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Dan McClenaghan's Best Releases of 2019


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The music keeps moving forward, evolving to higher levels. My search for the best jazz recordings of 2019 led me to these outstanding CDs. These are presented in the order in which I discovered them.

Iro Haarla,Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul—Around AgainIro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul
Around Again
Tum Records

Finnish pianist Iro Haarla immerses herself in the music of Carla Bley, with an all-star trio. Bassist Ulf Krokfors and drummer Barry Altschul help Haarla explore Bley's quirky, off-center tunes in one of the year's most compelling piano trio recordings.

Vijay Iyer/Craig Taborn—The Transitory PoemsVijay Iyer/Craig Taborn
The Transitory Poems
ECM Records

Pianists Vijay Iyer and Craig Taborn join forces on a duet album. Two pianos, alone, no accompaniment, is a rare format. Iyer and Taborn succeed brilliantly, with instant composing, spontaneous arrangements, a deft and gorgeous fluidity of ideas mutating in the moment. Enchanting.

Satoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez—ConfluenceSatoko Fujii/Ramon Lopez
Libra Records

Pianist Satoko Fujii didn't sit back and take a break after a busy 2018, a year in which she released a dozen CDs. 2019 has shaped up as a more normal year (for her), with a mere five records. Confluence, a duo outing with drummer Ramon Lopez is the loveliest of these, understated and melodic—an essential Fujii set.

Amina Figarova—Road To The SunAmina Figarova
Road To The Sun
AmFi Records

Pianist Amina Figarova uses the sextet—flute, trumpet, saxophone and a rhythm section—as her main means of expression. Here she adds strings on five of the seven cuts, enriching her sound, on perhaps the best album of her career.

Denny Zeitlin—Remembering MilesDenny Zeitlin
Remembering Miles
Sunnyside Record

Denny Zeitlin explores the artistry of trumpeter Miles Davis in this solo piano album, recorded live at the Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland, California, serving up reimaginings of everything from 1960's "Flamenco Sketches" to 1987's "Tomaas."

David Torn / Tim Berne / Ches Smith—Sun of GoldfingerDavid Torn / Tim Berne /Ches Smith
Sun Of Goldfinger
ECM Records Records

The most "outside" album on this list, from guitarist David Torn, saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Ches Smith. It is a wild ride, featuring three twenty minute-plus, magnum opus type tunes that weep, wail and gnash their teeth.

Oddgeir Berg Trio—In The End Of The NightOddgeir Berg Trio
In The End Of The Night
Ozella Music

One of the most engaging piano trio dates of the year comes from Norwegian pianist Oddgeir Berg. His music is modernistic and gregarious, nicely spiced with subtle electronics. Beautiful melodies that won't let go.

Emilio Solla Tango Orchestra—Puertos: Music From International WatersEmilio Solla International Jazz Orchestra
Puertos: Music From International Waters
Avantango Records

Pianist Emilio Solla enriches the legacy of the tango with his outstanding Orchestra. Big, bold arrangements and gorgeous compositions to carry on the tradition.

Florian Hoefner Trio—First SpringFlorian Hoefner Trio
First Spring
Alma Records

Pianist Florian Hoefner and his trio immerse themselves in "the ethos of traditional songs and the high lonesome sound of Bluegrass" on this surprisingly fine recording—a blend of jazz and Americana, folk and country. Who'd have thought that would work?

Marc Copland—And I Love HerMarc Copland
And I Love Her
Illusions Mirage

This one proves, once again, that Marc Copland is one of the top piano trio players out there. A typically gorgeous set of nicey-chosen jazz standards, a pop song and a pair of especially fine originals, one from Copland and another from his trio's bassist, Drew Gress.


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