C. Michael Bailey's Best of 2005
One of the difficult things about being a writer of any kind is that the writing is often an avocation rather than a vocation. In short, my day job recently overtook my night job in a major way, limiting my music writing. While I listened to much music, for the first time in ten years writing for All About Jazz I was unable to write about the majority of it. I had to be more particular about what I wrote about. Perhaps I have been spoiled that I could opine about so much music. Then, on the other hand, my choices for the best releases of the year represent a cream-of-the-crop of sorts because I chose to write about these particular discs rather than the many others available to me and listened to. This list is well populated with re-issued releases and old music newly discovered and released. These recordings represent the history of the music. It is much easier to understand Tomas Stanko and Enrico Rava when one has heard Miles Davis.
This year I am going to exercise my critical license and include recordings I feel worthy of this list, but reviewed by other "AAJ writers. I have a dual reason for doing this. One, our staff sports many fine writers whose resources outstrip my own and who's keen critical eloquence could not be improved upon. Two, I hope to provide alternate perspective to a couple of them.
Jazz is an enduring art and on the whole very little poor Jazz is produced year in and year out. That fact provides the true challenge for music writer: how to convey what recordings are worth the listener's increasingly precious entertainment dollar.
Pablo Ziegler and Quique Sinesi
Baja Cero with Walter Castro
Rescued from the ashes of Khaeon Records, Bajo Cero should be welcomed with open arms. I warmly received this recording when it was first released and am fortunate to have the opportunity to reconsider it here. Continue
My Gypsy Soul
2005 should be declared the Year of the Female Jazz Vocalist. In this first quarter we have seen new releases from Cheryl Bentyne, Kate McGarry, Patti Wicks, and Dena DeRose. All are notable artists whose new recordings are equally notable. Add to this Connie Evingson's beautifully provocative Gypsy in My Soul, and one can only be encouraged about the state of art in jazz vocals... Continue
Let Me Off Uptown
(Telarc Jazz Records)
Some listeners will be completely satisfied with transparent pop vocalists like Mariah Carey. Others can only be satisfied with densely difficult jazz vocalists, like Lisa Sokolov or Betty Carter. But, as in politics, there also exists an enormous moderate middle ground, a population which craves musical excellence but may not crave the experimental edge. Cheryl Bentyne's new recording is perfect for the latter group... Continue
Phil Wood - Groovin' to Marty Paich
In its quiet and amiable way, Phil Woods- Groovin' to Marty Paich is one of the most significant recordings of this year. Recorded at the Los Angeles International Airport Sheraton Hotel on May 30, 2004, the music on Groovin' to Marty Paich is almost too humble about its auspicious beginnings. The story of this music begins almost 50 years ago in the mind and talent of a West Coast 34-year-old pianist/arranger named Martin Paich... Continue
James Blood Ulmer
James Blood Ulmer continues the all-out assault on the blues that he began with 2001's Memphis Blood and continued with No Escape From the Blues, released in 2003. After thirty years riding the edge of the avant-garde with the harmolodic Ornette Coleman and others, Ulmer emerges as a rural blues Sun Ra, a 21st century musical prophet with an irreverent smattering of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and Cecil Taylor... Continue
I'm With The Band
Jazz siren Tierney Sutton has produced her masterpiece. Following five well-received recordings, Sutton has done two things that ensure the superb quality of her new recording: one, she and her band perform live; and two, she fully integrates herself into the band, where all members exist as equals... Continue
Diana Krall and the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra
Diana Krall provides the best jazz vocal disc of Christmas music that you can find. Superbly backed by the Clayton/Hamilton Big Band, and sporting copious amounts of the singer's muscular piano playing, there is nothing to discourage recommending this disc... Continue
Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker
Town Hall, New York, June 22, 1945
In the day, the music contained on Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 was not only fresh, it was revolutionary and definitive of change. In spite of this, it is difficult, nay impossible, for contemporary ears to listen to these sides and not say, "one more poorly archived performance of "Night in Tunisia." That is why a shot of context is in order... Continue