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We polled contributors Albert Brooks, J Hunter, Brian Patneaude, Randy Treece, Jeff Waggoner on their favorite jazz releases of 2005 ...


You endured all the accolades and suffered through the hype; bottom line, however, is it is that good! While Monk and Trane scintillate and shimmer throughout this performance, it is Shadow Wilson who is best illuminated and (deservedly) rehabilitated here.

2) DAVE DOUGLAS - Keystone (
I was not acquainted with Mr. Douglas' music prior to this disc (and a recent live performance of the music on the disc). If Keystone is representative of his compositional and instrumental output, however, this is a dynamo of creativity to whom I need to pay copious attention from here on. The music on this cd is so good and rich that repeated listenings bring newer and newer thrills. And, to make matters even better, included with the cd is a dvd of a Fatty Arbuckle "non-talkie" which serves as inspiration for the music.

3) DENA DEROSE - A Walk In The Park (Maxjazz)
Ms. DeRose is a consummate singer/accompaniest who puts her dual talents to tasteful effect on this cd. Martin Wind and Matt Wilson add a burnished, swinging patina to this near perfect blend of vocals and trio music.

4) RAVI COLTRANE - In Flux (Savoy)
Mr. Coltrane just flat out gets better and better every time I hear him. His music on this cd has a layered richness whose depth is revealed upon first listening but whose subtleties bear succulent fruit to the listener who returns for more.

5) (tie) JOE LOVANO - Joyous Encounter (Blue Note)
Joe Lovano! Not to mention Hank Jones(!), George Mraz and Paul Motian! Put it on and all becomes right with the world and with you. Pure aural transcendence and sublimity.

5) (tie) GREGG AUGUST - Late August
The young man from Schenectady, Gregg August, is worthy of this list as well. This cd of august compositions by the young bassist is worthy of great praise and much greater attention among the jazz constituency. While the songs stand on their own as fine additions to the jazz canon, Mr. August acquits himself well among a talented cohort including John Bailey, Myron Walden, Eric McPherson and others. Check it out.

CD & concert reviews

1) TERENCE BLANCHARD - Flow (Blue Note)
The best thing about having Herbie Hancock as your producer, Blanchard told his audience at The Egg, is “…Well, shit, he's Herbie Hancock.” Combine Hancock's ear with Blanchard's horn (energized by inventive writing from Aaron Parks and Lionel Loueke), and you get a beautifully logical extension of Bounce, Blanchard's previous disc. Here's hoping Blanchard stays away from soundtracks and keeps developing this beautiful sound.

2) CHARLES LLOYD - Jumping The Creek (ECM)
Perhaps in response to the loss of longtime collaborator Billy Higgins, Lloyd abandons the trad line he was pursuing in favor of a disc filled with free-jazz adventure. The 68-year old saxman doesn't just deconstruct Jacques Brel's “Ne Me Quitte Pas (If You Go Away)” - he demolishes the sucker and starts renovations from the ground up. Geri Allen gets a Best Support nod for piano work that anchors Lloyd's far-flung explorations.

3) DAVE DOUGLAS - Keystone (
The latest development in an exceptional musical growth curve. Kudos to Douglas and Greenleaf for the DVD that lets everyone see the synergy, as well as for putting together a music video that'll never be seen on MTV (though, in a perfect world, it would be in their Hot rotation). Memo to Stanley Crouch: While Keystone is up for the Best Jazz CD Grammy, Wynton Marsalis' two 2005 efforts got shut out. In the words of Jim Rome, “SCOREBOARD!”

4) BILL MAYS TRIO - Live at Jazz Standard (Palmetto)
Just a few guys sitting around playing standards, right? WRONG! Heaping helpings of love and energy combine with smart arrangements to lift this set far above the mundane. You need a robust lead player and a creative rhythm section for a successful trio recording. Mays' piano work is up there with the best players today, and drummer Matt Wilson and Martin Wind are equal partners in this wonderful return to basics.

5) WAYNE SHORTER QUARTET - Beyond the Sound Barrier (Verve)
This group's first studio effort was (for me, anyway) a little disappointing. Beyond the Sound Barrier, their second live disc, gets the train back on the track. Riding new material developed during the Footprints Live! tour, the unpredictable Shorter heads further into deep space, with his phenomenal supporting cast soaring right alongside. If the road is what makes this unit create at this level, I say keep 'em on the road!

