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Doug Collette's Best Releases of 2012

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It's great to be able to pick and choose from an overflowing roster of great titles, then relive the pleasure of discovery from the past twelve months.

The Brad Mehldau Trio

Ode

Nonesuch Records

The pianist's trio offers its perspective on the world around us by filtering it through its original music, the playing of which is equally intense from all three players.

The Brad Mehldau Trio

Where Do We Start

Nonesuch Records

An album composed largely of covers, recorded during the same sessions as Ode, this might be termed a mere companion piece if it weren't so forceful itself.

Medeski Martin & Wood

Free Magic #1

Indirecto

A testament to this threesome's seemingly endless creativity,(plus its' members' willingness to push themselves), this live album should rank as one of the best entries in its now 21 year-old discography.

Charlie Hunter

Not Getting Behind is The New Getting Ahead

Independent

The seven-string guitarist is at his best here, offering inspired readings of his own deeply felt compositions in tandem with drummer Scott Amendola (only), a kindred spirit if there ever was one, in the joy of improvisation.

Lettuce

Fly

Royal Family Records

Its slyly ambiguous title is perfectly appropriate as these muscular funksters launch themselves to a higher level altogether, steadfastly loyal to the influences that clearly stand them in good stead even as they transcend them.

Soule Monde

Soule Monde

Cornmeal Records

While loosely rooted in the jazz organ sound of the '50s, Soule Monde is hardly confined by that tradition, and its debut studio work, deliciously simple from start to finish, finds keyboardist Ray Paczkowski and percussionist Russ Lawton, as tightly locked as can be.

Pat Metheny

Unity Band

Nonesuch Records

With all due apologies to saxophonist Chris Potter, who's clearly still configuring his instrumental partnership with the famed guitarist, but this is essential listening for the work of bassist Ben Williams and drummer Antonio Sanchez alone.

Bela Fleck with The Marcus Roberts Trio

Beyond the Imaginary Divide

Rounder

Its arch title an accurate reflection of this unusual collaboration, Fleck, Roberts and co. soar far beyond genre distinctions by way of self-penned compositions that overflow with the energy of free-spirited improvisation.

Spectrum Road

Spectrum Road

Palmetto Records

On this tribute to late drummer Tony Williams' groundbreaking fusion band Lifetime, guitarist Vernon Reid, keyboardist John Medeski, bassist/vocalist Jack Bruce and drummer Cindy Blackman Santana Santana offer just enough time to catch a few quick breathes in the midst of an otherwise nonstop sonic assault in which power takes precedence over finesse (but just barely).

Chick Corea & Gary Burton

Hot House

Concord Records

Vibraphonist Gary Burton and pianist Chick Corea complete each others' thoughts throughout this album, sounding as effortless and natural—arguably more so—than the seamless improvisations that earmarked their very first recorded project together forty years ago.

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