2006 marked a new paradigm in the jazz marketplace; that is, it's absolutely level, as evidenced by the death (ok, massive downsizing) of the record label, the utter inconsequence of (non-electronic) distributors, and that "going out of business" sign on your friendly, neighborhood rekkid sto'.
It's high time the end-of-year jazz list also level the playing field in terms of prioritizing fresh artists with fresh approaches; a paradigm, it seems, more enthusiastically embraced by those who formulate year-end lists for rock, pop, electronica, R'n'B and hip-hop.
With that in mind, my top ten jazz recordings of 2006, in excruciatingly particular order, are:
Extended commentary here. One of our most rhythmically astute musicians and shreddingest guitarists leaves it all out on the court.
Tone of a Pitch Records
Extended commentary here. Merely the year's most accessibly beautiful record.
Weather Report's legacy moved forward. Kinsey imbues synthesis with breath, and blesses fusion with his impeccable aesthetic.
Fresh Sound New Talent
I didn't think anything was going to surpass my #5 release for fresh, rock-influenced, up-to-the-moment, thinking-man's small-group jazz, but then this (the very next release on Fresh Sounds!) did.
Fresh Sound New Talent 2006
Fresh, rock-influenced, up-to-the-moment, thinking-man's small-group jazz (featuring the two off-the-charts guitarists Ben Monder and Tim Miller).
Modern-day master releases sprawling opus. Contains 19 tracks culled from Sao Paolo, Brooklyn and Philly sessions. Receives virtually no press. Evidently, that's the way of the cipher when there is zero publicity machine, but that doesn't make it any less brilliant.
The amazing tenorist Gary Thomas is currently the Director of Jazz Studies at Johns Hopkins University, which also has a pretty good med school. After hearing this, the Trustees are considering letting him guest lecture on Brain Surgery.
Dogs of Great Indifference
Winter & Winter
The Radiohead of Jazz, this time played looser.
Cory Combs (featuring John Hollenbeck and Dan Willis)
Extended commentary here. One of 2006's finest slices of modern jazz, turned in by a high school music teacher! He also happens to be a virtuoso 6-stringed electric bassist, who composes music that doesn't sound like it.
Skerik's Syncopated Taint Septet
Skerik is too-often lumped into the jamband category, and is thus overlooked as one of the music's great tenor players and conceptualists. Fun is a not a word oft-enough associated with jazz. This exemplary horn ensemble, consisting entirely of "new Seattle talent, should change that.
The Top 12 sideman appearances (on 10 recordings) of 2006:
Paul Motian's On Broadway, Vol. 4: Or The Paradox of Continuity.
Love emanates. It is returned.
Mario Franco's This Life
Small-label head honcho makes sure he gets adequate time to color and stretch out on the label's release of the year. Also plays pitch-bender better than any guitarist out there.
Piano and Rhodes
Jason Rigby's Translucent Space
Holober is not known for his Rhodes work. He should be.
Scott Kinsey's Kinesthetics
A tour de force by a rock - solid fusionist who doesn't get his due. Colaiuta is on this record too, which shows you how good Covington is.
Two-way tie: Ben Monder, Tim Miller
Jeremy Udden's Torchsongs
Twelve incredible strings divided by two of our most cutting edge guitar re-thinkers. Yeesh, even I could make the top ten with these two on my record.
Two-way tie (two years in a row!) Jesse Chandler, Sam Barsh
On Mario Franco's This Life (pictured already) and Avishai Cohen's Continuo, respectively.
These cats pay attention to detail and color, and can stretch accordingly when called upon, making them bandmates to die for. Still waiting on Barsh's debut as a leader.
Marcus Strickland Quartets- Twi-Life
The newly minted Monk Competition winner shows why. Not only a pianistic concept, but in spots, a spookily pianistic sound. That Lage Lund, Julian Lage collaboration should be "One for the Lages.
Two way tie: Wayne Krantz, Craig Taborn
Guitar and keyboards, respectively
Chris Potter's Underground
Potter updates and futurizes his sound with the indispensable aid of two guys doing the same for guitar and Rhodes, respectively.
Francisco Pais Not Afraid of Color
This Argentinian currently making his home in Boston is a comer. A true MVP in 2006, he logged stellar performances on no fewer than five fanstastic recordings this year.