Culture Currents best jazz recordings, etc. of 2016

zeitlin cover

Readers will note, in my belated list, a preponderance of piano recordings indicating that, like classical music’s string quartet, the piano trio remains jazz’s most fundamental and vital chamber ensemble form. And my top choice, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith’s epic 2-CD adventure in tribute to America’s National Parks and beyond, shows how far a chamber-sized jazz group can travel in their evocation, expression and beauty.

At the spectrum’s other end, Darcy James Argue makes his maximalist orchestral approach incisive, dramatic and unsettlingly to the point that presses into our darkest fears about beneath-the-radar politics, especially conspiracy “theorists.”

The improbable sleeper of the year is The State of the Baritone by Madison WI reed player Anders Svanoe, who rewarded producer-saxophonist Jon Irabagon’s faith in him, with an ambitious and conceptually lucid statement about the hulking horn’s ability to float like a butterfly and roar like a buffalo stampede, among other qualities.

And historically speaking, Resonance Records continues to open up windows into the past that we never dreamed existed.

Top Ten Jazz Albums of 2016 (in order of preference)

Wadada Leo Smith – America’s National Parks (Cuneiform)

Denny Zeitlin – Solo Piano: Early Wayne: Explorations of Classic Wayne Shorter Compositions (Sunnyside)

Fred Hersch Trio – Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto)

Darcy James Argue Secret Society – Real Enemies (New Amsterdam)

Kim Davis – Duopoly (CD/DVD) (Pyroclastic)

Frank Kimbrough – Solstice (Piroet)

Marcus Strickland’s Twi-Life – Nihil Novi (Blue Note)

Loren Richardson – Shift (Blue Note)

Anders Svanoe – State of the Baritone (Irabaggast Records)

Aziza – Aziza (Redeye)

Anders cover

Best Latin Jazz Album

(tie) Harold Lopez-Nussa – El Viaje (Mack Avenue)

Edward Simon – Latin American Songbook (Sunnyside)

Best Vocal Album

Gregory Porter – Take Me to the Alley (Blue Note)

Best Historic Recordings/Reissues

Larry Young – In Paris: The ORTF Recordings (Resonance)

Bill Evans – Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest (Resonance)

Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra – All My Yesterdays: The Debut 1966 Recordings at the Village Vanguard (Resonance)

Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Got a Mind to Give Up Living Live 1966 (Real Gone Music)

Best Blues/Roots Album

Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By (Deluxe Edition) (Fantasy)

Best World Music

Yo-Yo Ma and Silk Road Ensemble – Sing Me Home (Masterworks)

Best Live Performance

Tedeschi Trucks Band/Los Lobos,  White River Park, Indianapolis, July 27
Rick Germanson Trio, Jazz Estate, Milwaukee, Dec. 23

 

Trucks Los Lobos

A cool aspect of the Tedeschi Trucks Band’s “Wheels of Soul” tour was its communal/interactive value. Here guitarist Derek Trucks (foreground, left) jams with David Hidalgo, lead guitarist-singer with Los Lobos, which preceded the Tedeschi Trucks Band in Indianapolis. The onstage band here includes members of Los Lobos and the TTB horn section, on far right. Photo: Kevin Lynch 

 

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