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Recent Jazz Releases including a new one from Kenny Barron

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Here are reviews of a diverse selection of jazz releases from the past few months.

Allegra Levy
Songs For You And Me
Little Moon Records
2023

Vocalist Allegra Levy has made a children's music album for the most natural of reasons. She became a mother in 2021, giving birth to her daughter, Stella Plum. Levy wrote all the songs here, which touch on calypso, jazz, bluegrass, and many other genres. The lyrics focus on usual kids' topics, like bathtime, animals, and food but they all shine due to the energy and obvious affection present in her singing. Several of the songs feature backing from jazz musicians such as Jason Yeager and Roxy Coss, which add warm and expansive horn and rhythm arrangements. Levy's daughter has a Chinese, German, and Ashkenazi Jewish background, and these songs are appropriately inclusive of different races and nationalities. "Hello Song" features the voices of children saying hello in many different languages while "Los Animales" teaches the names of various animals in Spanish. A couple of tracks, "The Way of the World" and "Stella For Star," are charming and melodically strong enough to transcend the usual idea of "children's songs." Like the entire album, they glow from the loving tone in Levy's voice.

Kenny Barron
The Source
Artwork Records
2023

This is Kenny Barron's first album of solo piano since 1981 and it shows the breadth of his playing extremely well. His own tune, "What If" is a playful, near avant-garde progression of shifting rhythms that stirs in bits of ragtime and Thelonious Monk, while gorgeous renditions of "Isfahan" and "Daydream" show Barron's comfort with the music of Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn. A pair of Monk compositions get playfully pulled apart while the pianist's own composing abilities are demonstrated through the elegant strolling of his ballads, "Phantoms" and "Dolores Street" and the relaxed Latin pulse of "Sunshower."

Nicholas Brust
Daybreak
Outside In Music
2023

Nicholas Brust is a tenor saxophonist from Boston who writes strong melodies that his playing cuts through with ease and grace on this album. Lage Lund's guitar often echoes him as a flexible second lead voice. They flow through "The Absence of You" like a tumbling river current and play nicely off each other on the ballad "For Wisdom." The synergy between Brust's swooning tone and Lund's bouncing chords is especially tight on "Serenade In Blue." Pianist Julia Chen is a strong presence on "The Tempest" and "Mind's Eye" in support of Brust, while guitar and piano blend together beautifully without the leader's sax on the stately "Ballad of a Sea Porpoise."

Emilio Teubal
Futuro
Not Yet Records
2023

This album by Argentine-born pianist Emilio Teubal brings in varied types of music. "Tokyo Trenque" has a brooding Spanish classical strain that mixes Teubal's piano with Fede Diaz's acoustic guitar and Sam Sadisgursky's clarinet. "Tortuga" is a whirling samba with a strong hint of Chick Corea, while "Remolinos (Tolerance)" rides a wave of minimalist repetition with Chris Dingman's vibes shadowing Teubal. Teubal and Dingman also work together well on the lively melodies of "Cinco en Seis Cuerdas" and The Beatles' "Blackbird." Teubal's music comes off with an elegant sense of serenity and formality but also has a mischievous streak.

The Clarinet Trio
Transformations and Further Passages
Leo Records
2022

The Clarinet Trio is a long-standing group made up of German clarinetists Jürgen Kupke, Michael Thieke, and Gebhard Ullmann. On this recording, they pay tribute to their country's jazz tradition by playing the work of several prominent German jazz composers from the Fifties and Sixties. The harmonic blend of their instruments allows the trio to bubble like a calliope or mimic the sonorous sounds of a pipe organ, traits they find useful here. Manfred Schoof's "Virtue" is played with gentle, bluesy pushing and sounds like a George Gershwin classical clarinet piece. Albert Mangelsdorff's "Set 'em Up" alternates whirling bebop fragments with bits of near-silence while "Der Blues ist der Konig" combines shrill solo lines with gospellish call-and-response answers. Mangelsdorff's "Theme From Vietnam" is the richest piece on display, with melancholy, deep moans that congeal into howls, then morph into a wobbly tango. The dry humor of the European free-jazz tradition is present here as well as the disciplined arranging exemplified by single-instrument groups like the World Saxophone Quartet.

Tracks and Personnel

Songs for You and Me

Tracks: Hello Song; Noodles!; It's So Hard To Be You; Los Animales; Clap Your Hands; In The Tub; Hip, Hip, Hooray!; I Got a Boo-Boo; Toodaloo, Kangoaroo!; The Way of the World; Imagination; Stella For Star; A Quiet Song.

Personnel: Allegra Levy: lead vocals; Neha Jiwrajka: background vocals, flute, animal sounds, glockenspiel (1-10); Katie Seiler: background vocals, whistling (1-10,12); Tomas Cruz, Aubrey Johnson: background vocals; Leslie Gauthier: background vocals, claps (5); Jason Yeager: piano, celeste, organ, toy piano; Andrew Baird: guitar, ukulele, banjo; Timothy Norton: bass; Sammy Wags: drums. percussion; Dan Urness: trumpet; Mike Fahie: trombone; Roxy Coss: tenor saxophone; Aidan Levy: baritone saxophone.

The Source

Tracks: What If; Isfahan; Teo; Daydream; Dolores Street; Well You Needn't; Sunshower; Phantoms.

Personnel: Kenny Barron: piano.

Daybreak

Tracks: The Absence of You; Diamonds and Clubs; Mind's Eye; For Wisdom; To Carry the Torch; Serenade in Blue; Daybreak; In This Moment; The Tempest; Ballad of a Sea Porpoise; A Midsummer Night.

Personnel: Nicholas Brust: saxophone; Lage Lund: guitar; Julia Chen: piano; Ricj Rosato: bass; Gary Kerkezou: drums.

Futuro

Tracks: Futuro; Children of MMXX; Cinco en Seis Cuerdas; Rio; Tokyo Trenque; Romolinos (Tolerance); Los Que Fluyen; Tortuga; Blackbord; Los Ultimos Seran Los Primeros.

Personnel: Emilio Teubal: piano; Pablo Lanoguere: acoustic and electric bass; Chris Michael: drums (2,4,8-10), Brian Shankar Adler: drums and percussion (1,3,5-7); Fede Diaz: guitar (1,5,7); Sam Sadigursky: clarinet (1,5,7); Chris Dingman: vibraphone (3,6,9).

Transformations and Further Passages

Tracks: Collective #13; Cleopatra; Tension/Varie; Golem; Solo #1; Virtue; Get Up -From Now On; Set 'em Up; Tune In; Solo #2; Don't Run; Der Blues ist der Konig; Theme From Vietnam; Solo #3.

Personnel: Jurgen Kupke: clarinet; Michael Thieke: alto clarinet, clarinet; Gebhard Ullmann: bass clarinet.

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