Monday, August 06, 2012

Perfect Sounds' Jazz faves of 2012, so far.

We've crossed the half way line to 2013 a while ago, but seeing as I'm midway through my summer vacation and only now have found the time to sit down at my laptop, this may be as a good a time as any to look back at some the jazz related releases I've enjoyed the most in 2012, so far. In roughly descending order:

  • Steve Lehman Trio: Dialect Flourescent (Pi Recordings) - Jagged and complex yet catchy, bouncy and propulsive, Lehman and his cohorts -- the impressive Matt Brewer on bass and hard hitting Damion Reid on drums -- look to some of their outward-seeking post-bop heroes for inspiration and fuses that legacy with Lehman's own brand of knotty avant-jazz, resulting in one of the most intriguing, exciting releases of the year, and one of the strongest in the ever impressive Pi catalog.
  • Vijay Iyer Trio: Accelerando (ACT) - Aided by his long-standing compatriots Stephan Crump and Marcus Gilmore, Vijay Iyer serves up some rhythmically astute and melodically solid originals mixed with carefully picked covers, the pick of the latter being Henry Threadgill's "Little Pocket Devils", a tune by a man who knows how to fuse funky rhythms with tricky improvisation to great effect. Exactly the type of music Iyer is aiming for, and hitting, here.
  • Mike Reed People, Places & Things: Clean on the Corner (482 Music) - Mike Reed's efforts to unearth Chicago's great hard-bop and avant-garde legacy through both doing covers and writing original material with that tradition in mind, continues on Clean on the Corner, which in turn may be his best effort yet. Saxmen Tim Haldeman and Gerg Ward both battling and joining forces up front, while Reed and bassist Jason Roebke push from the back. The result is that the fast ones are boisterous and exciting, the slow ones bluesy and, dare I say, lovely. Guest appearances by Craig Taborn and Josh Berman.
  • Charles Gayle Trio: Streets (Northern Spy) - Named after Gayle's alter ego, Streets the Clown, this latest effort sees him return to the sax, bass and drum format that helped make his name. Although Streets further proves Gayle's penchant for fiery music, it contains less of the rushing, headlong power of yesteryear. That's not necessarily a bad thing, because instead we get Monk-like rhythmic and melodic patterns, exemplified by bassists Larry Roland's percussive stop-start plucking and Michael TA Thompons jittery drumming. Streets proves the old man can still blow a horn, but also that there's place for a bit of humor in his version of fire music. (Longer post on this album can be accessed here.)
  • Devin Gray, Dave Ballou, Ellery Eskelin & Michael Formanek: Dirigo Rataplan (Skirl) - This band, with Devin Gray as it's leader, has been playing together for a few years already, and the opening track, "Quadraphonically", can be seen and heard in a live recording dating back to 2010 on YouTube. Not that the music here seems planned out: the playful improvisation and skittish rhythms come at you like spontaneous and excitable burst of sound, intricate yet it never feels hectic nor crowded.
  • Mary Halvorson Quintet: Bending Bridges (Firehouse 12)
  • Fly: Year of the Snake (ECM)
  • Darius jones Quartet: Book of MæBul (Another Kind of Sunrise) (AUM Fidelity) (Notes on this album has been posted previously here.)
  • Henry Threadgill Zooid: Tomorrow Sunny/The Revelry, Spp (Pi Recordings)
  • The Thing with Barry Guy: Metal! (NoBussiness)
There have also been interesting music by Elliott Sharp (Aggregat, Clean Feed), Wadada Leo Smith (Ten Freedom Summers, Cuniform), and Branford Marsalis Quartet (Four MFs Playin' Tunes, Marsalis Music), to name three. The second half of 2012 looks very promising too, with releases by William Parker's Essence of Ellington project and Grass Roots, a new band with Darius Jones, Alex Harding, Sean Conly and Chad Taylor, among the most mouth watering ones.

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