Nicole Mitchell and her Ice Crystals project bandmates release Aquarius on February 19.
For the jazz enthusiasts looking for some new tunes but daunted by the below-freezing weather (and really, who’s isn’t?), cheer up. There’s plenty to enjoy on the turn table this winter, from local stalwart Patricia Barber’s latest melancholy album to Chicago ex-pat Nicole Mitchell’s collaboration with a handful of favorite local musicians. Here are our top picks for jazz albums this winter.
Not to be confused with the NBC show about broadway hopefuls, Smash is the Chicago singer-songwriter-pianist-poet’s debut on the Concord Jazz label. The album focuses on loss and heartache—a potentially rough winter’s listen in other hands, but sure to be studded with moments of sharp wit and insight here.
The brilliant alto saxophonist swaps out his frequent collaborator Vijay Iyer for the blistering guitarist David Fiuczynski, which only figures to add another dimension to his all-over-the-map explorations.
Without a Net
The legendary 79-year-old saxophonist and composer returns to the iconic Blue Note label with this collection of live performances from his stunning acoustic band (the pianist Danilo Perez, the bassist John Patitucci, the drummer Brian Blade) and a 23-minute piece recorded with the Imani Winds chamber group.
The Chicago ex-pat (now California-based) flutist teams up with like-minded colleagues Jason Adasiewicz on vibraphone, Joshua Abrams on bass, and Frank Rosaly on drums for the latest foray under the auspices of her Ice Crystals project. The bluesy quartet first played at the Chicago Cultural Center in 2007, but this is their first recording of Mitchell’s original works.
Charles Lloyd/Jason Moran
The veteran tenorman and the trailblazing pianist have been working together off and on in various formats over the past several years. Here they promisingly set up for the first time as a duo, with a collection of tunes ranging from Gershwin and Strayhorn to Dylan and the Beach Boys.
Mark Loehrke is a contributing music critic for Chicago.
Photograph: Kristi Sutto Elais