Christian McBride’s New Jawn, “Seek the Source”
A few years ago, Christian McBride decided to test out a pianoless quartet during an engagement at the Village Vanguard. Built from the ground up — with McBride on bass, Nasheet Waits on drums, Marcus Strickland on tenor saxophone and bass clarinet, and Josh Evans on trumpet — the band combined post-bop harmonic daring with a good dollop of axle grease. Drawing from the lexicon of Philadelphia, his hometown, McBride called it The New Jawn. And the band now has a self-titled album out on Brother Mister Productions, a new imprint of Mack Avenue.
Every member of the band contributes a couple of tunes. “Seek the Source” is one of Strickland’s, with a syncopated pedal that faintly recalls the John Coltrane Quartet and a unison horn line with a bobbing sense of phrase. The solos are assertive and soulful across the board: first Strickland, then Evans, and finally, at around 4:30, Brother Mister himself.
Kind Folk, “Motian Sickness”
Why Not (Fresh Sound New Talent) is another smart new album by a pianoless quartet — in this case, a collective featuring trumpeter John Raymond, alto saxophonist Alex LoRe, bassist Noam Wiesenberg and drummer Colin Stranahan. The group borrowed its name, Kind Folk, from a composition by Kenny Wheeler, whose consonant, wide-open aesthetic serves as a touchstone for all involved.
This video, which has its premiere here, documents the group recording “Motian Sickness,” a composition obviously dedicated to the late drummer Paul Motian. The free-but-flowing rhythm feel is true to form, as is the plaintive, folklike air. Raymond has an understated warmth in his sound on flugelhorn, which LoRe matches on alto, often near the bottom of his range. There are tunes in the Kind Folk book with a clearer focus, but few that so effectively convey the sense of unity in the ranks.
Ingrid Laubrock, “Contemporary Chaos Practices (Part 4)”
Tenor saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has worked in a robust array of experimental settings, but Contemporary Chaos Practices, which Intakt will release on Friday, marks her first foray into music for chamber orchestra.
It’s a move that might have been overdue, judging by the assuredness of the result, which combines through-composed passages with improvisatory “conduction,” informed by Butch Morris, Anthony Braxton and others. A few of Laubrock’s closest peers, including pianist Kris Davis and guitarist Mary Halvorson, turn up to offer solo commentary. But the greater impression is made by the accretive and coalescent energies in the full ensemble, which Laubrock entrusts to two conductors.
Joe Locke Featuring Raul Midón, “Who Killed Davey Moore?”
Storytelling is always on the agenda for Joe Locke, a vibraphonist of kinetic attack and deep lyrical intent. His new album, Subtle Disguise (Origin), advances a unified vision of post-bop complexity and direct emotional appeal. Along with his adaptable rhythm section, spearheaded by pianist Jim Ridl, Locke marshals several featured guests, including alto saxophonist David Binney and guitarist Adam Rogers. On this version of an early topical song by Bob Dylan, the spotlight falls on Raul Midón.
Midón, a guitarist and singer with much the same dynamic skillset as Locke, holds on tight to the song, bringing earnest conviction to its subject matter. Dylan wrote it after an infamous championship boxing match that resulted in a death by brain damage, and much public moralizing about the mortal danger of the sport. In the liner notes, Locke expresses his hope that this version of the song “maintains the essence of The Blues, as well as the song’s narrative about passing the buck in America.” Midón makes that almost a foregone conclusion.
Jo Lawry, “The End of the World”
A decade ago Jo Lawry released an auspicious debut album, I Want to Be Happy, that positioned her as a sunshine-bright arrival in the jazz-vocal field. Instead of following that path precisely, Lawry took a significant detour with Sting, and developed her chops as a songwriter. Jazz fluencies still lurk at the heart of her enterprise, but often well below the surface. That’s not a value judgment — and certainly no slight to her appealing third album, The Bathtub and the Sea.
The album features a heavyweight supporting cast, including guitarist Adam Levy, bassist Nate Wood, even a debonair Sting cameo on one tune. Lawry wrote or cowrote every tune, touching on matters of emotional availability, insecurity and longing. “The End of the World,” which closes the album, puts a hopeful spin on a dire situation, employing a metaphor of heartbreak-as-apocalypse. With a light samba groove in a major key, the song seems to insist that everything will be OK. And at one point Lawry voices the sentiment outright:
The planet still maintains a path
Elliptical around the sun
And even the most awful day
Is followed by another one