Sunday, December 29, 2013

A Pianist You Should Hear: Marialy Pacheco

I should have included Marialy Pacheo's "Tokyo Call" (T Toc Records 2013) in my list of the top CDs for 2013. She is that good and I simply overlooked the CD. It's available on ITunes for download -- I have not seen it as a CD anywhere.  

Marialy Pacheco is a thirty year old Cuban pianist, born in Havana in 1983, who mostly works in Europe. Right now I am currently listening to one of her earliest CDs, "Mi Azul" (Weltwunder 2006) a solo outing that encompasses a lot of what one hears in all five of her recordings -- passion, touch and dynamic control, and a blending of her Cuban roots, jazz and classical music. Her songs are beautiful stories which unwind with lovely and mostly gentle melodies and harmonies. One this CD she wrote three of the songs and otherwise reached into the folk songs of Cuba as well as to the works of several Cuban writers. The music is quietly Cuban which can be felt in the left hand rhythms on many songs, but overall the songs are blended from her influences and are all wonderfully rhapsodic and clearly from the heart.  

Pacheco comes from a musical family and began studying piano at the Conservatory in Havana at a young age, followed by training at the Escuela Nacional de Artes and then the Instituto Superior de Artes. She won the Cuban competition Jo-Jazz in 2002, with Chucho Valdes presiding over the jury. She moved to Germany in the mid 2000s and then Brisbane and has built her reputation with solo and trio recordings. In 2012 she won her biggest prize, the Montreux Solo Piano Competition, the first woman to win this prize. The jury was headed by Leszek Mozdzer, a major piano recording artist on the ACT label.
Her other recordings include her first, the piano trio "Bendiciones" (Weltwunder 2005), a solo recording "Songs That I Love" (2011), a trio for "Spaces Within" (Pinnacle Music 2012), and a solo outing "Tokyo Call" (T-Toc Records 2013); and she is scheduled to release a new trio recording in 2014. I recommend each -- her play is exquisite, her ideas creative, and each song is infused with feelings from deep within her heart. While some are mostly her own compositions or those of her native Cuba, several have standards that are equally compelling -- "Caravan", Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" on "Tokyo Call", or "The Way You Look Tonight" and "The Song is You" on "Songs That I Love". A wonderful pianist I hope you will check out. 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Coming Soon

I've done some combing of upcoming recordings in the New Year, and thought I'd list a few for folks to watch for that should be exciting:

  • Frank Wess, Magic 201 (IPO Recordings): Sadly Wess passed away in December, but has left us one last CD, a follow up to the terrific "Magic 101" from 2013. 
  • George Cables, "Icons and Influences" (High Note): I believe it will be a trio with Dezron Douglas and Victor Lewis, and if it's Cables you know it will be a great piece of mainstream music. 
  • Helen Sung, "Anthem for a New Day" (Concord): A new label for Sung, who is a marvelous pianist. This is said to be a sextet, and will have features for Regina Carter on violin and Paquito D'Rivera on clarinet. 
  • Kris Bowers, "Heroes and Misfits" (Concord): I've mentioned the Monk Piano Competition before. He is fabulous, creative, and up and coming, maybe even here. 
  • Edward Simon, "Venezuelan Suite" (Sunnyside): Another fabulous pianist with a new one. I have no information. 
  • Omar Sosa, "Senses" (Ota): On his own label, latin pianist Sosa will be going solo this time around. 
  • Cory Weeds, "Let's Go" (Cellar Live): Weeds on sax with his quintet, and with guest Steve Davis on trombone. Has to be a great straight forward blow.
  • Jeremy Pelt, "Face Forward Jeremy" (High Note): Pelt has turned out great music regularly in January for a while now so expect another one. 
  • Tord Gustavsen, "Extended Circle" (ECM): No further information. 
  • Arild Andersen, "Mira" (ECM): With Paolo Vinaccia and Tommy Smith on drums and tenor sax respectively. It says it will be soulful ballads and mid-tempo free-floating sound explorations.
  • Norma Winstone, "Dance without Answer" (ECM): I did a long post on Winstone last year. She is a vocalist with a long record of outstanding albums who covers everyting from the standards songbook to modern pop and folk and modern originals. A classic voice, a classic interpreter. 
  • Jimmy Heath Big Band, "Togetherness: Live at the Blue Note" (JLP): His previous big band records smoked and this one will too I bet. 

