Saturday, March 29, 2014


March has brought me a plethora of new and inviting music, on a wide range of labels from countries near and far. It's time to attack some of them.

Product Details
Sara Serpa has had a string of special releases in the past few years, and in February 2013 I wrote glowingly about her duet with Ran Blake, "Aurora" (Clean Feed 2012) and noted her earlier "Camera Obscura" (CD Baby 2010), also with Blake. At the time I noted that Serpa is hardly a classic jazz singer, so do not expect that. But she is a wonderfully eclectic singer with a simple voice that is wonderfully reassuring. Here on her newest release, with husband Andre Matos on guitar and bass, "Primavera" (Inner Circle Music 2014) they have composed twelve of 14 pieces.  The arrangements are once more simple and sparse, just the duo on most pieces, with some guest appearances including a lovely soprano sax solo on one piece by Greg Osby,  blending beautifully with her clear voice, range and dynamic patterns.  The words to describe the pieces are mellifluous, swaying, seductive, and soothing. Some pieces are in Portuguese, some in English, and some are wordless, but all wash over you with a calming effect. It's hard to say much more, these are such lovely little melodies that connect with Serpa's heritage at times, and with contemporary music at others. A tour de force. 

Courage Music: The Ellen Rowe Quintet

Ellen Rowe Quintet, "Courage Music" (PKO Records 2014) is a terrific set of ten modern jazz pieces, eight of which were written by Rowe, and the others by Ingrid Jensen and Cole Porter. Ingrid Jensen joins pianist and composer Rowe on trumpet and flugelhorn, with the others Andrew Bishop on tenor sax and clarinet, Kurt Krahnke on bass, and Pete Siers on drums. Paul Ferguson joins on the final piece, playing trombone; and the University of Michigan Chamber Jazz Ensemble plays on the tune "And Miles to Go (Part 2)". Rowe is an accomplished pianist, composer, and educator at the University of Michigan (GO BLUE!) who has worked with performers like Kenny Wheeler, John Clayton, and Tom Harrell, among others. The beauty in this recording rests with the wonderful compositions and arrangements by Rowe, which create some lovely layering and textures throughout. The harmonic pallet and the colorations form each performer serve Rowe well in bringing energy and light to her songs. The songs are each distinct, some very impressionistic and others hewing closer to the mainstream jazz tradition. All have a deep beauty that is a joy to listen to.  
Product Details

Tim Hegarty, "Tribute" (Miles High Records 2014) is a straight-ahead, full-bodied set of ten songs played by a quintet of Hegarty on tenor and soprano saxes, Mark Sherman on vibes, Kenny Barron on piano, Rufus Reid on bass, and Carl Allen on drums. With a group like that there is no reason to say much more of course; suffice it to say these are classic jazz tunes from Hegarty's teachers, some who he worked with and others who taught him through their recordings. Jimmy Heath, George Coleman, Monk, Coltrane and Bird are all mentioned in the notes. This is a robust, energetic CD that swings boldly on songs like Heath's "Gingerbread Boy", Joe Henderson's "Inner Urge" and Coleman's "Amsterdam After Dark." Hegarty own contributions fit the form beautifully on this wonderful example of up to date mainstream jazz. 

Three down, many more to go for March. What a month! 

1 comment:

  1. Sara Serpa reminds me of a vocal Pat Metheny. I went to her website and heard quite a few tracks. She has a very different approach to the jazz vocal. Normally, you expect a song in the traditional sense, a head with some improv, but I am enjoying the color of her voice and the instrumentation she chooses on her album. I am trying to find new music and this is definitely out of my comfort zone but I really like it.

    Ellen Rowe and Tim Hegarty is more my speed. I enjoy the traditonal ABA form but I really like the original compostions. Several of my muscian friends will enjoy those albums.

    I am sharing all of these on my blog and facebook page. Thanks for finding these.