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2008: A Year of Jazz Tumult, Controversy and Achievements

By Published: January 1, 2009
Remembering Jaco: Twenty years after his death, the city of Oakland Park, Fla., has honored late bassist Jaco Pastorius, a native son, by dedicating a local park in his honor. The December 1 grand opening (held on Jaco's birthday) was followed by a free Jazz on the Green concert featuring several artists who were closely associated with Pastorius.

Billy Tipton legacy battle resolved: A court in Spokane, Wash., greed to award the estate of pianist and bandleader Billy Tipton to three illegally adopted heirs. Tipton had never been legally married with the woman he lived with as his wife. Furthermore, after his death Tipton turned out to be a woman who had lived for years as a man. The children "just tried as best they could to live with the hand they were dealt," said the judge and awarded them the $300,000 estate.

Here are one writer's choices for the top jazz recordings and reissues of 2008.

The 10 best new jazz releases, listed alphabetically:

  • Brian Blade, Season of Changes (Verve)

  • Randy Brecker, Randy in Brazil (MAMA Records)

  • Avishai Cohen Trio, Gently Disturbed (RazDaz)

  • Donal Fox, The Scarlatti Jazz Suite Project (Leonellis Music)

  • Melody Gardot, Worrisome Heart(Verve)

  • Generations, Tough Guys(ICA)

  • The Roy Hargrove Quintet, Earfood (Groovin' High/EmArcy)

  • Danilo Perez, Across the Crystal Sea (EmArcy)

  • John Santos Quintet, Perspectiva Fragmentada (Machete)

  • The Stein Brothers Quintet, Quixotic, (Jazzed Media)



The 10 best new songs of 2008, listed alphabetically:

  • Brian Blade, "Stoner Hill" from Season of Changes (Verve)

  • Jon Cowherd, "Return of the Prodigal Son" from Brian Blade Fellowship's Season of Changes (Verve)

  • Taylor Eigsti, "Let It Come to You" (Concord Jazz)

  • Tigran Hamasyan, "Leaving Paris" from New Era (Plus Loin)

  • Virginia Mayhew, "Toe Tickler" from Duke Ellington Legacy's Thank You, Uncle Edward (Renma)

  • Pete Malinverni, "Istanbul" from Invisible Cities (Reservoir)

  • Dafnis Prieto, "Until the Last Minute" from Taking the Soul for a Walk (Dafnison Music)

  • Marty Sheller, "The Route 40 Flyer" from Why Deny (PVR Records)

  • Brooke Sofferman, "Da Bull Stops Here" from Fine Whines (Summit)

  • Bobby Watson, "For Milt" from From the Heart (Palmetto)



The best jazz boxed set or historic recordings of 2008, listed alphabetically:

  • Dave Brubeck, Live at the Monterey Jazz Festival 1958-2007 (Concord Jazz)

  • Dizzy Gillespie Big Band, Showtime at the Spotlite, 52nd Street, New York City, June 1946 (Uptown)

  • Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Vol. 1 (Blue Note)

  • Horace Silver, Live at Newport '58 (Doxy)

  • Nina Simone, To Be Free: The Nina Simone Story (Legacy Recordings)



Final Bars

The list of jazz and jazz-related musicians, singers and industry figures who have passed on to the celestial jazz big band keeps on growing, year-by-year. Heavyweight losses during 2008 included Bill Finegan, Jimmy Giuffre, Johnny Griffin, Neal Hefti, Freddie Hubbard, Eartha Kitt, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Teo Macero, Miriam Makeba Jimmy McGriff, Dave McKenna and Esbjorn Svensson.

Here is the full list, in alphabetical order by instrument and artist:

Arranger and bandleader Bill Finegan; bandleader and historian Harry O. Brunn.

Bassists Dave Carpenter, Hubie Crawford (late 2007), Mel Graves, Dennis Irwin, Israel "Cachao" Lopez, Earl May, Wilfrid Middlebrooks, Jushi (Jean Segal).

Clarinetist Mahlon Clark (late 2007), Al Gallodoro and Derek Moore; clarinetist, writer and educator John Fell.

Cornetist, bandleader and writer Richard Sudhalter.

Drummers Jimmy Carl Black, Rob Blumenthal, Omar Clay, Bobby Durham, Allan Ganley, Randy Kaye. Kostas Kouvidis, (2007). Buddy Miles, Mitch Mitchell, Earl Palmer, Tony Reedus, Bill Reichenbach, Klaus Weiss, Peer Wybori, Lee Young; drummer and percussionists Diego "Mofeta" Iborra and Jozef Dodo Šošoka.

Guitarists Joe Beck, Hiram Bullock, Jimmy Gourley, Davy Graham, Augusto Mancinelli, Nico Rojas, George Russell, Wayne Wright; guitarist, singer, and bandleader Frankie Tam Sr.; guitarist and educator Werner Pöhlert.

Multi-instrumentalist, composer and label owner George Davis.

Multi-reed players Alfred J. Gallodoro and Jimmy Giuffre.

Organists Jimmy McGriff and Winston Walls.

Percussionist Omar Clay, George Gaber (late 2007), Walter "Tata" Gross, Tata Güines (Federico Aristides Soto), Norman Hedman, Randy Kaye, Tommy Lopez Sr., Long Joe Rodriguez, Salah Ragab.

Pianists Chris Anderson, John Arpin (late 2007), Patti Bown, Kenn Cox, Joseph Diamond, Larry Eanet, William "Doc" Hunter (late 2007), Ronnie Mathews, Dave McKenna, Marc Moulin, Bheki Mseleku, BJ Papa (William Jackson), John Osnes, Jack Perciful, Yusuf Salim, Esbjörn Svensson, Bobby Tucker, Lawrence Wheatley, Gerry Wiggins and John Young; pianist, bandleader and arranger Bob Florence; keyboardist Merl Saunders; pianist, composer and producer Geo Voumard; pianist and singer Page Cavanaugh.


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