Here we go, folks. There’s not much to say, except: Here’s Denver Jazz Music Examiner Rob Johnson’s Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2011, with a couple of extra categories.
Top 10 Jazz Albums of 2011
1. Lee Konitz, Brad Mehldau, Charlie Haden, Paul Motian – Live at Birdland (ECM) The lineup should be enough to convince you. The six jazz standards they toy with will delight you. In my original review, I asked if it was perfect. It’s close enough.
2. Sonny Rollins – Road Shows, Vol. 2 (Doxy) The Saxophone Colossus’ second time around the world includes guest shots by Jim Hall, Roy Haynes, and a very tardy Ornette Coleman.
3. Ambrose Akinmusire – When the Heart Emerges Glistening (Blue Note) This terrific trumpeter seems to have captured every other lists’ #1. Maybe I’m just contrary. I called him a miracle in my original review.
4. Keith Jarrett – Rio (ECM) Every other list has anointed Craig Taborn’s Avenging Angel as the solo piano of the year. It’s terrific, but this one is a double, and Jarrett hasn’t been this sunny in years. Maybe it’s the location.
5. Miguel Zenon – Alma Adentro (Marsalis) It’s physically impossible for this Puerto Rican alto saxophonist to make a bad album. This one may be his best.
6. Etienne Charles – Kaiso (Culture Shock) You think you know calypso? You haven’t heard it until you’ve heard this trumpeter’s latest CD. Another one I reviewed.
7. Stranahan/Zaleski/Rosato – Anticipation (Capri) In my review, I said this album was the best piano trio of the year. I’ve heard nothing since to change my mind. And in 2012, I plan to get a great interview with Capri Records’ boss, Tom Burns.
8. Muhal Richard Abrams – SoundDance (Pi) This is the free-jazz album to get if you don’t think you like free jazz. Abrams’ double-CD has him duetting with the late Fred Anderson on one, and George Lewis on the other.
9. Marcus Strickland – Triumph of the Heavy (Strick Muzik) “O for a muse of fire”. Here he is, and the explanation for the title is worth the price of this double-CD. I like double-CDs, don’t I?
10. Paul Motian – The Windmills of Your Mind (Winter & Winter) Paul Motian died on November 22, 2011, ruining my Holidays (and I don’t mean that humorously). He was the finest of drummers and bandleaders. On this CD, he uses Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan, and the vocals of Petra Haden to create one of the most beautiful jazz ballad albums of the past decade.
Historical or Reissue Album
1. Miles Davis Quintet – Live in Europe 1967, The Bootleg Series Vol. 1 (Sony/Legacy) Perhaps the greatest jazz group ever, during their greatest time. The appellation, “Vol. 1”, gets fans drooling.
2. Heiner Stadler – Tribute to Bird & Monk (Labor) A reissue from 1979, this has more great musicians than you can count on one hand, and they play blues melodies composed by the titled artists and arranged by the mysterious Stadler.
3. Freddie Hubbard – Pinnacle, Live & Unreleased (Resonance) A set from a time when Hubbard couldn’t put a truly great band together (his bass player was Joni Mitchell’s ex-husband), but he still played with fire and verve.
Jazz Compilation Album
Everybody Wants to Be a Cat (Disney Jazz) Songs from Disney films? Let me tell you, bro, they’re cooler than the other side of the pillow. Roy Hargrove, Esperanza Spalding, Brubeck, Regina Carter, etc. Buy it; it’s great! Here’s the review.
Jazz Vocal Album
Terri Lyne Carrington – The Mosaic Project (GrooveJazz) To list the great voices and musicians on this historically great album would take another whole column. But, everything you hear is women; the most talented women in jazz. Carrington is also a very sweet person, with a killer sense of humor and proportion. I reviewed this one, too.
Remember, when you buy these, go to Denver’s best independent record store, Twist and Shout.
And, during 2012, if you like (or hate) something I’ve written, let me know in the comment box at the bottom of the article. I really need feedback from you folks. You’re the reason I do this.