Jazz, May 2020

hfnalbum.pngShabaka And The Ancestors
We Are Sent Here By History
Impulse! Records 0864560 (LP: 0864563)

Outstanding instrumentalist and determined leader Shabaka Hutchings' current projects include Sons Of Kemet and The Comet Is Coming. After several visits to South Africa, the Barbadian British saxophonist launched his 'Ancestors' concept with a group of musicians there, and The Wisdom Of Elders appeared on the Brownswood label in 2016. Shabaka firmly intends this new album to be heard as a whole, each song to be listened to in conjunction with its corresponding poem, which he has built on vocalist Siyabonga Mthembu's lyrics. The music is compelling and often hypnotically repetitive, but although the album is 'a meditation on our coming extinction', it also 'proclaims a visioning of the path forward'. SH


Carla Bley/Andy Sheppard/Steve Swallow
Life Goes On
ECM Records 832063 (LP: 854826)

A third album in a sequence that began with Trios in 2013, recorded lovingly with a wonderfully lush sound. It's also somehow a warmer, more joyful experience than 2016's Andando El. There are three suites of new pieces by Bley, the first giving the album its title and gently based on the blues with long, loping lines from Sheppard's saxophone and Swallow's bass, a melody instrument in his hands. 'Beautiful Telephones' comments ironically on an early Trump tweet and finally, 'Copy Cat', as the title suggests, plays lightly with ideas of call-and-response, reflecting this long-standing trio's fabulous inner rapport. SH


Kurt Elling Featuring Danilo Pérez
Secrets Are The Best Stories
Edition Records EDN 1151 (LP: EDNLP1151)

Elling is held to be the best male vocalist in jazz, but you won't find him scatting standards here. His issue-led 2018 album The Questions opened with 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall', and this time he goes further. Brilliantly supported by pianist and social activist Danilo Pérez, fine rhythm players and Miguel Zenon's alto sax, Elling adds probing lyrics to tunes by Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Django Bates and others. Also, Pérez and Elling composed 'Gratitude' for the men's movement instigator Robert Bly, and 'Song Of The Rio Grande', about the appalling pollution of the great river. Thought-provoking and superbly crafted. SH


Pete Whittaker/Art Themen/George Double
Thane & The Villeins
Hadleigh Jazz Records 0001

Formed by way of an 80th birthday celebration for saxophonist Art Themen, this whimsically-named trio features organ wizard Whittaker and one-time Shirley Bassey sideman Double on drums. Formerly an orthopedic surgeon, Themen started as a clarinettist in trad bands, but then discovered modern jazz and switched to tenor sax, going on to work with Stan Tracey for more than 20 years. Here he's as boisterous and inventive as ever, paying tribute to Dexter Gordon with 'Hanky Panky' and to Sonny Rollins with a funky 'Playin' In The Yard' and a swinging 'I'm An Old Cowhand'. Many happy returns! SH