[JPL] WWUH's Chuck Obuchowski's Top 10 in 2007
drjazz at drjazz.com
Mon Dec 31 10:03:10 EST 2007
Among All That Jazz, Some Standouts
The Last Recordings Of Michael Brecker, Joe Zawinul; A '64 Set
With Mingus And Dolphy
BY CHUCK OBUCHOWSKI
SPECIAL TO THE COURANT
December 30, 2007
With the approach of each new year, it seems reasonable to reflect on
the one that's drawing to a close. Since 1987 I have shared my list of
favorite jazz releases with my audience on WWUH-FM (91.3) at the
University of Hartford.
These are jazz releases that I've gone back to most often during the
last 12 months. They are listed in alphabetical order, according to each
artist's last name.
/?John Abercrombie/, /"The Third Quartet" /(ECM Records)
This is guitarist/composer Abercrombie's 47th recording in a
professional career entering its fourth decade.
The quartet referred to in the title coalesced about five years ago.
Bassist Marc Johnson and drummer Joey Baron are as tight a rhythm
section as any on the current jazz scene. Violinist Mark Feldman
combines classical nuances with Coltrane-like harmonic prowess to create
a formidable sound.
The leader's writing has never sounded better, but he slips in a couple
of covers, by Bill Evans and Ornette Coleman, for good measure.
Abercrombie's playing, whether electric or acoustic, is musical poetry,
/?Tim Armacost/, /"Rhythm and Transformation" /(ArtistShare)
This world-traveling saxophonist fell in love with Indian music when his
wife received a research grant to work there about 15 years ago.
Although he has been performing some material hinting at his
appreciation for Asian sounds ever since, he leaps in deeply at last
with "Rhythm and Transformation."
The result is one of the most exciting crossover recordings in recent
memory. Armacost's quartet is augmented by tabla (Indian clay drums)
player Ray Spiegel and by veteran trumpeter Eddie Henderson. The
compositions combine blues, bop and funk with Eastern rhythms and modes,
intricately weaving together the best of the two musical worlds.
/?Michael Brecker/, /"Pilgrimage" /(Heads Up)
By now we've all heard the stories about how ill Michael Brecker was
when he took on this project and how he hid the extent of his pain from
his colleagues during the recording process.
Putting all of that drama aside, "Pilgrimage" still comes across as some
of the most alive-sounding music of the year. One listen to "Tumbleweed"
and you'll have to agree. Brecker's writing and playing are potent
throughout, never revealing the toll his illness took on his body.
It doesn't hurt that Brecker was able to assemble an all-star lineup of
musicians who've worked together in different contexts before --- the
crème de la crème of today's players: Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, Herbie
Hancock, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette.
/?Herbie Hancock/, /"River: The Joni Letters" /(Verve Records)
This has been a great year for Joni Mitchell fans. Pianist Hancock's
exquisite reworking of her music follows a various-artists tribute to
the renowned singer-songwriter issued by Nonesuch Records --- and
"Shine," Mitchell's first album of new material in nearly a decade.
The superb quintet assembled for "River" includes longtime Mitchell
collaborator Wayne Shorter, whose superb saxophone solos dance merrily
around Mitchell's melodies. Bassist Dave Holland adds firm foundations
to the 10 free-flowing portraits offered here.
A half-dozen vocalists (including Mitchell) were enlisted to deliver
Joni's "letters." Each brings his or her own enticing spin to these
beautifully arranged pieces.
/?Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy/, /"Cornell 1964" /(Blue Note)
This concert performance from March 18, 1964, discovered recently by Sue
Graham Mingus, the great bassist's widow, is astounding.
It captures Mingus at the height of his powers, fronting one of his
strongest (if short-lived) bands. This material predates previously
released European tour performances by a month. While some of these
interpretations have a more ragged feel, they also contain bolder
improvisations and greater urgency.
The two-disc set also includes some inspired cover selections, from Fats
Waller's "Jitterbug Waltz" to "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling."
Don't be put off by the monaural recording or less-than-perfect
fidelity. The quality of this music easily transcends the limitations of
/?William Parker/Raining on the Moon/, /"Corn Meal Dance" /(AUM Fidelity)
Parker, one of the leading lights of the jazz avant garde for three
decades, reveals a "rootsier" side for a second time with his Raining on
the Moon sextet.
His mysterious, provocative poems are expertly converted to song by
Leena Conquest, a woman who sounds well-schooled in '60s soul and R&B.
William Parker fans looking for some envelope-pushing won't be
disappointed, however. Horn players Ron Brown (alto sax) and Lewis
Barnes (trumpet) add muscle and daring solos to many of these probing
/?Chris Potter 10/, /"Song for Anyone" /(Sunnyside Communications)
Most often heard for the past eight years as a member of Dave Holland's
highly regarded ensembles, this fine saxophonist presented two strong
recordings under his own name in '07. "Follow the Red Line" featured his
electric quartet in a live setting.
Here Potter, who celebrates his 37th birthday Tuesday, leads a modified
chamber ensemble (strings and woodwinds plus jazz quartet). The success
of this endeavor can be heard in the majesty of a dynamic tune like
"Chief Seattle," but is just as evident during the ruminative gospel
murmurs of "All by All."
/?Antonio Sanchez/, /"Migration" /(CAM Jazz)
Drummer Sanchez remains a much-in-demand sideman. This is his
outstanding debut release as a leader. Musical contributions on two
selections from Pat Metheny, his current employer, have certainly
boosted the visibility of this release. Still, it's Sanchez's creative
ideas that resonate most powerfully on this disc.
Many of the tunes have a "blowing session" feel to them, although
they're more akin to Jack DeJohnette's Special Edition projects than
classic Prestige saxophone summits. The participants here are David
Sanchez and Chris Potter; listen to them wail on Joe Henderson's "Inner
Antonio Sanchez also performs with Chick Corea on a wonderful trio piece
written by the master pianist called "One for Antonio."
/?Kendra Shank/, /"A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook" /(Challenge
Kendra Shank --- a protégé of Abbey Lincoln --- has made a tribute to
one of jazz's most respected singer/songwriters a reality.
Shank and her colleagues make no attempt to approximate Lincoln's voice
or song arrangements. Rather, they honor the originals by adding
something of themselves to the mix. Hence, Lincoln's famous "Throw It
Away" becomes an abstract tango in Shank's version, and "I Got Thunder"
a boisterous post-bop barn burner.
Lincoln released her own retrospective this year, too: "Abbey Sings Abbey."
/?Joe Zawinul/, /"Brown Street" /(Heads Up International)
Although the electronic keyboard pioneer died in September, this live
recording finds the 75-year-old back in his old stomping grounds in
Vienna mere months earlier, still full of energy, passion and unique
The addition of Germany's superlative WDR Big Band, with arrangements by
Vince Mendoza, adds completely new dimensions to Zawinul's still-popular
fusion compositions. His band also includes Weather Report alums Victor
Bailey on electric bass and Alex Acuna on drums.
"Brown Street" bends musical genres constantly, but the sounds almost
always convey a spirit of celebration. Grab your dancing shoes and head
for the stars!
Chuck Obuchowski writes frequently about jazz for The Courant.
Copyright © 2007, The Hartford Courant <http://www.courant.com/>
Dr. Jazz Operations
Oak Park, MI 48237
More information about the jazzproglist