Last week I posted nos 30 – 21 of my favourite albums of the year. Here’s nos 20 – 11. I’ll post the top 10 and my favourite gigs of the year next Sunday.
20. Dave Binney. Gaylen Epicentre. Mythology Records.
Dave Binney has released two albums this year. This is narrowly my favourite of the two. This one features an amazing band consisting of vocalist Gretchen Parlato, trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire, drummer Brian Blade, guitarist Wayne Krantz and saxophonist Chris Potter. I’ve listened to this often this year and it never ceases to delight. In his review of it in the Guardian John Fordham said: “The tunes often duck and dive in complex ways, but there’s an energy, emotional urgency and coherence about the whole deal that makes it one of the talented Binney’s most inviting albums.”
19. Dave Douglas Portable Series Vol 3 Bad Mango
Dave Douglas has taken to making lots of new music available as downloads via his Greenleaf website. The Portable series has featured three different bands all of which have been very listenable. Vol 3 features Dave Douglas playing with the So Percussion ensemble and it’s narrowly my favourite of the three. Due to popular demand the three volumes of this series have recently been made available as CDs via the Greenleaf site. Search them all out as they are all great listens.
18. McCormack and Yarde Duo: Places and Other Spaces
This duet played a great gig at the CBSO Centre in October as support to Meadow. The music they played was enthralling enough for them to have been headliners in their own right. This is the second release from this sax and piano duo and it’s thoroughly enjoyable and will no doubt be listened to again and again in my house.
17. Keith Jarrett: Rio
I came to Keith Jarrett’s music only a few years ago but have come to love what he does. When Jazzwise announced the imminent release of this album and stated that it was possibly the best solo recording he’d ever done I was really excited. On listening to it I really enjoy it but I’m not sure I agree it’s his best. Maybe that’s because I keep returning to 2009’s recording “Testament” as I was in the audience for the London bit of that album. Despite this it’s still a wonderful album and well worth repeated listens.
16. Steve Coleman and the Five Elements: The Mancy of Sound
Steve Coleman has become a major influence on many current Jazz musicians. Pianist Vijay Iyer has said of him “ “To me, Steve [Coleman] is as important as [John] Coltrane. He has contributed an equal amount to the history of the music. He deserves to be placed in the pantheon of pioneering artists.”… ”It’s hard to overstate Steve’s influence. He’s affected more than one generation, as much as anyone since John Coltrane. It’s not just that you can connect the dots by playing seven or 11 beats. What sits behind his influence is this global perspective on music and life. He has a point of view of what he does and why he does it.”In the sleeve notes of this album Coleman describes the philosophical influences on this recording. Lunar phases play a role as do influences from the Yoruba speaking people of West Africa in the Odu Ifa suite. I’m not at all sure that I understand all this but I do really enjoy the music his band plays on this album. As with the release before this I particularly like the way Coleman uses the wonderful voice of singer Jen Shyu as an instrument that adds to the overall sound of the group.
15. Konitz, Mehldau, Haden, Motian. Live at Birdland. ECM
This is a live recording by three long standing jazz masters and a slightly younger, but no less influential, pianist. Apparently this set was completely unplanned without even a set list when the four musicians went on stage. They improvise versions of “Lullaby of Birdland”, “You stepped out of a dream” and “I fall in love too easily”, amongst others. Konitz’s age may restrict his playing a little bit but it’s still a fabulous recording.
14. Meadow. Blissful Ignorance. Edition.
This is a trio consisting of John Taylor on piano, Tore Brunborg on sax and Thomas Stronen on percussion. They played a really enjoyable gig at the CBSO Centre in October and this album is a great listen too. Apparently when the group was planning to go into the studio to record they envisaged having a bass player on the set. Events prevented the bassist from making the date so they had to record without one. Personally I really like the way the trio works and don’t miss the sound of a bass.
13. Kurt Elling: The Gate
Kurt Elling has been my favourite male jazz singer for some years now. This year’s release from him is produced by Don Was and features versions of a tune by King Crimson, one by Earth Wind and Fire and the Beatle’s Norwegian Wood. Elling, as he often does writes lyrics to go over other peoples tunes and here he does this with the Miles Davis tune Blue in Green. This isn’t my favourite Elling album but it’s still a great listen.
12. Jim Black/Trevor Dunne/Oscar Noriega/Chris Speed. Endangered Blood. PiD
Drummer Jim Black was seen in Birmingham playing in Uri Caine’s band at the Town Hall in February. Previous visits to Birmingham have seen him playing alongside Tim Berne. For many years he has also led bands of his own, Alasnoaxis being perhaps the best known of them. He’s become a very influential drummer and here features alongside long standing collaborator Chris Speed on tenor, Oscar Noriega on alto and Trevor Dunne on bass. Chris Speed wrote most of the material on this really enjoyable recording. The review of it on All About Jazz said: “Endangered Blood signals a sort of watershed in the evolution of creative music that was once called jazz. The dust has cleared, and what’s left is an idiosyncratic and very entertaining sound.” I don’t want to get into debates about what is and isn’t jazz. Suffice it to say that I really enjoy listening to this.
11. Chris Dingman. Waking Dreams. Between World’s Music.
Chris Dingman played vibes in the wonderful band that Steve Lehman brought to the CBSO Centre in January. This is his debut as a band leader and it not only features a great band with, amongst others, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, but also features great music. The review of this album on the Jazzreview.com website says: “He raises the bar on Waking Dreams. No doubt, it’s a lyrically resplendent masterpiece that resides in the upper echelon of modern-day jazz expositions.” This is definitely an album I’ll be playing repeatedly.