The Verve Jazz Ensemble - All In - LightGroove

Those who can appreciate the long expansive arc of jazz, and celebrate it for its intrinsic and emotional value – independent of record sales or radio airplay – will revel in the originality and respectful hard bop focus of the latest from the Verve Jazz Ensemble, All In.  This is album #8 for the New York-Tri State-rooted ensemble, returning to the septet configuration first road-tested on their #1 radio airplay album from 2018, Connect the Dots. With the return of Alexa Tarantino and Willie Applewhite, the core 5 VJE + 2 leans into an engaging mix of standards, off the well-trod path classics, and two originals by the band’s trumpeter, and album Executive Producer, Tatum Greenblatt. EP Greenblatt describes the record’s jumping off point as “a mid-20th century Americana kind of vibe.” From “a simmering pot” of possible tune choices, he and VJE leader and drummer Josh Feldstein selected the record’s 10 programming choices.The resulting arrangements and compositions are fresh and yet comfortably familiar, like the VJE’s demeanor on stage.

Bill Warfield and The Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra – Time Capsule - DaPlanet Arts Network

Trumpeter and composer Bill Warfield has entered a period of reflection, taking his critically acclaimed ensemble, The Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra, along with him for their latest output – Time Capsule. This 12-track recording finds the trumpeter amidst a rhythmic awakening while he reflects on some of his greatest musical influences. Time Capsule presents like an orchestral memoir, deviating from categorization and cultivating a comprehensive overview of Warfield’s stylistically vast but sonically familiar repertoire. Bonding with intention and response, Warfield orchestrates the impact each selected tune has had on the direction of his artistry while sharing a record that is above all else, autobiographical. Over the past decade, Warfield has issued three records alongside his Hell’s Kitchen Funk Orchestra. On Time Capsule, he assembles a new iteration of the orchestra, placing, as he describes, a fervent emphasis on “the power of the horns.” Warfield’s arrangements explore their shapeshifting quality as they form and reform around each selection, becoming a gospel choir, a syncopated pulse, lush Broadway overtures, harmonic pads for solo gestures, shouts and melodic leads.

Santi Debriano and Arkestra Bembe – Ashanti – JoJo Records

Panama-born and New York-based Santi Debriano steers away from simplicity. The bassist-composer, who emigrated to the United States from Panama at the age of four and later obtained an ethnomusicology graduate degree from Wesleyan University, has made a point to transpose Afro-Caribbean tradition onto his compositional work. His latest mark, Ashanti, finds West African language and ritual at its core. Alongside his Arkestra Bembé, Debriano harnessed the power of the Yoruba tribe’s bembé — a celebration involving food, drink, music and dance — and fabricated his own, pandemic-inspired jam session tradition of a similar intimacy. Countless weeks of bembés yielded Ashanti, the stalwart bassist’s eighth release as a leader and first via Jojo Records. As weeks went by during the pandemic, Debriano’s compositional imagination stretched in tandem with what would become his Arkestra BembéThis stellar cast finds Debriano as anchor on bass with Robby Ameen on drums, TK Blue on alto saxophone, Andrea Brachfeld on flute, Tommy Morimoto on tenor saxophone, Ray Scro on baritone saxophone, Emile Turner on trumpet, Adrian Alvárado on guitar and Mamiko Watanabe on piano.

Lakecia Benjamin – Phoenix - Whirlwind Recordings

Phoenix is the highly anticipated, expansive next album in the musical evolution of alto saxophonist and composer Lakecia Benjamin, and first for Whirlwind Recordings. The album was produced by the multi-Grammy award winning Terri Lyne Carrington and featuring a star-studded line up of specially curated guests, Dianne Reeves, Georgia Anne Muldrow, Patrice Rushen, Sonia Sanchez, Angela Davis and Wayne Shorter. The band comprises trumpeter Josh Evans, Victor Gould on keys, Orange Rodriguez on synths, drummer Enoch (EJ) Strickland, percussionist Nêgah Santos and bassist Ivan Taylor. Trumpeter Wallace Roney Jr, Rhodes organist Anastassiya Petrova and bassist Jahmal Nichols all join for one track each. Phoenix is a deeply personal outing for Lakecia and presents mostly original compositions written throughout the seasons. “I was clear that this project was to feature women that I have looked up to my entire life who have a prominent place in jazz or in the community. I wrote each song around their skillset so they wouldn’t have to do anything but be themselves,” says Lakecia.

Richie Goods & Chien Chien Lu – Connected - Richman Music Inc

Jazz-funk bass extraordinaire Richie Goods and in-demand vibraphonist Chien Chien Lu are expanding their collaborative musical relationship with the upcoming release of Connected, a multi-dimensional, riveting conversation constructed around unity. While offering imagery of love and peace, frequent collaborators Goods and Lu present a dynamic landmark contextualizing unwarranted violence against African American and Asian communities. While bridging the gap between their respective backgrounds, the pair cements their synergistic harmonic sensibilities with the release of Connected. With Lu on vibes and marimba throughout and Goods splitting his time between electric and upright bass, Connected also includes the all-star contributions of drummer Allan Mednard and guitarist Quintin Zoto. Special guests include vocalists Sy Smith, Jamison Ross and Pastor Dr. Adolfus Lacey, drummers Lil John Roberts and David Frazier Jr, percussionist Danny Sadownick, keyboardist BIGYUKI, Shedrick Mitchell on organ and piano, Brett Williams on keys and rhodes and Mike King on rhodes and organ.

