It's been a really long time since I've done this. Here are some things I've been listening to the last few weeks (It's September 9, 2016):
Tillery – Tillery
A pretty delightful vocal trio consisting of Becca Stevens, Gretchen Parlato and Rebecca Martin, they create some really wonderful vibes, joined by light accompaniments by things like Stevens' mandolin or Martin's acoustic guitar, and for a couple tracks percussion by Mark Guiliana (Parlato's husband) or bass by Larry Grenadier (Martin's husband). The coolest thing about it is hearing the contrast in compositional style – basically immediately recognizable – between the members of the group, on display on the album's combination of originals and creative arrangements of things like Prince's “Take Me With U.”
Derrick Hodge – The Second
There is some really, really nice stuff here, and I think that Hodge's solo electric bass playing does a better job of imitating R&B style vocals than any other instrumentalist I've ever heard. A lot of this kind of adds up to a groove record, always pleasant but sometimes getting repetitive. Wonderful sounds all around, though. Hodge plays most of the album entirely by himself, but is joined for short times by guys like Mark Colenburg and Keyon Harrold.
Tomasz Stanko Quartet – Suspended Night
This is an older album (2004) that I've listened to kind of a lot and always enjoyed but never got way into, but it has stuck with me through the years in a way that many other albums have not. Featuring all Polish guys on the album (including pianist Marcin Wasilewski – I have one of his albums), they create a beautiful feel throughout the entire thing, soft and gentle for most of it but not in the way that some ECM albums feel held back. I'm admittedly not entirely sure what the compositional structure of this album is, but it starts with a beautiful ballad-like “Song for Sarah,” and the rest of the album is made up of “Suspended Variations” numbering I-X. I'm not as familiar as I should be with the broader context of Stanko's career, but I will likely start checking it out. This album is wonderful.
Greg Ward & 10 Tongues – Touch My Beloved's Thought
Greg Ward is doing a lot of wonderful things since moving back to Chicago, and I'm really excited to hear them all. “Touch My Beloved's Thought” is his first album on Greenleaf, a live recording of music that was written in conjunction with a choreographer (and featured dancers). Referred to as a response to the music of Charles Mingus' The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady, Ward's music here clearly has its roots in that music but is kind of a modernized version, a successful, current reaction to it. The arrangements do a really good job of making the 11-piece ensemble sound larger than it actually is. Ward's playing is great, too.