The jazz world sustained tragic losses of several Great Masters in 2007. By now, many tears have been shed and much has been written, but please feel free to engage in heavy retrospection when you get halfway down this list.
Best to dwell here on where we're headed and what incredible hands the music has been left in. Refreshing that most of the leaders listed below are of the current vanguard, and a couple are brand new arrivals.
The sidemen get a second list that's one or two degrees of separation from the first. These MVP's are among the most thrill-inducing pure players on the scene today. Many more deserve mention, but that's what rest of the year is for.
11 BEST OF 2007 (including 2 from late November)
Alex Machacek, Jeff Sipe, Matthew Garrison Improvision Abstract Logix
This got 4 stars in Downbeat, but it gets five and a half in Upbeat. Proof that collaborations can accentuate the attributes of the individuals involved. Virtuosic electric jazz- with big breaths. Sipe summarizes:"No matter how dense the music gets, there's space surrounding every note."
Ben Monder/Theo Bleckmann
"Not only is the music a soundtrack to a yet existent motion picture, it is inspiration enough for its own film." From their parallel universe directly to ours. More here
Andre Fernandes Timbuktu Tone of a Pitch
Fernandes and friends are creating a new aesthetic (expanded on here) with tunes and arrangements incorporating rock influence and somehow refracting light off that azure-blue Portuguese ocean.
Steve Lehman On Meaning Pi Recordings
Lehman applies back-recombinant techniques to such radical composition and performance contrasts as symmetry vs. asymmetry, acceleration vs. deceleration, and foreground vs. background. He's mutated a new species of jazz. More here.
Mike Brecker Pilgrimage HeadsUp
The greatest modern practitioner of the improvised line leaves us the gift of extraordinary music made under extraordinary circumstances.
Adam Rogers Time and the Infinite Criss Cross
Interviews with Rogers emphasize that, formally, he self-prioritized classical training over his rock and jazz leanings. Here's the payoffprecision and complexity can indeed make for great music.
Mike Moreno Between the Lines World Culture Music
Rarely does such stunning virtuosity leave such a sunny vibe and that's just the guitar solos. Moreno somehow combines endless series' of mercurial flits into luxuriant flights full of meaning. The guitarist-of-the-moment made the year's most accessibly beautiful record.
Alan Pasqua The Antisocial Club Cryptogramophone
WowI'd resigned myself to the fact that Pasqua was only going to work on electric boards when he hit with Holdsworth. But Alan without Allan revisits his previous "Lifetime" and re-evolutionizes it right into this one.
Frank LoCrasto When You're There MaxJazz
Songs that build and release rapturously with modern pop sensibilities just no vocals. Put that in your ipod playlist with that free download you paid for.
Logan Richardson Cerebral Flow FSNT
Exciting playing and composition by Richardson drives this outing full of propulsing, knotty, sophisticated modernity. Look at the youth quotient and know we're in good hands.
Kneebody Low Electrical Worker Colortone Media
This new jazz group (how many of those are there?) is ...DOPE! And uh, BADASS! And WHACK! And TIGHT! Modern jazz music for party people. Seriously, if these guys break up it's your fault.
BEST Sidemen of 2007 list10 sidemen on 13 recordings
Ben Monderguitar on four performances: Matt Pavolka's Something People Can Use (ToneofaPitch), Bill McHenry's Roses (Sunnyside), Donnie McCaslin's In Pursuit (Sunnyside), and Jerome Sabbagh's Pogo (Sunnyside)
Monder is of the breed of gargantuan improvisers who can do it to the point of recomposition. Therefore, anyone that has Monder participate in a project runs the risk that his contributions will not only overshadow other players' but also change at least part of the project's conception. It's a risk leaders are waiting in line to take.
Mike Moreno-guitar, on four performances: Jimmy Green's Gifts And Givers (CrissCross), Logan Richardson's Cerebral Flow (FSNT), Kendrick Scott's The Source (World Culture Music) and Frank LoCrasto's When You're There (MaxJazz).
Moreno's debut of the year and performances above combine to make it his year. He's shooting for something and that's simultaneously gorgeous and challenging. The Greene session shows he can bring these elements over to harder-edged conventions.
Jack DeJohnnettedrums, on Mike Brecker's Pilgrimage (HeadsUp)
One of the quintessential sidemen in jazz, as proven by his special bond with every player on this date. DeJohnnette proves himself the perennial student/athlete.
Matt Garrisonbass, Marc Ducretguitar, on Wolfgang Reisinger's Refusion (Emarcy/Universal)
The concept here is seamless movement from ensemble to soloist's roles. These two continue to make careers of that concept.
Adam Rogers-guitar, Craig Taborn-Rhodes on Chris Potter's Follow the Red Line (Sunnyside)
Taborn's freakish Rhodes excursion on the song "Togo" alone is worth the nod, leaving aside carrying this bass-less quartet on his back. Plus the Adam Rogers here is a vastly different, more rippingly electric Rogers than the one that made the ten best list!
Pete Rende- electric piano on Andre Fernandes' Timbuktu (TOAP), and Matt Pavolka's Something People Can Use (TOAP)
A skilled multi-instrumentalist (he also plays pedal-steel!), Rende knows how to extract timbre and tears from an electric piano. Possesses a yearning signature sound on the axe too-often dismissed as having none.
Chris Dingman-vibes on Steve Lehman's On Meaning (Pi), and Mike Pinto-vibes on Logan Richardson's Cerebral Flow (FSNT)
I thought Dingman's work with Lehman placed him easily ahead of the pack of new and old) school vibists. Then came the Richardson session, starring Pinto, less the atmospherist but an equally vital newcomer.