Jazz, February 2019

hfnalbum.pngGary Burton
Take Another Look – A Career Retrospective
Mack Avenue MAC1128 (five discs)

In 2017, at 74, vibraphone master Gary Burton decided to retire while he was still at the top of his game – as he had been for almost 60 years. This lavish vinyl box set celebrates that amazing career, the first four discs covering his work on four different labels from, roughly, the first four decades. After 'Joyspring' from New Vibe Man In Town – his 1961 debut as leader – and tracks from six more RCA albums, come Atlantic recordings with collaborators as diverse as Grappelly and Piazzolla. Then come the ECM classics with Corea and Metheny, and late-1980s fusion on GRP. Disc 5 highlights Burton's turn-of-the-century Concord albums and ends with a track each from his two final quartet albums on Mack Avenue. A feast. SH


James Francies
Blue Note 6774134

Houston-born Francies had already worked with many headliners and on The Tonight Show before he signed for Blue Note. His label debut features vibes whiz Joel Ross and, from his own band Kinetic, drummer Jeremy Dutton and guitarist Mike Moreno. Flight covers all bases with contemporary sounds and guest vocals by Yebba, Kate Kelsey-Sugg and crooner/rapper Chris Turner. Yet there's straight-ahead excitement too, when Francies and star guest saxophonist Chris Potter race to the finish at an incredible tempo on 'Crib'. As a pianist, Francies has everything, and although he gives so much here, there must be more great stuff to come. SH


Bob James Trio
Evosound EVSA572M (MQA CD); EVSA571S (hybrid SACD)

EVLP023 (180g vinyl LP)

Long before he became the great progenitor of smooth jazz, Bob James made an album of jazz standards, and here, 50-odd years on, he returns to the acoustic trio, with an excellent rhythm team and some unexpected results. For example, there's a jaunty 'Ain't Misbehavin' that veers suavely between soul jazz and country piano styles. Elsewhere, James can't resist adding wonderfully-crafted orchestral synth sounds, whether on the romantic ballad 'One Afternoon' or on the busy merry-go-round of 'Mojito Ride'. This must be just about the only jazz album that's available in so many formats. SH


Chucho ValdÉs
Jazz Bata 2
Mack Avenue MAC1146

Cuban pianist Valdés is best known as the founder of Irakere, which began to reach ears outside Cuba in 1978. But here he looks back to 1972, when his Jazz Batá trio innovatively used Afro-Cuban percussion instead of a jazz kit. For Jazz Batá 2 he has a quartet with bassist, Batá drummer and percussionist, and 'Chucho's Mood', with its 'Take The A Train' quote, recalls his earliest days of blending jazz with Cuban rhythms. There's also a tribute to Valdés's bandleader father, '100 Anos de Bebo' with guest artist Regina Carter, whose violin also helps Valdés conjure up the Yoruba river goddess in a gospelly 'Ochun'. The river gets deeper with each listen. SH