Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Best of 2010

The results of the Village Voice year-end critics' poll are out today, and as the poll's organizer, Francis Davis, points out, it was Jason Moran's year.

You can follow the link to my ballot from Francis' article, but here it is, slightly annotated:

Top 10 New Releases

1. Jason Moran & The Bandwagon – Ten (Blue Note)
I fell in love with Moran's trio the first time I saw it live, and this recording captures everything that is great about it—the rhythmic movement, the leader's tremendous imagination regarding reharmonization, and the scope of his vision in terms of what constitutes terrific repertoire. I didn't get a chance to write about this CD, and I'm almost glad I didn't because I keep finding more things to love about it.

2. Rova & Nels Cline Singers – Celestial Septet (New World)
I did review this sprawling and engrossing release, and wonder if many of my colleagues discovered it, given that it seems not to have made a ripple. Here's how I summarized it in my DownBeat review: "There is much to explore here, and no shortage of high emotion and ecstatic release." If you haven't heard it, give it a shot.

3. Vijay Iyer – Solo (ACT)
It seems like a long, long time ago that I first encountered Vijay Iyer online during the very early days of the internet, and I can't think of another musician I've enjoyed hearing develop as much. His solo recording allows you to really savor the way he finds his way through a song. Like Moran, his vision is singular, and like Moran, he has demonstrated time and again that he has the stuff to stand beside any of the giants who influenced him. Anyone who still thinks contemporary jazz is in bad shape needs to be tied to chair with Iyer and Moran on repeat.

4. Paul Motian Trio – Lost In A Dream (ECM)
Beautiful, simply beautiful.

5. Mary Halvorson Quintet – Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12)
Halvorson won me over last year with her trio recording and work with Anthony Braxton, and Saturn Sings finds her expanding her scope and cementing her signature sound.

6. Kurt Rosenwinkel & OJM – Our Secret World (Word Of Mouth)
This is a relatively late release that I reviewed for DownBeat, and I was surprised by how much I liked it. I haven't enjoyed anything by Rosenwinkel as much as I liked his early work with Paul Motian, and I don't usually dig brassy big bands, but this combination really works. I was knocked out by the arrangements and the engineering, which allows Rosenwinkel's guitar to soar over the orchestra with as much clout as an entire horn section. I think my friend Peter Hum and I were the only ones who picked this, and we didn't even discuss it. Was it only released in Ottawa, or what?

7. Tomasz Stanko Quintet – Dark Eyes (ECM)
I came to Stanko late, but 20 years after the death of Miles Davis he has become the trumpeter who consistently moves me. I caught him live this summer for the first time—and had the honour of emceeing his show—and wasn't disappointed in the emotion he brings to his music. Always great to hear an older musician finding young associates, too.

8. Steve Coleman & Five Elements – Harvesting Semblances And Affinities (Pi)
I saw this band a few years ago, playing this same music, and hated it. Walked out, in fact! This recording has all the focus and shape that were missing in that concert, and I'm looking forward with anticipation to the next instalment of this music that Coleman is developing.

9. Ray Anderson/Marty Ehrlich Quartet – Hear You Say: Live In Willisau (Intuition)
This is another recording that dropped fairly late in the year. I hope people discover it, because it reminded me of a lot of the recordings I fell in love with—by David Murray, Henry Threadgill, Arthur Blythe and others—in the early 1980s. Great to hear Ray Anderson sounding so energized, and Marty Ehrlich is always a joy.

10. Allison Miller – Boom Tic Boom (Foxhaven)
I'm a bit surprised that this recording didn't rank higher with my fellow critics. Myra Melford kills on it, and the compositions are tremendously engaging.

1. Henry Threadgill – Novus & Columbia Recordings Of Henry Threadgill & Air (Mosaic)
2. John Carter & Bobby Bradford – The Complete Revelation Sessions (Mosaic Select)
3. Miles Davis – Bitches Brew (Columbia Legacy)

Best Vocal CD
Rebecca Martin – When I Was Long Ago (Sunnyside)

Debut CD
Tania Gill – Bolger Station (Barnyard)

Latin Jazz CD
Marco Pereira – Essence (Kind Of Blue)

Addendum: You can peruse the entire top 50 here.

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