If players on the progressive edge of contemporary jazz often push boundaries and end up pushing away all but the smallest, most esoteric audiences, there's a lesson to be learned from avant-garde veteran Steve Coleman. Late in his career on the edge, Coleman is delivering his most beguiling and listenable records, deeply rooted in cyclical patterns and inspired by West African spiritual traditions. "Tea for Two" it is not, but Coleman's challenging Mancy of Sound has been in constant rotation for me, and every listen seems to uncover another layer.
When it's time to dial into something a bit more soothing, there's a lot to choose from lately: the surefooted, straightforward, self-titled debut from vibraphonist Warren Wolf, a fantastic solo set from the late pianist Sir Roland Hanna, and saxophonist Phil Woods in a session with his longtime pianist. The month's notable releases are rounded out by Chicago's Deep Blue Organ Trio doing a set of Stevie Wonder, and guitarist John Basile, er, playing with himself. When your ears are ready for a challenge again, cue up the eccentric release from Brazilian guitarist Lucas Santtana.