Rhythm Planet Jukebox – Jazz, Brazilian, World, and More

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Saxophonist Sharel Cassity Photo courtesy of the artist

The playlist kicks off with a terrific new album by saxophonist Sharel Cassity, who at 18 was awarded a full scholarship to North Texas University for classical saxophone. Cassity went on to study jazz, earning degrees from The New School for Jazz & Contemporary Music as well as The Julliard School’s Jazz Studies program. She’s much in demand and performs regularly with Dizzy Gillespie Latin Experience, Cyrus Chestnut Brubeck Quartet, Lewis Nash, Joe Chambers, just to name a few. Cassity also teaches around the Chicago area at Columbia College, DePaul University, and Elgin Community College. With all this on her plate, I’m grateful she made time to record the new album and did so while ill with post-Lyme disease. It’s called Fearless, which pretty much sums up this superb horn player.

Several new tracks on the playlist reflect upon the turbulent times in which we live. We hear “Discord” by trombonist Javier Nero, featuring vocalist Lauren Desberg, vibraphonist Kyle Athayde, and pianist Shelly Berg. Classically trained, Nero plays in a variety of styles and contexts. His new album is called Freedom. After that, pianist/composer Jesse Fischer plays “Healingfrom his latest album Resilience. Turkish musician Mehmet Ali Sanlikol’s new album The Rise Up: Stories of Strife, Struggle, and Inspiration features sax veteran Dave Liebman, and was inspired in part by the artist's admiration for the Miles Davis/Gil Evans classic Sketches of Spain. The new album is structured around three episodes from Middle Eastern history as well as the current pandemic. Musically, it presents a wonderful fusion of jazz with traditional Turkish instruments and colors.

I love Brazilian music. If I were stuck on a desert island with a solar-powered CD player, I’d want to be stranded with plenty of it there, including these songs on the playlist. There’s Jobim’s beautiful song “Caminhos Cruzadosperformed by the duo Jason Foureman (bass) and Stephen Anderson (piano). We remember the late British guitar maestro Julian Bream, who passed away a week ago, and listen to his andantino movement of Villa-Lobos’ guitar concerto.  Nana Caymmi, part of an illustrious dynasty of Brazilian musicians, sings “Sem Você(Without You). I had to include João Gilberto’s “Estate(Summer) to estivate and reflect on current unprecedented heat waves and climate change. Fleet-fingered Brazilian guitarist Ricardo Grilli performs “Signsfrom his new album 1962. I love the voice of Silvia Nicolatto, a singer from Minas Gerais state, on her song “Janaina,” as well as that of accordion great Dominguinhos with “A Fé Do Lavradorfrom his album Duetos. We finish the Brazilian set with Astrud Gilberto’s version of Baden Powell’s “Berimbau,” with arrangement by Gil Evans.

I always love outstanding jazz records, and this week’s selections have been on repeat in my home. We hear from Norwegian bassist Mats Eilertsen’s beautiful album And Then Comes the Night, veteran bassist Gary Peacock with Bill Evans’s classic “Blue in Green,” and drummer Rick Cutler, who studied at Juilliard and with Chick Corea. Cutler plays his ballad “Time,” which features vocalist Charlotte Durkee.

On the world music front, the playlist includes the new album from Malian guitarist Afel Bocoum, alum of Ali Farka Toure’s group, produced by Nick Gold and Damon Albarn. London-born, Lagos-raised Michael Olatuja plays “Ma Foyafrom his new album Lagos Pepper Soup, which also features Angelique Kidjo and guitarist Lionel Loueke. We also check out the hypnotic and groovy track “Mela Melafrom QWANQWA, a modern Ethiopian outfit. They have a new album coming out next month, to be released on Ethiopian new year.

Ethiopian group QWANQWA Ethiopian group QWANQWA (Photo courtesy of QWANQWA)

From the cross-pollination department, classical guitarist Sharon Isbin and Indian sarod master Amjad Ali Khan play “Romancing Earth – Raga Pilu” from the album Strings for Peace. It reminds me of Ravi Shankar’s work with violinist Yehudi Menuhin, mixing Eastern and Western music. These collaborations confirm once again that music transcends cultural boundaries.

Rhythm Planet Playlist for 8/25/20

  1. Sharel Cassity / “Whimsy” / Relsha Works
  2. Javier Nero / “Discord” / Outside in Music
  3. Jesse Fischer / “Healing” / Soul Cycle Music
  4. Jason Foureman & Stephen Anderson / “Caminhos Cruzados” / Summit Records
  5. Julian Bream / Heitor Villa-Lobos—“Guitar Concerto, W501: II. Andantino e andante – Candenza” / Sony Classical
  6. Ricardo Grilli / “Signs” / Deko Music
  7. Sharon Isbin & Amjad Ali Khan / “Romancing Earth – Raga Pilu” / Zoho Music
  8. Afel Bocoum / “Penda Djiga” / World Circuit
  9. Qwanqwa / “Mela Mela” / FPE Records
  10. Michael Olatuja / “Ma Foya” / Whirlwind Recordings
  11. Mats Eilertsen, Harmen Fraanje, Thomas Strønen / “Albatross” / ECM Records
  12. João Gilberto / “Estate” / Rhino/Warner Records
  13. Gary Peacock Trio / “Blue in Green” / ECM Records
  14. Silvia Nicolatto / “Janaina” / Allen Johnston
  15. Rick Cutler / “Time” / New Dude Records
  16. Nana Caymmi / “Sem Você” / Tratore
  17. Mehmet Ali Sanlikol & Whatsnext? / “A Vicious Murder” / DÜNYA
  18. Dominguinhos, Quinteto Violado / “A Fé Do Lavrador” / RCA Records
  19. Astrud Gilberto / “Berimbau” / Verve Reissues