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Paul Naser's Best Releases of 2013

Paul Naser By

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2013 was a fantastic year for new records. It was tough to narrow down which ones to include in this list, but I gave it my best shot. Having too many favorites isn't such a bad problem to have, I guess. Here are just a few of my favorites, listed in no particular order.

Craig Taborn

Taborn, bassist Thomas Morgan and drummer Gerald Cleaver delve into some very intriguing musical territory on this moody album. Taborn's inimitable style pervades every composition and the transitions between melody and improvisation are captivatingly mysterious; the forms are elusive yet the songs are always compelling and engaging. The band alternates between intensely rhythmically driven and rubato, texture-oriented playing. The connection between the three musicians seems nearly telepathic and listening to each composition develop is as exciting as it is satisfying.

The Line

Kneebody's first album for Concord Records is, from the first song to the last, a testament to their unequalled cohesive group sound, not to mention it'll make you bob your head the whole way through. Each player's improvisational style and voice is one of a kind, yet the band always retains its close-knit, unified sound. Among the many things this album can be praised for, the compositions stand out as deserving special attention. Ranging from the danceable "Cha Cha" written by trumpet player Shane Endsley to bassist Kaveh Rastegar's evocative "Pushed Away," this album covers a lot of ground.

Jim Hall
Live Vol. 2-4

The unexpected loss of guitar giant Jim Hall came as a shock, as many of us, who weren't able to be there in person, tuned in to watch him perform at Jazz at Lincoln Center less than a month before his passing. This three disc box set, recorded in Toronto the same week as his beloved Live! (Verve 1975) album, is filled with gems and ensures that a new generation of listeners will get to experience the magic of his astonishing creativity. Even amongst his already incredibly lyrical playing on his many records, this album stands out as something truly special.

Wayne Shorter
Without a Net
(Blue Note)

Wayne Shorter shorter has been a figurehead in the jazz community for well over five decades, and continues to break new ground even today. Without a net is indeed an appropriate title for this very adventurous album. Featuring Shorter's longtime bandmates pianist Danilo Pérez, bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade, this live album captures the band's remarkably intuitive connection and fiery intensity; taken mostly from a European tour, the band's chemistry and trust in each other allow them to take musical risks that more than pay off in the end.

Dave Holland
(Dare 2 Records)

Dave Holland is well known for his compositional style, and having played on Miles Davis' Bitches' Brew (Columbia 1970) and directly influenced the development of jazz fusion, it should come as no surprise to listeners that his latest release is very much in this vein. Obviously he has written a lot of phenomenal music for acoustic bands, as evidenced by his many collaborations and his album Prime Directive (ECM 1999) among others, there's something very satisfying about hearing Holland play in a band with an electric sensibility. Joining Holland on this date are pianist Craig Taborn, guitarist Robin Eubanks and drummer Eric Harland.

Gilad Hekselman
This Just In
(Jazz Village)

Guitarist Gilad Hekselman has quickly established himself as one of the premiere musicians in New York City in the time he has been there, playing with such luminaries as Ari Hoenig and Jeff Ballard. With his fourth album, Hekselman continues to impress with his musicality, virtuosity and compositional prowess. Included with his many compositions is a unique cover of the Alan Parsons project's "Eye in the Sky" and short vignettes that he titles "newsflash" and numbers one through four. This album features saxophonist Mark Turner, bassist Joe Martin and drummer Marcus Gilmore.

Derrick Hodge
Live Today
(Blue Note Records)

Bassist Derrick Hodge has worked with jazz greats such as Terence Blanchard and Mulgrew Miller, R&B/rap artists such as Kanye West and Jill Scott and has contributed as a composer to a number of film scores. It should come as no surprise, then, that his long awaited debut as a leader is a showcase of the variety of his musical affinities and talents; the playful "Table Jawn," which has Hodge playing a melody above Robert Glasper and Chris Dave's grooves created by silverware and cups, contrasts nicely with the more uplifting "Message of Hope." Featuring, among many others, drummer Mark Colenburg and saxophonist Marcus Strickland, the wealth of musical talent on the record are as much a draw as Hodge's own incredible playing and composing.

Chris Potter
The Sirens

Chris Potter's latest release is an all acoustic exploration of original compositions inspired by Homer's epic The Odyssey. His expressive compositions prove to be incredibly effective vehicles for his band. Joining him are pianists Craig Taborn and David Virelles, bassist Larry Grenadier and drummer Eric Harland. Many of the compositions are very colorful and melody driven; Potter's beautiful bass clarinet sound is haunting on the title track. This makes a tune like "Kalypso," based on a rhythm changes, stand out as bright and upbeat. Despite the general density of the harmonic textures, the driving, solid pulse created by the rhythm section provides a kind of relief, and makes the album a perfect mix of tension and release.

Gretchen Parlato
Live in NYC
(Obliq Sound)

Gretchen Parlato's newest CD finds her and her phenomenal band(s) reworking a number of songs from her previous two releases, In a Dream (Obliqsound 2009) and The Lost and Found (Obliqsound 2011). Keeping enough of the original vibe of the arrangements to satisfy her fans' love for her unique sound, the CD captures Parlato and her band creatively reshaping and reworking tunes that have become her signatures, like Herbie Hancock's "Butterly," Simply Red's "Holding Back The Years" and her own "Better Than." This live recording lets the the listener take part in the astounding energy and interplay that Parlato and her band create and that, judging from the cheers of the audience, are highly cherished and worth listening to.

John Clayton
Parlor Series Vol.1—Gerald Clayton

This CD, part of a a series of duo projects John Clayton recently began with ArtistShare, is ridiculously fun to listen to. The father son duo explores a variety of standards, including an emotional rendition of Billy Joel's "And So It Goes" and a wonderfully playful version of "Alone Together," alongside one of Gerald Clayton's originals, "Sunny Day Go." Their deep connection creates an infectiously joyous atmosphere; it's hard not to smile when listening to them play.


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