Gifts for the listener who’s heard everything… for your jazz-beyond-jazz companeros . . . for yourself . . .
I won’t say these are all the year’s “best” recordings, but they’re the one’s I’ve listened to the most for inspiration, surprise and pleasure.
Click on the title to buy online- many available as MP3 downloads as well as CD.
“More” will take you to my earlier posts on the recording or artist.
Here they are, in no particular order:
• Herbie Hancock — River: The Joni Letters (Verve)
Very rich intepretations that deepen an already deep songbook, and a sumptuous yet straightforward jazz-and-vocals production, result in the pianist’s best since Gershwin’s World, with reference to Native Dancer, too. more 1 more 2
• Maria Schneider - Sky Blue (ArtistShare) – Beautiful realizations of an acutely personal music for jazz orchestra and those who revel in its sonic lushness. more 1 more 2
• Indigo Trio (Nicole Mitchell, Harrison Bankhead, Hamid Drake) – Live in Montreal (Greenleaf) – Ms. Mitchell’s flute beguiles for the entirety of the album, no mean feat but with acknowledged debt to fluid Chicago-bred bass and drums. Mitchell’s several other larger-scale albums of this year are worthy, too.
•Taylor Ho Bynum and Tomas Fujiwara - True Events (482 Music) – Abstract but in-touch trumpeter-drum duets, the players well-met, loose yet focused.
•NuBlu Orchestra Conducted by Butch Morris (Digipak) – The international innovator of spontaneous large-group composition conducts a session of electro-funky genre-benders weekly at an East Village hipsters’ bar – this recording is a sample.
•Nas/Miles Davis “Freedom Jazz Dance” on Evolution of a Groove (Columbia Legacy). A track hip enough in its extrapolation of Miles to justify such of the other four remixes as Santana adding himself to “In A Silent Way.”
•Trio M (Mark Dresser, Myra Melford, Matt Wilson) — Big Picture (Cryptogrammaphone) – Exciting, upbeat, lyrical, balanced, original piano-bass-drums, with heart. Hear also Melford’s duets with saxophonist Marty Ehrlich, Spark!.
• Ned Rothenberg – Inner Diaspora (Tzadik) – A gifted and disciplined reedsplayer – alto sax, bass clarinet, Japanese shakuhachi – accepts label-producer John Zorn’s concept of “radical Jewish music” as a soul-searching imperative, which can also be enjoyed just ’cause it sounds good: risk-taking, thorny, not inaccessible though; satisfying.
•Bobby Hebb –That’s All I Wanna Know (Intuition) – The most lived-in r&b album I heard this year, the composer of “Sonny” plays low-down bluesy guitar and likewise sings, backed by just enough horns and capable rhythm.
• Consider The Source – Esperanto (self-produced, appears unavailable online–but a few freebie samples) — Gabriel Marin is a ferociously unself-conscious psychedelic-mircotonal alt.rock guitarist, like a young New Yorker Jimmy Page way-out-of Dick Dale, and his CTS instrumental trio mates are equally hard-rocking (they record with vocals as Earth Stood Still)
• Miles Davis – The Complete On The Corner Sessions (Columbia Legacy) Incomparable treasure-trove of jazz beyond jazz, trumpeter-reconceptualist Davis’s most intense, innovative electric maximalist music more
• John McLaughlin, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Williams – Trio of Doom (Columbia Legacy) – One-time-only meeting of three Miles’ influenced fusion virtuosos; scorching macho posturing.
• Charles Mingus - Music: Cornell 1964 (Blue Note) – Saxophonist/flutist Eric Dolphy is one of the pivotal ’60s improvisers, and to have such a full, fresh entry in his discography, in Mingus’ top-notch band at its height, is a gift. more
• Albert Ayler — The Hilversum Session (ESP-Disk): Ecstatic tenor saxophonist Ayler meets quicksilver trumpeter Don Cherry, far-flung improvisation the result.
My suggestions for the jazz-beyond-jazz newcomer (or gap-fillers for a veteran listener’s collection) are here: Jazz-Beyond-Jazz Essentials .
Of course, I’m more than pleased if you give appropriate parties (you’ll know who they are) my new book Miles, Ornette, Cecil: Jazz Beyond Jazz.. In it I share my discovery and pursuit of these three avatars of the avant garde and their work, and offer guidelines for listeners seeking an introduction to or way deeper into the challenges of some of today’s really resounding music.
I proudly recommend the Billboard Illustrated Encyclopedia of Jazz and Blues as well. As its senior editor, I presided over a crew of the most knowledgable, best writing jazz journalists I could find. I can’t take credit for the bountiful visuals that really add to the history and bios within, but they really make the historical and biographical entries shine. More objective reviewers have call it “an ideal introduction” and “the best book of its kind.”
Two others books: I’ve just begun Ned Sublette’s The World That Made New Orleans, and recommend it as an enlightening history that depicts just what’s at stake in the future of that Caribbean-American cultural capitol. And the novel I read the most greedily this year (with connections to jazz-beyond-jazz that I’ll elaborate upon, sometime): Octavia Butler’s Fledgling. To call this a vampire story is insufficient. I read hardboiled urban noirs for their grit, wit and drive: Fledgling ain’t in that genre, and may be science fiction/horror/fantasy/feminist adventure, whatever — it’s fine storytelling about a deep character and intriguing ideas.
Don’t neglect the best gift of all: there’s no substitute for immediate experience. Stretch those ears, try something daring, support live music, take that hard-to-buy-for someone out to hear jazz beyond jazz.