Catch Up with Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, Sharel Cassity, the Fred Hersch Trio and More

Apr 2, 2018

Take Five has several premieres this week, from artists smartly pushing forward.

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints, “Ups and Downs”

For all of the just credit that Dave Douglas typically receives – as an incisive trumpeter, a dauntless bandleader, a tireless organizer, a fount of endless ideas — he just might be undervalued as a melodist. There’s ample evidence of this quality across his body of work, and not just in the folk-improv chamber quartet Charms of the Night Sky. (But yes, that’s where I’d point you first.) Douglas has recently devoted a lot of energy to Sound Prints, which he jointly leads with the ever-soulful tenor and soprano saxophonist Joe Lovano. This band originally formed as a living tribute to the music of Wayne Shorter, whose mysterious but accessible signature as a composer means a lot to everyone involved.

“Ups and Downs,” which has its premiere here, is an especially lyrical Douglas tune from the excellent new Sound Prints album, Scandal. (The album features five compositions by Douglas and four by Lovano, along with a pair of redrawn Shorter classics, “Juju” and “Fee Fi Fo Fum.”) A floating ballad set in motion by a drift of arpeggios, it brings out the tender balladeer in Lovano, and the intrepid gallant in Douglas. All the while, the rhythm section — Joey Baron on drums, Linda May Han Oh on bass and Lawrence Fields, who also crafts a fine solo, on piano — creates the undulating current that makes the track’s title feel descriptively apt. (Scandal will be released this Friday on Greenleaf Music; preorder here.)

Sharel Cassity & Elektra, “New Day”

Evolve is an apt title for the new album by saxophonist and flutist Sharel Cassity. A sleek expression of a modern language, it’s the clear byproduct of her recent experience on the bandstand, both out front and in the ranks (notably with the Revive Big Band). The writing on the album is confident and clear, and the playing delivers a grounded charge. On several tracks — including “New Day,” another Take Five premiere — she features Christie Dashiell on vocals, in a flexible R&B vein. Listen for the upbeat reassurance of the lyrics on “New Day,” along with the spirited back-and-forth between Cassity and trumpeter Marcus Printup; the crisp jazz-funk guitar work, from Mark Whitfield; and the airtight groove formed by Linda May Han Oh (electric bass) and Jonathan Barber (drums). (Evolve releases on Friday; sharelcassity.com.)

Fred Hersch Trio, “We See”

At this point it may seem that we’ve viewed the Fred Hersch Trio from every possible angle, and witnessed all of its best moves. Then comes an album like Live in Europe, which Hersch is calling his best trio recording yet. It captures the second-to-last concert in a European tour last fall; the date was in Brussels, at the Flagley Building, which once housed the National Institute for Radio Broadcasting.

Hersch’s trio, with bassist John Hébert and drummer Eric McPherson, rarely delivers anything other than a surefooted set. But this one does have a certain sparkle, as you can hear in the opening track, which has its premiere here. It’s the Thelonious Monk tune “We See,” in the same trio arrangement featured on another recent Hersch release, Sunday Night at the Vanguard. The band brings a little more emphasis to its halting peekaboo cadence in this version, even carrying the premise into the early portion of Hersch’s piano solo. The emergence of a swinging pulse happens gradually, in a push-pull fashion that exudes a spirit of playful risk. (Live in Europe will be released on Palmetto on May 11; preorder here.)

Joshua Redman and Still Dreaming, “Unanimity”

Joshua Redman’s current band, Still Dreaming, suggests both an act of enlightened jazz repertory and a gesture of personal resolution. Maybe not in that order. As you know if you’ve seen or heard this recent episode of Jazz Night in America, it’s a quartet in the mold of Old and New Dreams, a 1970s supergroup that featured Redman’s father, Dewey Redman.

The other members of Old and New Dreams were Don Cherry (cornet), Charlie Haden (bass) and Ed Blackwell (drums). A shadow fifth member and guiding spirit was Ornette Coleman, in whose bands they had all played. So there’s layer upon layer of possible reference points in this music, though the younger Redman and his collegial wrecking crew — cornetist Ron Miles, drummer Brian Blade, bassist Scott Colley — never sound the least bit overwhelmed. This track, an original called “Unanimity,” is the first single from Still Dreaming, which is due out on Nonesuch on May 25. (Preorder here.) It almost goes without saying that the title of the track amounts to truth in advertising, as far as this band’s chemistry goes.

Vinny Golia Sextet, “OK Doctor Xavier I guess only women have ...them (no not those we have them too...) - Take 2”

The multi-reedist Vinny Golia has been an anchor and catalyst of the experimental scene in Los Angeles for some 40 years. (He turned 72 last month.) He often works in large formats, but his new double album — Trajectory, a collaboration between Orenda Records and his own Nine Winds label — features his working sextet.

Vinny Golia, third from left, with the members of his sextet
Credit courtesy of the artist

The ensemble consists of younger musicians who were all, at one point, his students: trumpeter Daniel Rosenboom, saxophonist Gavin Templeton, guitarist Alexander Noice, bassist Miller Wrenn, and drummer Andrew Lessman. But their rapport shows no trace of deference; each member of the band attacks this music as if he owns it. There’s a fine, snarling exuberance in this track, whose title is a characteristic burst of punkish, Golian humor.