Stan Killian/Evoke (Sunnyside): Smooth yet not overly so, Stan Killian’s saxophone leads the brisk charge of his band, including most notably, guitarist Mike Moreno, through a batch of original material that is memorable on its own terms yet leaves plenty of room for improvisation without wholly forsaking its structure. Moreno’s soft yet piercing tone offers a delicious contrast to the leader’s horn but the truth of the matter is, there are no slouches in the band at all.
Benny Green/Magic Beans (Sunnyside): Whether rollicking or ruminative, pianist Green achieves the ambition he notes in his liner essay for the album: striking a keen balance between the mood of blue Note recordings of the Fifties and a more contemporary atmosphere. Green is no more or less fluid than his accompanists though including long-time partner Peter Washington on bass and drummer Kenny Washington: they move as of one mind, which results in a perfectly seamless sound on this cd,
Giovanni Moltoni/Tomorrow’s Past (C#2 Music): Giovanni Moltoni uses his guitar as something of a conductor’s wand on Tomorrow’s Past, as often as not utilizing the instrument to set the stage for accompanying instruments such as Greg Hopkins’ trumpet, which then recedes into the background to, in turn, form a backdrop for his colleagues. The leader’s deferential approach thus makes his own solo interludes that much more welcome, ultimately creating an integrated sound-scape where the album plays like a single piece of music.
Robert Hurst/Bob-A Palindrome (Bebob Records): Self-assured from the very first notes, the music on Robert Hurst’s album reminds why traditional acoustic jazz holds such sway over its devoted fans. Yet the band on BOB weaves in and out of conventional territory through the use of more complex rhythms, the addition of enriching percussion and the electric Rhodes piano of Robert Glasper, thereby broadening its appeal beyond a particular demographic.
Samuel Blaser Quartet/ As the Sea (Huthat Records): Samuel Blasers write contemporary chamber music of the highest order, an approach all the more remarkable when executed in a live setting like this, where it’s rendered in arguably its most accessible form. Cerebral as is this work, in both composition and performance, it nevertheless takes on a charged atmosphere that generates an almost equally visceral quality, particularly when heard from start to finish.