(Marsalis Music). In the decade the saxophonist's quartet has been making music together, this is its most satisfying album. There's the usual dynamism, even aggressiveness, but little of the anger that Marsalis, Joey Calderazzo, Eric Reavis and Jeff Tain" Watts have sometimes worn on their sleeves. All of the impressive tunes are by band members, except Monk's Rhythm-a-ning." Even at its most abstract, the playing has buoyancy and lyricism.
Steven Bernstein, We Are MTO (Mowo!) Trumpeter Bernstein's vision for his Millennial Territory Orchestra runs forward and back, with stops in the 1920s, the future and points between. Inspiration comes from, among others, Fats Waller, McKinney's Cotton Pickers, Lennon & McCartney, Preston Jackson (1926) and Ray Charles, with Sun Ra hovering in the background. The melding of tribute and affectionate spoofing includes an irresistible version of the Count Basie staple Dickie's Dream."
Kendra Shank, Mosaic (Challenge). With her previous CD of Abbey Lincoln songs, Shank firmly differentiated herself from the overcrowded current field of women who declare themselves jazz singers. Mosaic takes her a step further. It elevates Shank into the company of the few singers capable of using jazz skills and values to invest a collection of individual songs with story-telling continuity. That happens in classical recitals of art songs. It is rare in jazz and popular music.
'Tis Autumn: The Search For Jackie Paris (Outsider Pictures). Jackie Paris may be all the evidence we need that talent is not enough. The remarkable singer had a burst of popularity and was adored by the jazz community when bebop was dominant. Then, except for brief reappearances and a few records, he all but sank out of sight. When Paris was old, Raymond De Felitta found him and made a film that tells Paris's story with the passion of a fan and the cool eye of a documentarian.
Ron Forbes-Roberts, One Long Tune: The Life And Music Of Lenny Breau (North Texas). Many guitarists consider Breau the world's greatest player of the instrument. In his short life, he left plenty of recorded confirmation that the claim might be true. Forbes-Roberts, himself a guitarist, traces Breau from his beginning as a child phenomenon to a senseless death in his early forties. He does a first-rate job of melding musical substance with Breau's astonishing story.