John Sharpe’s Best Releases of 2010

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Here are ten new releases, in no particular order, which stood out among those I heard this year.

Joe McPhee / Ingebrigt Håker Flaten

Blue Chicago Blues

Not Two

Joe McPhee and Ingebrigt Håker Flaten make a successful pairing as evidenced by interactions which evince a highly charged form and purpose. In spite of the title there are no overt blue notes on display here. But McPhee's tone on tenor saxophone is drenched in emotion. Even though the saxophonist has already released several outstanding recordings during 2010, including Magic (Not Two), Oto (Bo Weavil), and Trio X- Live On Tour 2008 (CIMPoL), this ranks as one of the best.

Harris Eisenstadt

Woodblock Prints

No Business

Canadian drummer/composer Harris Eisenstadt is making a compelling case for complete player status. You never know what his name on the sleeve predicts. This wonderful LP features Eisenstadt's charts for a nine-strong small orchestra. Though he takes a back seat instrumentally, content to color and direct, Eisenstadt's conception has produced a gem to treasure.

Mike Pride's From Bacteria To Boys


Aum Fidelity

The whole band negotiates Mike Pride's constructs so smoothly that listening with half an ear might suggest that this was yet another modern mainstream outing, but that would be to miss the subversive nature of what Pride is attempting here. It is contemporary mainstream seen through a distorting lens: nothing is quite as you expect it.

Satoko Fujii ma-do

Desert Ship

Not Two

Satoko Fujii's broad ranging interests all come together here. Erring more towards the free jazz end of the spectrum than some of the pianist's outfits, largely thanks to the flexible all acoustic rhythm section, this foursome brings stellar musicianship to bear on Fujii's idiosyncratic arrangements. Ma-do excels as one of the pianist's most rewarding outlets.

William Hooker

Earth's Orbit

No Business

If East Coast is hot and West cool in classic jazz parlance, then William Hooker subverts that tenet with East Coast hot, West Coast hotter in this double LP set featuring separate bands captured live on each coast. On these sides he focuses firmly on the core business, albeit with some nods to noise, for one of his strongest releases in recent years, with Bliss East particularly outstanding.

Marshall Allen / Matthew Shipp / Joe Morris

Night Logic


The partnering of Sun Ra Arkestra regular Marshall Allen with pianist Matthew Shipp and long time associate Joe Morris yields an astonishing and joyful return, a live recording detailed with in-your-face sound from NYC's Roulette. In spite of the instrumentation, the program is too urgent and rhythmic to come across as chamber jazz: the interaction of the three participants is an unalloyed delight.

Vandermark 5 Special Edition

The Horse Jumps And The Ship Is Gone

Not Two

For their 18th outing the quintet is expanded to a seven-piece Special Edition, by the addition of trumpeter Magnus Broo and pianist Håvard Wiik, from Scandinavian supergroup Atomic. While perhaps slightly less tightly plotted than regular V5 releases, the extended lineup more than compensates in terms of visceral clout.

Famoudou Don Moye / Eliel Sherman Storey

Through The Fire


Also from Chicago, but a generation earlier, by Art Ensemble Of Chicago stickman Famoudou Don Moye and sound engineer turned saxophonist Eliel Sherman Storey. Both men take their time, listening closely and making each phrase count. Their structures are conventional: there's nothing too surprising here, just good music superbly done.

Gebhard Ullmann / Steve Swell Quartet

News? No News!


Both trombonist Steve Swell and reed multi-instrumentalist Gebhard Ullmann are exciting soloists but one of the pleasures of this set is the interaction between the two horns. Such refined, but not rote, interplay isn't restricted to the frontline, and when allied to their unpredictable charts makes for a winning combination.

Kris Davis/Tyshawn Sorey/Ingrid Laubrock

Paradoxical Frog

Clean Feed

Since moving to New York City from London in 2008, German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock has fallen in with a like minded coterie of musicians adept at shifting between the preordained and the inspired. Evidence has come in a slew of splendid discs including drummer Tom Rainey's Pool School (Clean Feed) and Laubrock's Anti House (Intakt) but this collective trio represents the cream.

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