C. Michael Bailey: Best Recordings Of 2006

C. Michael Bailey By

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After 10 years of writing for All About Jazz, I wanted a change. This time, I wanted my best of 2006 list available before the end of the calendar year. Thus, some recordings from the last quarter of 2005 may also be included in my Best Recordings Of 2006.

As always, a deluge of fine recordings has come my way this year, many more than I could possibly listen to, much less personally review. So I am going to continue the format I began last year, and include my colleagues' reviews of those recordings I thought worthy of recognition but did not write about myself (as my fellow writers' efforts required no addenda). The list is divided into new and reissued recordings. 2006 has been a very good year for both.

New Recordings...

Fumio Yasuda and Theo Bleckmann
Las Vegas Rhapsody - The Night They Invented Champagne
Winter & Winter

This whimsical sound trip to the heyday of Las Vegas celebrates the city's one hundredth anniversary. German-born and New York-based singer Theo Bleckmann and Japanese pianist/arranger/composer Fumio Yasuda unite with the Kammerorchester Basel to transform carefully chosen selections from the classic American songbook into a soundtrack for celebrating the rich decadence and unbridled hedonism of the "new Gomorrah in all her splendor... Continue

Karrin Allyson

Jazz vocalist Karrin Allyson has one peer: Cassandra Wilson. Both women have impacted jazz vocals in the last decade, swerving the genre into interesting places. Allyson's most critically acclaimed release, Ballads (Concord, 2001), came after the release of six solid, if less received, releases for the label. This concept recording gave way to forays into sleek blues (In Blue, 2002) and pop jazz (Wild for You, 2004). Allyson returns to the vocalese concept of Ballads with Footprints...Continue

Eric Reed

Pianist Eric Reed is one of the most articulate and intelligent ambassadors of jazz performing today. His 21st Century recordings Happiness, From My Heart, Mercy and Grace, E-Bop, and Merry Magic show Reed fully formed and creatively fluid. Add to these thoughts bassist Rodney Whitaker and drummer Willie Jones III, and the jazz listenership receives the grace of perfectly conceived and delivered jazz piano trio music...Continue

The Eddie Daniels Quartet
Mean What You Say
IPO Recordings

The presence of Hank Jones permeates this recording so much that the Eddie Daniels Quartet may be better titled the Hank Jones-Eddie Daniels Quartet on Mean What You Say. In fact, the whole quartet, rounded out with bassist Richard Davis and drummer Kenny Washington, is top-drawer, which goes a long way in making Mean What You Say one of the finest mainstream jazz recordings of the year...Continue

The Mark Kleinhaut Trio
Holding The Center
Invisible Music Records

Maine guitarist Mark Kleinhaut expands his impressive discography with Holding the Center, a progressive, contemporary outing. On his previous two recordings, A Balance of Light and Chasing Tales, Kleinhaut employed trumpeter Tiger Okoshi and alto saxophonist Bobby Watson, respectively. Here the guitarist displays his own considerable talent in the more intimate trio format...Continue

John Holloway, Jaap ter Linden, Lars Ulrik Mortensen
Veracini Sonatas

Francesco Maria Veracini (1690-1768) was an Italian composer best known for his compositions for the violin. Veracini was a contemporary of Giuseppe Tartini, Johann David Heinichen, and the brilliant castrato Senesino, as well as Handel, Bach, Corelli, and Vivaldi. Not a household name. Indeed. But Veracini represents that class of composer that one turns two once fatigued with the more notable composers. Violinist John Holloway has already addressed Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) and Johann Heinrich von Schmelzer (1623-1688), ground previously covered by Andrew Manze and Romanesca...Continue

Edward Simon
Cam Jazz

A native of Venezuela, pianist Edward Simon began his career playing Latin music before migrating to jazz while in Philadelphia, where he worked with local bassist Charles Fambrough. A member of both Bobby Watson's Horizon and Terence Blanchard's group, Simon was also a finalist in the 1994 Thelonious Monk International Jazz Piano Competition. Unicity, Simon's eighth recording as a leader, sports the rhythm section from Wayne Shorter's acoustic band, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade...Continue

Bonnie Bramlett
Roots, Blues, and Jazz
Zoho Music

Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett were a key building block in popular music development in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Between their 1969 debut album Home and D&B Together, made shortly before their divorce in 1972, the couple prepared the ground for acts like Steve Miller, Steve Winwood, Boz Scaggs, Hall & Oates and George Michael...Continue

Johnny Smith
San Francisco Bay Jazz
Johnny Smith

Johnny Smith may not be a musical household name, but his rural Missouri roots and Uncle Delaney and Aunt Bonnie Bramlett gave him some serious soul bona fides. Following a musical youth and a stint in the Marines, Smith returned to his second home of Southern California, skirting big fame, making smart and informed pop music...Continue

Rob Mullins
Standards & More
Planet Mullins

Okay, okay, I cooked the books on this one. Standards & More is a live quartet recording with a tenor saxophone front. It ended up here with my rationalizing that the recording is a piano trio with tenor saxophone. Nevertheless, here it is. Rob Mullins is an over-the-top veteran pianist from the sunny climes of Southern California. Recorded live at the Steamers Jazz Club in Fullerton, California, Standards & More is Mullins' first straight-ahead jazz recording since 1989/1996's Jazz Jazz...Continue

