Take Five: Sharp New Music by David Sanchez, Ryan Keberle, Matt Mitchell & Alexa Tarantino

May 26, 2019

Along with a previously unheard Stan Getz gem from 1961.

David Sánchez, “Morning Mist”

“I believe some of the greatest contributions to contemporary music and culture have come from the African diaspora throughout the Americas,” declares tenor saxophonist David Sánchez in some of the press materials for Carib, an album due on Ropeadope on June 7.

If you’ve been listening to his output over the last 25 years, this shouldn’t come as a surprise. But Carib extends Sánchez’s field of inquiry. It’s a modern jazz statement informed by folk traditions not only from Puerto Rico, his homeland, but also Haiti — in particular, music that came over from the Congo.

The album features a first-rate supporting cast that understands what Sánchez is after: an exploration with one foot in the distant past but both eyes trained ahead. Along with guitarist Lage Lund, who has been a reliable ace in his bands for more than a decade, the ensemble includes pianist Luis Perdomo, drummer Obed Calvaire, bassist Ricky Rodriguez, and percussionist Jhan Lee Aponte. (On a few tracks, Markus Schwartz also joins on Haitian percussion.)

The album’s opening track is “Morning Mist,” which has its exclusive premiere here. Beginning with an unaccompanied tenor line that sets the groove, it’s a composition built on folkloric polyrhythm but suffused with silvery modern harmonies. Sánchez brings his usual heat and muscularity to the tenor solo, and Perdomo meets him at that level of combustion. It’s a thrilling overture to an album that Sánchez has obviously been itching to make.

David Sánchez’s Carib will appear at the Jazz Standard from June 6-9.

Ryan Keberle & Catharsis, “Despite the Dream”

Hope in the face of cynicism: by now it’s an established mode of being for trombonist Ryan Keberle and his band Catharsis. Their most recent album was Find the Common, Shine a Light, which arrived on the heels of a deeply contentious presidential election. Now comes a sequel of sorts, The Hope I Hold, which borrows its title and its center of moral gravity from a poem by Langston Hughes, bearing the rather loaded title “Let America Be America Again.”

Last Friday, Greenleaf Music released the album’s first single, “Despite the Dream.” Here now is footage of the song being recorded in the studio. The lead vocalist and guitarist is Camila Meza; on tenor saxophone is Scott Robinson. The rhythm section consists of bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Eric Doob.

“Despite the Dream” incorporates lilting samba rhythm and a lyrical idea directly from Hughes: pay attention to Meza as she begins, “I’m the one who dreamed,” in a wistful tone. When she gets to the phrase “homeland of the free,” you’ll hear Keberle’s overdubbed voice, pushing against that premise: “The free, the free, who said the free? Not me.”

The Hope I Hold will be released on Greenleaf Music on June 28; preorder here. Ryan Keberle & Catharsis will be on tour this summer, reaching the Jazz Standard on July 17.

Matt Mitchell, “ssgg”

The music of pianist Matt Mitchell has never fit any workable definition of “easy listening.” That may sound like a warning, but it’s quite the opposite: an invitation to engage with some of the most intriguing, immersive and hyperdetailed work at the fulcrum of jazz and new music. This describes the entirety of Mitchell’s output as a composer and bandleader, but especially Phalanx Ambassadors, his flabbergasting new release, due out on Pi Recordings this Friday.


The album features Mitchell on piano and keyboards, Patricia Brennan on vibraphone and marimba, Miles Okazaki on guitars, Kim Cass on bass and Kate Gentile on drums. And on several of the compositions, rhythmic complexity and harmonic inscrutability combine to form a welcome assault on the senses. The piece called “ssgg” is different: a quieter sort of puzzle, like an interior monologue that gradually takes several unexpected turns. Follow it closely; the harmonic path here is beguiling, and the level of discipline is fearsome.

Matt Mitchell and Ches Smith perform music from a different Pi Recordings release, Fiction, on Friday at the Jazz Gallery.

Alexa Tarantino, “Breeze”

So far this has been a good year for the visibility of a winning young saxophonist named Alexa Tarantino. A few months ago she released an album with the Posi-Tone Records collective called Something Blue. (We featured them, and her, in Take Five.)

Tarantino was also a prominent voice in a recent episode of Jazz Night in America, about the DIVA Jazz Orchestra as it celebrates its 25th anniversary. And she appears on Bliss, a recent album by baritone saxophonist Lauren Sevian. (They regularly work together in a band called LSAT.) Winds of Change is Tarantino’s own new album, releasing on Posi-Tone this Friday. It boasts a first-rate rhythm section: pianist Christian Sands, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Rudy Royston.

“Breeze” is an aptly titled original that Tarantino describes as “an easygoing medium-swing composition that has a few deceptive moments to keep you on your toes.” Her delivery of the melody faintly recalls an alto precursor like Art Pepper, though Tarantino is hardly interested in impersonation. And listen to the comping that Sands does behind her, before his own spirited solo.

The Alexa Tarantino Quartet appears on Tuesday at Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola.

Stan Getz Quartet, “Yesterday’s Gardenias”

And we’ll end this week in blissful indulgence, with a new track from the archival release Getz at The Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961. Featuring the incomparably lyrical tenor saxophonist in brilliant company — pianist Steve Kuhn, bassist John Neves and drummer Roy Haynes — it’s a pristine recording that somehow never saw the light of day, until now.

“Yesterday’s Gardenias” is a relative obscurity in the songbook, probably best known for its recording by the Glenn Miller Orchestra, with a vocal by Ray Eberle. As you’d expect, Getz gives the melody an impeccable reading, relaxed and swinging, before a solo that feels like coasting down an open highway. Kuhn (who recorded his own version of the song within the last decade), follows suit with a statement that nods more than once to Bill Evans.

Getz at The Gate: The Stan Getz Quartet Live at the Village Gate, Nov. 26, 1961 will be released on June 14 on Verve. Preorder here.