Like they say, it’s a long, long while from May to December. But the days grow short when you reach September. When the autumn weather turns the leaves to flame, one hasn’t got time for the waiting game.
The September selections on Now’s the Time aren’t as elegiac as the lyrics of that old song. But they’re at least as deep.
First up is the second album by drummer Eric Harland‘s group Voyager. Harland is known for his high-profile drumming prowess in super groups ranging from bassist Dave Holland‘s Prism (see our reporting on these guys at last year’s Monterey Jazz Festival), James Farm with pianist Aaron Parks and saxophonist Joshua Redman, and his regular gig with two groups led by lion-in-winter saxophonist Charles Lloyd: the quartet featuring pianist Jason Moran, and the fantastic Sangam trio rounded out by percussionist Zakir Hussain. (A lot of information in that last sentence, I know; the point is to illustrate Harland’s extraordinary industriousness and the calibre of the company he keeps.) Given Harland’s high-quality sideman gigs, it’s nice to see him in the driver’s seat. The new Voyager disc features tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III, pianist Taylor Eigsti, guitarists Julian Lage and Nir Felder, bassist Harish Raghavan, and, on a few of the tracks, Chris Turner singing. (Smith and Raghavan were last seen in Santa Cruz with trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire in June at Kuumbwa.) Voyager’s new record, Vipassana, may surprise some listeners, with its nod toward Robert Glasper‘s commercially successful but controversial hip-hop- and neosoul-inflected jazz (which we love at Now’s the Time). Have a listen and you be the judge. While you’re at it, check out my interview with Harland, conducted while he was in Monterey in March for the Next Generation Jazz Festival.
(Harland will be the Artist-in-Residence at this year’s Monterey Jazz Festival, together with many of the fellow travelers mentioned in the paragraph. Stay tuned to KUSP and kusp.org for more details.)
Next, it’s Ibibio Sound Machine, the début album from the London-based Nigerian-Ghanaian electropop dance outfit. Marked by the vocals of Anglo-Nigerian Eno Williams and the guitar of Anglo-Ghanaian Alfred Bannerman, atop a funky brew of electronic keyboards and dance beats, the distinctive mash-up fits perfectly on this radio program. The songs, sung by Williams in the Ibibio language, appear to be parables and moral lessons; all good.
Our Miles Davis record for September is Filles de Kilimanjaro, recorded with the legendary “Second Quintet” – Wayne Shorter on sax, Herbie Hancock on electric keyboards, Ron Carter on bass and Tony Williams on drums – in June 1968, and in a follow-up September session at which Chick Corea replaced Hancock and Dave Holland replaced Carter. Memorable themes and rhythms – in which you’ll hear echoes of Jimi Hendrix and James Brown – are stated powerfully, while the soloing plows through boundaries the Second Quintet had only brushed up against up to this point.