I've put off posting my 2009 jazz list for long enough. Pazz & Jop came up the other week, and most other lists were done even before then. I had a plan to revisit records that placed high on some of those lists, and got through a few. For the most part, I stand by my initial opinions, which I dare say I nearly allways do. A few I didn't get too, others have been slightly upgraded or down graded, albeit not by much. I also thought about writing a few words about every album here, but in the end figured there's really no need (only a few of the lists at Jazz House have comments, so I guess I'm home free). Anyway, here goes:
A few months back, 2009 looked like it was going to be a good year for larger ensembles, with interesting records by the Steve Lehman Octet and Darcy James Argue's Secret Society, and later on records by Wadada Leo Smith and Graham Collier, among others. Then a flurry of sax/bass/drum-trio records tickled my fancy, notably Fully Celebrated, J.D. Allen Trio, Marcus Strickland and later on FLY. Add to those the less traditional trio set-ups of Darius Jones Trio and Digital Primitives, as well as the Matthew Shipp, Vijay Iyer and Tyshawn Sorey records, and jazz trios certainly made their mark on Perfect Sounds in 2009. A very welcomed and strong comeback by Henry Threadgill and his Zooid and a new incarnation of David S. Ware's Quartet (guitar replacing piano) saw old(-er) masters plow new ground.
My favorite jazz (and overall) record of 2009 is Darius Jones Trio's Man'ish Boy (a Raw & Beautiful Thing), with Darius Jones on alto saxophone, Cooper-Moore on the bass-like diddley-bo and piano, and Rakalam Bob Moses on drums. Raw and beautiful are certainly fitting words to describe the music on Man'ish Boy. The melodies are often rough-hewn and blues-like, and Darius Jones' ability to switch from teeth grinding grit, as on the epic 'Trane-crashes-into-Ayler "Chasing the Ghost", to the subtle and almost carfully quiet, as on the painfully lovely "Forgive Me", makes him a stand out saxophonist in today's jazz.
That said, Cooper-Moore is all over Man'Ish Boy. He is no stranger to the raw and beautiful himself. Often playing, as he does on several tracks here, the diddley-bo (or bow, if you will), an ancient instrument that functions more or less as a bass. It sounds at times like a slapped upright, at other times like a talking drum. His piano playing is assured and can sound jagged, almost Monk-like at times. Especially note the rough blues walk on the noir-like "Cry Out". His lovely Satie-like playing on "Forgive Me" demonstrates his range as a pianist as well.
Listening to Man'ish Boy from start to finish can give the impression of a journey of some kind: the get-up call of "Roosevelt", the confident and playful stride of "Cry Out", the harrowing ride of "Chasing the Train", and the thoughtful and beautiful "Forgive Me" at the end (that is, barring the bonus cut "Chaych" with the equally talented bassist/composer Adam Lane, as well as Jason Nazary on drums). Man'Ish Boy is a great album and well deserving of my top spot.
Now, for the list:
1. Darius Jones Trio: Man'ish Boy (A Raw & Beautiful Thing) (AUM Fidelity)
2. The Fully Celebrated: Drunk On the Blood Of the Holy Ones (AUM Fidelity)
3. David S. Ware: Shakti (AUM Fidelity)
4. Digital Primitives: Hum Crackle & Pop (Hopscotch)
5. Henry Threadgill Zooid: This Brings Us To, Vol.1 (Pi Recordings)
6. Matthew Shipp: Harmonic Disorder (Thirsty Ear)
7. Vijay Iyer Trio: Historicity (ACT)
8. Tyshawn Sorey: Koan (482 Music)
9. Abdullah Ibrahim: Senzo (Sunnyside)
10. Brötzmann / Kondo / Pupillo / Nilssen-Love: Hairy Bones (Okka Disk)
11. Wadada Leo Smith: Spiritual Dimensions (Cuneiform)
12. J.D. Allen Trio: Shine! (Sunnyside)
13. Mike Reed's People Places & Things: About Us (482 Music)
14. Steve Lehman Octet: Travail Transformation & Flow (Pi Recordings)
15. Marcus Strickland: Idiosyncrasies (Strick Muzik)
16. John Zorn: Alhambra Love Songs (Tzadik)
17. Allen Toussaint: The Bright Mississippi (Nonsuch)
18. Graham Collier: Directing 14 Jackson Pollocks (Jazz Continuum)
19. Darren Johnston: The Edge of the Forrest (Clean Feed)
20. Fly: Sky & Country (ECM)
21. Tresspass Trio: Was There to Illuminate the Night Sky (Clean Feed)
22. Bill Dixon: Tapestries for Small Orchestra (Firehouse 12)
23. Quartet Offensive: Carnivore (Self released)
24. Ben Allison: Think Free (Palmetto)
25. Linda Oh Trio: Entry (Linda Oh)
Others of note: Darcy James Argue Secret Society: Infernal Machine (New Amsterdam), Gerald Cleaver, William Parker, Craig Taborn: Farmers by Nature (AUM Fidelity), Profound Sound Trio: Opus de Life (Porter), Circulasione Totale Orchestra: Bandwidth (Rune Grammofon), IPA: Lorena (Bolage), John Hollenbeck: Eternal Interlude (Sunny Side Records)