Meet Zara McFarlane, and Catch Up with Martial Solal and Dave Liebman, in Take Five

Oct 1, 2017

Zara McFarlane, “Pride”

Zara McFarlane enjoys a sterling reputation as a soul-jazz vocalist in the UK, where she self-produced her first EP in 2010, and has won an array of prestigious awards since. So far she’s more of a blank in the States, but that could change on the strength of Arise, her searching, audacious and authoritative third album, just out on Brownswood Recordings.

McFarlane has roots in Jamaica, and at times her deep purr and flickering patois can evoke the R&B priestess Lauryn Hill, whose Jamaican affinities are a matter of public record. More to the point, McFarlane is part of a cadre of sharp young British artists representing the Caribbean diaspora — musicians like drummer Moses Boyd, who produced Arise. On “Pride,” an ostinato played on bass clarinet by Shabaka Hutchings underpins McFarlane’s multi-tracked vocal harmonies, which gradually build to a cry. The track’s emotional climax is a tenor saxophone solo by Binker Golding, rough in his tone but agile with his cadence.

Danny Janklow, “Bad Reception”

Every now and again you encounter a debut album that not only announces an emerging talent but also presents a clear point of view. Elevation, by alto saxophonist Danny Janklow, feels like one of these. Due out on Oct. 20, it’s a new dispatch from the scene in Los Angeles, where Janklow maintains a steady hum of work as a sideman and session player. But the album is just as much a testament to his time on the east coast, studying with trumpeter Terell Stafford and saxophonist Dick Oatts. “Bad Reception,” featured in this exclusive video premiere, has all the hallmarks of a post-bop swashbuckler: head-bobbing intro, fast-swinging solo section, breakneck refrain. But the performances lift the tune out of any schematic zone. Janklow’s alto solo, springy and surefooted, gives way to equally rewarding statements by vibraphonist Nick Mancini and one of Janklow’s on-the-bandstand mentors, the excellent pianist Eric Reed.

Martial Solal & Dave Liebman, “On Green Dolphin Street”

Martial Solal and Dave Liebman’s inspiring new Sunnyside album is Masters in Bordeaux, a phrase that’s true on its face (even if it also calls to mind the late paintings of Goya). Recorded last year at the Jazz & Wine Festival Bordeaux, it could easily have been titled “Masters in Dialogue,” or “Meeting of the Minds.”

Liebman, who at 71 is a seasoned collaborator as well as an NEA Jazz Master, brings to this summit an intrepid urge, and the reflexes to follow through on any promising digression. Solal, a French pianist of rare improvisational genius, recently turned 90, and hasn’t lost his impish wit: he begins “On Green Dolphin Street” with a single note that blooms into a familiar theme — but not the theme that Liebman’s playing. Then comes his lyrical solo, sparkling at every turn; a soprano saxophone excursion rooted in more boppish protocols; and finally, a reconciliation of the two sides (check the tandem peekaboo feint that crests around 3:30).

Sam Bardfeld, “Winner Image”

You shouldn’t miss The Great Enthusiasms (BJU Records), a brilliantly odd and altogether lovely new album by violinist Sam Bardfeld. It’s the first recording under his name since 2005; he has spent the intervening years working with assorted American originals: The Jazz Passengers, Bruce Springsteen, Anthony Braxton.

Bardfeld made the new album with pianist Kris Davis and drummer Michael Sarin, drawing sly inspiration from the public disgrace of Richard Nixon. (Most of the original compositions bear titles drawn from Nixon’s utterances.) “Winner Image” lays out the trio’s methods, with a stark, exploratory prelude setting up a series of dynamic ensemble vignettes. Davis distinguishes herself with a rangy solo, but the main point is the rapport of the band, a model of bustling democratic accord. Bardfeld’s trio performs on Thursday at Cornelia Street Café.

Nicki Parrott, “I’m Hip”

Nicki Parrott released Dear Blossom, her coolly affectionate nod to Blossom Dearie, on Arbors Records back in May. It’s worth revisiting in advance of her official album-release gig, this Wednesday at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola. Parrott, a bassist who sings (or is it the other way around?), has the right timbre and register for a Dearie tribute, and she keeps the tone as bright and refreshing as a citrus spritz. Consider “I’m Hip,” which doubles as a celebration of its wily songwriter, Bob Dorough. The tune’s satirical tilt is too much for Parrott to resist: her postmillennial update has allusions to Snapchat and Justin Bieber, along with the indelible turn of phrase “I’m Facebook friends with the Kardashians.”