Yes, we’ve just returned from the vaults of “The Urban Flux” music collective with a few tasty gems in hand. On this outing, we have the liquid smooth sounds of George Benson, and the jam packed organic funk session by saxophonist Joshua Redman anchored to the lovely and talented Ms. Freelon. And finally, we take a trip globally to South Africa to unleash the best of the best in “jazz” available.
What have you been spinning lately?
George Benson – Absolute Benson
George Benson has been threatening to record a serious guitar album for years, and he’s finally done it. Absolute Benson is 99.9 percent pure jazz guitar as only this master of the instrument can produce. Recalling Benson’s CTI output of the 1970s, Absolute Benson features his lyrical, logical, and often emotional playing in mellow, groove-a-licious arrangements. Taking a cue from Santana and Louie Vega (who produced a couple of tracks here), Benson starts off AB with the percolating Latin bump of Donny Hathaway’s “The Ghetto” and its companion piece, “El Barrio.” Benson does scat and sing here, but after his smooth crooning and Joe Sample’s funky electric piano, Benson’s nimble fingers take flight and never touch down. AB includes the blistering burn of “El Barrio,” the burnished tones and smooth Brazilian swing of “Jazzenco,” the Wes Montgomery-style chordal work of “Deeper Than You.” -Ken Micallef [Amazon.com]
Joshua Redman Elastic Band – Momentum
Since the release of his chart-topping, self-titled debut in 1993, which heralded the arrival of perhaps the most prodigiously gifted and charismatic young jazz talent of the decade, saxophonist Joshua Redman has always tried to capture “the spirit of the moment” in his live and recorded work. No project better illustrates this guiding ethos than the Elastic Band, his ongoing collaboration with organist Sam Yahel. – Amazon.com
A stunning collection by one of the premier young saxophonist in today’s jazz who draws from the tradition of Rollins but colors his sound pure Redman.
Nnenna Freelon – Shaking Free
Freelon isn’t much of a lyricist (a typically stiff couplet is “We have come to find/ Intimate connection of heart and mind”), but she has a sure instinct for the way melody flows. Her soprano isn’t overpowering, but it is extremely graceful and thus perfectly fits the easy-going songs she writes and chooses. Her road band of pianist/arranger Bill Anschell, bassist John Brown and drummer Woody Williams are also well attuned to this approach; after two-plus years together, the four musicians seem to glide as one. The album does include standards by Harold Arlen, Jimmy Van Heusen and the like, but the highlights are a leisurely treatment of Dizzy Gillespie’s “Birk’s Works” and a dreamy version of the old folk tune “Black Is the Color of My True Love’s Hair.” – Geoffrey Himes [Amazon.com]
Various Artists – Tales of South African Jazz [Styles and Influences]
South Africa’s current jazz scene is alive & kicking – it did not end with Masekela, Ibrahim, Makeba and McGregor! This 15-track overview of the contemporary jazz scene, featuring the biggest selling artists with their best tracks reveals how optimistic the music and cultural scene of the new, free and democratic South Africa is. Features Sipho Gumede, Big Voice Jack, Zim Ngqawana, Winston Mankuku and many more. – SheerSound: World & Jazz