Skip to content

Roll Call: Recent Recordings By NEO Artists

One of the great pleasures of this project is the opportunity to do a weekly temperature check of the NEO scene., with a focus on live performance where it surely belongs. No performances, no scene, right?

But NEO artists have lately been as active in the studios as they are on the area’s stages and bandstands. That’s a good thing, too. Some projects have been covered here, including Work and Song, the exultant live recording by Alla Boara made at BOP STOP last July, Lucas Kadish’s Tundra, which was a big part of this entry from 2023, and the forthcoming recording laid down two weeks ago by the Third Law Collective wsg Russ Johnson, a project I profiled here. A few more will get the in-depth treatment in future posts here and at All About Jazz.

Still it’s been a while since let’s call this has called the roll on recordings, and given the spring shower of recent releases, now’s the time.

The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra – Live at the Bop Stop

The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra is 40 years old in 2024. Putting this into context, that makes the CJO four years older than Wynton Marsalis’ august Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra. Pretty impressive. So clearly, this is an occasion to celebrate and the CJO has done just that by recording original compositions by orchestra member Chas Baker for release on May 20 at a gala concert at Disciples Christian Church, Cleveland Heights.

I haven’t heard The Cleveland Jazz Orchestra – Live at the Bop Stop yet, but when I do, you’ll know all about it as the recording and its genesis will get the full treatment in an upcoming Tuesday post at let’s call this. Meanwhile, pre-orders for the CD are being accepted here.

Madd for Tadd: Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight

On his widely admired Do the M@th blog last year, pianist Ethan Iverson, a champion of traditional musical values, lamented that Tadd Dameron doesn’t get the credit he deserves. In Cleveland, we love our heroes and need no reminders about their greatness, but even those of us in his hometown could stand to learn more about Dameron’s frustratingly interrupted but frequently brilliant career.

For the second release by their 15-piece Madd for Tadd big band, Kent Engelhardt and Stephen Enos explore the farthest reaches of that career with a two-CD set, Central Avenue Swing & Our Delight (Tighten Up). Central Avenue Swing starts at Page One with music that the 23-year-old Dameron wrote in 1940 for Kansas City-based territory bandleader Harlan Leonard and His Rockets. Our Delight is a sort of greatest hits collection of Dameron’s best-known compositions, including “Soultrane,” “Lady Bird” and the title tune. Engelhardt’s new arrangements–22 of them–are highly polished and played with brio by the extensive cast of local and regional ringers and the annotations by 2024 NEA Jazz Master Willard Jenkins are themselves worth the price of admission. A true labor of love and a love letter to one of the greatest musicians Cleveland has ever produced. Available here.

Reclamation Band: These Roads

If you didn’t know that Kevin Robert Martinez grew up in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, one listen to These Roads by his Reclamation Band would give him away for sure. This is music of spacious lyricism bathed in the golden-hour light of a late-August Sunday as observed from an Adirondack chair. It’s a quintessentially Midwestern sound. That’s appropriate given the NEO/Chicago composition of his band. The bassist spent some years in the Windy City where he established connections with bass clarinet player Jason Stein, who joins alto saxophonist Chris Coles and tenor player Tim McDonald on the front line of this sextet. Dan Bruce has history in both Great Lakes cities and his Methenian guitar work is a binding agent and goes a long way toward establishing Reclamation’s sonic signature. It’s one that’s influenced by Americana and bluegrass music, and that scene is where the bassist met Anthony Taddeo. The percussionist brings his faultless taste and unerring musicianship to these eight ingratiating compositions. Available here.

Bobby Selvaggio 11: Stories, Dreams, Inspirations-For My Boy

Around here, Bobby Selvaggio might be best known as a fiery standard-bearer for postbop language on alto and soprano saxophones. A player first. To be sure, he flashes some impressive chops on Stories, Dreams, Inspirations-For My Boy, released April 12 on Hidden Cinema Records. But this is, above all, a writer’s record. All seven compositions were written and arranged by Selvaggio. During his time in New York, the saxophonist played in the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra and studied with Maria Schneider, a twin lineage that pretty much embraces the upper reaches of compositional practice for large ensemble jazz in the last half century. You can hear echoes of both experiences in Selvaggio’s nimble writing for sections, his use of instrumental color as a structural element and the slashing restlessness of the lines. Like its creator, this is music that is in constant motion. Selvaggio’s originals demand close listening and reward it richly. Stories, Dreams, Inspirations is also a great showcase for some of the region’s most recognizable and skilled instrumentalists, including saxophonists Chris Coles and Brad Wagner, Tommy Lehman on trumpet and flugelhorn, pianist Theron Brown and trombonist Chris Anderson, your 2024 Jazz Journalists Association Akron Jazz Hero. Available here.


Here’s another recording that will get an extended analysis soon, this time at All About Jazz. TRIAD, which played a Saturday afternoon concert at last year’s Tri-C JazzFest, is trumpeter Dominick Farinacci, mallet percussionist Christian Tamburr and accordion player Michael Ward-Bergeman. Needless to say, there’s not a huge body of music written for that unlikely instrumental combination, but that left the field wide open for these exploratory musicians to invent a repertoire to suit their sound. They settled on music that is evenly divided between wistful nostalgia, like the lovely “A Prayer For You,” written by Farinacci for his mother as she was battling cancer (she’s fine and going strong), and high-stepping rhythm. The ensemble sound is vaguely European in character. Yet there’s a strong Cleveland flavor too, courtesy of the presence of border-leaping percussionist Jamey Haddad on six of the 10 cuts and by a most unusual song choice, a blood-curdling cover of Clevelander Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put A Spell On You” sung absolutely straight by Shenel Johns. It shouldn’t work in this setting, but it does. The common denominator is New Orleans music, specifically the passion with which that city’s musicians approach their craft. It’s here too, in every bar. Available here.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *