What's New on WDCB... with Paul Abella
Buster Williams – Unalome (Smoke Sessions)
Buster Williams has put together an all-star group for his 2023 release, Unalome. He calls the band the Something Else Sextet, and he is not wrong. Surrounded by legendary drummer Lenny White, pianist George Colligan, Stefon Harris on vibes, Bruce Williams on woodwinds and vocalist Jean Baylor, this collective plays really well together. On most of the album, Baylor sings the lyrics to standards like “Estate” and “Here’s to Life” beautifully. On a couple of songs, she does the wordless vocal thing quite nicely on “Stairways” and “The Wisdom of Silence.” Bruce Williams shines on saxophone and flute, and it’s always a pleasure to hear Stefon Harris dig in to a burner like “Tayamisha.” Something Else, indeed.
Christopher McBride – Ramon (KYO Music)
One time Chicagoan and saxophonist Christopher McBride has been in New York City for a while now, and I was excited to hear that he had an album coming out in 2023. I was not disappointed when I loaded Ramon into the CD player. “Lady D” starts off the festivities with a bang, where we are greeted by great solos from McBride, trumpeter JS Williams, and pianist Jonathan Edward Thomas. On “You Put a Smile on My Face,” Bobby Broom gets a fantastic guest spot. “Dope (for the Steppers)” and “Girl Get ‘Em” give us some tasty funk to go along with the swing. There’s a little something for everyone on Ramon, and that’s going to make it a fun disc to listen to and play for you for quite some time.
Leon Lee Dorsey – Cantaloupe Island (Jazz Avenue 1)
Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey has put out a string of albums over the past few years with drummer Mike Clark and a revolving cast of pianists. On Cantaloupe Island, Dorsey and Clarke remain intact, but now, they’ve recruited a guitarist to fill out the trio, and oh, what a guitarist they brought in for the occasion. Russell Malone brings the heat throughout, whether it’s on the music of Herbie Hancock (“Cantaloupe Island”), Wes Montgomery (“Bumpin’ On Sunset,” “The Thumb”) or a lovely take on a standard (“The Very Thought of You,” “That’s All”). Whatever these three tackle, they sound energized and as excited as can be.