[JPL] Program List: Top Twenty of 2011; The Vinyl Side of Midnight

Mike Stratton dreamtrane at gmail.com
Sun Dec 18 16:10:34 EST 2011


(note: Top Ten are also posted w/links to you tube video clips on my web
site: www.mikestratton.com)

TOP TWENTY 2011
12/18/11


20) WARREN WOLF (Mack Avenue Records)
In a great year for vibraphones (check out Gary Burton’s New Quartet)
Warren Wolf’s debut demands attention. Functioning as one fifth of
Christian McBride’s Inside Straight band, this album almost sounds like a
continuation of that band.

MICHAEL DEASE - GRACE (Jazz Legacy Productions)
The best pure “straight ahead” album I heard this year, Dease proves to be
a virtuoso of the trombone, his tone burnished and expressive. Add a
crackerjack band with numerous ‘guests’ (Cyrus Chestnut, Roy Hargrove,
etc.) and fine batch of compositions and you have a very entertaining hour
 of music.

NORDIC CONNECT - SPIRAL (Artist Share)
Nordic Connect features Ingrid Jensen and her sister Christine as a front
line. The music reminds me of the ECM sound of the late ‘70s, only a little
more melodic.

VIJAY IYER with PRASANNA & NITIN MITTA (ACT Music)
The Indo Pak coalition rides again. Piano, guitar and tabla mix improv
structure, texture and timbre with sonority. Iyer continues to blaze new
trails. His facility with the piano amazes.

DARA TUCKER - SOUL SAID YES (Watchman Music)
Some great ingredients of ballads, neo soul, gospel and blues make Dara
Tucker’s release a winner, and someone to watch.

15) JOHN HOLLENBECK; ORCHESTRE NATIONAL DE JAZZ - SHUT UP AND DANCE (Bee
Jazz)
I’m a sucker for Hollenbeck’s large orchestra; his writing was solicited by
this French company. The music blends Bob Brookmeyer Zappa and Steve Reich
and something that is uniquely Hollenbeck. The man can write with humor and
heart, one of the great composers of our time.

14) KURT ELLING - THE GATE (Concord Records)
In a banner year for vocal jazz, Elling comes up with another strong
offering, covering tunes by Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire and Joe
Jackson. Laurence Hobgood comes up with some superlative arrangements.
Produced by Don Was (!), new head of Blue Note Records.

13) BEN WILLIAMS - STATE OF ART (Verve Records)
Winning the Thelonious Monk competition includes a record contract, and
here are the results. MSU alum Ben Williams has made good, and his
recording debut is very strong, mixing straight ahead, rap and grooves.
Looking forward to a long career from this young bassist and composer.

12) GRETCHEN PARLATO - THE LOST AND FOUND (Obliq Sound)
A singular aesthetic, Gretchen has refined a subtle and sensual approach to
jazz vocals. Good mix of originals and covers.

11) FRANCISCO MELA & CUBAN SAFARI - TREE OF LIFE (Half Note)
Percussionist Mela has created a program of (mainly) originals that
highlights his working band with a guest shot by Esperanza Spalding, his
musical compadre in Lovano’s Us Five. The results are a great assortment of
percolating rhythms and tunes.

10) SUSANA BACA - AFRODIASPORA (Luaka Bop)
Peruvian vocalist Susana Baca cooks with fire on this strong recording. She
stirs in a little N’Awlins flavor at one point, but the main ingredients
are South American. Her ability to work a groove is reminiscent of some of
the great soul singers of the 1960s.

9) WADADA LEO SMITH’s ORGANIC - HEART’S REFLECTIONS (Cuneiform Records)
The ghost of Miles hovers over this double disc set by trumpeter Smith,
espescially on the badass back beat opener (dedicated to Don Cherry).
Between the blues and the funk there is some old fashioned AACM style avant
garde.

