Carl Allen & Rodney Whitaker
(Mack Avenue). Acting like hip cats from
, drummer Carl Allen and bassist Rodney Whitaker drizzle some barbecue sauce on this supremely straight-ahead session. The deft bow to old-head R&B coupled with some steaming gospel and Motown originals combine for a session of swagger and sizzle.
A Tale of God's Will: A Requiem for Katrina
(Blue Note). Trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard, whose mother lost her New Orleans home to Hurricane Katrina, writes a requiem that is softly elegiac and even majestic in a film-centric way. Blanchard's recording has to be considered with John Coltrane's "Alabama" in the pantheon of great jazz players' responses to real events.
(Heads Up). This set is worthwhile even if you forget that this is the last recording tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker made before his death from bone-marrow cancer on Jan. 13, 2007. The Cheltenham native flat-out scorches on a session of titans, with guitarist Pat Metheny, pianists Herbie Hancock and Brad Mehldau, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Jack DeJohnette.
(Telarc). Pianist Dave Brubeck plays with so much heart on this solo recording, mostly of tunes popular in his youth. Brubeck, 87, who's experiencing a kind of Indian summer in his long career, seems to invite the listener in from the front porch.
Cyrus Plays Elvis
(Koch). Leave it to pianist Cyrus Chestnut to discern the blues and gospel bubbling up in Elvis Presley's work. Chestnut finds the jazzy side of "Hound Dog" and gets all slinky on "Don't Be Cruel." He's at his most fearless in taking "Heartbreak Hotel" out of rhythm and rendering it tragic.
Robin Eubanks + EB3
Live, Vol. 1
(Kindred Rhythm). The brother of
guitarist Kevin Eubanks, trombonist Robin Eubanks can turn his instrument's clunky slide into molten metal. It's even more impressive to hear the Philly native overdub trombone licks atop one another with onstage electronics, and splice in strong beats, creating an overwhelming sonic wave on the one-man tune "Me, Myself & I." He also displays serious power 'bone, especially when he transforms his tone into a raging guitar on "Blues for Jimi Hendrix."
(Fantasy). There's a rocking snarl in guitarist Charlie Hunter's CD. With his longtime sax player, John Ellis, off pursuing a solo career, Hunter's trio sounds at times like a TV theme on acid or a soundtrack to a burglar alarm. The tune "Balls" has a muscle-bound sound that could have come from a Southern rock band.
Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette
My Foolish Heart: Live at Montreux
(ECM). This release, which marks the 25th anniversary of pianist Keith Jarrett's trio with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, takes you on a mini-spin through jazz history. The ultramodernist Jarrett & Co. return to classics by Miles Davis and Sonny Rollins and then to stride and ragtime, which they do without irony.
(Concord Records). South Philly-based guitarist Pat Martino was just 22 when he etched this classic 1967 session, reissued this year. His work stands out for the purity of his attack and the way he can reach the fiercest heights of hard bop with the calm of a zen master.
(Nonesuch). Tenor saxophonist Joshua Redman dedicates this recording to his Jewish mother, Renee Shedroff, and his African American father, saxophonist Dewey Redman, who died last year just after this session was completed. Redman senior appears on two tunes, including his own "GJ," which caps the session with magisterial feeling, and John Coltrane's "India," on which father and son go mano a mano on tenor.