Albums

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Bebop - Released August 31, 2018 | HighNote Records

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Pianist Cyrus Chestnut is a virtuoso player with deep roots in both spiritual gospel music and harmonically sophisticated jazz. That said, he's also a classically trained artist with a wide-ranging and eclectic taste in music. He brings all of these influences to bear on his nuanced and enveloping 2018 trio date, Kaleidoscope. Joining him are bassist Eric Wheeler and drummer Chris Beck, who offer empathetic support throughout. Here, Chestnut has chosen a handful of his favorite classical compositions, including tracks by Erik Satie, Claude Debussy, and Maurice Ravel, which he reworks in his own inimitable jazz style, alongside other standards and his own originals. What's particularly compelling about his choices is just how well the classical songs fit into the jazz trio concept. The Satie selections in particular lend themselves to a jazz approach. Chestnut's languid reading of "Gymnopedie No. 1" has the feel of a hazy summer afternoon, and brings to mind Vince Guaraldi's Peanuts soundtracks. He also turns the composer's "Son Binocle" into a jauntily urbane bossa nova. Elsewhere, he transforms Debussy's "Jimbo's Lullaby" into a bluesy, far-eyed rumination, anchored by a soulful bass solo intro from Wheeler. Similarly engaging is the trio's dramatic, modal jazz take on Ravel's "Entre Cloches," in which Chestnut's spiraling solo swells into a sustained din of reverberating bass notes before returning to the main theme. Conversely, his own songs, like the meditative "Father Time" and the lyrical "Prayer for Claudine," evince a classical feel, displaying his knack for finely attenuated melodies and richly textured harmonics. He splits the difference on his swaggering version of Deep Purple's classic rock anthem "Smoke on the Water," diving into the iconic main theme with Rachmaninov-esque dynamism and then pulling back into a mutative, Eastern-influenced improvisation. ~ Matt Collar

Bebop - Released January 11, 2002 | SendDigital

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Bebop - Released September 21, 2000 | LucasRecords

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Bebop - Released February 24, 2017 | Savant

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Bebop - Released June 17, 2016 | HighNote Records

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Saxophonist Houston Person and bassist Ron Carter have a duo partnership that goes back at least as far as their two 1990 recordings, Something in Common and Now's the Time! Since those albums, the legendary artists have released several more duo collaborations, each one a thoughtful and minimalist production showcasing their masterful command of jazz standards, blues, and bop. The duo's 2016 effort, the aptly titled Chemistry, is no exception and once again finds Person and Carter communing over a well-curated set of jazz standards. As on their previous albums, Chemistry is a deceptively simple conceit; just two jazz journeymen playing conversational duets on well-known jazz songs. At face value, that is certainly what you get. The deception enters into the equation with just how masterful and nuanced Person and Carter are in each song. Whether it's the way Carter anchors the duo's yearning reading of "But Beautiful" with his languorous, doomy basslines, or the way Person's languorous rubato introduction joins up with Carter on "Fools Rush In," they never fail to find surprising and deeply emotive ways to interpret each song. Similarly, cuts like the poignant "Blame It on My Youth" and the dewy-eyed "I Can't Get Started" are endearing romantic numbers that cradle the listener in the warmth of Person and Carter's warm tones. Elsewhere, they deliver a gleeful version of Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk," and summon the memory of Carter's former boss, trumpeter Miles Davis, with their jaunty take on "Bye Bye Blackbird." Ultimately, Chemistry is a lovely, heartfelt album of well-loved standards imbued with the duo's decades of experience. ~ Matt Collar
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Bebop - Released May 20, 2016 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released April 15, 2016 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released October 23, 2015 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released April 21, 2015 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released January 20, 2015 | HighNote Records

Jeremy Pelt's 12th studio album, 2015's Tales, Musings and Other Reveries, finds the trumpeter continuing on his trajectory of making swaggering yet artful and introspective post-bop. The album follows up his equally compelling releases, 2013's Water and Earth and 2014's Face Forward, Jeremy. As with those albums, Pelt succeeds here in combining all of his disparate stylistic inspirations -- from swinging, straight-ahead jazz to expansive modalism to soulful fusion -- into one cohesive sound that is never anything but organic. Even his bold choice of using two drummers here, Billy Drummond (heard in the right channel) and Victor Lewis (heard in the left), never gets in the way of creating utterly lithe, buoyant, and often gorgeous music. Also joining Pelt here are pianist Simona Premazzi and maverick, genre-defying bassist Ben Allison, who add their own forward-thinking touches to Pelt's sophisticated compositions. ~ Matt Collar
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Bebop - Released October 22, 2013 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released June 25, 2013 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released March 26, 2013 | Savant

