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Take Five: Joe Lovano's Trio Tapestry, R+R=Now, Emmet Cohen, Theo Bleckmann and More

Joe Lovano’s Trio Tapestry, “Garden of Expression”

A few years ago, saxophonist Joe Lovano formally introduced Trio Tapestry, a telepathic ensemble with Marilyn Crispell on piano and Carmen Castaldi on drums. The group’s self-titled ECM debut received substantive acclaim, and a similar fate is likely for Garden of Expression, which releases this Friday.

The album’s title track perfectly encapsulates what makes this trio special. As in the Hall of Fame trio that featured Lovano alongside Paul Motian and Bill Frisell, there’s a deep collective intuition here, met by an even deeper attunement to the unfolding moment.

Garden of Expression will be released on ECM Records on Friday; preorder here.

Emmet Cohen, “Toast to Lo”

Future Stride, the forthcoming album by pianist Emmet Cohen, comes by its title honestly. It’s not just about a refurbishment of the stride piano tradition — though Cohen makes sure to demonstrate that idea. It’s also about striding forward with total assurance, knowing that each step will find traction. Cohen has the right disposition for this message, and he has surrounded himself with the right partners: bassist Russell Hall and drummer Kyle Poole, as well as a front line consisting of saxophonist Melissa Aldana and trumpeter Marquis Hill.

“Toast to Lo” features brilliant playing all around, especially by Aldana. As the title makes clear, it’s a tribute to Lawrence “Lo” Leathers, who died in 2019. “We miss him very dearly,” Cohen says in a statement. “He became like the mayor anywhere he went; he knew everyone. He reminded me of a jazz musician from the past. Russell and I played our first gig ever in Paris with him, and we watched as he even became the jazz mayor of Paris. We saw him cultivate his outlook on the world, which was one of power, beauty, and equality.”

Future Stride will be released on Mack Avenue Records on Friday; preorder here.

R+R=NOW, “How Much a Dollar Cost (Live)”

The jazz/R&B supergroup R+R=NOW has more than a casual claim to covering Kendrick Lamar’s track “How Much a Dollar Cost.” To state the obvious, alto saxophonist, keyboardist and producer Terrace Martin is one of the credited writers of the song. But there’s also a way in which R+R=NOW also feels ideally suited to these dimensions. Consider the sharp interplay between Martin and trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, against a groove defined by Robert Glasper and Taylor McFerrin on keys, Derrick Hodge on bass and Justin Tyson on drums.

“How Much a Dollar Cost” is the lead single from R+R=NOW LIVE, due out on Blue Note on Feb. 12. It was recorded during Glasper’s monthlong residency at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York in 2018 — a gig I recall fondly. Drawing from the group’s 2018 album Collagically Speaking, the new album allows everyone to stretch out, without losing a foothold in melody. It raises hopes for another tour, whenever such a thing is possible again.

R+R=NOW LIVE will be released on Blue Note on Feb. 12; preorder here.

Theo Bleckmann and The Westerlies, “Look For the Union Label”

The shapeshifting vocalist Theo Bleckmann has forged his share of partnerships with brilliant ensembles, including those led by drummer and composer John Hollenbeck. His latest alliance is with The Westerlies, an improvising chamber brass quartet; their joint album, This Land, features radically reimagined songs by Woody Guthrie, Joni Mitchell and others, and will release this Friday.

“Look For the Union Label” is a sloganeering jingle adopted in the mid-1970s by the International Ladies Garment Workers Union. In their video for the song, directed by Julia Barrett-Mitchell, Bleckmann and The Westerlies emulate the look and feel of https://youtu.be/8Yo_szFBQKc" target="_blank">television commercials from that era; one of them even appears in the credits.

This Land will be released on Westerlies Records on Friday; preorder here.

Melissa Aldana Quintet at Smalls

Finally, a belated endorsement: a little over a week ago, we enjoyed a livestream by tenor saxophonist Melissa Aldana, leading a quintet at Smalls Jazz Club. The band featured Charles Altura on guitar, Sullivan Fortner on piano, Pablo Menares on bass and Kush Abadey on drums. The full set is still available, and it’s worth your time.

Among the New York jazz clubs offering livestreams during the pandemic, Smalls is unique, in that it began streaming years ago — and charges no admission fee. Instead, its SmallsLive Foundation solitics sponsorship of individual sets; this one was supported by Christelle. To watch more streams, or learn how to support the club and its livestreams, visit the SmallsLive Foundation website.

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