I get a lot of music for my consideration, more than 150 new releases so far in 2020. Almost all of them are notable for something, and I’d like to give them their due. I have a lot of time on my hands as my biggest gig, previewing events for a local newspaper, has evaporated. So every week, I’ll do quick hits on the releases of the preceding seven days. It’s fun and as a writing exercise, it’s a great way to learn to make a point quickly and decisively. Like all roll calls, this will proceed in alphabetical order, starting with . . .
Just like the Tuscan dialect of Dante gradually became the accepted Italian language, the New York style of playing is the NPR accent of mainstream jazz. That doesn’t imply a lack of a recognizable character necessarily. In the right hands, New York jazz is immediately identifiable for its refinement, urbanity and professionalism. And that’s what you get on pianist John DiMartino‘s Passion Flower (Sunnnyside Records). The 14 Billy Strayhorn compositions are mostly well known (except “Absinthe,” which was new to me at least) and DiMartino’s arrangements avoid needless interventionism. So do bassist Boris Kozlov and tenor saxophonist Eric Alexander, who are solid throughout. Drummer Lewis Nash, alert, creative and supremely musical, steals the show. It’s what New York drummers are supposed to do.