40 Acres and a Burro, from Arturo O'Farrill and The Afro-Cuban Jazz Orchestra (Zoho), documents one of the very best and most versatile jazz ensembles on the planet playing a full range of material in styles from all over the Caribbean and Latin America. There's even an Irish tune thrown in here for good measure, a collaboration with Heather Martin Bixler, violinist and wife of band member David Bixler. With guest appearances by no less than Paquito D'Rivera (on clarinet) and Gabriel Alegria conducting, listeners will have a full tour of what this outstanding group is capable.
From the European label Pirouet, pianist Marc Copland is in fine company with Doug Weiss on bass, Victor Lews on drums, and Greg Osby on alto for an album entitled Crosstalk. At times, the Pirouet artists can focus a bit too exclusively on compositions by their own artists -- and the result is a somewhat uniform style from track to track. But Copland pens three tunes of the nine on this release, and lets his bandmates bring their own material to the mix as well. One of the strongest tunes is a saxophone showcase, "Ozz-thetic," by the bassist Doug Weiss. This is a strong release from a band whose international personnel works well together.
Serving up a savory, fun mix of tunes is Mark Rapp's Melting Pot on their new release Good Eats (Dinemec). For my taste, you can't go wrong with a classic organ trio -- deployed here in the form of Joe Kaplowitz (keys), Ahmad Mansour (guitar), and Klemens Markti (drums) -- and trumpeter Rapp handles himself expertly on a fine selection of songs. Six of the eleven tunes on Good Eats are compositions of Lou Donaldson, so there's a lot of soul in the mix. With all the Donaldson tunes, it's all the better that saxophonist Don Braden is a featured quest. The sentimental favorite tune for me is the winning Quincy Jones song "The Streetbeater," better known as the theme song to Sanford and Son.
Up next is a notable release from Brian Lynch, Unsung Heroes (Hollistic MusicWorks), as the cover reads, "a tribute to some underappreciated trumpet masters. Those trumpet masters, you ask? Tommy Turrentine, Idrees Sulieman, Louis Smith, Claudio Roditi, Kamau Adilifu, Joe Gordon, Ira Sullivan, Donald Byrd, Howard McGhee, and Charles Tolliver. Straight ahead and thoughtful, Lynch's takes on (and tributes to) the work of all these trumpet masters are outstanding, particularly when he sticks to recording compositions by those artists -- as he does most of the time. If you like this release, you can check out more music and material -- Volumes Two and Three, as it were -- through Hollistic Music Works.
A complex, rich album that rewards multiple listenings is saxophonist David Binney's Greylen Epicenter. Mixing a full range of textures and styles, Binney flexes his compositional muscles across a range of compelling, clever songs that offer many memorable passages and plenty of imaginative improvisation. The work of Ben Allison most clearly came to mind as a point of comparison. The tune "Terrorists and Movie Stars" is a particularly high point on the album. For those who prefer a more straightforward approach, check out Binney's work in his sextet on last month's Barefooted Town.