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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

Welcome to Straight No Chaser, the Award-winning Podcast hosted by Jeffrey Siegel

Dec 18, 2014

The newspapers and internet are swarming with critics “Best of 2014” lists right about now, but here at Straight No Chaser we take a slightly different approach. I am grateful to get the chance to listen to a great number of jazz-related releases during the course of the year, and rather than attempt to say what is “best”, I prefer to lay out a list of recordings that I found particularly moving, or those that I found myself returning to over and over again.

To do this in a fair way, I have created five different categories, ranging from “Great New Things from Old Friends” to “Reunions and Collaborations of Note”. I do this on the theory that it is simply wrong to compare an archival release of John Coltrane (Offering: Live at Temple University) with genre bending CDs like Arturo O’Farrill’s The Offense of the Drum or Mehliana: Taming the Dragon. Is a first release form a young talent like James Brandon Lewis comparable to a vocal album from the seasoned Stacey Kent? I think not.

So, here are releases that are a few of my favorite things from 2014:

Great New Things from Old Friends

Pat Metheny Unity Group – Kin

Stacey Kent – The Changing Lights

Fred Hersch Trio – Floating

Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band - Landmarks

Arturo O’Farrill & the Afro-Latin Jazz Orchestra – The Offense of the Drum.

New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride

Otis Brown III – The Thought of You

James Brandon Lewis – Divine Travels

Eli Degibri – Twelve

Theo Croker – AfroPhysicist

Mark Turner Quartet – Lathe of Heaven

Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums

John Coltrane – Offering: Live at Temple University

Miles Davis – Miles At the Fillmore – Miles 1970 – The Bootleg Series Vol. 3

Charlie Haden - Jim Hall – Live at Montreal International Jazz Festival 1990

Marshall Allen Presents Sun Ra and His Arkestra-  In the Orbit of Ra

Jimmy Giuffre 3 & 4 - New York Concerts

Tribute Albums of Note

Conrad Herwig – The Latin Side of Joe Henderson

Dr. John – Ske-Dat-De-Dat – The Spirit of Satch

Jason Moran – All Rises: A Joyful Elegy for Fats Waller

Billy Childs – Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro

Dave Douglas/Chet Doxas/Steve Swallow/Jim Doxas – Riverside (Legacy of Jimmy Guiffre)

Reunions and Collaborations of Note

Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden – Last Dance

Brad Mehldau and MarkGuiliana - Mehliana: Taming the Dragon

Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer - Wiring

Kenny Barron and Dave Holland – The Art of Conversation

Chris Elderidge & Julian Lage - Close to Picture and Avalon; and Nels Cline and Julian Lage

A few years ago I began naming a “Player of the Year”, honoring those who appear as sidemen on multiple top CDs, as well as leaders of their own groups. For 2012, it was drummer Joey Baron, and for 2013, it was vibes player Warren Wolf. For this year, it has to be saxophonist Mark Turner, who had starring roles on CDs released by his own quartet, as well as CDs from Billy Hart, Enrico Rava, Stefano Bollani and Yelena Echemoff.  A runner-up would be the avant-garde sax player Ivo Perelman who released a staggering six CDs in 2013 and four more in 2014.

Other items of Special Note in the world of Jazz in 2014 were:

-          Blue Note Records’ 75th Anniversary Vinyl Initiative, giving another generation a chance to experience jazz on the turntable, with readable liner notes;

-          Pianist Fred Hersch’s release of the DVD of his Jazz and Theater Piece, "My Coma Dreams", the type of multimedia piece that wins awards;

-          Highly enjoyable and readable biographies from Herbie Hancock (Possibilities) and George Benson (Benson: The Autobiography);

-          The film Whiplash, one of the few successful cinematic attempts to show the physical and mental price that is paid for musical greatness, in this case by a young jazz drummer; and

-          The release on Blu-Ray DVD of perhaps the finest fictional story in the jazz film canon, Pete Kelly’s Blues, directed and starring Jack Webb, with top performances by Janet Leigh, Edmond O'Brien, and in an Academy Award nominated-role, Peggy Lee.

Podcast 462 features the following musical selections:

Fred Hersch – “You & the Night & the Music” from Floating

Mark Turner Quartet – “Brother Sister” from Lathe of Heaven

Charlie Haden - Jim Hall – “Turnaround” from Live at Montreal International Jazz Festival 1990

Billy Childs – “And When I Die” from Map to the Treasure: Reimagining Laura Nyro

Julian Lage & Chris Eldridge – “Butter and Eggs” from Close to Picture