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John Raymond Takes on Bob Dylan, and Steve Cardenas Toasts Charlie Haden, in Take Five

Anna Yatsekevich
John Raymond's Real Feels: Colin Stranahan, Raymond, Gilad Hekselman

John Raymond’s Real Feels, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” 

Direct emotional expression isn’t always easy to come by in jazz’s ultramodern wing, but John Raymond has made it a priority in Real Feels, his primary band. A deeply sympathetic trio featuring Raymond on trumpet and flugelhorn, Gilad Hekselman on guitar and Colin Stranahan on drums, it’s the latest evidence of jazz’s fruitful exchange with melodic indie-rock and singer-songwriter fare.


Consider what the trio does with Bob Dylan’s manifesto “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” which appears on its forthcoming album Joy Ride. In this video from an intimate performance in Nashville last fall, Hekselman sets up the theme with a slow chime of arpeggios, and the rest of the band joins in a watery rubato. It takes seven minutes for a backbeat to arrive, in a flowing odd meter, and you’ll want to be there when it does. (The band will perform on Feb. 7 at Jazz Standard, two days before Joy Ride is released on Sunnyside.)

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, “Elf”

The drummer and composer John Hollenbeck has long had a kaleidoscopic outlet in his Large Ensemble, one of the most advanced big bands on the scene. All Can Work — Hollenbeck’s latest album, just out on New Amsterdam — bears a dedication to the trumpeter Laurie Frink, an anchor in the band before her death in 2013.

Credit Scott Friedlander
John Hollenbeck

But this track, “Elf,” is a tribute to Billy Strayhorn. In fact, it’s a Strayhorn composition — “Elf” being the original title for the piece most of us know as “Isfahan,” from Duke Ellington’s Far East Suite. Reconceived in a polyrhythmic 12/8 meter, this arrangement was commissioned by the Chicago Jazz Festival for Strayhorn’s centennial a couple of years ago. It features a knockout soprano saxophone solo by Tony Malaby, followed by some articulate annotations by pianist Matt Mitchell. (The John Hollenback Large Ensemble performs on Tuesday at Le Poisson Rouge, with the Theo Bleckmann-Ben Monder Duo as an opener.) 

Steve Cardenas, “There in a Dream”

Charlie and Paul is the title of the new album by guitarist Steve Cardenas, coming soon on the subscription vinyl label Newvelle. If you’re familiar with Cardenas’ career, you won’t need a clue as to the unspoken surnames in that phrase: Haden and Motian, personal heroes who separately featured Cardenas in their bands. 


The album features the alto saxophonist Loren Stillman, the bassist Thomas Morgan and the drummer Matt Wilson — brilliant musicians with their own histories of collaboration with Motian and Haden. This video, an exclusive outtake from the album, is a breathtaking version of Haden’s ballad “There in a Dream,” which first appeared on the Quartet West album Now Is the Hour. It’s in the best possible hands: Morgan evokes Haden with the entirety of his being, and Cardenas plays an acoustic guitar solo worthy of close study. 

Sylvie Courvoisier Trio, “Bourgeois's Spider (For Louise Bourgeois)”

For the last several years, Sylvie Courvoisier has led an excellent piano trio with Drew Gress on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. Their new album, D’Agala, just out on Intakt, charts an ever-deepening rapport while paying tribute to a few souls who’ve recently departed. (The title track is Courvoisier’s nod to Geri Allen.) 


This track pays homage to another boundary-defying female artist, the sculptor Louis Bourgeois, with a particular nod to her iconic 1996 work Spider. Largely defined by some insistent brushwork by Wollesen, the track creeps toward a dissonant climax, with Courvoisier embodying various scuttling arachnid movements along the keys. She begins a weeklong residency at The Stone on Feb. 6; her trio is set to play two nights, Feb. 10 and 11.

Chris Dave and the Drumhedz, “Job Well Done”


I’ve written here before about another track from Chris Dave And The Drumhedz, which is now out on Blue Note Records. “Job Well Done” is a smoldering ballad featuring vocals by Anna Wise, a known associate of Kendrick Lamar, and SiR, another West Coast R&B progressive. “If only you could see me know,” SiR sings, his voice digitally processed, seeking affirmation. The vibe is disorienting but sweet — like the groggy moment when the sun hits your face and eases you out of a dream.

A veteran jazz critic and award-winning author, Nate Chinen is editorial director at WBGO and a regular contributor to NPR Music.