What's New on WDCB... with Dan Bindert
Steve Million – Perfectly Spaced (Calligram)
The latest entry from Chicago’s new Calligram record label is an outgrowth of recent collaborations between Missouri-native and longtime Chicagoan Steve Million and more recent Chicago resident Mark Feldman. Million brings high-level piano musicianship to any project he leads and violinist Feldman has a long list of major credits including work with John Abercrombie, John Zorn, Billy Hart and Dave Douglas. Million and Feldman have played frequently with bassist Eric Hochberg at Catch 35 over the last year and Hochberg’s bass, along Bob Rummage’s drums, help this quartet session swing with thoughtfulness and plenty of creative spirit. Highlights include notable Million originals like “The Mirror” and “Ditty Do Wah,” as well as the set closer, a sensitive Million/Feldman duo take on the Bill Evans composition, “Time Remembered.”
Michael Dease – Swing Low (Posi-Tone)
In addition to his work teaching jazz trombone at Michigan State University, Michael Dease has been one of the more prolific leaders in the Posi-Tone label’s stable of artists over the last decade, with 11 releases since 2014 heading groups of various shapes and sizes. While trombone is his primary instrument, he proves on his latest effort that he’s got a strong voice on baritone saxophone as well. Dease fronts a quintet here that includes Posi-Tone mainstays Art Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) on most of the tunes here while Canadian trumpet star Ingrid Jensen adds her own strong voice to this enjoyable set, harmonizing and sparring impressively with Dease throughout the entire session.
Darrel Grant’s MJ New – Our Mr. Jackson (Lair Hill)
This tribute to vibraphone legend and 2023 jazz centennial birthday celebrant Milt Jackson is the product of a quartet that originally came together to salute the Modern Jazz Quartet at a concert in 2013. Portland, Oregon-based pianist Darrell Grant put together this group mirroring the MJQ, with Mike Horsfall playing Jackson’s role on vibes, Marcus Shelby on bass and the (now late) Carlton Jackson on drums. Together they offer up respectful but new millennium-tinged renditions of MJQ standbys like “Bag’s Groove” and “Versailles,” along with MJQ-inspired takes on compositions by Mary Lou Williams, Duke Ellington, Antonio Carlos Jobim and two Grant originals.