C. Michael Bailey's Best Releases of 2012

C. Michael Bailey By

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Cat Conner

Cat Tales

One of the greatest jazz performance challenges is playing and singing ballads slow...sometimes called "calendar slow." The trick is playing slowly without dragging or stalling. It is simple physics, the difference between velocity and momentum. Simple tempo may be understood in terms of speed (or velocity) but swing, swing has the added element of musical weight about it, ensuring that once motion is started, no matter how slow, it is properly maintained by the spirit of the delivery...continue.

Markelian Kapedani

Balkan Bop

Were we able to quantitate talent density as a function of label catalog size, Sergio Veschi's Red Records would doubtless be close to the top. His generosity to Italian and foreign musicians alike has resulted in a great jazz label. Albanian activist/pianist/composer Markelian Kapedani adds to this fine catalog Balkan Bop, a standard piano trio performance of ten original compositions, marking his second recording for the label, after 2008's solo Balkan Piano...continue.

Triosence with Sara Gazarek

Where Time Stands Still

Triosence is a piano trio active on the European jazz stage since making a name for itself in its native Germany in 1999. On When Time Stands Still, the band joins forces with West Coast jazz vocalist Sara Gazarek for a recital of twelve original tunes. The music is mostly penned by Triosence pianist Bernhard Schüler, with Gazarek and Schüler combining their talents to provide the lyrics... continue.

Kate McGarry

Girl Talk

At a time when it seems that everyone is a jazz singer releasing new music in a male-female distribution of 1 to 10, what is it exactly that separates the merely good singers from the truly great ones. Because of the sheer number of singers and relative high quality of jazz singing today, it is brutally hard for a singer to register above the base noise he or she is surrounded with. Equally hard is critical evaluation of such music...continue.

Sara Gazarek

Blossom & Bee

All chicken or feathers, feast or famine, flood or drought; regarding jazz vocal releases, there is always a healthy steady stream of new music being produced. The vast majority is good while, as it should be, the truly exceptional are of a rarer variety. The release of Kate McGarry's exceptional Girl Talk (Palmetto, 2012) might have been just a singular event of excellence, except that Sara Gazarek decided to join McGarry at Palmetto records, releasing the equally fine Blossum & Bee, signaling a trend of excellence in jazz vocals released over a compressed event horizon...continue.

Shannon Whitworth and Barrett Smith

Bring It On Home

Like musical genre, the release of music has become progressively atomized in the past 25 years. Long gone is the ritual ministry of going to a record store to buy and album. Albums, those often painstakingly conceived collections of songs, are gasping their Chain-Stokes last breath at the hands of a generation used to downloading the newest single mp3 recorded in someone's basement using an iPad, the result posted on YouTube. No liner notes, no story, only an effete bunch of too-hip- for-their-own-good writers blogging that this is the new "thing" using the internet as the new word-of-mouth (read that propaganda (machine) to decrease the signal-to-noise ratio to just noise...continue.

Connie Evingson

Sweet happy Life

Singer Connie Evingson is a master of thematic programming. Herlast several recordings have all been predicated on specific themes that showed great consideration in their concepts. Recordings released since the new millennium include: Little Did I Dream: Songs by Dave Frishberg (Minnehaha Music, 2008); Stockholm Sweetnin' (Minnehaha Music, 2006); Gypsy in my Soul (Minnehaha Music, 2005); The Secret of Christmas (Minnehaha Music, 2003); and Let It Be Jazz: Connie Evingson Sings the Beatles (Summit Records, 2003). All are uniformly fine and were well received...continue.

Die Mikronesische Mafia

Die Mikronesische Mafia

Berlin-based Die Mikronesische Mafia, an event-driven nonet, makes a brand of music that is as backward-looking as it is forward-forging. Cinematic and comprehensive, the five fairly brief parts that make up the group's eponymous release conjure visions of classic movies remade in modern parlance (with thoroughly updated soundtracks) or, even better, Weimar-period cabaret evolved into its futuristic counterpart in the 1982 film Blade Runner, were it set in 2050 Berlin. This odd and oddly affecting music is reminiscent, but of what...continue.

