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

February 12th, 2024

The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective – Fiesta at Caroga (self-produced)

I love that Chicago is a hub for excellent Latin Jazz. The Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective follows in the footsteps of phenomenal bands that graced the stages of festivals, concert halls and various Latin American restaurants throughout the city and suburbs. This octet features Eric Devey (trumpet), Brian Stark (tenor sax), Ben Weisiger (trombone), Jose Guzman (guitar), Ian Stewart (bass) and the three man percussion crew of Stephen Busath, Sebastian Nassar and Brian Shank. Fiesta at Caroga captures a live festival set from 2022, recorded gorgeously. You won’t realize this is a live album until you hear the applause at the ends of the songs. “Descarga” gets things moving with a great groove, powerful horn lines and some excellent soloing. “Xipirona Cha Cha” and “Baile Bailekita” are both relaxed and cheerful. The groove on “El Volcan” recalls early Santana almost as it brings the Poncho Sanchez band to mind. A modern Afro-Caribbean band will reveal these influences, and many more, and the Afro-Caribbean Jazz Collective is off to an amazing start. I hope I get to see them in person soon!

Betty Bryant – Lotta Livin’ (Bry-Mar Music)

If you’re a fan of Irene Reid, or the string of albums that Etta Jones and Houston Person did together, you’re going to be in for a treat when you hear the latest from vocalist and pianist Betty Bryant, Lotta Livin’. Running through a setlist of standards like “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” “The Very Thought of You” and “Stormy Monday,” alongside a couple of original compositions like “Put a Lid on It” and “Chicken Wings,” and an interesting arrangement of the Nat King Cole classic “Baby Baby All the Time.” Her piano playing is economical, and the other soloist throughout Lotta Livin’ is saxophonist and flautist Robert Kyle, whose spacious and bluesy playing make the album as comfortable as a pair of old jeans.

Brain Melvin, Soren Lee & Mads Sondergaard – Tranesformation (Storyville)

The trio of Brian Melvin (drums), Soren Lee (guitar) and Mads Sondergaard (organ) went into a studio in Copenhagen last year to record a number of songs by or associated with John Coltrane. Tranesformation covers some pretty cool ground, with some excellent standards (“Body and Soul,” “I’ll Wait and Pray,” “It’s Easy to Remember” and of course, “My Favorite Things”) as well as a pretty definitive list of Trane’s greatest hits, like “Cousin Mary,” “Dahomey Dance” and a downright delicious take on “Miles’ Mode.” While we don’t necessarily think of Trane’s discography as a source for B-3 flavored grease and grit, Tranesformation makes a solid case for reconsidering that notion.

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