Best of March

Lots of solid releases came out for the month of March. I feel the variety was quite vast even if I didn’t really vibe with all of the music. So here are my picks for the top albums from the month of March.

 
Billy Childs: Rebirth

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The four time Grammy winner does it again with this album of all original compositions. I love the rhythmic and melodic development of the music here. Tunes like the title track and “Stay” grab your attention immediately and for different reasons. The title track is high energy and fast, “Stay” is a slow, honest, emotional, ballad. When the vocals come in on “Stay”, it cuts you like a knife. Check it out. This is the best album of the month.

 

Kneebody: Anti-hero

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Kneebody is definitely one of those groups that pushes the boundaries of what jazz is, what it can be, and what it can do. This album has lots of electronics and effects which help establish its sound and some fantastic  arrangements as well. How they arrange for the tenor and trumpet could be a compositional masterclass. Tracks I highly recommend are “For The Fallen”, “Drum Battle” and “Yes You”.

 

Jazz at Lincoln Center: Music of John Lewis

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Fantastic classic Big Band jazz music here. If you at all enjoy big band music this ensemble is a must and this latest recording is a delight. I love Jon Batiste here, I feel he doesn’t really get the respect he deserves in the jazz world because of his other work, but Batiste can play. A couple key tracks I recommend are “Animal Dance” and “Spanish Steps”.

BEST OF THE REST
Christian Scott: Ruler Rebel
Max Zentawer Trio: Reduce to the Max
Miles Okazaki: Trickster

Best of February 

Sorry for the delay on the Best of February article. I’ve had some personal issues come up that have made it difficult to write this past week. Anyway, I’m back on the grind and pumped to share with you the best albums of February. This past month had a ridiculously strong line up and it was hard to narrow that down to a short list. Somehow I managed to do so and here it is.
Thundercat: Drunk

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Okay, I know I’m cheating, but this is clearly album of the month and album of the year and I had the put it on the list. It is hard to define Thundercat’s latest album, but it’s probably not jazz and definitely not straight ahead jazz. Still, this album has many jazz influences and honestly it’s so good I just felt I had to acknowledge it on the blog. It’s a must listen to album regardless. Very weird, but musically it’s just so rich.
Nate Smith: Kinfolk

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Kinfolk is a fantastic record from the drummer/ composer Nate Smith. There is rhythmic complexity, wonderful singers, and a rich soulfulness to this album. You’ll find yourself grooving hard to “Skip Step”, singing along to “Disenchantment: The Weight” and connecting to stories told in interludes such as “Mom: Postcards From Detroit/Floyd/Salem”. I hope Nate Smith will be doing a performance near my area very soon as I’d love to hear some of these tunes live.
Mark de Clive-Lowe: Live At the Blue Whale EP

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Technically and EP not a full album, but this recording had to be acknowledged. An impressive live recording, fantastic use of electronics, and a multitude of genres influenced and impacted this EP. I love the madness of it all on this record. Just when things feel like they are going a bit too far, a bit too out, you get brought back in. I kept coming back for more on this album, the energy these musicians had was contagious. It resonated with me as a listener and I can’t imagine the impact it had on the live audience.

Best Of The Rest 

Miguel Zenon: Tipico

The Vitral Quartet: Kites Over Havana 

David Weiss & Point of Departure: Wake Up Call

Nicolas Kummert: La Diversite 
As I stated earlier, this month was very strong. I wouldn’t be surprised if in a couple of months some of the “Best Of The Rest” for February move up in the rankings in my mind, or if an album I snubbed become my personal favorite. So as usual comment any albums you thought I missed below or any that you felt should’ve been talked about more.  Continue reading “Best of February “

Best of January

January has started of well jazz wise. A handful of quality album were released and even more albums are planned for release in the upcoming months that I’m excited about.  So without further ado let’s get into the best album of January.

