The Bitter Sermon Spreadin' the Good Word (ThrillBomb! Records)
When singer Bernadette Seacrest split and left her band, the Yes Men, high and dry, these talented groove merchants (Michael Grimes, bass and vocals; Jason Aspleset, drums; Aaron Cummings, sax) hardly missed a beat, reconfiguring with John Cousins (piano) and putting out a jazzy new CD (10 originals, one cover). The solid grooves that Grimes (who’s grown as a singer) and Aspleset lay down keep things smoldering, but the group catches fire only intermittently (e.g., “Shine”). They seem caught in an identity crisis, veering back and forth between cocktail jazz and gritty soul. Once they find their center, watch out.
Will Holshouser Trio Singing to a Bee (Cleancut Records)
A trio of accordion, trumpet and double bass. Should sound awful, no? But Will Holshouser (accordion), Ron Horton (trumpet) and David Phillips (bass) play with a preternatural affinity that makes the implausible sound inevitable—even triumphant. Holshouser’s compositions are a cat’s cradle of appropriations—from Cajun to French musette to jazz to contemporary chamber music. Just like the accordion’s sound, they are as otherworldly as they are concrete, and as full of loopiness as of longing. Holshouser writes program music, scoring the phantasmagoria hidden in the everyday—and you can hum it! Also check out his first CD, Reed Song.
Dave Douglas Meaning and Mystery (Greenleaf Music)
The latest from trumpeter Dave Douglas’ excellent quintet (Donny McCaslin, sax; Uri Caine, Fender Rhodes electric piano; James Genus, bass; Clarence Penn, drums), Meaning and Mystery keeps his streak of stunningly original work alive and well. This postmillennial hard bop is darker, more searching than his previous quintet recordings but shot through with luminous epiphanies. As a composer, Douglas can transform a simple motif into a spellbinding elaboration of symphonic spaciousness, and no matter how far out he goes, he remains accessible and emotionally coherent. Newcomer McCaslin brings an improvisational prescience and emotional intensity that match the leader’s. (Available exclusively at www.greenleafmusic.com.)