Former Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner returns for an elegant romp, Bill Dixon's all-star orchestra explodes, and Nicole Mitchell does the unthinkable: make flute-led jazz a force to be reckoned with.
Bill Dixon with Exploding Star Orchestra
This eponymous big-band extravaganza opens with a subdued rumble sustained by drums and timpani. It suspensefully builds until a dozen highly developed jazz improvisers join forces at full throttle. The dominant soloists on this thickly cerebral experimental session are a 40-something cornetist, Rob Mazurek, leader of Chicago's Exploding Star Orchestra, and the 80-something trumpeter Bill Dixon. Both are brass masters as well as accomplished visual artists. Their complementary soloing on this rousing album of stormy symphonic squalls suggests telepathically inspired abstract painters working on the same canvas.
McCoy Tyner – Afro Blue
The noted pianist is showcased by eight tracks culled from five albums. The strongest numbers are Latin big-band outings (like the title track, which showcases a solo by Steve Turre on seashell!) and Tyner by himself, tenderly mining the wistful drama of Gershwin's "Summertime." The trio and quartet settings reveal the formulaic shortcomings of his accompanists. Maybe the quartet format establishes too instant a comparison to his heyday during the 1960s as John Coltrane's pianist. Nevertheless, this is a distinguished elder's elegant romp through many styles, performed with panache.
Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble – Black Unstoppable