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Year in Review

Jerome Wilson's Best Releases Of 2018


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It may be unwieldy to keep a large jazz ensemble together for economic reasons but this year was still full of outstanding big band recordings, whether done through commissions, arrangers working with established orchestras or even actual working ensembles. Several of the releases on my list are examples of that. Also this year had the usual strong statements from younger, up-and-coming musicians as well as greybeards like Charles Lloyd and Wayne Shorter who proved that creative genius does not fade with age.

Charles Lloyd
Vanished Gardens
Blue Note

Charles Lloyd in the company of Bill Frisell and pedal steel guitar is special enough but add the weathered voice of Lucinda Williams and the result is music as ageless and wise as time itself.

Claudia Döffinger

Claudia Doffinger is a young composer from Germany who puts the Graz Composers Orchestra through a program that folds hip hop, prog rock and the earnest soul of indie rock into the imposing edifice of big band jazz.

Edward Simon
Sorrows & Triumphs

Ravishing widescreen music from pianist Edward Simon that mixes together his jazz quartet, the Imani Winds woodwind quintet and the hypnotic voice of Gretchen Parlato.

Kate Reid
The Heart Already Knows

The mature and subtly sensual voice of Kate Reid creates magic in duets with several different guitarists and pianists including Fred Hersch and Larry Koonse.

Wayne Shorter
Blue Note

With his superb quartet and a chamber orchestra in tow, the old master creates some of the most challenging and far-reaching music of his career. The accompanying graphic novel and 2 CDs of the quartet in concert make an excellent bonus.

Darrell Katz
Rats Live on No Evil Star
JCA Recordings

A long-time Boston musical secret, Katz and the JCA Orchestra present an impressive, varied set containing swaggering jazz-rock, haunting art songs and topical blues and featuring the impressive singing of Rebecca Shrimpton.

Owen Broder

Owen Broder invites several generations of jazz composers including Bill Holman, Ryan Truesdell and Miho Hazama to interpret American folk music. The results are varied and moving, particularly on Alphonso Horne's "The People Could Fly" which brings African rhythms into the mix.

Michael Leonhart
The Painted Lady Suite

Michael Leonhart is best known as Steely Dan's musical director but he shows he's also hip to David Axelrod and Ennio Morricone with this cool, subtly grooving orchestral music.

Kevin Bales/Keri Johnsrud
Beyond the Neighborhood: The Music of Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers and his beloved TV series, "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" has gotten a lot of attention lately. This musical tribute, featuring pianist Bales and the warm vocals of Johnsrud, adapts the songs he wrote for the show to a jazz setting with playfulness and love.

Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz/Gary Versace
The Subject Tonight Is Love

Joy, passion, hope, regret...Many feelings associated with love are touched on in this intimate recital by vocalist McGarry, guitarist Ganz and keyboard player Versace.

Billie Davies
Perspectives II

Over an hour of intense spiritual music from New Orleans that combines Beat poetry, minimalist Sun Ra and ever-changing rhythm grooves.

Jim McNeely
Barefoot Dances and Other Visions
Planet Arts

The criminally unsung Jim McNeely creates a gorgeous set of intelligent and creative modern jazz for the members of the Frankfurt Radio Big Band.

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