8) ROBERTA PIKET - SIDES, COLORS (Thirteenth Note Records)
Brooklyn pianist and composer Piket has one of the freshest releases of the
year. At turns pretty (Laurie) and complex (check out the deconstructed
gospel dedication to Sam Rivers, My Friends and Neighbors), Roberta is a
force to be reckoned with and one to watch.

7) KEITH JARRETT - RIO (ECM)
Jarrett has built a career not just on his superlative trio recordings, but
on his solo improv recitals as well. The newest, recorded in Rio
(naturally) is maybe his best. Hard to believe that this fountain of ideas
is conceived in the moment, so coherent and certain is Jarrett’s playing.
Whereas in some of his earliest solo offerings there are extended and
roiling sequences, here the pieces are compact and dense. Jarrett has
astounding facilities as a pianist, and this may be his best work yet.

6) KARRIN ALLYSON - ‘ROUND MIDNIGHT (Concord Records)
Karrin has recorded a string of wonderful albums over the past decade or
so, but this one stands alone. Like Frank Sinatra’s “Only The Lonely” or
Joni Mithcell’s “Blue”, this recording relentlessly builds a mood for those
with a need for expression of the ennui of love lost and longing. A
heartbreaker of an album, from a heartbreaking singer.

5) BOB BELDEN - MILES ESPANOL (E One)
Like a previous project (Miles From India), Belden collects a small army of
musicians (this time of the Hispanic persuasion) to interpret the Gil Evans
/ Miles Davis collaboration, Sketches of Spain. The double disc allows the
conception to expand even further, utilizing some alum from Davis’ groups
to romp cross cultures. And such delightful colors, utilizing exotic
percussions, strings (Oud! Harp!) and even bagpipes. Not to be missed.

4) ETIENNE CHARLES - KAISO (Culture Shock)
Trinidad trumpeter Etienne Charles combines straight ahead with calypso to
create a new and diverse dish. Sure, Blue Mitchell or Sonny Rollins have
shown an influence from the isles, but Etienne goes the full monty here,
including guest shots from Lord Superior, Ralph MacDonald and Monty
Alexander. Another very young talent to watch.

SONNY ROLLINS - ROAD SHOWS VOL. II (Doxy Records)
This is a birthday party and a victory lap for octogenarian and living
legend Sonny Rollins. Buoyed by a great band (Christian McBride, Roy Haynes
and Russell Malone) Rollins is joined at turns by old friends Jim Hall and
Bob Cranshaw, with a special guest appearance by Ornette Coleman. This
document is a cherry that tops a stellar career.

JOE LOVANO US FIVE - BIRD SONGS (Blue Note)
Imagine Donna Lee as a ballad, or Dewey Square as a percussive rhumba, and
you get the notion behind Lovano’s set of Charlie Parker music. Yet another
entry in the book of Lovano, who is a perennial in the ‘best of’ lists at
year’s end. One of the great sax players of our time, but also has the
imagination to consistently find new ways to arrange and display the music
of jazz.

LAURA KAHLE - CIRCULAR (Dark Key Music)
Laura has been known to refer to this album as ‘my little project’ (see
Facebook), such is her modesty. This year may have been devoted to raising
twin girls of she and husband Jeff “Tain” Watts, but the creation of this
music is also more than noteworthy. This one seemed to get by most critics,
but to my ears it’s the best thing I’ve heard in 2011. Why? First of all,
the blend of Kahle’s pocket trumpet set against the uber powerful drumming
of her husband creates a dynamic that reminds me of Miles and Tony
Williams, or Don Cherry and Ed Blackwell. Her ideas are pithy, his funk is
furious. This is music not to be missed. Claudia Acuna’s singular
contribution is a rose in the forest. Beautiful.


This is the playlist for this week’s Vinyl Side of Midnight, which can be
heard on 89.7 FM WLNZ in the Greater Lansing area, or you can tune in
internationally on the web on  http://www.lcc.edu/radio/ - hosted by Mike
Stratton, Sunday nights, 9- midnight, Eastern Standard Time.
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