Amina Figarova - Persistence - AmFi Records

After 20 years at the helm of her acclaimed acoustic sextet, Amina Figarova gathers an electric band grooving somewhere in the sweet spot between jazz fusion, classic R&B, inventive hip-hop and progressive funk. Figarova couldn’t have assembled a better band to enliven this thrilling new sound: supplementing her own piano with an array of keyboards, she’s joined by guitar great Rez Abbasi (Rudresh Mahanthappa, Kiran Ahluwalia), bassist Yasushi Nakamura (Christian Sands, Toshiko Akiyoshi), drummer Rudy Royston (Bill Frisell, JD Allen) and her partner in music and life, flutist Bart Platteau, who here also wields the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument). The album also features guest vocals by singer Paul Jost, rapper JSWISS, and poet/singer Skye’s World. Persistence is in one sense a single word autobiography for Figarova.  “In the past, when it came time for the next record I would sit down at the piano and write,” she recalls. “Here I was just asking musicians to bring some of their own music over and try some of my mine, trying out different things without thinking about recording. It was fun every time and led to a lot of surprises.”

Brian Melvin - Shapes - Yama Records

Shapes is a new project featuring Brian Melvin on Drums along with Matt Renzi on Sax and Mart Soo on Guitar. The CD reflects a deep maturity in composition as well as dynamics, listening and improvisation. The music is played and designed to take the listener on an inner voyage. The album consists primarily of original music along with a composition by Pat Metheny and Charlie Haden. Shapes gives it’s listeners a very soft and warm feeling with an array of wonderful improvisations.

Keith Oxman - Two Cigarettes In The Dark - Capri Records

Saxophonist Keith Oxman Collaborates with revered veteran Houston Person for the classic-minded two-tenor album Two Cigarettes in the Dark. Oxman and Person present a mix of originals and standards, playing alongside a simpatico rhythm section: pianist Jeff Jenkins, bassist Ken Walker and drummer Paul Romaine. In addition to tunes by vintage tenors Hank Mobley (“Bossa for Baby”) and Johnny Griffin (“Sweet Sucker”), the album includes a relaxed, grooving take on the title track and two songbook ballads featuring the beautiful phrasings of vocalist Annette Murrell: “Everything Happens to Me” and “Crazy He Calls Me.”

John Stein - Watershed - Whaling City Sound

There’s really something to the idea that experience helps you see things more clearly. On the transcendent Watershed, guitarist John Stein’s 15th recording and 11th for Whaling City Sound, Stein, and his simpatico band realize this set of deep grooves with remarkable clarity. Aided by the considerable talents of his band, including Frank Herzberg (bass), ZéEduardo Nazario (drums), Daniel Grajew (keyboards), and Teco Cardoso (flute and saxes), Stein manages to reveal the magic hiding in these grooves and rhythms. Recorded in São Paulo, Brazil, Watershed features John’s compositions, jazz classics by Jim Hall, Joe Henderson, Pat Martino, and a timeless gem by Henry Mancini. The exceptional band of musicians is fully committed, achieving stylistic variety, deep grooves, and authentic feeling on all the tunes. Watershed is suffused with lyricism and artistic clarity as he raises the bar for his own future visions.

Gloria Reuben & Marty Ashby - For All We Know - MCG Jazz

Gloria Reuben and Marty Ashby perform a collection of tunes, intimately exploring the beautiful, sometimes painful, oftentimes mystifying nature of love and relationships. All of the songs on For All We Know, soon to be released on the MCG Jazz recording label, carry the listener through the myriad of emotions that entwines the heart while one wishes for a love, wins a love or loses a love. The song titles alone tell a powerful story that contains a message, a memory or a desire that anyone who has ever been in a relationship can connect with. All of the songs evoke in the listener the question: how do you face the denial, sorrow, anger that arises from a break-up, a lost love, and pick yourself up to start over and celebrate love once again?

