Carolyn Leonhart & Wayne Escoffery - Tides of Yesterday
Normally, I'm not a particularly skeptical person. But when I see things in album credits like "hair," "makeup," and "dresses," it's tough to not tighten up a little. The good news is that Leonhart and Escoffery can bring it. She has a voice that manages to seem almost crystalline while retaining all sorts of texture. A perfect example of this is "Big Noise, New York," a bluesy Donald Fagen composition that allows Escoffery to step out early on with a nice solo before Leonhart comes in. The combination of voice and tenor saxophone is very subtle and sensual, something to be expected for a person who worked as a backup singer for Steely Dan for a decade.
Abdullah Ibrahim & WDR Big Band Colgne - Bombella
I am shocked to say that this recording left me cold. Shocked because it's got Abdullah Ibrahim on it! There certainly are some great moments, such as the solo piano opening track ("Green Kalahari") and the sprightly "Mandela" — come on, the melody is played on the irresistible piccolo flute! They also generate a serious amount of heat on "I Mean You/For Monk." Kudos to guitarist Paul Shigihara for a killer solo. And Ibrahim does lay out some pretty inventive ruminations during the solo "For Monk" part. Still, I got to the end and those three bits were the only parts I remembered. Maybe I was just in the mood for something a little smaller that day.