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Take Five: Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan, Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, John Pizzarelli, More

The essence of jazz is improvisation, it's often said. But there should also be a special clause for collaboration or communion — the magic that can happen when two or more are gathered to a creative end. Take Five celebrates that ideal this week, with results all over the stylistic map. Start with a fresh take on a tricky bebop head, and keep it moving.

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan, “Subconscious-Lee”

At some point over the last several years, guitarist Bill Frisell developed a rare intuitive bond with bassist Thomas Morgan. Their collaboration has extended to some of Frisell’s ensemble work, but the best evidence resides in the conversational duo format. This March the two improvisers played a week at the Village Vanguard, recording the gig for a sterling new album, Small Town, due out on ECM on Friday.

As one might expect, the album moseys along a range of style, touching on a James Bond theme, an Appalachian folk song and a tune by drummer Paul Motian, who was a common touchstone for both artists. Here you’ll find the premiere of “Subconscious-Lee,” Lee Konitz’s contrafact of the Cole Porter standard “What Is This Thing Called Love?” — and a brilliant inducement for the duo to come out swinging.

Ryan Keberle and Catharsis, “Become the Water”

Just after the conclusion of the 2016 presidential election, trombonist Ryan Keberle began to formulate a plan. His band, Catharsis, had been touring all over the world, and he felt there was a larger point to make about our political divisions. Find the Common, Shine a Light — due out on June 16 on Greenleaf Music — is the result of that impulse, an album of exhortative originals and pointed covers.


“Become the Water” is the album’s lead single, composed by Keberle with lyrics by Mantsa Miro (a.k.a. poet Manca Weeks). Camila Meza, the band’s lead singer, does a fine job of finessing the song’s more didactic turns of phrase, like “Through all the noise, why do we only hear / What we already know,” and “Our weakest link / Is fear of losing greatness.” The others in the band (trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, bassist Jorge Roeder, drummer Eric Doob) all join in the humanistic chorus, which lends the album its title: “Find the common, shine a Light / Become the water, put out the fire.”

John Pizzarelli, “Baubles, Bangles and Beads”

Guitarist and singer John Pizzarelli didn’t have to travel far, aesthetically, to make his new album, Sinatra & Jobim @ 50. Due on Concord Jazz on July 28, it celebrates two of his dearest influences, Frank Sinatra and Antonio Carlos Jobim — by offering a repertory tribute to the eponymous album they made together half a century ago.

On most tracks he collaborates with Jobim’s grandson, Daniel Jobim; the rhythm section features a pair of cosmopolitan Brazilians, drummer Duduka Da Fonseca and pianist Helio Alves. The lead single, “Baubles, Bangles & Beads,” is one of the pop standards that Sinatra included on the original album, and among other things, it confirms that in vocal terms, Pizzarelli will always be more of a Jobim.

Mat Maneri / Evan Parker / Lucian Ban, “Paralex”

There’s a strong history of deep-focus duologue between violist Mat Maneri and pianist Lucian Ban, notably documented on a 2013 album Transylvanian Concert. For Sounding Tears, due out on Friday on the Clean Feed label, they brought in an equal partner, the eminent British saxophonist Evan Parker. The album includes original compositions by Maneri and Parker, along with spontaneous inventions, in virtually every possible configuration: trio, duo, solo.

"Paralex," by Mat Maneri / Evan Parker / Lucian Ban

“Paralex” is an example of the threesome in a profound state of mind-meld, creating a delicate and emotionally ravishing piece of music with no structure other than the one that reveals itself in the moment at hand.

Charnett Moffett, “Freedom Swing”

Charnett Moffett CD cover

For bassist Charnett Moffett, “freedom” is a term with multiple valences. On his super-dynamic new album, Music From Our Soul, the ideal of freedom manifests in spiritual as well as musical terms, always with an air of transcendent purpose. Consider “Freedom Swing,” a piece willed into being on the bandstand at Jazz Alley in Seattle, Washington.

"Freedom Swing," by Charnett Moffett

After a horizon-scanning prelude, Pharoah Sanders brings an incandescent heat on tenor saxophone, while Stanley Jordan sends out a fusillade of notes on guitar. Jeff “Tain” Watts churns and gnashes at the drums. The breakneck swing tempo underscores an urgent incantation; be sure to catch what happens about two-and-a-half minutes in, when Moffett happens upon the “Acknowledgment” theme from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, and a regular contributor to NPR Music.