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From Dizzy Gillespie to Brandon Seabrook to Michael Leonhart to Jason Moran, in Take Five

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Dizzy Gillespie, “Long Long Summer”

I listened to hours and hours of Dizzy Gillespie over the weekend — not an unprecedented act, though it carried a little more purpose than usual. That’s because Gillespie, the immortal trumpeter, composer-bandleader and bebop progenitor, had his centenary on Saturday.


At some point, standing around outside in my shirtsleeves, I thought of “Long Long Summer,” a Lalo Schifrin cha-cha that appears on the 1962 album Dizzy on the French Riviera. The album — originally released on Philips, and produced by Quincy Jones — features a band with Shifrin on piano and Leo Wright on alto saxophone and flute. It’s always a kick when you hear the rhythm section shift from a montuno into cruising swing for Dizzy’s solo, which begins at 1:40 and has all the hallmarks of an effortless classic. 

Michael Leonhart Orchestra, “In the Kingdom of MQ”

Michael Leonhart wears many hats, musically speaking: he’s a composer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist and producer, with credits all over the pop and jazz map. Among his most recent and emblematic is Lovers, the mood-music album by guitarist Nels Cline, released on Blue Note last year. Leonhart’s own album in this vein, The Painted Lady Suite, is due out on Sunnyside Records in early 2018. The lead single, “In the Kingdom of MQ,” a whimsical march with an exotic tapestry of timbres: muted horns, violins, a party whistle, what sounds like a Mellotron. The central feature of the track is a tenor saxophone solo by Donny McCaslin, who calmly works up a lather. Too bad McCaslin won’t be on hand for the Michael Leonhart Orchestra concert on Monday in Midtown — but take note: the featured guest is Cline.  

Jason Moran, “My Father’s House”

At the end of last week, Jason Moran made the announcement that his first three albums on Yes Records are now available on CD, in a limited quantity. (Previously, they were digital-only releases, principally on Bandcamp.) The first two releases are live recordings: The Armory Concert, a solo piano recital, and Thanksgiving at the Vanguard, a set by the Bandwagon.

The third album is BANGS, made in the studio with Ron Miles on cornet and Mary Halvorson on guitar. As you might expect of these partners, it’s a far-reaching and restless affair, rooted first and foremost in the shared promise of discovery. The track list runs from needlepoint improvisations (“Red Sky Green”) to pastoral variations on a theme (“Gangsterism in the Wind”). But it doesn’t get any lovelier or more soulful than the song called “My Father’s House,” which opens with Miles and Halvorson tracing the melody in unison, before a stride-like cadence locks in. The interplay between Moran and Miles reaches a special level of casual elegance — but don’t sleep on the Halvorson solo, all armadillo spikes and loopy finesse. 


Brandon Seabrook’s Needle Driver, “Entropic Vacuum Party”

Credit Roman Meisenberg
Needle Driver: Brandon Seabrook, Johnny Deblase and Allison Miller

If you know Brandon Seabrook, you probably know the role he plays as a human special effect, on guitar or banjo, in all manner of experimental settings. (In this space last week, he turned up as a member of Tomas Fujiwara’s Triple Double.) But it’s when he’s left to his own devices that Seabrook goes the most berserk — in a band like Seabrook Power Plant, or with sparring partners like trumpeter Peter Evans. Now comes his latest provocation, Needle Driver, with Johnny Deblase on electric bass and Allison Miller on drums. The band will release its self-titled, five-song EP this Friday on Nefarious Industries, both digitally and in a CD run of 100. This track, “Entropic Vacuum Party,” highlights some unresolved issues with thrash metal, along with a more generally impertinent and concussive rapport.

Or Bareket, “Joaquin”

Israeli-born but New York-based, Or Bareket is part of a peer group that consistently creates music of rhythmic sophistication and lyrical depth. So in some respects, his debut album — OB1, recently released on the Fresh Sound New Talent label — is overdue. In another sense, it’s perfectly timed, given how fully realized the music feels, from the compositions to the execution. This track, “Joaquin,” is a bright embodiment of the album’s ideals, brimming with springy energies and smart details. The pianist, you’ll want to know, is Gadi Lehavi; on guitar is Shachar Elnatan. The drummer, Ziv Ravitz, locks into Bareket’s groove while keeping it as light and percolating as an Aperol spritzer.

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