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Last Call Notes/December 2023

Live: Cookin' with Blue Note at Montreux is one of the finest live jazz-funk dates of the early 1970s. Previously unreleased and in the record vaults, this 1973 live date from Donald Byrd, recorded at the Montreux Jazz Festival, showcases the legendary trumpeter and flugelhorn player. Byrd, known for his exceptional straight ahead jazz recordings of the 1960s on Blue Note, had moved with many of the trend setters of the time into jazz-funk in the 1970s. He's onstage on this date with an outstanding jazz funk band including Fonce Mizell, trumpet and Larry Mizell on synthesizers. This memorable live date begins with "Black Byrd", an irresistible funk and festive groove with horns and vocals. The band also does a fine cover of Stevie Wonder's "You've Got It Bad Girl" in addition to three originals from the bandleader. A thoroughly enjoyable release!!

Arguably one of the finest new recordings of 2023, Thought and Memory from Trumpeter Pablo Masis engages the listener from start to finish. The trumpeter's recording features seven compositions inspired by time spent in Kabul, Afghanistan and the New York City scene. Highlights include "Signal Problems", "Thought and Memory", plus "Kabul Suite 1 - An Unfamiliar Dawn" and "Kabul Suite 2 - A Future Without Strife". Pablo Masis, trumpeter is in is top form with his band of Adam Hutcheson : alto saxophone, Jeff McLaughlin: guitar, Jeff Koch: bass and David Hawkins: drums. Pablo Masis performed music from this recording at a live appearance with his band at Creighton Prep in Omaha in Fall, 2023. The music created was compelling and very modern, and did not disappoint!

A prolific guitarist whose music has been featured on the Last Call for decades, Joel Harrison's Anthem of Unity is another superb release which begins with the excellent title track, continues with highlights such as Bob Dylan's "The Times They Are A-Changin'" , plus "Doxy" (A Sonny Rollins composition) and "Mohawk Valley Peace Dance". Harrison is joined by Gary Versace on the keyboards, saxophonist Gregory Tardy and legendary drummer Jack DeJohnette. Joel Harrison is an internationally recognized guitarist, composer, arranger, vocalist, songwriter and bandleader. Music from his previous recordings has been played on the Last Call many times. Notable Harrison projects include 2003's Free Country, 2005's Harrison on Harrison(a salute to George Harrison), 2007's Harbor and 2010's Joel Harrison String Choir--The Music of Paul Motian. A dynamic artist, Harrison continues to explore unexpected directions via his rich, exceptional recordings which are worth savoring.

Guitarist Julian Lage released "The Layers" in 2023. It's a superb meeting with guitar legend Bill Frisell. Together with Lage's band of bassist Jorge Roeder and drummer Dave King, the results are remarkable contrasts between the six original selections, all very compelling, especially "Everything Helps" and "Missing Voices". A warm, intimate date with some of the finest artists on today's jazz scene.

Astrocolor's 2023 release "Moonlighting – AstroJazz Vol.1" is an essential recording for fans of the Last Call. The studio date is a superb blend of electronica, jazz and impressionist music which the band calls “AstroJazz”. Instrumental Artist of the Year at the 2022 Western Canadian Music Awards, the band features Neil James Cooke-Dallin on keyboards, Anand Greenwell on saxophone, William Farrant on bass, Andrew Proirier on guitar, and Lindsay Bryan on vocals, among others. "Bender" and "Star Swing" are among the most mesmerizing selections of this cosmic jazz set.

Stay tuned for more reviews!

Chris Cooke has been a voice on public radio in Omaha since 1989. Working at KVNO-FM during college, Cooke hosted a weekend progressive jazz show on the station in addition to working as an on-air announcer. In November 1992, Cooke signed on at KIOS-FM and has been there ever since. He has hosted the Tuesday and Thursday editions of Jazz in the Afternoon since 1996 and has hosted Last Call since that year. A long time fan of jazz music, Cooke enjoys talking with the musicians who make jazz music and presenting those conversations with listeners. When not hosting or listening to jazz, on record or in person, Cooke maintains a busy schedule as a self-employed web design consultant.