About time we had a thread suggesting the best jazz albums of 2011.
All in all, I think that 2011 has been a great year for new releases. Although I have picked several re-issues and older records this year, the better new albums have really stood out. The only disappointment has been Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstacy album "United front" which is still good but I think this group suffers from the all brass line up. Not quite as punchy as the wonderful Quintet nor the Keystone project which is one of my favourites.
I have enjoyed the David Sanchez / Christian Scott / Stefon Harris album "Ninety Miles" which pitches contemporary Post-Bop in an aggressive Latin contest. This album really grew on me and is worth the money alone for "Black action figure." There is plenty of music going on in this disc. I was also intrigued by Christophe Del Sasso's Big Band disc "Pretextes" which mixes contemporary jazz with Third Stream writing - a bit like Dave Douglas meets Gunther Schuller.
Perhaps the best album by a jazz stalwart has been Joe Lovano's terrific "Bird Songs" which demonstrated how his Us Five Group has evolved. This is a tough, aggressive account of celebrated Charlie Parker themes with numbers like "Barbados," "Dewey Square" and "Moose the mooche" being roughed up in a fashion that belies the fact that these compositions are nearly 70 years old. I must admit that Donny McCaslin's "Perceptional Motion" was a record that initially did not enthuse but I have grown to enjoy this record very much and love the tune "Firefly" which starts from almost nothing to creep up at a very slow tempo that is burning by the end.
However, three albums have dominated my CD player this year. The first is Gretchn Parlato's "Lost & Found" which remains thoroughly contemporary albeit still managing to retain a very strong jazz sensibility despite a nod towards pop on some tracks. I love the dup with the piano on "you & me" but there is so much to enjoy on this terrific record that marks this as one of my favourites this year. This is a terrific disc and one that gets better with each listen. I've also been impressed by Ambrose Akinmusire's "When the hear merges glistening" but there are a few , brief tracks which are filler's here. This disc features tenor saxophonist Walter Smith III as his front line partner but I would have to admit that it is when they are re-united on Smith's "III" that the music moves up a notch which makes this my choice for this year's best jazz CD.
Featuring a line up that includes Joe Sanders on bass, the brilliant Jason Moran on piano and one of Eric Harland's most impressive studio outings, the disc has the bonus of Logan Richardson on alto on one track. Smith is brilliant and needless to say, I love Moran's piano. However, Akinmusire is very much the discovery for me this year and he is definately someone with a wholly new approach to the trumpet rather in the fashion of the under-appreciated Kenny Dorham. This record on the Criss cross label is an modest affair with no hype. In many respects it reflects the kind of approach of Blue Note in the 60's and very much reminded me of the brilliant 2Our thing" by joe Henderson. All three of these albums include versions of Akinmusire's "Henya" which is almost an instant jazz standard the mleody is so beautiful. Jazz albums have a tendancy to be more "market-savvy" these days and the album "III" , in my opinion, eschews this for a more honest approach. The standard of writing ensures that this is not simply a blowing session and out of all my selections, I would sugges that this is the one CD which will appeal to the broadest range of tastes represented on this board.
I look forward to reading other suggestions...............