Best of Jazz 2005 - A Baker's Dozen Plus Two
This was a most difficult list to put together. My only requirements were that the music be available on Rhapsody and the recordings were current; no reissues or historical recordings were to be included in my baker's dozen. I agonized over this list, and I am sure I left out many of your favorites. As per my indie list, I did not rank the music, as I felt it practically impossible to do. If you would like to listen to the list in its entirety click on the link Best of Jazz 2005 - A Baker's Dozen Plus Two. Below are individual links to all of the albums. Enjoy!
Jessica Williams - Live At Yoshi's Volume Two This album has to be one of the best jazz trio albums released in 2005. Featuring the excellent pianistic skills of Jessica Williams, I am absolutely in love with the opening track "Flamenico Sketches." Williams interpretation of the Miles Davis/Gil Evans classic is truly fantastic. I remember the first time I heard it on the radio and I was blown away. Do not miss this album!
Salvatore Bonafede - Journey to Donnafugata This album is relatively unknown, but it should not be. If you are a fan of the Gil Evans/Miles Davis collaborations, you will surely enjoy the work of Italian pianist Salvatore Bonafede as he interprets the score to Luchino Visconti's 1963 film The Leopard. Salvatore is joined by a cast of stellar musicians including John Abercrombie (guitar), Enrico Rava (trumpet), Ralph Towner (guitar) and a few others. This is a true delight.
Ken Walker Sextet - Terra Firma On first hearing this record, I thought it was an Art Blakey and the Jazz Messengers recording with Horace Silver, Hank Mobley, and Kenny Dorham from the middle 50's, a lost recording perhaps. I was wrong, but I couldn't be happier to find out that Ken Walker and his Denver based band are creating hard bop albums of the highest caliber. If the experimental, avant garde tendencies of some jazz records is turning you off, give Ken Walker's Sextet a listen.
Babatunde Lea - Suite Unseen: Summoner of the Ghost This album really cooks! A funky, percussive, jam session with African influences. Babatunde Lea is the percussionist, composer, and leader of this group of talented musicians. Everyone is great, but the horns stand out. Steve Turre contributes his trombone skills and even his famous conch shells, which make this one of the stellar jazz records of the year.
Thollem/Rivera - Everything's Going Everywhere This disc will appeal to the adventurous listener, especially fans of 20th century classical masters like Schoenberg, Berg, and Bartok. This album features the work of pianist Thollem McDonas and drummer Rick Rivera and is a collection of miniatures with the majority of songs approximately three minutes in length. This album will reward the patient listener, but don't be shocked by the track "Silence," as it truly is a track dedicated to silence.
Jeremy Pelt - Identity Jeremy Pelt is quickly making a name for himself as one of the best trumpet players around. He is often compared to Freddie Hubbard and Lee Morgan. His album not only shows off his ability on the trumpet and flugelhorn, but also his talents as a composer. The tunes are all beautifully played and tend to fall in the modal jazz school made popular in the 60's by the likes of Wayne Shorter, who Pelt has played with, and Miles.
Lafayette Gilchrist - Towards The Shining Path Wow! This was a relatively recent discovery, but I am hooked. Baltimore based Lafayette Gilchrist plays piano in a funky style, while being backed up by a stellar band, especially the horn section. One can hear many diverse influences in his music including: Mingus, Monk, Ellington, and Zappa.
SF Jazz Collective - SF Jazz Collective This is a disk overflowing with artistic talent. Led by artistic director Joshua Redman, the SF Jazz Collective is a group of mostly young jazz lions and one revered "older" lion, Bobby Hutcherson on vibes. The young lions include Nicholas Payton, Miguel Zenon, Josh Roseman, Renee Rosnes, Robert Hurst, and Brian Blade. Recorded live, the album is a homage to Ornette Coleman in that it contains three tracks by Coleman and four originals. Jazz is not dead when music of this caliber is still being produced.
Eddie Palmieri - Listen Here! I must have some Latin jazz and there is no better choice than Eddie Palmieri's Listen Here! This album features an all-star cast including John Scofield, Regina Carter, David Sanchez, Michael Brecker, Christian McBride, Nicholas Payton, Brian Lynch, and many others. This album will have you dancing.
Drew Gress - 7 Black Butterflies Drew Gress is one of the best bassist around, but he is an even better composer and the all original tracks on 7 Black Butterflies proves it. Drew's avant garde compositions are a cerebral treat enhanced by the fine musicianship of Tim Berne (alto saxophone); Ralph Alessi (trumpet); Craig Taborn (piano); and Tom Rainey (drums).
Kurt Rosenwinkel - Deep Song There is a multitude of fine musicianship on this record. Joshua Redman on tenor sax, Brad Mehldau on piano (he just had to be on the list somewhere), and of course Kurt Rosenwinkel on electric guitar. Check out the track "Synthetics" for a taste of how great this record is.
Bar Kokhba Sextet - 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol 11 An awesome and unusual recording of John Zorn's Masada project recorded live at NYC's tonic for Zorn's 50th birthday. It features the talents of Marc Ribot on guitar, Mark Feldman on violin, Erik Friedlander on cello, Greg Cohen on bass, Joey Baron on drums, Cyro Baptista on percussion, and John Zorn as conductor. If you are looking for something different, this will surely satisfy.
Joe Lovano - Joyous Encounter As a tenor sax player, I could not pass up this album. Joe Lovano crafts some classic solos while paired with the legendary pianist Hank Jones. If you don't know who Hank Jones is, you should as he comes from one of the greatest jazz families of all time. His brothers, who are now all sadly passed away are Elvin Jones, Coltrane's drummer and Thad Jones, the very talented trumpet player, composer, and arranger. "Autumn in New York" is a truly magical take on a great jazz standard, which shows the interplay between Jones and Lovano at its best.
Now is the time for the plus two. I felt I had to create a special category for historic recordings. There were two standouts this year that I must mention, though I believe they are on everyone's best of list this year.
John Coltrane - One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note This record showcases Coltrane's classic quartet of McCoy Tyner, Elvin Jones, and Jimmy Garrison at the height of their powers. Recorded in 1965, not long after they had finished A Love Supreme, this album documents the transition of Coltrane style from one based in hard bop to free jazz. This is a must listen for true Coltrane fans.
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane - At Carnegie Hall I of course saved the best for last, the discovery of lost recordings of Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane is equivalent to finding the mythical city of Atlantis. Both musicians were geniuses of jazz, and forever changed the respective music of the piano and saxophone. The recordings were made in 1957, and were lost at the Library of Congress, but were luckily for us discovered earlier this year. There were not many recordings of Coltrane and Monk together, two of the most influential musicians in jazz, so this new find is a particular joy