By Mike Greenblatt
Electric Fantastic, the self-released, self-produced debut of The Moore-McColl Jazz Society, has the kind of surprises that are like a kiss on the cheek. Supertramp’s 1979 “The Logical Song” was so ripe for a new arrangement. “I Remember Danny Gatton” is in tribute to the tragic Telecaster master who took his own life at 49. “Blues For Lonnie Williams” is for the Mississippi blues guitarist that a very young Elvis Presley listened to in Tupelo, Mississippi. Throughout, Beth Moore (vocals, keyboards) and Chance McColl (vocals, guitar) are joined by a horn section, percolating percussion, trombone and other voices to produce a nine-song stunner incorporating acoustic rock’n’roll, bluesy Americana and straight-up jazz (especially when Moore gets down with her Hammond B-3 like the legendary Jimmy Smith).
One of the more intriguing albums of the year has to be Drumology (Autumn Hill Records) wherein drummer Rob Silverman has gathered a drum-come-true dream team of Greg Bissonette (Ringo Starr), Steve Smith (Journey), Simon Phillips (The Who), Dave Weckl (Chick Corea) and John Blackwell (Prince) on material drawing from Silverman’s African, Japanese, Middle Eastern, Native American, samba and fusion musical roots. Silverman, the drummer for Bach To The Future, adds layers of sax, bass, violin and guitar to create a freewheeling adventure unlike anything else out there.
The Matt Wilson Quartet’s Hug (Palmetto) is a balm to our tortured souls this year. It’s the drummer/composer’s 14th album as a leader, the follow-up to his 2018 Honey and Salt: Music Inspired by the Poetry of Carl Sandburg. His longtime quartet with Jeff Lederer (sax, clarinet, piccolo), Kirk Knuffke (cornet) and Chris Lightcap (bass) opens with “The One Before This” by Gene Ammons, a physical romp where each musician seems hellbent to outdo each other (Ammons got famous via his tenor battles with Sonny Stitt). Abdullah Ibrahim’s 1968 “Jabulani” is a joyous exchange of free bop ideas and precedes Charlie Haden’s “In The Moment,” a nod to Wilson’s days with the legendary late bassist. Wilson also played with Dewey Redman [1931-2006] and his transcendent interpretation of “Joie De Vivre” is in tribute to his former boss. Then there’s Roger Miller’s “King Of The Road” which sounds like no other cover of that 1964 hit. “Space Force/Interplanetary Music” is his ode to Sun Ra [1914-1993], the Philadelphia extra-terrestrial. Even Cher gets her due with the wild “Sunny & Share.” With Matt Wilson, in a 30-year+ career, no stone is ever left unturned.
Watch out for vocalist Luba Mason. There’s no one quite like her. On Triangle (Blue Canoe Records), with a never-before-attempted trio of but vibes/bass/vocals, she interprets Monk, The Beatles, Paul Simon, Broadway, Antonio Carlos Jobim and heavy metal band System Of A Down. Her voice fluctuates with airy breeziness, scatting and sorting through the various melodies—sometimes changing them—with a sifter of finely granulated gradations of soul, jazz, pop, cabaret and folk smarts.
There’s simply no describing the music of Manteca. Cinematic, atmospheric, mysterious worldbeat fusion? You can’t label it no matter how hard you try. This Canadian nonet, on The Twelfth of Never (self-released with the help of the Toronto Arts Council) wrote eight meandering adventures to nowhere utilizing their collective talents on drums, djembe, timbales, cajone, udu, dundun, alto sax, tenor sax, bari sax, alto flute, bass clarinet, piccolo, drums, trombone, bass trombone, vibraphone, keyboards, electric bass, acoustic bass, trumpet, flugelhorn, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, piano, Wurlitzer, Rhodes, congas and talking drums to create a pastiche of sound, again, unlike anything you’ve ever heard.