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2008: The Year in Jazz

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I brought up jazz over in the "2008 Mixtapes" thread, and realized that it's a topic deserving of its own thread. I've probably followed the jazz scene more this year than I ever have before, but I can still count on my two hands the number of new jazz recordings I've heard in 2008. So what have been the year's best jazz albums? Which ones deserve consideration for my year-end list?

The big one for me-- by a landslide-- is Brian Blade's Seasons of Changes, recorded with his Fellowship Band. It's earthy, deeply spiritual, complex, tuneful, and completely unlike any other jazz album I've ever heard.

I'm also rather taken with Aaron Parks' wonderful debut, Invisible Cinema; the moody, funky workout from Dave Dogulas and Keystone, Moonshine; and, of course, the Indian Miles David tribute I've mentioned here recently.

What else?

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Posted · Report post

I brought up jazz over in the "2008 Mixtapes" thread, and realized that it's a topic deserving of its own thread. I've probably followed the jazz scene more this year than I ever have before, but I can still count on my two hands the number of new jazz recordings I've heard in 2008. So what have been the year's best jazz albums? Which ones deserve consideration for my year-end list?

The big one for me-- by a landslide-- is Brian Blade's Seasons of Changes, recorded with his Fellowship Band. It's earthy, deeply spiritual, complex, tuneful, and completely unlike any other jazz album I've ever heard.

I'm also rather taken with Aaron Parks' wonderful debut, Invisible Cinema; the moody, funky workout from Dave Dogulas and Keystone, Moonshine; and, of course, the Indian Miles David tribute I've mentioned here recently.

What else?

In addition to the titles you mentioned--all of which are wonderful and Blade's is my top jazz album as well--I've added the following in no particular order.

Nik Bartsch - Holon

The Necks - Township

James Carter - Present Tense

Adam Rudolph - Dream Garden

Stephen Bernstein - The Diaspora Suite

Marco Benevento - Invisible Baby

David "Fathead" Newman - Diamond Head

Larry Willis - Offering

Charles Lloyd - Rabo De Nube

Cyro Baptista - Banquet Of The Spirits

Cinematic Orchestra - Live At Royal Albert Hall

Bill Frisell - History, Mystery

Mathias Eick - The Door

Bobo Stenson - Cantando

Paul Bley -About Time

Kirk Whalum - Promises Made: The Millennium Promise Jazz Project

Marcin Wasilewski Trio - January

Steve Turre - Rainbow People

Stanley Jordan - State Of Nature

Pat Metheny Trio - Day Trip EP

Anthony Braxton - Quantum

Rudresh Mahanthappa - Kinsmen

E.S.T. - Leucocyte

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Posted · Report post

I love that Benevento album, Thom-- but I'm not sure if I'd classify it as jazz or not!

The Frisell one is also wonderful.

As for the rest, I haven't heard 'em, but I'll look into 'em.

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Stanley Jordan? Really?

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One that I haven't seen mentioned yet is Dance Like There's No Tomorrow by NYC saxophonist John Ellis and his band Double Wide. This is a joyous album, full of funk, soul, and gospel. But the instrumentation takes some getting used to; sax, tuba, Hammond B3, and drums. But I'm telling you, that tuba swings like crazy. No lie.

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That guy has a lot of wind....witness the title track and tell me how he could walk after blowing like that.....

Btw all, thanks for the jazz notes. I haven't paid too much attention to new jazz releases this year and it is good to get suggested listening.

One that I have been giving a good bit of listening is Wayne Horvitz: Joe Hill: 16 Actions for Orchestra, Voices and soloists. It is a very beautiful and stunning cycle of songs mostly written by and or about Joe Hill. I don't know what to call it but it is kind of Chamber Jazz. Think Kurt Weill on Broadway with strings and you get to the ballpark. In many ways it reminds me of Aaron Coplands Americana with Bill Frisell soloing over it or through it. It is great.

Edited by mumbleypeg

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Posted · Report post

One that I haven't seen mentioned yet is Dance Like There's No Tomorrow by NYC saxophonist John Ellis and his band Double Wide. This is a joyous album, full of funk, soul, and gospel. But the instrumentation takes some getting used to; sax, tuba, Hammond B3, and drums. But I'm telling you, that tuba swings like crazy. No lie.

Whoops! Forgot that one Andy. I shouldn't have. It IS great.

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Definitely agree on Pat Matheny, Bill Frisell.

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I've just posted my review of the Aaron Parks album, if anyone's interested.

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I've officially announced Brian Blade's album as my favorite jazz record of the year, in the first installment of my year-in-review series. I'm sure Mr. Blade is thrilled.

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I've officially announced Brian Blade's album as my favorite jazz record of the year, in the first installment of my year-in-review series. I'm sure Mr. Blade is thrilled.

Don't "misunderestimate" yourself, Josh. Your earlier rave about the album was responsible for at least one sale. :)

BTW, I didn't get the Aaron Parks disc for my birthday, but it remains on the list as a Christmas hopeful. I quickly spent my $25 Barnes and Noble gift card today on the new Dylan CD and a notebook (which I use for sermon notes; my current book just filled up). Total $24.78. The cashier kindly gave me $0.22 in change, rather than handing me the card back.

