2006's Best Jazz Albums
Here are 10 great jazz discs from 2006. On certain days, they might even be my top 10 of this abundant year.
Sound Grammar Forget Ornette's daunting reputation; true to the mischievous genius of this75-year-old child,
Coleman has always composed so that guileless ears can pick the padlocks on the musical constructs that confound and enthrall the eggheads. Hisalto sax
evokes startled birds, playground games of tag, puppy-love dialogue, and the blues. A pair of bassists—one plucks, one bows
—jig and sway with profound empathy, which is further refracted when Coleman switches to trumpet bleats or violin keens. His drummer sonDenardo
is a worthy rhythmic domestic, pounding dough and scrambling eggs off the side.
tenor sax evokes mostly giddy awe for the tonal depths it can plumb, the encyclopedic range of tunes he quotes, the rhythmic wrinkles he bunches and straightens, and the ceaseless torrent of melodically galvanized yet structurally sound ideas that pour from his horn during a typically inspired solo. Sonny, Please has its customary share of suchjaw-dropping displays
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, placed in the usual setting: some ballads, a calypso, some spunky originals, all supported by mediocre sidemen who are left in the dust when the inspiration hits.
AUM Fidelity African polyrhythms and Latin merengue, replete with braying saxes and a jaunty accordion, make up one of the sonic milkshakes Parker concocts with his Olmec septet. On four other tracks fromLong Hidden
, this oldCecil Taylor
cohort plays solo bass with an enormous tone, as if a field of high-tension wires were his fret board and strings.
Blue Note On Radio Guantanamo, Bunnett's longtime fascination withAfro-Cuban hybrids
hits the Eureka! spot of profundity and versatility. Starting with traditional ensembles who know changui, the Haitian-oriented roots music of southeastern Cuba, she adds the New Orleans gumbo of harpist-accordionist-vocalistJumpin' Johnny Sansone
. Next come the big jazz horns of tuba playerHoward Johnson
and thelate tenor saxophonist Dewey Redman
, plus her own flute and soprano sax filigree, and enough shakers and rattlers for some glorious holy rolling. This Guantanamo produces the opposite of torture.
Delfeayo Marsalis Minions Dominion Troubadour Jass Personalities matter. The self-effacing Marsalis—trombonist Delfeayo—helms a disc that epitomizes ensemble synergy (with luminaries like Mulgrew Miller and Eric Revis) and showcases the sublime relationship he had with his mentor, the late, ex-Coltrane Quartet drummer Elvin Jones, playing here for the last time with horns. The spirit of 'Trane is pervasive, from altoist Donald Harrison's modal phrases on "Lone Warrior" to the entire sweep of "Lost in the Crescent" to brother Branford's blitzkrieg on the title track.
is Branford the egotist stretching big canvases for the most swaggering hard bop and the most delicate ballads.Drummer 'Tain Watts
provides invaluable support.
has nurtured the best small ensemble in jazz by encouraging all four of his cohorts to compose, while setting a high standard with his own distinctively sinuous tunes, and the wide-ranging harmonic and textural possibilities of a piano-less lineup that includes a trombonist and vibraphonist.Critical Mass
fully integrates newest memberNate Smith
on drums, and, like the band's half-dozen previous discs, lets its unique instrumentation, generous spotlight-sharing, acute familiarity, and enormous core talent do the rest.
Green Leaf It's been delightful to see Dave Douglas shed some of his Artist pomposity and rejigger his own quintet along similar lines onMeaning and Mystery
. Electric pianistUri Caine
delivers the warm, diaphanous tones Holland vibistSteve Nelson
executes, and the group utilizes the fulcrum of a pliable, intelligent rhythm section and forceful horns to remind us that, done right, mainstream jazz remains aspontaneous, suspenseful joyride
Ropeadope Speaking of joyrides, Bobby Previte's "Ministry of Truth" hurtles along like tsunami surf music, a winsome gush of kitsch delivering irresistible momentum and a cosmic—or at least political—undertow. The title reference to our Iraq War partners and song names linked to Orwell's1984
can be beside the point if you'd rather spazz out on jazz-rock adrenaline leavened by Farfisa organ and woozy slide guitar. Ex-members ofSex Mob
are on board, and the funk ofSly
is not forgotten.
MCG Jazz A grin-granting ruckus of a much different sort,Dizzy's Business
doesn't forget that Gillespie swung as hard as he bopped. An incredible array of 20 musicians gathered inPittsburgh
and chased through charts reworked by some of the bop era's best arrangers, includingErnie Wilkins, Slide Hampton,
. Big-band glue guys like baritone saxophonistGary Smulyan
, stars likeRoy Hargrove
, and crucial bit players like scat-vocal stalwartJames Moody
(of "Moody's Mood" fame) were all on hand. Put simply, they proceeded to swoon, burn, prance, and careen through some of Dizzy's signature tunes, making this recording of the gig the jazz year's most reliable crowd-pleaser. -BRITT ROBSON
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