Kazemde George, “I Insist”
Kazemde George is a tenor saxophonist, composer and scholar presently poised for a breakthrough with the jazz public. The engine of this momentum is I Insist, his soulful new debut on Greenleaf Music, which combines an easy grasp of melody and a swinging foundation with some jostling ideas about cultural identity in the Black diaspora. (George’s father hails from Guyana, and his mother is Jamaican; he grew up in Berkeley and attended Harvard and the New England Conservatory before landing in Brooklyn.) There’s a declarative political thrust to the album, whose title invokes Max Roach’s We Insist! Freedom Now Suite — but as you see in this live version of the title track, George and his sharp young band are enfolding their insistence in an appealing groove.
säje, “Dusk Baby (featuring Gerald Clayton)”
The vocal foursome known as säje — Sara Gazarek, Amanda Taylor, Johnaye Kendrick, and Erin Bentlage — has already demonstrated its remarkable cohesive bond both in musical and personal terms. (If you need a refresher, try this interview with Keanna Faircloth on The Pulse, from earlier this year.) A new single captures just about everything that’s special about the group: the silk-smooth vocal blend, the heightened harmonic insight, the hair-trigger dynamic sensitivity, the overall glow. Speaking of which: “Dusk Baby” is a piece that first appeared on Gerald Clayton’s 2013 album Life Forum, with vocals and lyrics by Sachal Vasandani. Clayton joins säje for their exquisite version of the tune, which has been outfitted with a whimsical yet touching video. The stop-motion animation captures how certain forms of heartbreak can feel like being battered and tossed at sea. (And don’t miss the piano solo, rendered on a floating raft with an audience of dolphins and a mermaid.)
Nikara Warren, “Run Ricky”
“The odds are stacked against you for a Black man,” raps Nikara Warren in “Run Ricky,” the first single from her long-awaited debut album, Nikara Presents Black Wall Street. That refrain anchors a cautionary tale about a talented young artist who runs up against the sort of grave injustice we’ve all come to recognize. But it also lands in the context of a driving groove, with Warren’s vibraphone set against Caribbean funk syncopation, and a horn section featuring Stephen “Khemestry” Fowler on trumpet and Hailey Niswanger on tenor saxophone. (Elsewhere on the album, Warren’s grandfather, Kenny Barron, sits in on piano.) “There is so much pain associated with the Black experience and within Black music,” Warren says. “It was important to me to offset this by expressing joy, and making the music fun.”
Remy Le Boeuf, “Minnesota, WI”
Assembly of Shadows, a large ensemble led by alto saxophonist and composer Remy Le Boeuf, came out of the gate strong in 2019, with a self-titled album that garnered two Grammy nominations. A follow-up, Architecture of Storms, is due out Nov. 5 on on SoundSpore Records, and promises to widen the acclaim. Le Boeuf’s orchestration runs clear and cool, with ample space reserved for a handful of ace soloists, including Dayna Stephens, Julia Easterlin — and trumpeter Mike Rodriguez, who suavely takes center stage in this version of a wistful, post-pastoral Bon Iver tune. The video above combines a view into the studio sessions with some appropriate landscape footage, underscoring a genuine affinity between the material and this manifestation. (Assembly of Shadows will perform an album-release show at The Jazz Gallery on Nov. 5.)
Houston Person, “Since I Fell For You”
And we close this week with some home cooking: tenor saxophonist Houston Person playing the Buddy Johnson standard “Since I Fell For You.” Recorded in Sept. 2019 at the Festival Jazz à la Villette, it’s a highlight of Person’s latest HighNote album, Live in Paris. The tenor playing is as soulful and laid-back-in-the-pocket as you’d expect, and the support from a first-rate rhythm section — Ben Paterson on Hammond B-3 organ, Peter Bernstein on guitar, Willie Jones III on drums — is perfectly on point. Be sure to stick around for Person’s reentry after the organ solo, which is the real deal.
WBGO | By Nate Chinen