After his wife of over forty years, Corine, passed away in 2012, it took George Duke several months to regain musical inspiration. Following an evening spent enjoying the art of other musicians while vacationing on a cruise ship, he sat on his deck in wait of the sunrise when inspiration began to return. Much like this wave of ideas that flowed into Duke’s mind, DreamWeaver’s title track begins with a soft, synth-fueled wave from which second track “Stones of Orion” emerges, a light instrumental number that includes a four-piece horn section (including flute), Stanley Clarke on bass, and Duke twinkling on keys. Beyond, Duke fondly remembers his late wife on tracks like “Missing You” — whose lyrics were rewritten from a direct, autobiographical standpoint to a more general subject as vocalist Rachelle Ferrell took over vocal duties — and deluxe album closer “Happy Trails,” a cover of the 1950s theme song by Dale Evans and Roy Rogers. However, the album as a whole is more celebratory than grieving: despite Duke’s inevitable heartache, DreamWeaver includes several upbeat, funky instrumental sections and hopeful, forward-moving moments on “Change The World” and “Round The Way Girl,” in which Duke rekindles his romantic flame.

In addition to the remembrance of his wife, Duke reflects on his love and discovery of music. A mix of genres weave into the sound of the album: R&B, jazz, funk, adult contemporary soul, and spoken word are all represented, and Duke lays synthesizer lines over many of the tracks. With vocals harmonized on the octave and solos on muted trumpet and guitar, early standout “Trippin'” looks back at Duke’s childhood and the musical influence spread by his neighbor, a jazz aficionado. Further into the album, these genres are woven together between an introduction and two transitional interludes, and the threads that compose DreamWeaver are host to a vast number of collaborators, including vocalist Lalah Hathaway, bassist Christian McBride, and one of the final recordings from R&B icon Teena Marie. Along with the instrumental introduction, several of the album’s thirteen tracks offer moments for them and many other musicians to take the spotlight.

While DreamWeaver stretches to nearly all of the eighty-minute length of a physical CD, several moments could be benefited with less length. The fifteen-minute “Burnt Sausage Jam” slips fluidly through three movements of instrumental funk which, while engaging in the short term, often grow repetitive with minutes to spare. The same conclusion can be made for rock-leaning “Brown Sneakers,” whose six-minute length fails to hold interest with the same pace and energy that earlier, shorter standout “AshTray” achieves. This is not to take away from the musical finesse of Duke and his many well-known collaborators, all of whom perform and vibe together with evident skill, highlighted in moments like the guitar and trumpet trades of “Jazzmatazz” and the electric guitar solo on the first half of “Brown Speakers.”

These moments of repetition, however, do not keep DreamWeaver from being a celebratory, enjoyable body of work than spans multiple styles of music. George Duke’s final album is a formidable collection forged in fond remembrance of lengthy relationships with the wife and music that he loved.

For the first time since 1998’s Motion, Canadian bassist Frédéric Alarie assembles a trio setup for his latest release, entitled Enjoy. In addition to drummer Michel Lambert, who also performed on Motion along with saxophonist Kelly Jefferson, Montreal-born trumpeter Jacques Kuba Séguin joins the lineup. Enjoy’s ten tracks sprawl out over fifty minutes, beginning with a solo from Séguin on opener “Connection” before Alarie enters with a lengthy brooding note and overdubbed plucks and scrapes from the bass. This moody feeling stretches throughout the album, with a heavy majority of minor keys and slow tempos. The pace is occasionally quickened on tracks like “Inner World” with a section that feels almost march-like in its snare rolls and and eighth-note bass lines, but they also quickly dissolve into more spacy, unsettling melodies. Though Alarie is the leader of the ensemble, he allows plenty of room for Séguin and Lambert to be heard, though usually in sporadic, shorter phrases; and his bass playing tends to drive the rhythm more than the drumset at times, whose more key role is to add flair with rolls and crashes.

Despite the moodiness of the album and fluid connections where one song becomes the next, Enjoy often plods along too slowly. The higher-tempo elements in “Inner World” and highlight “Enjoy Menuetto Groove,” which fluctuates between major and minor keys, spark some life into the set, but cannot save the rest of it from muddling together. Though all three are technically skilled players, Séguin’s articulation and tone are at times wispy and half-hearted, which drag down some of his musical ideas, whereas solidity in those areas would create a fuller sound and stronger melodic feel. There are promising moments on the album: “Greatness” nearly grows into an uplifting, ethereal zenith before unfortunately fading out too quickly; “Ligneous Plant” creates variations on similar melodies above shifting styles of percussion; and the fluid movements that flow the end of one song right into the beginning of the next show the potential for intriguing sonic cohesion that stretches beyond the few connecting seconds between the songs. While Enjoy’s gray-sky melodies create a potentially interesting counterpoint to its seemingly-cheerful title, much of the material on the record fails to evoke similar appeal.

As previously displayed on his first two GRAMMY-nominated albums, 2011 debut Water and its 2012 follow-up Be Good, Gregory Porter overflows with expression through deep, soulful baritone vocals. Whereas his previous works focused more heavily on political and historical matter, his Blue Note debut Liquid Spirit takes a more personal turn, telling stories of community, affirmation, and love. Porter’s love for the blues, gospel, and soul genres that influence the sounds of Liquid Spirit come from his musical upbringing, citing the renowned vocalist Nat King Cole as a lifelong inspiration alongside saxophonists John Coltrane and Lester Young. As such, the tonal image of the saxophone is evoked as Porter sings, addressing topics familial and romantic as well as historical. The relaxed tone of the Los Angeles native’s vocals deliver sweet, loving lines like those in “Hey Laura” and “Wolfcry,” while “Free” is punctuated with accents and percussion as Porter thanks his parents for their love and sacrifice. Even “Brown Grass,” the album’s emotional low point, shines deceptively with light piano chords that twinkle under Porter’s ever-warm, effortless melodies. Throughout the album, the experiential lyrics written are propelled by the genuine humility and friendliness of Porter’s personality, which is easily carried by the boom of the gentle giant’s thick baritone.

While Water and Be Good employed a larger amount of instrumental solos, Porter takes a more centered role on this third album. These solos are more abridged as well — only three of the album’s fourteen tracks stretch beyond five minutes in length — and whereas his earlier works contained more brass solos and a few scat choruses from Porter himself, Liquid Spirit is mainly populated with saxophone, bass, and piano. This allows Porter’s vocal to shine as the main act of each song, putting his lyrics and comfortable delivery at center stage.

Of Porter’s three albums, Liquid Spirit is the first not to close with an a cappella cover, the previous two showcasing his vocals over classics “Feeling Good” and “God Bless The Child.” Arguably, such a bare display of Porter’s vocals is unnecessary on this collection of songs: he displays emotion and warmth in spades throughout the album such that the reminder of his talent is unneeded, and the conviction of his vocal gives the instrumental underbelly opportunity to further cradle his melody without overpowering it. Porter’s Spirit flows as freely as water here, and as comfortably as he has shown in live performances in the past. Pairing with legendary jazz label Blue Note for the first time on this release, this may be the album that moves Porter closer toward legendary status as well.