In the old days success for a jazz musician could mean getting a recording contract with a major label. Today, despite corporate disarray, a few clicks of the keyboard prove that jazz is flourishing and success is defined differently. In addition to www.CDbaby.com and networking sites like MySpace, innovative new distribution channels are gaining ground and getting musicians recognized. Brooklyn Jazz Underground Records is, by their definition, an independent and artist-run label committed to creative and adventurous improvised music. BJU is at the forefront of this trend and with more than dozen (and counting) fine releases on the label it’s worth visiting their impressive user-friendly site to learn more. Getting turned on to BJU is like getting an insider’s tip about the best new jazz on the East Coast scene. www.bjurecords.com
RANDY INGRAM, THE ROAD AHEAD
A modern player with a weighty touch, pianist Randy Ingram plays with depth and sensitivity, much like pianist Fred Hersch. In fact, on “The Road Ahead,” Ingram recorded Cole Porter’s “So In Love” – brilliantly, too -- after hearing several renditions by Hersch. Ingram provides novel readings of tunes by Lennon/McCartney, Ornette Coleman and Monk, but his original pieces, “Rock Song #3,” Dream Song,” the swinging title track and “Hope” vibrate with solid melodies, slick licks and tight rhythmic changes courtesy of bassist Matt Clohesy and drummer Jochen Rueckert. Saxophonist John Ellis adds his silky soprano and laid back tenor to several tunes. “The Road Ahead” is an insightful, compulsively listenable debut by one of the best up-and-coming pianists.
DANIEL KELLY, EMERGE
On “Emerge,” Daniel Kelly runs his svelte trio through fast and funky compositions like “Moroccan Nutchuck” and “Canary Effect” that riff on indie rock as much as the fusion-pop jazz that CTI popularized in the 70’s. Those showy, dynamic tunes bookend this recording but Kelly’s fleet fingered prowess on piano and Rhodes dovetails with bassist Chris Tarry and drummer Jordan Perlson to lift the tracks in between to something even more special. Whether flirting with free form improvisation on the electronically enhanced “Doppelganger,” or digging on purely beautiful tracks like “July 25” and “Transience,” Kelly has a gift for merging in-the-pocket grooves with sturdy lyricism.
GUILHERME MONTEIRO, AIR
Brazilian guitarist Guilherme Monteiro has a full-bodied resume, recording with bassist Ron Carter, pianist Eliane Elias, vocalists Kurt Elling and Luciana Souza along with his own bands and a weekly gig at the club, Nublu, in New York. “Air” is superbly recorded and Monteiro, sounding great on electric or acoustic guitar, carries on the tradition established by Laurindo Almeida and Joao Gilberto. The leader specializes in cool-toned jazz, merging strong Brazilian melodies with precise rhythms. Bassist Ben Street and saxophonist Jerome Sabagh provides warm accompaniment and vocalists Chiara Civello and Lila Downs enrich several tracks. Not a bossa nova album per se, “Air” still plumbs the lush, gently swaying sounds of Rio and beyond.
ROB GARCIA 4, PERENNIAL
Drummer Rob Garcia is a master of deflection. Listening to his album, “Perennial,” you be hard pressed to guess that he was the leader and wrote all the compositions save for a unexpectedly smoky cover of “Cherokee.” Garcia’s tunes unfold over disarmingly simple, not quite delicate themes that are underscored by the sinewy tenor saxophone of Noah Preminger and lyrical pianist Dan Tepfer, who draw out Garcia’s motifs in unison over Chris Lightcap’s fluid basslines. The music is so warmly engaging that you have to concentrate on what Garcia is doing with his sticks, brushes and cymbals. “Perennial” isn’t forceful – a rarity for drummer-led albums – but the music is nicely evocative and completely appealing.