Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2012

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Scores of excellent CDs were released in 2012. These are some of the finest. Click on the CD titles for more in depth reviews.

Hal Galper Trio—Airegin RevisitedHal Galper

Airegin Revisited

Origin Records

Pianist Hal Galper
Hal Galper
Hal Galper
b.1938
piano
has been delving deeply into his rubato explorations of the standards, along with his own distinctive compositions, and each release is better than the last.

Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias—Swept AwayMarc Johnson / Eliane Elias

Swept Away

ECM Records

An extraordinarily beautiful set. Bassist Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
Marc Johnson
b.1953
bass
and his musical/marital partner, pianist Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
Eliane Elias
b.1960
piano
, joined by drummer Joey Baron
Joey Baron
Joey Baron
b.1955
drums
and, on of five numbers, by saxophonist Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
Joe Lovano
b.1952
saxophone
, have created a classic.

Brad Mehldau Trio—Where Do You Start?Brad Mehldau Trio

Where Do You Start

Nonesuch Records

Pianist Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
Brad Mehldau
b.1970
piano
, along with trio mates, bassist Larry Grenadier
Larry Grenadier
Larry Grenadier
b.1966
bass
and drummer Jeff Ballard
Jeff Ballard
Jeff Ballard
b.1963
drums
, released two great CDs this year, one of Mehldau originals and one of covers. Both could be included, but this, the trio's covers outing, grabbed me just a little harder.

Todd Bishop Group—Little PLayed Little BirdTodd Bishop Group

Little Played Little Bird

Origin Records

Drummer Todd Bishop
Todd Bishop
Todd Bishop
b.1967
drums
is an underground treasure. He doesn't boast the highest of profiles, but he has put out two consecutive great CDs for the Origin Records label: 2009's 69 Annee Erotique and now, this nod to alto saxophonist/free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
Ornette Coleman
b.1930
sax, alto
.

Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura—MukuSatoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura

Muku

Libra Records

Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura
Natsuki Tamura
Natsuki Tamura
b.1951
trumpet
and pianist Satoko Fujii
Satoko Fujii
Satoko Fujii
b.1958
piano
haven't been as prolific this year, recording-wise, as they've been in years past, but they've produced a real gem in this duo set, a follow-up to sorts to their previous duo outing, Chun (Libra Records, 2008).

Mark Soskin—Nina RotaMark Soskin

Nino Rota

Kind of Blue Records

Mark Soskin
Mark Soskin
Mark Soskin
b.1953
piano
is, perhaps, best known as saxophonist Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
Sonny Rollins
b.1930
saxophone
' pianist from 1978 to 1991. On this marvelous solo outing, he explores the music of Italian composer Nino Rota, the composer behind Federico Fellini's film soundtracks, as well as the music for Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 movie, The Godfather. Extraordinarily beautiful.

Enfants Terrible—Live at the Blue NoteEnfants Terribles

Live at the Blue Note

Half Note Records

Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
Lee Konitz
b.1927
sax, alto
, along with bassist Gary Peacock
Gary Peacock
Gary Peacock
b.1935
bass
, drummer Joey Baron and guitarist Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
Bill Frisell
b.1951
guitar
, delivers an hour of some of the most inspired spontaneity imaginable.

Gato Libre—ForeverGato Libre

Forever

Libra Records

Gato Libre is trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's acoustic, European-hued quartet. Joined by keyboardist Satoko Fujii—on accordion here—along with bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu and guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, the sound is old world, with an often modern tint. An enchanting set.

Bobo Stenson Trio—IndicumBobo Stenson Trio

Indicum

ECM Records

Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson
Bobo Stenson
Bobo Stenson
b.1944
piano
, along with trio mates Anders Jormin (double bass) and Jon Fält, has created another stellar outing. This is one of today's—or any day's—top trios.

Jessica Williams—Songs of EarthJessica Williams

Songs of Earth

Origin Records

Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams
Jessica Williams
b.1948
piano
keeps going deeper and deeper into her art of the piano. She shines on her solo outings, never more so than here.

Marc Copland—Some More Love SongsMarc Copland

Some More Love Songs

Pirouet Records

Pianist Marc Copland
Marc Copland
Marc Copland
b.1948
piano
's trio outings are always mesmerizing affairs, and Some More Loves Songs is no exception.

Same Newsome—Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1Sam Newsome

Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1

Self Produced

This is soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome
Sam Newsome
Sam Newsome

saxophone
solo, sounding percussive and haunting, driving into enduring classics from pianist Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
Duke Ellington
1899 - 1974
piano
and saxophonist John Coltrane
John Coltrane
John Coltrane
1926 - 1967
saxophone
.

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