Mack Avenue releases a great album to benefit an important cause.
Relief: A Benefit For The Jazz Foundation Of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund – Mack Avenue Music Group MAC1185LP 180-gram stereo double vinyl, 50:50 ****1/2:
(Featuring the music of Esperanza Spalding; Leo Genovese; Christian McBride; Cecile McLorin Salvant; Kenny Garrett; Hiromi; Jon Batiste; Joshua Redman (with Ron Miles, Scott Colley, Brian Blade); Charles Lloyd & Kindred Spirits; Herbie Hancock (with Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Buster Williams, Albert “Tootsie” Heath)
The effects of the pandemic significantly impacted the entertainment industry, including the jazz community. As in the past, the jazz family “stepped up” to help its own. One of the organizations facilitating these efforts has been The Jazz Foundation Of America. Through the America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund (established in the spring of 2020), many jazz musicians were supported. Mack Avenue Music Group in conjunction with Blue Note Records, Concord Music Group, Nonesuch Records, the Verve Label Group and Warner Music Group has released an album of live and studio material from a variety of jazz artists to benefit the efforts of The Jazz Foundation Of America. Available in 2-LP vinyl, digital and CD formats, Relief is a celebration of the multi-faceted styles of jazz.
Side A opens with an unusual collaboration (“Back To Who”) between Esperanza Spaulding and Leo Genovese. Performing as Irma and Leo, the track was recorded at two locations (Oregon and NYC). The opening is a free jazz and spoken word riff that morphs into a breezy Latin-infused jam with higher-register tracked vocals and nimble piano accents. Philadelphia bassist Christian McBride is up next with a moody number, “Brother Malcolm”. It has a stream-of-consciousness feel with a melodic saxophone that is joined by trumpet (Josh Evans). The deliberative arrangement is atmospheric and anchored by McBride’s adroit technique. In a change of pace,(”Easy Come, Easy Go Blues”) Cecile McLorin Salvant channels Bessie Smith, backed up by a New Orleans-tinged piano. There has always been a visceral connection between blues and jazz. In a more extended arrangement on “Joe Hen’s Waltz”, a classic quartet is fronted by alto saxophonist Kenny Garrett. This musical translation feels like a throwback to traditional bop jazz with the flowing 3/4 time signature and a brilliant piano solo by Benito Gonzalez. Garrett’s freewheeling style includes a reference to Coltrane’s “My Favorite Things”. Pianist, Hiromi Uehara dazzles on the tender ballad, “Green Tea Farm”. She distills the melodic elegance in a hushed resonance with an underlying pulse. She manages to inject up tempo jamming before a return to the graceful harmonic structure.
Jon Batiste delivers a solid cover of the the Nat King Cole hit, “Sweet Lorraine”. His jaunty piano and relaxed vocal style merge seamlessly. Joshua Reman leads a stellar quartet on “Facts”. He interacts gracefully with trumpeter Ron Miles in a free jazz exploration that is framed by the tight rhythm of bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade. The final side represents the linear history of jazz as veteran musicians perform live. The first track is by Charles Lloyd & Kindred Spirits recorded in 2019. Lloyd’s dream-like sax tonality sets the tone as he exhorts pianist Gerald Clayton. His understated, mellow styled is contrasted by the jagged electric guitar of Marvin Sewell. This underscores the embrace of traditional and newer jazz modes, exemplified by Lloyd’s illustrious career. Another timeless wonder Herbie Hancock puts together an all-star lineup in a dedication to trumpeter and big band swing aficionado, Clark Terry. Recorded at the Apollo Theatre in 2014, Hancock is joined by Wallace Roney, Jimmy Heath, Buster Willians and “Tootie” Heath. Jimmy Heath (who along with Miles Davis had recorded versions of this song) solos first with a blistering run that is energized by the rhythm section. Roney follows with a compelling solo that occasionally trades with “Tootsie” Heath’s punctuated drum fills. It is high voltage straight ahead jazz with masterful execution. Hancock finishes in a spirited flourish before turning it over to the entire quintet for the big finish.
Relief: A Benefit For The Jazz Foundation Of America’s Musicians” Emergency Fund is quintessential jazz. The unique roster of recording stars (whose various recordings are referenced in the liner notes) offers a diverse aural tapestry. This album would be a valuable addition to any jazz collection…great music and the proceeds go to a very worthy cause.
Side A: Back To Who; Easy Come, Easy Go Blues
Side B: Joe Hen’s Waltz; Green Tea Farm
Side C: Sweet Lorraine; Facts
Side D: Lift Every Voice And Sing; Gingerbread Boy.