Chris Thile  & Brad Mehldau- Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau

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I don’t know what’s been happening to me, but I’ve listened to more Brad Mehldau in the last 6 months than I have my entire life. Not really sure why, but either way Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau is another great one. This album is a unique combination of jazz and Americana blended together by Chris Thile. To me he really makes this album special. His playing on “The Watcher is inspiring and his vocals on “Scarlet Town” really capture the essence of the album. This is my favorite album from January and I hope there will be more collaborations from this duo in the future.

Jorge Rossy & Javier Vercher – Filantropia

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This late January release is another collaboration between two jazz veterans. This album has everything from swing to latin music to ballads. The diversity of music makes this feel more like an experience and an experiment than a standard jazz album. A couple noteworthy highlights are “Cleptocracia” and “Linear Distance”.

Jacopo Ferrazza Trio- Rebirth

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Rebirth definitely has more of a traditional jazz feel to it than the other top albums of January. This becomes apparent with tracks like  “Blind Painter” and “Pirandello Madness” fantastic original tunes that are captivating. Rebirth is a short and sweet record that is a pleasure to listen to, maintains jazz traditions while still creating original music, and doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. I have a feeling I’ll be listening to Rebirth for months and years to come.

Other Notables:
John abercrombie: Up and Coming
Theo Bleckmann: Elegy

Best Albums of 2016

2016 had an overwhelming amount of good jazz music. Creating this list of the “Best Albums of 2016” was one of my most challenging blog posts to date. Still, I managed to bring my list down to the top 23 albums of the year. Before my list gets torn apart let me explain a couple of things. One, I have no remastering or reissues on the list. I feel there is enough current music going on that doing so would just take up a spot that could go to actual new music. Same goes for live shows that had no intention of being albums. Some of your favorites probably didn’t make the list. (No Bad Plus! No Jacob Collier! No Joey Alexander! Gasp!) Just because it didn’t make the list doesn’t mean it wasn’t of quality. I just wanted to make a nice, possibly consumable, list and I feel I’m already pushing that idea with 20 plus albums so some albums I loved had to be cut. Also some of those albums weren’t of quality. I didn’t rank the albums I provided my top album of the year first and then the rest of the list is in no particular order. Finally, somethings I just missed. It’s impossible to listen to everything regardless of how much time one spends listening to the latest releases. So this is my list, my favorite albums of 2016, may you enjoy reading about and exploring these albums as I did finding them.

Joshua Redman& Brad Mehldau- Nearness

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Saving the best for first. Nearness is my album of the year. Right from the beginning with “Ornithology” we have a special album. The interaction and interplay between these two masters, is a treat to hear. Nearness is the perfect title for this album. With no other instrumentation this is a very intimate album with both musicians only having each other for company and interaction. I feel they complemented and challenged each other equally pushing their limitations, and creating a masterpiece in the process.

Lara Downes- America Again

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Brilliant record, a beautiful solo jazz piano performance that will keep you entranced the entire time. Can’t recommend this one enough, especially in the times we are in. “24 Negroe Melodies…” is one of my favorite tunes on this album.

 

Donny McCaslin- Beyond Now

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Saxophonist supreme hailing from New York, Donny McCaslin played a major role in the creation of David Bowie’s Blackstar. He picks up where that record left off and creates one of the most expressive, forward thinking, albums of 2016.

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque- Oddara

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This collaboration project blends Cuban rhythms and groves in a jazz setting Continue reading “Best Albums of 2016”

Best of November 

Slim pickings for the month of November. Not really sure as to why, can only speculate as to the reason such fewer, new albums, were released. Still, there are a couple of good releases I’d like to briefly talk about so let’s get right to it.

 
Yussef Kamaal: Black Focus

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A fresh, modern sounding album this is. Some would say this album is an indicator of what jazz music is going to be in the future. You can hear some soul and hip hop  influence throughout this recording. “Strings of Light” is definitely a highlight on this album for me. A prime example of fusing hip hop, electronics, and jazz music together to create a unique genre bending experience.

