Here’s the best of another stack of new album releases — and I’m pleased to report there is a good deal of life in the business of producing new music, in spite of the pandemic.

Dr. Lonnie Smith in 2006. (

Old-fashioned live albums still exist — even if many of the venues at which the music was recorded have shuttered for good. New York’s Jazz Standard closed up shop at the end of 2020, but there’s at least one more document that proves its vitality: “Breathe” from organist Dr. Lonnie Smith (Blue Note.)

Live jazz organ records were everywhere in the 1960s, but the appearance of such a thing in 2021 is noticeably rare indeed. Smith and his band burn through originals and a Monk tune, and the live performances are bookended by two charming studio cuts featuring rock legend Iggy Pop on vocals. Pop wisely doesn’t overdo it, giving his presence a casual, lounge-like feel.

The truth is, Smith was making records like this when Pop was covering himself in peanut butter and leaping into the audience half a century ago, but here the two veterans sound like they’ve been working together for ages.

Saxophone grandmaster Pharoah Sanders returns as part of the ambitious project “Promises” (Luaka Bop) with the kind of contemplative grace that only an experienced artist can provide. Many years past