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We polled contributors Albert Brooks, Rudy Lu, Jeff Nania, Brian Patneaude, Tom Pierce, Alex Slomka, and Randy Treece on their favorite jazz releases of 2013 ...

photography, concert reviews

1. Michele Rosewoman New Yor-Uba 30 Years
A gem, thirty years in the making! Utter perfection.

2. Melissa Aldana - Second Cycle
The newly crowned "King of the Tenor"! Second Cycle shows you why this young lady more than deserves the honor.

3. Cecile McLorin Salvant - Woman Child
Ms. Salvant will remind you of Bessie, Josephine and Billie, but is an entirely non-pareil wonder.

4. Kenny Garrett - Pushing the World Away
Beautifully lyrical and impassioned playing on a level that we've come to expect from KG.

5. Michael Dease - Coming Home
A young virtuouso, deserving of much wider attention as this cd proves!

Honorable Mention:
Bill Warfield - A Window that Shows Me the Moon
Linda Oh - Sun Pictures
Jonathan Finlayson - Moment & The Message
Steve Coleman -
Functional Arrhythmias

photography, concert reviews

In no particular order. As usual my eclectic tastes have allowed to sample a wide of variety of the improvisational music known as jazz:

Cecil McLorin Savant - Woman Child
Debut recording by the 23 year old winner of the Thelonius Monk Jazz Competition. All the critics are right, she is a important new voice in jazz. Pays tribute to the greats, Billy Holiday, Sarah Vaughan yet does not imitate them. Looking forward to Cecil's future recordings as she grows as an artist.

Rudresh Mahanthappa- Gamak
I had the pleasure of seeing this band @ Freihofer this summer. If you love virtuousity and the mixing of Indian music with your jazz. This is the disc.

Ettiene Charles -
Creole Soul
A rich stew of many styles of music. Traditional jazz, reggae,kongo ( A Haitian rhythmic music) and calypso. All tastefully done and mixed. Remember folks, the music does indeed change and is continuing to fuse with other cultures.

Michael Louis Smith Quartet - First Black Nation

Former Capital District native Michael Louis Smith composed this suite. It is a musical interpretation of the terrible 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Great interplay in this band including Diallo House on bass, Victor Gould piano and Stacy Dillard on saxophone Especially notable is the moving saxophone solo by young lion Stacey Dillard interpreting the cries of the victims in the rubble after the quake. Powerful music starting with the tropical joy of life on the island, the tragedy of the earthquake and its aftermath, ending with a musical expression of hope.

The Chronicles -
Spanning the Gap
(Disclaimer: I had the privilege of spending 3 evenings in the studio photographing the band recording the album. Some of the photographs appear on the inside of the gatefold of the vinyl edition.)

My choice for the local recording in my top 5 this year. A danceable, accessible mix of old school r&b, rap, gospel and of course jazz. This powerhouse band fronted by frontline Bryan Brundige and Jeff Nania draws an all ages crowd at their live shows and has the crowd dancing and on its feet in all its performances. The band is also interested in producing a quality product for its fans with quality printing and graphics for the vinyl album jacket. Soullive's Alan Evans produces the recording giving it its " I wanna get and dance sound". Note: this recording is only available via download or limited edition vinyl.

Honorable mention:

Giacomo Gates - Miles Tones
Giacomo Gates puts his vocalese stamp on the songbook of Miles Davis. Although this collection concentrates primarily on Miles' output during the fifties, it includes a vocalese interpretation of Miles' eighties comeback classic "Tutu". Great followup to 2011's, "The Revolution will be Jazz- The music of Gil Scott Heron". First Gil Scott Heron, then Miles, who's next?

concert reviews

Rudresh Mahanthappa – Gamak
This is a funky mix of modern Jazz, and traditional Indian sounds from Downbeat Magazine's 2012 alto saxophonist of the year, and former Guggenheim fellow.  Guitarist Dave Fiuczyncski provides the perfect foil to Mahanthappa's blazing sax lines with his twin neck guitar.  Sometimes the guitar is a heavy sweeping sound, and other times it has the particular twang of a sitar.  The solid upright bass, and drumset provide the grounded foundation that allow for a huge amount of electricity to pour forth from saxophone and guitar. 