Joey Alexander - Warna - Verve Records

Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Joey Alexander’s major label debut album WARNA is out now on Verve Records. The title translates as “colour” from the feted musician’s native Bahasa language. WARNA showcases a collection of Alexander’s reflective and moving original music, and shows his growing confidence as a musician and bandleader. It captures the joy of music-making that he shares with his fellow trio members, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Kendrick Scott. The new album will arrive in the wake of his four earlier releases that earned Alexander no fewer than three Grammy nominations as well as critics’ and readers’ poll victories in both DownBeat and JazzTimes. Also joining the core piano trio on several tracks on WARNA are Venezuelan-born percussion Luisito Quintero and flautist Anne Drummond.

Ellen Edwards - A New York Session - Stonefire Music

The story behind singer-songwriter Ellen Edwards’ dynamic breakthrough EP A New York Session begins with her songwriting teacher, legendary country artist Suzy Bogguss, loving the Atlanta based singer-songwriter’s jazz-based material and hooking up her student with her former producer, veteran keyboardist and producer Jason Miles. Hearing immediate potential in Ellen’s powerfully emotive storytelling and distinctive phrasing, Miles quickly assembled a Big Apple based ensemble of session greats – including trumpeter Randy Brecker, pianist Robbie Kondor, guitarist Jeff Mironov, bass player Will Lee, Drums Gene Lake, percussionist Richie Morales and B3, Strings and Vibes Jason Miles- to bring spontaneity, soul and grit to Ellen’s natural expressive gifts. From the metaphor filled reflections of the piano and vocal driven focal track “Blue and Green” to the moody, soulful and easy swinging “Let the Fire Grow” (featuring a lush trumpet solo and harmony lines by Randy Brecker), the songs on A New York Session perfectly reflect these more intimate, heart on the sleeve sensibilities.

Jae Sinnett's Zero to 60 Quartet - Just When You Thought - J-Nett Music

The exciting second release from Jae Sinnett’s Zero to 60 Quartet Just When You Thought… features Ralph Bowen on tenor saxophone, Allen Farnham at the piano and Fender Rhodes and Terry Burrell playing both electric and acoustic bass continues their incredible and versatile musical journey. Sinnett wrote and arranged all the music himself. It’s a remarkable demonstration of compositional variety. Many styles are represented from modern syncopated funk and jazz fusion to straight ahead, hard core swinging jazz. His compositions are deeply melodic, intricate, rhythmically and harmonically sophisticated, memorable and played to perfection! Each song presents unique musical challenges for the musicians. There’s a masterful balance between the composed and the improvisation. Few drummers playing today write with his amazing versatility. Just When You Thought… has something for everyone.

Nick Finzer - Cast of Characters - Outside in Music

An improviser with a gorgeously rich, expressive sound, the trombonist, composer, producer and educator Nick Finzer has long been recognized as an expert musical storyteller. But with his new sextet album, Cast of Characters, available February 28th, through his label Outside in Music, he’s crafted his most profound narrative yet, an exploration of the formative figures we meet throughout our lives and how their impact changes over time. “Each of us responds and develops on our journey with the influence of the people we meet,” he says. “We follow, we depart, we react and we grow in myriad ways based on the experiences we encounter.” Cast of Characters is much more than a tribute project or an homage to musical mentors; rather, it’s a probe into the nature of influence, containing a strong message of self-empowerment. As the title of the album’s final track puts it, “We’re more than the sum of our influences.”

Lynne Arriale Trio - Chimes Of Freedom - Challenge Records

Chimes of Freedom, Lynne Arriale’s 15th album as a leader, was recorded in Europe for release by Challenge Records International. Lynne is joined by renowned musicians, Dutch bassist/co-producer Jasper Somsen, drummer, E.J. Strickland, and guest vocalist, K.J. Denhert. In Chimes, her most passionate artistic statement to date, Lynne reflects on freedom, cultural diversity, and her wish that all refugee families may reach an inclusive safe harbor among the democratic nations of the world. This remarkable collection features seven of Lynne’s original, deeply personal works. The spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child”, together with Lynne’s evocative “Journey”, “The Dreamers”, “3 Million Steps”, “Hope”, “The Whole Truth” and “Lady Liberty” weave a dramatic narrative, crowned by the trio’s collaboration with K.J. Denhert singing Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom” and Paul Simon’s “American Tune”.