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Budd Kopman's Best Releases of 2016

Budd Kopman By

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Of the seventy or so albums I was fortunate to review this year (with many still waiting in the wings), the releases below (in chronological order) are those that moved me the most and hence that I remember the clearest, even after a year. The quality of the music is uniformly high, and leaving something off this list was a bit difficult. Of course, reactions to music are completely subjective, so one man's gold is another's lead—your mileage may vary.

Yago Vazquez, Scott Lee, Jeff Hirshfield
Stream
Fresh Sound New Talent

The "New Talent" on the very fine Fresh Sound New Talent release, Stream, is pianist Yago Vazquez, who hails from Spain, but who moved to NYC in 2008 to study at The New School for Jazz and Contemporary Music where he graduated with honors in 2010. His band mates in this cooperative piano trio are long time partners bassist Scott Lee and drummer Jeff Hirshfield, both of whom would be familiar to anyone who has followed saxophonist Loren Stillman. Read more.

Daniel Schlaeppi, Marc Copland
More Essentials
Catwalk

More Essentials is just that, a continuation, after much touring, of the partnership between bassist Daniel Schlaeppi and pianist Marc Copland. The extremely high standards set by its predecessor, Essentials are more than met by this second release. Read more.

Marc Mommaas, Nikolaj Hess
Ballads And Standards
Sunnyside Records

Many, if not most, of today's jazz players end up, sooner or later, becoming composers. Hence, on top of searching for and hopefully finding their personal means of expression when performing (composing in real-time), they now must also develop a personal compositional style which fits their aesthetic outlook, and which is accessible enough by other players to allow group expression. Read more.

Marc Copland
Zenith
Inner Voice

Whenever pianist Marc Copland is a sideman on a session, much less leading the session, there are very high expectations for the music. Whether it is the lustrous sound he gets from the keyboard, which includes his pedalling, the dense harmonies which create shimmering harmonics or the intelligence of his lines and compositions, Copland has a unique voice and musical personality. Read more.

Lucian Ban
Songs From Afar
Sunnyside Records

It is a truism that musical art, in whatever genre, entails much more than just the technical, either physical or theoretical. True art also has that ineffable something, which could be described as the soul of the performer touching the soul of the listener. The performer brings everything (including, of course, the extra-musical) he or she has experienced to that point and channels it through the music, hopefully creating one of those magical moments when time and space collapses and all present are one. Read more.

Noah Preminger
Pivot: Live At The 55 Bar
Self Produced

The first thing that should be said about tenor saxophonist Noah Preminger's Pivot: Live At The 55 Bar is the extremely exciting you-are-there feeling of the recording. Recording engineer Jimmy Katz has managed to capture the sound and visceral feel of a jazz quartet in full cry with no net. Many jazz listeners can remember a performance when everything clicked and the magic happened—where the audience was as much in the groove as the players were with no space existing between the stage and your table, and you almost physically floated outside the club after the gig. Read more.

Billie Davies
Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon
Cobra Basement

Free drummer Billie Davies calls Hand In Hand In The Hand Of The Moon a symphony, which implies composition, larger planned structures, etc. Nothing like that is here, as the music was improvised and recorded in one session. However, this music is not just a free session of highly intuitive and sensitive players; it has a reason for being, and that reason is the intersection of the life paths of two artists working in different media -Davies, a musician and Serge Vandercam, a painter, at specific time and place. Read more.

Four Letter Words
Blow
Amalgam Music

Four Letter Words is a trio consisting of tenor saxophonist Jake Wark, pianist Matt Piet and drummer Bill Harris, and Blow is their highly intelligent, extremely intense and deeply rewarding debut recording. Read more.

Alex Merritt
Annatta
F-ire Records

Everyone, listeners and composers/players bring their life experience to the music at hand. Jazz musicians in particular, especially today when many, if not most, compose as well as perform, pour themselves once into a composition, and then again when performing it. The performer aims to virtually disappear, to separate the distance and space between himself and the listener, and allow the music to flow. Of course, the listener is also asked to fully "be present" and , in a sense, to also disappear. Read more.

Ryan Carraher
Vocturnal
Self Produced

Guitarist and composer Ryan Carraher is blessed with an enormous technique and a fertile and inventive musical mind (having received the Achievement Award from the guitar department of the Berklee College of Music), which is doubly impressive in one so young. Read more.

Guillermo Klein
Los Guachos V
Sunnyside Records

If a creator has a vision, being persistent in working to bring it to life is a requirement. This is true in life, for visions big and small, and not just for artists. Read more.

Michael Jefry Stevens
Flow
NotTwo Records

Pianist Michael Jefry Stevens has been involved in many projects in his career over the past forty years. The Generations Quartet started out as a trio six years ago, consisting of Stevens with his long-time musical partner, bassist Joe Fonda and newcomer, drummer Emil Gross. The trio became a quartet with the addition of saxophonist (and Renaissance Man) Oliver Lake, perhaps best known for founding the World Saxophone Quartet with saxophonists David Murray, Julius Hemphill and Hamiet Bluiett. Read more.

resAUnance
Migration
FMR Records

Highly emotional and ravishingly beautiful, Migration is a feast for the ears and heart. Performed by resAUnance, a cooperative quartet, which began as a trio comprised of vibraphonist/percussionist John Bacon, vocalist Esin Gündüz, pianist Michael McNeill with electric cellist Jonathan Golove added later, this combination of unique instrumentation and innovative musicians has created an astonishing multipart sonic poem. Read more.

Logan Strosahl
Up Go We
Sunnyside Records

Duke Ellington famously said, There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind". Creative Improvised Music really has no boundaries, and there is virtually nothing that cannot influence the final result. It is quite possible for the adventurous listener to play a different album every day for a decade and never hear a musical style that repeats. Swing is dead, long live jazz! Read more.

The Rite of Trio
Getting All The Evil Of The Piston Collar
Carimba Porta Jazz

There is nothing to do but to dive in and experience the full force of The Rite of Trio head-on and fearlessly. Read more.

Ingi Bjarni Skulason
Skarkali
Self Produced

Prediction: pianist/composer Ingi Bjarni Skulason and his music will eventually end up on ECM. This is not because he is from Iceland, but rather that he, even at his young age, has a fully developed, recognizable style. Read more.

Linus Lindblom
Skarkali
HOOB Records

Sanctuary is saxophonist Linus Lindblom's third release for HOOB records, the first two being The Lines (2007) and Objets Trouvés (2012). Read more.

Ikarus
Chronosome
Ronin Rhythm Records

Drummer Ramón Oliveras is the composer and leader of Ikarus and Chronosome is this band's second release, after the powerful and stunning Echo . There is no sophomore jinx here, as this recording starts off where the earlier one begins only to fly higher and delve deeper while still creating immense physical soundspaces. Read more.

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