Derrick Hodge – Live Today
The bassist from the Grammy Award Winning Robert Glasper Experiment made a strong showing with his first solo album on Blue Note Records.  Tunes like “Message Of Hope,” “ and “Gritty folk” start with only bass tracing a fragment of a complete idea as the whole picture comes into focus with each additional layer.  Hip hop, jazz, gospel, electronica, and found sounds all play a part in making this album truly great. 

Joe Lovano Us Five – Cross Culture
This dual-drummered quintet made an appearance at The Egg this past January.   Drummers Otis Brown III and Francisco Mela take turns at color and time while Esperanza Spalding (no introduction needed) anchors the center.  Originals like the wild rumpus of “Drum Chant” coexist among delicate classics like Billy Strayhorn's “Star Crossed Lovers.”

John Scofield – Uberjam Deux
John Scofield may just be the most versatile guitarist ever.  In the past year alone, he has done tour dates with everyone from Phil Lesh, Medeski Martin & Wood, and Lettuce to Bill Stewart, Steve Swallow, and McCoy Tyner.  His Uberjam band featuring Avi Bortnick, Andy Hess, Louis Cato, and Tony Mason has all the integrity that draws the “Jazz” audience, mixed with the funk, jam, and electronic sensibilities that draw an audience that tends to skew much younger.  Songs dedicated to Al Green, and Curtis Mayfield, bring us from the 1970's vibe to “Dub Dub” and “Cracked Ice” which are both very much of the moment.

Pedrito Martinez – The Pedrito Martinez Group
This group has held down a house gig at one of Manhattan's busiest Cuban restaurants, and released “Live At Guantanamera” in 2010.    This past year, their first studio album was produced with help from Steve Gadd.  Wynton Marsalis, John Scofield, Gadd, and other special guests help to make this album one of the most interesting of the year.  Lush vocal harmonies, stop on a dime rhythms and plenty of rumba, and guaguanco make this an album that you won't want to stop listening to.

Local Pick:
Michael Louis-Smith – First Black Nation
This album is Michael Louis-Smith's poetic reaction to the Haitian Earthquake.  It is a venerable suite that takes you through all facets of the disaster.  Starting with an ecstatic calypso entitled “In The Hot Sun” we can hear the entire process unfold.  Disaster, death, lament, and hope help this album come full circle as each instrumentalist displays their impressionistic sensibilities with each solo performance. 


1. Chris Potter - The Sirens
One of my favorite living saxophonists assembled a new quintet to interpret an album's worth of original compositions inspired by Homer's ancient Greek poem "The Odyssey." The group - featuring Craig Taborn on piano, David Virelles on prepared piano, celeste, & harmonium, Larry Grenadier on bass, Eric Harland on drums and Potter on tenor & soprano saxophones and bass clarinet - marks a return to an acoustic sound after several recordings by his electric group, Underground.

2. Bob Reynolds - Somewhere in Between
Heartfelt original compositions plus arrangements of songs by Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Bon Iver perormed by an top-notch ensemble that includes pianist Aaron Parks, bassist Janek Gwizdala, drummer Eric Harland and Reynold's occasional employer - pop superstar/guitarist John Mayer.

3. Kendrick Scott Oracle - Conviction
I had the pleasure of hearing much of this music live on two occassions. Once, several years ago, at the Jazz Standard in New York City and more recently, at the SFJazz Center in San Francisco. On both occassions, and on the record, Scott and his band - John Ellis (reeds), Mike Moreno (guitar), Taylor Eigsti (piano), Joe Sanders (bass) - create an intangilble vibe that translates into some of the most memorable music I've heard in recent years.

