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

June 26th, 2023

George Freeman – The Good Life (High Note)

If a new George Freeman album is always a blessing, then what is a new George Freeman album featuring two world class backing bands? That’s the riddle we’ll need to solve as we spend more time with his newest CD, The Good Life. George is joined on the first half of the album by Joey DeFrancesco and Lewis Nash and on the second half of the disc, by Christian McBride and Carl Allen. These songs, five by George, and two standards (“If I Had You” and “The Good Life”) are all beautifully played, with George’s brilliant tone and musical ideas front and center on “Mr. D” (George’s tribute to Joey DeFrancesco). “1,2,3,4” has a Chicago to New Orleans groove happening that is slick and fun, and that tone with Christian McBride’s big bass notes? That’s a good time, indeed.

Brandee Younger – Brand New Life (Impulse!)

Harpist Brandee Younger doesn’t have many fellow harpists throughout Jazz history to look to for inspiration. Alice Coltrane certainly fits the bill. And Younger’s muse on her new album, Brand New Life, is none other than the excellent Dorothy Ashby. Throughout the course of these 10 tracks, we’re treated to two solo harp pieces (including an excellent reading of Stevie Wonder’s “If It’s Magic”), and a group that includes a few Chicagoans, like bassist Junius Paul, vibraphonist Joel Ross and drummer Makaya McCraven. “Moving Target” and the update of “The Windmills of Your Mind” are cutting edge groovers while “You’re a Girl for One Man Only” and “Running Game” are lovely ballads that I know I’ll be coming back to with some frequency on DCB Jazz.

Dara Starr Tucker – self-titled (Green Hill)

Much like Samara Joy, Dara Starr Tucker has reached an audience well beyond the usual Jazz crowd via TikTok. Tucker is also an excellent Jazz singer, and she takes some chances, both with her writing (“Scars”) and her choice in material (she covers both Billie Eilish’s “Everything I Wanted” and John Denver’s “Annie’s Song,” alongside more standard jazz fare like “September Song” and “Just a Closer Walk with Thee.”)

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