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What's New on WDCB... with Paul Abella

January 29th, 2024

Sam Robinson Sextet – Third Time’s a Charm (self-produced)

If you’ve been trying to catch live music throughout the Chicago area in the past couple of years, likely, you’ve run into Sam Robinson’s hard swinging group. All of that effort and dedication has borne fruit, and all of that hard work shows itself off on Third Time’s a Charm. Trumpeter Robinson is joined by Scott Angst on tenor sax, Josh Torrey playing trombone, and a rhythm section consisting of Jim Holman (piano), Aaron Krings (bass) and Linard Stroud (drums). Robinson has formed this band into a cohesive unit with a clear focus on the Hard Bop sound of the 1950’s and 60’s. Things start off with a bang on the Woody Shaw penned “Rahsaan’s Run,” featuring excellent solos from Robinson, Angst and Holman. Horace Silver’s “Señor Blues” shows off Stroud’s prodigious drumming skills, propelling the music forward with a sense of muscularity and musicality, allowing the music to breathe over the course of a couple of different grooves that both suit the group as a whole. “Infant Eyes” is beautiful, “What’s New” gets a unique arrangement that I wasn’t expecting, and on “Da Brain,” Robinson proves that he should be writing more tunes, because this one is a treat. If you haven’t gone and seen Sam Robinson’s group yet, consider this your invitation and encouragement to do so.

Craig Davis – Tone Paintings: The Music of Dodo Marmarosa (MCG Jazz)

It only makes sense that an organization based out of Pittsburgh would pay tribute to Dodo Marmarosa, who played with Bird and Diz and Gene Krupa’s Big Band (among others), but ended up spending most of his life in the city of his birth. Be-Bop was clearly on Marmarosa’s mind when he wrote many of the songs heard on Tone Paintings. Pianist Craig Davis, bassist John Clayton and drummer Jeff Hamilton make for a potent trio that is impossible to ignore. “Dodo’s Bounce,” “Compadoo” and “Battle of the Balcony Jive” are all boppish numbers that are a lot of fun to listen to. “Dary Departs” and the album’s sole original, “A Ditty for Dodo” are a little more contemplative, but no less engaging. With talents on the level of Davis, Clayton and Hamilton, Tone Paintings is a joy to listen to.

Russ Spiegel – Caribbean Blue (Ruzztone Music)

Guitarist Russ Spiegel has put together a great cast of players on his latest album, Caribbean Blue. The core trio of Spiegel, Jim Gasior (organ) and Lucas Apostoleris (drums) is joined by some top flight guest stars like trumpeter Brian Lynch, saxophonist Tim Armacost, and harmonica player Hendrik Meurkens. “E. 22nd Street” is a brisk samba featuring Meurkens that packs a lot of excitement into three and a half minutes. “Slippery Slope” is a nice swingin’ tune that gets all of the horns involved, and Jim Gasior’s left hand and feet deserve their own shout out for the bassline that he put together on this one. “Retribution Blues” is a dark, loping blues, and both “Smooth Move” and “The Underdown Groove” prove that this band can get down and funky, too.

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