Jazz and Beyond
Song - Artist - Album
Moanin' - Ray Charles - Genius + Soul = Jazz
In The Groove's Top 15 Jazz Releases for 2011
As hard as I tried, I just couldn't pare this down to the conventional 10 best picks. So, here are my top 15 for 2011. It was a very prolific year for jazz releases. As I scan this list, several are from jazz artists that have their roots in the New England region, and Hartford in particular. That is a great tribute to the jazz programs in the area and the influence they have on the jazz scene. About half of the albums are the artists first or second release. Listening to these albums, it is clear that these young jazz players are supplanting the more established hard bop players with unique new styles.
Ambrose Akinmusire - When the Heart Emerges Glistening; His performance at Newport this year blew me away. An in-your-face style that makes you sit-up and listen. He definitely has defined his own voice on trumpet and isn't afraid to take things to the outer limits. A powerful force on trumpet to watch in the future.
Noah Preminger - Before the Rain; The compositions and solos, particularly from Noah and Frank Kimbrough display a sincerity and depth that is entrancing. Noah's breathy tone and melodic lines always seem to take you where you least expect it. Matt Wilson's drum work adds color and texture as much as rhythm to the tracks. Its easy to see how the works of Ornette Coleman, Keith Jarrett and Dewey Redman have influenced the creation of this album and the results are stunning.
JD Allen - Victory!; A third trio album from Allen using this interesting format of short concise compositions averaging about 3 minutes each. JD on tenor sax, Greg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums keeps each piece short and sweet. They make their statements, take off like a rocket and come back down in short order, moving on to the next track where they do it all over again. Its fast moving, intense playing that is riveting.
Josh Evans - Portrait; This debut release from a remarkable young trumpet player can take you on a journey from a solid foundation of hard bop to soaring to the outer limits and back to a soulful ballad. Josh Evans certainly displays a range on this CD not only with his playing, but his compositions and arranging.
Mike DiRubbo - Chronos; I love this CD. Its a trio effort with Brian Charette on Hammond Organ and Rudy Royston tearing it up as usual on drums. DiRubbo does a great job of bridging his hard bop alto sax roots with a swinging R&B feel coming from the Hammond B3.
Ken Fowser/Behn Gillece - Duotone: This Duo's latest release is a burner. Behn's compositions are straight ahead burners with filled with rhythmic changes and other complexities. Solo's showcase all these performers great chops and it's all held together by Willie Jones II solid drumming.
Ben Williams - State of Art; Another debut album by a great bass player that shows a tremendous range of style in playing and writing. Ben Williams covers a lot of ground from pop covers to hard bop to an edgy post modern style.
Curtis Brothers - Completion of Proof; This album is a real cooker. It definitely draws its inspiration from the Art Blakey school of jazz with a more subtle latin influence as well. Zaccai Curtis wrote and arranged these tunes and a great cast of soloists take it up a notch. Brian Lynch, Ralph Peterson, Donald Harrison and Jimmy Greene and others make this a killin' release.
James Farm; How can an album that features Joshua Redman, Eric Harland, Aaron Parks and Matt Peneman not make a best of list. This one does for sure. Beautiful writing, arranging and playing by all the cast members. Interesting compositions keep this album sounding fresh and modern. These tracks don't conform to the classic hard bop format and to me represents the sound that may be the future of jazz.
Vijay Iyer - Tirtha; This is a really unique sounding trio. Vijay Iyer's adventuresome piano and Indian guitarist Prasanna are a perfect match. Prasanna, has a range that can go from classical indian to jazz-rock fusion. Nitin Mitta, provides a complex yet steady rhythmic backdrop on tabla to the surprising melodies and harmonic eastern tones coming from the two soloists.
Ralph Peterson's Unity Project, Outer Reaches; A concept album centered around Ralph's interpretation of Larry Young's landmark Unity album. Ralph Peterson drives things along with his frenetic intensity and Pat Bianchi swings and soars over the top on the Hammond B3. Ralph also contributes some original tunes and a tribute to Tony Williams with a fusion cover of Spectrum. Josh Evans does a fine job soloing on trumpet throughout.
Rob Garcia - The Drop and the Ocean; For me, the fine compositions by drummer Rob Garcia are the star of this album. You usually don't find such melodic, interesting and complex composition by a drummer. The band is tight throughout, with great interpretive improv by pianist Dan Tepfer and tenor sax from Noah Preminger, both accomplished leaders in their own right. Garcia's drumming is concise and right to the point without overwhelming flashy solos.
Teri Lynn Carrington - Mosaic; A concept album with an all women band. Besides the hard driving drumming of Carrington, heavy hitters contribute, including Ingrid Jensen, Geri Allen, Anat Cohen, Gretchen Parlato, Esperanza Spaulding, Cassandra Wilson and much more. An impressive range of tunes that keep things accessible, yet never loses the jazz improvisational feel throughout.
Jen Allen - Pieces of Myself; An album featuring some of the best local jazz musicians with their roots in Hartford and Boston. Jen, well known in Hartford leads the expanded quartet with her very lyrical compositions that can swing like mad, and provide a platform for the soloists to soar. Josh Evans does just that on trumpet throughout the album. Husband Kris Allen chimes in on alto for a memorable romp on one track. Jen's piano playing shows her fine improvisational skills and also keeps the rhythm steady along with drummer Lee Fish.
Sean Jones - No Need for Words; A solid release from this fine trumpet player. Nothing too adventurous, just some thoughtful melodic compositions and quality arrangements that create a big sound that bears repeated listening. Strong blowing by Sean Jones is front and center in these arrangements.
(Please note - The following CD was on my original list, but I discovered that it was a 2010 release. It's a great CD and still deserves special mention)
Geoff Vidal - She Likes That; I really, really enjoy this album and play it ALOT. First of all, Geoff has tremendous chops on the tenor. This cat can play and deserves some more notoriety. Jon Huntermark's guitar work provides an amazing pairing to Geoff's horn. Sometimes it adds a spacey backdrop, and other times it rocks out. Makaya McCraven's drumming also rocks throughout this album. Geoff's compositions can be rhythmically and melodically complex, yet the music always keeps its groove (almost Zappa-like).