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February 15th, 2021

Dave Stryker: Baker’s Circle (Strikezone Records)

Guitarist Dave Stryker has been busy these past few years, with a flurry of new albums, the majority of which have featured organist Jared Gold and drummer McClenty Hunter. On Baker's Circle, tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III joins the fray for an excellent program featuring some of Stryker's best originals to date (seriously, "Tough" might be my new favorite). Add to that a few great interpretations of gems from Marvin Gaye ("Inner City Blues"), Ivan Lins ("Love Dance") and Leon Russell ("Superstar").

Diego Rivera: Indigenous (Posi-Tone)

"Swingin'!" is by far the first adjective one should use in describing the latest album from saxophonist Diego Rivera. Indigenous finds Rivera in fine form with a great rhythm section backing him up (pianist Helen Sung, bassist Boris Kozlov and drummer Donald Edwards), plus trumpeter Etienne Charles jumping in on three songs. Diego is on fire right out of the gate on Cannonball Adderley's "Marabi," and he never lets up. Rivera's "Sombras del Pasado" is a grooving monster, and the Stevie Wonder classic "The Secret Life of Plants" is a lovely treat as well.

Joel Baer & Chris Parsons: Joel Baer & Chris Parsons present the Blueshift Big Band (self-produced)

Chicago's jazz scene is blessed to have quite a few fantastic big bands, and if the debut album from the Blueshift Big Band is any indication, then 2021 has brought us yet another one. This is a bright, brassy and heavy affair with a lot of ensemble work. The repertoire is wide, spanning Charlie Parker's "Billie's Bounce" to Weather Report's "Elegant People". There's a lot to like here, and I'd imagine you'll be hearing this one a lot over the course of the next couple of months.