Top Five for 2011 + 25

  

Here’s my annotated Top Five for 2011, followed by 25 runners-up:

Karrin Allyson: ‘Round Midnight Concord Jazz  http://www.karrin.com/

Allyson has a rare gift for blending wry insouciance and emotional depth, and she's blessed with flawless pitch and timing.  Highlights here include a duo with bassist Ed Howard on the Monk title track, a spry take on the late Fran Landesman’s ennui-riddled “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most,” and a haunting rendition of "Goodbye," the Gordon Jenkins ballad that's poised for return as a jazz standard. Superb arrangements, mostly by Allyson, who’s at the piano, and sensitive accompaniment by her regular guitarist Rod Fleeman and guests Matt Wilson and saxophonist-clarinetist Bob Sheppard.   This may be a career best, certainly a worthy complement to her decade-old masterpiece, Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane.

Scott Hamilton: A Splendid Trio Arbors http://www.arborsrecords.com/recordtemplate.html?ProductID=19416

Hamilton was notoriously prolific early in his career, and he’s become ubiquitous all over again with releases on a variety of labels and as a sideman on another of the year’s best by Larry Vuckovich.  The tenor man’s superb sound and easeful sense of swing have only improved with time, and his tune selection is impeccable.  As with his now-deceased New England guides Ruby Braff and Dave McKenna, the Providence native worships at the altar of melody.  Here he’s joined by like-minded acolytes Howard Alden and Frank Tate.

Christian McBride: Conversations with Christian Mack Avenue http://www.christianmcbride.com/

Have bass, will take care of business! Who’s having more fun than McBride on the jazz scene today? This year saw the release of his hard-swinging big band debut, The Good Feeling, and this collection of duets.  McBride’s stunning command and huge sound are showcased here in Afro-Pop, J.S. Bach, tango, montuno, r&b, and ballad settings; conversation partners include Angelique Kidjo, Chick Corea, Eddie Palmieri, and the wonderfully sassy Dee Dee Bridgewater. 

Sonny Rollins: Road Shows, Vol. 2 Doxy http://www.sonnyrollins.com/music.php

This second volume of personally-selected live performances by the Saxophone Colossus draws on his 80th birthday concert in New York, and a date in Japan a month later.  It opens with an extended workout on “They Say It’s Wonderful” that builds to a series of spirited exchanges with guitarist Russell Malone, the most inspiring front-line partner Rollins has toured with in years.  Birthday guests include Jim Hall, Roy Hargrove, Roy Haynes, and Christian McBride, plus a surprise appearance by Ornette Coleman, with whom Sonny played his most adventurous solo of the night. 

Terell Stafford: This Side of Strayhorn Max Jazz http://maxjazz.com/stafford/card3/

Further evidence of Billy Strayhorn’s supremacy as a composer, and of trumpeter Stafford and saxophonist Tim Warfield as one of the most formidable front line partnerships in years. (See also Warfield's One for Shirley.)   Credit goes to pianist Bruce Barth for the arrangements on this well-balanced program of ballads “Lush Life” and “My Little Brown Book;” blowing vehicles, “Johnny Come Lately,” “Raincheck;” and lesser known gems, “Smada,” “Multicolored Blue” and “Lana Turner” (aka “Charpoy”). 

 

Bruce Barth Trio Live at Smalls Smalls Live www.smallsjazzclub.com/

T.K. Blue: Latinbird Motema http://motema.com/artist/tk-blue

Uri Caine Trio Siren Winter & Winter http://www.uricaine.com/index.php

Etienne Charles: Kaiso Culture Shock http://www.etiennecharles.com/

Giacomo Gates: The Revolution Will Be Jazz Savant http://www.giacomogates.com/

Roy Haynes: Roy-alty Dreyfus Jazz   http://www.discogs.com/artist/Roy+Haynes

Nick Hempton: The Business Positone http://nickhemptonband.com/

Rebecca Kilgore/Harry Allen: Live at Feinstein’s Arbors  http://www.rebeccakilgore.com/     

Brian Lynch: Unsung Heroes Hollistic Music http://brianlynchjazz.com/

Tom McDermott/Evan Christopher: Almost Native Threadhead http://www.threadheadrecords.com/

Rene Marie: Black Lace Freudian Slip Motema http://www.motema.com/artist/rene-marie

Tim Mayer: Resilience Jazz Legacy http://jazzlegacyproductions.com/tim_pages/timmayer.html

Miles Espanol: New Sketches of Spain eOne http://www.eonejazzworld.com/artists/miles-espanol

Sophie Milman: In the Moonlight eOne http://www.eonejazzworld.com/artists/sophie-milman

Jeremy Pelt: The Talented Mr. Pelt High Note http://www.jazzdepot.com/hn.html

Noah Preminger:  Before the Rain Palmetto http://www.palmetto-records.com/

Houston Person: So Nice High Note http://www.jazzdepot.com/hn.html

Joshua Redman: James Farm Nonesuch http://www.nonesuch.com/albums/james-farm

Reeds’n’Deeds [Eric Alexander/Grant Stewart]: Tenor Time Criss Cross Jazz http://www.crisscrossjazz.com/

Claudio Roditi: Bons Amigos Resonance http://www.resonancerecords.org/artist.php?artist=Claudio+Roditi

Poncho Sanchez/Terence Blanchard: Chano Y Dizzy Concord Picante http://www2.concordmusicgroup.com/

Alex Sipiagin Destinations Unknown Criss Cross Jazz http://www.alexsipiagin.com/

Joan Stiles: Three Musicians Oo-Bla-Dee http://www.joanstilesmusic.com/Joan_Stiles_Music/Home.html

Dave Stryker Blue Strike Steeplechase http://www.davestryker.com/

3 Cohens: Family Anzic http://anzicstore.com/album/family

Larry Vuckovich: Somethin’ Special Tetrachord http://www.larryvuckovich.com/

 

Honorable Mentions go to four excellent releases by musicians with local ties:

Chet Williamson Chromatic Noir    http://www.chetchromatic.com/

The Curtis Brothers Completion of Proof  http://curtisbrothersmusic.com/

Paul Lieberman ibeji www.paullieberman.com

Jay Messer Sly Exit   http://www.jaymesser.com/

 

 

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