As there are millions and millions of new releases, it is sometimes hard to keep track on everything that’s being released over the year. I didn’t review a lot of stuff but am still listening to a lot of 2019 releases and I wanted to give at least a quick mention on a few records that are still on my radar:
Rahsaan Patterson‘s latest, “Heroes & Gods”, has him somewhat go back to his former late 90s glory. I remember seeing him live at London’s Jazz Café after his debut came out and he hasn’t really disappointed ever since that release (hard to believe it’s been almost 23 years). From the opening, catchy “Catch Me When I Fall”, it seems to be clear that the focus is on more soul-oriented material than fashion-styled R&B for the charts. Stepping down a bit for the lithe and soothing “Wonderful Star”, Rahsaan proves once again why he is one of the best contemporary soul singers around. He co-wrote “Break It Down” with Rachelle Ferrell (yes, she’s still around) who is also helping on the background vocal arrangements for this highly sensuous, hilariously subdued and soulful tune. The track that most reminds me of his first album is the Bobby Womack-styled crooner “Sent From Heaven”, a blissful ballad that is pure class. The album is equally balanced between uptempo, almost technoid tracks and wonderful soul cuts and also features a cover version of “Don’t You Know That” by Luther Vandross.
Another singer, another style: Peter Eldridge, part of the amazing New York Voices and always a guarantee for churning up some amazing solo stuff, has come up this past year with his Shirley Horn “Here’s To Life” moment with the release of the string-laden “Somewhere” which also features the great Kenny Werner on piano and arrangements. The 11 ballads on the album show Peter’s versatility, even though the focus is clearly on the soft side of the spectrum. But it’s his dreamy, elegant, and stylish way of telling a story which makes this set so compelling. And I think he has more depth now in the lower registers as in previous outputs, giving the album another sympathetic twist. Balancing it out between standards and original material, Peter also re-worked some of his older material, like “That Which Can’t Be Explained”, from his “Fool No More” album. The 20-piece orchestra, Kenny’s arrangements and Peter’s warm singing style is clearly a match made in heaven. Soothing stuff.
Mark Winkler is another singer who never ceases to amaze with his recorded output. He has recorded the songs of Bobby Troup – again, you might add since he already came up with a collection of the “Route 66” songwriter that is Mister Troup. In 2002, Mark released “Sings Bobby Troup” and last year, “I’m With You: Mark Winkler Sings Bobby Troup”. I don’t think there is any other singer around at the moment who can easily bridge the gap between Dave Frishberg and, say, Freddy Cole. With the help of a stellar cast of musicians, like Kevin Axt, Bob Sheppard, Anthony Wilson, and Grant Geissman, Mark sways through the often-heard Troup classic “Route 66” and continues with a lot of lesser-known material, like a very obscure and funny “Triskaidekaphobia” about the fear of the number 13. Talking Dave Frishberg here. You can listen to a master at work as Mark nails everything on offer.
The new year has some exciting new stuff for us: Makaya McCraven will come up with his version of Gil Scott-Heron’s last album, “We’re New Again – A Reimagining by Makaya McCraven”. Our hero Jarrod Lawson releases his “Visions” album under his pseudonym Orpheus; a mostly instrumental album which also will come out on beautiful orange vinyl. I already had the chance to listen to parts of the disc and it sounds wonderful. Also look out for another cover album: “Alterations” is the new Robin McKelle disc which features her interpretations of tunes like “No Ordinary Love” (Sade), “Rolling In The Deep” (Adele), or “Jolene” (Dolly Parton). Look out for an extensive review here next month when the album is officially released. It really sounds amazing. As does the new duo disc by Nils Landgren and Jan Lundgren. “Kristallen” focuses on more folk-and chamber music-like material from the Swedish musicians.
Also on the horizon: new material from Raul Midon (“The Mirror”), a sequel to “No Beginning No End” by José James which he premieres at this week’s Winter Jazz Fest in New York, “In The Key Of Joy” by Sergio Mendes, a new album by Lindsey Webster (“A Woman Like Me”), Pat Metheny‘s new group on “From This Place”, and Lakecia Benjamin celebrating both John and Alice Coltrane on “Pursuance: The Coltranes” with an all-star cast of Me’Shell Ndegeocello, Ron Carter, Marcus Strickland, Jazzmeia Horn, Gary Bartz, Dee Dee Bridgewater, and Brandee Younger. Roll on, 2020!