What sort of a year did jazz have in 2011? On the evidence of my Top Ten, a very varied and fascinating one. The human voice did wellLiane Carroll and Kaz Simmons produced beautiful, engaging and honest recordings that stir the emotions in very different ways. Finland did alright too, thanks to superb albums from Iiro Rantala and Verneri Pohjola. And the '50s and '60s also manage to claim two of the Top Ten spots, with retrospectives from Joe Harriott and Jan Johansson that should help to expand the reputations of both musicians. Instruments of the year? Well, the clarinet family might lay claim to that award. It's been a good year for the ursine community as wellwho can resist Bears In Cowboy Hats, especially when (ably assisted by Daniel Bennett) they create such a life-affirming mix of jazz and Americana?
So here, in my humble opinion, are ten of the best of 2011:
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total)
First time I met Lee Konitz, my mentor who completely changed my life, in 1992. He was giving a masterclass at the Cologne Conservatory (Germany) where I was a freshmen (with playing experience around three years total). He saw an alto sax on my neck and said: Hey, how about you there, would you like to play something for us? I played a piece with the piano. OK, said Lee, how about you play something unaccompanied? Oh yeah! I was deep into transcribing Sonny Stitt and pretty much into playing as fast as possible as many right notes as possible. So I played Oleo in about 300 beats per minute and was very proud of myself. Lee was tapping his foot all the way through. Hmm, he said, that was in time and all that... (I thought - yeah, of course, haha!) and then he said, You've got a lot of quantity, how about quality? It took me 15 years to realize what he meant.