Taking the lead on harmonica is tricky. The instrument is prone to a chirpiness that doesn't typically sustain for a whole album. However in the right hands (and with the right lungs), it can be more than a special featured player. Grégorie Maret has often been that special featured player in assorted works, but here on his latest album on Sunnyside, Wanted, his second in front of things, it's clear he should lead more often.
For years, I have known a certain truth-- don't sleep on Warren Wolf. the master vibraphonist has snuck up on me one too many times on releases of his own. He rolled through San Antonio three times in 2015 and never failed to impress. His work with Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah's large ensemble is a surprise and not a surprise at the same time. He has maintained a beautiful melodicism in his playing that would seem obvious for his instrument but he surpasses such expectations again and again. He's an unmistakable talent. He shouldn't be slept on. This is no more apparent than in his latest album, Convergence on Mack Avenue.
I must preface this piece with the statement that I'm not quitting. I'll be covering the last few days of this year's Montreal Jazz Festival for the first time. I am booking at least two more shows in San Antonio, Texas, under the banner of Nextbop by the end of the year. I still intend to throw the annual Jazz for the Masses day party in Austin, Texas, during the South by SouthWest Music Festival next March. I am still the host of KRTU San Antonio's The Line-Up and still love doing that show dearly every week. I burrowed my way into this jazz world and I don't see a way for me out of it, for better or for worse. I'm not quitting. However, if anyone who pays attention to Nextbop may have noticed, it's clear our output here has been diminished over the last few years.
Follow guitarist Horace Bray on Instagram and one often sees little sketches of ideas. Follow him for a while and one can see these little sketches come together. Bray is a technician, a recent graduate from the University of North Texas music school, and saying such thing about music school grads is pretty common these days in the jazz era. However, Bray has constantly managed to steadily grow his chops, gig about, and maintain a sense of soul in his accompaniment and particularly in his compositions. Dreamstate, Bray's long time coming debut album, best encapsulates this.
Brian Eno's 1978 album Ambient 1: Music for Airports is Capital "I" Important. It's a landmark album for what was at the time a fledgling genre, ambient. It's an album open to contemplation. It settles on the ear and has done so for almost forty years, so it's understandable that it's an album apt for reinterpretation by a certain brand of musical weirdo. Chris Schlarb is that weirdo.