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What's on WDCB - Best of 2020 Part 1

December 21st, 2020

Over the course of these next two weeks, I’m sharing the stage with my fellow WDCB Jazz hosts to bring you our favorite discs of 2020, so without further ado…

Dona Mullen, DCB Jazz, MWF, 5-8am, and every other Sunday, 9am-noon

Lolly Allen - Coming Home (OA2 Records)

I LOVE the vibraphone and there aren't many female vibraphonists. She plays classics written by Horace Silver, Dizzy Gillespie, Tadd Dameron, Mario Bauza, and Antonio Carlos Jobim and does an excellent job!

The Christian McBride Big Band - For Jimmy, Wes and Oliver (Mack Avenue)

The Christian McBride Big Band's dedication to Jimmy Smith, Wes Montgomery and Oliver Nelson is wonderful. As a huge fan of Wes Montgomery, I love their version of "Road Song."


Eric Alexander - Eric Alexander with Strings (High Note)

Excellent CD including standards, Jazz classics and one original composition, "Gently,” a favorite of mine. A great rhythm section backs him up: pianist David Hazeltine, bassist John Webber and drummer Joe Farnsworth. The string section is just enough, and not overbearing or overpowering.

Jay Greene, DCB Jazz, Saturday, 7-10am

Andy Brown - Alone Time (String Damper Records)

What hasn't been said about Andy Brown? He is liked by Jazz aficionados and casual listeners. His choice of notes equals his choice of songs - both are exceptional. He is a master on ballads, latin songs and uptempo burners. Alone Time features songs by Benny Goodman, Baden Powell and Oscar Pettiford. In Andy's case, nice guys finish FIRST!

Elmhurst College Jazz Band - Colors: The Music of Michael Abene (self-produced)

Everything Michael Abene touches turns to gold - be it the 88 keys on the piano or the pen he uses to compose/arrange. ECJB performed this concert in 2019 and released it in 2020. There were a lot of good Big Band cds released in 2020, but this one is still my favorite. Under the direction of Doug Beach, the stellar students run through 9 songs from Abene's "Two Of One" to Mike Stern's "Chromazone". The vocals by Jess Brooks are equal to her winning the 2019 DownBeat Student Music Award in the Jazz Solo Voice category. The featured instrument solos - too numerous to list - are outstanding. To say these "Kids" can play is an understatement!

Marshall Gilkes Trio - Waiting To Continue (Alternate Side Records)

We are all used to Marshall's trombone artistry with Maria Schneider's Orchestra, The Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and Slide Monsters. This cd is a trio with Yasushi Nakamura on bass and Clarence Penn on drums. They've been performing since 2019. Recording was delayed from April 2020 to July - hence the title. All the compositions are Marshall's - from the beautiful title cut to the complex "Play Date" in 7/8. Two of the tracks have trombone chorales by Marshall. Great original compositions - many of which were inspired by his wife and his two young children, and the time they all spent waiting to continue.  

Dan Bindert, WDCB Station Manager

Alexa Tarantino - Clarity (Posi-Tone)

The sophomore release from a rising young talent...Tarantino plays both alto and soprano saxophones as well as flute beautifully on a swinging set of hard-boppish jazz tinged with some Latin flavor. Half of the pieces are appealing originals and the standout interpretations include her treatment of Horace Silver's "Gregory is Here," but every cut on this disc is a winner.

Adonis Rose - Piece of Mind: Live at the Blue Llama (Storyville)

Recorded in front of a spirited Ann Arbor audience in 2019, this was a reminder of all of the fun we've been missing out on in 2020. The 15-minute opening cut finds drummer Rose sparking the flame for saxophonist Tia Fuller and trumpeter Maurice Brown on Freddie Hubbard's '70s classic "Keep Your Soul Together" and that sort of flow continues all through the set, with three of the album's tracks stretching out to 12-minutes plus while never losing the groove.

Gregory Porter - All Rise (Blue Note)

If record stores were still stocking CDs, you'd have a hard time categorizing this as jazz. Porter's roots in Gospel music are as prominent as the jazz elements and the polished production is what a great pop record would sound like if most pop these days wasn't so sterile and overproduced. But Porter's batting average is high on this all-original set and his best ones really soar. Can't wait to see him perform these songs live when concert stages reopen! 

Paul Abella, WDCB Music Director, and DCB Jazz, M-F, 8-10am

Jason Tiemann – T-Man (self-released)

2020 started off with a bang, with a few great discs like Jason Tiemann’s solo debut, T-Man. A no frills, organ trio record with Ed Cherry on guitar, Kyle Koehler on the B-3 organ, and Jason on the drums. The album is a nice mix of originals (like the kickoff track, "The Elements") and some great takes on some Jazz classics (Ahmad Jamal’s “Nite Mist Blues”, Billy Strayhorn’s “Lotus Flower”). It’s a really nice disc.

Chicago Soul Jazz Collective – It Takes a Spark To Start a Fire (self-released)

John Fournier leads the Chicago Soul Jazz Collective, and if their first album, Soulophone, was a really fantastic collection of Soul Jazz standards, their sophomore effort, It Takes a Spark To Start a Fire, ups the ante with an entirely original program of songs that groove HARD. Fellow Chicagoans Marques Carroll (trumpet), Amr Marcin Fahmy (piano), Larry Brown, Jr. (guitar), Andrew Vogt (bass) and Keith Brooks II (drums) all play their hearts out. Trumpeter Nicholas Payton and guitarist & vocalist Raul Midon both get guest slots, and their efforts take both of their respective songs to the next level. If this had been a major label release, it would have been on year-end top ten lists across the country. It’s THAT good.

Kandace Springs – The Women Who Raised Me (Blue Note)

Kandace Springs put out her third album, The Women Who Raised Me, in 2020, and it’s her first fully straight ahead Jazz album. Her voice and keyboard chops are both excellent, and on this collection of standards, classics and otherwise interesting material, she proves that the hype around her is real. I might be partial to her take on Bob Dorough’s "Devil May Care", but the renditions of "Strange Fruit", "I Put A Spell On You", "Ex Factor" and "Pearls" are all quite excellent, too.