Jazz, September 2023

hfnalbum.pngJoshua Jaswon Octet
Polar Waters
Ubuntu UBU 0125; LP: UBU 0125LP (two discs)

After the Brexit referendum, saxophonist Jaswon voted with his feet, moved to Berlin, put together his multinational Octet and in 2021 came up with Silent Sea. Polar Waters is likewise based on poems of protest, at its centre a five-movement setting of Claire Cox's 'Seasick', on the horror of plastic in the oceans. As before, the marvellous Dutch singer Anna Serierse integrates into the horn lineup like another brilliant instrumentalist, and with no piano, just perfectly judged guitar chords and excellent bass and drums, the ensemble sound is light and transparent. It's not easy to produce a polemic album that never sounds preachy and is always invigorating to listen to, but Jaswon has done it again. SH


Eric Alexander
A New Beginning – Alto Saxophone With Strings
HighNote Records HCD 7342

The straight-ahead New York tenor star made his first ballads-with-strings album in 2019. Then came Covid and lockdown, when he found the time to re-connect with the alto sax that he'd hardly touched since the classical studies of his teens. So this new album is both a debut for Alexander's alto and a follow-up to With Strings. He's still leading his long-established quartet, but this time the strings have been added by Bill Dobbins – except on the two takes of 'Blues For Diane', which top and tail this mainly-ballads album and have the quartet grooving unadorned. Distinctive and unlike any other alto player, Alexander is majestic, definitely a master. SH


Dave Mcmurray
Grateful Deadication 2
Blue Note 45522950

Detroit-born McMurray's long career started when he toured with Albert King in 1972, and in 1981 he joined Was (Not Was), led by Don Was – now of course president of Blue Note. He's recorded prolifically as a session man and with his own jazz groups, and made his Blue Note debut in 2018 with Music Is Life, but after working with Bob Weir in 2019 he came up with Grateful Deadication (2021). This follow-up has him working through another nine Dead songs, with guest spots for country singer Jamey Johnson, Dead & Company bassist Otell Burbridge and pianist Bob James. An album that's more rock than jazz, but you don't have to be a Deadhead to appreciate it. SH


Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loueke
Lean In
Edition Records EDN1216; LP: EDN1216LP

This joyful collaboration celebrates a close musical bond and friendship that began 20 years ago – even before singer Parlato guested on guitarist/vocalist Loueke's 2006 album Virgin Forest, and he in turn appeared on In A Dream, her 2009 debut. It follows Flor, Parlato's triumphant return after her six-year motherhood career break, and her husband, the great drummer Mark Guiliana, contributes here. Bass player Burniss Travis appears too, but this is essentially a duo album by two artists who can be their own rhythm section. And as they build together on Parlato's Brazilian influences and Loueke's West African sensibilities, the results are exhilarating. SH