As promised this week I start my list of my favourite 30 albums of the year. However just as I’d finished compiling it I bought the Miles Davis Live in Europe 1967 box set. I’ve only listened to the three CD’s once and watched the DVD once but it’s wonderful. For a while I debated whether or not it should be in my list of favourite new CD’s. I decided it couldn’t really be as it’s not really new stuff as some of it has been available as bootlegs. However this is a dilemma that arises elsewhere in my list of the year.
For years I thought the Miles Davis group featuring John Coltrane was Miles’ best band and I didn’t really listen a lot to the second great quintet, nor did I really know Wayne Shorter’s work. However when Shorter released Footprints Live! In 2004 I loved it and started listening to his earlier work. I quickly got hold of the Miles Davis Complete Live at the Plugged Nickel set which features Shorter in that second great quintet. The Penguin Guide to Jazz describes this set as “The Rosetta Stone of modern jazz”. I agree with this, there’s so much in this music that led to many other bands exploring these ideas and you can still hear it being explored by bands today.
This new box set features live recordings of the same band from the Plugged Nickel set but recorded two years later. It’s really good to be able to listen (and watch) the band after a few years playing together and hear the developments since the 1965 Plugged Nickel set. I’m sure I’ll listen to this box set again and again.
Anyway here is the first instalment of my top 30 new jazz albums of the year. This week I’m listing 30 – 21. The rest will follow over the next two Sundays.
30. Kairos 4tet: Statement of Intent. Edition.
Edition Records, based in Cardiff have had a really strong year. This is one of a number of excellent recordings they have released. This is the second release from this band led by Adam Waldmann and featuring, amongst others Ivo Neame on Piano and Jasper Hoiby on bass. The review of this album in Jazzwise said: “Waldmann’s writing here has the kind of whirling world-jazz melodies and airy cross-rhythmic grooves that are a vital element in contemporary groups such as Avishai Cohen, Portico Quartet and EST”.
29. John Martin Quartet: Dawning. F-iRE
John Martin is a new name from the F-iRE Collective. Apparently John Martin is a recent graduate from Middlesex University as were some of Led Bib. But this is much more of an orthodox recording which can remind you of Kenny Wheeler or occasionally Jan Garbarek. I’ve really enjoyed listening to this and will look out for future recordings from the quartet.
28. Craig Taborn: Avenging Angel. ECM.
Craig Taborn is perhaps known for his work in groups and with musicians like Tim Berne. This, however, is another solo piano album. However it’s nothing like a lot of other solo piano albums you might have heard. John Fordham said of this in the Guardian “Avenging Angel is a much more private and detailed exploration of the sonics of the piano, but if that sounds like a scarily ascetic pursuit, Taborn’s genius (there’s no other word for it) makes a world of whispered, wide-spaced figures, ringing overtones, evaporating echoes and glowering contrapuntal cascades as absorbing as if he were playing bebop’s greatest hits.”
27. Kit Downes Trio: Quiet Tiger. Basho.
Kit Downes is another of the growing number of British jazz pianists making names for themselves. His first album was nominated for the Mercury Prize in 2010. In my view this one is even better. On it his normal trio is augmented by James Allsop on Tenor and Bass Clarinet and Adrian Dennefield on Cello. This is an album which really repays repeated listens.
26. Gwilym Simcock: Good Days at Schloss Elmau. ACT
Gwilym has featured in quite a few groups including the wonderful Impossible Gentlemen. However this is a solo album by him. Dave Gelly in the Observer said of this album “Gwilym Simcock is a stupendous improviser and a remarkable musician all round. He was a teenage classical piano prodigy when he discovered jazz and now, at 29, he has collected most of the British jazz awards going. But, left alone with a piano, he creates music which is neither jazz nor classical but simply itself.”
25. Julian Siegel Quartet: Urban Theme Park. Basho.
This is the second CD by Julian’s Quartet. The first came out in 2002 and the line up has changed since then but Liam Noble remains in the piano chair alongside Julian Siegel on tenor sax and bass clarinet. Chris May’s review of this album on All About Jazz says: “in Siegel’s bands, intellect never overwhelms depth of feeling or the sense of being in the moment. It is a rare and beautiful conflation that gives Urban Theme Park, like all Siegel’s recent work, magnetism and depth.”
24. Mathew Shipp: Broken Partials: Not Two.
Shipp’s “The Art of the Improviser” featuring the trio he brought to Birmingham in February was also a candidate for this list but this duo album with Joe Morris on bass just pipped it for me. I’ve not seen many reviews of this but it’s well worth a listen with the two musicians showing great empathy for each other’s playing.
23. Phil Robson: The Immeasurable Code: Whirlwind.
This album features the marvellous group that British guitarist Phil Robson brought to the Recital Hall at the Conservatoire back in January. With US sax player Mark Turner, Gareth Lochrane on sax, Michael Janisch on bass and Ernesto Simpson on drums the gig was great and the album really grows on you. Had it not come out quite late in the year it might have climbed a bit higher up this list.
22. Darius Jones Trio: Big Gurl (Smell my Dream). AUM Fidelity
Darius Jones’ first album “Mannish Boy” was in my list for 2009 and I heavily featured the group he’s part of called Little Women last year. Darius is an alto player from Virginia who now lives in New York. He has been called “the future of free jazz” but don’t let that put you off listening to this year’s trio album. A duet album Darius made this year with Mathew Shipp entitled” Cosmic Leider” also nearly made this list.
21. Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Legacy. Mack Avenue
This is a wonderful big band album from Composer/Arranger Gerald Wilson who is now in his 90’s and who here pays tribute to Chicago his adopted home town. There are also arrangements of pieces by Stravinsky and Puccini. The big band itself features many top name musicians.
More next week.