 
Rudy Royston: Rise of Orion

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Continue reading “Best of November “

Best of October

Best of October 

The month of October was, in my opinion, the best month of jazz music we’ve gotten all year. Several releases were worthy of being labeled as album of the month. I had more trouble picking the top releases for October than I had for any other month. So let’s get right into it. Here are the best albums for the month of October. 

Lara Downes: America Again 

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After much debating I came to the conclusion that Lara Downes released the finest work of the month. This solo piano masterpiece was some of the most virtuosic, inspiring, and uplifting music I’ve listened to all year. Even though I play the piano, I am usually disinterested in solo piano recordings. Usually after a track or two I feel like I’ve gotten all I can get out of the recording. Lara Downes goes through the history of American music on this recording. She does so by writing this music inspired by Langston Hughes’ poem “Let America Be America Again”. This music was always changing, always keeping the listener intellectually and emotionally invested. This is a must own recording, can’t recommend it enough. Only have time for one tune? Try “24 Negro Melodies, Op.59: No. 10 Deep River”. 

Donny McCaslin: Beyond Now 

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Liked, loved, or even thought about listening to David Bowie’s Blackstar? Then this album is a must listen? Any other month this would have easily been the best release. The only issues this album has is if you are a bit conservative/ not a fan of jazz music that pushes past traditional swing, I can see this being less enjoyable for such a person. For everyone else though this is a top album. Recommend the opening track “Shake Loose” put on a good pair of headphones and check out the transition at the 3:50 mark. 

Jane Bunnett & Maqueque : Oddara 

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Bunnett, a Canadian soprano saxophonist and flautist collaborates again with Maqueque for their sophomore releases. This All-Female Cuban sextet helps creates a beautiful and cohesive record. Different tunes have different instruments/voices in the forefront adding to the intrigue. No two songs sound the same, and the energy and chemistry this group has together is to be admired. Hard to pick out a standout tune since I love them all so much, but try “Tres Golpes- Pa Eleggua” .

BEST OF THE REST

Takuya Kuroda: Zigzagger 

Taylor Ho Bynum: Enter The Planet 

Best of September

A little later than I wanted, but I have the Best Albums of September finalized. I found the overall options to be a bit small this month, but still lots of diverse and interesting albums, including an album of the year candidate. So without further to do, here are the Best Albums of September.

 

Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau: Nearness

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A duet album of Joshua Redman & Brad Mehldau top my Best of September lost. This album is nothing short of magnificent. The interaction, the solos, the overall musicianship is at a supreme level. Plenty of jazz standards on this album that get a refreshing new take with this instrumentation. I have loved essentially everything Joshua Redman has done. I can’t say the same about Brad Mehldau. Sometimes I feel like he is so… precise with his soloing that, while its technically impressive, it leaves me emotionless. Not the case on this record. I find his playing to be absolutely wonderful and I think it’s one of his finest recordings. Buy, support, and listen to this immediately.

 

Bob Mintzer: All L.A. Band

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Those who know me well know I’m not a big fan of Big Band music. Nothing personally it just rarely intrigues me. I have no desire to listen to or play that style of jazz. I prefer small combos. Still, every now and then a recording comes along that draws me into Big Band music. Bob Mintzer All L.A. Band is such a recording. This album flows well, has great solos, and diverse styles of jazz music within it. There’s swing, Latin, funk, you name it it’s here. Tracks that I feel you should absolutely check out are EL CABOROJENO and ORIGINAL PEOPLE.

 

Ben Wendel: What We Bring 

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Best of August

September is well underway, but before we completely forget August I’d like to go over the best albums that were released. There were some spectacular albums released this month. I found a handful to really be worth listening to and some may even be up for the best album of the year. I’ve also added a new section “Best of the Rest” which will just be a list of other notable albums from the month.

