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R.J. DeLuke's Best Releases of 2013

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Always a tricky thing is the selection of "best of" lists for the year. I don't get to hear everything that comes out, so a lot of fine music is missed. Also, the selection itself is subject to whims. An album may hit you right from the get-go. Another might take time to grow on you, and maybe it never gets that time.

Then there are the many good albums that fall by the wayside in the selection process. Are they not as good?

So here are some of the top albums where I thought the work was fine. In some cases the approach intrigued me and I thought it was pulled off in a great way. Other music just pleased me greatly. (despite some tendencies that being complex is the only aesthetic, I think making beautiful music is difficult. And necessary).

So, here it is. In no special order. Read it and weep... or jump for joy.

Wayne Shorter, Without a Net (Blue Note). A great example of the superb quartet and how they converse. Always exploring.

Terri Lyne Carrington, Provocative in Blue (Concord). An interpretation of a Duke Ellington outing with Max Roach and Charles Mingus, which was very different for Duke. Carrington's presentation is solid and carried out with great style.

Wallace Roney, Understanding (High Note). Everything Roney puts out is quality. His playing, his approach, are high-level art. And his young group is fantastic. More people need to give him much-deserved credit.

Miles Davis Quintet: Live in Europe 1969; the Bootleg Series Vol. 2 (Sony). Exciting music from an exemplary collection of musicians who were willing to explore.

Ryan Keberle, Catharsis, (Alternate Side Records). Great interplay by this group. And Keberle, on trombone, and trumpeter Mike Rodriguez are wonderful soloists.

Alex Sipiagin, From Reality and Back (5Passion). A great trumpeter who always plays with creativity and passion. His recorded output is consistently fine.

David Weiss, Endangered Species (Motema Music). Another fine trumpeter who puts together outstanding groups. This one is for the interpretation of Wayne Shorter music, which they do in fine fashion.

Terence Blanchard, Magnetic (Blue Note). This guy can play. But it's the group that makes his recording so fine. Drummer Kendrick Scott continues his wizardry. Everyone is tight, and Blanchard uses compositions from the talented people in his group, as well as his own fine writing.

Joshua Redman, Walking Shadows (Nonesuch). Love hearing Redman play ballads. He doesn't always do it live, but he kills it with his tone and phrasing.

John Escreet, Sabotage and Celebration (Whirl Wind Recordings). Always interesting pianist puts together a very cool suite with strings. Nice work.

Michael Pedicin, Why Stop Now? Ubuntu (Ground Blue Records). This gentleman knows the tenor sax. Great sound. Fluid. Creative. This recording covers some different styles and does it well.

Jorge Sylvester, Spirit Driven (Four). Ambitious mix of music and voice. Free sections and tradition. Twists and turns. It works on two discs. Intense and cool.

Shamie Royston, Portraits (Self Produced). Brings this pianist to the forefront for the first time. Fine player showing different moods, driven by the superb Rudy Royston on drums.

Enrico Granafei, Alone and Together (Cap Records). Outstanding, clear, robust harmonica sound on exquisite tunes. Joined by outstanding guests. This is beautiful music.

Vocalists

These were all new to me—except Porter—and delightful finds. Each has a nice style and way of phrasing that is captivating. Salvant has tremendous pipes and soul. The others achieve sweet satisfaction with their own approach and treatment of their material. All impressive. Porter continues to be a soulful force, sweet and swinging. And he can write!

Nancy Harris, Dreams In Apartments (Gazelle Records)

Cecile McLorin Salvant, WomanChild, (Mack Avenue)

Heather Masse/Dick Hyman, Lock My Heart (Red House Records)

Suzanna Smith, Halfway Between Heaven & Love (Ink Pen Records)

Gregory Porter, Liquid Spirit (Blue Note)

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