Mark F. Turner's Best of 2013

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Jazz keeps growing and evolving through all of its permutations and 2013 was another stellar year of music. It's always difficult to pick the best from a host of outstanding releases yet the task is a labor of admiration. Another cool thing about "Year End" lists is discovering something new. Here are just a few of my favorites and hopefully something yet to be discovered for those unfamiliar with these fine releases.

Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
Wayne Shorter
b.1933
saxophone
Quartet
Without a Net
(Blue Note)

At 80 years young, the esteemed jazz patriarch continues to perform at a level of freedom and ingenuity that's well beyond peers and others who are much younger. His quartet for the past decade operate on a symbiotic level that is indeed remarkable as captured in a live recording that breathes with spontaneity and verve.

Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa
Rudresh Mahanthappa
b.1971
sax, alto

Gamak
(ACT)
With thick elements of South Indian music, Western influences that include country music and progressive rock, this release defies compartmentalization. With the help of a smoldering ensemble that includes the masterful idiosyncrasies of guitarist David Fiuczynski
David Fiuczynski
David Fiuczynski
b.1964
guitar
, jazz saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa creates a unique language that is both cerebral and enjoyable.



Cecile McLorin Salvant
Womanchild
(Mack Avenue)
To be young, gifted, and boldly confident, singer Cecile McLorin Salvant has the poise of jazz matriarchs in the lineage of Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
Abbey Lincoln
1930 - 2010
vocalist
and Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
Billie Holiday
1915 - 1959
vocalist
, yet exudes a new freshness that is modern and relevant. Salvant's debut on Mack Avenue remembers the past but moves forward with her own voice.



Jaimeo Brown
Jaimeo Brown
Jaimeo Brown

drums

Transcendence
(Motema Music)
One of the most fascinating releases of 2013 channels inspiration from the descendants of African American slaves in Gee's Bend Alabama—women quilters whose vibrant artwork is a testament of ongoing creativity and endurance. Drummer Jaimeo Brown adds his own patterns to their fabric in a recording colored with the blues, rock, gospel music, and modernism.



Dawn of Midi
Dawn of Midi
Dawn of Midi

band/orchestra

Dysnomia
(Thirsty Ear Recordings)
46 minutes of hypnotic machine-like precision is brought to you by the New York based piano trio with such artistic focus and execution that might easily be mistaken as electronically programmed. But this acoustic band is not just mimicking plugged-in music but expounding on the possibilities of how patterns and sound coalesce.



Matana Roberts
Matana Roberts
Matana Roberts

sax, alto

COIN COIN Chapter Two:Mississippi Moonchile
(Constellation Records)
A personal journey that is part music, genealogy, and ethnomusicology, saxophonist Matana Roberts continues to conjure the rich history of her roots through her Coin Coin series. Chapter Two is softer, heartfelt, and filled with fire.



RJ Miller
Ronald's Rhythm
(Loyal Label)
Electronic music comes in all sounds, colors, and textures, but drummer Ron Miller exploits the ambient side with chilled themes and moody soundscapes. The soul in the machine lies in the way Miller expertly juxtaposes his drum kit with piano, keyboards, and analog synthesizers through infectious melodies that move and groove.



Thiefs
Thiefs
(Melanine Harmonique Recordings)
Germinated from the seeds of a French American Jazz Exchange grant, the talented trio collective of drummer Guillermo E. Brown
Guillermo E. Brown
Guillermo E. Brown
b.1974
drum programming
, bassist Keith Witty, and saxophonist Christophe Panzani produce an eclectic project of soulful, spaced-out music through voice, electronics, and acoustic instruments.



Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
Vijay Iyer
b.1971
piano
/ Mike Ladd
Holding It Down: The Veterans' Dreams Project
(Pi Recordings)
Pianist Vijay Iyer and poet/emcee Mike Ladd continue their longtime collaboration through progressive music and spoken word. This time they explore the recorded experiences of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through the medium of their dreams in a project that is compelling, disturbing, and thoroughly thought-provoking.



Yeahwon Shin
Yeahwon Shin
Yeahwon Shin

vocalist

Lua Ya
(ECM Records)
South Korean singer Yeahwon Shin's debut on ECM is filled with innocent wonder and tenderness. The ambiance of Mechanics Hall, where the project was recorded; the intuitive playing from Shin's trio mates pianist Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
Aaron Parks
b.1983
piano
and accordionist Rubo Curto, and the singer's lovely voice are all factors in this beautiful release.



Emmanuel Bex / Mike Ladd / Nico Morelli
B2BILL: A modern tribute to Bill Evans
(Bonsai Music)
Add this the list of inventive trios with the collaboration of French musicians organist Emmanuel Bex and pianist Nico Morelli, joining forces with New York spoken word artist Mike Ladd. They spin and reinterpret covers and original tunes from the great Bill Evans served up with plenty of panache that's totally hip.





Valerie June
Valerie June
Valerie June

guitar

Pushin' Against A Stone
(Sunday Best Recordings)
Straight out of blues and roots music, by way of Tennessee, singer/guitarist Valerie June brings an unpretentious authenticity as she mixes rural, gospel, and folk music with lyrics laced with tenderness at one moment and hard life realities the next.




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