Quality is laced throughout It s Never Too Late, the first regular studio album featuring Emmanuel completely solo without guests since 2000. A friend and follower of the late Chet Atkins who christened Emmanuel a Certified Guitar Player, making him one of only five musicians to receive the C.G.P. distinction from the master Emmanuel easily skates between musical styles, playing with blues in One Mint Julep, infusing Spanish tradition in El Vaquero and exploring folk in The Duke. An accomplished fingerstyle player, Emmanuel frequently threads three different parts simultaneously into his material, operating as a one-man band who handles the melody, the supporting chords and the bass all at once. That expert layering is evident in It s Never Too Late on the quixotic Only Elliott, the calming title track and the gorgeous Hellos And Goodbyes.
Freddie Hubbard's first recording as a leader, Open Sesame features the 22-year-old trumpeter in a quintet with tenor saxophonist Tina Brooks, the up-and-coming pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Sam Jones and drummer Clifford Jarvis. This set shows that even at this early stage, Hubbard had the potential to be one of the greats. On the ballad "But Beautiful" he shows maturity; other highlights include "Open Sesame," a driving "All or Nothing at All" and "One Mint Julep." It's an impressive start to what would be a very interesting career.
Instant Party includes 11 previously released tracks by bandleader and conga player Poncho Sanchez, focusing on his Concord label recordings. Unlike similar Concord artists who have recorded for numerous labels during their career, including Mongo Santamaria and Tito Puente, Sanchez has been with the company for the majority of his career, making the track picks truly depict the best of his overall output as opposed to just his output on a particular label. Taken from 11 separate albums, highlights include "Listen Here/Cold Duck Time," "Chile con Soul," "One Mint Julep" (with Ray Charles), "Bйsame Mama" (with Mongo Santamaria), and "Watermelon Man." These tracks deliver exactly what the title promises while presenting the Latin jazz novice with a quality sampling of Poncho Sanchez.
The legendary conguero may be known as one of the modern kings of all jazz that's Latin, but he's also an old-school soul junkie at heart, having grown up in southern California in the '60s; while he was learning to play tropical Latin music professionally, his radio was full of classic Stax and Motown. Increasingly aware that classic R&B songs adapt well to the jazzy cha cha tempos that drive his ensemble, Sanchez evolves beautifully on the new collection into a style of Latin soul that's truly compelling. The opening track, the funky, brass-driven cha cha "One Mint Julep," features not only the organ arpeggios of Billy Preston, but also two of the horn guys from the James Brown band, Fred Wesley and Pee Wee Ellis.
Three decades after the fact, people looking at releases like This Time by Basie would tend to dismiss it as pandering, Count Basie doing a "pops"-type outing – the cheesy cover art even emphasized the songs over Basie and his band. Nothing could be further from the truth, however – this 16-song release reveals a wonderful body of work, and deserves to be better known. For starters, This Time by Basie swings, smooth and easy but taut, or hot and heavy. From Sonny Payne's understated cymbal intro to "This Could Be the Start of Something Big" to the bluesier notes of "One Mint Julep," Basie and company sound like…