 

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                                                                                                                                                          Competition was high, but this is the best album of the month. I’m usually not the biggest fan of big band music, but this album is phenomenal. The solos, the selections of Thelonious Monk’s music, the arrangements, all of it helps create a high energy and captivating album. I was never bored. Always yearning for more and never knowing what to expect. This wasn’t just a bunch of covers of Monk tunes. These were pieces I loved reimagined.

 

imgres-1                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This album was very close to being my favorite of the month. The emotion and composition really set this album apart, just fantastic writing. THE BED WE MADE is a clear example of this. Just a short and sweet song. I wasn’t the biggest fan of every solo, but the arrangements and the overall balance of the album impressed me. With some slower pieces I tend to wander and lose interest, but on this album I found myself hanging on to every note. This is a must own.

 

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                                                                                                                                                                       Steve Turre came to play on this album and he brought a phenomenal cast of musicians to assist him. With Kenny Baron on Keys, Ron Carter on bass, Jimmy Cobb on drums, Javon Jackson on tenor, and Cyro Baptista on percussion how could this album fail? It didn’t. This album swings like hell and has a wonderful classic jazz sound. This is arguably Steve Turre’s best work to date and would have been the best album of the month in many other months this year.

Continue reading “Best of August”

Best Albums of 2016: So Far

With a little over half the year done I thought this would be a good moment to reflect on the best albums we’ve had in 2016. I’ve never been more prepared to answer this question than I am this year. By consistently doing a Best of the Month post I’ve stayed more in the now with current jazz releases than ever before. So far this year I’ve had 16 albums included in the Best Of series. I’ve taken the cream of the crop and a couple of albums that either slipped by me or slowly grew on me and ended up with 8 Best albums of the year so far and an honorable mentions section. I didn’t want to rank them against one another so I just put them in alphabetical order.

Omer Avital: Abtul Music                                                                                                                     thMy selection for the best album for March still holds up. The Israeli- American bassists continues to make a impression on the jazz community in New York and beyond.

Kenny Baron: Book of Intuition                                                                                                       imgres.jpgThe legendary Jazz pianist shows us why he’s one of the greatest musicians alive. This March release is an example of a piano trio playing at the highest level possible.

Joe Lovano: Classic! Live @ Newport                                                                                                  imgres-1.jpgThis late July release was made from Joe Lovano’s 2005 Newport Jazz Festival performance. Despite being one of the most highly regarded saxophonist, I still think Lovano is underrated. This album is one of his finest works and a candidate for album of the year.

Kenny Garett: Do Your Dance!                                                                                                   imgres-2Another July release. I’ve only done a couple listenings if this album, but I new before I even finished BACKYARD GROOVE that this album would be on the list. The album is well balanced and well written. Not only is the music fantastic, but it’s a cohesive piece of work. I’m sure it will stand the test of time and it’s one of the brighter spots in 2016.

Sonny Rollins: Holdin the Stage                                                                                                  imgres-3Sonny Rollins has released some of the greatest jazz music to ever grace the earth. And even at the age of 85, when he gets into a groove, he can play as well as anyone out right now. This live album demonstrates just that. One of the best albums to be release in April and one of the best albums to be release this year.

Arnan Raz: Second to the Left                                                                                                                    A January release, I really enjoyed this album, the compositions are beautiful. I especially love arrangement of “Mykonos”.

Hiromi: Spark                                                                                                                                              imgres-5This album not only one of the best releases of the year, it might be The Album Of The Year. It’s so energetic and powerful, it never lets up. Hiromi is out to prove she is one of the world’s best composers, improvisers, and pianists.

Marquis Hill: The Way We Play                                                                                                                  imgres-4In the past couple of years Marquis Hill has exploded in the jazz world. He has been a staple in the jazz community in Chicago for several years, but since winning the 2014 Thelonious Monk Competition the entire world has taken notice. His latest release THE WAY WE PLAY is a phenomenal blend of bebop, fusion, and some hip hop grooves. Brilliant sign of where jazz is and where it’s going.

 

Continue reading “Best Albums of 2016: So Far”