What's New on WDCB... with Leslie Keros
The Paxton/Spangler Septet – Ugqozi (Eastlawn)
Ugqozi represents the latest from a Detroit-based group co-led by trombonist John “T-Bone” Paxton and drummer/percussionist R.J. Spangler. They’ve worked together since the ’70s on a wide range of projects, from the sounds of Sun Ra to the swing of Bennie Moten. On Ugqozi (“inspiration”), they offer spirited interpretations of music made famous by African stars such as Abdullah Ibrahim, Miriam Makeba, Nduduzo Makhathini, Fela Kuti, and Hugh Masekela. Special guests Alex Harding (trombone) and Salim Washington (tenor saxophone, oboe, and flute) make strong impressions throughout the disc, but the buoyant grooves themselves play the starring role in this uplifting music.
Bill Heid – Dealin’ wid It (Savant)
Organist and vocalist Bill Heid reunites with Michigan brethren Perry Hughes (guitar) and Randy Gelispie (drums), plus Kevin “Bujo” Jones (percussion), on his latest disc, Dealin’ wid It. A Pittsburgh native, Heid has always kept one foot firmly in jazz and the other in the blues, navigating the intersection with an unfailing sense of groove. Nine of the ten tunes here are Heid’s own, and the focus is clearly on instrumentals, allowing the combo’s cohesiveness to shine throughout. The title cut, which opens the disc, offers a generous helping of grease and affirms the organist’s love for blues shuffles. “Samba Cat” showcases Jones’s percussive chops and Hughes’s exploratory guitar work, while “Cho Soup” recalls Larry Young’s work with Grant Green. The final track on the album, a reworking of the mid-’60s pop hit “Hurt So Bad,” melds Groove Holmes’s soulful rendering with Green’s up-tempo treatment.
Steve Davis – Bluesthetic (Smoke Sessions)
Trombonist and composer Steve Davis is well known for his sextet ensembles, and the more recent frontlines feature him with a saxophonist and a trumpeter. On this recording, however, he’s the lone horn player, with Steve Nelson (vibes) and Peter Bernstein (guitar) joining him out front, harking back to a lineup Davis first recorded with in the late ’90s. The supporting rhythm section consists of first-call players as well: Geoffrey Keezer (piano), Christian McBride (bass), and Willie Jones III (drums). “Bluesthetic” is Davis’s way of describing how the blues influences his aesthetic, and on his new disc Davis explores many hues of those blues. “Encouragement” opens the proceedings on a hopeful note; “Silver at Sundown” salutes Horace Silver and the Hartford jazz club where he was discovered by Stan Getz; and “They Wore 44” indulges Davis’s love for sports figures, notably Hank Aaron.