On her 16th album as a leader, pianist and composer Lynne Arriale offers a heartfelt musical thank you to caregivers and others on the front lines of the COVID pandemic and the insurrection. Arriale’s inspired suite of music includes ten distinctive compositions engagingly performed by Arriale, bassist Jasper Somsen, and drummer E.J. Strickland. Right from the stirring, Afro-Cuban-influenced opening track, Arriale demonstrates an impressive command of rhythm, melody, and form fully capable of channeling a range of influences into a sound all her own. Astutely rendered tributes to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, John Lewis, members of the Capitol Police, and others come alive through the trio’s dynamic rapport, anchored by Arriale’s expansive, sparkling pianism. The Lights Are Always On is one for the ages, a transcendent album that moves, inspires, and thrills.
Before converging for the first time to play together, these three legends of improvised music had only one degree of separation from the great Cecil Taylor. Each had played in his ensembles, absorbing his ethos of creativity and individuality. Their tribute album, another superb release from TUM Records, is a testament to that. Rather than mirror Taylor’s art, they create their own. The album features compositions by each trio member as well as a standard, “My Funny Valentine,” but its guiding forces of originality and spontaneity shine through most brilliantly in four collective improvisations. In the realm of their seemingly limitless sonic curiosity, the silences are as important as the rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic ideas they so satisfyingly develop. 2 Blues for Cecil confirms the preeminent status of these three musicians as artistic giants.
On his remarkable new album, iconic pianist Fred Hersch combines two passions: his longtime practice of mindfulness meditation and the string quartet. Drawing on the meditative values of awareness and engagement, Hersch’s compositions for piano trio and string quartet offer powerful and varied listening experiences. From the serenely astute opening track, “Begin Again,” and the focused freneticism of “Monkey Mind” and the lushness of “Worldly Winds” to the final cut, an homage to Schumann, Hersch’s musical vision is clear and abundant, his compositional acumen broad and engaging. Breath by Breath showcases Hersch at his finest, a master performer, a composer of uncommon skill and depth, and a musical spirit of generosity, heart, and wisdom.
German-born, New York City-based Wind puts his instrument, the double bass, front and center in eight distinctive arrangements performed by the New York Bass Quartet in his captivating new album. Wind is joined by fellow bass luminaries Jordan Frazier, Gregg August, and Sam Suggs and noteworthy special guests Lenny White, Gary Versace, and Matt Wilson. With brilliant string playing, sublime expression, and an aural palette spanning more than four octaves, the quartet brilliantly interprets a wide range of challenging material, including Bach, Charlie Haden, Weather Report, and the Beatles. Unique and utterly engaging, Air delivers an entirely new sonic experience.
Resonance Records unearths another jazz treasure, this time a live concert by Charles Mingus and his 1972 sextet. The release includes three discs of positively combustible music captured at the famed London club, professionally recorded but unreleased after Columbia dropped Mingus—along with most of its other top jazz artists—from its roster. Thankfully, Resonance Records was able to rescue the tapes from the Mingus vault just in time for the legendary artist’s centennial. Nine substantial tracks recorded over two nights include early epic performances of Mingus gems like “Orange Was the Color of Her Dress, Then Silk Blues,” “Fables of Faubus,” the sultry wonder of “The Man Who Never Sleeps,” and a frenzied, airtight rendition of “Airmail Special.” The booklet features interviews with Mingus, Fran Liebowitz, Brian Priestley, Christian McBride, Eddie Gomez, and others. The Lost Album from Ronnie Scott’s is a historically important record full of jaw-dropping performances. It’s a must have for every jazz fan and every lover of great music.