4. Terence Blanchard - Magnetic
Another album of music that I enjoyed initially - and even more so after hearing it performed live. Blanchard continues to produce captivating modern jazz with a group made up of musicians of a younger generation.

5. Matt Ullery's Loom - Wake An Echo
Thanks to Dave Douglas and his Greenleaf record label, this Chicago-based bassist/composer's music has found its way to audiences outside of the windy city. The quintet performs inspiring, cinematic soundscapes with a unique front line featuring trumpet and - bass clarinet!

Honorable Mention:
Jon Cowherd - Mercy
Ben Allison - The Stars Look Very Different Today
Gary Burton Guided Tour
Chick Corea - The Vigil
Bob James & David Sanborn - Quartette Humaine

CD & concert reviews

1. Jackie Ryan – Listen Here (Openart)
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all six of her CD’s over the past 12 years; but this may well be her most accomplished. She’s backed by a very strong band, led by producer/arranger bassist John Clayton. It includes his fast-rising son Gerald on keyboards, exciting trumpeter Gilbert Castellanos, powerful saxophonist Ricky Woodward and swinging guitarist Graham Dechter.  She brings the “whole package”, which includes her rapturous, soaring, contralto that extends over 3½ octaves, a warmly natural delivery, enormous emotional depth & understanding, and a lilting, rhythmic ease. The 14 songs cover a wide range of styles & moods; but are all passionately delivered.

2. Edward Simon Trio – Live at NY Jazz Standard (Sunnyside) 
I’ve been long charmed by the intriguing work of this relatively low-profile 40-something Venezuelan pianist. Whether with Terence Blanchard, with Bobby Watson’s Horizon band, the SF Jazz Collective, or his 3 CD’s of his own trio with the highly regarded John Pattitucci and Brian Blade, his compositions & playing are creative, thoughtful and infuse an exotic South American flavoring. In this 5-song live recording each member has an opportunity to stretch out, while still maintaining well-integrated support  & interaction with each other.  Simon’s & Pattitucci’s classical influences are in evidence; but in no way inhibit the fiery swinging, especially on their creatively different approach to John Coltrane’s classic “Giant Steps”.

3. Terri Lyne Carrington – Money Jungle: Provocative in Blue (Concord Jazz)
Drummer/leader Ms Carrington clearly found a lot of inspiration for this project, not only from the original 1962 historic, volatile recording by Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus & Max Roach, but also the significant events and clips of speeches chosen to be included by Dr Martin Luther King, Bill Clinton & Barack Obama, among others. This is essentially a trio recording, with pianist Gerald Clayton & bassist Christian McBride playing stimulating roles. Guests supplying  rewarding solo spots include Herbie Hancock, Trumpeter/vocalist Clark Terry, vocalist Lizz Wright, saxophonists Antonio Hart & Tia Fuller and trombonist Robin Eubanks. In addition to the songs from the original album, Ms Carrington who spent a great deal of time studying Duke Ellington, supplied several interesting originals.

4. Aaron Diehl – The Bespoke Man’s Narrative (Mack Avenue) 
Although I found the title and cover just a bit pretentious, the music of the quartet of Pianist Diehl, Vibraharpist, Warren Wolf,  bassist David Wong and drummer Rodney Green , while elegantly refined (somewhat like the Modern Jazz Quartet),  is solidly substantial and swinging – this is definitely NOT chamber music.  I was particularly taken with their version of Milt Jackson’s engagingly jaunty “The Cylinder”, one of my favorites by the MJQ. But, one would have to cite Duke Ellington as a greater influence. This enormously talented young (26) artist,  certainly demonstrates with both his 5 original compositions and arrangements of 5 older songs, he knows how to create varying moods, tempos & time signatures, as well as tailoring the music to effectively showcase  his outstanding group..

