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Year in Review

Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2012


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Scores of excellent CDs were released in 2012. These are some of the finest. Click on the CD titles for more in depth reviews.

Hal Galper Trio—Airegin RevisitedHal Galper

Airegin Revisited

Origin Records

Pianist Hal Galper has been delving deeply into his rubato explorations of the standards, along with his own distinctive compositions, and each release is better than the last.

Marc Johnson and Eliane Elias—Swept AwayMarc Johnson / Eliane Elias

Swept Away

ECM Records

An extraordinarily beautiful set. Bassist Marc Johnson and his musical/marital partner, pianist Eliane Elias, joined by drummer Joey Baron and, on of five numbers, by saxophonist Joe Lovano, have created a classic.

Brad Mehldau Trio—Where Do You Start?Brad Mehldau Trio

Where Do You Start

Nonesuch Records

Pianist Brad Mehldau, along with trio mates, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Jeff Ballard, released two great CDs this year, one of Mehldau originals and one of covers. Both could be included, but this, the trio's covers outing, grabbed me just a little harder.

Todd Bishop Group—Little PLayed Little BirdTodd Bishop Group

Little Played Little Bird

Origin Records

Drummer Todd Bishop is an underground treasure. He doesn't boast the highest of profiles, but he has put out two consecutive great CDs for the Origin Records label: 2009's 69 Annee Erotique and now, this nod to alto saxophonist/free jazz pioneer Ornette Coleman.

Satoko Fujii/Natsuki Tamura—MukuSatoko Fujii / Natsuki Tamura


Libra Records

Trumpeter Natsuki Tamura and pianist Satoko Fujii haven't been as prolific this year, recording-wise, as they've been in years past, but they've produced a real gem in this duo set, a follow-up to sorts to their previous duo outing, Chun (Libra Records, 2008).

Mark Soskin—Nina RotaMark Soskin

Nino Rota

Kind of Blue Records

Mark Soskin is, perhaps, best known as saxophonist Sonny Rollins' pianist from 1978 to 1991. On this marvelous solo outing, he explores the music of Italian composer Nino Rota, the composer behind Federico Fellini's film soundtracks, as well as the music for Francis Ford Coppola's 1972 movie, The Godfather. Extraordinarily beautiful.

Enfants Terrible—Live at the Blue NoteEnfants Terribles

Live at the Blue Note

Half Note Records

Alto saxophonist Lee Konitz, along with bassist Gary Peacock, drummer Joey Baron and guitarist Bill Frisell, delivers an hour of some of the most inspired spontaneity imaginable.

Gato Libre—ForeverGato Libre


Libra Records

Gato Libre is trumpeter Natsuki Tamura's acoustic, European-hued quartet. Joined by keyboardist Satoko Fujii—on accordion here—along with bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu and guitarist Kazuhiko Tsumura, the sound is old world, with an often modern tint. An enchanting set.

Bobo Stenson Trio—IndicumBobo Stenson Trio


ECM Records

Swedish pianist Bobo Stenson, along with trio mates Anders Jormin (double bass) and Jon Fält, has created another stellar outing. This is one of today's—or any day's—top trios.

Jessica Williams—Songs of EarthJessica Williams

Songs of Earth

Origin Records

Jessica Williams keeps going deeper and deeper into her art of the piano. She shines on her solo outings, never more so than here.

Marc Copland—Some More Love SongsMarc Copland

Some More Love Songs

Pirouet Records

Pianist Marc Copland's trio outings are always mesmerizing affairs, and Some More Loves Songs is no exception.

Same Newsome—Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1Sam Newsome

Art of the Soprano, Vol. 1

Self Produced

This is soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome solo, sounding percussive and haunting, driving into enduring classics from pianist Duke Ellington and saxophonist John Coltrane.

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