Troy Collins' Best Releases of 2013

Troy Collins By

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Considering the sheer quantity of recordings issued in a year's time, attempting to mention every notable session would result in a list of epic proportions. These ten records represent a fertile cross-section of some of the most compelling modern jazz issued in 2013, highlighting sophisticated new developments in composition and improvisation with an unintended (but entirely justified) focus on inexorable pan-global fusions.

Barry Altschul
The 3dom Factor
TUM Records

Legendary drummer Barry Altschul's first album as a leader in over a quarter century draws on original compositions from across his entire oeuvre, ranging "from ragtime to no time." Bolstered by his collaborators' adroit interplay, this modern masterpiece is a salient highpoint in an impressive career.

Joe Lovano Us Five
Cross Culture
Blue Note Records

Joe Lovano's enthusiasm for all aspects of the jazz canon is fully realized by Us Five. Incorporating ballads, blues and swing with bop, funk and free playing, the inimitable quintet embraces every facet of the saxophonist's interests on its most captivating session to date.

Ben Goldberg
Unfold Ordinary Mind
BAG Production Records

Released in tandem with the New Orleans-inspired Subatomic Particle Homesick Blues, this session is amplified by Nels Cline's kaleidoscopic fretwork, revealing the breadth of clarinetist Ben Goldberg's artistry. Whether deriving inspiration from the past or present, Goldberg's tuneful arrangements are consistently imaginative.

Mary Halvorson Septet
Illusionary Sea
Firehouse 12 Records

The debut of Mary Halvorson's Septet reveals an erudite methodology, keenly balanced between the pre-written and improvised. Widely praised for her remarkable instrumental technique, Halvorson no longer needs to prove her mettle through extended guitar solos; this release focuses on her burgeoning talents as a composer of note.

Mostly Other People Do the Killing
Red Hot
Hot Cup Records

Mostly Other People Do the Killing bandleader and bassist Moppa Elliott draws on entertaining pre-war jazz and blues conventions for this memorable set, bringing back the unfettered excitement of early jazz with a cheeky modernist wit that is both historically astute and audaciously cutting-edge.

Sao Paulo Underground
Beija Flors Velho E Sujo
Cuneiform Records

Integrating spirited avant-garde improvisation and lo-fi electronica with the revolutionary innovations of Brazil's psychedelic Tropicalia movement, Sao Paulo Underground's fourth recording is the most melodically focused and thematically concise offering yet from the core trio of Rob Mazurek, Mauricio Takara and Guilherme Granado.

Rudresh Mahanthappa
ACT Music

Indian-American alto saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa has earned widespread acclaim for his efforts incorporating South Indian classical forms with jazz improvisation. On his 13th release Mahanthappa imbues the polystylistic advancements of previous albums with exhilarating fervor, aided by microtonal guitarist David Fiuczynski.

Amir ElSaffar
Pi Recordings

Iraqi-American trumpeter Amir ElSaffar's first album to eschew exotic instrumentation builds upon his earlier work, seamlessly incorporating Arabic classical traditions into advanced post-bop structures. A singular hybrid transcending ElSaffar's prior accomplishments, this milestone session lends credence to its title.

Mark Dresser Quintet
Clean Feed Records

Bassist Mark Dresser's first quintet recording in almost two decades favors lyrical compositions that emphasize group interplay over protracted solo improvisations, augmenting the basic foundations of melody, harmony and rhythm with gradient events, metric modulation and textural experimentation.

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-tette
Navigation (The Complete Firehouse 12 Recordings)
Firehouse 12 Records

This multi-format set documents four different versions of cornetist Taylor Ho Bynum's modular composition "Navigation." The ensuing variations avoid the disassociated post-modern quality of many similar efforts, offering a prime example of Bynum's multifaceted skills and a definitive document of his ensemble's interpretive prowess.

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