New Music & Rediscoveries

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Chucho Valdes Promotional photo A

I hope you’ve been enjoying last week’s new music discoveries playlist. We continue this week with another extended playlist filled with an eclectic selection of new releases and rediscoveries. I’ll spotlight just a few below (in no particular order) as there are too many tracks to write about in the post.

I first want to extol the amazing Azar Lawrence, who channels Coltrane’s spirit (and sound) better than most anybody except Pharoah Sanders. Azar worked with singer Jean Carn on 1974’s Bridge into the New Age. That album pre-dates and pre-figures all the stuff for which Kamasi Washington is now getting kudos. Azar’s sound on a ballad like “It’s Easy to Remember”—which Coltrane recorded on the Ballads album—will make you love the tenor saxophone even if you thought you didn’t. It’s gorgeous.

Trumpeter Charlie Porter plays “Prologue” from his latest eponymous album. I love the sound of a cappella trumpet, and it’s obvious from hearing this why he is so much in demand. But wait, there’s another Porter in the mix this week. I heard pianist Lewis Porter’s “Day is Done” from his album Beauty & Mystery on Paris’s fip radio online, and was smitten by the song’s beauty. The album features drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and bassist John Patitucci.

Trumpeter Charlie Porter (left) and pianist Lewis Porter (right).

I’m happy to see the vinyl reissue of Marlena Shaw’s 1969 Cadet album The Spice of Life. “California Soul” is a cool track that deejays still love to spin in clubs and on radio. Thanks to Verve/Universal for putting the wax out again. It sounds better than ever. I follow that with a track from the K-pop juggernaut BTS, which has won fans all over the world, transcending language and cultural barriers everywhere with their uplifting songs about self-love and acceptance. BTS is a musical phenomenon that I’m just trying to figure out. Their track “134340” is named after the asteroid number assigned to Pluto after it was stripped of its planetary status, to which the lyrics refer as a metaphor for a breakup.

Ropeadope Records is releasing some fine sides as it celebrates the 20thanniversary of Turntables on the Hudson, popular on radio and clubs for years. We hear the New Zealand collective Fat Freddy’s Drop perform their classic song “Roady” plus another track from Nickodemus & Quantic.

Chucho Valdés comes from a family dynasty of great Cuban pianists, and we hear from his latest album Jazz Batá 2. His famous father, the late Bebo Valdés, was music director at the famous Tropicana Club in Cuba before Castro came to power. Chucho founded the famous modern group Irakere, which changed the rule book of Cuban jazz. His son, pianist Chuchito Valdés, continues to carry on the family torch.

Pianist Aaron Goldberg (Photo: Alejandra Barragán)

On the jazz front, we feature two fine albums from pianists Aaron Goldberg, covering McCoy Tyner’s “Effendi,” and David Hazeltine with the doo-wop classic “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.” The late trumpet master Woody Shaw plays the DietzSchwartz standard “You and the Night and the Music,” recorded at a concert in Bremen, Germany in 1983. Miles Davis, no fountain of praise for other musicians (especially fellow trumpeters), respected Shaw. Shaw’s life ended sadly. He suffered from incurable degenerative eye disease and was almost blind when he returned from Europe in 1988. A lifelong heroin habit didn’t help. He pushed his wheelchair onto the tracks of a Brooklyn subway car and died shortly thereafter at the age 44.

José James is a sort of musical chameleon and certainly a popular one. Covering Bill Withers classics is a great fit for him, and I love his version of “Lovely Day” with Lalah Hathaway. His latest Blue Note album Lean on Me pays tribute to Bill Withers.

Finally, I had to remember the late Nancy Wilson, whose work I adore, with a track from her first album with Cannonball AdderleyThis album is a must for any Wilson fan and one of her best. I’ve featured “Happy Talk” on my radio shows for years, and was happy to pay tribute recently in a remembrance.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 1/29/19

  1. José James & Lalah Hathaway / “Lovely Day” / Lean on Me / Blue Note
  2. Lewis Porter & Terri Lyne Carrington & John Patitucci / “Day is Done” / Beauty & Mystery / Altrisuoni
  3. Sachal Vasandani / “When I Grow Too Old” / Shadow Train / Shadow Train
  4. Azar Lawrence / “It’s Easy to Remember” / Elementals / HighNote Records
  5. Susan Palma-Nidel / “Ao Longo de um Claro Rio de Agua Doce” / Lisboa àSolta / Artez Medicina e Arte, Lda
  6. Charlie Porter / “Prologue” / Charlie Porter / Porter House Press
  7. Chucho Valdéz / “Chucho’s Mood” / Jazz Batá 2 / Mack Avenue Records
  8. Eddie Palmieri / “Abarriba Cumbiaremos (feat. Hermán Olivera)” / Mi Luz Mayor / Ropeadope
  9. Toña La Negra / “Verida Tropical” / La Colección Del Siglo / RCA
  10. Matt Kane / “Viewpoints” / The Other Side of the Story / Bounce-Step Records
  11. Valentin Hadjadj / “Flying” / Girl (Themes & Variations / OMPST) / Deutsche Grammophon
  12. The Scorpions & Saif Abu Bakr / “Forssa Saeeda” / Jazz, Jazz, Jazz (Habibi Funk 009) / Habibi Funk Records
  13. Marlena Shaw / “California Soul” / The Spice of Life / GRP
  14. BTS / “134340” / Love Yourself 轉 ‘Tear’ / Bighit Entertainment
  15. Nickodemus & Quantic / “Mi Swing Es Tropical” / Turntables on the Hudson: Twenty Years of Good Vibes / Wonderwheel Recordings
  16. Rodrigo Gallardo / “El Origen” / El Origin / Wonderwheel Recordings
  17. Fat Freddy’s Drop / “Roady” / Turntables on the Hudson: Twenty Years of Good Vibes / Wonderwheel Recordings
  18. Go Dugong & El Búho / “Vidita” (El Búho Remix) / Tributaries: A Remix Album / Wonderwheel Recordings
  19. The Public Opinion Afro Orchestra / “Fight So Hard” / Naming & Blaming / HopeStreet Recordings
  20. Itiberê Orquestra Família / “Bota para Quebrar” / Pedra do Espia / Far Out Recordings
  21. Aaron Goldberg / “Effendi” / At the Edge of the World / Sunnyside
  22. David Hazeltine / “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” / The Time Is Now / Smoke Sessions
  23. Woody Shaw Quartet / “You and the Night and the Music” / Live in Bremen, 1983 / Elemental Music Records
  24. Nancy Wilson & Cannonball Adderley / “Happy Talk” / Nancy Wilson/Cannonball Adderley / Blue Note Records