J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Best CDs of 2007 and Beyond

Judging the best CDs of 2007 is far more difficult than the best films. Anytime talented musicians come together there will at least be some worthy music to hear, but a lot of Hollywood talent can come together to produce an unwatchable movie. Just about every CD reviewed here is great release, because I prefer to be evangelical when it comes to posting on music. Again, this is a collective top 10, not ranked from 1 to 10, but in alpha order.

A Tale of God’s Will, Terence Blanchard’s recasting of his score from the Spike Lee miniseries packed an emotional punch, yet still seemed to hit some hopeful notes. "Ashé" may well be the most beautiful single track of the year.

Anat Fort’s ECM debut A Long Story was sometime coming, but worth the wait for listeners. I have heard her at the Rubin Museum and Cornelia Street since reviewing Story and remain quite impressed.

Cool is cool, and Eddie Gale still has it, lending some to Mushroom on Joint Happening, claiming the mantle of the electric Miles of modern times.

One big factor in choosing the best CDs of the year is how often they were revisited after the review went up. Bruce Hornsby’s jazz debut, Camp Meeting with Jack DeJohnette and Christian McBride, had a lot of staying power in the CD player. Maybe this is a surprise to some, but it’s the real deal.

It would be embarrassing to compile this list without Charles Mingus at Cornell, 1964. For such a hitherto unknown recording come to light, in such good fidelity, was a surprise that had Mingus scholars joyfully rewriting discographies.

Paul Nash and friends knew Jazz Cycles would most likely be his final project. Nash’s compositions are both intriguing and pleasing, and the circumstances of the recording definitely inspired the musicians, making this release worth seeking out.

Again, Miho Nobuzane’s Happy Sounds has been frequently revisited after the initial posting. She plays with tremendous verve and joy, making audio coffee, perfect to listen to on the ipod as you pound through the streets of New York.

Charles Tolliver’s big band session, on a major label co-released with Mosaic Records, was a welcome development to see and hear. Hopefully With Love's Grammy nomination will portend more such Tolliver big band releases.

For some reason, a lot of critics did not share my enthusiasm for Gianluigi Trovesi’s Vaghissimo Ritratto. They were wrong. Period. This is an elegant gem.

Sadly, Brown Street will presumably be Joe Zawinul’s final release, but what a session. Zawinul and the WDR Big Band revisited Weather Report, staying true to the spirit of the original recordings, but swinging them like mad.

There were a number of great releases that I could not shoehorn into the top 10, some on the technicality that they were reviewed in late 2006. We can look forward to more great music from great artists in 2008 as well.

Eri Yamamoto will soon be recording a new CD that I am eagerly anticipating. She is a talented and prolific composer, so I can’t wait to hear what she chooses for the recording. I believe Steve Wiest will be recording something new as well, which I will be looking forward to. Grammy voters have nine days to get their ballots in, so remember he is nominated for Best Instrumental Arrangement for “Besame Mucho,” performed by the late, great Maynard Ferguson.

For recordings with definite release dates, Nik Bärtsch's follow-up to Stoa and a new Enrico Rava disk from ECM portend good things for early ‘08.

Happy New Year. Here’s to great sounds in 2008.