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Straight No Chaser - A Jazz Show

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

Dec 21, 2015

The newspapers and internet are swarming with critics “Best of 2015” lists right about now, but here at Straight No Chaser we once again 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” using some sort of rating system (A Christgau grade, perhaps?), I prefer to lay out a list of recordings that I found particularly moving or interesting, or those that I found myself returning to over and over again. The list changes over the course of the year, and follows a strict calendar year receipt basis.

To do this in a fair way, I create 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 expanded re-release of John Coltrane’s groundbreaking album A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters with genre bending CDs like those from newcomer Kamasi Washington or constantly growing players like Donny McCaslin. Is a sophomore album on a major label from Cécile McLorin Salvant comparable to a project by Chris Potter that reflects years of growth? I choose to think the answer is no.

So, here are releases that are a few of my favorite things from 2015:

Great New Things from Old Friends

Maria Schneider – The Thompson Fields

Chris Potter Underground Orchestra – Imaginary Cities

Antonio Sanchez – Three Times Three

Jack DeJohnette– Made in Chicago

Charles McPherson – The Journey

New Artists and Those Hitting Their Stride

Donny McCaslin - Fast Future

Cécile McLorin Salvant – For One to Love

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

Chris Lightcap - Bigmouth Epicenter

Amy Cervini, Hilary Gardner and Melissa Stylianou - Duchess

Memorable Reissues, Compilations, and Posthumous or Archival Albums

Miles Davis – Miles Davis at Newport: 1955-1975 - The Bootleg Series, Vol. 4

Weather Report – The Legendary Live Tapes 1978-1981

John Coltrane - A Love Supreme: The Complete Masters

Brad Mehldau – 10 Years Solo Live

Erroll Garner – The Complete Concert by the Sea

Tribute Albums of Note

Cassandra Wilson – Coming Forth By Day

Terence Stafford – Brother-Lee

Rudresh Mahanthappa – Bird Calls

The Gary McFarland Legacy Ensemble - Circulation: The Music of Gary McFarlane

Jose James - Yesterday I Had The Blues - The Music Of Billie Holiday

Reunions and Collaborations of Note

The Bad Plus and Joshua Redman – The Bad Plus Joshua Redman

The Heads of State (Gary Bartz, Buster Williams, Larry Willis, Al Foster) – Search for Peace

Bob James & Nathan East – The New Cool

John Scofield , Bill Stewart, Joe Lovano, Larry Grenadier – Past Present

Danilo Perez, John Patitucci, Brian Blade – Children of Light

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, for 2013, vibes player Warren Wolf., and last year, saxophonist Mark Turner. For this year, the winner is last year’s runner-up, avant-garde sax player Ivo Perelman who released a staggering six CDs in 2015 (some double CD sets), after releasing ten CDs over the previous two years.

Other items of Special Note in the world of Jazz in 2015 were:

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

- The release of a documentary on Jaco Pastorius, and significant progress being made on the Miles Davis biography feature Miles Ahead, with Don Cheadle as the great trumpeter. The completion of documentaries on Weather Report and John Coltrane are promised in 2016,

- The increased availability of jazz on streaming services, including Spotify and the new Apple Radio. Here’s hoping royalty payments to artists will catch up to the popularity of the technology..And will Apple Radio wise up and give some of the great jazz tastemakers or musicians their own shows on their service?