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Geno Thackara's Best Releases of 2016


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I always say it when recapping every year, and it's been truer than ever for me since I was fortunate to join All About Jazz at the start of 2016: there's always too much great stuff to take in. There are always too many albums we don't get around to during the year and too little time to properly dig into everything we do. Nonetheless, here are the jazz-related standouts out of everything that's managed to cross my desk (in no particular order).

GoGo Penguin
Man Made Object
Blue Note Records

The piano trio makes a subtle shift for their first Blue Note release, managing to fit the label's traditional feel while keeping their addictive 'acoustic electronica' blend intact. It didn't hurt that they also made a highlight of the year's concerts with the Philadelphia stop on their first US tour.

Jakob Bro
ECM Records

Guitar nirvana in the meditative sense; sparse, tasteful and understatedly eloquent.

Nik Bärtsch's Mobile
ECM Records

Bärtsch's rhythmic minimalist 'Zen funk' is consistent in its gradual but unmistakable evolution, and a change of tones (via addition of occasional strings) gives the organic trance a fascinating new layer of ambience.

Andreas Loven
District Six
Losen Records

With a picturesque sense of melody, Loven's quartet bridges the sounds of Norway and South Africa while almost making them sound like natural neighbors.

Keith Jarrett
A Multitude of Angels
ECM Records

Jarrett of course has a vast multifaceted catalogue, but the extensive sets show the range of his inventiveness and omnivorous genre-spanning more than a single album or concert can. This four-show archive release from 1996 presents him at his most challenging and inspiring.

Bruce Hornsby and the Noisemakers
Rehab Reunion
429 Records

In a career where abrupt turns are the norm rather than the exception, an entire piano-less album still managed to be more startling than most. Nonetheless, with this folky romp, Hornsby and friends managed to let go of one of his central pillars and turn the lack into an unexpected asset.

Marco Sanguinetti
Cómo Desaparecer Completamente
Self Produced

This crew is all about reinvention; the source material may be familiar while the treatments are anything but.

Brad Mehldau Trio
Blues and Ballads
Nonesuch Records

In this case the treatments are somewhat familiar, largely down to the distinct voice this trio always keeps while exploring the malleability of any material, but that makes it no less inventive or replayable.

California Guitar Trio
Self Produced

The CGT's silver-anniversary release serves partly as a summing-up of what they've done, but shines more when featuring new pieces and looking forward.

Per Mathisen
Sounds of 3
Losen Records

I got tired of most instrumental guitar rock some time ago, but this bass-led power trio scratches that itch by emphasizing the jazz half of jazz-rock fusion and landing on the right side of the line.

Wolfgang Muthspiel
Rising Grace
ECM Records

A cast with such instrumental firepower often risks an excess of riches. However, this classy small-combo recording is the best kind of group dialogue: one where everyone's willing to listen as much as they speak.



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