Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Everybody else is doing it... Jazz faves of 2010

I've been reluctant to post this now, as I often am, since I still feel there are a few more records to cover. This year, more than the previous five or so years, I've also not been able to hear a handful of well received albums that I suspect might have had an impact on the list.

In a few cases, such as William Hooker's Earth's Orbit (NoBussiness) - which also has contributions from Adam Lane and Darius Jones, who ended up topping this year's and last year's lists respectively - the albums have been exclusively available as vinyl only imports. The same goes for Jason Ajemian's Protest Heaven (482 Music), much praised by Stef Gijssels. I'm very much pro-vinyl, but it makes it difficult for jazz writers like me to get a listen (copies have been ordered, but will probably not arrive until well into the new year). Another one I am yet to hear is Billy Bang's Prayer For Peace, which Tom Hull has as his number one pick. I've not been able to find it on eMusic, which I rely on for a good percentage of new jazz, nor on iTunes or any of the streaming sites available to me. I am currently not on TUM's mailing list, either, so ... (EDIT April, 2011: Got the Bang record just after his passing. It would certainly make a push for a top 5 spot. Still, I'll let the list below stand as published).

I have, 'though, been spinning a few of records that have popped up on various year-end lists here and there, such as Jason Moran's Ten (Blue Note), but none of them have impressed me in any particular way. The Moran record seems to be a hot tip for consensus jazz album of the year, but apart from a promising first few tracks, to me the bop-derived albeit modern sounding music on the album seems too safe, and Moran over plays at times, especially on the (failed, in my ears) Monk cover "Crepuscule With Nelly". For Monk interpretations, I have more faith in the more humor friendly and angular approach of The Microscopis Septet, whose new record of Monk tunes, Friday the 13th (Cuniform), is another one I'm yet to hear.

Anyway, complaining about the records I haven't gotten around to is useless, so here is a list of the jazz records I have been able to hear, "won", as it were, by a record of vibrant post-Mingus jazz (even Ellingtonian at times) filtered through Loft Jazz and informed by avant-rock, full of both powerful and beautiful music: Adam Lane's Full Throttle Orchestra's Ashcan Rantings.
  1. Adam Lane: Ashcan Rantings (Clean Feed)
  2. The Mark Lomax Trio: The State of Black America (Inarhyme Records)
  3. Mostly Other People Do the Killing: Forty Fort (Hot Cup)
  4. Dual Identity (Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman): Dual Identity (Clean Feed)
  5. Angles: Epileptical West - Live in Coimbra (Clean Feed)
  6. Wadada Leo Smith & Ed Blackwell: The Blue Mountain (Kabell, rec. 1986)
  7. David S. Ware: Onecept (Aum Fidelity)
  8. Mike Reed's Loose Assembly: Empathetic Parts (482)
  9. The Nels Cline Singers: Initiate (Cryptogramophone)
  10. Henry Threadgill's Zooid: This Brings Us To, vol. 2 (Pi Recordings)
Ten more:
  • Mary Halvorson Trio & Quintet: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
  • Mike Reed's People, Places & Things: Stories and Negotiations (482)
  • Vandermark 5 Special Edition: The Horse Jumps & The Ship Is Gone (Not Two)
  • Jon Irabagon: Foxy (Hot Cup!)
  • Steve Swell Slammin' the Infinite: 5000 Poems (Not Two)
  • Henry Grimes & Rashied Ali: Spirits Aloft (Porter)
  • Zanussi Five: Ghost Dance (Moseróbie)
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa & Bunky Green: Apex (Pi Recordings)
  • Juxtaposed: Tsar Bomba (Bolage)
  • Tarbaby: The End Of Fear (Posi-Tone Records)
Edit (Dec. 29th, 20109:

I did not add a list of reissues when I wrote this, and as I don't have a reasonably good overview in front of me as I write this addition, I won' t attempt to make one ('though, I know Air's Air Raid and Marion Brown's Why Not? is on the list on the 2010 section of the blog). Still, I'd be surprised if any reissue could topple the Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill & Air box set released by Mosaic. Threadgill was, and still is, one of the most exciting and original jazz composers of the past 35 or so years -- not to mention a terrific sax player -- and both his Sextet(t) and not least Air with Fred Hopkins and Steve McCall were among the best and most exciting groups during that same time frame. Add to that statement the fact that I regard both Air's Air Lore and the Sextet recording Rag, Bush and All, both included in the set, as solid 10s (or A+, if you are so inclined), and that all of the other albums on here are interesting and exciting, and most of them highly engaging and original to boot, both in terms of composition and execution, my reasons for naming it my fave reissue of 2010 should be clear. If there is one draw back to the set, it would be the the orignal albums are spilt between discs, meaning one half of a record may appear on one disc, the other half on another, with the first few tracks of a second album following. Since I own the ones I truly treassure on original vinyls and/or CDs, this is not a big issue with me. But other listeners may want to program their CD players (or import the discs to iTunes or similar and spilt them into their respective albums there) to get the record by record listening experience.

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