[JPL] Top Jazz Picks Of 2011

Jae Sinnett jaejazz at yahoo.com
Mon Dec 12 12:39:47 EST 2011

Hi friends. It's that time of the year. Here are my top jazz picks for 2011. Difficult as always because we had another great year for quality jazz releases. My main point of focus in selecting my picks this year was composition. The writing and arranging. Of course the playing and production quality too but I was listening first for what I think is interesting and visionary...new composition.  The exceptions here were the Terell Stafford...with the music of Strayhorn and Randy Brecker's "Ballad Song Book." Superb performances on classic material.  I hope you enjoy these outstanding releases too. Thanks, 
10. Terell Stafford - "This Side Of Strayhorn" - Max Jazz - One of the top trumpeters playing today. Such beautiful lyrical continuity with line construction. Strayhorn's music presents the artists with unique harmonic challenges. The writing is so perfectly constructed with logic and vision. Terell and band embrace the complexities of his music with passion, soul and fluency.
9. Randy Brecker with the DR Big Band - "The Jazz Ballad Song Book" - Red Dot Music - Speaking of great trumpeters...Randy Brecker is in a league of his own. Doesn't matter what's in front of him. The ultimate outcome will simply be...amazing music. He can play anything and make it live. Such beautiful technique and lyricism. When you play the standard book at this point there has to be fresh, meaningful interpretations. He succeeds. 
8. Meddy Gerville - "Fo Kronm La Vi" - Muzik Export Association - Wow, for these flappers this guy came out of nowhere. The most impressive qualities here lie in his ability to merge concepts of world music and jazz. Rhythmically deep and complex but layered with harmonic and melodic beauty. 
7. Josh Nelson - "Discoveries" - Steel Bird - Josh continues to grow as a pianist and certainly in composition and arranging. "Discoveries" reflects his embracing and searching of the fresh idea. Each composition has a hypnotic forward moving quality...paced beautifully and performed with outstanding musicianship. 
6. Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band - "That's How We Roll" - Telarc - Goodwin continues to modernize the large jazz ensemble. Unbelievably cohesive in organization and structure. The fundamentals are all here...breathing new life and meaning into the importance of textures, time, dynamic ranges and versatility.
5.Silvano Monasterios - "Unconditional" - Savant - Another newbie for me. Never heard of him until this recording. When I listen to "Unconditional" I'm reminded of how much incredible talent that's out there playing this music that so few have heard. Silvano brings deeply intricate and thought provoking mastery to his compositions. Perfectly balanced with compositional and improvisational concepts. 
4. New Gary Burton Quartet - "Common Ground" - Mack Avenue - The premier four mallet vibraphonist playing. Gary continues to redefine himself and understands the importance of incorporating and embracing young talent energy and ideas. It's easy to play this music for 45-50 years and get complacent. Not Gary Burton and this simply reveals his onward passion and love for making wonderfully interesting music. 
3. Jonathan Kreisberg - "Shadowless" - NFN New For Now Music - One of the great guitarist playing jazz today...in any generation. Flawless technique but applied with feeling and elasticity. His line construction is a thing of beauty but his writing...wow. Intense and subtle...at the same time...if that's possible. The band weaves through these compositions with on point dexterity and cohesiveness. Some serious time was put into the creation of this music. It lives with you.
2. Tito Carrillo - "Opening Statement" - Origin - What an "Opening Statement." When I listen to this music I feel the musicians clearly get to the artistic intentions of the composer. In my view that's one of the most challenging things that confronts the jazz/improvising musician..plus how to leave no question of what could I have done differently and getting the hands to articulate what's in the head. When the musician can get there the music is seamless. It takes on a life of it's own...organic. They've succeeded.
Vince Mendoza - "Nights On Earth" - Horizontal - My top pick of 2011. I won't call these songs or compositions. I'll call them...stories. Each song completes it's compositional purpose tells the story. Such incredible imagery, vision and lyrical mastery.  Breathtakingly beautiful. Sometimes introspective...sometimes haunting but "Nights" reflects musical romance at it's best. Mendoza's heart is so full of love and passion and his music clearly shows us the gentleness of his soul. I'm humbled when I listen to melodic beauty written and played like this. I wish I could sing because I want to sing everyone of these stories. I hear so many inspiring things in this music but one certainly sticks out....lets not forget the significance of melody. 
Honorable Mention
Pilc, Moutin, Hoenig - "Threedom" - Motema  
Ted Rosenthal Trio - "Out Of This World" - Playscale Productions
John Scofield - "A Moment's Peace" - Emarcy
Christian McBride Big Band - "The Good Feeling" - Mack Avenue
Yellowjackets - "Timeline" Mack Avenue
Alphonse Mouzon - "Angel Face" - Tenacious
Warren Wolf - "Warren Wolf" Mack Avenue
Stefon Harris, David Sanchez, Christian Scott - "Ninety Miles" - Concord
Malika Zarra - "Berber Taxi" - Motema
The H2 Big Band - "You're It" - Jazzed Media      

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