Jennifer Gammill - Heart, Soul & Fire (JG Productions)

Her musical journey has brought her through contemporary worship music, singer-songwriter, and pop styles, but since she settled into jazz, has found a perfect fit and passion for the rest of her life. In her most recent album Heart, Soul & Fire, Jennifer combines her singer-songwriter and jazz sensibilities for a beautiful recording backed by the Jae Sinnett trio.  Gammill exploded onto the jazz scene with her debut at Havana Nights Jazz Club in 2013. Since then, she has continued to grace local stages with her soothing vocals and scintillating flute, performing with live trio and quartet at the 2016 Winter Blues Jazz Fest, a soloist with the Jae Sinnett trio, Town Center in Virginia Beach, Triangle in Williamsburg, Warwick Forest, Jamestown Settlement, Pearl Club, and the Freight Shed in Yorktown in 2016 and 2018 as part of the Cabin Fever series.

Lisa Hilton - Oasis (Ruby Red Slippers)

Reliably exceptional is how many would describe pianist/composer Lisa Hilton. We are almost guaranteed to be blessed with a release from her every year.  Hilton’s composing and performance could be described as existing at the fulcrum of impressionism and expressionism. The one thing all of her performances have is a heartbeat. There is no amorphous meandering in her recordings and Oasis is no exception. Hilton, when employing the standard rhythm section, as she does here with bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Mark Whitfield Jr., relies heavily on the bassist’s time and the drummer’s touch. The lone standard here, George Gershwin’s “Fascinating Rhythm,” illustrates this. Hilton is not above whimsy, allowing the trio broad latitude. Her compositions, “Twist of Fate,” “Oasis,” and “Just for Fun” are swinging-ly grounded in the beat she establishes. This is where Hilton’s charm shines brightest, making music that is original, but sounds so familiar that one could swear to have heard it before. Hilton shows no signs of slowing down or devolving in any way. And, that is a good thing.

Paul Serrato & Co. - Gotham Nights (Graffiti Productions)

The Omaha native’s warmth and passion for composing, performing and producing jazz is hard to resist. Pianist Paul Serrato & Co.’s latest recording, Gotham Nights, is a fine example of the artistic talent Serrato has honed over decades of work on the New York jazz scene. Recent recordings have supplied jazz fans with many gems to enjoy, and the latest effort continues in that direction. There is hope & celebration in Serrato’s music, fueled by the rich and vital expression of Latin Jazz at its mature best.  Serrato continues to record and perform to appreciative audiences worldwide.

Greg Murphy - Bright Idea (Whaling City Sound)

Bright Idea, Greg Murphy’s trio recording with Jeff “Tain” Watts and Eric Wheeler, comes together in a way that embraces all of the places Murphy has been, from his grinding, intensive study in New York, his time in New Orleans with Ellis Marsalis, his pop-funk days in Chicago, and his Latin jazz work with Raphael Cruz. It is a well and fully rounded musical adventure, rife with dimension and color, and his most fully realized recording yet. At this point in his career, we would expect no less. Recorded, produced and arranged by Murphy, Bright Idea features mainly originals, with a few exceptions, including a torrid rendition of the Pharrell Williams tune “Happy.” With Watts and Wheeler alongside, Murphy achieves an energetic vitality on the session, especially on tracks like the newly discovered Coltrane composition, “Untitled Original 11383,” a twelve-bar blues, and Joe Ford’s “Earthlings.” But throughout the album there is generosity, reciprocity and the desire to make memorable and triumphant music. Now swinging with the best, Murphy has come out the other side of life’s challenges and is now destined, even determined, to find his place in the pantheon of jazz piano.

Dennis Blair - Hapless Romantic (Dennis Blair Music)

Dennis Blair is a funny guy, as funny a comedian as you will ever see. But Dennis Blair can also swing, and boy oh boy, can he sing. This new album, Hapless Romantic, is full of songs that sound as though they’re old standards, but are full of Dennis’ signature wit and truly impressive singing. Simply put, the man knows how to render a song. “Came Along for the Ride” is a particular highlight; the song flat out swings. “Smoochin'” – another swingin’ tune – is another highlight; full of humor. The rhythm section is uniformly excellent. The piano playing, particularly, is exceptional, both the rhythm playing and the leads. A fun, hip album from start to finish.