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Bebop - Released February 26, 2013 | HighNote Records

Tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander delivers his first album of all ballads with 2013's Touching. Once again working with his longtime cohorts -- pianist Harold Mabern, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth -- Alexander has crafted a bluesy, soulful, and romantic album that, while soft in conception, is in no way smooth. Alexander is a long avowed straight-ahead jazz stylist and Touching is no exception. Here, he plays in his own no-nonsense way, often with limited embellishment on the melody lines and always with a muscular sense of rhythm and swing when soloing. What is also pleasing is that Mabern and Alexander have chosen a handful of lesser-performed songs. Here, we get songs like pianist Bobby Lyle's gorgeous "Touching," which was inspired by Stanley Turrentine's version of his 1975 album Have You Ever Seen the Rain?, as well as superb takes of Michael Jackson's "Gone Too Soon," John Coltrane's "Central Park West," and "The Way She Makes Me Feel," from the Yentl soundtrack. Ultimately, Touching is a steamy album, with just enough classy restraint to make it a perfect accompaniment for any stylish afterglow. ~ Matt Collar
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Bebop - Released May 22, 2012 | HighNote Records

Larry Willis mixes standards, jazz classics, and potent originals on this solo piano release. The sessions have a late-night, ruminative flavor, starting with a loping take of "This Time the Dream's On Me." His shimmering rendition of "Lazy Afternoon" opens with a spacious improvised introduction, while he makes great use of space in his interpretation of this ballad. The Ellington-Strayhorn songbook is represented by the former's whispering "The Single Petal of a Rose" and the latter's haunting "Lotus Blossom," both played with restraint, as these timeless pieces require few embellishments. The pianist's originals are just as impressive. "Sanctuary" was written for a project that included strings, though his moving solo piano arrangement is no less moving, suggesting an idyllic, isolated beach hideaway on a clear summer afternoon. "Blues for Marco," named for his co-producer, has a whimsical air, while "Silly Blues" starts like a ballad but quickly shifts to a laid-back, closing-hour blues. Recorded over two days on a top-notch Fazioli grand piano, this solo piano CD is easily among Larry Willis' best recordings. ~ Ken Dryden
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Bebop - Released March 13, 2012 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released September 20, 2011 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released September 13, 2011 | HighNote Records

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Bebop - Released September 17, 2010 | Legacy Recordings

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Bebop - Released September 8, 2009 | HighNote Records

The Art & Soul of Houston Person is a unique compilation. The great saxophonist has recorded as a leader for labels such as Prestige, 20th Century, Muse, Savant, and is currently with High Note, where this appears. His tenure at Prestige is the only one longer than this one. As such, this massive, three-disc collection is drawn from a dozen High Note albums cut in as many years. The unifying factor in these cuts is that they were not chosen randomly to include simply stellar performances, but from his wide-ranging interpretations on standards; in addition, they were all recorded by Rudy Van Gelder at his studios in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. There are 30 performances in all, including four that open disc one which are all new takes on tunes he'd tracked previously, but this time out with his current quartet of pianist John di Martino, bassist Jon Burr, and drummer Jerome Jennings. Some of the other players on this comp include pianists Bill Charlap, Stan Hope, and Richard Wyands, bassists Ray Drummond, Ron Carter, Per-Ola Gadd, Peter Washington, and George Kaye, drummers Grady Tate, Chip White, and Kenny Washington, and guitarists Russell Malone and Paul Bollenback. The readings of these tunes make for a very unified collection because no matter who the personnel are and what gifts they bring to the table, Person has a way of playing songs that not only retain their melody, but their melodic integrity; his is simply not interested in employing them as frameworks for showboat improvisation. His own inventiveness is in how warm and dignified a melodist he is. He sings through the horn with the emotional commitment of Ben Webster, the soul of Gene Ammons, and the studied elegance of Paul Quinichette and Frank Wess. Listeners will have a great time picking their favorites out of this morass of excellent material, but it is safe to say that Person makes virtually all of it compelling -- there isn't a dull second here. Whether it's "Sentimental Journey,"and "All The Things You Are," or "Blue Moon" and "Mack the Knife," these sides are drenched in classy sophistication and down-home soul. Highly recommended. ~ Thom Jurek