#19, Eric Wyatt Look to the Sky (Peaked at #17, 6 weeks) Brooklyn-born and bred Eric owns a solid berth along the saxophone continuum originally laid out by guys like Parker, Coltrane and Rollins. Throughout his career, his playing has been edgy and inventive, heartfelt and poignant. In fact, his father was good friends with Rollins and after Wyatt’s dad passed away, Sonny Rollins became involved in Eric’s music. “After my dad passed in 1989, Sonny became very present in my music and offered his help. I was given the opportunity to record my first CD, Godson, on the Japanese label King Records. Sonny suggested the title Godson because it explained his and my dad’s Hope. The Godson CD featured Al Foster, Rufus Reid and Mark Soskin, all members of Sonny’s bands. Look to the Sky, Wyatt’s debut for Whaling City Sound and his sixth recording overall, is magnificently realized, both instrumentally and emotionally. There are musical nods to his father (“Jolley Charlie”) and mother (“Psalm for Phennie”), to Coltrane (“My Favorite Things”) and a few other intimate touch-points, some original, a few written by his accompanist, Benito Gonzalez. Indeed, Wyatt is joined here by excellent progressive musicians, including the resounding pianist Gonzalez, drummers Shinnosuke Takahashi and Kyle Pool, Eric Wheeler on bass and Keyon Harrold on trumpet. Together, their music is filled with hope and dedication, reciprocity and passion. With every recording, Wyatt flourishes, in terms of artistry and intensity, power and finesse. Look to the Sky is the man’s—and his band’s— finest and fullest record yet.
Dave Zinno Unisphere River of January (Chartbound) The songs are lavish jazz adventures, rich with texture, ripe with melodicism, and simply joyful audio journeys. The band is spectacular: Unisphere includes the talents of sax man Mike Tucker (Arturo Sandoval), drummer Rafael Barata (Milton Nascimento, Marc Johnson), Leo Genovese (Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spaulding), and Crescent City trumpeter Benny Bloom. Zinno leads them the way a hopeless romantic treats a first love: gently, understanding and worshipful. He glorifies his accompanists and allows them to go on at length, indulging their considerable talents and making River of January a wall of glorious of sound. This isn’t to say that it’s stodgy. Zinno infuses the work with progress. The band takes the vibe of traditional jazz and reverses the paradigm, so the songs, while familiar, certainly don’t remain the same. There are many highlights here, and while it wouldn’t be a waste of space to speak about them individually, it would be easier to say that these tunes all include rushes of adrenaline, sweetness of melody and serious elements of style. River of January is a work of forward thinking tradition and one that has much substance within it to discover.
By: Dan Bilawski
Few things are a given, yet we can always count on a flood of new music making its way into the world over the course of a year. In 2017 some of the best jazz found its path by looking forward, doubling back, and/or branching out. In short, this music and the dedicated artists who make it continued to uphold a legacy paradoxically built on tradition, change, absorption, and refraction. I had the pleasure of listening to more than four hundred albums over the past year, and I covered approximately one hundred of them for All About Jazz. These twenty-five stood tallest in that crowd (Note: selections on this list are NOT ranked):
Here is what Dan Bilawski thought about 92 years young when it released back in June:
“Terry Gibbs – 92 Years Young: Jammin’ At The Gibb’s House 4/3O’s Notes: We have much respect for a 93-year-old musician who can still cut it! In the case of vibraphonist Terry Gibbs, we have much love and admiration for a man who remains in rare form performing with a swinging quartet coaxed by his son, drummer Gerry Gibbs, pianist John Campbell and Mike Gurrola on bass. Yes, Gerry suggested the jam session in dad’s living room and we are now blessed with a wonderful recording of fourteen classics. There’s no showboating, but a heckofa lot of good music that will satisfy a large audience in almost any setting! Hats off to Terry!”To see more from O’s Place Jazz Newsletter click here.