How does one easily express a larger idea? It's been three years since keyboardist Eddie Moore and his group the Outer Circle released The Freedom of Expression, and now the building of new, impressionable material for the next one had to commence. Glimmers showed up in live performances over three years and now is the time for this collection of songs circulated around the sprawling but regal song triptych that is "Kings and Queens" have proven that it may have taken some doing to get here but their ever-present soulfulness in their play always makes it sound easy.
Norah Jones can do whatever she wants as an artist, it seems. Since she broke on the scene in 2002 (though she still spent years putting in dues before that, shouts to Wax Poetic, shouts to Peter Malick), Jones' varied musical interests have sprawled out impressively to create a body of work that includes jazz, folk, country, indie pop, rock, and the indefinable but certainly pleasant. She has amassed a litany of collaborators. She's shown astute awareness of her image in popular culture (her appearances in Seth MacFarlane's Ted and David Wain's They Came Together are clever, her starting foray in Wong Kar-wai's My Blueberry Nights was kind of soporific but still worth checking out at least once). In essence, Norah Jones has for her artistic career been adept at expressing her creative urges in a public sphere and has always been satisfying as a musician. For her to take so many turns while still sounding so definitively her is an accomplishment. For her to return to the kind of sound that brought her to our collective attention in her new Blue Note album, Day Breaks, isn't merely a return to form but yet another instance of Norah Jones doing whatever she wants as an artist and still, as usual, succeeding.
If there's one thing I find reassurance in within the midst of a depressing world, it's the nerdery of Darcy James Argue. The man can go in hard about coffee, about bagels, about politics, about the music industry, about every nut and bolt necessary to compose his music. On his latest release with his big band, Secret Society, out now on New Amsterdam Records called Real Enemies, Argue applies his nerdery to conspiracy theories.
Corey King and Jamire Williams make a great pair. The dopeness of Williams' 2012 release, Conflict of a Man (the album's "Black Super Hero Theme Song" has been the theme song to "The Line-Up" for years), through his backwards namesake band, ERIMAJ, is accomplished not only because of Williams' constantly keyed in rumbling on the drums but also because of King's soulful arrangements. What these two make together, especially with guitarist Matthew Stevens, is always a marvel, and it's even moreso on King's adventurous new album, Lashes, out now on Ropeadope.
If there's something to Ben Wendel's signature sound on the tenor saxophone, it has to be one of a circuitous nature. His style of play always seems to loop back in on itself. There's an extra bit of energy in his runs that never seems to worry about taking a few more steps on the scenic route to get to where his ideas ultimately need to go. He'll make loops to move a mere full step to pull together a thread. One would call him busy but only if it weren't so damned perfect. With a career pushing twenty years now, particularly with Kneebody, Ben Wendel's sound has become a rather recognizable signature, so hearing him play with a spectacular quartet including pianist Gerald Clayton, bassist Joe Sanders, and percussionist Henry Cole on Wendel's new album, What We Bring is an all-too welcome visit from a rather busy (meant in his constant work, not his style of play this time) artist.