François Moutin & Kavita Shah, "You Go to My Head"
If you keep up with the modern-jazz mainstream in New York, you probably know François Moutin as a bassist who combines quicksilver agility with growling combustion. You may not yet be familiar with Kavita Shah, a singer grounded in the fundamentals but also brimming with fresh ideas.
Their new album, Interplay, is primarily a voice-and-bass affair, in the manner epitomized by Shah's mentor, Sheila Jordan. (Jordan, an NEA Jazz Master still swinging at 89, makes featured appearances on a couple of tracks. The master French pianist Martial Solal, a former employer of Moutin's, does the same.) The album includes wordless sound pictures and intricate post-bop excursions, but also a few standards. The opener is a version of "You Go to My Head" at a wafting-smoke tempo — a showcase both for Shah's warmly centered delivery and Moutin's elaborative inscription. Here as elsewhere, the spareness serves the song.
Jason Moran, "More News"
A few years ago, for a Chicago Symphony Orchestra commission, pianist Jason Moran created Looks of a Lot, an interdisciplinary suite made in partnership with the installation artist and urban interventionist Theaster Gates. The piece was an experiment in blues form and community-building, with collaborators drawn not only from the Chicago avant-garde but also from that city's public school system. Now Looks of a Lot has been released in album form, with Moran and the Bandwagon featured alongside the Kenwood Academy Jazz Band, the multireedist Ken Vandermark and the bassist Katie Ernst. "More News" is a variation on a theme within the piece, with an explosive piano solo (and a camp-worthy whistling coda).
Lewis Porter, "Birthplace"
We continue this week with a friendly yet unbiased endorsement of Beauty & Mystery, the new album by Lewis Porter, who is an accomplished jazz pianist as well as a teacher and scholar — and of course, the mind behind our jazz-historical series Deep Dive with Lewis Porter. This week, Dr. Porter published a piece about the origins of the word "jazz," and it seemed only appropriate that we feature a track bearing the title "Birthplace."
As on the rest of the album, Porter enlists John Patitucci on bass and Terri Lyne Carrington on drums. (Listen for how this gold-standard rhythm team stretches out behind the piano solo.) But there's another featured voice on "Birthplace," and it belongs to the saxophonist Tia Fuller — whose imploring cries on soprano recall this piece's stated inspiration, John Coltrane.
Adam Nussbaum, "Old Riley"
The drummer and bandleader Adam Nussbaum didn't take the obvious route with The Lead Belly Project, his tribute to a towering hero of hte blues. Yes, there are two guitarists on the album, Steve Cardenas and Nate Radley — but neither of them force the twang, or attempt to recreate Lead Belly's style. Instead, this is a true-blue jazz appreciation: on "Old Riley," which opens the album, Ohad Talmor's tenor saxophone sets the tone with a vocal invocation, before a rubato stir of arpeggios and cymbals. When the tempo upshifts, a few minutes in, the precedent this band recalls isn't a Lousiana blues man so much as the Jimmy Giuffre 3, with Jim Hall on guitar. (Adam Nussbaum presents The Lead Belly Project on Tuesday at the Jazz Standard.)
Glenn Zaleski, "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning"
Last Friday, Glenn Zaleski announced the existence of Solo Vol. 1, a new album available on his website, as a free download. Zaleski, an excellent pianist with a fastidious yet soulful approach, took the opportunity to present a balanced program with this release: some Charlie Parker, some Dave Brubeck, some Ornette Coleman. The video above is a taste of the eternal Frank Sinatra vehicle "In the Wee Smalls Hours of the Morning," which Zaleski plays as if he's thinking about the lyrics. (The Glenn Zaleski Trio performs on Saturday at The Cell Theater. Zaleski's next solo gig is at Mezzrow on March 13.)