Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Best of 2009, Part One: New Releases

2009 was an extraordinary year for music in many ways. The argument over whether or not jazz, blues or any other genre of music was dead or dying continued apace, but became increasingly irrelevant as musicians continued to blur the lines of genre and move to a post-modern landscape where Duke Ellington's famous dictum rings true: “There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind.” There was an overwhelming amount of good music in 2009, and this (IMHO) is the best of the best.

Ben Allison - Think Free (Palmetto, 2009) This was a very exciting and consistently enjoyable album. Ben Allison is one of my favorite musicians and he does not disappoint, the new compositions are fun and memorable and the recasting of earlier compositions makes for a thoughtful evolution of his sound and improvisational conception.

Ben Perowsky - Esopus Opus (Skirl Records, 2009) This is a wildly imaginative and well played album. In retrospect it seems like the ideal album to introduce an audience raised on rock ‘n’ roll to the joys of jazz.

Henry Threadgill - This Brings Us To, Vol. 1 (Pi Recordings, 2009) Threadgill's music sounds like nothing else and is instantly memorable and his joyful and impish music is always pleasure to hear.

Monterey Quartet - Live at the 2007 Monterey Jazz Festival (MJFP, 2009) The state of the art for modern mainstream jazz at the moment, the festival chose most quite wisely when putting this group together.

Charles Tolliver Big Band – Emperor March (Half Note Records, 2009) Keeping a large ensemble together in this economy is no mean feat, but hopefully Tolliver can keep doing it, because this truly is the sound of joy.

Gary Burton - Quartet Live (Concord, 2009) Supergroup recordings can be perilous things, but not here, as the egos are kept in check and the music flows freely.

Arild Andersen - Live at Belleville (ECM, 2009) The openness of the trio setting allowed all three musicians adequate space for soloing and for collective playing. But it was Tommy Smith that was the revelation for me, hopefully this will be a springboard for him getting some recognition and recording opportunities.

Steve Lehman - Travail, Transformation and Flow (Pi Recordings, 2009) Whether spectral harmony becomes a paradigm shifting evolution like modal or free jazz in the late 1950's remains to be seen, but it certainly works here, creating an exhausting yet exhilarating album of exciting music.

Matt Wilson - That’s Gonna Leave a Mark (Palmetto, 2009) This is exciting, fun and thoroughly enjoyable music that is filled with guile, spirit and class.

Jon Irabagon and Mike Pride - I Don't Hear Nothin' But the Blues (Loyal, 2009) The music was visceral, exciting and unexpected album that was quite edgy and full of surprises.

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