Friday brings new albums from two ends of the modern jazz spectrum. The Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio's groovy sophomore album, I Told You So, is packed with red-hot soul jazz, while the brass quartet The Westerlies joins forces with singer Theo Bleckmann on This Land, a collection of political songs inspired by modern times. Catch a song from both on The New Cool Friday night.
Fans of the Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (DLO3) have waited five years for the follow up to their acclaimed debut Close But No Cigar, and it's been worth the wait.
The trio have spent those years touring relentlessly, around the U.S. and around the world. For many of those more recent trips, Lamarr and guitarist Jimmy James have been playing with Polyrhythmics drummer Grant Schroff. His appearance on I Told You So shows how tight the DLO3 had become and adds a familial live feeling they already had down cold.
Co-founder of The True Loves, the May release of their new album means Jimmy James is already enjoying the new year. His incredibly tasty guitar work on the new DLO3 album continues to build on his reputation as the coolest guitarist in the world. Vintage '60s echo effects have rarely sounded so modern.
Lamarr's chops on organ continue to impress as well. He's sensitive and sweet on a terrific cover of the Wham! hit "Careless Whisper," and burns it up on "Fo Sho," rising from a simmer to a boil. Lamarr can lean into a chord a la Jimmy Smith, but his melodicism and lovable personality shine through every note.
The Westerlies have been busy in the studio, if not touring recently. Their third album, Wherein Lies the Good, came out about a year ago, and marked the recording debut of new trumpeter Chloe Rowlands.
A good friend and occasional collaborator, Theo Bleckmann lends his impressive voice to a brass quartet that works with him more as musical partner than backing unit. His use of digital vocal effects expands his sound to match the two-trumpet, two-trombone Westerlies.
The material chosen for this new project also called for someone to sing lyrics. This Land delivers a message of protest and personal healing, and how music can be a powerful force in both.
The Westerlies have a wonderful way of using their four horns to convey emotions from tender to strident, pulsing and moaning and rising like a voice in the crowd. All those tools are put to good use and create fascinating worlds for Bleckmann to enjoy.
The '70s pro-worker anthem "Look for the Union Label" is a great example of Bleckmann working in partnership with The Westerlies and not fronting them. Regal horns kick off the familiar lyrics promoting the garment union, slowing to emphasize, "We work hard, but who's complaining?" The result is a fresh look at the labor underclass of today and how their struggle continues in familiar ways.
"Land" begins with the pulsing brass that's the Westerlies' trademark. Chamber music crosses with folk and jazz into something unique but recognizable. Written by trombonist Andy Clausen, "Land" uses Agha Shahid Ali's poem of the same title to speak about the immigrant experience and the complexity of America's cultural melting pot. Beauty with shadows, the song is like hearing a cloud's silver lining.
Woody Guthrie's "Tear the Fascists Down" rollicks wonderfully, an instrumental burner coming in under a minute. Fighting the Man can be done with a smile when you've got The Westerlies.
Joni Mitchell and Bertold Brecht music and more original tunes populate "This Land," an exciting and intellectual next step for The Westerlies and Bleckmann.
KNKX is proud to help present the band's third annual Westerlies Fest next weekend, Feb. 4-6. It's a virtual affair, naturally. Sharing the "stage" with Margeaux (KNKX School of Jazz alumnus Margeaux Bouchegnies), Morgan Henderson and Michael Mayo (in that order), The Westerlies will debut new music from composer Kalia Vandever each night at 7, streaming for free on YouTube.
Along with a free community "JAM-boree" on Feb. 7, The Westerlies team with Brooklyn's LGBTQ+ chamber music group ChamberQUEER, curating pre-recorded performances with a premier of a new Vandever piece commissioned for The Westerlies. It's also free, but please register for all events.
Spend this Friday night with The Westerlies, Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio, and two hours of cool sounds from the world of modern jazz on The New Cool.
The New Cool airs Fridays from 9 to 11 p.m., hosted by Abe Beeson and produced by KNKX Public Radio in Seattle, Wash.