Charles Lloyd’s late-in-life burst of exploratory energy continues with this new band. Bassist Reuben Rogers (here, playing mostly electric bass) and drummer Eric Harland are drawn from Lloyd’s “new quartet,” which is no longer so new but still stunning (and features pianist Jason Moran). The Marvels was born of a 2013 musical encounter at UCLA’s Royce Hall between the saxophonist and flutist Lloyd and guitarist Bill Foristell. Frisell recruited pedal-steel master Greg Leisz. The material ranges from some favorites from Lloyd’s catalog— “Of Course, Of Course,” the title track of his 1965 Columbia album and “La Llorona,” from 2009’s Mirror, among others—and a wide range of other material—Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War,” for instance, and the hymn “Abide With Me.” There are vocals on two tracks, by Willie Nelson and Norah Jones.
Aruán Ortiz Trio Featuring Eric Revis & Gerald Cleaver Hidden Voice (Intakt Records, Feb. 2): Pianist Ortiz leads trio that includes one of New York’s most fascinating drummers, Gerald Cleaver. Ortiz is among a generation of Cuban-born musicians making influential waves on the New York scene. His new CD ends with a classic Cuban tune. Yet otherwise, Ortiz plays experimental jazz that owes to no nation in particular; his clearest lodestar is revealed on the CD’s two Ornette Coleman compositions. Though Ortiz’s work to date has been excellent, this recording represents a major leap in context and substance, and I suspect it will end up on best-of lists at the end of this year.
Two new CDs focus on the drum in very different ways:
Herlin Riley New Direction (Mack Avenue, Feb. 12): Drummer Riley is best known for his work with Wynton Marsalis and, more recently, Ahmad Jamal. Yet he’s much more than an ace sideman. Here’s my strategy whenever I’m in New Orleans: Find out where and when Riley is playing; be there. He is quite simply the best drummer in New Orleans, a city known for its lineage of great trapsmen and rhythm masters. Riley can play the whole drum kit in polyrhythmic splendor or he can establish his authority with just, say, a single detail on cowbell or snare drum. On this, his first album as a leader in a decade, he flashes several takes on the distinct New Orleans “pocket” through various jazz styles.
Dan Weiss Sixteen: Drummers Suite (Pi, Feb. 26): Drummer/composer Dan Weiss used a fascinating concept as the basis for this CD: He built a suite of pieces, each based on a specific set of beats within classic recordings of his favorite jazz drummers (Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and others): His liner notes include footnotes to brief rhythmic passages, some just seconds long (timings noted). Weiss, who plays drums, tabla and contributes “vocal percussion” on some tracks, calls the music an “amalgam of jazz, Indian Music, prog rock, contemporary classical music and other completely idiosyncratic influences” which is a longwinded way of saying that you’ll hear unexpected blends of timbres and textures in music that adheres to nobody’s formula. It helps that Weiss here gathers more than a dozen notable and notably creative players, including singer Jen Shyu, pianist Matt Mitchell and guitarist Miles Okazaki.
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