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What's on WDCB - Best of 2020 Part 2

December 28th, 2020

This week Paul continues to share the stage with his fellow WDCB Jazz hosts as we bring you Part 2 of our favorite discs of 2020.

Matthew Hermes, DCB Jazz, M-F, midnight – 5am

Joel Ross - Who Are You (Blue Note)
Chicagoan Joel Ross released his second album this year, a 2020 release titled, Who Are You? with 15 tracks and 10 originals. Ross and his Good Vibes Quintet features harpist Brandee Younger who plays on five tracks including Coltrane's "After The Rain". I was drawn to the contemplative sounds and ethereal tones heard throughout. I really loved the climactic solo features throughout especially on the two song set "Vartha" and "Marsheland".

Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra With Wynton Marsalis - The Music Of Wayne Shorter (Blue Engine)
Two discs of all Wayne Shorter Music actually recorded back in May of 2015 (with Wayne Shorter!), but finally released in 2020. Shorter's "Mama 'G'" is the finale and with good reason! Wait until you here Shorter and Ali Jackson together.

Rachel Therrien - Vena (Bonsai Music)
Trumpeter Rachel Therrien's 2020 release Vena is, in my opinion, one of the sleepers of 2020. Fifteen tracks of all originals. I fell in love with her sound, amazed by the variety: eclectic, improvisational, sometimes soft but, when needed, upbeat, and with a great rhythm trio.

Leslie Keros, DCB Jazz, M-F, 10am – 2pm

Ryan Cohan - Originations (Origin)
Pianist Ryan Cohan's third long-form work is his most ambitious and autobiographical yet. His six-part suite, written for jazz septet and string quartet, is complex, evocative music. The highs and lows are performed to stunning effect by Cohan's hand-picked Chicago-based musicians, who clearly relish the chance to stretch themselves.

Conrad Herwig - The Latin Side of Horace Silver (Savant)
The latest addition to trombonist Conrad Herwig's live "Latin side" series may seem superfluous, given Horace Silver's well-known Latin leanings. But Herwig and his nonet excel in accentuating and deepening that groove, and when Michel Camilo joins for several numbers, the band sets the place on fire.

Harold Mabern - Mabern Plays Mabern (Smoke Sessions)
This posthumous release complements 2019's The Iron Man: Live at Smoke, drawing from performances that add saxophonist Vincent Herring and trombonist Steve Davis to the regular quartet. The setlist includes three Mabern originals that pay homage to Lee Morgan, George Coleman, and J.J. Johnson, and a fourth composition, by longtime sideman Eric Alexander, honoring the beloved pianist himself.

Bruce Oscar, DCB Jazz, M-F, 2-7pm

Buddy Rich - Just In Time (Gearbox Records)
Good album to have as the master's last recorded session. Very typical of his career. Way to go out Buddy!!

Tim Ray - Excursions & Adventures (Whaling City Sound)
Nice to see Tim branching out under his own name as opposed to providing excellent backup for so many jazz giants.

Lolly Allen - Coming Home (OA2 Records)
Wonderful young talent. Looking forward to hearing much more from her in the near future.

Paul Abella, Music Director, and Notes From the Jazz Underground, Wednesday, 11pm-midnight

Jeff Parker - Suite for Max Brown (International Anthem)
Former Chicagoan and current Angelino, Jeff Parker struck again with 2020's Suite for Max Brown. It's a dense album that merges the guitar heroics of his trio albums with the sonic palette of his other band, Tortoise. The balance of gorgeous playing and trance inducing soundscapes makes for an album best suited for listening to in one sitting, but there are standalone moments that shine, like "Fusion Swirl", and a beautiful take on John Coltrane's "After the Rain".

Jeremy Cunningham - The Weather Up There (International Anthem)
Sometimes the most horrible circumstances are the inspiration for the most beautiful art, and that seems to be the case with drummer Jeremy Cunningham's The Weather Up There. Written in response to the murder of his brother in 2008, the album features a veritable who's who of the Chicago modern Jazz scene, with appearances by Jeff Parker, Mike Reed, Matt Ulery, Josh Johnson, Dustin Laurenzi, Ben Lamar Gay, Jaimie Branch, Tomeka Reid and others. It's a fascinating and troubling listen, and it's well worth your time.

Adrian Younge & Ali Shaheed Muhammed - Jazz is Dead, vols 2-5 (self-released)
Ok, I admit, I'm cheating here, since this isn't one album, it's four albums, but they all came out in 2020, they're all cut from the same cloth, and there's a sonic thread that combines them all (volume one was a sampler to let people know what was coming, so we're not counting that one). There's a Donald Byrd & the Mizell Bros. vibe to these albums, and combining forces with some of the great Jazz minds of the 70's (Roy Ayers, Marcos Valle, Azymuth, Doug Carn) makes this music feel organic, grooving and exciting. Even better is that there are 2021 releases on the way with Brian Jackson, Gary Bartz and others, so I'll have more to look forward to from these guys in the next year!