Tianna Hall And The Mexico City Jazz Trio

Two For The Road

Tianna Hall's fifth recording, Two For The Road, and her first since Never Let Me Go (Blue Bamboo, 2011), continues to document the singer's evolution within the mainstream of jazz vocals. Thoroughly trained in the vocal arts at the University of Houston, Hall has progressively refined her smart and sexy delivery with each recording. Hall has achieved a vocal facility that is the equivalent of Lauren Bacall telling Humphrey Bogart how to whistle in the 1944 film To Have and Have Not: "You just put your lips together...and blow." continue.

Andras Schiff

Johann Sebastian Bach: Das Wohltemperierte Clavier

Johann Sebastian Bach's Das Wohltemperierte Clavier

(TheWell-Tempered Clavier) BWV 846-893, is a collection of two sets of 24-pairs of preludes and fugues composed in every major and minor key between 1722 and 1742, while Bach was in appointment at Kothen and Leipzig, respectively. Ostensibly for teaching and practice, the whole of Das Wohltemperierte Clavier has been a touchstone of harpsichordists and pianist since the advent of recording...continue.

John Proulx

The Best Thing For You

While female jazz vocalists outnumber male jazz vocalists five to one, it would be a fallacy to believe there is not a wealth of talent among the men singers. With Louis Armstrong and Chet Baker now memories, and Mark Murphy and Jon Hendricks in twilight, as Kurt Elling ascends their throne, there exists a vocal diaspora of the most refined and sonically appealing voices singing, and they are all men. Andy Bey, Beat Kaestli, Henry Darragh and John Proulx all have beautifully sweet and slightly androgynous voices that are able to flatter a broad range of song types. Proulx, who has previously released the uniformly excellent Moon and Sand (2006) and Baker's Dozen: Remembering Chet Baker on MAXJAZZ, proves again, on The Best Thing For You, that he is the leader of this pack...continue.

Skip Heller

Fakebook II: That's Entertainment

Fred Steven "Skip" Heller is one of those musicians with a gravity great enough to create his own universe. He is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger, bandleader, producer and writer with an all-encompassing musical knowledge, interest and vision that is readily witnessed in his All About Jazz column Hardly Strictly Jazz. He is a stylistic moving target playing guitar- organ trio before moving on to Americana and ultimately to being what Jana Pendragon calls, "America's most confusing country singer." Whatever Heller might be, he is wholly dedicated to music, particularly American music, historically, conceptually and metaphysically. For Heller, music is a multidimensional entity with no bottom. It is all part of his universe and he wishes it to be part of your's. ...continue.

Cheryl Bentyne

Let's Misbehave: The Cole Porter Song Book

Rich and creamy with a shot of Tabasco. That is the best way to describe the sophisticated composing of Cole Porter and the soprano voice necessary to make it real: that of Cheryl Bentyne. Focused collections like this accomplish two things. First, they present a concentration of given composer's work, bringing together a unified repertoire, and two, allow the performer to take all the necessary latitude to make the music new. The coupling of Porter and Bentyne is one perhaps even better than her tryst with Gershwin but gratefully, we don't have to say...continue.

Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, Sir John Eliot Gardiner

Live at Carnegie Hall: Beethoven Symphonies 7 & 5

Why return to this tired, old repertoire? Twenty years ago, Sir John Eliot Gardiner and his period instrument band, Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique, produced the leader of a deluge of Beethoven Nines performed on period instruments, or by period practices, or both. The Deutsche Grammophon Archiv Produktion imprint even managed to perfect the engineering necessary to capture the warmth and personality of period performance when compared to the set recorded by Sir Christopher Hogwood and The Academy of Ancient Music and mere four years earlier for the same label. Did Gardiner need to tread this well-worn road again in the twenty-first century? Considering that his subject matter is the pinnacle of all musical thought, it was Gardiner's indulgence, but his obligation to do so...continue.


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