Hear the Latest From Chick Corea, Jon Batiste, Tomeka Reid and Nellie McKay, in Take Five

Sep 30, 2019

Along with two other recommended albums — a total of six. (We’re feeling generous.)

Chick Corea Trilogy, “Crepuscule with Nellie”

Chick Corea, the eternally youthful pianist and NEA Jazz Master, won his two most recent Grammy awards for Trilogy, a live triple album he made with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Brian Blade. That was five years ago, and while Corea has kept busy — touring and recording with everyone from Béla Fleck to Steve Gadd to his Spanish Heart compadres — it came as welcome news that he’d be getting the band back together.

Trilogy 2, which releases this Friday on Concord Jazz, should be understood as more than just another round. True, there is some track-list redundancy: Irving Berlin’s “How Deep Is the Ocean” makes another appearance, as does Thelonious Monk’s “Work.” But the trio also revisits some of Corea’s back catalog — “Now He Sings, Now He Sobs,” “500 Miles High” — and digs into choice material by Stevie Wonder, Steve Swallow and others.

It probably goes without saying, but the chemistry Corea has with Blade and McBride remains a total delight; they share his quicksilver reflexes, his playful curiosity, his gift for striking a buoyant stride. All of which is on display in this version of an iconic Monk tune, “Crepuscule with Nellie.”

Chick Corea, Christian McBride and Brian Blade are now on tour; they’ll appear in San Diego on Wednesday, in Los Angeles on Thursday, and in Irvine, Calif. on Friday.

Jon Batiste, “HIGHER”

Speaking of welcome sequels: it wasn’t so long ago that pianist Jon Batiste released Anatomy of Angels: Live at the Village Vanguard, which was recorded during a weeklong run last fall. He’s now back with another album made in that hallowed room: Chronology of a Dream: Live at the Village Vanguard. Due out on Verve on Nov. 1, it’s a comparatively looser, more let-your-hair-down experience — as you should be able to discern from this single, titled “Higher.”

A joyous hard-bop number generously informed by the gospel church, “HIGHER” gives us a deliriously rewarding Batiste solo — check out that initial triplet run, which snakes through the chord changes without pause for 20 dazzling seconds — and a smart, swinging turn by trumpeter Giveton Gelin. (As on Angels, Batiste enlists the longtime rhythm team of bassist Phil Kuehn and drummer Joe Saylor.) On the album, “HIGHER” flows right into “PWWR,” a tune that should be of special interest to fans of the New Orleans Saints. You’ll have to wait for that one, but you can preorder the album in the meantime.

Nellie McKay, “The Best Things in Life Are Free”

They say good things come in threes, so here’s another Volume Two: Bagatelles, the forthcoming album by Nellie McKay, is a companion to Sister Orchid, from 2018. As before, it’s a collection of standards unpacked in solo performance, on instruments ranging from ukulele to piano to Theremin. As a singer, McKay finds her usual seam, blending elements of an ingénue and a trickster; as a curator, she’s especially interested in songs, like “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah,” that can serve as conversation pieces before she’s even sung a word.

This track, “The Best Things in Life Are Free,” should not be confused with the Luther Vandross-Janet Jackson duet from 1992. Look a bit further back, to the popular song composed for a 1927 musical, and later recorded by singers like Jo Stafford. In this version, you’ll encounter a strummed ukulele and a friendly gleam. Of course if you know McKay at all, you won’t be surprised by her exhortation at the end of the take: “Healthcare for everyone!”

Bagatelles will be released on Palmetto on Oct. 25.

Tomeka Reid Quartet, “Wabash Blues”

Old New, the riveting new album by cellist Tomeka Reid, could only have been made by a band with some wear on the tires. It features her quartet, which does indeed have a previous album, a self-titled release from 2015. More significantly, the members of the group — Reid, guitarist (and newly minted MacArthur Fellow) Mary Halvorson, bassist Jason Roebke, drummer Tomas Fujiwara — share countless hours of playing time in other situations. Theirs is a shared language, flexible and deep.


“Wabash Blues,” which has its premiere here, opens with a jaunty riff for cello and guitar, before the action shifts to bass (on the offbeat) and drums (clattering away). This is all preamble for the main melody, a blues with a touch of boogie-woogie. The solos — Reid first, then Halvorson, finally Fujiwara — are full of slanted, unexpected gestures, and no small amount of soul.

Daniel Carter, Brad Farberman, Billy Martin, “Prince of Hair”

All too often, the advisement to make it funky is seen as something different than the urging to play free. This narrow way of thinking isn’t an issue for the improvisers on a forthcoming album called Just Don’t Die. Those musicians are Daniel Carter, a saxophonist, trumpeter and flutist (among other things) revered in New York free-jazz circles; Billy Martin, a drummer known for both his tenure in Medeski Martin & Wood and an insatiable will to stretch out; and Brad Farberman, a guitarist whose other outlet is a proper funk band, Middle Blue. (A former jazz critic, Brad happens to be a friend. Just wanted to put that out there.)

The album unfurls as a continues fabric, but it has been parsed into 10 tracks. “Prince of Hair” is the third of these (it follows “Prince of Naps”), and on first glance it sounds mainly like an encounter between Farberman and Martin. Listen a little closer and you notice Carter on trumpet almost throughout the track, quietly shaping and redirecting the energy. This music is wide open, in its groove and in its spirit of play.

Just Don’t Die releases on Ropeadope on Oct. 18.

Caroline Davis & Rob Clearfield, “Miss Ann”

Alto saxophonist Caroline Davis and pianist Rob Clearfield named their jointly led ensemble, Persona, after the 1966 Ingmar Bergman film. Just as the film explores duality and the merging (or supplanting) of individual selfhoods, this is a band that holds cohesion as the highest value. (Along with the bandleaders, who each contribute compositions, it features Sam Weber on bass and Jay Sawyer on drums.)

“Miss Ann” is the lone cover on the group’s new album, Anthems — a swinging take on Eric Dolphy’s tune. Davis threads her way through the tune, with an occasional nod to Lee Konitz; Clearfield does a lot to evoke color washes and zigzagging lines.

Anthem is out now on Sunnyside. Persona performs at the Jazz Gallery on Wednesday.