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

October 23rd, 2023

Constatine Alexander – Firetet (self-produced)

Trumpeter, composer and bandleader Constantine Alexander has just released his new album, Firetet. This all-Chicago ensemble is comprised of five excellent young musicians: Alexander, saxophonist Roy McGrath, pianist Julius Tucker, bassist Ben Dillinger and drummer Greg Essig. From the opening notes of “The Show,” it is clear that these five are taking no prisoners. “IDKY” and “Waltzin’ Long” are pretty, mid-tempo songs, “Frequent Flyer” shows some love for the swingin’ hard-bop sounds of the 60’s, and “Fire” rides on a cool groove that floats you along on its seven minute journey.

Affinity Trio – Hindsight (Origin Records)

It should come as no surprise that the Affinity Trio sounds as good as they do, considering their regular gig at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. The tightness and telepathic interplay heard throughout their debut album, Hindsight, only comes through playing together on a consistent basis. Trumpeter Eric Jacobson, bassist Clay Schaub and pianist Pamela York make some excellent music in this seemingly sparse trio. What’s really interesting is that songs like the Latin Jazz standard “Tin Tin Deo” or the be-bop classics “Bongo Beep” and “Segment” all sound as cohesive as they do without a drummer. Throw in some wonderful writing from these three, like Jacobson’s “Open Windows,” Schaub’s “Fitzroy,” or York’s “Parisian Poet,” and you get an excellent album.

Emmet Cohen – Masters Legacy Series vol. 5, Featuring Houston Person (Bandstand)

During the COVID lockdown in 2020, many musicians took to the internet, with varying degrees of success. Emmet Cohen’s Live From Emmet’s Place took off and got him some notoriety, and the ability to play with some heavyweight musicians, both old and young. On Masters Legacy Series vol. 5, Featuring Houston Person, Emmet’s usual trio, with bassist Yashushi Nakamura and drummer Kyle Poole are an interesting unit, sounding great on material ranging from recreations of the Ellington/Blanton duets to much more recent fare. And, when playing with a tenor player like Houston Person, that kind of flexibility comes in handy. From Great American Songbook classics like “Isn’t It Romantic?” to the relaxed R&B of “Sunday Kind of Love” to Jazz standards like Tadd Dameron’s “If You Could See Me Now” to Billy Joel’s “Just the Way You Are,” everything here is approached with ample amounts of grace, grit and groove.

Jammin Jazz
McAninch Arts Center