Like the first Baltimore Jazzscapes CD, this disc showcases the work of Baltimore Jazz Alliance’s member artists, offering an array of styles ranging from hard bop to Latin jazz and everything in between. This sixteen-track disc, produced by BJA President Mark Osteen, showcases Baltimore jazz artists performing in formats ranging from piano trios to large ensembles, playing everything from standards to original contemporary jazz. The new tracks (all but two of them original compositions) on Jazzscapes II testify again to the breadth and depth of the contemporary Baltimore jazz scene.
Jazzscapes II is also a virtual coming-out party for the area’s female vocalists: opening with Felicia Carter’s lively, New Orleans-style tune “Hurricane,” the disc also highlights Marianne Matheny-Katz’s bluesy take on the standard “Comes Love” (with superlative saxophone solos by Tim Green and Craig Alston), Gail Marten’s catchy bossa nova “Is It Love?” and Sandy Asirvatham’s haunting “What Have You.” The instrumentals on Jazzscapes II cover the waterfront of contemporary styles, from the Todd Marcus Jazz Orchestra’s complex, driving “In Pursuit of the 9th Man,” Joel Holmes’s jaw-dropping rendition of “Moment’s Notice,” and the Brian Kooken Trio’s hard bop rave-up “Here and Now,” all the way to Sean A. Lane’s moody, flute- and cello-laced “Crying Sky Blue,” and the Anthony Villa Trio’s slightly spooky jazz waltz, “Once in A While.”
But no picture of Baltimore jazz would be complete without a nod to the elders, which is why the CD includes a rare live recording of “Lover Man” by the late Baltimore saxophonist Mickey Fields. Taken from the aptly titled The Astonishing Mickey Fields, an LP originally released in 1977 on the now-defunct Edmar label, this track demonstrates to jazz fans who weren’t lucky enough to hear Mickey in person why he is a Baltimore jazz legend.