Canadian trumpeter/composer/arranger Al Muirhead and his quintet have been captured Live From Frankie’s & The Yardbird (Chronograph Records). At 12, he was playing in dance bands. At 22, he was playing in the Regina Symphony Orchestra. At 32, he was playing in Dizzy Gillespie’s band. Now, at 86, his tone is warm and adventurous. He swings with a delightful edge. He shares the front-line of his quintet with superb tenor saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, ably backed by guitar/bass/drums. Opening and closing with some superb Sonny Rollins, his originals strike that delicate feel-good balance between sentimental traditionalism and pure forward-thinking invention. Jimmy Giuffre’s 1947 “Four Brothers” may be scaled down from its bold original in Woody Herman’s Thundering Herd but its essence remains untrammeled.
Michigan saxophonist/composer/educator Diego Rivera has put together a dream band on Indigenous (PosiTone Records). Houston pianist Helen Sung is a monster. Russian bassist Boris Kozlov pops and plunks his way forward, holding down the bottom with verve and surprisingly supple technique. Louisiana drummer Donald Edwards brings that Crescent City feel to whatever he does. He can’t help it. Trinidadian trumpeter Etienne Charles is the special guest. Together, these five roll with funky post-bop chops. Rivera’s multi-cultural worldview is like an international travel brochure, each track another exotic port.
The greatest piano player you never heard of came out of Philadelphia. Hasaan Ibn Ali, when busted for dope in ‘65, had laid down some tracks with producer Nesuhi Ertegun but Atlantic Records backed off the project and the tapes just collected dust in a New Jersey warehouse. In 1978, that warehouse burned down and the tapes went with it. Rumors circulated for years that a copy had been made but no one ever found it.
Restored and remastered by Michael Graves (who won a Grammy for his restoration of tracks by country singer Hank Williams), Metaphysics: The Lost Atlantic Album has Ali fronting tenor saxophonist Odean Pope, bassist Art Davis and drummer Kalil Madi. Seven tracks and three alternates survived.
Ali may have played like no one ever. He’s been called “the Prokofiev of jazz” and is said to have heavily influenced John Coltrane as the two practiced together in the early ‘50s. Still, he was basically unemployable and despite his sterling reputation amongst his fellow musicians, he never developed an audience. It is said that when he’d jam at Philly’s Woodbine club, the horn players would leave the bandstand because his harmonic concepts were just too damn hard to follow. Now, thanks to Omnivore Records, we can hear it for ourselves.
Educator/Author/Producer/Alto Saxophonist Jim Snidero is Live At The Deer Head Inn (Savant Records) with his sterling quartet starring pianist Orrin Evans (a leader in his own right), bassist Peter Washington (who was also with Snidero on his last Live album 31 years ago) and drummer Joe Farnsworth (who traveled to this great club in the beautiful heart of Pennsylvania’s Delaware Water Gap from his usual perch on the bandstand of Manhattan’s swinging Smoke club). Together, they truly make a joyous noise, be it Charlie Parker (“Now’s The Time”), Jerome Kern (“Yesterdays”), Grant Green (“Idle Moments”) and seven others from the “Great American Songbook” like “Autumn Leaves,” “Ol’ Man River,” “Bye Bye Blackbird” and “Who Can I Turn To.” Recorded during the pandemic with all proper protocols, Snidero (whose tone is so gorgeous and soul-satisfying, one thinks of Johnny Hodges, Benny Carter, Sonny Stitt or Phil Woods) calls it “comfort music,” like a wish to build a dream on. With over 20 albums as a leader, Snidero has also been in demand at sessions from Frank Sinatra to Eddie Palmieri. Take a load off, brother, this thing will sooth you into submission.