Take Five: New Music From Jazzmeia Horn, Kenny Garrett, Terence Blanchard, Kate McGarry, and Ken Vandermark
Jazzmeia Horn and Her Noble Force, "Lover, Come Back to Me"
When we last caught up with Jazzmeia Horn, she was stretching her wings with a new book and an accompanying pair of singles. Now comes word of a full-length album due in the fall: a natural next step for her, and objectively good news for the rest of us. Dear Love will be released on Horn's new label, Empress Legacy Records, on Sept. 10. The first single, a brisk, swinging "Lover, Come Back to Me," is now available in digital form.
The tune — a standard dating back to 1928, and best known for Billie Holiday's easygoing version in the '40s — provides Horn with all the runway she needs. She's expertly backed by a 15-piece ensemble she calls the Noble Force, anchored by her working trio with Keith Brown on piano, Eric Wheeler on bass and Anwar Marshall on drums. And from the opening count, you can hear Horn's authority out front — an extravagant confidence that peaks during her daredevil scat solo, and cruises on through the last syncopated hit.
Kenny Garrett, "Sounds From the Ancestors"
The focused, fervent sound of Kenny Garrett's alto saxophone doesn't appear until more than two minutes into "Sound From the Ancestors," the title track from his forthcoming album. But as soon as it does, you know you're in for a ride. The song, which begins and ends with a somber gospel reflection (with Garrett himself on piano), is designed for a multi-stage launch — with a churning, polyrhythmic midsection distinguished by Yoruban chants (from Pedrito Martinez) and exhortatory shouts (from Dwight Trible.) "Sounds from the Ancestors examines the roots of West African music in the framework of jazz, gospel, Motown, hip-hop, and all other genres that have descended from jùjú and Yoruban music," Garrett says in a press statement. "It's crucial to acknowledge the ancestral roots in the sounds we've inhabited under the aesthetics of Western music."
Sounds from the Ancestors will be released Aug. 27 on Mack Avenue.
Terence Blanchard, "Absence"
One could argue that there’s been a bifurcated quality to Terence Blanchard’s prolific musical output of the last several years. On the one hand: brooding soundtracks and soaring classical works (like his opera Fire Shut Up in My Bones, which will open the Met’s new season in the fall). On the other hand: the hard-nosed, slashing sensibility of his fusionesque E-Collective, as heard on the 2018 album Live. This is an oversimplification, of course, one that doesn’t hold up to careful litigation. It should collapse entirely in the face of Absence, Blanchard’s forthcoming Blue Note release.
Due out on Aug. 27, the album features both the E-Collective and the Turtle Island Quartet, a classical string ensemble. It bears a dedication to Wayne Shorter, whose career similarly provides an object lesson in blithely disregarding musical boundaries. Consider the seamless yet assertive way in which the strings are integrated with the swell and surge of Blanchard’s rhythm section on the title track, which was composed by bassist David Ginyard, and delivers a clarion trumpet solo.
Kate McGarry + Keith Ganz Ensemble, "Anthem"
Leonard Cohen wrote "Anthem," one of his best-loved songs, over a period of years — from the mid-1980s to the early '90s, when it finally appeared on his album The Future. It has resonated widely since, for its insistence on finding hope in the darkness, and a tender vow of renewal. "In a shattered, calamitous time, the song's spoken-word solace serves as go-to quote material for social-media philosophers and embattled social-rights activists alike," wrote Brad Wheeler last year, in an oral history for The Globe and Mail. We also now have a beautiful version of the song by singer Kate McGarry and the Keith Ganz Ensemble, who just released it with a lyric video.
The video — created by Ganz, her husband — matches the contemplative character of the performance. McGarry sings with restraint and care, gradually moving toward an opening (hear the samba rhythm that surfaces at 2:40). Along with Ganz on guitar and bass, the track features Gary Versace on piano, Ron Miles on cornet and Obed Calvaire on drums. And it raises anticipation for What To Wear In The Dark, an album due out on Sept. 3 on Resilience Music Alliance.
Ken Vandermark, "Feet On Main (for Robert Frank & Gordon Parks)"
The multireedist and composer Ken Vandermark might best be understood as someone who puts things together: far-flung collaborators, unincorporated scenes, disparate ideas. But that doesn’t mean he is musically adrift unto himself. The Field Within a Line is his latest solo recording, featuring new compositions for an array of instruments. Here is “Feet on Main (for Robert Frank & Gordon Parks),” which hails two iconic art photographers who shared an eye for social context; it’s just over a minute and a half long, played with a mournful but determined air on baritone saxophone.
The Field Within a Line is the first in a new series of solo recordings commissioned by Corbett vs. Dempsey, in Chicago. The series, Black Cross Solo Sessions, was actually inspired by a performance Vandermark gave in April 2020, streamed as one of Experimental Sound Studio’s Quarantine Concerts. Among the future releases in the series are Route 84 Quarantine Blues, which the avant-garde legend Joe McPhee made in a closet of his house in Poughkeepsie; and the first-ever solo album by drummer Hamid Drake.