What’s in a name? You could pose that question to Jazzmeia Horn, whose grandmother envisioned a destiny for her, or the Jazz Passengers, whose founders had designs both tongue-in-cheek and sincere. Or ask Supersilent, which is often anything but silent. Or Sexmob, which... actually, never mind. Here are five great tracks from all of the above, plus Roxy Coss, whose name you should know by now.
Jazzmeia Horn, “Tight”
Jazz singers rarely come more rigorously vetted than Jazzmeia Horn. A native of Dallas, Texas and a graduate of the New School in New York City, she has taken first prize in two prestigious events, the Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Competition (2013) and the Thelonious Monk Institute International Jazz Competition (2015). Her long-awaited debut album — A Social Call, due out on May 12 on Prestige — feels designed to showcase her range, with nods to Mary J. Blige and the Stylistics as well as jazz-vocal lodestars like Vaughan. “Tight,” the lead single, is a tune by the great Betty Carter that Horn has been singing for years. And her performance — with saxophonist Stacy Dillard, pianist Victor Gould, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Jerome Jennings — suggests a smartly playful homage.
Jazz Passengers, “Wake Up, Again!”
The daily grind isn’t a notion typically associated with jazz musicians — but then the Jazz Passengers aren’t your typical jazz musicians. “Wake Up, Again!” is a track from Still Life With Trouble, released on Thirsty Ear to commemorate the group’s 30th anniversary. The music video adds a clever dimension to the song, with saxophonist Roy Nathanson experiencing his version of Groundhog Day: alarm clock, morning ablutions, schlep down the street to the train. Curtis Fowlkes, who sings the song’s beleaguered lyrics, shows up as a pesky tagalong — or maybe a figment of the imagination? The tune, in a slithery 5/4 meter, just rolls along, like that train. Hear the Jazz Passengers play it in person on Tuesday, at Roulette in Brooklyn.
Speaking of puckish bands with long histories: Sexmob happens to be celebrating its 20th year, with no sign of physical or moral dissipation. The lineup hasn’t changed a bit since slide trumpeter Steven Bernstein first convened this roguish foursome, with Briggan Krauss on saxophones, Tony Scherr on bass and Kenny Wollesen on drums. “Syrup” is a rubbery funk confection that arrives halfway through their new album, Cultural Capital, due out on April 14. It’s vintage Sexmob: deep in the groove but sly about it, with an implicit threat of volatility that Bernstein makes sure to fulfill, even if only in a measured dose. Bernstein has curated this week at the Stone; Sexmob hits on Wednesday.
Roxy Coss, “Chasing the Unicorn”
For saxophonist Roxy Coss, the unicorn isn’t just a mythical totem, or a piece of Silicon Valley jargon. This creature “asks us to explore the true meaning of our lives by giving us a glimpse at our destiny,” she writes in the notes to Chasing the Unicorn, her new release on Posi-Tone. Whatever you may think of that logic, hear her out musically, at least: the album’s title track is an intriguing composition featuring Coss on soprano as well as a multi-tracked chorus of other saxophones (and bass clarinet). The tune has a few strands of melody that entwine and converge, with guitarist Alex Wintz and pianist Glenn Zaleski playing a critical role. It’s one of six originals on the album, which also features reframed tunes by Joe Henderson, Wayne Shorter, Willie Nelson and the Beatles.
The electroacoustic collective Supersilent has never been easy to categorize, and if anything, they made it even tougher with 13. As that title suggests, it’s their 13th album — but the first on Smalltown Supersound (after a long affiliation with another Norwegian label, Rune Grammofon). Here is track 5 from the album, “13.5.” (Titles have never really been their thing.)
To call this track “a journey” is misleading, and also an understatement: the music doesn’t follow a course from point A to point B, but it does cover a sprawling amount of ground. Arve Henriksen, Ståle Storløkken and Helge Sten open in an unrest of blips and growls, and improvise their way through a thicket of textures: be sure to stick around long enough to hear Storløkken’s pipe organ in horror-show mode. (Supersilent is at Le Poisson Rouge on Monday night, playing its first shows in the United States in, fittingly enough, 13 years.)