Various Artists, Shorter Moments: Exploring the World of Wayne, Posi-Tone Records ****

It's useful to include the Wayne originals in a playlist so you immediately can refer to these ahead of Shorter Moments because you will be doing this guaranteed when you play this record so check back to the audio urtext as it were when the album …

Published: 9 Nov 2021. Updated: 24 days.

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It's useful to include the Wayne originals in a playlist so you immediately can refer to these ahead of Shorter Moments because you will be doing this guaranteed when you play this record so check back to the audio urtext as it were when the album is out. A compilation of Wayne-related covers from 2008-21 on the US jazz-indie Posi-Tone Records run by Marc Free which generally specialises in straightahead and hard bop the selections are well sequenced and David Ashkenazy, Ed Cherry, Out To Dinner, Jordan Young, Farnell Newton, Alexa Tarantino, Walt Weiskopf, Orrin Evans, Sam Yahel, Jared Gold and Wayne Escoffery (marvellous on 'Infant Eyes') in their very different ways conjure the oblique, mercurial and often meltingly moving character of the great Newarkian and global jazz inspiration's style these past decades.

It's no exaggeration to claim that Shorter is the greatest jazz composer since Thelonious Monk and albums like this clarify such thinking and surely there will be many more homages to come given the possibilities for further dipping into his extensive catalogue whether fairly orthodox such as these versions or not.

The album is out on 26 November and is the best themed entirely around Wayne Shorter compositions as a dedicated entity in many years at least since 2013's excellent David Weiss release Endangered Species: The Music of Wayne Shorter which covered another selection of Wayne classics so it's good that there is no duplication here. Note too that 2019's Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra release featuring Wayne on The Music of Wayne Shorter factored in still more gems from Wayne's protean pen and even with Wayne's presence I actually preferred the earlier Weiss approach to the JALCO treatments. A must for fans of Wayne. I'll pick one track as the standout because it is so beautifully voiced and possesses such a panoramic musical picture and that is the Orrin Evans and Captain Black Big Band's version of 'Water Babies' from their 2014 album Mother’s Touch which has an arrangement by trumpeter Tatum Greenblatt and solos by Greenblatt and saxist Stacy Dillard. SG

Tags: Albums and EPs

Johnathan Blake, Homeward Bound, Blue Note ****

If you are on Blue Note there is a certain responsibility. Do you come over like the Blue Note sound in your head? You probably know it like it's the back of your hand but you could go another path entirely. Drummer Johnathan Blake takes that …

Published: 9 Nov 2021. Updated: 24 days.

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If you are on Blue Note there is a certain responsibility. Do you come over like the Blue Note sound in your head? You probably know it like it's the back of your hand but you could go another path entirely. Drummer Johnathan Blake takes that sound-in-his-head path and fits in well with the label's historic legacy like it is a continuum by essentially using the language of hard bop which is one of the key ingredients of the sound. Begun with a drum solo – you'd guess Art Blakey would approve at that beginning – then a warm homage 'Homeward Bound (for Ana Grace)' to the daughter of saxophonist Jimmy Greene and Nelba Marquez-Greene cruelly killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, the vibes of Joel Ross like a shining vision in the arrangement.

With his quintet Pentad, Blake, heard live memorably by this blog at Ronnie Scott's with Ravi Coltrane in 2015, is here with the fine Garrettian alto saxophonist Immanuel Wilkins, Ross, pianist and keyboardist David Virelles and bassist Dezron Douglas. Virelles on 'Rivers & Parks' using Rhodes electric piano takes the album deeper into its own world and there is a lot of overlapping tidal flow.

A handsome melody expressed by Wilkins and fine voicings in the arrangement are only part of the secret proprietorial sauce. 'Shakin' the Biscuits' is more avant-garde in the dialogue between Wilkins and Blake with Virelles quiet as he comps and there is a looseness here that opens into a bluesy theme with Wilkins again following the Kenny Garrett playbook like he's reading the paper and somehow he has jumped into its pages, become the story and now quite naturally is doing a shared interview with the Miles icon. 'Abiyoyo' has a blissful African sense to it and again melody is a very strong element to this fine record. Later there's a stand-out tribute to Lawrence 'Lo' Leathers, a fellow drummer of Blake's, who was killed in a homicide two years ago. And right at the end there's a new version of Joe Jackson's 1982 pop hit 'Steppin' Out' also covered brilliantly by Kurt Elling on The Gate and Wilkins is like the singer, so communicative on sax, and it works more than well set up by a very abstract Virelles solo piano passage. What we get a sense of overall beyond the fact that Blake, certainly who is in the Jeff 'Tain' Watts mould stylistically, is a brilliant drummer. But he's also a fine writer and there is chemistry in the musicians that he has gathered around him. Stephen Graham

Johnathan Blake photo: David Ellis