Monday, December 29, 2008

Great Jazz from 2008

It is that time of year again. Everywhere you look there is a list of this or that. Sadly, it comes as little surprise, that with so little Jazz coverage, there are few lists of all the great Jazz recordings released in 2008. So, for those of you out there who may have been too busy earning a living to set your sights on America's indigenous art form, this list is for you.

Here are some of the great recordings from 2008

1. Cynthia Hilts - Second Story Breeze

Cynthia Hilts is a Force of Nature. When she wants to lull you with a sultry tune as in "Love For Sale," she will. When she wants to pummel you with her Neo Bop Monk like piano playing as in"Nun, Miffdemeanor-like" she will. It is all so easy for her on this brilliant recording where she is ably supported by veterans Ron McLure and Jeff Williams. What a joy! 2. Norma Winstone - Distances

I've been listening to Norma for more than 30 years?! From her days with Azimuth to her days with John Taylor and Tony Coe. Recordings with Jimmy Rowles, then some with Gary Burton and Fred Hersch. There have been long stretches where I was unable to remove her recording from the player. I have loved her ethereal and personal takes on so many great tunes. You will too. For this Grammy nominated recording Norma has surrounded herself with two of her favorite musicians: Glauco Venier on piano, and Klaus Gesing on bass clarinet and soprano saxophone. February 8 my money will be on Norma.

3. Danilo Perez with Orchestra arranged and conducted by Claus Ogerman - Across The Crystal Sea

What a great recording! When I got this, a couple of months ago when it first came out, I almost cried when I played it. It was so like another favorite of mine, the Bill Evans Trio with Symphony Orchestra recording. Finally. Danilo's playing and Ogerman's arranging/conducting are superb. This is not to be missed. And if you like this you may also want to pick up The Gary McFarland Orchestra with Special Guest Soloist: Bill Evans, Bill Evans: Symbiosis with Eddie Gomez, Claus Ogerman - Two Concertos, Gary McFarland's soundtrack to The Eye of the Devil, and Gary McFarland with Steve Kuhn on October Suite. Great music!

4. Bill Carrothers - Home Row

This was a very pleasant discovery for me this past year. Another great piano trio here with Bill accompanied by Gary Peacock and Bill Stewart. They're rollicking and turbulent one moment. Thoughtful and pensive the next. Great interplay on tunes written by Ornette ("When Will the Blues Leave"), Cole Porter ("My Heart Belongs to Daddy"), Kurt Weill ("Lost in the Stars"), and others. Fine work. 5. Ben Wolfe - No Strangers Here

Sophisticated sounds that swing. Something noir-ish performed by Ben and friends. From the Artist - "I chose to combine a jazz and string quartet to give myself a wide range of options as a composer yet to retain the feeling of a small ensemble. The music ranges from the lush title track, "No Strangers Here," to the more chamber music-sounding, "Rosy & Zero." The musicians are a wonderful blend of new acquaintances and guys I've played with for over twenty years." Ben takes great advantage of his opportunity here with a jazz ensemble and a string quartet.

6. Chick Corea & Gary Burton - The New Crystal Silence

This is a two CD set that celebrates the 35 year Anniversary of the Crystal Silence release. On CD 1 these two masters are accompanied by The Sydney Symphony Orchestra in "Crystal Silence,"" La Fiesta" and other tunes. CD 2 finds the two performing "Waltz for Debbie,"" No Mystery,"" Bud Powell" and others alone. These are two of the most generous and talented jazz players there are. How nice that they've been able to perform together for so many years. How lucky we are to be able to observe this.
7. Marcin Wasilewski, Slawomir Kurkiewicz and Michal Miskiewicz - January

This young Polish trio must've learned a lot over the years playing with Tomasz Stanko. Their first Trio recording from 2005 was amazing with their renditions of Wayne Shorter's "Plaza Real," and of Björk's "Hyperballad" among others. I could not wait for this second release and it doesn't dissapoint. Here's what the UK Guardian had to say about it:

"This is the young Polish piano trio that surfaced with that country s veteran jazz-trumpet star Tomasz Stanko a few years back, and made a big impact on their own account with their debut for ECM in 2005. Part of the group's secret is the patient ease with which they intertwine impressionistic music and powerful pulses, and here Wasilewski's strong originals once again give much of the set its backbone.... The album may not appear to be trying to hit you between the eyes, but in the long run it does that anyway." Need I say more?

8. Pat Metheny Trio - Day Trip

Here one of the finest guitarist/composers of my generation performs in a trio setting with bass player Christian McBride and drummer Antonio Sanchez. A recording that many reviewers have called Metheny's best trio recording to date. Having performed and recorded with so many great trios over the years, that is one neat trick indeed. For all these years, since I first saw a young Pat Metheny playing along side Mick Goodrick with The Gary Burton Quintet, or for that matter with Jaco and Bobby Moses, I've always eagerly welcomed Pat's recordings. I've never been dissapointed.

9. George Duke - Faces in Reflection

Finally MPS has issued a CD of this wonderful 1974 recording. I have been waiting a long time for this. Here we find pianist, keyboard player, vocalist, George Duke in a power trio setting accompanied by bass player John Heard and drummer Leon Ndugu Chanceler. You'll find fierce and driving trio playing one moment, a beautiful piano sonnet the next. George's vocals are great too. And if at any time you are reminded of Zappa, it is of course because George played with him for quite a while. Be sure to get a copy of this while it is still around.

10. Charlie Mariano - Helen 12 Trees

Here's another great MPS reissue released recently. One of the very talented early fusion groups featuring Charlie along with Jan Hammer, Jack Bruce, John Marshall, percussionist Nippy Noya, and polish jazz violinist Zbigniew Seifert. John Kelman of All About Jazz summed it up well when he wrote "While fusion was taking a decided turn towards excess in North America, Mariano proved that it could be a more all-encompassing term, incorporating elements of South Indian music, classical impressionism and sophisticated jazz harmonies alongside potent, rock-based grooves and concise but muscular soloing." It is great to have these MPS recordings back!

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