The temperature is not the only thing that is hot now that summer is here. The recording industry has also kept pace with a major output of new jazz CDs. Here are some I think may be of interest to add to your collection.
If you are looking for a way to beat the heat, this latest offering from guitarist Norman Brown lives up to its title. There's no risky harmonic innovations here, but a consistent level of quality rhythm grooves with a smooth jazz profile anchored by Brown's storytelling. The mood is mellow and romantic with its sensual R&B beat throughout. Guest vocalist Michael McDonald has a convincing offering on 'I Still Believe,' along with contributions from Chante Moore and Debbie Nova.
Brown serves up an after-sundown, laid-back vibe with that special person as he keeps the flame low but cooking.
Stan Kenton Orchestra
Stompin' At Newport
It always is amazing how record companies come up with great recordings of artists decades later after they have left us. This Kenton release is a classic example. For lovers of big band jazz and especially Kenton, this is an important discovery. Recorded by Norman Granz at the Newport Jazz Festival in 1957, it has been under wraps all this time due to legal constraints. There are no new compositions here; all have been done before on Capitol. But check out the uninhibited attack of Kenton's massive sound machine and even more so the fiery solos by all. Especially outstanding is tenor saxophonist Bill Perkin's muscular 'Prez'-influenced solos on 'Stompin at the Savoy' and 'Intermission Riff.'
Even from a historical point, this is a valuable addition for lovers of Kenton and big band jazz.
Tales Of Wonder
There have been many tributes sent Stevie Wonder's way, but musically, none could have been as heartfelt and adventurous as what Nenna Freelon lays down here. Freelon, with her marvelous way, wrings every nuance out of a word or phrase in this emotion-packed excursion. 'Overjoyed' gets a new dress as Freelon stretches and bends phrases and gives it a down-home. bluesy rendering. 'Superstition' is given a gospel rendering with Freelon giving a convincing sermon.
If you thought you had heard all that Stevie Wonder has to offer, you haven't heard anything until you hear a jazz artist of Nenna Freelon's level breathe new life into some pop classics.