Linton Garner Trio
Quiet Nights
Cellar Live

The late Linton Garner (1915-2003) was brother to the better know Erroll Garner and a jazz pianist of rare talent in his own right. Garner's piano style is at once bright and illuminating. From the opening bars to "The Days Of Wine And Roses the listener knows that this live set, recorded at Vancouver's The Cellar, is going to be special. Garner's trio consists of bassist Russ Botten and tenor saxophonist Ross Taggart. The recording took place November 17, 2002, a mere four months prior to Linton's death on March 6, 2003... Continue

The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band
Dizzy's Business
MCG Jazz

The Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Big Band is a renowned entity with several fine recordings on various labels. Releases by the group are always greeted with a certain anticipation. Listeners who have been looking for that one big band recording this year need look no further·Dizzy's Business is here, and it's larger than life...Continue

Roger Kellaway
IPO Recordings

Heroes reminds me of Ray Bryant's Ray's Tribute To His Piano Friends released in 1997. Bryant employed the traditional jazz piano trio to explore the music of Bryant's inspirations, colleagues and friends. Here Kellaway tips his hat to Benny Golson, Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt and Oscar Peterson, among others. Golson's "Killer Joe kicks off the disc and is grounded primarily by Kellaway's perfect hard bop/soul sense. Bruce Forman guides "Cotton Tail among the walking notes of bassist Dan Lutz, who, just behind the beat, provides the trio's horsepower...Continue

Cheryl Bentyne
The Book of Love

Much like fellow West Coaster Karrin Allyson, Cheryl Bentyne has shown a certain affection for thematic recordings. Allyson released her superb Coltrane tribute, Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane, in 2001, and Bentyne answered with her own tribute to Anita O'Day, Let Me Off Uptown, in 2005. Bentyne now returns with The Book of Love, a suite of standards based on a literary motif. ...Continue


Joe Cocker
Maddogs and Englishmen The Complete Fillmore East Concerts

The phenomenon known as Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs & Englishmen turned 35 years old in 2005. A six-disc limited edition box set, Mad Dogs & Englishmen - The Complete Fillmore East Concerts, was released to commemorate the anniversary, and documents all four shows performed by the band at New York's Fillmore East Auditorium on March 27th and 28th, 1970. Released concurrently were the two-disc Mad Dogs & Englishmen - The Deluxe Edition and a remastered DVD of the original concert movie....Continue

Red Garland
Red Garland's Piano

Red Garland (1923-84) is often critically dismissed a cocktail pianist only worthy of tinkling in the background of a lounge, but his depth as a musician is much deeper than that. A member of the first classic Miles Davis Quintet (with John Coltrane), Garland won favor with the bandleader for the way he used musical space, approximating the approach of pianist Ahmad Jamal. As a part of that band, Garland helped shape a good deal of Davis' Prestige output, as well as the trumpeter's first two Columbia releases...Continue

Miles Davis
The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions

In the realm of jazz music, we have an artist who regularly installed hinges in the history of American music. He was (and is) Miles Davis. The Legendary Prestige Quintet Sessions represents one such hinge, the transition between the decline of bebop and the ascent of hard bop; the assimilation of East Coast Cool into New York Hot; the definition of what jazz is.... Continue

Recordings reviewed by my colleagues...

That is the end of my personal best-of list. Here are some of the recordings that I would have liked to have given written consideration. I bow to my colleagues who so gracefully did.

The Allman Brothers Band
Eat a Peach Deluxe Edition
Review by Doug Collette

It's savvy for Universal to release this expanded version of The Allman Brothers' Eat A Peach coincidental with the band's summer tour. Nevertheless, it's not just marketing: the musical virtues of this two-disc package reflect positively on the band past and present... Continue

Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane
The Complete 1957 Riverside Recordings
Review by Jim Santella

After last year's discovery and Blue Note release of a live recording featuring Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall, the Concord Music Group has released this two-CD set of Monk and Coltrane session recordings from earlier the same year.... Continue

Tomas Stanko Quartet
ECM Records
Review by Chris May

The Beatles got it wrong. When you're 64, Lennon & McCartney predicted, you'll be ready for the knackers yard. But the lovable moptops were only in their twenties then, like Polish trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, and each had already changed the shape of things, the Beatles with "She Loves You (1963), Stanko on Astigmatic (1965). It was a young man's world...Continue

Sonny Rollins
Sonny, Please
Review by Jack Bowers

...Rollins remains one of the few immediately recognizable tenor voices on the scene, and the album has a couple of things going for it·the choice of material, consisting of three standards and four of the leader's original compositions, is curious but likable, while Rollins has assembled a splendid supporting cast that includes a seasoned rhythm section, a clever improv accomplice in guitarist Bobby Broom and a reliable frontline partner, long-time trombonist Clifton Anderson, who also produced the album...Continue

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