That's just for starters, I am sure there will be much much more, including a slew of new things from overseas that  I have not listed.

If I am not back before the holidays to post, have a wonderful and joyous time. And always enjoy the music.


Two For Fourteen

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Got two new CDs today that will  be releases for 2014 that I like quite a lot. One is Pete Mills , "Sweet Shadow" (Cellar Live 2014), a quintet outing that packs a nice punch. Mills plays tenor sax and has rounded up a nice group: Pete McCann on guitars, Martin Wind on bass, Matt Wilson on drums, all of whom I know, and a newcomer who is a standout on piano, Erik Augis. Together they create a feeling of old time hard bop/post bop as they spin through twelve songs, most by Mills, who writes in a classic style reminiscent of classic Blue Note sessions of the 50s and early 60s. Plus there are two short duos of free ranging music with Mills on tenor and Wilson on the drum set. A lot to like, including special arrangements for two classics,  "Serenade to a Cuckoo" and "Diamonds are a Girls Best Friend."  I think lovers of the mainstream will find a lot to like here.

A note to listeners --- The Cellar Live label will continue, but the Cellar Night Club will be closing. Hopefully we will continue to get great music from Cory Weeds, both as producer and as a musician, as this new CD is only one of many great recordings that I have from the label. Good luck to Mr. Weeds on his endeavors.

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The same Matt Wilson is back on the second recording, which is the Matt Wilson Quartet, "Gathering Call" (Palmetto 2014) -- with Jeff Lederer on winds, Kirk Knuffke on cornet, Chris Lightcap on bass and Wilson on drums -- and a special guest, John Medeski, on piano. Wilson has a flair for creating a special sound full of energy and creativity, last year with his Arts and Crafts Band and now with this quartet and Medeski. This is a hard grooving delight full of nice tunes, sharp cuts and turns, and virtuosity in each seat. The songs are a mix of straight ahead hard play ("How Ya Going"), atmospheric lyricism ("Dancing Waters"), and fascinating covers of Ellington, Charlie Rouse, and even Beyonce ("If I Were a Boy"). Matt Wilson clearly thinks of music as fun, and audiences as his muse. He creates for his listeners enjoyment and his infectious spirit pervades the music.

So we are off and running into the New Year with a bang.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Favorite 25 New CDs (non-vocal) of 2013

This listing is in order from number 25 to number 1.

Before I start, a comment.. It was noticeable yesterday that when NPR printed its Critics Poll results, based on 137 submissions that were tabulated by Tom Hull, that the most votes any single CD got (each ballot listed a top ten) were the 46 received by "Without a Net" by Wayne Shorter. In other words, even the top pick was left of 91 ballots. By numbers 9 and 10 of the poll, those CDs received just 14 votes, meaning that 123 others did not list them in the top ten. Four hundred and ninety CDs in all were listed at least once in somebody's top ten.

What's it mean? Well first, of course a top ten for anyone is a wholly subjective task based on what each listener likes, heard, etc. Second, the presence of smaller European labels is not strong so there is a strong (and not unexpected) bias towards releases that are easy to come by stateside. So yes there are a plethora of ECM recordings, along with ACT, Pirouet, Steeplechase, CamJazz, et al, but not nearly as many on labels like Edition, Hubro, Basho, In and Out etc.that produce a number of exciting CDs each year. Third, and most importantly, it means that there is an amazing amount of good music being produced each year, and this year especially I have seen a lot written that this was a particularly strong one. Readers should look at the results, nicely packaged with links at.

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25. Kit Downes, "Light From Old Stars" (Basho 2013): Starting off already with a small but exciting label from England. Intricate modern jazz with overtones of the blues at times. A contemporary quintet with special sounds from Downes on piano, James Allsopp on tenor sax (and a bit of flute) and James Maddren on percussion. Beautiful music at times haunting, at others driving, but always exciting post modern creativity shines through.