Vanessa Rubin - The Dream Is You: Vanessa Rubin Sings Tadd Dameron (Nibor Records)

“For many years I have touted the music of Tadd Dameron, also a fellow Clevelander, and have been developing an all vocal recording project of some of his well known and obscure vocal tunes.  Already a celebrated arranger, band leader and pianist during the bebop era, Tadd’s genius was further highlighted in 1955 with the most profound recording of his classic, If You Could See Me Now, by the great Sarah Vaughn. There have been many instrumental recordings of Tadd’s music over the years, but what makes this project unique is that it will be the first all vocal recording of Tadd’s music. I sincerely, hope this project will not only shed a brighter spotlight on a phenomenal musician deserving greater recognition and who was also dubbed “the romanticist of the bebop period”, but most importantly I hope it will encourage singers to sing more Dameron!  Tadd said and I am sure you will agree,  “Sure it’s got to be beautiful, but it has to swing.”

Branford Marsalis Quartet - The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul (OKeh Records)

The Branford Marsalis Quartet announces the release of their new album, The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul. The new album finds the celebrated ensemble at a new peak, addressing a kaleidoscope of moods with inspiration and group commitment. The quartet that saxophonist Marsalis has led for the past three decades has always been a model of daring, no-apologies artistry, of ever-widening musical horizons and deepening collective identity. With like-minded support from pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis and drummer Justin Faulkner, the band has long been a model of how to sustain and enlarge a musical outlook that is both historically and stylistically inclusive. The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul confirms Marsalis’ vision. It is sophisticated, adventurous and anything but defensive, and it captures a great band sounding better than ever.

Ehud Asherie Trio - Wild Man Blues (Capri Records)

Pianist Ehud Asherie celebrates the release of his latest album Wild Man Blues.The new recording is an eclectic mainstream masterwork featuring Peter Washington and Rodney Green. On this project, Asherie dips into the ever fertile fields of early New Orleans jazz, swing, bebop, and the Great American Songbook, as well as a deep passion for the music of Brazil. Roping his influences together in high style on Wild Man Blues, Asherie offers up his most cohesive and engaging project to date. With support from an A-list rhythm team of Washington and Green, the historically aware pianist brings new life to tunes ranging from “Wild Man Blues, “And Then She Stopped” and “Parker’s Mood” to “Oh, Lady Be Good,” “Autumn Nocturne” and “Na Baixa Do Sapateiro.” Demonstrating a new performance peak for the leader, Wild Man Blues captures Asherie in sparkling form.

Amina Figarova - Road to the Sun (Amfi Records)

With this release, Amina Figarova is celebrating the 20th anniversary of her band. “In 1998, having a blast playing with a big band made up of students from Thelonius Monk’s Institute of Jazz, outdoors, surrounded by the gorgeous mountains of Aspen Snow Mass, I was thinking how much I wanted to create a smaller band that would have the same power of a big band, but with so much more room in it for each musician to shine. Little did I know this was the beginning of a beautiful journey, one that continues to this day, in which every concert, every recording is another beginning, another thrill, another joy! I conceived of the band as a septet 20 years ago, and later refined it to a sextet in 2005. And many of the most incredible musicians in the world have been a part of this band and of my band family. It is so much fun writing for them, trying out different directions, different unknowns; this continuous journey an exquisite adventure: enlightening, illuminating, beautiful, easy and challenging at the same time.”

Mike Lee - Song for All of Us (IYOUWE)

With his new release, Song For All Of Us (IYOUWE Records), veteran saxophonist Mike Lee shows the breadth of his musical pallet. Lee draws on his wide-ranging musical associations and weaves them together with innovative compositions as well as standard repertoire. There are several different band configurations within this offering. From the core trio of tenor saxophone, bass, and drums, to several different quartet and quintet settings each grouping contributes to the unified sound. Drummer Lenny White and bassist Ed Howard appear throughout adding their masterful propulsion to this set. Lee’s rotating front-line partners include guitarist Dave Stryker, saxophonist Bruce Williams and Mike’s son, saxophonist Julian Lee.