Jazz: Spring 2023

Monarch Jazz Recommendations

Chet Baker
Blue Room

Thanks to Grammy-nominated producer Zev Feldman’s archival label Jazz Detective, the world gets a new album by the late, legendary trumpeter Chet Baker. Released as a limited two-LP set and as a two-CD set and digital download, this pair of unearthed studio sessions recorded in Holland in 1979 showcases the idiosyncratic artist’s eloquent, lyrical trumpet, and on three tracks, his smooth, wistful vocals. Baker is backed solidly by pianist Phil Markowitz, bassist Jean-Louis Rassinfosse and drummer Charles Rice for one session, and pianist Frans Elsen, bassist Victor Kaihatu and drummer Eric Ineke on the other. An extensive booklet features essays, interviews and tributes by Randy Brecker, Enrico Rava and others, as well as photographs. The dazzling Blue Room is a gift to all music lovers and an important addition to the Baker discography. Gratitude to Feldman and Jazz Detective for rediscovering so much vital music.

Sara Caswell
The Way to You

Almost two decades have passed since Grammy-nominated violinist and composer Sara Caswell’s last album as a leader. The Way to You, a top-notch set of brilliant originals and arrangements, is well worth the wait. Caswell’s longstanding quartet with guitarist Jesse Lewis, bassist Ike Sturm and drummer Jared Schonig joined by vibraphonist Chris Dingman make a tight, expressive ensemble. Caswell’s violin sound is sweet and soulful, and her instrumental range impressive. From soaring lyricism to breathtaking poignancy to riveting dynamism, Caswell’s violin becomes an irresistible, commanding voice of its own. The Way to You is a splendid album, one that listeners will gladly and gratefully find their way to again and again.

Leap Day
Trio Live at the Café Bohemia

This debut release from a dauntless new trio marks the reopening of a historic New York City jazz club. Saxophonist Jeff Lederer, bassist Mimi Jones and drummer Matt Wilson, each outstanding artists in their own right, shine in this lively, offbeat and delightful ensemble. Recorded on Leap Day and Leap Day Eve 2020 just after the reopening of the Bohemia and just before pandemic shutdowns, the set reflects the artists’ commitment to collaborative and adventurous music making. Released by renowned photographer Jimmy Katz’s admirable artist-focused non-profit Giant Step Arts, it’s a gem of an album, conveying the heady, wonderful, in-the-moment excitement characteristic of the best live jazz.

John Pizzarelli
Stage & Screen

Venerable guitarist and vocalist Pizzarelli released his debut album 40 years ago. He celebrates that anniversary with a new record featuring classic songs from Broadway and Hollywood. Heading up a new trio with pianist Isaiah J. Thompson and bassist Mike Karn, Pizzarelli breathes new life into familiar songs like “Tea for Two,” “Too Close for Comfort” and “As Time Goes By” as well as some lesser-known tunes. Pizzarelli’s guitar mastery and incomparable vocals are evident throughout, solidifying his place as one of our best interpreters of classic and contemporary song. A swinging trio, Pizzarelli’s engaging singing, and fresh arrangements make Stage & Screen a pleasure to listen to, and a sure bet to expand the canon of vocal standards we love.

Felipe Salles
Home Is Here

With their third album, saxophonist and composer Felipe Salles and his Interconnections Ensemble big band delve into a jazz exploration of the immigrant experience and come up big. The recording’s eight towering new pieces draw inspiration from Salles’ fellow immigrants in the jazz community, including Chilean saxophonist Melissa Aldana, legendary saxophonist Paquito D’Rivera, Argentinian vocalist Sofia Rei, Cuban percussionist and saxophonist Yosvany Terry and Australian flugelhornist Nadje Noordhuis. Each work reflects the artist’s personal story with ingenious touches and a diversity of styles, from classical to tango, Brazilian chorinho, Afro-Cuban, pop, folk and more. The dynamic suite is brought to life by thrilling performances from a truly stellar roster of musicians. Home Is Here’s immigrant stories told through music offer an exhilarating and transcendent listening experience.