By Geoff Chapman

01_here_nowCanadian guitarist Jake Langley fought his way through the ranks to long-term sideman in Joey DeFrancesco’s organ trio. Now he bosses his own threesome with American Sam Yahel doing the grunt work on ancient Hammond B3 (plus Fender Rhodes) and Vancouver transplant drummer Ian Froman, now of the Big Apple. It’s clear on Here And Now (Tonepoet TPCD2012 that Jake’s in charge, his Gibson guitars setting the menu for nine tracks, five by him plus a Mingus, classics by McCoy Tyner and Michel Legrand plus Gordon Lightfoot’s mega-hit If You Could Read My Mind. The music swings hard without grating pyrotechnics, even with blues, rock and funk dominating themes. Yahel’s vigorous bass lines groove as the Langley guitars lay out forceful ideas, particularly strong on modal cuts Singularity and 2012. There’s a short, daring take with seriously dark passages on Goodbye Pork Pie Hat showing how the trio knows when to caress, when to drop out and when to get tough. The Langley unit displays finely developed harmonic sense, creates a light jazz anthem of the Lightfoot and underscores the leader’s unfailing imagination.

02_chunkedTriodes comprises the co-chiefs of big band NOJO, guitarist Michael Occhipinti and keyboardist Paul Neufeld, joined by resonant bassist Roberto Occhipinti and drummer Doan Pham with a gaggle of guests. On Chunked (Modica Music MM0110 there are three pieces each from the leaders in an eclectic, easy-on-the-ear selection of vintage soul and R&B, designed to conjure memories of The Meters yet allowing players licence to blunder into Desmond Dekker’s Israelites. Catchy cuts like Occhipinti’s Big Belly gets additional fire from Jeff Coffin’s sax, Black Disciples features woolly trombone and a rapper ruins Blue Pepper but the popping pulse, clean notes, witty notions and upbeat atmosphere carry the day. The strutting Funky Miracle and old school wailing on The Kick are distinct bonuses.

03_other_sideBlasting trumpeter Alexis Baro likes funk as well as swirling Cuban rhythms and is in take-no-prisoners mode on From The Other Side ( There’s polyrhythmic mayhem early on with Robi Botos, Jeff King and Larnell Lewis prominent conspirators in a mix of high power bathed in funky blasts and whirling percussion. Baro shows off some awesome technique as well as lapses of concentration, which actually gives the album – his second – live jam appeal with African Escape a thriller. Baro then steers his large troupe through some ordinary light bop before plunging into whiplash funk that exploits searing guitar from KCRoberts. You can hear the potential in Baro’s laid-back moments, where technique is not everything, instead supplanted by tone control and emotional appeal. Wake up Call before it boils over is proof. His second album, with 10 of his tunes, bodes well for the future.

04_pleased_to_meetHank Jones is 91, Oliver Jones a mere 75. These storied veterans, brought up on melodic jazz, the will to swing and the example of Oscar Peterson, deliver a lovely, relaxed disc that should suit every occasion and trounce age stereotyping. The 11 tunes on Pleased To Meet You (Justin Time Just 2326-2 provide no barrier to the fecund jazz minds of these elder statesmen who employ on three cuts two rising stars – bassist Brandi Disterheft and drummer Jim Doxas - they don’t really need. Jones and Jones, who hadn’t recorded together before, do sound pleased to meet each other, comfortable in five duets that include a pair of Peterson chestnuts, Cakewalk and Big Scotia, while Oliver contributes his own I Remember OP. Hank offers solo ruminations Monk’s Mood and Ornette Coleman’s Lonely Woman in a warm, welcoming session executed to perfection.

05_double_doubleWhen two Toronto vets get together it’s more than a cutting session – much more here with flugelhornist Chase Sanborn and pianist Mark Eisenman going at it on a disc subtitled Always Swinging. Swing it does on a dozen tunes they stack with vigour and creative acumen you’d expect from expert practitioners. Double Double (Samo Media MFA 18249 opens with a jointly-composed tune and shows how the challenges of democratic duet playing are answered, as two musicians at the top of their game breeze through tunes with sure-handed panache. Each contributes a brace of songs – Sanborn Great Gait and Call It and Eisenman Benny’s Ballad and N.O.O.N. and they round out the performance with standards, classics and originals. The dynamic duo deftly exchanges ideas, quotes freely and offers up some groundbreaking passion with a celebratory tone. The ‘contest’ is especially appealing on Benny Golson’s Stablemates and Hoagy’s The Nearness Of You, impeccably done.

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