Aviation Trio (drummer Jeremy Jones, bassist Alex Dyring, and pianist Shawn Schlogel) have produced a new EP, Lookout Point Session, that is full of strong grooves, great playing, and fun compositions. In short, here’s what modern jazz can do. The 3-song EP from the Seattle-based trio has the requisite Dilla-inspired drum grooves and hip-hop/soul-inspired compositions that one might expect from a group of young musicians in 2016, but this trio pulls it off in a way that few others can.
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.
Derrick Hodge lives in a world that most modern jazz musicians can only dream to be a part of. A world where he can afford to take creative risks and still maintain his relevance in the fiercely competitive 21st Century jazz scene. Fortunately these risks frequently pay off, and have led to Grammy Awards, recordings with Robert Glasper, Mulgrew Miller, Clark Terry, Terence Blanchard, Common, Q-Tip, and Kanye West (just to name a few), and a recent performance at The White House as part of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert Series and President Obama’s SXSL music festival. Simply calling Hodge a successful musician would trivialize how important of a figure he has become in modern jazz.
Sélébeyoné, released two months ago under Pi recordings, does two things really well: it is a better hip-hop album than most of the jazz-centric rap releases and it's an excellent foray into jazz fusion. Steve Lehman, with principle duties as composer and alto sax, along with vocalists HPrizm and Gaston Bandimic, fuse American, French and Senegalese sounds that, like the band itself, is greater than the sum of it's parts.