Myra Melford: Life Carries Me This Way
24. Myra Melford, "Life Carries Me This Way" (Firehouse 12 2013): Eleven small pieces on solo piano by modernist Melford. Creativity abounds on her first solo CD, full of expressive play, a strong left hand, varied rhythms, and shimmering melodies.  

Product Details23. Charles Lloyd and Jason Moran, Hagar's Song (ECM 2013): The two share sensibilities and a symbiotic relationship as they weave in and out with each other on a series of tunes including standards like "Mood Indigo" and "You've Changed." Clear, pure tenor sax play and intricate and inspirational play by Moran add to a first rate CD. 
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Product Details22. Mats Eilertsen Trio, "Sails Set" (Hubro 2013): A modern jazz trio from Scandanavia, this is their fourth outing on Hubro and once again it is full of interesting songs, sounds, and rhythms. Often quiet and contemplative using space as an instrument. Never rushed. One of many new European piano trios blending modernism, romance, and folk music into new creaetions. A group that continues to impress with its creativity rooted in the romanticism of Bobo Stenson, Ketil Bjornstad and others. 

Product Details21 Gary Peacock and Marilyn Crispell, "Azure" (ECM 2013): Piano and bass, music that is glorious to listen to in the best ECM tradition. Warm lovely songs, lush and inviting music. Evocative songs that stir the soul. I have no other words left to describe its beauty.

20. Ben Wendel and Dan Tepfer, "Small Constructions" (Sunnyside 2013): Good things in small packages, in this case twelve small pieces for the duo of Wendel on wind instruments and Tepfer on keyboards, except on "Oblique Strategy",the last piece, where they exchange instruments. It a love song to jazz, classical, and pop music. It has lovely renditions of "Pannonica", "Darn that Dream" and Handel's "Variation 1 in D Minor." among other songs. It has soul, emotion, and texture. It's beautiful. Simple but elegant. 
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19. Ahmad Jamal, "Saturday Morning" (Jazz Village 2013): Speaking of simple, no one does it better in a trio than Jamal. Can he really be getting better in his 80s? A CD of standards, new compositions and reworked older material, it reminds one of the classic 50s era for Jamal, but with a bit more bravura mixed in. Wonderous dexterity an passion in has fingers pours out into the music. 

Product Details18. Julia Hulsmann Quartet, "In Full View" (ECM 2013): Hulsmann goes beyond her previous, wonderful piano trios by adding Tom Arthurs on trumpet and flugelhorn. The expanded palette and textures he provides raises this work to new highs for Hulsmann, who has chosen beautiful, flowing melodies that complement the four players. Exquisite. 

Product Details17. Randy Weston and Billy Harper, "The Roots of the Blues" (Sunnyside 2013): Piano and tenor sax duo playing strong compositions by Weston rooted in the rhythms of Africa that underlie jazz along with a small selection of standards like "Body and Soul", "Take the A Train" and "How High The Moon." Nice sound and balance throughout by the two players enhances the joyous feel of the thirteen pieces. 

Product Details16. Kris Davis, "Massive Threads" (Thirsty Ear 2013): Kris Davis had a few nice recordings this past year but it is this set of 8 solos that I enjoyed the most. Some prepared piano, some angularity and dissonance, but also some simple charm. The first song immediately sets the stage with over a minute and a half of a repeated phrase played with only very subtle changes, and on a damped set of strings to boot. It's abstract modernism stripped to the essentials of sound and rhythm that explores the capabilities of the piano through the hands of a modern piano master. But then listen to the title song -- it is hypnotic, alive, and fresh. I call it fascinating and love to hear what can be done on a piano, my family calls it noise. For lovers of the avant garde. 

Product Details15. Vadim Neselovskyi, "Music for September" (Sunnyside 2013): And now at the other extreme, a lush and lyrical debut CD by this protege of Gary Burton. Neselovskyi is on solo piano playing his own compositions, some standards, and some classical pieces, demonstrating both his range and his compositional and arranging sensibilities that allow him to incorporate all of these materials into his own special sound. And this is special, something that everyone should go out and purchase and listen to. Wow! 

