Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2013


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Lots of extraordinary music. These are my picks for outstanding CDs of the year.

Keith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette—SomewhereKeith Jarrett/Gary Peacock/Jack DeJohnette
ECM Records

Pianist Keith Jarrett's "Standards Trio," with bassist Gary Peacock and drummer Jack DeJohnette, recorded Somewhere live in 2009. After thirty years together, the group is still growing. This will have to be considered one of their best recordings.

Denny Zeitlin—Both/AndDenny Zeitlin
Sunnyside Records

Pianist Denny Zeitlin has been spending much of the new millennium recording a series of excellent acoustic solo and trio outings. The innovative Both/And takes him back to where a large part of his heart has always been, with electronics. His electro-symphonic soundtrack to the classic remake of the Sci-Fi Film Invasion of the Bodysnatchers broke the ground. Both/And, an electro/acoustic masterpiece, digs deeper, for a superb "beyond category" recording.

Enrico Pieranunzi—Live at the Village VanguardEnrico Pieranunzi
Live at the Village Vanguard
CAM Jazz

Italian pianist Enrico Pieranunzi live at the legendary venue, The Village Vanguard, where so many of the great live albums have been recorded. Marc Johnson's on bass; with drummer Paul Motian playing on one of his last recordings before his passing in 2011. The music they made this night was magic.

Satoko Fujii Ma-Do—Time Stands StillSatoko Fujii Ma-Do
Time Stands Still
Libra Records

This is the third and last CD from pianist Satoko Fujii Ma-Do group. The band's bassist Norikatsu Koreyasu passed away shortly after the recording of the disc. Fujii seems to put together a new band or two every year. Ma-Do was one of her finest, most cohesive ensembles. This is Ma-Do's strongest offering, and one of the best discs in Fujii's extensive discography.

Roberta Piket—SoloRoberta Piket
Thirteenth Note Records

Pianist Roberta Piket is a versatile and under-appreciated stylist who can play inside or out. Her recordings have been mostly trio or quartet affairs. This is her first solo outing, opening with the tenderest of renditions of the Great American Songbook tune "I See Your Face Before Me." She visits, along the way, Thelonious Monk, Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Marian McFarland, and Sam Rivers, treating each composition with reverence while injecting some of her own slightly quirky musical personality and classical background into them.

Billy Mintz—Mintz QuartetBilly Mintz
Mintz Quartet
Thirteenth Note Records

Veteran jazzer Billy Mintz is one of a small handful of top level drummers. He's also a writer of beautiful, off kilter compositions; and for Mintz Quartet he's assembled a group of under-the-radar all stars—saxophonist John Gross, who is possessed of one of the most distinctive, raw-but-tender tenor tones in jazz; pianist/organist Roberta Piket; bassist Putter Smith. One of the tests for the "Best of Year" lists is how often the disc finds its way back to the CD player. This one won't stop going there, and it sounds better every time.

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra—In The Spirit of DukeThe Scottish National Jazz Orchestra
In the Spirit of Duke
Spartacus Records

The Scottish National Jazz Orchestra, directed by saxophonist Tommy Smith, has honored Miles Davis and George Gershwin with recordings. Now they've tapped into the soul of another giant, Duke Ellington, with a superb set—energized and reverent at the same time.

Anthony Branker & Wordplay—UppityAnthony Branker & Wordplay
Origin Records

Anthony Branker & Wordplay mix the funky with a the profound on this three horn front line septet outing. Highly engaging jazz sounds with a message.

Myra Melford—Life Carries Me This Way Myra Melford
Life Carries Me This Way
Firehouse 12 Records

Pianist Myra Melford, on her first solo outing—she fronts several superb ensembles—offers up her interpretations of artist Don Reich's abstracts—landscapes, still lifes, and city-scapes from a different dimension, on the canvas and on the CD.

Jane Ira Bloom—Sixteen SunsetsJane Ira Bloom
Sixteen Sunsets

Soprano saxophonist Jane Ira Bloom fronting a fabulous quartet in an examination of the ballad, originals and covers, resulting in her most beautiful recording to date.

Mark Dresser Quintet—NourishmentsMark Dresser Quintet
Clean Feed

Bassist Mark Dresser is one of our more adventurous jazz souls. This music is brash and turbulent, and original, and full of the unexpected.

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