Dec 19, 2018
It’s the time of the year when all the “Best Of” lists start to appear, and Straight No Chaser is no exception. Well, maybe a little exception, since I prefer to call this Podcast “A Few of My Favorite Things 2018.” I decided a few years back that it wasn’t prudent to compare a new release by say, Kamasi Washington to an archival release by say, Dexter Gordon, and say which is “better.” Instead, I have created a few flexible categories that allow me to feature twenty-five or so of the releases that I played and re-played during the year, and that spoke to me for one reason or another.
And so I present my list for this past year:
New Things from Old Friends
Brad Mehldau Trio – Seymour Reads the Constitution!
Kenny Barron Quintet – Concentric Circles
Rudy Royston – Flatbed Buggy
Wayne Shorter - Emanon
Bill Frisell – Music IS
Rising Stars and New Faces
Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest
Christian Sands – Facing Dragons
GoGo Penguin – A Humdrum Star
Sons of Kemet – Your Queen is a Reptile
Jose James – Lean On Me
Bobby Sanabria/Multiverse Big Band – West Side Story Reimagined
Frank Kimbrough – Monk’s Dreams: The Complete Compositions of Thelonious Sphere Monk
Allan Harris – The Genius of Eddie Jefferson
Eli Degibri – Soul Station: A Tribute to Hank Mobley
Reissues and Archival Releases
John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album
Grant Green – Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes (1969-1970)
Charles Mingus – Jazz in Detroit
Miles Davis & John Coltrane – The Final Tour: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 6
Erroll Garner - Nightconcert
Charles Lloyd & the Marvels with Lucinda Williams – Vanished Gardens
Van Morrison and Joey DeFrancesco – You’re Driving Me Crazy
R+R=Now – Collagically Speaking
Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson – Temporary Kings
Brad Mehldau and Charlie Haden – Long Ago and Far Away
My "most valuable player" this year is guitarist Mary Halvorson, a talent gaining wider and wider exposure with each passing year. This year her discography blew up, as she was leading or assisting with no fewer than nine titles: Joe Morris and Mary Halvorson- Traversing Orbits (Rogue Art, 2018); Ingrid Laubrock- Contemporary Chaos Practices (Intakt Records, 2018); Various Artists- A Day in the Life: Impressions of Pepper (Verve Records, 2018) ; Robbie Lee and Mary Halvorson- Seed Triangular (New Amsterdam, 2018); Mary Halvorson with Bill Frisell- The Maid With The Flaxen Hair: A Tribute to Johnny Smith (Tzadik Records, 2018) ; Thumbscrew- Ours (Cuneiform Records,2018); Thumbscrew- Theirs (Cuneiform Records, 2018); Mary Halvorson- Code Girl (Firehouse 12 Records, 2018) ; and María Grand- Magdalena (Biophilia Records, 2018).
In addition, let me add a special mention for Nate Chinen, for his exceptional book Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century. It’s an outstanding read, and will likely become one of the definitive resource guides for jazz as we move deeper into the 21st century. Put it on your Christmas list; give it to a friend.
Podcast 653 allows you a chance to hear some of my favorite things, including:
Brad Mehldau Trio – "Spiral" - Seymour Reads the Constitution! Just before this exception album came out I caught the Trio – pianist Brad Mehldau, drummer Jeff Ballard and bassist Larry Grenadier – at the Academy of Music in Northampton, Massachusetts, not far from where I live. They blew me away with their serious deconstructions of tunes, from jazz standards to “Hey Joe.” The album more than lives up to that great night.
Christian Sands – "Fight for Freedom" - Facing Dragons. He’s no longer that piano player who go his break with Christian McBride, Instead, he stands as one of our most exciting young performers and composers. And even more than that, he has assumed an important position working with the Erroll Garner archives, which helped allow Nightconcert to be released, increasing Garner’s already formidable rep.
Jose James – "Better Off Dead"- Lean On Me. He refuses to stand firmly in the world of jazz, but he moves in too many direction to be classified as R&B or soul. His tribute to Bill Withers was a highlight of this summer’s Newport Jazz Festival, and the recording is just as strong.
Grant Green – "Sonnymoon for Two" - Funk in France: From Paris to Antibes (1969-1970). In a time when we are blessed with dozens of top notch recordings finally seeing the light of day, the word that Zev Feldman and the Resonance label has done is phenomenal. This year say a series of superb archival releases, all beautifully remastered and packaged. Two of those came from guitar great Grant Green. I found the two CD release of never heard shows from France as he was moving away from a pure jazz sound to funk to be the more exciting.
Mark Turner/Ethan Iverson – "Myron's World" - Temporary Kings. Ethan Iverson’s decision to move on from The Bad Plus this year was a major source of gossip and conjecture this year. Orrin Evans seems to have brought his own special talents to that trio, and Iverson continues to work in different settings. This strong duo recording with saxophonist Turner was a new and different way to enjoy the always heady Iverson’s work.