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10 Best Jazz Albums of 2012

26 Nov

As I mentioned last year, I am well aware that there are a lot of people who do not care for “best” or “top 10″ being used when it comes to recognizing outstanding achievement, especially when it comes to music. For those of you that applies to, you are welcome to call it my “favorites”, if you wish. This list is simply the opinion of one man, and I always welcome your feedback. There were a lot of great albums that came out this year, and these rose to the top. Enjoy!

1. Christian aTunde Adjuah – Christian Scott (Concord Jazz – July 31, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

2. Ode – Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch – March 20, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

3. Seeds From the Underground – Kenny Garrett (Mack Avenue – April 10, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

4. My Muse – George Cables (HighNote – September 11, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

5. The Monk Project – Jimmy Owens (Ipo – January 3, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

6. Alive at the Vanguard – Fred Hersch Trio (Palmetto Records, September 11, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

7. The Art of Dreaming – Jacques Schwarz-Bart Quartet (Aztec Musique – March 6, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

8. Angelic Warrior – Tia Fuller (Mack Avenue – September 25, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

9. Somewhere in the Night – Bobby Hutcherson (Kind of Blue – October 16, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

10. Be Still – Dave Douglas (Green Leaf Records – September 25, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Other Notable Albums:

Spirit Fiction by Ravi Coltrane

Another Country by Cassandra Wilson

Hot House by Chick Corea and Gary Burton

Dear Diz by Arturo Sandoval

Takin’ it There by Graham Dechter

The Baddest Monk by Eric Reed

Locked Down by Dr. John

St. Peter & 57th St. by The Preservation Hall Jazz Band

Down Home by Curtis Fuller

For the Moment by The Bob Mintzer Big Band

The Well by Tord Gustavsen

Where Do You Start by Brad Mehldau

Number Five by Tom Harrell

Glad Rag Doll by Diana Krall

All Our Reasons by Billy Hart

Not Getting Behind is the New Getting Ahead by Charlie Hunter

Accelerando by Vijay Iyer

Come Sunday by Charlie Haden

Signing by Joe Locke

The Absence by Melody Gardot

Free Magic by Medeski, Martin & Wood

Wonderful! Wonderful! by Joey DeFrancesco

Be Good by Gregory Porter

The Continents by Chick Corea

The Mothership Returns by Return to Forever

Triveni II by Avishai Cohen

Live in Hollywood by Poncho Sanchez

An Attitude for Gratitude by Matt Wilson

Gouache by Jacky Terrasson

Songs of Earth by Jessica Williams

Related posts:

10 Best Jazz Albums of 2011

 

“Now in Stores” XX

27 Oct

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. Glad Rag Doll by Diana Krall (Verve – October 2, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Diana Krall’s extraordinary new album, ‘Glad Rag Doll’ is an exhilarating and adventurous exploration of new sounds, new instrumentation and new musicians. It stars a singer and piano player, filled with mischief, humour and a renewed sense of tenderness and intimacy. The record reveals itself at that remarkable vanishing point in time where all music; swinging, rocking and taboo, collide with songs of longing, solace and regret. All are made new again in a vaudeville of Krall’s own imagining. It is at once a major departure and a natural progression for the gifted musician. Diana simply calls the album, “a song and dance record.”

2. My Muse by George Cables (HighNote – September 11, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Having absorbed a huge variety of sounds and styles and incorporated them into his playing — from harmonically adventurous post-bop to gospel-tinged blues — pianist George Cables mines the mother load of jazz elements on his 2012 HighNote release, fusing Bud Powell’s feeling, Fats Waller’s juke joint geniality and Art Tatum’s quick wit into his own persuasive utterances. Cables’ searching and intense interpretations use the source material as a jumping-off point for his unique and quirky improvisations, and his writing is more profound and more expressive than ever.

3. Where Do You Start by Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch – September 18. 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Nonesuch releases the Brad Mehldau Trio’s Where Do You Start, a companion disc to the critically acclaimed Ode. Whereas Ode featured 11 songs composed by Mehldau, Where Do You Start comprises the Trio’s interpretations of 10 tunes by other composers, along with one Mehldau original. Ode was widely praised, with London’s Daily Telegraph, in a five-star review, saying that it “shows Mehldau’s inventive powers are as fresh as ever…and the interplay with Ballard and Grenadier is masterly.”

