Jazz, November 2023

hfnalbum.pngNanny Assis
In+Out Records 77152 (CD and LP)

Brazilian percussionist, vocalist, guitarist and composer Assis moved to New York in 1999. His name might not be so familiar, but those of the many American guests he's assembled here will be. With the great Ron Carter on bass throughout, he kicks off by adding lyrics to Carter's 'Mr Bow Tie', which becomes 'No Agora'. Later, Janis Siegel joins him in singing her lyrics on 'Northern Sea', a song they'd performed a few years ago in their Requinte Trio, while Vinicius Cantuária contributes to the pure Bossa nostalgia of 'Back To Bahia'. Elsewhere, the classy Brazilian guitar of Chico Pinheiro and guest solos from Randy Brecker and Lakecia Benjamin add spice to a warm, easygoing album. SH

Passage Cover_square

Johnathan Blake
Blue Note Records 4887562

Philadelphia-born drummer Blake worked and recorded with a host of great names before making his Blue Note album debut with Homeward Bound in 2021. Here's the follow-up, with Blake's Pentad quintet again including bassist Dezron Douglas and pianist David Virelles, along with two leading spirits of a younger generation, saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins and vibraphonist Joel Ross. Blake's music flashes brightly with tempo and rhythm changes, notably in the cinematic title track, where Wilkins stretches out to great effect. Ross is superb in the pensive 'Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind' while Virelles offers Cuban-style piano brilliance in 'Tiempos'. SH


Kurt Elling
SuperBlue: The Iridescent Spree
Edition Records EDN1218; LP: EDN1218LP

Acclaimed as the male jazz singer, Elling conquered new territory with Superblue in 2021. In 2020 he'd started a lockdown collaboration with the extraordinary Charlie Hunter, who plays bass, rhythm and lead all at once on his seven-string Hybrid guitar. Superblue took shape when Hunter brought in keyboardist DJ Harrison and drummer Corey Fonville from the 'garage punk jazz funk' band Butcher Brown. This time, as in 2021, Elling unleashes his most telling lyrics, from the tender and soulful 'Right About Now' to a rapping finale, 'Afterlife', while the standout is his moving narrative of a sad life story, 'Only The Lonely Woman'. Somehow, it all works. SH


Emma Rawicz
ACT Music 9973-2; LP: 9973-1

Still only 21, this ear-opening British saxophonist has won many accolades, notably as a BBC Young Jazz Musician finalist. Now she makes her debut for ACT, with a stellar band – pianist Ivo Neame, guitarist Ant Law, bassist Conor Chaplin and drummer Asaf Sirkis, who've all recorded for the label. A synesthete, Rawicz has named most of the pieces for colours. The opener, 'Phlox' (an angry dark pink) is driven by a hypnotic drum and mouth-music rhythm from Sirkis, and there are three versions of 'Xanadu' (a subtle grey green), each rockier than the last. When the band members cut loose, Rawicz is focused and powerful. She really has something to say. SH