Favorite recordings, 2011 — many more than 10

Lists of top projects of the year are expected from arts journalism – my apologies for being so late this year, but I needed to re-visit many of the the 1200 cds and dvds I received as promotional samples from Thanksgiving 2010 – TG 2011.  Here are some favorites — top 10 I’ve liked best, and more (even at 30 more, far from exhaustive) —

Favorite New Releases, # 1 – 10

1) Sonny Rollins, Road Shows vol. 2The grand master American saxophone improviser turned 80 with an inspired New York City concert, benefitting from support from drummer Roy Haynes and bassist Christian McBride, collaboration with guitarist Jim Hall and trumpeter Roy Hargrove, and a paradigm-shifting duet with surprise guest Ornette Coleman playing alto saxophone. A benchmark of excitement of the century old lineage of jazz leads to, circa 2011.

2) Nicole Mitchell, Awakening – A dazzling flutist keeps coming up with tuneful ideas, backed by an economical, bluesy but open-minded Chicago guitar-bass-drums band.

3) Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Fé/Faith – The Cuban pianist reigns in mighty chops to muse out loud and solo about the most personal and evanescent themes. Beautiful touch in a sonic hush.

4) Jamaadaldeen Tacuma, For the Love of Ornette — Ornette Coleman is heard on sax throughout much of this self-produced album by one of his greatest proteges, an irrepressibly rhythmic electric bassist. But most gratifying is that Jamaaladeen’s entire ensemble does Ornette’s harmolodic concept  proud, so there’s a lot going on simultaneously and all of it’s funky.

5) Joseph Daley, The Seven Deadly Sins – Discover a rich orchestral album by a lesser known veteran: Daley’s respected profile as a low brass (tuba) specialist should
 now shine all the brighter due to the beauty of his large-scheme composition.

6) Tyshawn Sorey, Oblique – 1 – Sorey is a gifted drummer, challenging composer and accomplished conceptualist/bandleader (he also performs on piano, but not here). He keeps the contributions of  alto saxophonist Loren Stillman, guitarist Todd Neufeld, pianist John Escreet and bassist Chris Tordini moving. but not in obvious ways and not loudly. Listen to hear them come together, flow apart, wander off, return or  arrive where they intend to.

7) Roscoe Mitchell, Before There Was Sound – The first recorded example of music coming from Chicago’s 1960s AACM has been released after 40+ years.  Sax virtuoso Mitchell was at the start of his career; his small ensemble walks the line from progressive originality to something else. Not as rad now as then, yet good, fresh listening.

8) Nguyen Le, Songs of Freedom – Le, an unusual electric guitarist also using computers, and a core band (vibes, electric bass and drums) plus special guests address rock classics — “Eleanor Rigby,” “Mercedes Benz”, “Whole Lotta Love” among others. They are recast completely, with imagination, admiration and respect. Vocals on some songs as part of the ensemble, not singer way out front.

9) Trio M, The Guest House – Pianist Myra Melford, bassist Mark Dresser and drummer Matt Wilson have a vigorous and happily balanced threesome, like the famous ’60s Bill Evans trio rejiggering the instrumental hierarchy for music’s sake.

10) Adam Rudolph Go: Organic Orchestra Can you Imagine The Sound of a Dream? – Rudolph conducts improvisationally a large coterie of New York City’s most accomplished musicians from across jazz and world music scenes, arriving at some unique harmonies and compelling episodes from what could be a model for a contemporary symphony.

Best reissues

1) Miles Davis Quintet in Europe, 1967

2) Frank Sinatra/Count Basie: The Complete Reprise Studio Recordings

3) Bill Dixon, Intents and Purposes

Best debut CD:  KG Omulo, Ayah Ye! Moving Train

Best Latin jazz album:  Arturo O’Farrill Latin Jazz Orchestra, 40 Acres and a Burro

Box Sets

Ray Charles, Singular Genius: The Complete ABC Singles

Jazz Icons Series 5 (DVDS): Johnny Griffin, Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Freddie Hubbard, Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane (but I’m going to write an entire posting about this . .  next up!)

Favorite New Releases 11  – 30 (no specific order) 

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Samdhi

James Carter/Robert Sierra, Caribbean Rhapsody/Concerto for Saxophones and Orchestra

Roy Haynes, Roy-alty

Kip Hanrahan, At Home in Anger, Which Could Also Be called Imperfect, Happily

Wadada Leo Smith’s Mbira, Dark Lady of the Sonnets

Jason Kao Hwang/Edge, Crossroads Unseen

Jaki Byard, Live at Keystone Korner, Vol. 2

Lee Konitz/Brad Mahldau/Charlie Haden/Paul Motian, Live at Birdland

Trio 3 + Geri Allen, Celebrating Mary Lou Williams Live at Birdland New York

Andrew Cyrille & Hatian Fascination, Route de Freres

Ernest Dawkins’ New Horizons Ensemble, The Prairie Prophet

Keith Jarrett, Rio

Craig Taborn, Avenging Angel

Amina Claudine Myers, Augmented Variations

Elliott Sharp, The Age of Carbon

John Scofield, Moment’s Peace

James Carter Organ Trio, At the Crossroads

Harris Eisenstadt, Canada Day II

Muhal Richard Abrams duets with Fred Anderson, George Lewis, Sound Dance

David Murray Cuban Ensemble Plays Nat King Cole En Espanol

Bob Belden et al, Miles Espanol

Rene Marie, Black Lace Freudian Slip

Weasel Walter, Mary Halvorson and Peter Evans, Electric Fruit

Kitty Brazelton, Ecclisiastes: A Modern Oratoria *

Freddie Hubbard, Pinnacle *

* full disclosure: personal ties to the project — but I honestly dig these recordings!

Good listening to y’all. . .


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  1. says

    I am truly honored to be included in such a wonderful listing of outstanding CD projects.

    The success of this project is due in large part to the dedicated and creative musicians who were gracious enough to work with me in the realization of my dream.