Top jazz CDs of 2009
Top jazz CD releases of the year include discs by Seattleites Thomas Marriott ("Flexicon") and Ernestine Anderson ("A Song for You").
Special to The Seattle Times
Like the alleged corpse vociferously protesting in Monty Python's "Holy Grail," the compact-disc format refuses to accede to its seemingly imminent demise. Even as CD sales continue to plunge, musicians devote considerable time and money creating albums rather than simply posting videos or offering tracks for downloading. It might seem like a waste of resources, but the effort and expense a CD requires forces musicians to hone a near evening-length body of material, while thinking through everything from sequencing and tune choice to cover art and credits. Here are some of the most memorable jazz releases of the year, in no particular order.
Thomas Marriott, "Flexicon" (Origin)
Seattle trumpeter Marriott tips his hat to horn heroes Freddie Hubbard and Miles Davis without ceding his own identity as a melodically inventive composer and consistently incisive improviser whose lines simmer anxiously without boiling over. A top-shelf cast featuring pianist/keyboardist Bill Anschell, bassist Jeff Johnson, drummer Matt Jorgenson, saxophonist Mark Taylor and vibraphonist extraordinaire Joe Locke (on two tracks) brings Marriott's expansive vision vividly to life.
Ernestine Anderson, "A Song For You" (HighNote)
A national treasure, based in Seattle, whose pleasingly weathered voice has considerable warmth and flexibility, Anderson is a soul survivor who turns every song into a taut tale full of hard-won wisdom. Backed by a highly sympathetic rhythm section, she seems energized and emboldened by the tough but tender tenor sax of Houston Person, known for his generous collaborations with vocalists.
Anouar Brahem, "The Astounding Eyes of Rita" (ECM)
Tunisian oud master Brahem writes ravishing compositions blending classical Arabic forms, jazz and North African folk music. His new ensemble featuring Klaus Gesing's sinuous bass clarinet, Bjorn Meyer's insinuating bass and Khaled Yassine's loping beats on the goblet drum darbouka and frame drum bendir renders his mysterious melodies with shimmering transparent textures.
Mark Levine and the Latin Tinge, "Off & On" (Left Coast Clave)
A Latin-jazz mainstay for more than four decades, Levine has earned several Grammy Award-nominations for a series of excellent Latin Tinge recordings, but his latest project is creative tour de force that applies Cuban rhythms to the ingenious compositions of Brazilian composer Moacir Santos, who died in Southern California obscurity in 2006 at the age of 80.
Jackie Ryan, "Doozy" (Open Art Productions)
With her dexterous sense of swing, superlative taste in songs and wondrously rich voice, Ryan is one of the most emotionally compelling jazz singers on the scene. Backed by such top-shelf New York cats as pianist Cyrus Chestnut, saxophonist Eric Alexander and trumpeter Jeremy Pelt, she delivers a double album loaded with undercovered gems, such as Billie Holiday's "Tell Me More and More and Then Some" and Oscar Brown Jr.'s "Opportunity Please Knock."
Other recommended releases:
Nickel & Brass Septet, "Four-Color Heroes!" (Origin)
Dafnis Prieto Si o Si Quartet, "Live at the Jazz Standard NYC" (Dafnison Music)
Charles Tolliver Big Band, "Emperor March" (HalfNote)
Bill Henderson, "Live at the Vic: Beautiful Memory" (Ahuh)
Ben Goldberg, "Go Home" (BAG)
Denny Zeitlin, "The Columbia Studio Trio Sessions" (Mosaic)
Now one of jazz's revered elder statesmen, pianist Zeitlin first gained attention in the mid-1960s with a series of breathtaking trio recordings. This three-CD set contains his hugely influential, but long unavailable Columbia studio albums "Cathexis," "Carnival" and "Zeitgeist," sessions marked by astonishing interplay with such accompanists as bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Jerry Granelli.
Linda Oh Trio, "Entry" (Linda Oh Trio)
A remarkably resourceful bassist and composer, Oh made an indelible first impression with her spacious, lovingly detailed tunes and confident band concept featuring Oakland-raised trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire and Miami-bred drummer Obed Calvaire.
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.
I've been fortunate to have traveled the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia. Exotic islands, too. Wherever I go, I'm struck by one undeniable trut...
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