Take Five: Building Bridges with Camila Meza, Kendrick Scott, Seamus Blake and Diana Krall

Mar 10, 2019

Kendrick Scott Oracle, “>>>>>>>>>>>Mocean”

When he named his band Oracle, more than a dozen years ago, drummer Kendrick Scott wasn’t thinking about his own prophetic propensities. “The band itself is the oracle,” he said during a 2008 session at WBGO. “They send out the messages, and it’s free for whoever is listening to interpret however they feel the music should be.”

There has been a lot of room for interpretation since then, as Oracle — a state-of-the-art postbop unit with John Ellis on reeds, Mike Moreno on guitar, Taylor Eigsti on piano and Joe Sanders on bass — kept its signal strong. After a 2013 album, Conviction, on Scott’s independent World Culture Music label, the band moved to Blue Note Records for We Are the Drum, in 2015. Now Scott, who has become something of a Blue Note brand ambassador, releases A Wall Becomes A Bridge on April 5.

Produced by Derrick Hodge, Scott’s longtime rhythm partner behind Terence Blanchard, the album expands the core personnel of Oracle by adding a turntablist, Jahi Sundance. And its 12 tracks flow one into the next, conveying the feeling of a suite. The album’s first single, “Mocean,” was just released digitally, and its focused gleam is representative of the whole.

Camila Meza & the Nectar Orchestra, “All Your Colors”

Elegant orchestration and direct emotional address find common purpose in Ámbar, the forthcoming album from Chilean-born singer and guitarist Camila Meza. Due out on Sony Music Masterworks on May 31, it’s a showcase for Meza’s sophisticated songwriting, and for her intuitive rapport with a chamber ensemble she calls the Nectar Orchestra. The album’s first single, “All Your Colors,” is available now; here is a music video for the song, in its exclusive premiere.

“I’ll be careful with the colors that I choose to paint the roads inside my mind,” sings Meza at the outset of “All Your Colors,” a love song that pauses to consider the nature of perception. The delicate drift of percussion and strings, in both arco and pizzicato modes, is the handiwork of bassist and arranger Noam Wiesenberg, who coleads the Nectar Orchestra with Meza.

Ámbar will be released on May 31; preorder here. And stay tuned for a Camila Meza episode of Jazz Night in America this spring.

Seamus Blake, “Betty in Rio”

Tenor and soprano saxophonist Seamus Blake made his name on the American scene — with his own bands and in those led by the likes of guitarist John Scofield. Last year around this time, Blake relocated to Paris and began a new chapter.


His new album on Whirlwind Recordings, Guardians of the Heart Machine, can be seen as a manifestation of that change. The album puts Blake at the helm of an elite French rhythm section, with pianist Tony Tixier, bassist Florent Nisse and drummer Gautier Garrigue. They create a graceful, adaptable framework for Blake’s compositions — including “Betty in Rio,” which has its premiere here. Featuring a Lennie Tristano-ish line over a harmonic blueprint borrowed from Benny Golson standard “Along Came Betty,” it’s a lively jazz samba with some welcome twists.

Guardians of the Heart Machine will be released on Whirlwind Recordings on Friday.

Ehud Asherie Trio, “Wild Man Blues”

Ehud Asherie, a New York piano player who was born in Israel, has carved out a strong niche for himself at the intersection of Harlem stride, prewar swing and midcentury modern jazz. Wild Man Blues, his new album on Capri Records, might just be the strongest representation of what he can do in a trio setting.

Asherie has the best possible partners for the task in bassist Peter Washington and drummer Rodney Green, both of whom will join him for an album-release celebration on Thursday night at Birdland.

Wild Man Blues will be available on Capri Records this Friday.

Diana Krall, “Amelia”

Last November, a starry array of musicians gathered in Los Angeles to celebrate the 75th birthday of Joni Mitchell, whose legacy as a singer-songwriter defies any constrictive label you might apply to it. Decca has now documented that evening with an album, Joni 75: A Birthday Celebration, featuring Chaka Khan, Los Lobos, Emmylou Harris and others. (A DVD will be available on Rhino on March 29.)

The musical directors for the evening were a pair of jazz musicians, pianist Jon Cowherd and drummer Brian Blade. And one of the marquee artists was Diana Krall, singing “Amelia,” from the 1976 album Hejira.

Ann Powers attended the concert and wrote a brilliant essay for NPR Music. Her words perfectly capture the intimacy and subtly involution of this performance: “Krall, for whom Mitchell's music was a bridge from straight jazz to the more eclectic music that made her famous, played the close reader on ‘Amelia’ and ‘For the Roses,’ her interactions with bassist Christopher Thomas suggesting thorny conversations she's had with herself about these songs for years.”