Product Details14. Andrea Pozza, "A Jellyfish from the Bosphorus" (Abeat 2013): Another of the European labels that are hard to find, Abeat has produced a gem by a well-known and highly regarded pianist from Italy in a piano trio setting. God Bless the Italians and their love of melody, romance, and fine atmosphere, which are all encompassed in this outing of nine pieces, highlighted for me by the title piece, a composition -- one of five -- by Pozza. It speaks to the emotions, to love, and to beauty through his nimble touch and the support of he band. He also does wonders for "Where or When", and "In A Sentimental Mood", and provides a bouncy reharmonized "Get Happy." Its my fifth CD of Pozza's and it's first rate. 

Product Details13. Etienne Charles, "Creole Soul" (Culture Shock 2013): Charles is a professor of jazz at Michigan State University and a young player of incredible skills on the trumpet and flugelhorn. I've seen him play trumpet as well as on percussion, which he demonstrates here on one piece, and it's pretty awesome. Lucky kids at MSU. Here he works with a sextet, occasional augmented by added percussion, guitar and some voice, highlighted by Ben Williams on bass, Jacques Schwartz-Bart on tenor sax (a player who should be much more known in the U.S.), and Kris Bowers on keyboards, and he delivers an upbeat, Creole/Latin inflected set of eleven pieces with some reggae, calypso and other beats. It's a tribute to Charles' roots and a joy for the listener.  
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12. Giovanni Guidi, "City of Broken Dreams" (ECM 2013): Gorgeous piano trio music that I fell in love with almost instantly and wrote glowingly about back in May. It's his first on ECM but not his first by a long shot, and he has often demonstrated his ear for harmony and lyricism. It's another special piano trio from Italy. 

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11. Joshua Redman, "Walking Shadows" (Nonesuch 2013): Redman on sax, Mehldau on piano, Larry Grenadier on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. A group that cannot get much better produces some lovely music, occasionally supported by strings. It's mostly an eclectic selection of covers, including "Infant Eyes", "Lush Life", and "Let It Be" with  couple of tunes by Redman and one by Mehldau. It's as nice as it sounds.

Product Details10. Frank Wess, "Magic 101" (IPO 2013): This was recorded when Wess, who passed away recently, was still a young 89 year old, leading a trio of Kenny Barron, on piano, Kenny Davis on bass, and Winard Harper on drums through seven classics like "The Very Thought of You", "Come Rain or Come Shine", and All Too Soon."  Wess' tenor rang sweetly with his full tone still there and lyrical sensibility covering every tune. The sad news of his passing is only slightly mitigated by the news that there will be a "Magic 201" this spring. 

Product Details9. Christian McBride Trio, "Out Here" (Mack Avenue 2013): Solid mainstream music that swings, grooves, pulses, and raises the spirits on every listen. Hits hard right at the start with "Ham Hocks and Cabbage." Young Christian Sands is fantastic and his skills belie his age. Ulysses Owens Jr. is the third member of this powerful trio. A nice mix of the upbeat and pulsing, the blues, and ballads will keep one's interest and demands repeated listening. 

Product Details8. Stan Tracey Quintet, "The Flying Pig" (ReSteamed 2013): Tracey, who just passed away,  was one of the revered fathers of modern jazz in England. Readers should take the time to find one or more of the obituaries and tributes to him from the past couple of weeks to see how strongly he represented jazz in England since the 1950s. This is his final work and it is great, a quitet playing a set by Tracey dedicated to his father and those who fought the war to end all wars, WW1. Just lovely. 

Product Details7. Chucho Valdes and the Afro-Cuban Messengers, "Border Free" (Jazz Village 2013): My number one Latin album of the year. As the CD cover says, it's enthralling an infused with the verve of Valdes' earlier group Irakere. What a mix of hard bop with African and Cuban rhythms. Absolutely riveting music. Special appearance by Branford Marsalis on saxes spices the music up even further. 

Product Details6. Enrico Pieranunzi, "Live at the Village Vanguard" (CamJazz 2013): I've said often that this is my number one pianist in jazz and here is with Marc Johnson on bass and the sublime Paul Motian on drums. It's a dream group on a dream set, one of the last for Motian, who's exquisite colors adds to the richness of Pieranunzi's lyricism and sense of melody. Three originals by the leader, and a host of special covers -- "I Mean You", My Funny Valentine", "La Dolce Vita." I noted earlier on the Pozza CD that Italians love melody, harmony, emotion, and romance, and no one does it better than Pieranunzi. 

