Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2007 has been a wonderful year for music, and in an exciting change of pace, the number of great new releases far outstretched the number of great historical releases.

Top Ten New Releases (no particular order):

Dave Douglas - Live at the Jazz Standard: Douglas has had a stable band for several years now and the growth and camaraderie really shows here. All of the sets from their Jazz Standard run are available for downloading, but this two disc set cherry picks the highlights for a concentrated dose of great live jazz.

Marc Ribot - Asmodeus: Book Of Angels: Vol.7: One of Ribot's most audacious projects (and that's saying a lot!) this howling power trio blurs the line between punk rock and jazz, taking compositions from John Zorn's Masada songbook and reworking them for a rampaging power trio

The Bad Plus - Prog: Media always seems to focus on the groups witty covers, but here it's the thoughtful compositions and improvisations that take center stage. The compositions "Physical Cities" and "1980 World Champion" show that the group is far from a one trick pony.

Charles Tolliver - With Love: Bursting back on to the scene with his first album in many years, trumpeter Tolliver leads an outstanding big band filled to the brim with both great ensemble playing and stellar soloing.

Richard Thompson - Sweet Warrior: Songwriter and guitarist Thompson is in a class by himself when it comes to writing witty and thoughtful lyrics. Whether it's skewering domestic relationships in "Mr. Stupid" or writing about the terror of the Iraq war in "Dad's Gonna Kill Me" this is another stellar entry in a long and distinguished catalog.

The White Stripes - Icky Thump: Refreshed after a year off and on a new label, Jack and Meg White continued to expand their bluesy garage rock, branching out so far as to include Scottish and flamenco influences. But the core of their music remains the minimalist, guitar driven rockers.

Joshua Redman - Back East: Redman's acoustic trio record is a crackling winner indebted to classic Sonny Rollins LPs. The group plays superbly, improvising vigorously on both well known standards and originals.

Bettye Lavette - Scene of the Crime: It took soul diva Betty LaVette nearly 40 years to make her mark, but her potent blend of blues, R&B and funk are like a force of nature.

James "Blood" Ulmer - Bad Blood In the City: Ulmer continues to remake himself as a bluesman, taking his complex Ornette Coleman influenced guitar and adapting it to songs of hardship and freedom.

William Parker - Corn Meal Dance: Bassist and composer Parker put out several albums in 2007, all of them excellent, but this one with his "Raining on the Moon Band" was perhaps the finest of them all. Parker also emerges as a lyricist of great thoughtfulness.

Honorable Mention:

David Murray - Sacred Ground
The Claudia Quintet - For

Nels Cline Singers– Draw Breath

Sam Rivers - Aurora

William Parker's Little Huey Big Band - For Percy Heath

William Parker - Alphaville Suite
Dave Douglas - Moonshine

Chris Potter - Follow the Red Line

Watermelon Slim - The Wheel Man

Best Historical Release:

Miles Davis - The Complete On the Corner Sessions: Sony manages to turn each of its Miles boxes into a drama, and this one was no different with missed shipping dates, outrageous price and all of the other fun and frolic of the reissue game. Fortunately it was all worth it, and this package may be the most surprising of all of the boxes so far. When Davis released the original On the Corner LP in the early 1970's, it was almost universally reviled. But now, in the intervening years, the music world has caught up to the experimentalism that Davis was up to, and far from being a sell-out as was claimed, the mix of jazz, funk and avant classical was prescient and well ahead of its time.

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