Charles Lloyd/Rabo de Nube (ECM)***1/2: The potential that Charles Lloyd’s current quartet is as significant as its first release is satisfying. In keeping with the dramatic cover photo of the group on stage, the music recorded live in Europe, ebbs and flows, alternately soars and sooths. The leader (on sax and flute), pianist Jason Moran and the vigorous rhythm section (Reuben Rogers double bass, Eric Harland drums and percussion) assume prominence by turns to make a statement or comment on the declaration just prior. And the entire ensemble speaks eloquently, its tone set by the venerable leader who bestows his own broad vocabulary on compatriots already articulate in their own way.
Maceo Parker/Roots & Grooves[2-cd](HeadsUp)***1/2: Recorded in concert with Germany’s much lauded WDR big band, the saxophonist who played such an integral role in forging the signature sound of James Brown divides the double cd set between a oaring tribute to Ray Charles and an excursion into funk territory. Even the vocal tracks on the former exhibit all the joie de vivre that permeates its surroundings and the successive CD. Don’t let yourself fall prey to the impatience voiced by one concert attendee anxious for Parker & co to bring the funk: both sessions are rousing and, at times, exalting in the sound of this 21-piece band.
Miguel Zenon/Awake (Marsalis Music)**** If you’ve ever seen Miguel Zenon live, it should come as little surprise to hear how he has transferred that spontaneous dynamic into the ambition of extensive production and arrangement on Awake. Orchestration and additional horns provide a launching pad for vigorous interplay between the leader/saxophonist and his band, all of who imbue their playing with as much nuance as energy. All the more reason this CD will appeal to musiclovers seeing to broaden their listening horizons as well as the genuine jazz aficionado.
Steve Bernstein/Diaspora Suite (Tzadik)****: Right from the opening seconds, a deeply spiritual quality is readily apparent in this music. Which is not surprising given the roots of the concept in Hebrew is religious, but concept does not always translate to execution as it does so flawlessly here. Bernstein is clearly as accomplished a bandleader as composer and instrumentalist, because all the participants (including very conspicuously guitarist Nels Cline) play with a deeply passionate commitment, their individual inspiration thoroughly in keeping with the ambition at work—and fully realized—on this cd.
John Ellis/Dance Like There’s No Tomorrow (Hyena)***1/2: Ellis’ idiosyncratic approach to band leading and music making wouldn’t count for much if he and his group didn’t have chops, individually and collectively. But they do and then some, as the organist finishes Ellis’ sentences and the sousaphone—which may take some getting used to– supplies as much bottom as any quartet would need, cushioning the drummer as often as partnering in rhythm. The saxophonist leader’s fondness for all things NOLA manifests itself in a truly celebratory atmosphere here even when the music is quiet.