Friday, December 29, 2006

Top 10 New Releases of 2006

1. Ornette Coleman - Sound Grammar: The music is classic Coleman with sweeping joyful arcs of alto on some reinterpretations of classics and a few new compositions. This is an endlessly exciting and powerful disc proving that Ornette Coleman is still a vital force in jazz.

2. Andrew Hill - Time Lines: A great band made up of a mixture of veteran musicians and younger up-and-coming talents for this disc of all original Hill compositions. This is a very good record and should go a long way to cementing Hill's status as one of jazz's most relentless pioneers.

3. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood: This album itself is a triumph of class, dignity and open minded musicians drawing from many different genres and ideas to create an impressive cohesive whole.

4. Sonny Rollins – Sonny, Please: The music is quintessential Sonny Rollins - uptempo swingers, lush ballads and a calypso. He has a hard-won wisdom and trust in his band and this is a fine album and should make any long time Sonny watcher very happy.

5. Rudresh Mahanthappa – Codebook: Very good improvisations, mining a scalding mostly uptempo free-bop feel, owing some to Ornette Coleman's pioneering trail but is definitely the group's own.

6. Joe Louis Walker - Playin' Dirty: Walker's music explores a wide range of blues styles from soul to gutbucket and everything in between.

7. Vandermark 5 - A Discontinuous Line: What makes the group so special is that they remain grounded in the post bop and free jazz tradition but instead of being enslaved by that tradition they use it as the launching pad for their improvisational explorations.

8. Trio Beyond – Saudades: With the glut of tribute albums coming down the pike it's refreshing to hear one that calls attention to the pioneering fusion band Lifetime, originally led by drummer Tony Williams.

9. Elvis Costello - The River in Reverse: There have been many songs and albums recorded about Katrina and New Orleans, but the dignity and beauty of this music makes it one of the most memorable.

10. Ben Allison - Cowboy Justice: There's a "chamber jazz" feel to this record, but it doesn't distract from the music at all. In fact, it forces the listener to concentrate even more closely on the improvisations and the compositional structure of the music.

Honorable mention:

Mingus Big Band - Live in Tokyo
Dave Holland - Critical Mass
Harmonica Shah - Listen at Me Good
Calexico - Garden Ruin
Jimmy Heath Big Band – Turn Up the Heath
Dave Douglas - Jazz Standard: December 6, 2006, Set 1

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