Back to Roots, Ahead to the Future Pop and Jazz Best


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The best of this year’s rock, pop and jazz albums include releases by Metallica, Bennie Maupin, Rudresh Mahanthappa and Gonzalo Rubalcaba.

2. BENNIE MAUPIN Early Reflections (Cryptogramophone). The next chapter in the recent return of this saxophonist and bass clarinetist, who enlivened jazz during the 1970s with Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock. He’s now working with a Polish acoustic jazz trio, making patient music with open space and strong melodies.

4. RUDRESH MAHANTHAPPA Kinsmen (Pi). This Indian- American jazz saxophonist collaborates with the Indian-from-India, nonjazz saxophonist Kadri Gopalnath and with a two-sided band, half jazz and half not. The result could be clinical but isn’t; with good writing, smart instincts and good old passionate collective improvisation, it sounds like syncretism understood in the bones.

5. GONZALO RUBALCABA Avatar (Blue Note). This pianist — Cuban- born, now in Florida — is an imposing, somewhat distant presence in the American jazz scene. But here he connects with young and new musicians from New York, enlivening his sound-world and ours.

8. CASSANDRA WILSONLoverly (Blue Note). Where Ms. Wilson’s records once lived or died on arrangement and concept, now the band is the thing. On her first record of jazz standards in 20 years, that band exudes a slow, natural, organic complexity.

9. MARY HALVORSON TRIODragon’s Head (Firehouse 12). Tense, noisy, a little arch, the first album from this jazz guitarist (with the bassist John Hebert and the drummer Ches Smith) has the power of a manifesto and the self- assurance that comes with smart composition and arrangement. Best of all: this is a group, with its own compound personality.

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