Best New Jazz Album of 2014

Because explaining the glories of a project like this requires a length unsuited for a listicle, my favorite jazz album of 2014 gets an article all to itself. The rest of my list will follow later this week.

Allen Lowe: Mulatto Radio: Field Recordings 1-4 or: A Jew at Large in the Minstrel Diaspora (Constant Sorrow)

Allen Lowe has (at least) a double identity: jazz composer/saxophonist, and scholar of early American jazz and pop. This four-cd set combines those identities even more than usual as it contains a whopping 62 original compositions, many -- perhaps even most; I didn't do the math, but it feels that way -- inspired by the sounds and personalities of early jazz and pre-jazz (both kinds of ragtime, etc.), as detailed vividly in his accompanying notes: Bunk Johnson (we get many movements from a Bunk Johnson Suite), Bix Beiderbecke, Paul Whiteman, Ernest Hogan, James Reese Europe,
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Steve's Favorite Jazz Albums of 2013, Part 1

I have already discussed seven new releases and one compilation in my article on the Jazz Artist of the Year, Matthew Shipp. Here are my other favorite new albums from the jazz world in 2013. Most surprising for me is the number of vocal albums, because I'm very particular about jazz singers and dislike most of them. So coming from me, the praise for the jazz singers listed here is really saying something.

1. Andy Bey: The World According to Andy Bey (High Note)

Andy Bey is my favorite living jazz singer, and he's not recorded nearly as often as his talents deserve. Now 74 years old, he has only recorded 11 albums in the course of a 50-year career (one a concert album I've never actually seen). In comparison, Kurt Elling, 46 and active for 18 years, has already made 10. It had been six years since Bey's previous album, and he's been living HIV-positive since 1994, so I was worried.
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Jazz Artist of the Year: Matthew Shipp

Last year I started anointing a Jazz Artist of the Year after a spurt of six Ivo Perelman albums that would have dominated my best-of list if not set apart. I've done it again because once again there was an artist so prolific And so good that he was again worth noting separately. Though pianist Matthew Shipp only released one album as a leader in 2013, he was a prolific collaborator, especially with Perelman. And it has been many years since Shipp was a 'sideman'; he is an equal on these projects. 

Taking well-deserved primacy here, of course, is his one new 2013 album under his own name (there was also Greatest Hits, reviewed by Dusty Wright here), though several of those listed below it are of equal quality.

Matthew Shipp: Piano Sutras (Thirsty Ear)

After my review of this great, great solo piano album was published, I worried that people might
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Jazz Review Roundup

Sex Mob: Cinema, Circus & Spaghetti: Sex Mob Plays Fellini: The Music of Nino Rota (Royal Potato Family)

Call me crazy, but I feel a connection between Rota's themes for Fellini's films and the melodic styles of Albert Ayler and Ornette Coleman. Granted, what each did once past their respective themes became wildly different, with Rota never abandoning harmony, Ornette twisting it in new directions, and Ayler abandoning it altogether, but before that happens, their themes share an effulgent earthiness and overflowing humanity. And who better to bring out the jazz side of that earthy humanity than the great recontextualizer Steve Bernstein and his longstanding quartet with Briggan Krauss (alto and baritone saxes), Tony Scherr (electric bass), and Kenny Wollesen (drums, gongs, log drum, waterphone, vibraphone).

Bernstein's slide trumpet in particular has the microtonal relationship with pitch that Ayler and Coleman each cherished to varying degrees, including a wide
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Steve's Favorite Jazz Compositions

Today is the second annual International Jazz Day. Last year I put together a list of albums for the occasion. This time around, a dozen of my favorite jazz compositions.

James P. Johnson: "Carolina Shout"

Count Basie Band: "Jumpin' at the Woodside"Duke Ellington: "C Jam Blues"Thelonious Monk: "'Round Midnight"Charlie Parker: "Relaxin' at Camarillo"Charles Mingus: "Better Git It in Your Soul"Joe Henderson: "Inner Urge"Albert Ayler: "Ghosts"Wayne Shorter: "Footprints"McCoy Tyner: "Passion Dance"Joe Zawinul: "In a Silent Way"Julius Hemphill: "The Hard Blues"

- Steve Holtje

Mr. Holtje is a Brooklyn-based composer, poet, and editor. His song cycle setting five of James Joyce's Pomes Penyeach can be heard here.
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Best New Jazz Albums of 2012

When I was putting together my best jazz albums of 2012 article, Ivo Perelman's productive year had him dominating the list, so I made him artist of the year and then compiled a separate top ten of new recordings and a top five of older recordings mostly given their first releases this year. There were still plenty of excellent jazz albums to choose from. Jazz isn't dead, it just has to live on a fixed income.

Artist of the Year: Ivo Perelman

Brazilian tenor saxophonist Ivo Perelman's album The Hour of the Star was #18 on my Best New Jazz of 2011 list. He was just warming up for an amazing 2012 in which Leo Records released six -- Six!!! -- Perelman CDs. All of them are excellent (and none of them, alas, are on iTunes yet).

Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Gerald Cleaver The Foreign Legion Ivo Perelman/Matthew Shipp/Whit Dickey The Clairvoyant
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The Wright Reverend Delivers a Musical Miracle

Frank Wright Quartet: Blues for Albert Ayler (Esp-Disk')

Frank "The Reverend" Wright was one of the most powerful saxophonists to pick up on Albert Ayler's freedom and ferocious playing (he was a friend of Ayler's in their Cleveland, Oh days), and his "energy music" approach to tenor saxophone can be traced down to Charles Gayle, Sabir Mateen, and other hard-blowing tenormen on the current scene. Wright followed Ayler to New York City, arriving in 1964 and fitting into the scene right away. The following year, Esp-Disk' owner Bernard Stollman signed him on the spot after hearing him sit in with Coltrane, and he made two classic albums for Esp.

Soon after, he moved to France, which was more artistically receptive to free jazz than the U.S. was. When the Esp label was revived a few years ago, one of its first non-reissue releases was a concert recording of Wright's quartet at the 1974 Moers festival.
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The Return of the Toughest Tenor

Charles Gayle Trio: Streets (Northern Spy)

There was a time, two decades ago, when a dedicated cult regularly went to the old Knitting Factory (on Houston Street, when it was still mostly a jazz club) on Mondays, because for months at a time the club would have Charles Gayle play two sets every Monday night. If you were a fan of hardcore free jazz, that was The regular gig in New York in the early '90s.

Born in Buffalo in 1939, Gayle had hit New York City by the early '70s. He almost made his mark with an album on venerable avant-garde label Esp-Disk in 1974, but the label shut down before it came out (revived last decade, it once again has plans to release that album -- keep your fingers crossed!).

When he next recorded in 1988, he had been homeless for a while, sheltering in an empty Brooklyn storefront.
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Catching Up with Leo, Part 2

Part of catching up with the many releases on Leo Records that I haven't reviewed (first installment here) includes covering the label's latest offerings. It just released eight CDs in January; I review half of them here, meanwhile looking back at older related Leo albums (most of the other January releases I will look at in the next installment in this series, which I hope to finish writing within a week). As before, dates in parentheses after album titles are recording dates, where listed; if not available, then year of release ("p." for "published")

François Carrier  (photo above) is a 50-year-old Canadian saxophonist. Beyond his work on Leo, he has been documented by several of the other labels that focus on free jazz, including a seven-cd set on Ayler.

François Carrier/Michel Lambert/Alexey Lapin In Motion (live 12/21/10)

This is Carrier's January release, his second in this trio with pianist
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See also

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