10 Best Jazz Albums of 2011

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

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (811-820)

Here is another 10 to add to the list.

Remember that there is no ranking system here, and if you don’t see your favorite jazz album yet, it doesn’t mean it won’t show up.

Hopefully these lists will inspire you to seek some of these albums out that perhaps you haven’t heard before, or revisit an old favorite. And as always, we want your thoughts on any or all of these albums. Either way, let’s get started with this week, and in no particular order, albums 811 through 820.

811. Stable Mable – Dexter Gordon (SteepleChase, 1975) CLICK HERE TO BUY

812. Three Stories – Eldar Djangirov (Masterworks Jazz, 2011) CLICK HERE TO BUY

813. At Mister Kelly’s – Sarah Vaughan (Verve, 1957) CLICK HERE TO BUY

814. Watermelon Man – Mongo Santamaria (Milestone Records, 1963) CLICK HERE TO BUY

815. Diz and Getz – Dizzy Gillespie (Verve, 1955) CLICK HERE TO BUY

816. Tune-Up! – Sonny Stitt (Muse, 1972) CLICK HERE TO BUY

817. Strange Fruit (Crown Collection Compilation) – Billie Holiday (2000 compilation release date) CLICK HERE TO BUY

818. Crusaders 1 – The Crusaders (MCA, 1972) CLICK HERE TO BUY

819. Like Minds – Chick Corea (Concord Jazz, 1998) CLICK HERE TO BUY

820. Somewhere in France – Ray Bryant (Label M, 2000 release date) CLICK HERE TO BUY

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die (801-810)

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die – The First 750

1,000 Jazz Albums You Should Hear Before You Die – The First 500

Album Review: “Three Stories” by Eldar

One thing I try to express on Groove Notes is that I don’t feel it necessary to post album reviews unless I feel there is an album really worth talking about.

Additionally, I hesitate to use the word “best”, because it suggests a certainty rather than leaving music to the personal taste of the listener.

In the case of the new album Three Stories by Eldar Djangirov, however, I do find it more than worth writing about. And while I won’t use the word “best”, I will rank it up there with my other two favorites from the last several years: Earfood by Roy Hargrove and Pilgrimage by Michael Brecker.

Three Stories is a showcase of not only the talent of Eldar, but also his versatility and how much he has grown in his young career. Talented at playing both jazz and classical, Eldar shows his skills by featuring both genres on this album.

I must confess, when I received the CD I immediately skipped ahead to track 13, where Eldar takes on George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue”. There was something that told me that I had to listen to this track first. I was glad I did. The track was 15 minutes of mind-blowing solo piano, where Eldar manages to incorporate his own style while still staying very true to the original song.

In fact, the entire album makes up the first solo piano release for Eldar, and as I mentioned before, show significant growth. While on previous albums, Eldar shows off blazing speed as the highlight of his talents, Three Stories showcases a sense of touch and feel, and a thorough comprehension of the original compositions.

That comprehension allowed Eldar to interpret classical and jazz compositions and reconstruct them in his own style. His creativity is shown throughout the album by putting his twist on Bach, and taking something like Monk’s In Walked Bud and reconstructing it in 5/4 time.

Eldar also branches out by taking on Dave Matthews’ So Damn Lucky, but the highlight of the album remains Rhapsody in Blue, which I have listened to over and over since receiving the album.

A “great album” can be a phrase thrown around a bit too much, especially when it is really an album with a great song or two. Eldar’s Three Stories is something that can be listened to throughout. It will offer the listener, at the very least, something that can be appreciated for the skill level displayed alone. The variety, arrangements, and emotion are enough to make it a favorite in your personal collection.

An Afternoon with Eldar

eldarLast Tuesday, I had the opportunity to interview 22 virtuoso pianist, Eldar, who also performed live during the interview. Eldar talked about his family’s move from Kyrgyzstan to Kansas City as a child, and how much he learned from that city’s veteran jazz musicians. Eldar also showcased his improvisational and compositional skills with three solo piano pieces, I Should Care, Insensitive and his own Vanilla Sky/Exposition.

Eldar turned out to be one of the nicest, most enthusiastic musicians that I have interviewed to date (especially for someone who had just flown in from Ireland the day before). And as you might expect, his playing was amazing.

eldarkevBelow is a video of his performance of a medley of his tunes Vanilla Sky/Exposition. To hear the entire interview and performance, click here.