Album reviews: legendary drummer, “fusion armada”

Hayes Hudson Covers

Louis Hayes: Serenade For Horace (Blue Note)

Street date May 26, 2017

Blue Note Records has given a home to arguably the greatest recording artists in jazz for many decades. Like all major record labels, particularly those devoted to so-called “boutique music,” they suffered more than one corporate takeover and several facelifts in the wake of the ongoing sea change in music.

After a couple of years in somewhat uncharted waters, they appear to be back in the business of putting legends to work. Drummer Louis Hayes has been in recording limbo for longer than anyone of his caliber should be. After a stint at what is essentially a club-gig label (Smoke Sessions), he’s signed on with “Serenade for Horace.” It’s an homage to piano tunesmith Horace Silver, who died in 2014 after an unprecedented run of playing and writing some of the catchiest melodies in jazz or any music.

Most of Silver’s hits are represented here: “Strollin,” “Senor Blues,” “Juicy Lucy.” Many will surely like the vocalese take on “Song For My Father,” featuring Gregory Porter.  Personally,  I think both the melody and the singer are in danger of overexposure, but I’m admittedly jaded. Gregory is an exciting vocalist and Hayes knows how to cobble and front a band: Steve Nelson, Dezron Douglas, Josh Evans and others round out this worthwhile venture.

DeJohnette/Grenadier/Medeski/Scofield: Hudson (Motema)

Street date June 9, 2017

If ever there was a fusion armada, it would have to be these guys. Three veterans and a relative newbie, Jack DeJohnette, Larry Grenadier, John Scofield, and John Medeski must have been someone’s dream team if not their own.

Medeski (Medeski, Martin and Wood) is the youngest of the bunch but he passed pup status back in the early 2000’s. Not that age is a factor, but these guys could teach a thing or two to most of the seemingly endless parade of funksters coming down the jazz pike these days.

The resumes and chops of this quartet are self-evident. What drew my attention was the choice of material. Most of the covers are classic-rock era gems from Hendrix, Dylan and The Band. All four men collaborated on the opus title track. And each offers an original unique to their signatures.

The Native American-inspired “Great Spirit Peach Chant” (Dejohnette) is spine-tingling.

Kevin O’Connor hosts an hour of new releases Fridays at noon on This Just In.  He periodically updates us on noteworthy album releases here and on Jazz Police.

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