Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 23 18:31:39 EST 2004

Hello everyone. Here are my top jazz picks of 2004. Happy holidays to each and everyone. 
Jae Sinnett
1. Branford Marsalis Quartet - "Eternal" - Marsalis Music/Rounder
Quite simply, a sonic masterpiece. My top pick of the 2004. Certainly one of the great jazz ensembles playing today. Played with subtle grace, quiet intensity and instrumental romanticism. Flawless.
2. Manuel Valera - "Forma Nueva" - Mavo Records
Wow, where did this guy come from? Smartly produced - particularly in using the two drummers to help showcase his writing and improvisational versatility. Complex and passionate, "Forma Nueva" is one of the best CD's I've heard combining traditional Latino concepts and straight up jazz.  
3. Steve Smith and Vital Information - "Come On In" - Tone Center 
The high point here is guitarist Frank Gambale. His surprise tone is reminisent of early Benson or Montgomery and his technique is breathtaking. "Come On In" brilliantly combines rhythms indigenious to US culture with melodic and harmonic sophistication. 
4. Tomasz Stanko Quartet - "Suspended Night" - ECM
The nuances and use of space with this quartet are amazing. The art of taking your time is represented beautifully here. Recorded with ECM's aural and open beauty. 
5. John La Barbara Big Band - "On The Wild Side" - Jazz Compass
For large ensembles this was the tops for me. While I hear his arranging influences he didn't let them dictate the direction of the music and cancel out his voice. Modern and fresh with interesting twists on a few familiar classics. In tune sections with brother Joe creating a strong but flexible foundation for the band. 
6. Nguyen Le Trio - "Bakida" - Act Music
Speaking of fresh and interesting.....one of the true original voices playing modern jazz guitar today. The cultural mix is exotic and thought provoking. Chris Potter - I'm convinced - can play anything. 
7. Phil Woods - "This Is How I Feel About Quincy" - Jazzed Media
I hear the fundamentals of jazz everywhere on this release. Blues, swing, romance, passion, humor, etc.... Phil Woods is one of the few remaining original Jazz voices playing today - from an extremely important generation of players. This disc swings, the solo's are musical and forward moving, the horn front line plays in tune and the arrangements are a warm tribute to "Q" without repeating his history. 
8. The Christian Jacob Trio - "Styne & Mine" - Wilderjazz
This CD contains some of the most thoughtful piano trio interpretations of standard material that I've heard in recent memory. His compositions blend well with arrangement concepts he chose for Styne's gems. When the artist decides to record familiar material, I listen for the logical musical extension. Christian Jacob brings these songs alive again in a different way - without sacrficing their intrigrity. 
9. Miguel Zenon - "Ceremonial" - Marsalis Music
Compositionally amazing. Like Nguyen Le, the exotic cultural blend is exciting and refreshing. Probably the most musically challenging and texturally interesting - in its entirity - then most of the top picks - "Ceremonial" tells beautiful stories. Considering the complexity of the music the musicians play with confidence, poise and extraordinary musicianship. They definitely bring additional elements to the music that enhances each songs depth. 
10. Al Jarreau - "Accentuate The Positive" - Verve
I confess that when I first saw this release the initial words were - uh oh, nonsense time. Fortunately I didn't judge the book by it's proverbial cover. Al Jarreau is quite possibly the greatest improvisational singer today - when he wants to me. Melodically - perhaps a different argument. I haven't heard a singer yet that can match his rhythmic sensibilities. A great line up of musicians and it's really good to see Jarreau singing jazz music again.

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