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In the Swing | Five Jazz Albums To Jam With This Week

Thomas Dutronc, Roy Ayers, Chris Montague and the rest of the latest top titles.


I disagree with Roy Ayers (and Frank Zappa, for that matter). Jazz is not dead. Nor does it smell funny. It lives and breathes and evolves, as some of this week’s more-interesting offerings prove. Hear for yourself. (And for the record, I know that both of them were kidding. Sort of.)


Roy Ayers, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad
Jazz Is Dead 002

THE PRESS RELEASE: “In February 2018, Roy Ayers performed four sold-out shows in Los Angeles as part of the Jazz Is Dead Black History Month series. It wasn’t until 2020 that fans of Ayers discovered that in addition to those shows, the legendary vibraphone player had also recorded an entire album of new material with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Over the course of its eight original compositions, written collaboratively by Younge, Shaheed Muhammad & Ayers and recorded at Younge’s Linear Labs in Los Angeles, the resulting album sounds both like an unearthed an unreleased album from Ayers’ classic period in the 1970s (which produced the oft-sampled Red, Black & Green, We Live In Brooklyn, Baby, Everybody Loves The Sunshine and Running Away), as well as something startling, new and unexpected. Joining Ayers, Younge & Shaheed Muhammad on this musical journey are drummer Greg Paul, vocalists Loren Oden, Joy Gilliam, Saudia Yasmein, Elgin Clark & Anitra Castleberry, as well as Phil Ranelin & Wendell Harrison of the legendary Spiritual Jazz label Tribe Records. The 8 tracks on this album testify to the love not only of a legendary musician’s legacy, but to the vitality & necessity of this music and these sounds in the present era, a thread that will likely run throughout all of the upcoming releases from Jazz Is Dead Records.”

Thomas Dutronc

THE PRESS RELEASE: “The great guitar enthusiast and humble disciple of Django Reinhardt, Thomas Dutronc returns with the project he has always dreamed of: Frenchy. After four albums and hundreds of concerts in France, Thomas returns with a “French-themed” album addressing the greatest classics of the French musical heritage. Dutronc honors the work of the great French songwriters whose melodies have toured the world. Features Diana Krall, Iggy Pop, Billy Gibbons, Jeff Goldblum, Haley Reinhardt and more.”

Chris Montague
Warmer Than Blood

THE PRESS RELEASE:Warmer Than Blood is the new venture from critically acclaimed composer and guitarist Chris Montague (Troyka, Squarepusher, Benny Greb). It brings together pianist and ECM recording artist Kit Downes and renowned electric bassist Ruth Goller (Acoustic Ladyland, Melt Yourself Down, Let Spin) for a groundbreaking exploration of Chris’ compositions. While Chris’s reputation as a startlingly original composer is already well established, not least through his longstanding collaboration with Downes in the much lauded Troyka project, this release marks the first in Chris’ extensive discography to be entirely under his leadership, and his choice of an unusual line-up was both fortuitous and deliberate. “I love how Ruth and Kit both interpret music, they were always going to be my first choice — and writing for a band without drums made us work much harder to create dynamics and shape within each piece. This brought out a whole new dimension in the compositions.” Chris takes inspiration from many sources and it is hard to classify this music, it still has shape and energy, without relying on volume or histrionics to deliver it. All three musicians responded to the deliberately limited sound palette by reaching into their boundless musical imaginations. Warmer Than Blood derives it’s title from a poem by Fiona Sampson — it’s unsettled harmony chimes with the poem’s disturbing imagery, tying together notions of colour, touch, fear and family.”

Derrick Hodge
Colour Of Noize

THE PRESS RELEASE: “With his third record, Derrick Hodge unleashes his freest work yet. Color of Noize is the band, the concept, and the album, and if that name evokes more questions than answers for you, then you’re reading it right. The title is perfectly wide-open and inquisitive for a composer, bandleader, and bassist (etc.) with Hodge’s history. He’s been a go-to collaborator for Robert Glasper, Maxwell, Terence Blanchard, and Common alike — and played on Grammy-winning albums by all four. He’s helped shape striking sounds in producing albums by Blue Note labelmates Kendrick Scott and James Francies, and teamed with Quincy Jones to co-produce an album by Justin Kauflin on Jones’ label Qwest. He’s brought subtly subversive concepts to world-class orchestras in Atlanta, Chicago, and D.C., and new ideas to the Monterey Jazz Festival as a 2019 artist-in-residence. R+R=NOW is only the most recent supergroup he’s co-founded. If there’s one takeaway to be had from his career, it’s this: you can put Hodge in a band — any band — but you can’t put him in a box. Color of Noize is in many ways a culmination of all that, and also completely separate. While the music heard here indeed reflects a melting pot of influence and experience — a primordial soup of jazz flow, hip-hop groove, soulful depth, spiritual heft, and creative fire — the sound is best described in more abstract terms. As Hodge lays it out: “It’s the contrast, it’s the beauty, it’s the chaos, it’s the freedom — all of that.” This album also includes a few firsts. It’s the first Hodge record to use a live band throughout. It was that band’s first time playing together, and their first time hearing the songs Hodge wrote for their session.”

Kansas Smitty’s
Things Happened Here

THE PRESS RELEASE: “Drawing influence from over one hundred years of jazz history, from Django Reinhardt to Ahmad Jamal, and the vivid musical landscapes of Debussy and even Brian Eno, British seven-piece and residents/owners of East London venue/bar of the same name, Kansas Smitty’s combine journeying with cinematic textures on new album Things Happened Here.”