“MAGIC DANCE: THE MUSIC OF KENNY BARRON” by GREG ABATE (Whaling City Sound) Fall River native Abate and his quartet produce a superb two-CD set of music from NYC pianist Barron, who plays in the quartet with his pal Abate. Barron is one of the most unheralded giants in modern jazz, with the gift of suffusing everything he plays with a warm melodicism, no matter how edgy or complex it might be. Saxophonist Abate is another master of melody, so this is a labor of love that works tremendously well. From the delightfully playful ballad “Cook’s Bay” to the Charlie Parker intensity of “Lemuria,” to the breezy romp of “Voyage,” this is a work that will entice music fans to explore more of Abate and Barron’s work, and both are at the top of their game on this record.
“SONGS FROM MY FATHER” by GERRY GIBBS & THRASHER DREAM TRIOS (Whaling City Sound) His vast musical talent aside, New York City drummer Gerry Gibbs is a genius at conceptualizing jazz projects. This double-CD features 18 songs written by his dad, big band vibes player Terry Gibbs, now in his mid-90s. But Gerry Gibbs took his Thrasher Dream Trio idea to a new level, recruiting four separate groups to deliver this music. Produced during the pandemic, Gerry got around the problem of getting all these people together by packing up his car and a small trailer and driving to wherever they were – a wrinkle that convinces you he’s right when he says his wife, Kyeshie, is the unsung hero of the project. But the trios are jaw-droppingly excellent; with the late Chick Corea and bassist Ron Carter forming one; Kenny Barron and Buster Williams a second; Geoff Keezer and Christian McBride another; and one unique trio consisting of Patrice Rushen on piano and Larry Goldings on B3 organ. The four trios split the tunes evenly, so that just as you marvel at the heady Corea/Carter treatment of “Bopstacle Course,” you can then revel in the Keezer/McBride take on “Nutty Notes.” The Barron/Williams trio shines on “Kick Those Feet,” and that funky Rushen/Goldings trio does “Hippie Twist” with flair. There is one extra song, not penned by the senior Gibbs, and that is “Tango for Terry,” a tribute to the older Gibbs by Corea, and the Chelsea native’s playing on this album is his last recorded performance.
“YOU ARE THERE” by SHAWNN MONTEIRO (Whaling City Sound) Vocalist Monteiro has retired from teaching at the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz at the Hartt School in Hartford and has also taught at Providence College and Rhode Island College. Half of these 12 tracks feature her usual pianist Mike Renzi, while the other half feature Kenny Barron with a core quartet and horns added to about half the tracks. Monteiro has chosen an eclectic collection of covers. The swinging “Let’s Eat Home” takes on a definite pandemic-inspired comic tone while her confident command of “Autumn Leaves” benefits from the way Barron embellishes the melody. “The Shadow of Your Smile” gets a vivid updating and Neil Sedaka’s “Alone At Last” swings with a gentle samba feel. Monteiro’s tone is remarkable throughout, with a smoky sensuality that makes each song feel intimate.