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Year in Review

Troy Dostert's Best Releases of 2016


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It has been an exciting year for artists perched on the precipice between jazz and other idioms. Each of these releases manages in its own way both to challenge and to inspire the listener, and the stylistic variety on display is an encouraging sign that creative music is truly in good hands!

The Claudia Quintet
Super Petite

Another superb collection of songs from John Hollenbeck, brilliantly played by his veteran associates in an ensemble now celebrating its twentieth anniversary. The ten memorable pieces are "petite" only in length; each is chock full of ideas and beguiling nuances.

I Am Three
Mingus, Mingus, Mingus

A high-powered, energetic trio fronted by saxophonist/clarinetist Silke Eberhard, this is one of the year's surprises. Imaginative, spirited renderings of Mingus's repertoire, but without the feel of a "repertory" exercise, managing to stay true to the originals while being refreshingly creative.

Mary Halvorson Octet
Away With You
(Firehouse 12)

Adding to her septet from 2013's Illusionary Sea, Halvorson brings pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn into the group, and the texture and mood she provides take the music to another level. Quirky, complex, and completely spellbinding.

I Just Did Say Something

Firmly in the post-bop lineage and with Scandinavian flair, this quintet thrives on a hard-driving, loosely-structured sound. Engaging tunes and top-notch improvisational chops throughout: an infectious release.

Tyshawn Sorey
Inner Spectrum of Variables

Drummer extraordinaire Sorey's effort to bridge the worlds of improvisation and classical composition works wonderfully, largely due to the seamless rapport between his long-standing trio and the chamber string trio he assembled for this project. Beautiful and stirring, with further dimensions revealed with each listen.

Craig Taborn, Christian McBride, and Tyshawn Sorey
Flaga: Book of Angels, Vol. 27

Further proof of John Zorn's genius: assembling this trio to perform his Masada compositions. McBride's dazzling, in-the-pocket technique is the perfect complement to Taborn and Sorey's out-leaning tendencies. A stellar jazz performance that should appeal to mainstream and avant-garde fans alike.

Eve Risser White Desert Orchestra
Les Deux Versants Se Regardent
(Clean Feed)

An impossible-to-categorize release, stunning in scope, capable of both uplifting and confounding the listener in equal measure. Risser's expansive palette makes terrific use of her 11-piece band, with music that sounds both otherworldly and, at the same time, melodically poignant and affecting.

Angelika Niescier and Florian Weber
NYC Five

Saxophonist Niescier and pianist Weber offer six smart, challenging arrangements that consistently channel their own formidable skills as well as those of their partners: trumpeter Ralph Alessi, bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Tyshawn Sorey are all in splendid form in this stimulating release.

Wadada Leo Smith
America's National Parks

Another masterful release by one of the premier musical visionaries of our day. Smith's dedicatory homage to America's abundant resources—both natural and social—is by turns cerebral, mysterious, and transcendent. A recording worthy of its subject matter.

Susana Santos Silva
Life and Other Transient Storms
(Clean Feed)

Spontaneous improvisation of a very high caliber. The always-lyrical trumpeter Susana Santos Silva anchors a quintet that offers two long, extended performances that are both free-flowing and remarkably cohesive. Outstanding contributions from Silva's partners Sten Sandell, Lotte Anker, Torbjörn Zetterberg, and John Fält make this a truly collaborative endeavor.

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