Kenny Burrell, Tenderly (HighNote)
Recorded in 2009 in Pasadena when he was 78, Los Angeles-based guitarist Kenny Burrell's solo recital sums up a lifetime of exquisite music making with elegantly rendered standards and tributes to the late guitar legend Wes Montgomery, Billie Holiday (with whom he recorded), and Duke Ellington, his most abiding musical passion.
Foxtails Brigade, The Bread and the Bait (Antenna Farm)
Mostly a brigade of two, Foxtails is a darkly alluring Bay Area band built upon the anxious partnership of fiddler Anton Patzner (a founding member of the string metal combo Judgment Day) and guitarist Laura Weinbach, who also contributes vocals of unsettlingly crystalline purity. Whether performing pop tunes, French chanson or dream-ridden originals, they create arresting music marked by unaffected whimsy, surreal imagery and insinuating melodies.
Alasdair Fraser and Natalie Haas, Highlander's Farewell (Culburnie)
After perfecting a stripped down duo that revolutionized the ancient idiom of traditional Scottish fiddle music, Scots-born Nevada City-based fiddler Alasdair Fraser and Menlo Park-raised cellist Natalie Haas invited about a dozen of their colleagues to join them on "Highlander's Farewell," including dazzling young string players like Tristan Clarridge, Emily Onderdonk and Brittany Haas.
The Jeff Gauthier Goatette, Open Source (Cryptogramophone)
Los Angeles violinist Jeff Gauthier writes luscious, lapidary melodies that unspool like sleek and uncommonly strong strands of silk. Featuring brothers Alex and Nels Cline (on drums/percussion and guitars, respectively), trumpeter John Fumo, bassist Joel Hamilton, and David Witham on piano, keyboards and accordion, the Goatette combines hair-trigger volatility with an expansive sense of space.
Nice Guy Trio, Sidewalks and Alleys/Waking Music (Porto Franco)
On their second album Bay Area Nice Guys (trumpeter Darren Johnston, accordionist Rob Reich and bassist Daniel Fabricant) explore two five-piece suites, Reich's picaresque metropolitan gadabout "Sidewalks and Alleys" and Johnston's evocatively dreamy "Waking Music." Joined by an all-star string quartet anchored by Turtle Island Quartet cellist Mark Summer, the trio combines jazz's improvisational imperative with the dynamic control of chamber music juiced by the rhythms and cadences of klezmer, tango, Balkan brass bands, ragtime, and Nino Rota scores.