Riccardi-Flynn Quintet - Ghost Hits - Solid Jackson Records

Longtime musical partners address their hard bop roots while adding some modernist touches on their sophomore project Ghost Hits. Recorded at Ghost Hit Recording studio, built into a historic church in West Springfield, Mass., Ghost Hits shows the Riccardi-Flynn quintet upping their game on their sophomore release for Solid Jackson Records. Guitarist Mario Riccardi and alto saxophonist Shaun Flynn have forged a chemistry built on their shared hard bop foundation and mutual desire to push the envelope on what jazz is. On their sophomore outing, Ghost Hits, a follow-up to their potent 2021 debut, Happiness Awaits, Riccardi and Flynn put their modernist stamp on a set of timeless standards. Joined by the gifted young pianist-keyboardist Cameron Campbell, currently an undergrad at the Manhattan School of Music making his recording debut, his bassist brother Conway Campbell Jr., who is in the graduate program at MSM, and drummer Jimmy Gavagan, an alumni of the Hartt School of Music, Riccardi and Flynn combine an urge to swing with an eagerness to re-imagine chestnuts like “How Deep Is The Ocean,” “You Must Believe in Spring” and “Stella By Starlight,” all tunes they played innumerable times while under the tutelage of saxophonist-educator and former Jazz Messenger Javon Jackson during their six-year tenure at the Hartt School of Music.

Lisa Hilton – Paradise Cove – Ruby Slipper Productions

“I think we all need jazz in our lives these days,” composer, pianist, bandleader & producer Lisa K. Hilton writes in the liner notes for her upcoming release, Paradise Cove“From its inception ragtime, jazz and blues were created to boost moods or morale by America’s earliest composers, such as Scott Joplin, Ferdinand ‘Jelly Roll’ Morton or Nick La Rocca in the early 1900s. Our world today desires and deserves a lift after the last couple years, and with the music of Paradise Cove we aim to boost spirits everywhere.” Hilton’s twenty-sixth recording debuts her dynamic new L.I.L.O. Quartet with Hilton on piano, trumpeter Igmar Thomas, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire. (L.I.L.O. for their first initials). The nine original tracks and two cover tunes range from the expressive melodicism of “Another Simple Sunday With You” and the title track “Paradise Cove” to the wildly upbeat blowing on Dizzy Gillespie’s 1957 jazz classic “Birks’ Works,” Hilton’s own “Blues Vagabond” as well as her “Fast Time Blues.” These tracks exhibit plenty of the quartet’s improvisational fireworks along with some retro vibes. On a quieter note, the wistful cover of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s 1965 pop hit “What the World Needs Now is Love” and the moving “Storybook Sequel” showcase a band in touch with a range of emotions and performance styles.

Jae Sinnett's Zero to 60 Quartet w/ The Symphonicity Orchestra - Live At The Sandler Center - J-Nett

The concept of jazz meets orchestra isn’t new but rarely is the orchestra incorporated with the jazz ensemble as it’s demonstrated on Live at the Sandler Center. Jae Sinnett’s Zero to 60 Quartet weaves in and out beautifully surrounded by the lush-ness of Symphonicity. It’s more of one cohesive unit rather than jazz with strings. It’s considerably more involved than the string concepts of years gone by with jazz. “In choosing the music for this project I needed to find a balance that would reflect the strength of the quartet and the strengths of the orchestra. The orchestra is filled with classical players so swinging would present challenges. Considering, I picked songs of mine that are written and played with more of a straight eighth note rhythmic feel. The exception would be Noreaster. When talking with Allen Farnham about his orchestrations of the music we both wanted the orchestra to be more inclusive with the quartet. Not just a back drop. We believe we succeeded. The tonal textures and flow captures our musical intentions. There’s melodic and lyrical beauty, harmonic sophistication and rhythmic inventiveness.” Jae Sinnett. Indeed there is combined with a perfect balance of orchestral sensibilities and jazz improvisation.

Hey Rim Jeon - Groovitude - Baseline Entertainment

Described as a “brilliant pianist” by legendary saxophonist Benny Golson, Hey Rim Jeon has been featured on NBC’s Weekend Today in New York, and KBN, Korea’s National TV network channel. As leader of her own band, Hey Rim Jeon and Friends, she has performed both nationally and internationally. Her album Mona Lisa Puzzle has been described as an “intense, intelligent statement” by Bill Milkowski of Jazz Times Magazine, won the Best Jazz Album category in the 2009 New England Urban Music Awards, and reached CD Baby’s “Top 10 Modern Creative Jazz Albums” list. A recipient of Berklee’s prestigious Exemplary Mentorship Award in 2021, Jeon is the first Korean faculty member at the institution. She has been teaching in the Piano Department since 2010.

Ron Bosse ft. Jeff Lorber - Burning Room Only - Deep Cat Records

When Ron Bosse first began the process of recording this album with producer Jeff Lorber, he immediately noticed that they both shared similar values in that they feel that all aspects of the production require a high level of attention to detail. Not only is it about the songs, it’s about the orchestration, it’s about the musicians, the solos, the way it’s recorded, how it’s mixed and mastered, the album artwork, the name of the songs. The album name “Burning Room Only” captures this mindset. As we all know, musicians love using the term “Burning” to describe a great musical performance – so in the context of the album, it means “there’s only room for the best” or to say it another way “there’s only room for the most burning elements”.  On a deeper level, the name is also a metaphor for how I feel about people – if you want to be successful in life, you need to surround yourself with people who share the same mindset. In essence, there’s “only room” for positive people that have a “burning” desire to succeed.