Recent Recordings by Area Musicians

From the initial strains of “Dance Of The Songbirds” to the finale “Awakening,” it’s clear Paul VornHagen and Aron Kaufman are on a musical triptych through various nation-states of different tropical and ethnic origins in Journeys (Global Pulse). Mostly on flute or high-end saxophones or congas and the RAV drum respectively, VornHagen and Kaufman depart from their duties with the Lunar Octet and Tumbao Bravo to showcase original compositions in this duo format that delve deeper in folkloric griot traditions.

A lively, spirited and at times spiritual music is the result. Some boppish jazz or deep improvisation crops up. There’s a tribute to Yusef Lateef, two familiar tunes “Elephants” and “Montuno Salad” from the VornHagen book, and an overall joy and uplifting feeling post-pandemic that we all need. It’s a nice sidebar project from the Lunar Octet’s new CD Convergence.

Rob Crozier Jazz Ensemble Live (RCCD) is the latest in a prolific line of recordings Crozier has produced post-graduation from the University of Michigan and his times with improvising bands Sublingual, the Jon Hassell Project, and Electrosonic. His modern folk group Nessa, co-led with his wife, the brilliant flutist Kelly McDermott, is a sidebar to his estimable career as a straight-ahead jazz acoustic upright bassist. Live compiles performances in 2019 at the Dirty Dog Jazz Cafe in Grosse Pointe. It’s an all-original program written and arranged by Crozier.

All pieces are about ten minutes long with substantial soloist space for saxophonist Rafael Statin and, when called upon, the brilliant pianist Keaton Royer. Royer occasionally dips into ethnic sounds on mbira/kalmba/thumb piano or the didgerigoo, and there’s a tribute to the late pianist Steve Richko. Recording quality for a live concert is excellent and one would think there’s enough material for a second volume.

Tidbit That sultry, understated, baritone lounge type vocalist was no mere masked man on the new album for organist Dr. Lonnie Smith Breathe (Blue Note). It’s James Osterberg (my former neighbor when he lived in a trailer park off Michigan Ave.), a.k.a. Iggy Pop, all grown up and gravitating to jazz as he sings the opening and closing tracks on Dr. Smith’s new CD Why Can’t We Live Together? and the Donovan evergreen “Sunshine Superman.” He sounds great. Check it out!