Dec 18, 2012
‘Tis the season for “best of” lists, and you can find some mighty fine ones from NPR’s A Blog Supreme; Critical Jazz; various members of the Jazz Journalists Association; and Ben Ratliff of the New York Times.
Rather than call things “the best”, I prefer to look back the year’s releases and determine which ones, for one reason of another, earned repeat plays and became my favorites for one reason or another. I’ve made up some categories with which I can list the CDs, since it doesn’t make sense to me to put an archival release against a new release from a young performer. And so, here are a few of my favorite things from 2012, this year with seven entries in each of the five categories:
Great New Things from Old Friends
Pat Metheny Unity Band - Unity Band
John Abercrombie Quartet –Within A Song
Brazilian Trio – Constelacao
Vijay Iyer – Accelerando
Tim Berne – Snakeoil
Dave Douglas Quintet – Be Still
Kenny Garrett – Seeds from the Underground.
New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride
Matt Wilson’s Arts & Crafts - An Attitude for Gratitude
Grégoire Maret – Grégoire Maret.
Brandon Wright – Journeyman
Donny McCaslin Group - Casting for Gravity
Melody Gardot – The Absence.
Linda Oh – Initial Here.
Ulysses Owens Jr. - Unanimous
Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums
Bill Evans Trio - Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate.
Wes Montgomery - Echoes of Indiana Avenue,
Chick Corea & Gary Burton – The Complete ECM Recordings
Paul Winter Sextet – Count Me In (1962-1965)
Charles Mingus - The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964-65
Pepper Adams and More – Joy Road Project
Thomas Chapin - Never Let Me Go: Quartets '95 & '96
Tribute Albums of Note
Ryan Truesdell - Centennial: Newly Discovered Works of Gil Evans
Luciana Souza – The Book of Chet.
Jimmy Owens – The Monk Project.
Chano Dominguez - Flamenco Sketches
The Wee Trio - Ashes To Ashes - A David Bowie Intraspective
Greg Lewis - Organ Monk
Kurt Elling – The Brill Building Project
Reunions and Collaborations of Note
Chick Corea & Gary Burton – Hot House
Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron - Enfants Terribles
Bill Frisell, Matt Chamberlain, Lee Townsend and Tucker Martine – Floratone II
Marc Johnson/Eliane Elias – Swept Away
Roni Ben Hur & Santi Debriano - Our Thing
Chick Corea/Paul Motian/Eddy Gomez - Further Explorations
Harry Allen & Scott Hamilton - Round Midnight
Special Mention for Special Projects:
JumpinJazz Kids – This CD that introduces children to jazz in a fun way just grabbed a Grammy nomination. Well deserved, and full of great cameos from the likes of Al Jarreau, Dee Dee Bridgewater and Hubert Laws.
The Standards by Ted Gioia and Why Jazz Happened by Marc Myers - Two must have books for any jazz fan’s library.
Terry Teachout's play Satchmo at the Waldorf- More than a portrait of an American icon, but a dramatic tour de force on the nature of talent, race, and art featuring a bravura performance by John Douglas Thompson, portraying Louis Armstrong, his manager , and Miles Davis. I caught the play at Shakespeare & Company in the Berkshires this summer, and it had a successful run a Long Wharf Theatre in New Haven this fall. Look for it and grab tickets if it comes your way.
Podcast 326 gives you a chance to hear something from each category, so click here to listen to:
Dave Douglas Quintet – “Wither Must I Wander? “from Be Still. Douglas lost his mother last year, and this CD features hymns and songs of which she was fond. It is a wonderfully quiet, yet heartfelt project, made more memorable by the vocals of Aoife O'Donovan from the band Crooked Still. Supporting Douglas are crack players Jon Irabagon, Matt Mitchell, Linda Oh, and Rudy Royston. Ms. Oh, whose solo CD made one of my lists, joined Douglas in the super group Sound Prints with Joe Lovano, which will hopefully record in 2013.
Donnie McCaslin Group – “Losing Track of Daytime “from Casting for Gravity. McCaslin is a graduate of Douglas’ bands, and recorded this CD on Douglas’ Greenleaf Music label. But the CD is all Donnie, as he fuses jazz, electronica and rock music into a hybrid that could best be called “Stadium Jazz”, the title of the first track on this great CD. The band – McCaslin on sax, keyboardist Jason Lindner, bassist Tim Lefebvre, and drummer Mark Guiliana – sizzle on this track.
Bill Evans Trio – “California Here I Come” from Live at Art D'Lugoff's Top of the Gate. Two sets recorded by then-college student George Klabin in the New York City club, October, 1968 of Evans, Eddie Gomez (bass) and Marty Morell (drums). Until this year, the music had only been heard on a Columbia University radio show, but Resonance Records (which also did the Wes Montgomery package) gives it to us forever on CD in wonderful, rich sound.
Luciana Souza – “The Thrill is Gone” from The Book of Chet. One of two CDs released simultaneously by the great Brazilian singer (both are nominated for Grammy Awards), this one is a classic late night listen. She never attempts to mimic or copy the late Chet Baker’s sound, and yet you can hear him in every tune, especially here, propelled by the subtle playing of Larry Koonse, David Piltch, and Jay Bellerose.
Lee Konitz/Bill Frisell/Gary Peacock/Joey Baron – “Stella by Starlight” from Enfants Terribles. The title is tongue in cheek – these are not spring chickens – but their attack on a set of standards shows that they are not resting on any laurels. Drummer Baron would be my “player of the year” in jazz for 2012, having made major contributions to 2012 releases by Marc Johnson & Eliane Elias, John Abercrombie, and Steve Kuhn, as well as the live performances of the Sound Prints group.
Podcast 326 gives you a chance to hear something from each category, so click here to listen to:rribles