5. (tie) Warren Wolf – Wolfgang (Mack Avenue)
I admire the versatile and exuberant talents of 33 year old Baltimore Vibraharpist Warren Wolf. Prior to this CD, I was familiar with his warmly energetic, but melodically accessible approach after enjoying him live leading a fine young group in the gazebo at  Tanglewood, an later as a strong sideman at the Whisperdome in 2010 backing guitarist Mike Moreno. Among his qualities I found appealingly on display here in this essentially quartet settings (with either a trio of Benny Green, Christian McBride and Lewis Nash or another trio or duo featuring Aaron Diehl ) was his resonantly ringing timbre and the way he effectively showed the vibes and marimba to  be both percussively hard driving instruments, as well as a melodically beautiful ones. I’m sure legends like Milt Jackson, Bobby Hutcherson & Terry Gibbs would approve.

5. (tie) New York Voices – Live with the WDR Big Band
Jazz vocal groups rarely attract a lot of fame; but this one whose flexibility, inventiveness and swinging warmth are only currently matched by the stellar, older Manhattan Transfer, deserves whatever renown they garner. Kim Nazarian, Peter Eldridge, Lauren Kinhan and Darmon Meader have been together since meeting in 1987 at Ithaca College. This CD, their first completely live recording, celebrates their Silver Anniversary, powerfully backed by the WDR Big Band Cologne, Germany who have recorded with numerous world class artists from many countries and received multiple Grammy nominations and awards. I especially liked the driving “Love Me or Leave Me”, the moving “In the Wee Small Hours” and the haunting “Stolen Moments”.


1. PJ Rasmussen - Adventures in Flight (PJ Rasmussen/Third Freedom Music)
Adventures in Flight is a record with some really catchy, accessible tunes. I highly suggest people to check this one out. Guitarist PJ Rasmussen is the composer of the entire (debut) album. Each song transports me to a different moment in time. At Long Last takes me back to when I first heard Pat Metheny's album Letter From Home. And Baden Hill could have been the theme song for Hey Arnold! (an old favorite cartoon of mine). All of the songs at one point got caught in my head, and I listened to it A LOT. Steve Johns on Chris Pattishall on drums and piano. Also appearing on the album is Albany jazz cat and granola mogul, Nate Giroux on tenor sax which proves I'm right about 2 things. 1) We have great musicians in our own back yard; and 2) You should check this album out.

2. Eldar Djangirov Trio - Breakthrough(Motéma Music LLC)
This record blew me away. Eldar Djangirov is a young virtuoso with an amazing technical facility and a knack for melody. This album is a great mixture of his compositions and some fantastic standards. Eldar's approach to standards like 'Somebody Loves Me' and 'No Moon At All', demonstrates his fantastic ability to play in different styles. As I was listening to it, I could clearly hear him shift from a pseudo Oscar Peterson style of playing to a more contemporary style; and then even throwing in classical style improvisation. Eldar's compositions are all unique and really allow him to flaunt his technical skill. Point of View Redux is perhaps the most mind blowing. Whatever piano was being played had hell unleashed on it. Other compositions include 'Hope', a pretty song that is much less intense than the previous. Chris Potter and Joe Locke also make guest appearances on two of Eldar's compositions.

3. San Francisco Jazz Collective - Live at SFJAZZ Center 2013: The Music of Chick Corea & New Compositions (SFJAZZ)
Somewhat expected, the SFJazz Collective released their latest album with arrangements of Chick Coreas music. Since their last album, the group had gone through some line-up changes much like the average sports team, but this years album wasn't effected because of it. Recorded live, these arrangements and compositions give the listener something new to listen to each time you revisit it. Stefon Harris' arrangement of 500 Miles High is by far my favorite of the collection. The tune begins with both Miguel Sanchez (as) and David Sánchez (ts) playing the melody a cappella before the rest of the band joins the groove. The written horn section lines are all so intricate and gel with one another like trapeze artists. Miguel Zenon's offering this year was a piece he was commissioned to write for the new SFJAZZ performing arts building in California. The liner notes explain that he used the schematics and blue prints as inspiration for his composition. I try to take that to heart every time I hear the song. It is quite the piece of art.