4. Claroscuro by Anat Cohen (Anzic Records – September 25, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Anat Cohen – celebrated the world over for her expressive virtuosity on clarinet and saxophone, not to mention the sheer joie de vivre in her charismatic stage presence – presents the latest record of her evolution with Claroscuro, her sixth album as a bandleader. Claroscuro takes its title from the Spanish word describing the play of light and shade (chiaroscuro in Italian).

5. Manu Katche by Manu Katche (ECM Records – October 30, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Eponymously-titled album from Manu Katche. On his fourth ECM disc, Manus unique drumming sets the scene and direction, with compositions and arrangements radiating outward from its rhythm-patterns. His strongly propulsive yet relaxed groove is unlike any other drummers, and it lifts up the soloists. Personnel in the ever-changing Katche band currently includes Norwegians Nils Pettter Molvaer and Tore Brunborg, first heard together on ECM in the band Masqualero in the 1980s: they still play most attractively together. British keyboardist Jim Watson also makes a strong showing with minimalistically-insistent as well as lyrical piano and thick, swirling organ. Recorded March 2012 in the South of France, and issued on the eve of a major European tour.

“Now in Stores” XIX

“Now in Stores” XVIII

4 Apr

Here are five more recent jazz releases worth giving a listen to:

1. The Absence by Melody Gardot (Verve – May 29, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

The Absence is the third record from Grammy-nominated Melody Gardot. Produced by Heitor Pereira, renowned for his work as a film composer (Despicable Me, It’s Complicated, From Prada to Nada) and world-class session guitarist (Sting, Seal, Caetano Veloso), the Brazilian-born, US-based artist shared Melody’s enthusiasm for driving off the beaten path of Western pop, jazz, blues and soul. And he was as adventurous as Melody when it came to inventive sonic ideas. From the deserts of Morocco to the streets of Lisboa, from the tango bars of Buenos Aires to the beaches of Brazil, The Absence captures the essence of each of these exotic locales, while at the same time remaining quintessentially Melody Gardot.

2. Ode by Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch – March 20, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Ode is pianist Brad Mehldau’s long-awaited 2012 studio set playing trio with bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, their first studio recording since this “graceful powerhouse” of a lineup, as the New York Times recently put it, made its Nonesuch debut in 2005 with Day Is Done. This time, however, all the tunes are Mehldau originals, written with Grenadier and Ballard in mind. As the pianist elaborates, “I feel that what they bring to the music in the performance here is inseparable from the tunes themselves. It was music I wrote to play with them specifically.”

3. Be Good by Gregory Porter (Motema Music – February 14, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Since his solo debut Water in May 2010, Grammy nominee Gregory Porter has rocketed from talented unknown to one of the most relevant and virtuosic vocalists on the international jazz scene today. Over 10,000 physical and digital units of Water have sold so far, and the album continues to sell steadily.

4. All Our Reasons by Billy Hart (ECM Records – March 26, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

The quartet heard here was formed in 2003, and originally billed as the Ethan Iverson/Mark Turner Quartet. When Billy Hart asked if it could be his band for a gig in his hometown of Montclair, New Jersey, the other members unanimously voted to give it him permanently. As the Billy Hart Quartet, the four musicians have continued to play a number of dates each year, often at New York’s Village Vanguard. In 2005 the group recorded a well-received debut album for hard-bop label High Note. Since then, as Ethan Iverson notes, the music has become more free and spacious, qualities that fit well with ECM’s priorities. “All Our Reasons” was recorded in June 2011 at New York’s Avatar Studios, with Manfred Eicher producing.

5. Strictly Romancin’ by Catherine Russell (World Village – February 14, 2012) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Strictly Romancin, Catherine Russell’s fourth album for World Village, is a paean to natural attractions: to a lover, an art form, to one s family heritage. Our heroine explores love s foibles, failures and bliss, from amorous to humorous. This acclaimed vocalist embodies the lost art of song savvy, inhabiting the lyric and allowing each melody to shine. On this fourteen song collection, Russell takes us on a journey from Harlem dance hall to Parisian Café, from Store Front Church to Uptown Cabaret blurring distinctions between the carnal and the eternal in a musical tour-de-force. For these sessions, Russell reunites with the team from her previous chart-topping album Inside This Heart of Mine, including recording engineer Katherine Miller, producer Paul Kahn and Musical Director/Guitarist/Banjoist/Arranger Matt Munisteri, who contributes his expansive vision to the project.

