Jazz: Spring 2024

Monarch Jazz Recommendations

Lynne Arriale
Being Human

Pianist and composer Lynne Arriale has been praised for her dazzling technique, poetic lyricism, and singular artistic voice. All that and more is on display on Arriale’s seventeenth album as a leader, featuring her trio with bassist Alon Near and drummer Lukasz Zyta in a sublime suite of ten original pieces celebrating inspirational aspects of human nature. Using figures like Greta Thunberg, Amanda Gorman, and Malala Yousafzai as catalysts, Arriale crafts music embodying the best qualities of our common humanity, offering a unifying, moving balm that uplifts and renews. Being Human is sublime, filled with exquisite music lovingly and expertly performed by one of the most powerful pianists performing today.

Dan Weiss
Even Odds

Acclaimed, adventurous drummer Dan Weiss debuts his extraordinary new trio on Even Odds, a brilliant album featuring six traditionally composed pieces and six daring improvisations. In less adept hands, this approach might seem risky, but Weiss, alto saxophonist Miguel Zenón, and pianist Matt Mitchell are more than up to the challenge. In his original music, Weiss employs a diverse set of rhythmic influences, including jazz, Indian classical, West African, and extreme metal, to astounding effect. The improvisations grow from percussive fragments and grooves Weiss presents to his trio mates. They prove to be fruitful fodder, evolving into music that’s at turns surprising, often thrilling, and always engrossing. On Even Odds, Weiss throws the sonic, rhythmical dice and hits a resounding jackpot.

Christopher Zuar Orchestra

In his liner notes for the album, iconic pianist Fred Hersch calls composer/bandleader Christopher Zuar’s Exuberance “a mature statement by a great composer in his prime, performed by a stellar ensemble with passion and care,” and he’s spot on. On his electrifying second album, Zuar channels his musical creativity into tracing his personal evolution through his relationship with his wife and collaborator, animator Anne Beal. This is no naïve, simplistic puppy love, and there’s nothing sappy about this music. Composed over five years, Exuberance represents the culmination of a fertile human and artistic journey. Zuar’s 22-piece orchestra, conducted by Mike Holober, perfectly conveys the undulating emotional landscapes of a new relationship and the rich rewards of human connection and love. Stirring and uplifting, Zuar’s skillfully composed, passionately performed music is pure joy.

Art Tatum
Jewels In The Treasure Box

The title of Resonance Records’ latest release is no exaggeration. These nearly three—count ’em, three—hours featuring late piano genius Art Tatum with guitarist Everett Barksdale and bassist Slam Stewart are treasures indeed. The title refers to critic Gary Giddins’s description of Tatum’s arpeggios, runs, flurries, bass walks, and other pianistic techniques as “jewels in his treasure box,” and they’re on full display in these live recordings as Tatum and his trio dazzle the crowd  with their exceptional jazz artistry. Recorded at Chicago’s Blue Note Jazz Club in 1953, this is a major addition to the small group live performances of the keyboard maestro. Produced by Zev Feldman, the collection includes tributes and recollections by Sonny Rollins, Ahmad Jamal, Terry Gibbs, and others. Jewels in the Treasure Box is yet another incomparable, important release by Resonance Records. It’s a priceless gift to fans of Art Tatum and the jazz canon.

Yusef Lateef Quartet
The 1972 Avignon Concert

Producer Zev Feldman’s banner year includes this gem featuring the great multi-instrumentalist and composer Yusef Lateef and his stellar quartet with pianist Kenny Barron, bassist Bob Cunningham, and drummer Albert “Tootie” Heath in a never-before-heard performance recorded live in Avignon, France. The double set, released by Elemental Music, includes a booklet with photos, essays, and testimonies by Sonny Rollins, James Carter, Joe Lovano, and others. Lateef’s saxophone and flute playing soar alongside his keenly attuned bandmates. Among the highlights are a flute/piano duet by Lateef and Barron playing the pianist’s beautiful ballad, “A Flower,” as well as extended readings of the classic “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You” (which Lateef recorded just one other time, in 1971), Lateef’s blues “Yusef’s Mood,” and Barron’s “The Untitled.” Whether performing a ballad, the blues, or a jazz classic, the quartet achieved a breathtaking symbiosis. Transcendent music captured live by unparalleled masters—you simply can’t do better than this.