Product Details5. Keith Jarrett, "Concerts Bregenz and Munchen" (ECM 2013): Some have this as a reissue since it is a concert from 1981 but it really is not that dissimilar to Jarrett's slow releases of other special concerts. Even if there were vinyls once upon a time that was so long ago....Anyway, this is sublime music, done during the period when Jarrett was still using the long form for these concerts. The music fills the room and displays all of the best of these improvisations as it moves through different styles and rhythms with elan. First rate Jarrett. Hard to choose between Jarrett and Pieranunzi when I want to hear sublime piano -- cannot go wrong with either man. 

Product Details4. Darcy James Argue, "Brooklyn Babylon" (Carcopithecine 2013): My top five really distinguished themselves for me as a head above the rest of the list, and while I was able to sort them into an order, any of the five absolutely need to be heard. The distinguishing characteristic of this big band album is its absolute originality. I know of no band that sounds like this one, and that includes "Infernal Machines", their first outing. Argue is the composer, arranger, and conductor of this 18 piece orchestra. The music is powerful and cinematic, which is should be since it accompanied a film about the the history of Brooklyn and its multi-cultural residents who built the city/borough. It's big band music but non-traditional big band, scored to be visual and viseral, and it achieves greatness. 

Product Details3. Fred Hersch and Julian Lage, "Free Flying" (Palmetto 2013): Almost the antithesis of "Brooklyn Babylon", this is a subtle and beautiful duo of Lage on guitar and Hersch on piano. The intimacy of the music is captured in the recording, which is crisp and clear. the playing is quiet and restrained, the song choices matching the tone. Many of the songs are dedicated by composer Hersch to great guitarists -- Jim Hall, Egnerto Gismonti, Bill Frisell. Weaving in and out of each others lines, the two provide one of the loveliest, yet simplest, albums of the year.  

Product Details2. The Keith Jarrett Standards Trio, "Somewhere" (ECM 2013): Jarrett had one of those years. He had five releases, and I have two in the top five. (If I was doing classical CDs I  would add Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano  with Michelle Makarski.) Anyway, the Standards Trio never fails to reward us, still finding new ways of expression in classics. And the companion pieces like "Deep Space" with "Solar", and "Everywhere" with "Somewhere" are inventive, expressive, and beautiful additions. This is an outstanding addition to the collection of programs by the trio. 


Julie Sassoon: Julie Sassoon: Land of ShadowsJulie Sassoon, "Land of Shadows" (Jazzwerkstatt 2013): On a German label, this piano solo CD has all of the emotion, all of the lyricism, and all of the drama in the best of my favorite pianists, Enrico Pieranunzi and Keith Jarrett. All compositions are by Ms. Sassoon, and the work was recorded in the Neue Synagogue in Berlin in 2012, a venue that added wonderfully deep acoustics to the music. 

The back story to the music is an important part of its experience. Sassoon is British, trained in both classical and jazz piano, and melds these two disciplines in this riveting CD. The music is borne from her desire to learn more about her family's background and experiences in the 1930s in Germany, and their escape to England in 1939 These things  were barely discussed at home, especially in light of her great grandparents' death in Auschwitz and her grandfather's captivity in Dachau until he was released and they escaped. She had visited Berlin and loved the city and then moved there in 2009, married a German and now has a daughter. 

As she has plumbed the depth of her and her family's experience, it has shaped her music and her live performances. She says that this concert was "like delving into a continuum, re-enduring hte past and cleansing it at the same time." The emotions come right to the surface during this extraordinary concert, the palette is rich and complex with many shades and tones. 
The piano is at once reflective and sorrowful, although hope seems to spring forth from several of the melodies. 

This is a brave and personal work that opens up the composer's life and feelings to the audience is a profound way. It's a tale of suffering but also of hope, a very strong emphasis upon hope as reflected in the closing 20 minute "New Life". And it is piano music that is a cut beyond, in the same class as Jarrett or Pieranunzi or other first class players. 

Truly a CD that stood out for me from the pack with its sumptuous harmonies and lyrical melodies, but also with its emotional core. 

