v/a: Relief: A Benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund (Mack Avenue, 2021)

November 17, 2021 at 11:09 pm | Posted in Reviews | Leave a comment

v/a: Relief: A Benefit for the Jazz Foundation of America’s Musicians’ Emergency Fund

Benefiting musicians who are still dealing with financial setbacks due to the pandemic, this compilation gathers previously unreleased goodies from an impressive cast of modern jazz heavyweights and all-time legends. Esperanza Spalding is the guest vocalist on the dense soul-jazz cityscape that opens the album, “back to who” by Irma and Leo. Christian McBride’s “Brother Malcolm” is a solemn reflection which gets a bit wound up before resolving at the end. Cecile McLorin Salvant delivers a passionate yet unfussy reading of “Easy Come, Easy Go Blues”, recorded by Bessie Smith nearly a century ago. Jon Batiste similarly interprets “Sweet Lorraine” in the manner of Nat King Cole, accompanying himself on piano and getting a little excited during the solo. Kenny Garrett’s “Joe Hen’s Waltz” is one of the longest tracks here, folding a brief “My Favorite Things” quote into a steady outpouring of soulful musings. Hiromi revisits a track from her 2004 album Brain, and it’s astounding as always, finding place for both tenderness and technical mastery. Actually, it’s definitely not the most daredevil-like piece she’s recorded, it’s more accessible. Joshua Redman’s piece kind of floats and ambles along; Brian Blade’s drumming is the most exciting part. Charles Lloyd & Kindred Spirits perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing”, and the veteran saxophonist takes the familiar melody and runs it through the wringer several times over, as Marvin Sewell does on guitar. The rest of the band is loose and unbound, making this the most far-out piece on the album as well as the longest. Finally, Herbie Hancock presents Jimmy Heath’s “Gingerbread Boy”, a song he played piano on when Miles Davis recorded it for Miles Smiles, and this version just overflows with energy, with all of the players joyfully caught up in the moment.

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