A ton of fine music came out in 2012, like most years, making these year-end lists very difficult. A lot we don't get to hear, so that limits some. For example, I've not yet heard the 2012 disks of drummer Jack DeJohnette
and the Fourth Dimension. Having seen each of them live in 2012, it's easy to know their disks must be superb. Their concerts were fabulous. Also, Top 10? Not happening. It's a smattering. I did whittle some worthy recordings away. And separated out a vocalist section. Let's get to it, in no particular order:
Jazz Soul Seven, Impressions of Curtis Mayfield (BFM Jazz).
I thought this might be over-funked, formulaic jazz before I slapped it in the machine. Wrong from the get go. It grooves like hell, but it swings too. All the players are outstanding, creative and improvisational, without too much "look at me." Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington
Daversa has a real knack for writing, arranging and getting a band to play their asses off. Easier said than done. His tunes are a marvel of modern hip, slightly genre-bending, and just plain exuberant. He travels a lot of musical ground without losing interest. And the playing is hot shit. (see previous blog).
, who's a bitch on this record. The rhythm section makes each twist and turn easily. Great melodies too. The many compositional colors here really shed the light on Gilkes as a cat who is a superlative musician. This is hot shit.
Another debut from a drummer, this disk shows the veteran Cruz holding court to carry out his own compositions. The music is outstanding start to end, carried out by BYC cats that Cruz has played with and known for a whilesaxophonist Chris Potter
Perdomo is a monstrous pianist and this trio date is remarkable. It was also the fruition of his dream to one day play with drummer Jack DeJohnette, who is killin' throughout the recording. As is Perdomo. The music is written by Perdomo to allow the group to take off, without worrying too much about arrangements, and they do. Exceptional.
adds occasional ethereal vocals. Luis Perdomo (see above) is absolutely fiendish on the piano. Gilmore's guitar, surprisingly, doesn't really take center stage but wails with delight. It's a group effort, but Gilmore's the cat behind it all.
Granted, I fell in love with his ballads album last year, which caused my ears to turn toward this disk. But it holds up just as fine. As a saxophonist, Pedicin comes through the tradition of the greats like Dexter Gordon
This woman can bop and groove and plays the hell out of the various flutes. Great tone and harmonic/melodic sensibilities. She's less percussive than some flautists, which probably makes her a more complete, natural player. Bill O'Connell
Maybe the best recording of this outstanding, longstanding, and somehow underrated band. It jumped on my list when I first heard it in June. Crisply executed by four superior musicians. It's a record with a definite nod to father Dave Brubeck
. It might be held in a different light now, due to the recent passing of the icon, but it stands as a great testament. The tunes associated with the Great Father Who Made Them All have really outstanding arrangements and bring a bright new slant to the material. There is other material there too, equally strong. The playing is excellent. (By the by, Dave heard it all and loved what the cats did with his stuff).
It's the American debit of a young Japanese alto saxophonist who plays with flare, technique and feeling. When it swings, it's like mad, and in between it's first-rate stuff. It definitely helps that pianist Kenny Barron and bassist Ron Carter
She has hooked up with excellent pianist Geoffrey Keezer before. Great musical pair. Keezer provides just the right landscapesintricate, intelligent, but something the bones can feel. And Donatelli steps in with class and style and makes it a full painting. Great selection of seldom heard tunes, save "Too Late Now," which is also a treat because it's an exquisite duet between Donatelli's rich voice and Keezer's luscious piano sound. A Grammy should go here, but she's least known among the Grammy people of those nominated.
The most dynamic vocalist out there. A stellar recording, with fine writing and performing. He's an extraordinary live performer. This studio disk is similar. Passion, timing, phrasing, on-the-spot twists and turns. Rich sound. Headed for stardom. A lot of young "new thing" singers will flare out while Porter will still be standing. The title song will be in his "classic" category when he's got 15-20 years under his belt. It might be the one that he won't be able to leave out of a set even when he's 70.
Akula Allrich, Live! Uniquely Standard (Self Produced).
I listen to a lot of singers. Many are pedestrian. This was a great surprise. A soulful singer that has jazz in her bones. Great emotion and uplifting. A fine array of covers, with tunes like "Don't Let Me be Misunderstood." Also Miriam Makeba
& Shine On, The Universe of John Lennon (True North Records).
This may be a love or hate thing for Lennon fans, who don't like to see works altered too much. Occhipinti brings these important, poignant Lennon works out front in fine fashion, with gorgeous arrangements with greater rhythm richness, good jazz horns, and fine instrumentation all around. Lennon couldn't sing worth a shit, and that certain raggedness was part of the allure. Like Bob Dylan
, the importance lay in the lyrics and simplicity of structure, not in being pristine. Nothing ragged here. Rather, there is a true beauty brought to each tune. But it fits fine, because it's good music to begin with. And it's good to hear these songs again, especially "Working Class Hero."
Some of these could interchange with the above. Tough choices: