C. Michael Bailey's Best Releases of 2007

C. Michael Bailey By

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Again this year I am going to devote my attention to two classes of recordings deserving inclusion on my end-of-the-year, best-of list: new and re-released (or previously unreleased) recordings I personally reviewed, and others I missed or which were reviewed better by my colleagues at All About Jazz. Additionally, in keeping with last year, I am releasing this list in December 2007. Should I hear anything between now and the end of 2007, it will be included in 2008's list.

Compared with other musical genera, jazz is a finely crafted art that exists, even at its most mundane, at a high level of inventive accomplishment (Santa should be so fortunate to have such elves in his employ). This is both good and bad because it becomes exceedingly more difficult to separate the "good music from the "truly exceptional or "groundbreaking music. I hope that if I have erred, it is on the side of the latter.

New Recordings

Craig Buhler
The Capistrano Sessions
Discernment Music

A blind spin of The Capistrano Sessions immediately evokes the recordings trumpeter Shorty Rogers made in the 1950s. The sound, the swing, the je ne sais quoi is a vintage West Coast jazz vibe. Continue

Ike Turner
Risin' With The Blues
Zoho Music

Ike Turner received a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Recording for Risin' With The Blues. Long seen as the failed husband of Tina Turner, and vilified in her biography, I, Tina (1986) and the biopic movie What's Love Got To Do With It (1993), Ike Turner is nevertheless one of the most important rock 'n' roll pioneers still with us. Continue

Elisabeth Lohninger
The Only Way Out Is Up
Lofish Music

Austria is the mother source for composers. One of the latest progeny from the land of golden eighth notes is vocalist/composer Elisabeth Lohninger. Lohninger has been performing from an early age, beginning her career at age six, performing Austrian folk songs with her sisters. Continue

Turtle Island String Quartet
A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane


John Coltrane has been the inspiration for a number of musical considerations. Add the Turtle Island String Quartet to the mix with its A Love Supreme: The Legacy of John Coltrane. Continue

Jimmy Hall & The Muscle Shoals Rhythm Collective
Build Your Own Fire
Zoho Music

Singer/harmonicist Jimmy Hall's Build Your Own Fire is the third in Zoho Music's Roots series, joining Bonnie Bramlett's Roots, Blues, and Jazz and Ike Turner's Risin' With The Blues. Continue

Michael Brecker
Heads Up International

The importance of saxophonist Michael Brecker's final recording, Pilgrimage, is densely multidimensional. The romantically inclined will attach significance to the fact that the nine compositions were conceived and recorded while Brecker was aware of the gravity of his final illness. Continue

Enrico Pieranunzi Trio
Live In Japan

Cam Jazz

I suspect that at least a gazillion electrons have been sacrificed to the obvious influence that Bill Evans had on Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi...and I am going to offer up a few million more. Pieranunzi is well-studied in the Evans musical method, even establishing a temporal connection to Evans through bassist Marc Johnson...Continue

Steve Cole
Narada Jazz

What the most popular "smooth jazz" lacks is organic-ness. Its highly processed nature makes it saccharine for some tastes. It is this fault line in the music that makes multi-instrumentalist Steve Cole so important to the smooth jazz/mainstream divide. Continue

Komeda Project
Crazy Girl
WM Records

In a too brief but productive life, Krzysztof Komeda (1931-1969) composed in excess of forty film scores. These include such Polish cinematic gems as Roman Polanski's Knife In The Water and Andrzej Wajda's Innocent Sorcerers. Komeda's first score for the screen was Polanski's first film, Two Men And A Wardrobe (1958). Continue

Jeremy Pelt and Wired
Shock Value: Live At Smoke
Max Jazz

Imagine a sacred Shinto sand garden beautifully divided up into all of the genres of jazz, rock, and blues. Interconnections between the genres and subgenres are carefully documented, after having been fully researched and verified. Now visualize trumpeter Jeremy Pelt dragging his horn through this garden... Continue

Anita O'Day
Live In Tokyo '63
Kayo records

Inevitable with the upcoming screening of the documentary Anita O'Day The Life of a Jazz Singer at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival is the release of Live In Tokyo '63. This is the soundtrack to a televised concert in Japan during O'Day's fruitful association with Verve records that was to last the decade. Continue

Andy Bey
Ain't Necessarily So
12th Street Records

Andy Bey is the finest male jazz vocalist performing today. This may stick a finger in the eye of such talents as Kurt Elling or Mark Murphy, both contemporaries chronologically opposed; but both of these artists readily acknowledge the immense talent of Bey. Continue

Discs reviewed by my All About Jazz 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. I have included all of the recently released recordings from Monterey Jazz Festival Records reviewed as they are essential to the jazz legacy.

Joe Zawinul
Brown Street
Heads Up International
Review by John Kelman

The fusion super group Weather Report's hit "Birdland may have been covered by big bands before, but the majority of the extensive repertoire created during its 1971-86 run has remained largely untouched.... Continue

Trio West
Trio West Plays Holiday Songs
Yummy House Records
Review by Jim Santella

Drummer/leader Tobias Gebb, born and raised on the west side of Manhattan, pays homage, with his trio, to home and family on this traditional holiday album... Continue

Keith Jarrett
My Foolish Heart
ECM Records
Review by John Kelman

Despite suggestions by some that, now nearing the quarter century mark, it's time for pianist Keith Jarrett's Standards Trio to hang up its hat for good, My Foolish Heart demonstrates that there's still plenty of life left in this group. Continue

John Coltrane
My Favorite Things: Coltrane Live At Newport
Impulse! Records
Review by Chris May

Complete recordings of saxophonist John Coltrane's 1963 and 1965 Newport Festival appearances, most of the material on My Favorite Things: Coltrane Live At Newport has been available before... Continue

Sky Blue Sky
Nonesuch Records
Review by Doug Collette

Wilco's Sky Blue Sky belies the stark black and white of its graphics. It's music of pastels, seemingly designed to lull the listener into a false sense of security.... Continue

Miles Davis
Miles Davis: Live At The 1963 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Jazz Festival Records
Review by Samuel Chell

This recording is so fresh and alive sonically and so rich and rewarding musically that forty-five years literally melt away upon hearing it. One doesn't know whether to express gratitude to the producers for releasing a recorded event of such historic significance and rare beauty... Continue

Thelonious Monk
Thelonious Monk Live At The 1964 Monterey Jazz Festival
Monterey Jazz Festival Records
Review by Greg Camphire

As part of the series of recordings launching the Monterey Jazz Festival's new record label, this previously unreleased 1964 set by pianist Thelonious Monk offers a glimpse of the maestro with an augmented version of his working quartet of the time, during which Monk was finally receiving much-deserved mainstream attention from the public... Continue


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