Hot rhythm section work always plays a large role in our monthly roundup of the best new jazz releases, but this month’s crop of beats is especially impressive. Jeff Ballard’s new trio — which features Miguel Zenón on sax and Lionel Loueke on guitar (I mean, come on!) — really works up a groove on the drummer’s original “Beat Street.” And you’ll also want to check out their version of the Queens of the Stone Age song “Hanging Tree” (spoiler alert: It shreds).
Elsewhere, drummer Ulysses Owens, Jr., puts in his bid for percussion mastery this March with the album Onward & Upward. (It’s got the funk on “People Make the World Go Round” and uptempo blitzes, which you can hear on “Exodus.”) Click play on our attached mix, and you’ll soon be dancing around to some powerhouse fusion tunes from the duo of keyboardist Brad Mehldau and drummer Mark Guiliana (who works on digital drumheads as well as an acoustic kit). There’s more excitement to be had in this month’s playlist, too: Just check out selections from guitarist Mary Halvorson’s Ghost Loop and pianist Kris Davis’ experimental, surprising Waiting for You to Grow, among other fine new records. Enjoy!