The Vault Top Ten: 2005
1. Gillespie and Parker Town Hall
New York City, June 22, 1945
Despite the substandard sound quality and hiss in the beginning, I found myself blasting this recording in the car when I got it. The tone is set when Symphony Sid wonders aloud where Charlie Parker is and within 30 seconds of the band kicking into "Be Bop" a member of the audience shouts "Go Dizzy." Two greats, two innovators, together during their peak in a live setting with an excited audiencehistory and great music captured and frozen foreverhow could this NOT be number on one my list? I know I will have to buy this one several times, as I will wear out the "indestructible" CD.
2. Art Ensemble of Chicago
With Fontella Bass
While avant-garde jazz challenges the listener to keep their attention, the introduction of then wife of Lester Bowie and R&B legend Fontella "Rescue Me" Bass tightens the reigns and makes this record an easy and enjoyable listen (almost all AEC are favorites of mine, but they aren't on the heavy rotation list as I have to be in a special mood for it) even though there are only three tunes.
3. Dizzy Gillespie
For me, they finally put together a Diz collection that matches what I have on my iTunes. All the great recordings from Gillespie from his work as a member of various big bands through the evolution of pop, Latin jazz and modern music plays like a great retrospective. While both discs rule my player, the second disc which contains classics like "Perdido," "A Night in Tunisia" and "Be Bop" makes for a superb aural experience.
4. Count Basie
The Complete Clef/Verve Count Basie Fifties Studio Recordings
Great Basie in a box, what else can I say?
5. Various Artists
Old School Soul Party
The crew at SF know how to throw a box set party. If you want fun in a box, this is the package to check out! A complete three disc collection of some of the greatest moments in soul and funk music, old-school style. Shout Factory doesn't miss a beat (no pun intended) with track selection, inclusion of great period photos and a solid booklet of quotes and creditsnot too thorough, but this isn't a historical perspective, but a celebration of an era. This collection kicks off with Wild Cherry's "Play That Funky Music" and ends with Minnie Rippington's "Lovin' You." In between, the boxset features recordings such as Parliament's party standard "Give Up the Funk," the Gap Band's "You Dropped a Bomb on Me," Cheryl Lynn's disco-esque "Got to Be Real," Al Green's "Sha-La-La," Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing," and Atlantic Star's wedding standard "Always," to name but a few.
6. Charles Mingus
A Modern Jazz Symposium of Music and Poetry
(Bethlehem / Shout! Factory)
I actually never knew of this recording until Shout Factory began its Bethlehem reissue series. You would think by the title that jazz marries poetry would be the theme of the entire recording, but depending on your outlook (mine is thankful), only one ("Scenes in the City") of the eight tracks include any kind of spoken word. The rest of the album finds Mingus and his septet of music's finest work through such stellar recordings that bridge the gap of difficult but accessible jazz as "New York Sketchbook" and "Duke's Choice." Detailed liners, and essay by Nat Hentoff.
7. Langhorne Slim
When the Suns Gone Down
This is neither a reissue nor an old artists new recording, rather it is a young man in his early twenties who is the most authentic sounding, yet completely approachable in a modern perspective artist, that any fan of old-time country, ragtime, bluegrass or blues will instantly appreciate. Langhorne Slim is the new millennium Hank Williams. The album is pure, unaffected listening satisfaction. I know baby boomers and college students who dig Slim; he's gonna have an important career, no joke!
8. Various Artists
Sunshine on You Back Porch: A Celebration of Gennett Records
OK, a bit of disclaimer, I co-own the label that released this record, produced a few of the tracks and wrote the liners, but this article is about my favorite records of 2005, so I figured that as long as I didn't make it number one (which it really is to me), I would be OK. But this record contains new recordings by Randy Brecker, Rhonda Vincent, Duke Robillard, Stacey Earle and many others doing repertoire from the ground breaking pre-WW2 record company and recording studio responsible for bringing you artists such as Louis Armstrong, Charley Patton, Bix Biederbecke, Gene Autry and a whole host of others.
9. Charlie Parker
The Genius of Charlie Parker
This package contains some of Parker's greatest recordings. If you're new to Bird's music, this is a terrific place to start.