“Now in Stores” XVII

10 Best Jazz Albums of 2011

12 Dec

I realize that there are a lot of people who do not care for the word “best” when it comes to music. To those, you may also call this list “Kevin’s Favorite Jazz Albums of 2011″ if you’d like. Regardless, it is simply my opinion of 10 releases that stood out to me over the past year (with an informal ranking). Enjoy!

1. Live in Marciac – Brad Mehldau (Nonesuch, February 2, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

2. Bird Songs – Joe Lovano/Us Five (EMI Catalogue, March 21, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

3. Three Stories - Eldar Djangirov (Masterworks Jazz, April 5, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

4. Forever – Corea, Clarke, & White (Concord Jazz, June 6, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

5. Chano y Dizzy! – Poncho Sanchez & Terence Blanchard (Concord Picante, September 27, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

6. Songs From the Chateau – Kyle Eastwood (Mack Avenue, August 29, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

7. Ninety Miles – Stefon Harris/David Sanchez/Christian Scott (Concord, June 21, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

8. Dawn of Goodbye – Dominick Farinacci (E1 Entertainment, July 26, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

9. ‘Round Midnight – Karrin Allyson (Concord Jazz, May 3, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

10. Road Shows, Vol. 2 - Sonny Rollins (Emarcy, September 13, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

Mehldau shines in an unforgettable solo performance at Earshot

22 Oct

Brad Mehldau, photo courtesy of Suntory Hall

The Nordstrom Recital Hall was home to the first performance by a headliner of the 2011 Earshot Jazz Festival Friday night, with a mesmerizing solo piano performance from Brad Mehldau. The intimate setting was perfect for this concert, which was completely acoustic. No wires, no amps, no microphones, simply Mehldau and the piano and the acoustics of the beautiful room.

And it appears that Mehldau was the perfect musician for this environment. Each note seemed so painstakingly deliberate and important, and one might assume that a room any larger or less acoustically superb would allow the notes to not properly reach the ear as intended.

While simply posting a list of the songs performed might sound like it was simply an evening of “covers” (with tunes written from everyone from Hendrix to Monk, from Radiohead to Jeff Buckley), Mehldau’s artistic arrangements and creative improvisation could be convincing, in many cases, that the tune was his own. His personality and style was apparent in each song, and it was clear why he has been billed as one of the most lyrical and intimate solo performers alive.

With the exception of the guy sitting behind me that needed to announce the title of each song out loud as he recognized it, the crowd sat silent and awestruck until the last note of each song could no longer be heard, and then would burst into applause and cheers. At the end of the program, the audience would not let him leave, persuading him into not one, not two, but three encore performances.

I was about 30 minutes into my drive home when it hit me that I hadn’t had the radio on the entire way. I then came to the realization that I had been hearing the last four bars of his final tune, Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years playing over and over again in my head. This is a song we all know, but was performed with such touch and artistry by Mehldau. After realizing this, I kept the radio off for the remainder of my drive, and kept listening.

Other highlights from the first week of the Earshot Jazz Festival

Those who chose to head to the Chapel Performance Space on Tuesday night were rewarded with a high-octane avant-garde performance by the Rich Halley Trio + 1. Halley, a veteran sax man from Portland, was joined by his son Carson on drums, Vancouver bassist Clyde Stewart, and guest trombonist Michael Vlatkovich, who gelled nicely with this band. The soft-spoken Halley seemed to let his wild side out via his sax, demonstrating great range and skill while creating intense solos. Highlights included Snippet Stop Warp and Requiem for a Pit Viper.

The Beat Kaestli Group

Vocalist Beat Kaestli treated a good crowd at Tula’s on Thursday to his unique vocal style over a wide variety of songs ranging from standards to originals. Backed by a talented Seattle trio (Bill Anschell on piano, Clipper Anderson, bass and Mark Ivester on drums), the Swiss-born New Yorker demonstrated his versatility on tunes like The Nearness of You and La Vie En Rose.  A highlight was the love song Eso, which Kaestli described as a song with Spanish lyrics, written by a New York composer set in Brazil.

Related Links:

Covering those covering Earshot Jazz 2011

Groove Notes Poll: What show are you looking forward to the most at Earshot?

 

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