So that's it. I'd love to hear from readers with their reactions, what I may have left off, etc. Have a safe and happy holiday period.  Not sure when I will be posting again. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Today I have 18  CDs to add to the 22 from the last post, which completes my 40 honorable mention CDs for 2013, category new recordings/non-vocal. Same rules, same breakdowns, so here goes. 

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  • Straight Ahead, Right Down the Middle, Mainstream Jazz

Houston Person, "Nice 'n' Easy" (High Note 2013: This is Person's annual gift to us, his large and soulful tenor sound on a range of interesting songs from the American songbook, played with a fine supporting cast. This time around Chuck Redd's vibes add new textures, but the recording as always belongs to Person, and it's wonderful. 

Gilad Edelman, "My Groove, Your Move" (Sharp Nine 2013): Forget that his Dad is the producer of Sharp Nine rcordings and just listen. You'll hear a mature and sweet tenor from a precocious 20 something playing with an all-star band --- Joe Magnarelli on trumpet, David Hazeltine on piano, John Webber on bass, and Jason Brown on drums. Cut from the same mold as Houston Person and Eric Alexander, a bravura mainstream recording. If you like those artists you'll love this. 

  • Modern Mainstream Jazz

Noah Preminger, "Haymaker" (Palmetto Records 2013): And that's what he delivers, a haymaker of a recording with Ben Monder on guitar, Matt Pavolka on bass and Colin Stranahan on drums. A group of young Turks light up the music, most composed by Preminger himself. Fine music. 

Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom,"No Morphine, No Lilies" (Foxhaven 2013): Somehow I slipped this out of the top 25 but lord Product Detailsknows how or why. It's fantastic music, modern tunes by Miller for the most part played by a team of Myra Melford on piano, Jenny Scheinman on violin, and Todd Sickafoose on bass, with guests coming in at times on trdanya stephens, umpet and slide trumpet, and cello. Energetic, clever, and compelling music. 

3 Cohens, "Tightrope" (Anzic 2013): Talented family sound from Anat on woodwinds, Yuval on soprano sax, and Avishai on trumpet, with support from Fred Hersch, Johnathan Blake, and Christian McBride. Reimagined standards interspersed with some free-form improvisations and some songs written by the Cohens. Anat amazes on clarinet, Avishai's tome is as pure as one will find on the trumpet. The arrangements are fun and shake things up a bit so they sound fresh and very smart. 

Danya Stephens, "That Nepenthetic Place" (Sunyside 2013): This is what modern mainstream is about, taking the harmonies, the interplay of key instruments, and the rhythms of hard bop or post bop and extending them and enhancing them with the modern beats of the 2000s. As played by a stellar tenor in Stephens, with support from a cast of young stars --- Taylor Eigsti on piano, Joe Sanders on bass, Justin Brown on drums, Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet, Jaleel Shaw on alto, and Gretchen Parlato singing on two songs. The arranging is tight so everyone gets into the act but never clutter the compositions, which are largely originals by Stephens. Impressive. 

Geri Allen, "Motown and Motor City Inspirations" (Motema 2013): The third in her trilogy of recordings that are connected to Detroit, this one features Marcus Belgrave on trumpet and David McMurray on alto sax. It's mostly piano driven by Allen, who is expressive on a combination of songs from the Motown songbook and penned by herself. You can hear her pouring her feelings into the entire set, her love for the city, her sorrow, anger, and her prayers. It is another one that I barely dropped from the top 25, so consider it one that is highly recommended. 

  • Modern Lyrical Jazz

Lage Lund, Will Vinson, Orlando le Fleming, "Owl Trio" (Losen Records 2013): Music that is ethereal, charmingly lyrical, and wonderfully calming. Tunes from a wide range of sources -- Duke Ellington, Jim Hall, Sammy Cahn, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, and Toninho Horta -- along with three by the group. Admirably restrained play by Vinson that blends beautifully with the fleet fingerings of Lund. 

Turner Trotignon, "Dusk is a Quiet Place" (Naive 2013): Another soulful, quiet and charming CD, this one combining the tenor sax of Mark Turner with the piano of Baptiste Trotignon. Trotignon has a string of fine piano outings and needs more attention to them in the U.S.; hopefully working with Turner will raise his profile deservedly. And Turner plays with the kind of laid back restraint needed for a CD called "Dusk is a Quiet Place". Beautiful, thoughtful music.

