dawn; The Wheel; Wine Dark Sea, Okinawa.

Personnel: Jim McNeely: conductor, arranger; Chris Potter: tenor saxophone; Heinz-Dieter Sauerborn, Oliver Leicht: alto sax, soprano sax, tenor sax, flute, clarinet, piccolo; Tony Lakatos: tenor sax, flute; Steffen Weber: tenor sax, soprano sax, baritone sax, flute, clarinet; Rainer Heute: baritone sax, bass clarinet; Frank Wellert, Thomas Vogel, Martin Auer, Axel Schlosser: trumpet, flugelhorn; Gunter Bollmann, Peter Fell, Christian Jaksjo: trombone; Manfred Honetschlager: bass trombone; Peter Reiter: piano; Martin Scales: guitar; Thomas Heidepriem: bass; Jean Paul Hochstadter: drums; Christine Chapman: French horn (1-6); Miroslava Stareychinska: harp (1-6); Claus Kiesselbach: percussion.

Quartetinho

Tracks: Baroquen Spirit; Palhaco; Boa Tarde Povo; Birdie; Canon; O Boto; The Old Guitar; Frevo; Louisiana; Going Home; Vivi & Zaco.

Personnel: Anat Cohen: clarinet, bass clarinet: Vitor Goncalves: piano, accordion, Fender Rhodes; Tal Mashiach: bass, guitar; James Shipp: vibraphone, percussion, glockenspiel, analog synthesizer.

Hodges Front and Center Vol. 1

Tracks: Royal Garden Blues; Viscount; 18 Carrots for Rabbit; I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter; Digits; Ballade for the Very Sad and Very Tired Lotus Eaters; Take the A Train; Just a Memory; You Need To Rock.

Personnel: Owen Broder: alto saxophone, baritone saxophone; Riley Mulherker: trumpet; Carmen Staaf: piano; Barry Stephenson: bass; Bryan Carter: drums.

Meditations on Mingus

Tracks: Once Upon a Time there was a Holding Corporation Called Old America; Haitian Fight Song; Self Portrait in 3 Colors; Pithecanthropus Erectus; Prayer for Passive Resistance; Meditation for a Pair of Wirecutters; Remember Rockefeller at Attica; Better Git It In Your Soul

Personnel: Ethan Pilion: bass; Russ Johnson: trumpet; Victor Garcia: trumpet; Rajiv Halim: alto saxophone; Geof Bradfield: tenor saxophone, bass clarinet, flute; Max Bessesen: tenor saxophone, alto saxophone, flute; Norman Palm: trombone; Brendan Whalen: trombone; Alexis Lombre: piano; Dana Hall: drum set.

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