New CDs from Kenny Barron and Dave Holland, Dayna Stephens, Aaron Diehl: Videos, Photos, Sounds

- in New CD's Review, VIDEOS

Along with choice new music from Jeff Davis and Kandace Springs.

The history of collaboration between pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Dave Holland goes back 35 years, to an album called Scratch. Released under Barron’s name on the Enja label, it’s a trio recording that instantly reveals the depth of their rapport.

Barron and Holland were born an ocean and three years apart, but their commonalities — each is an NEA Jazz Master with 11 Grammy nominations to his name, for starters — lend a natural ease to that rapport. When they released a duo effort, The Art of Conversation, on Impulse! in 2014, it was met with such widespread acclaim that the Jazz Journalists Association crowned it Album of the Year.

For their sterling new release — Without Deception, due out on Dare2 Records on March 6 — they return to a trio format, bringing in Johnathan Blake on drums. The album’s Brazilian-flavored opening track, a Barron original called “Porto Alegre,” was released as a single last week.

WBGO is proud to share an exclusive premiere of the title track — another Barron tune, with a twisty harmonic contour over mid-tempo swing.

Dayna Stephens Trio, “Kwooked Stweet”

Like Johnathan Blake, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens has been a regular member of Kenny Barron’s bands. (They both appear on Concentric Circles, the standout album he released on Blue Note in 2018.) As a leader, Stephens radiates composure and calm ambition, expanding the modern-jazz framework through a series of smart revisions from within.

A case in point: “Kwooked Stweet,” which builds on the chord progression for John Coltrane’s “Straight Street.” Stephens wrote the tune during his time in San Francisco, where the eight hairpin turns in Lombard Street enjoy a sort of proud infamy; it appears in this video for “Kwooked Stweet,” along with Stephens and his band mates, bassist Ben Street and drummer Eric Harland.

The tune, whose rhythmic convolutions evoke those turns in the road, comes from Stephens’ ninth album, Liberty, which will be released on Feb. 28 on Contagious Music. Recorded at Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, N.J., it’s an assured statement from three of the finest musicians on the scene — and a reflection on freedom, in all its connotations. “How do we burst these various fortified bubbles of feedback loops that shield us from realizing that we are all looking into the same mirror?” Stephens muses. “If not with Liberty for all then with what?

Aaron Diehl Trio, “Milano”

The exquisite touch and opalescent tone of Aaron Diehl’s pianism have often drawn comparisons to John Lewis, and he hasn’t shied away from them. But since graduating from Juilliard — where, incidentally, his piano instructors included Kenny Barron — Diehl has shown a scope of musical interest so expansive that he can only be taken on his own terms.

His new album, The Vagabond, which Mack Avenue will release on Feb. 14, includes seven thoughtful new compositions as well as pieces by Prokofiev, Sir Roland Hanna, and Philip Glass, whose music Diehl has performed in concert. (One of the first singles from the album was Glass’ “Piano Etude No. 6.”)

Diehl also includes a John Lewis composition: “Milano,” a longtime staple in the book of the Modern Jazz Quartet. His arrangement opens with a glassy shimmer, eases into a music-box twirl, and flirts with walking swing. Diehl is beautifully met by his rhythm team, bassist Paul Sikivie and drummer Gregory Hutchinson; this is a seamless group effort, even though the piano gorgeously commands the stage.

Kandace Springs, “Pearls (Featuring Avishai Cohen)”

The Women Who Raised Me, the forthcoming album by Kandace Springs, could be understood as autobiography by way of portraiture: it’s a collection of songs by, or associated with, female artists in Springs’ personal pantheon, from Nina Simone to Norah Jones. For a lead single, Blue Note has shared a video for “Pearls,” Springs’ low-simmering, deeply soulful take on an iconic song by Sade.

The video, in atmospheric black and white, depicts Springs on a subway platform and in an idealized recording studio. On the album, her elite accompaniment includes guitarist Steve Cardenas, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Clarence Penn — and, on “Pearls,” trumpeter Avishai Cohen, whose murmuring obbligato deepens the poignancy of the song.

Jeff Davis, “Mountains, Mountains, Water”

Drummer and composer Jeff Davis has a long track record of exploratory actions, and on his new album — The Fastness, on Fresh Sound Records — he enlists a cohesive crew with precisely the same concerns. His band mates, who come to the table with some 20 years of cooperative history, are saxophonist Tony Malaby, keyboardist Russ Lossing, guitarist Jonathan Goldberger and bassist Eivind Opsvik.

They practically throw themselves into this music, as you can hear on a track called “Mountains, Mountains, Water,” which seems to draw loose inspiration from sources ranging from the Mahavishnu Orchestra to John Zorn’s Naked City. The band will surely take Davis’ material to new places during an album-release show on Thursday at Greenwich House Music School, courtesy of the Sound It Out series.

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