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Chris May's Best Releases of 2012

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Christian Scott
Christian Scott
Christian Scott
b.1983
trumpet


aTunde Adjuah

Concord Records

In 1959, when Whitney Balliett, the New Yorker's jazz critic, published a collection of his columns, he titled the book The Sound of Surprise. The promise of the unexpected, wrote Balliett, was jazz's most precious quality. In a year which went on to include the release of trumpeter Miles Davis
Miles Davis
Miles Davis
1926 - 1991
trumpet
' Kind of Blue (Columbia), saxophonist John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
's Giant Steps (Atlantic), pianist Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
Dave Brubeck
1920 - 2012
piano
's Time Out (Columbia)...continue.

Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
Ahmad Jamal
b.1930
piano


Blue Moon

Jazz Village

It is tempting to say that, at age 82, Ahmad Jamal carries on getting better and better, but that would be to miss the point. The pianist long ago reached a level of perfection from which it is simply not possible to get better. It is a level, however, to which he habitually returns. In 2010, Jamal released one of the most sublime albums in his long and splendid career, the quartet set A Quiet Time (Dreyfus Records). Two years later, he has...continue.

Zoe Rahman
Zoe Rahman
Zoe Rahman

piano


Kindred Spirits

Manushi Records

Holy soul food, Batman! It feels good to listen to a musician who plays from the heart rather than the brain. Not that British pianist Zoe Rahman is deficient in the grey stuff or technique. She studied music at Oxford University, the Royal Academy of Music and Berklee; once, twice, three times an alumnus. But when Rahman is seated at the keyboard, and her band kicks in, it is her exuberant spirit that she channels, not her learning. That, anyway, is how it...continue.

Oriole
Oriole
b.1997
band/orchestra


Every New Day

F-IRE RECORDS

Oriole's third album of sonorous South American and Iberian-flavored jazz has been some time coming. The London group, led by guitarist and composer Jonny Phillips
Jonny Phillips
Jonny Phillips
b.1971
guitar
, debuted with Song For The Sleeping in 2005 and followed up a year later with Migration (both F-IRE). There has been a six year gap before Every New Day, recorded in 2011 and originally planned for release the same year under a different title ("Mementos")...continue.

Josh Arcoleo

Beginnings

Edition Records

Over the decades since Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
Coleman Hawkins
1904 - 1969
sax, tenor
and Lester Young
Lester Young
Lester Young
1909 - 1959
saxophone
were making their reputations, forging in their wake two very different paradigms for the tenor saxophone, the instrument's players have acquired something of the aura of the gunslingers of the American Frontier. Other instruments lend themselves to compare-and-contrast, too, but there is something uniquely high noon about the tenor and its place in...continue.

Marco Benevento
Marco Benevento
Marco Benevento

organ, Hammond B3


TigerFace

Royal Potato Family

When a renegade instrumentalist such as keyboardist/sonic adventurer Marco Benevento records an album with a relatively big budget, and with the shock-horror addition of a vocalist, it can be bad news for the core audience. Bye bye bohemia, hello mainstream. TigerFace was tracked, not at Benevento's usual Brooklyn location, but at Los Angeles' EastWest studio, where the Beach Boys recorded its 1966 sonic masterpiece Pet Sounds, a...continue.

Various Artists

The Leopard Lounge Box Set

Warner Jazz

If you enjoy the TV series Mad Men, you are going to love The Leopard Lounge Box Set. Probably. You need to know what you are getting into. Should you be offended by the thought of guitarist Barney Kessel
Barney Kessel
Barney Kessel
1923 - 2004
guitar, electric
hanging on to a tremolo arm and twanging out George Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin
1898 - 1937
composer/conductor
's "Summertime," or cornetist Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
Nat Adderley
b.1931
trumpet
fronting a cheesy, Vegas-style big band arrangement of Tony Hatch's "Call Me," then The Leopard Lounge is not ...continue.

Alex Hutton Trio

Legentis

F-IRE RECORDS

There has been a flurry of activity around screen composers this spring 2012, all of it good. Warner Jazz has released an anthology of movie theme music written by Nino Rota, Collector Nino Rota; British pianist John Taylor
John Taylor
John Taylor
b.1942
piano
is poised to release a tribute to the film and TV composer Carlo Rustichelli, Giulia's Thursdays (Cam Jazz); University of Illinois Press has published John Caps' Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music...continue.

Criolo

Nó Na Orelha

Sterns Music

There may be an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, but there's not an awful lot of Afrobeat. So here's some qualitative easing: the opening track on singer/rapper Criolo's Nó Na Orelha ("knot in the ear"). "Bogotá" has the rhythms, a turbulent horn arrangement, chopping rhythm guitar, booting tenor saxophone, politically-engaged lyrics and a rebel vibe. It is the real thing with a Brazilian twist....continue.

Meeco
Meeco
Meeco
b.1976
composer/conductor


Beauty Of The Night

Connector Records

Anyone unfamiliar with Paris-based composer/producer Meeco and his gorgeous, sophisticated jazz can get approximate bearings from two other artists. One is Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
Antonio Carlos Jobim
1927 - 1994
piano
, partly for the influence of bossa nova on Meeco's writing, partly for the heart-on-sleeve romanticism his songwriting shares with Jobim. The second is Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
Astrud Gilberto
b.1940
vocalist
, who is suggested by the Brazilian vocalist Eloisia, Meeco's regular collaborator...continue.

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