Melody Gardot ★★★★1/2

Currency Of Man


          Lightning strikes twice for Melody

Gardot on Currency Of Man, as perfect

a jazz-tinged pop record for adults as

can be. Larry Klein, the Grammy-

winning producer behind records by

Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock and

Madeleine Peyroux, returns as producer;

he was the deft guiding hand behind her

sophomore album from 2006, the best-

selling classic, My One And Only Thrill.

On her previous efforts, Gardot blended

genres with remarkable ease and conviction. Trending on that experience, Currency takes the singer to a new level with superior songwriting and a full-throated voice that’s drenched in the blues and post-modern soul, characterized by the midnight bass and drums on “She Don’t Know.” Deep down she’s still the hopeful chanteuse, yet Klein and she are about ripping the bandage off, crafting a confident, visionary album of roots-driven tunes (“Bad News”), sumptuous orchestral ballads (“If Ever I Recall Your Face”) and sharp social protests (“Preacherman”) that once and for all crowns Gardot as an essential American vocalist. 

          In her press notes, Gardot speaks deliberately about the formative process of creating Currency, from the song choices through to the production process. She chooses electric guitar over the piano, and details a specific analog sound she fine-tuned with Klein and her engineers. The subtle hiss and ripe tonal quality along with quirky reverb could lose Gardot some friends, but it’s a smart decision and births an artistically satisfying achievement for the singer/songwriter. Available in an expanded edition “Artist’s Cut” with five additional songs, conceptually devised as a flow-through listen and not reviewed here. (10 tracks; 47 minutes)

Nick Finzer ★★★★

The Chase


          Among the better recordings I’ve

heard in the last twelve months, there

seems to be no shortage of millennial

musicians such as Ben Williams or Aaron

Diehl, formally schooled and baptized on

the bandstand, producing superb albums

that betray their “under 30” status.

Trombonist Nick Finzer is another good example. The Chase is a sturdy and beautifully arranged program of melodic originals by Finzer who hits all the right notes on his sophomore recording. Juilliard-trained and mentored by the great Wycliffe Gordon, Finzer’s writing is as warmly compelling as it is masterfully swinging, without a false step or throwaway tune in the bunch. His first-rate band of up-and-comers, anchored by pianist Glenn Zeleski, bassist Dave Baron and drummer Jimmy MacBride, are particularly adept at underscoring the small band harmonics on upbeat songs like the breezy “Acceptance” and the finger-snapping “Just Passed The Horizon.” The in-demand saxophonist and reed man Lucas Pino shares the frontline with Finzer who, along with guitarist Alex Wintz, give this sonically impressive date of a loose, open-collar feel. Among the many high points, the group’s blended grooves and interlocking rhythms give the sophisticated swinger, “All Hype,” a jolt of traditional hipness and modern cool. (11 tracks; 61 minutes)

Jamison Ross ★★★★1/2


Concord Jazz

           Jamison is the debut of a significant talent.

Winner of the 2012 Thelonious Monk Jazz

Competition, the singularly entertaining Jamison

Ross is a drummer of enormous presence and an

irrepressible bandleader, judging from his album

release show I attended at Dizzy’s Club Coca Cola

in June. He also sings. Interestingly, his vocal

talent was nowhere to be heard at the Monk

competition; he won solely on his beats and

rhythmic ingenuity, but when it came time to

enter the studio, his triumph of percussion over

voice was reconciled and here they bloom. He credits his family, specifically his mother who urged him to move beyond playing in his church choir as a younger man to expand his singing to a wide audience. The brisk Jamison plays like an open book on Ross’ contagious personality, which makes for an instant connection. 

          This exuberant release opens with technicolor fireworks on a vivid Muddy Waters cover, “Deep Down in Florida,” that pops and shimmies on evocative soul and blues rhythms. Like singer Gregory Porter, Ross has a big, deep voice that’s operatic in its storytelling style, yet peaks and dips fluidly with an emotionally tangible vibe. He’s a savvy instrumentalist (Cedar Walton’s “Martha’s Prize” is an indelible swing tune that Ross tailors to his strengths), yet he clearly relishes soul-jazz and bop when he sings and plays on Eddie Harris and Les McCann’s “Set Us Free” and again on the lush romantic ballad, “My One And Only Love.” The album is propelled on Ross’ talent and that of his band (notably pianist Chris Pattinshall and bassist Corcoran Holt), and he saves the best for last—the closer “Bye, Bye Blues” is a rousing, church revival-like number that soars on Ross’ star-making charisma and natural enthusiasm. It’s sure to be his signature tune. (12 tracks; 43 minutes)

Gracie Terzian ★★★1/2

Saints and Poets

independent release

          With an abundance of charm, jazz-pop vocalist

Gracie Terzian introduces herself as a reliably

authentic chanteuse on her calling card EP, Saints

and Poets. She’s a beguiling singer and modern

song stylist with an astute sense of swing. Her six

original songs (music co-written with pianist Wells

Hanley) are lovingly recorded (and sonically terrific)

and lean on bossa nova rhythms with a degree of

sophistication reminiscent of Melody Gardot or

Stacy Kent. All of the songs are keepers, but the

winning title track is the standout. “Sleepwalker”

and “Wait Silently” are delightfully effervescent,

too, with attractive, bubbly guitar solos. Certain

and self-assured, it’s not surprising Terzian is a

YouTube sensation. Though she performs frequently

in New York, she deserves a higher profile, so

here’s looking forward to what she does next.

Available on iTunes. (6 tracks; 26 minutes)

Nick Bewsey, August 2015

Nick Bewsey has been writing about jazz for ICON since 2004 and is a member of The Jazz Journalists Assoc. He also participates in DownBeat’s Annual International Critics Poll.