Thursday, January 16, 2014

A SNEAK PEEK AT NEW MUSIC FROM MATT WILSON, CRAIG HANDY & CAMILLE THURMAN

Camille Thurman is from St. Alban, New York. She has a degree in Geological and Environmental Sciences from Binghamton University. She plays the tenor sax, the alto sax, and the flute. Two years in a row, she won the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award. To date, Nicholas Payton, Dianne Reeves, Alicia Keys, Yolanda Adams and Terri Lyne Carrington are some of the stars Thurman has worked with. On February 4th, Hot Tone Music will release Thurman’s first album Origins. You couldn’t ask for a better debut. It shows all Thurman’s musical gifts. Of the 13 cuts she wrote 11. The lady can write, sing, and blow. I was drawn to the latter immediately. Her website doesn’t give her age. I suspect she’s in her twenties. But she has veteran chops. Her main influences appear to be the late tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine. Although, I’ll bet her rich tone and her zooming through the changes of Forward Motion, Indigo Moments, and Jitterbug Waltz, will earn her comparisons to saxophonist Tia Fuller. Origins is a pleasing first outing that could serve as Thurman’s musical mission statement.

Saxophonist Craig Handy’s Craig Handy & 2nd Line Smith is his first album in 14 years, and his first for Okeh. The album will be out January 21st. Mark that date on your calendar because this album is worth getting. It’s partly New Orleans line music and partly a tribute to the great jazz organist Jimmy Smith. All the tunes on the album are Smith’s. Handy loaded the album with star power. There’re guest spots from Wynton and Jason Marsalis, Herlin Riley, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Ali Jackson. What a marvelous group of jazz musicians to attend this block party. What propels the album is the excellent organ playing of Kyle Koehler, a native of Philadelphia, the city that gave us the great jazz organists Shirley Scott, Charles Earland and Don Patterson. After 14 years away from recording as a leader Handy’s studio work has no visible signs of rust. He's a storm trooper of a saxophonist. He’s always been. The crowd favorites here are Minor Chant and Ready ‘n’ Able, and Mojo Workin’. 

Steep in mainstream jazz and in the avant-garde jazz drummer Matt Wilson is. He even fools around with pop from time to time. For his 11th album Gathering Call, you get to experience his diverse musical interests. Wilson plays some originals, music by Duke Ellington, Charles Rouse, plus the BeyoncĂ© hit If I Were a Boy, which is one of the album’s standouts. Sometimes Wilson has worked with a piano-less band. His chops are so vast and he swings so volcanically chances are you won’t notice a piano is missing from the mix. For years, I believed a jazz band couldn’t swing without a pianist. That belief changed after listening to Wilson’s 2009 album That’s Gonna Leave a Mark. On Gathering Call coming out on Palmetto January 21, Wilson worked with his quartet -- saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Chris Lightcap, and cornet player Kirk Knuffke (the quartet’s newest member – As a special feature Wilson hired the top-tier pianist John Medeski. And Wilson made go use of Medeski’s skills. He works well on some of the album’s more lightweight free-jazz cuts such as Some Assembly Required and How Ya going? Although he’s not on every cut Medeski's contribution is a big part of the album’s overall appeal.
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