Can Rudresh Mahanthappa's Hero Trio Save the World? Find Out in This Week's Take Five
Also: new music from the Joshua Redman Quartet, Leni Stern, Harold López-Nussa, and Big Heart Machine.
Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Hero Trio, “I’ll Remember April”
Hero Trio, the forthcoming album by alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, was named in acknowledgment of musical heroes like Charlie Parker and Sonny Rollins. But at some point, Mahanthappa decided to have a little fun with the name — asking his band mates, bassist François Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston, to join him in a little superhero cosplay.
The resulting image is more than a little tongue-in-cheek, but the music could hardly be more serious. Mahanthappa has deep history with both Royston and Moutin, and on the album he often urges them out on the ledge. The intensity of their cohesion shines on “I’ll Remember April,” a standard associated with both Rollins and Parker, and given a syncopated funk treatment here.
The arrangement on the album is also featured in this video, a WBGO premiere. And just as on the studio version, that 9/8 funk vamp gives way to a swinging statement of the theme. Mahanthappa’s solo also toggles between the two grooves, bobbing and weaving, as the rhythm team thrashes behind him. Elsewhere on the album, Hero Trio applies a similar lunging attack to Parker’s “Barbados,” Stevie Wonder’s “Overjoyed,” even the June-Carter / Johnny Cash anthem “Ring of Fire.”
Hero Trio will be released on Whirlwind Recordings on June 19; preorder here.
Joshua Redman, Brad Mehldau, Christian McBride, Brian Blade, “Father”
Back in March, we helped break the news about RoundAgain, a new album by Joshua Redman’s celebrated MoodSwing quartet. That announcement came with footage filmed at The Falcon, in New York’s Hudson Valley. Last Friday, Nonesuch Records posted another video from the same show.
This time, the tune is “Father,” a lively waltz by pianist Brad Mehldau, who also embarks on the first solo expedition. (Spoiler alert for observant fans: no, he still doesn’t pause to take a swig of the hot sauce. Maybe next time.) Redman’s soprano saxophone improv is bright and burbling, and the all-star rhythm team of Christian McBride and Brian Blade, on bass and drums, does their thing as only they can.
RoundAgain will be released on Nonesuch Records on July 10; preorder here.
Harold López Nussa, “Lila’s Mambo”
The engaging Cuban pianist Harold López Nussa has been making steady inroads with American jazz audiences, especially since signing to Mack Avenue Records. His third album for the label will be titled Te Lo Dije, and it features trumpeter Mayquel González, bassist Julio César González and drummer Ruy Adrián López-Nussa (Harold’s younger brother). The first single from the album is “Lila’s Mambo,” which has its premiere at WBGO.
“Lila’s Mambo is a song that I wrote to my younger daughter, Lila,” López-Nussa explains. “She is the most beautiful little devil, so this piece is inspired by her strong character and her love for dance. That’s why I wrote this irregular mambo for her, and then I asked her to ‘present’ the song, so we can hear her voice at the very beginning. I also dedicate this song to Emiliano Salvador, a great Cuban piano player that inspired me a lot.”
Te Lo Dije will be released on Mack Avenue on Aug. 28; preorder here.
Leni Stern, “Habib (featuring Mike Stern)”
West African music has been more than a passing preoccupation for guitarist Leni Stern. Her working rhythm section for some time has featured bassist Mamadou Ba and percussionist Alioune Faye, both from Senegal; they appear on her forthcoming album, 4, alongside Argentine keyboardist Leo Genovese.
“Habib,” which premieres here, is named after the Senegalese bassist Habib Faye, longtime musical director for Youssou N’dour’s Super Étoile de Dakar. Faye died in 2018, and Stern wrote this song in dedication. “In the chant,” she remarks, “we sing ‘Habib we will miss you’ — Habib boulayi waitell nanyou.”
Leni Stern’s 4 will be released on Leni Stern Recordings on June 14; preorder here.
Big Heart Machine, “Pareidoliac”
Composer-arranger Brian Krock earned accolades when he released the self-titled debut by his hypermodern large ensemble, Big Heart Machine, in 2018. Last fall the band performed new music at The Jazz Gallery, recording for a live album. “Pareidoliac” is the second single from that album, which will be released on Friday.
Pareidolia is the tendency toward perceiving patterns in random shapes, like someone seeing animal shapes in the clouds. Krock explores this idea on “Pareidoliac” with a succession of sonic events, some purely textural and others accreting into a groove. The piece features a succession of extended techniques by trumpeter Kenny Warren, and an Eastern-influenced flute solo by Anna Webber.
Live at The Jazz Gallery will be released on Friday. Big Heart Machine will celebrate its release with a livestream at 7:30 p.m. EST, featuring all 18 members of the band in conversation; https://youtu.be/JTCxi01zzA8" target="_blank">watch here.