Jacques Schwarz-Bart, The Harlem Suite, Ropeadope ***1/2

What grabbed me most here early on in this homage to Harlem framed by its interconnectedness with the Caribbean by reliably inventive saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart was the treatment of Herbie Hancock and Benny Maupin's 'Butterfly,' one of …

Published: 9 Feb 2023. Updated: 14 months.

What grabbed me most here early on in this homage to Harlem framed by its interconnectedness with the Caribbean by reliably inventive saxophonist Jacques Schwarz-Bart was the treatment of Herbie Hancock and Benny Maupin's 'Butterfly,' one of Herbie's most covered pieces in recent years but one that lends itself as here to so many different arrangements and featuring a fine vocal by Schwarz-Bart's fellow Guadeloupean the singer Malika Tirolien known for her work with Snarky Puppy. Schwarz-Bart known for his explorations of Gwoka and voodoo musical cultures who has a very emotive flexible inflection to his sound also tackles John Coltrane's 'Equinox' here to put his own spin on the classic to make it a stately 'Equivox'. Full of a disaporic Afro Caribbean engagement personnel on the record include jazz A-listers Terri Lyne Carrington, Marcus Gilmore, Sullivan Fortner, Victor Gould, Matt Penman and Reggie Washington. Singer Stephanie McKay is also a significant presence on a couple of tracks. Schwarz-Bart's originals sit well with the classic numbers. Jacques Schwarz-Bart, photo: press

Out on 31 March

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Skip Grasso, Becoming, Barking Coda Music ****

Having heard Billy Drummond live recently any new albums that he is on is a favoured destination for more. And so here why not: a new name. Guitarist Skip Grasso who writes the tunes on Becoming recorded last summer in a New Jersey studio and does …

Published: 9 Feb 2023. Updated: 14 months.

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Having heard Billy Drummond live recently any new albums that he is on is a favoured destination for more. And so here why not: a new name. Guitarist Skip Grasso who writes the tunes on Becoming recorded last summer in a New Jersey studio and does the arranging here also with bassist's bassist Harvie S - cast your minds back to the very fine Trio in Motion with Alan Broadbent that the septuagenarian legend S for Swartz is on. Pianist-organist Anthony Pocetti on 'Three Simple Truths' is most at ease on organ and pops up imaginatively on an array of solos when back on piano. Like someone reading a writer's manuscript before anyone else Drummond is like privileged first ears when the tune unspools given the way the melodies and harmonies have to be persuaded on to the listener rhythmically and not so much organised more understood. Harvie S does that tonally and when you hear little break out phrases not even melodically more intrinsic to the story being told beyond logic on the witty portmanteau of a title like the twinkling 'Harvie Livingston Seagull'.

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As in the world of the much missed John Abercrombie you get a lost in the music humility and being at oneness that is remarkable and as in Gateway when Jack DeJohnette understood Abercrombie better than maybe anyone, Drummond here gets what the thoughtful wistful, pastoral, tunes Grasso writes best needs. Grasso, who plays around the sprawling Baltimore and DC areas in the States, is making his debut here - there's maybe a bit of Pat Martino in his sound somewhere - and what a way to get us used to him. There's a whole lot of love here, what a writer this guy is.

L-r: Harvie S, Billy Drummond, Anthony Pocetti, Skip Grasso.

Photo: Jack Frisch/uprightgraphics.com