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Stanley Jordan? Really?

Yeah. I like jazz of all stripes. I'm not one of those trad jazz snobs (i.e. if it doesn't sound like the Great American Songbook or some form of bop or big band it sucks). After all jazz is considered popular music and has been since the 1920s. As Andy brought up at the beginning of 2008, or perhaps it was late 2007, I am all for a moratorium on the GAS for ten years or so and adding some new standards to the fake book that reflect something other than the dust of expired bodies.

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Stanley Jordan is one of the few innovators that the guitar has had over the last 40 years. I could never understand why he wasnt more visible in the jazz community. The guy is King in my book. Well, his early stuff anyway when he covered the Beatles, Zeppelin and Bread. He seemed to fall off the radar completely and now I understand he's into music therapy and some other vaguely new age "healing" stuff. I would just love to see him cut ties with the jazz entirely, form a red hot trio, plug into a nasty Marshall stack and just cut loose.

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Coltrane's "falling off the radar" mention was more of what I was getting at, Thom. Underlying my surprise was a question: Has Jordan changed his style or sound? It just seems like his technique, impressive though it may be, had its moment in the late 1980s, and he almost had disappeared by the mid-1990s. I owned some of the Jordan's stuff from that era, but I confess to growing bored with it.

I was thinking he might have caused critics who had dismissed him to sit up and take notice anew, but from the sound of your post, I'm guessing you've always been in his camp. Which is fine. I just thought the recognition of this latest album might be more broadly shared, for other reasons. I haven't looked into it.

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Jordan live was a powerhouse, either solo or in a trio setting like this late 80's/early 90's concert (i'm judging strictly from Jordan's mustard jacket)

If he did more of this I'd follow him religiously. 1:45 is probably my favorite moment....

Edited by coltrane

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Yeah, I saw him perform at Virginia Tech around 1990. Smokin'.

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I don't have the luxury to get lots (or any) advance copies, so I only buy a few albums each year. They're usually from people I like, though I do use eMusic to check out older (and some) new acts I miss. (This is a defense against Thom's constant critique that most A&Fers onlylisten to the same old stuff...sorry! If I had money or means to listen to music all day long, I would!)

That said, I've been using A&F recommendations to pick up a jazz album or two each year, ones from acts I'm not familiar with. I got Brian Blade & the Fellowship Band's Season of Changes yesterday, and it

Edited by Jason Panella

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Re: Brian Blade-- I wouldn't say it's unlike anything i've ever heard in jazz, but it is mighty, mighty good. I think the thing that makes it so accessible is it's restraint, particularly Cowherd's playing which i imagine some purists could find a little poppy and unadventurous. I happen to love it. Rosenwinkel's contributions also elevate this out of the traditional jazz sphere, with a moody approach that dabbles with post-rock textures.

Also, has any other jazz album conjured the ghost of John Coltrane (ala "Alabama") with such chilling results as "Improvisation"? I love this album as well and I dont care how people choose to label it. The further Blade steers this project away from what is commonly known as jazz, like on "Stoner Hill", "Omni" or "Rubylou's Lullaby", the closer he gets to the real spirit of the thing and helps remind folks that the music is indeed alive and well and the possibilities are endless.

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Re: Brian Blade-- I wouldn't say it's unlike anything i've ever heard in jazz, but it is mighty, mighty good.

I think that's my flair for unchecked hyperbole striking again, but I think it's fresh in the senses that mentioned. The accessibility, combined with the fact that it's firmly rooted in some post-bop and contemporary jazz traditions, make it great, and the elements of folk, country and rocks that seamlessly bleed into the tracks make it better than great.

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Actually Jason, my statement was in reference to someone elses hyperbole earlier in the thread. But agreed, it's a wonderful album.

I'd really like to see this incarnation live...

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I went to see the Kit Downes Trio the other week, and have just been checking out their myspace. My brother is doing a degree in jazz performance, and booked these guy for a gig recently. They looked pretty young (maybe twelve or thirteen? - certainly not much older), but sounded great.

'Jump Minzi Jump' is ace.

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Over here, Josh links to AMG's list of the best jazz CDs in 2009.

My question: Do any of these "swing"? I'm thinking of picking up another jazz disc before the year ends, but would like something that swings. I appreciate having my musical-appreciation boundaries expanded, but sometimes I like to retreat to what I know is "safe" -- music I like, done really, really well. And I love jazz that swings!

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You might look into the James Carter one, Christian.

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You might look into the James Carter one, Christian.

I suspected he'd be the one.

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You might look into the James Carter one, Christian.

I suspected he'd be the one.

I don't think you can go wrong with James Carter. But you might want to look into the latest album from John Ellis and Double Wide called Dance Like There's No Tomorrow. The title pretty much gives it away, but this is a supremely swinging and fairly traditional (as in traditional New Orleans) jazz album where the dazzling solos come from Ellis's sax and the swing comes from a sousaphone. If you're familiar with, say, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, you know what to expect. It's definitely one of my favorites from 2008.

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