Take Five: New Music by Joel Ross, Tom Guarna, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah & Ezra Collective

Aug 30, 2020

Along with a new collaboration between Angelica Sanchez and Marilyn Crispell.

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, “The Last Chieftain”

During the second week of March, as the New York area was just shifting into lockdown mode, Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah decided to keep an engagement at the Blue Note Jazz Club. The trumpeter and bandleader came with his combustible working band and a dynamic book of tunes. That blistering live set has now been released on Ropeadope as Axiom.


“The Last Chieftain,” a piece introduced on the 2015 album Stretch Music, captures the full churn and flash of Scott’s music. Dedicated to Donald Harrison, Jr. and Donald Harrison, Sr. — his uncle and great-uncle, both chiefs in the Afro-New Orleans tribal tradition — the song is a bold, heraldic vessel. And in this version, it houses a cavalcade of terrific solos: Lawrence Fields on piano, then Elena Pinderhughes on flute, and then Weedie Braimah on djembe, before Scott steps out onto the ledge. He doesn’t solo here, but saxophonist Alex Han is also in the mix — and it should be noted that this music relies heavily on the superb rhythm team of Kris Funn on bass and Corey Fonville on drums.

Tom Guarna, “Two Circles”

Last year WBGO proudly presented Tom Guarna with an all-star quartet at the Yamaha Salon. Guarna, a guitarist of broad fluency and deep lyrical instinct, convened a different but equally esteemed personnel for his new album, Spirit Science. Due out on Sept. 18 on Destiny Records, it features saxophonist Ben Wendel, pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Justin Faulkner.

“Two Circles” — which premieres here, with footage from the recording session at Sear Sound — is an aptly named piece whose rotational rhythmic feel brings out the best in the band. Wendel takes the first solo on tenor, before thoughtful essays by Guarna and Parks. Spirit Science was inspired in part by the idea of sacred geometry. Guarna explains: “It’s where math and science meet with spirit and matter — ideas that humans have studied since the ancients, from Pythagoras to Da Vinci.”

Tom Guarna’s Spirit Science will be released on Sept. 18; preorder here.

Joel Ross, “More?”

Vibraphonist and composer Joel Ross made a big impression last year with his Blue Note Records debut, KingMaker. A follow-up — Who Are You?, due out on Oct. 23 — will only strengthen his stature. As before, Ross presents a body of sharp compositions for his band Good Vibes, with Immanuel Wilkins on alto saxophone, Jeremy Corren on piano, Kanoa Mendenhall on bass and Jeremy Dutton on drums.

The album’s first available cut, “More? ,” is characteristic: a gyre of swirling rhythm and momentous harmonic undertow, with room for every member of the band to shine. Its title could refer to any number of things — but given that the track fades out shortly before the five-minute mark, it feels like a meta-commentary. If the job of a lead single is to tantalize, Blue Note can file this under “Mission Accomplished.”

Joel Ross’ Who Are You? will be released on Oct. 23; preorder here.

Angelica Sanchez & Marilyn Crispell, “Lobe of the Fly”

Duo piano albums can be a tricky proposition, unless the pianists in question share a mutual understanding along with a sensitivity to the moment. Angelica Sanchez and Marilyn Crispell are two such pianists, and on their forthcoming album How to Turn the Moon — due out on Oct. 2 on Pyroclastic Records, which has also released a sterling effort in this vein by Kris Davis and Craig Taborn — they demonstrate a meld that feels so natural, you might forget just how uncommon it is.


Crispell and Sanchez first formed a rapport at the Creative Music Studio in Woodstock, N.Y., a few years ago. They subsequently played the Sound It Out series at Greenwich House Music School, with Sanchez writing a suite of music for their collaboration. “Lobe of the Fly” is the opening piece, an overture that nods toward chromaticism and rhythmic unrest while reaffirming an ideal of convergence. (Listen in stereo or with headphones if you’d like to parse the players: Crispell is in the right channel, Sanchez in the left.)

How to Turn the Moon will be available on Pyroclastic Records on Oct. 2.

Ezra Collective, “Dark Side Riddim”

If you’ve been keeping up with Ezra Collective, you know that the London-based groove outfit has a version of “Footprints,” the Wayne Shorter tune, set to appear on the compilation Blue Note Re:imagined this fall. Over the weekend, Ezra Collective also released a double A-side single — “Samuel L. Riddim” / “Dark Side Riddim” — for Record Store Day, with 1,000 vinyl copies on color-splattered vinyl.

While “Samuel L. Riddin” has previously appeared as a digital single, “Dark Side Riddim” is a brand-new track — a bright blend of hard-boppish horns and house rhythm, perfect for your socially distanced backyard BBQ (or whatever else you have on deck in these waning summer days). As always, drummer-bandleader Femi Koleoso sets the tone, with his brother TJ Koleoso holding it down on bass; you’ll also hear trumpeter Ife Ogunjobi, saxophonist James Mollison and last but certainly not least, keyboardist Joe Armon-Jones, whose solo is a highlight of the track.

Find “Samuel L Riddim” / “Dark Side Riddim” at your local record store (while supplies last), or listen on your streaming service of choice.