Our final post on the Best Jazz Albums of 2014, includes the latest live album compilation from a true living legend. There’s a transcendent album from a vocalist who deserves much more recognition. We have an impressive debut album from one of the best young drum masters around. A tenor saxophonist who has made a tribute album his own and finally three avant-garde jazz legends, encountering a contemporary lion and in doing so creating some fascinating fireworks.
- Road Shows, Volume 3 – Sonny Rollins (OKeh) Nobody should mess with Theodore Walter Rollins. Nobody. (Just ask “humorist” Django Gold!)The greatest living jazz saxophonist released another set of tracks this year from his seemingly inexhaustible supply of live recordings. This set was recorded between 2001 and 2012, in Japan, France and St. Louis. As for the performances, well it shouldn’t shock anyone to learn that they are stellar. The most amazing thing for me is to realize that Mr. Rollins was somewhere between 71 and 82 years old when these were recorded. His energy level and the creativity of his ideas on his solos both seem limitless. At an age when most sax players, if they are still playing, are taking it easy, Newk is shaming younger cats every night. There are a couple of standards a couple of Rollins classics a brand new hard-driving piece (“Patanjali”) and an eight minute and thirty second unaccompanied solo flight which will make many a sax player go out and sell their horns. And just think y’all, there are hours and hours more of this out there. Bring on Road Shows, Vol. 4.
- Soul to Soul – Carmen Lundy (Afrasia) This is an album that is deeply, deeply drenched in soul and jazz. This is the type of album that perhaps Anita Baker would have made after Rapture if the corporate suits had left her alone. Carmen Lundy nails it. All. The. Way. It was clearly a personal project for Ms. Lundy as she wrote or co-wrote 11 of the 13 compositions and played all instruments on a basic tracks version of the album that she recorded before the final version. Her vocal performances are as rich, stunning and sexy as they have ever been and the mood is never less than sumptuous. Guest stars such as Patrice Rushen, Geri Allen, Warren Wolf and Randy Brecker add the perfect grace notes. Jazz fans should own this album. Adult R & B fans should own this album. Hell, everyone should own this album.
- The Thought of You – Otis Brown III (Blue Note) Drummer Otis Brown III is one of the bright young talents in jazz today. You’ve probably heard him, even if you didn’t know it as he has played and recorded with Joe Lovano, Esperanza Spalding, Terence Blanchard and many others. For his debut album, Mr. Brown has enlisted the help of some of the other bright young cats, such as Robert Glasper, bassist Ben Williams, trumpeter Keyon Harrold and vocalist Gretchen Parlato; with labelmate and Glasper bassist Derrick Hodge as co-producer. The music is strong, modern straight ahead jazz with decidedly spiritual overtones. Highlights include their reworking of a Shania Twain tune “You’re Still The One” with Ms. Parlato on vocals.Also check out “The Way (Truth & Life)” written by Brown and Glasper. It always excites me to hear the next generation playing jazz as they hear it because in spite of what some old fogeys say, these guys are the music’s future hope. Mr. Brown loves his jazz, he loves his family, he loves his wife and more than anything, he loves The Lord. And that’s alright by me.
- Tiddy Boom – Michael Blake (Sunnyside) Michael Blake’s name was new to me before this album. But since I was quite familiar with all of his bandmates on this disc, I came in with fairly high expectations. They were exceeded. The Canadian born/New York based tenor saxophonist was able to get this project off the ground thanks to a grant from Chamber Music America’s New Jazz Works program. It was conceived as a tribute of sorts to two of the earliest titans of the tenor, Lester Young and Coleman Hawkins. The compositions are all originals and though Blake does show a bit of Hawkins influence, his robust and hard swinging tone is all his own. This is thoughtful, intelligent jazz; well-played by all and more than worthy of multiple listens.
- Wiring – Trio 3 & Vijay Iyer (Intakt) Trio 3 is back with another outstanding album featuring stellar work by a younger, forward thinking guest pianist. on last year’s Refraction – Breakin’ Glass, it was Jason Moran; this time Vijay Iyer does the honors. The results are a bit different but no less compelling. Oliver Lake’s earthy alto saxophone continues to do great things at that edge of the avant-garde. He delivers outside ideas with just enough melody to keep from losing those of us are not big fans of “free”. Reggie Workman and Andrew Cyrille will always be as solid a bass/drums tandem as you will find anywhere. And their special guest, Mr. Iyer has established himself as one of the most intelligent jazz pianists around. In whatever scenario he is placed, he makes the music better.
Tracks from all 25 albums in our 2014 Best Of list, may be heard on Curt’s Cafe Noir WebJazz radio, our free, streaming radio station, from now throughout January 2015. Click HERE to access the station.
For those who want to see our complete list of the Best 25 Jazz Albums of 2014, it is available in a previous post that you can view by clicking HERE.
May you all have a Happy, Healthy, Safe and Jazz Filled 2015. I will holler at y’all plenty of times in the next year about all things jazzy. Feel free to holler back, whenever you are so moved.
Until then, the jazz continues…