Dave Douglas Quintet, "Time Travel" (Greenleaf Music 2013): Dave Douglas wrote all the music. This is the most accessible CD of Douglas' that I have heard and the first one I truly appreciated for its melodies, lyricism, and lush arrangements. It's quite a group, with Jon Irabagon on saxes, Matt Mitchell on piano, Linda Oh on bass, and Rudy Royston on drums. Works for me.  

  • Modern Impressionistic Jazz

Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow, "Trios" (ECM 2013): Bley and Swallow had a great year with a couple of ECM releases among them.  Here with the talented but neglected -- in the U.S.-- Andy Sheppard on tenor and soprano saxes they impress on five modernist creations by Bley as they move in, out, and around each other. 

John Abercrombie Quartet, "39 Steps": (ECM 2013): Adding Marc Copland on piano to his trio of guitar, Drew Gress on bass, and Joey Baron on drums opened up his sound and created a truly picturesque set of 10 songs played with refinement and admirable restraint. The tribute to Alfred Hitchcock shows up on titles like "Vertigo", Spellbound", and the title piece. Very atmospheric music. 

Ralph Alessi, "Baida" (ECM 2013): The music is lovely, laid back, and nicely played by Alessi on trumpet, Jason Moran on piano, Drew Gress on bass, and Nasheet Waits on drums. But its the names of the tunes that capture one's imagination and funny bone: "Chuck Barris", Gobble Goblins", "In-Flight Entertainment", Throwing Like a Girl to name a few. 

  • Modern Abstract Jazz

Steve Coleman and the Five Elements, "Functional Arrythmias" (Pi 2013): The most approachable CD I have heard from Coleman, the master of the microtone. Its definitely a modern abstract outing but holds together nicely for me with melodies that were distinctive, angular at times, but never harsh to these ears. I suggest this for folks who want to step outside a bit without going over the edge. Miles Okazaki's guitar play is a definitely highlight. 

Pat Metheny, "Tap: Book of Angels Volume 20" (Tzadik 2013): All of the music is by John Zorn, who gave Metheny the choice of any of the Book of Angels songs for the CD. Metheny plays everything here but the drums, which are handled by Antonio Sanchez. so there are guitars of all kinds, piano and keyboards, marimba, bells, and other assorted sounds throughout overlayed upon each other. It's harsh at times, flowing at others, and at all times it's compelling music. First rate. 

John Zorn, "The Mysteries" (Tzadik 2013): This CD is quiet, lyrical, and charming, as played by Bill Frisell on guitar, Carol Emanuel on harp, and Kenny Wollesen on vibes. This is the spiritual side of Zorn, and this CD could also represent a number of his other recordings this past year that I could have chosen here ---"Dream Machines", "Filmworks XXV: City of Slaughter", and "Mysteries." They all were mystical outings of beauty. 

  • New Sounds of New Age Jazz

The Necks, "Open" (Northern Spy Records 2013): This is extremely far from the ordinary. To some it is incredibly boring music, to others it's trippy music. It's one 68:05 minute piece of ambient sound, music that very slowly unwinds, so that it almost sounds like it is never changing. In fact it subtly unravels as the dynamics between the players morphs slowly but steadily. It's not really music that you sit and listen to intently, it's more like music that is subliminal a slowly washes over you. Not sure how to explain it.  

  • Latin Jazz

Omar Sosa, "Eggun: The Afro-Lectric Experience" (Ota Records 2013): This is Sosa's label on which he has released a number of fine latin tinged recordings in various combinations. This one has a core of six players featuring Sosa on keyboards, Joo Kraus on trumpet and Peter Apfelbaum on saxes; with additional support on various tracks by Lionel Louke on guitar and a number of other guitarists and percussionists. Its a tribute of a sort to "Kind of Blue", not in the melodies but in the spiritual feels and texture of that recording. Eggun is driven by the sounds, textures, interplay, and harmonic sensibility of Miles and Gil Evans, and has composed 15 tunes reflecting those spirits nicely. 

In my next post I will count down from 25 to 1 of my top choices of the year. Stay tuned.