Well, well ,well…What a difference a year makes…
Last year this time we jazz lovers were once again fending off the usual spate of “Jazz is Dead” announcements from various “serious” publications and also from a satirical “writer” named Django Gold, who thought it would be funny to pen an article, purporting to be Sonny Rollins, claiming to hate jazz.
Now, perhaps because jazz has proven to have more lives than Freddy Krueger, there have been in the past couple of months, an article in The Washington Post and an article/pictorial in Vanity Fair, celebrating jazz and [gasp], the young musicians that represent its future.
This kind of national-level publicity, along with what is happening on local scenes (such as right here in Charlotte, NC, with the Jazz Arts Initiative, led by my friends, drummer Ocie Davis and flutist Lonnie Davis) has given my cynical middle-aged heart, a smidgen of hope for what is ahead for the music that I love.
I was also greatly encouraged by the tremendous crop of first-rate jazz recordings this year. A major contributor to this is that the jazz world has all but broken free of looking for the approval of the major record label conglomerates. For new jazz recordings, indie labels and self releases have become the rule, not the exception. In fact on my list, only six of the 25 albums have some sort of tie to what would be considered a major label.
And the music itself, cuts across a spectrum of styles, influences and even chronological ages – from vocalists Cecile McLorin Salvant who is 26, to the legendary Tony Bennett, still relevant and vital at 89; from instrumentalists such as Albert “Tootie” Heath, the youngest of The Heath Brothers, at 80; to the exciting twenty-somethings who lead some of the tracks on the wildly creative compilation, Supreme Sonacy, Volume 1.
Yes friends, jazz is still very much alive and kicking some butt. And without further ado, here is a list of 26 recordings that kicked my butt in 2015, in alphabetical order by album title. As usual, we will follow this list with discussions and clips from each of the albums over the next few days. In each title is embedded a link to a place to purchase the CD or download of each recording.
As always, your comments are welcome.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Glorious Kwanzaa and Happy New Year, everyone!
- Afrodeezia – Marcus Miller (Blue Note)
- At Home (Live in Marciac) – Roberto Fonseca & Fatoumata Diawara (Jazz Village)
- Behind the Sky – Jon Irabagon (CD Baby)
- Bird Calls – Rudresh Mahanthappa (ACT)
- The Bronx Pyramid – Carlos Henriquez (Blue Engine)
- Camaraderie – Jacques Lesure (WJ3)
- Come Out Swingin’ – Eugenie Jones (CD Baby)
- Days of Freeman – James Brandon Lewis (Okeh)
- The Epic – Kamasi Washington (Brainfeeder)
- The Evolution of Oneself – Orrin Evans (Smoke Sessions)
- Extension Deadline – Alex Norris Organ Quartet (Brooklyn Jazz Underground)
- For One to Love – Cecile McLorin Salvant (Mack Avenue)
- Freedom and Surrender – Lizz Wright (Concord)
- Love Looks Good on You – Russell Malone (HighNote)
- Many a New Day – Karrin Allyson (Motema)
- Messin’ with Mr. T – Dave Stryker (Strikezone)
- Philadelphia Beat – Albert “Tootie” Heath (Sunnyside)
- The Royal Bopsters Project – London, Meader, Pramuk and Ross (Motema)
- The Silver Lining – Tony Bennett and Bill Charlap (Columbia)
- Spiritman – Steve Turre (Smoke Sessions)
- Supreme Sonacy, Vol. 1 – Various Artists (Revive/Blue Note)
- Sweet Candor – Maureen Budway (MCG Jazz)
- Triple Play – Doug Webb (Posi-Tone)
- Twenty Two – Luis Perdomo (Hot Tone)
- The Whisperer – Ben Wolfe (Posi-Tone)
- Yesterday I Had The Blues – Jose James (Blue Note)