4. Alan Ferber - March Sublime (Sunnyside Records)
I had the pleasure of seeing Alan Ferber play with Keith Pray's Big Soul Ensemble the past year. The band played a bunch of his arrangements which is what I like most about Alan Ferber. A lot of the albums of his I've heard have a distinctive sound to them. Not to say that they are all alike, they display a distinctive jazz vocabulary. March Sublime is similar too. This album features a big band playing a lot of Ferber's arrangements and compositions. A lot of the tunes on the album are thought provoking and have many intricate sections that make some of them feel like sophisticated puzzles. Something that is a little out of the ordinary is Alan's arrangement of 'Hyper-Ballad', a song written by popular singer songwriter Björk. This tune takes on a bolero/latin jazz feel which is quite different than the original electronica-like song.

5. Endangered Blood - Work Your Magic (Skirl Records)
If you don't know about this group yet, please be enlightened. This group was originally put together to raise money for a fellow jazz musician who was sick with cancer. Their first album came out in 2011, and was very cool. I'm glad they decided to get together to do it again. This new album is in a similar vein that the original Endangered Blood album is in. I like to call it Garage Band Grunge Jazz. Jim Black's unique drum style definitely gives this album the necessary drive and that garage band like sound. Chris Speed and Oscar Noriega on saxophones, and Trevor Dunn on bass. This band has a very dark sound in general, at the same time this has a very fresh and modern sound.

features, concert reviews

1. Preservation Hall Jazz Band - That's It (SONY/Legacy)
Initially, I had succumbed to musical profiling, unfairly discounting what I
was about to hear. Surprisingly, this album was the most musical fun I have heard in years. Once again I had to learn from that old adage, "you should not judge a book by its cover." Original tunes of all stripes; great
innovation; and did I say a load of fun. The Album of the year.

2. Cecile McLorin Salvant - Woman Child (Mack Avenue Record)
The newest and hottest vocalist on the planet. She exhales elegance, power, intelligence, and fiery into musical gems from the end of the 19th and early 20th centuries. Her interpretations of these treasured, albeit unknown, songs are independent, iconic, and lyrical. I can’t wait to hear her next release.

3. Bobby Matos Afro Latin Jazz - Mambo Jazz Dance (Life Force Jazz)
The Latin Jazz Album of the Year. Notwithstanding its Latin bona fides,
this is a remarkable jazz album chock full of hidden delights. Matos's
musical aggregation is some of the best in New York and they deliver
marvelous and mirthful songs.

4. The New Gary Burton Quartet - Guided Tour(Mack Avenue
Record)Jazz's perennial musical hero, Gary Burton, now in a quartet format, issues a resounding and, yes, another perennial musical wonder. Rounding out the quartet are Julian Lage, guitar, Antonio Sanchez, drums, and Scott Colley, bass. The original compositions are smart, cogent, and joyous. And it was a luxury to witness the Quartet play its stunning music at Massry Hall, St. Rose. A double treat.

5. Next Collective - Cover Art (Concord Records)
Seven young musicians, mostly from New York who have developed their
individual reputations, deliver a cornucopia of delicious and memorable
songs. Some of these musicians may be familiar with you: Logan Richardson: alto saxophone, flute; Walter Smith III: bass clarinet, tenor saxophone; Matthew Stevens: guitar; Gerald Clayton: piano, Fender Rhodes; Kris Bowers: Fender Rhodes; Ben Williams: bass; Jamire Williams: drums; Christian Scott: trumpet. Although they have their own groups, based upon this production, I hope they do not abandon this collaboration and decide to tantalize us with another.

Song/Solo of the Year:
"Congadanza" by Chucho Valdes from the album Border-Free
Within this song, this master pianist plays several riveting piano runs that I have yet to hear another pianist attempt. I would like to witness how he is capable of performing these riffs, riffs so intoxicating that they tempt me to madness. Wow.