DON BRADEN - The New Hang (High Note)
BILL FRISELL - East/West (Nonesuch)
BOBBY WATSON & HORIZON - Horizon Reassembled (Palmetto)


1) E.S.T. - Viaticum (ACT)
Esbjorn Svensson, Dan Berglund & Magnus Ostrom do it once again. Viaticum continues in the vein of the piano trio's previous releases, combining jazz and pop sensabilities like none other.

2) KNEEBODY - Break Me (Greenleaf Music)
The discovery of 2005 for me. This quintet creates a jazz fusion for the '00's. It's no wonder they were the first group signed to trumpeter Dave Douglas' new Greenleaf label.

No new release from Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko this year but his rhythm section put out an incredible record without him. Half group improvisations, half compositions from various sources, the trio play as one throughout.

Not as engaging as the other two trios on my list but fine music from the Norwegian pianist nonetheless.

5) CHRIS CHEEK - Blues Cruise (Fresh Sound New Talent)
A well balanced collection of originals and choice standards from the saxophonist with ample support by the Brad Mehldau Trio (pre-Jeff Ballard).


1) DAVE HOLLAND BIG BAND - Overtime (Dare2)
This Grammy nominated recording, in my humble view, may be the jazz album of the year. It is replete with truly original, interesting, and innovative compositions, hip polyrhythms, striking harmonies, and engaging solos and improvisation ready to captivate any audience.

2) WES MONTGOMERY - Smokin' At The Half Note (Verve)
I recognized that this was recorded in 1965 but this re-release deserves renewed acknowledgment as one of the classic jazz recordings of all times. For jazz guitarists of all stripes, the recording is the holy grail of guitar work by probably the most influential jazz guitarist of the later 20th century. Wes Montgomery, accompanied by the incomparable Wynton Kelly Trio, shares with us potent and uncompromising musicianship rarely heard but always revered. This recording may contain one of the greatest jazz guitar solos ever heard on Unit 7. A must have for any respectable jazz library.

This is another release that has captivated jazz listeners. This recording confirms why Monk and Coltrane are venerated as two of jazz's legendary artists, delivering all-star performances on Monk's classic songs. The recording is masterful and engaging and there are no weak links. This is another must have for anyone's jazz library.

4) MULGREW MILLER - Live At Yoshi's, Volume 2 (Maxjazz)
Live at Yoshi's, Vol. 1 and 2, were recorded at this venue during a series of concerts in 2003, and both are deserving of splendiferous praise. Vol. 2 was released this year. Miller is joined by Derrick Hodge and Karriem Riggins in rendering some of the best piano trio work of the year rivaling Keith Jarrett's outstanding live recording of 2004, Out of Towners. Vol. 2 is every bit as intelligent, melodic, creative, intimate and enjoyable as any trio recording that you will hear. Kudos to Mulgrew Miller.

5) AHMAD JAMAL - Ater Fajr (Dreyfus)
This recording is another testament to an artist who transcends the constrictors of time and is now the epitome of grace and aplomb. So too is his music. Joined by Idris Muhammad and James Commack, Jamal offers up a musical stew that is magical, charming, adventurous, and even has a few surprises. The triumvirate is joined on a couple of songs by vocalists who add some spice to the musical brew. Another enjoyable trio recording.

features & concert reviews

1) SONNY ROLLINS - Without a Song:  The 9/11 Concert (Milestone).  Sonny, now in his mid-70s, might be losing a step or two in the chops department, but his music only grows more soulful and meaningful, as this live concert, recorded only a few days after 9/11, clearly shows.

2) GREG OSBY - Channel Three (Blue Note Records).
Osby has to be on any jazz aficianado’s list of top improvisers in jazz, and he really tests himself in this trio setting with Matthew Brewer on bass and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.  Osby says he wants to affirm his “foothold in the realm of unpredictability.”  He does just that with this album.

3) DAVE LIEBMAN/ELLERY ESKELIN - Different But the Same (HatOLOGY)
Two great saxophonists, mentor and student, meet again on this trove of improvisational jazz.

4) JOHN SCOFIELD - That’s What I Say:  John Scofield Plays the Music of Ray Charles (Verve)
While no one can replace Ray Charles, Scofield – with the help of Dr. John and Mavis Staples -- accomplishes what a great re-interpreter should do – get the listener to hear with a different set of ears.

5) WILLIAM PARKER QUARTET - Sound Unity (Aum Fidelity)
This is a reprise of the famous “O’Neil’s Porch” free jazz quartet with Parker on bass, Hamid Drake on drums, Rob Brown on alto and Lewis Barnes on trumpet.  While officially considered “free jazz,” the rhythmic creativity of Parker and Drake and their  great groove throughout gives this album a funky feel.