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New School, Old School And A Different Kind Of Dance Music: New Jazz Albums

Clockwise from top: The Cookers, Ambrose Akinmusire, Rebirth Brass Band, John Hollenbeck.
Courtesy of the artist/Clay Patrick McBride/JG@nola.livemusicblog.com/Signe Maehler
Clockwise from top: The Cookers, Ambrose Akinmusire, Rebirth Brass Band, John Hollenbeck.

From time to time, I get invited to talk up new jazz releases with Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. This go-round, I set out to pick some records which hadn't already been featured as NPR Music First Listens or elsewhere on the website. Luckily, April has been a busy month for new music, and that didn't prove difficult at all.

Here's a small handful of interesting records out now. There's music from the trumpeter of the moment, a band of older hard-boppers who are anything but fogies, a New Orleans brass band nearing its fourth decade and a young "orchestra" from France interpreting idiosyncratic grooves. (They're by no means the only recommendations one could make, so don't hesitate to tell us your own recent discoveries.) Ready?

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New School, Old School And A Different Kind Of Dance Music: New Jazz Albums

Ambrose Akinmusire

Blue Note Records

"Confessions To My Unborn Daughter"

From 'When the Heart Emerges Glistening'

Here's music from Ambrose Akinmusire, the buzzed-about young trumpet player. More precisely, it's music from his long-running band, a collection of musicians who share his obvious talent level, relative youth (he's nearly 29) and penchant for navigating dark, brooding, minor-key moods. That makes When the Heart Emerges Glistening a very modern and sleek jazz record. If you're looking for a way to slip into this, try paying attention to Akinmusire's trumpet sound. Check out how tight it is, how dialed in, and focused, and fat, and generally "pfffh." When he allows it to smear or blare raggedly, you really feel it.

The Cookers

Plus Loin Records

"Cast The First Stone"

From 'Cast the First Stone'

Trumpeter David Weiss is older than Ambrose Akinmusire by nearly 20 years, but he's the youngest member of The Cookers. In fact, most of its members were born in the '30s and '40s, and made their names as powerhouse musicians in the '60s, '70s and '80s. Weiss is responsible for organizing these veterans into this lineup, but most of the players bring in originals, and all of them are still burning players. The lead-off and title track of Cast the First Stone was written by tenor saxophonist Billy Harper. His serious roar is pretty much what jazz musicians mean when they use the term "heavy."

The Rebirth Brass Band

Basin Street Records

"I Like It Like That"

From 'Rebirth of New Orleans'

It's the first weekend of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, and Treme is back on HBO. So here's a band which always plays the fest and stars in the show. The Rebirth Brass Band is creeping up on 30 years now, and still features its founding tuba virtuoso, Phil Frazier. It's his anchor which allows this band to do what it does, whether it's playing jazz standards, spirituals, original R&B and funk tunes or whatever else will get a crowd on its feet. Listen for how the band gradually builds around his bass line in this track from Rebirth of New Orleans.

Orchestre National De Jazz & John Hollenbeck

Bee Jazz

"Falling Men [For Guillaume Poncelet]"

From 'Shut Up and Dance'

And now, a different kind of "dance" music. Shut Up and Dance is the new record from France's Orchestre National de Jazz, though it's not a conventional foot-stomping soundtrack. This double-disc set is a program of music by the American composer John Hollenbeck. He's a drummer, too, and a good one, but he doesn't play on this album; he tailors one piece for each of the 10 band members (all in their 20s and 30s). Hollenbeck loves to experiment with odd harmonies, and new textures, and slow builds, and repetition, and repetition, and repetition. But he also loves a good groove. Give it a minute, and you'll find a lot to nod your head to — and maybe more.