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

August 16th, 2021

Richard D. Johnson – First Glance (Afar Music)

Pianist Richard D. Johnson has been all over the place since he moved to Chicago, playing solo, leading groups, and playing piano alongside some of Chicago’s most impressive Jazz talent. So, it should be no surprise that his latest album, First Glance, would be an excellent outing. Sharel Cassity plays saxophones, and New Yorkers Alex Claffy and Mark Whitfield play the bass and drums. On only 8 songs, Johnson covers a lot of ground, from the gospel tinged “Sunday Devotion,” to modern Jazz-Funk on “The Cut Off.” There’s some really pretty writing on First Glance, too, like on “Soprano Blues.” All in all, this is one very enjoyable disc.


Leon Lee Dorsey – Freedom Jazz Dance (JazzAvenue1)

Bassist Leon Lee Dorsey is back at it with a new album, Freedom Jazz Dance. Joining Dorsey this time is pianist Manuel Valera and drummer Mike Clark. Together they run through a set of well known standards like “How Insensitive” and “Autumn Leaves,” some more modern fare like “Freedom Jazz Dance” and a couple from the pen of the legendary pianist Hilton Ruiz. Dorsey and Clark groove like mad, as they have in past outings together. Manuel Valera really brings some beautiful touches to the album, too. He’s got Les McCann’s feel down cold on “”Home Cookin’,” But he can sound like Herbie Hancock, too, on “Baptism.”


Art Hirahara – Open Sky (Posi-Tone)

Art Hirahara’s latest, Open Sky, wastes no time in getting things heated up. The rather short “Groundswell” finds the trio of Hirahara (piano), Boris Kozlov (bass) and Rudy Royston (drums) swinging intensely, straight from the get-go. That trio is augmented by special guests on 4 tracks. “Open Sky” features Behn Gillece on vibes on a quirky groove that Gillece finds plenty of space to stretch out on. And three of the songs feature saxophonist Nicole Glover. “Together, Apart” is a strong, straight ahead groover, and on “Weathered the Storm” these four sound like they’ve been playing sambas in Rio for their entire lives. I’m pretty sure you’re going to be hearing this one a lot on WDCB.