Brian Blade: Mama Rosa — Not a jazz recording, but I couldn't resist diving immediately into this rootsy, soulful solo CD by one of my favourite drummers in jazz. The first time I interviewed Brian Blade, about a decade or so ago, he made it clear that his influences were the church, Levon Helm and soul music. Even as he was making waves with Wayne Shorter and other older giants of jazz he was in the studio with Joni Mitchell, Seal and Daniel Lanois. Lanois plays a large role on Mama Rosa—appearing on six of the 13 tracks and holding sway over the general sound of the recording, although Blade produced it himself, along with Adam Samuels. Blade's voice, like Lanois', is effective without being a perfect instrument. His dedication to this music is clear—as clear as his devotion to swinging like a monster behind Shorter, et.al., illustrated in his frequent whoops on various recordings and those times when he plays himself right off his drum throne—and he shows himself to be a better-than-average lyricist, as well. This is a quiet, little gem of a record I'm going to savour over the coming days.
Julian Lage: Sounding Point — Guitarist Julian Lage comes highly recommended by my friend David Adler, who knows a good picker when he hears one. I admire Lage's reach on the recording—everything from pieces inspired by Bernard Hermann's film music to Neal Hefti's "Lil' Darlin'"—and there's no denying his impressive technique. That stated, Sounding Point didn't move me much. I prefer more grit to my guitarists than Lage brings, and my tolerance for gypsy-style playing is low. I'll admit to those prejudices, and recommend this to anyone who enjoys Bela Fleck—who puts in an appearance on three of the 13 pieces—or Birelli Lagrene.
Rob Mazurek Quintet: Sound Is – I've enjoyed cornetist Mazurek enormously both times I've seen him recently at the Guelph Jazz Festival, largely because I found what was going on with his music so mysterious. Particularly with his electronic Brazilian project, his sound is so gauzy and shifting that it's hard to get a fix on him. Heavily featuring vibraphonist Jason Adasiewicz and Tortoise drummer John Herndon, this new quintet is more focused but no less mysteriously compelling. Like late-period Miles Davis, Mazurek prefers to be a colorist, and his vision as a composer and sound organizer always seems to be on a large picture. Without pushing the visual art metaphor too far, Sound Is strikes me as a big canvas filled with strong, bold slashes of movement.