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Exult in "Black Kennedy" by August Greene, Among Other Choice New Music in Take Five

August Greene: Karriem Riggins, Common and Robert Glasper

August Greene, “Black Kennedy”

Black excellence is a welcome and pressing topic of conversation at the moment, as Black Panther wraps up a record-breaking box office weekend and its soundtrack, spearheaded by Kendrick Lamar, debuts at Number 1. For Common, another rapper with a strong moral compass, the subject also provides a natural through-line on “Black Kennedy,” the luminous new track from August Greene.

With a slanted beat by drummer Karriem Riggins and a hypnotic chime of chords from pianist Robert Glasper, the track is as much a tribute to the trailblazing producer J Dilla — whom Common toasts within his first verse — as it is a message of responsibility and uplift. It’s a tantalizing second single from August Greene, which will release its self-titled debut on March 9, as an Amazon Original. And while it shies away from overt political messaging, that doesn’t make it apolitical. “Had our first black Prez,” muses Common, who once paid a memorable visit to the White House, with Glasper. “I’mma be the sequel.”

Patrick Zimmerli Quartet, “Boogaloo of the Polyrhythmic Palindrome”

The tenor saxophonist and composer Patrick Zimmerli has a natural affinity for shifting intricacies and formal convolutions — as he reminds us with style to spare on his forthcoming album, Clockworks. The album, which Songlines Recordings will release on April 6, features an ace quartet with Ethan Iverson on piano, Christopher Tordini on bass and John Hollenbeck on drums. 

On this engaging track, “Boogaloo of the Polyrhythmic Palindrome,” they mold a clever ostinato into a flexible framework. Iverson’s solo is a beaut, sly and teasing, and Hollenbeck offers a round of cathartic breaks before a return to the theme. Don’t miss the tempo slow-down during the final minute of the tune, with a bass line that faintly evokes the opening slink of Henry Mancini’s Pink Panther theme.  

Jay Rodriguez, “Clouds”

You may know saxophonist Jay Rodriguez as the leader and cofounder of Groove Collective, or as a sideman to everyone from Ray Barretto to Prince. Improbably, given his far-ranging 30-year career, he had never released a proper solo album before Your Sound: Live at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola, just out on Whaling City Sound.

Credit Michael Weintrob
Jay Rodriguez
"Clouds," by Jay Rodriguez

Opening with a percussive heartbeat by Billy Martin of Medeski Martin & Wood, the track flows forth as a reverie, featuring Rodriguez on soprano saxophone and Billy Harper on tenor. (The album’s personnel also includes pianist Larry Willis, who contributes a centerpiece solo.) Whatever compelled Rodriguez to avoid putting his name out front for all these years, he stands proud here. And he’ll celebrate the release of Your Sound with a show on Tuesday at Le Poisson Rouge, working this time with Martin, tenor saxophonist J.D. Allen, pianist Arturo O’Farrill, bassist Melissa Slocum and drummer Victor Jones.

Norma Winstone, “Touch Her Soft Lips and Part”

The new album by Norma Winstone is titled Descansado: Songs For Films, and if you’re familiar with this English singer-songwriter, you may have some idea of what to expect. The album, made with collaborators like Glauco Venier on piano and Klaus Gesing on reeds, is Winstone’s interpretation of themes from the art house cinema, by composers like Nino Rota, Ennio Morricone and Michel Legrand. 

"Touch Her Soft Lips and Part," by Norma Winstone

“Touch Her Soft Lips And Part” was composed by William Walton for Laurence Olivier’s 1944 film version of Henry V. In jazz circles, it’s a ballad associated with the pianist John Taylor, Winstone’s late husband. She has written heartbreaking lyrics for the song, making it impossible to ignore the personal context. “All of his magic still lives in her mind,” she sings. “All the sounds and the images slowly rewind.”

Jeff Hamilton Trio, “Sybille’s Day”

And to close, a burst of sunlight and open air. “Sybille’s Day” is the opening track from a new album by the Jeff Hamilton Trio, which features Tamir Hendelman on piano, Christoph Luty on bass and Hamilton on drums.

The album, Live from San Pedro, was recorded at the Alvas Showroom in San Pedro, Calif. It’s a balanced plate of standards and originals — always with a buoyant undercurrent of swing. And this track makes the point loud and clear, with a medium-up shuffle and a gospel-tinged melody, as if in eager response to a conversation started by Art Blakey and Bobby Timmons.

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