New Music by Willie Jones III, Edmar Castañeda, Jeff Parker & Jaimie Branch in Take Five
Willie Jones III, "Jackin' For Changes"
Fallen Heroes, the stirring new album from drummer Willie Jones III, honors the sterling musicians we have lost in recent years — with a particular focus on several that touched his life directly. First among them is trumpeter Roy Hargrove, whose ballad "Trust" receives a tender interpretation featuring Renée Neufville on vocals. The album also honors saxophonist Jimmy Heath and pianist Larry Willis, along with drummer Ndugu Chancler, by way of a solo drum piece, "Something For Ndugu."
The closing track is a barn-burning Jones original, "Jackin' For Changes" — its title a nod to Ice Cube's groundbreaking 1990 track "Jackin' For Beats." Opening with a drum invocation that establishes an uptempo swing, the tune breathes first with Jones' rhythm team, consisting of pianist Isaiah Thompson and bassist Gerald Cannon. (At other points on the album, the pianist is George Cables.) Justin Robinson's lunging solo on alto saxophone leads into Jeremy Pelt's boppish turn on trumpet, before Jones' expressionistic drum essay takes it out.
"Everybody is hoping for change: the struggle for equality, to survive the pandemic, or get closer to normalcy," Jones says in a press statement. "I'm a believer in making the change yourself, take control of what's around you — your community, the finances around your community, your culture. However you do it, be the vehicle of that change."
Fallen Heroes is available on Jones' label, WJ3 Records. This Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET, he'll perform an album-release livestream from Dizzy's Club, with Pelt, Robinson, Thompson, Neufville, trombonist Steve Davis and bassist Philip Norris; tickets are available at jazz.org/dizzys.
Edmar Castañeda, "For Jaco"
Here's another homage to a departed great, the incomparable electric bassist Jaco Pastorius. But in the case of "For Jaco," the inspiration comes with an ingenious layer of translation — given that Edmar Castañeda is a harpist, and his nod to Jaco takes the form of a bluesy line deftly plucked by his itinerant left hand. The track, premiering here at WBGO, features Shlomi Cohen on soprano sax and Rodrigo Villalon on drums; it comes from Castañeda's album Family, which arrives this Friday.
As the title implies, Family is a celebration of togetherness. (Along with Cohen and Villalon, it features occasional contributions from vocalist Andrea Tierra, Castañeda's better half, and their two children.) The album also represents a return — not only from the pandemic pause, but also from a serious wrist injury that Castañeda suffered in 2019, shortly after filming his Big Ears duet with Béla Fleck for Jazz Night in America.
Family will be released on Friday; visit edmarcastaneda.com for more information.
Jaimie Branch, "Prayer for Amerikkka Pt. 1 & 2"
Trumpeter Jaimie Branch raised many fists (and, one assumes, a few hackles) with "prayer for amerikkka pt. 1 & 2," an incendiary diptych from her 2019 album FLY or DIE II: bird dogs of paradise. Taking aim at racist demagoguery in American politics and society, it's a diatribe as unambiguously direct as a slap to the face. Meaningfully, it was recorded on a European tour, as Branch skeptically viewed her country from abroad. The same is true of this concert footage from Zurich, Switzerland in early 2020 — a highlight of FLY or DIE LIVE, which International Anthem will release on Friday.
The video — featuring Branch on vocals and white-hot trumpet, Lester St. Louis on cello, Jason Ajemian on bass and Chad Taylor on drums — has been selectively animated (by Theodore Darst and Gregory Nachmanovitch), in a way that leaves the immediacy of this performance intact. Introducing the song, Branch reminds her Swiss audience that the political situation in America isn't just an American problem. "And it's not always time to be neutral, do you know what I mean?" she prods, to a cheer.
FLY or DIE LIVE will be released on Friday; preorder here.
Jeff Parker and The New Breed, "Soul Love (feat. Ruby Parker)"
The New Breed, a collagist jazz-with-beats project conceived by guitarist Jeff Parker, last gave us new music in full album form, with the brilliant Suite For Max Brown. "Soul Love" is Parker's contribution to Modern Love, a BBE Music tribute to David Bowie, who recorded the original version of the song in 1971. The in-the-pocket groove comes courtesy of drummer Jay Bellerose, while the vocalist is Parker's daughter, Ruby, who has only been growing more confident with age, and absolutely nails the part.
"I was attracted to the eccentricity of 'Soul Love' as soon as I heard it," Parks says in press materials. "Ruby and I were channeling the muse of Bowie when we tackled our rendition of it, trying to stay with his experimental, but accessible, spirit." Other contributors to Modern Love include Meshell Ndegeocello, Khruangbin, We Are KING, Jonah Mutono and Miguel Atwood-Ferguson.
Modern Love will be released on BBE Music on May 28; preorder here.
Broken Shadows, "Broken Shadows"
The ace collective Broken Shadows — with saxophonists Tim Berne and Chris Speed, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer Dave King — released its self-titled debut album on Newvelle Records in 2019, as part of that label's fourth subscription season. (At the time, we posted an exclusive video outtake from the sessions.)
Now Broken Shadows — a combined homage to the musics of Ornette Coleman, Dewey Redman, Charlie Haden and Julius Hemphill — has been rereleased on the Intakt label, which means it will be accessible a la carte, outside of a vinyl subscription package. The track sequence has also been altered from the previous release (probably due to the wrangling it took to fit all the music on two sides of an LP). "Broken Shadows," which appears in the middle of Side B on the Newvelle release, is the closing track of this Intakt edition. Its plaintive, questioning air is a beautiful fit for this ensemble, especially in the way that Speed darts around Berne's melodic line.