Saturday, March 27, 2010

Best Jazz of 2009

Now that we're three months into 2010, I can say what I found to be the best new jazz of 2009. No, I'm not a critic, as will be obvious, and of course it's just what I happened to find. Some I heard on WRTI and bought on iTunes. Sometimes I was already a fan of the artist. One is from a blog. Anyway, here's my best seven albums:

1. Charlie Sepulvelda & the turnaround: Sepulveda Boulevard. I had the good luck to hear them perform this live at the 2009 L.A. Latin Jazz Festival. The whole album is great but the title track and Amigos del Pincel really stand out to me. It's the best jazz album of the year. Speaking of that, I saw Charlie Sepulveda, who is a very nice man, in Puerto Rico, and he told my wife Jazz Times didn't even review the copy he sent them. Imagine life as a jazz artist nowadays.

2. Gerald Wilson Orchestra: Detroit. I didn't realize Gerald Wilson played in Jimmie Lunceford's big band. I think I've spotted in him in the 1941 movie Blues in the Night, even if Jack Carson absurdly steals the trumpet solo. In any case, this is a wonderful big band, and the song Everywhere gets constant play on my iPod.

3. Manuel Valera: Currents. Just a beautiful album, with my favorite tracks being Dienda and Ode to Kenny (Dedicated to Kenny Kirkland). But I loved Kenny Kirkland's playing, so perhaps this is no surprise. To tell you how highly I value it, I gave a copy to my brother along with a Coltrane album.

4. Roy Hargrove Big Band: Emergence. I understand a lot of critics have this on their lists and they're right. I love the songs Requiem and Ms. Garvey, Ms. Garvey. (Though my wife loves the former and dislikes the latter, so your mileage may vary.) I could definitely do without the singing, but the instrumental parts of the album are wonderful.

5. The Chris Kelsey 4: Not Cool (...As In, "The Opposite of Paul Desmond"). I decided to buy his album when I found myself reading three months of archival posts on his blog after following a link from Nate Chinen. Spending a little money on his music just seemed like the right thing to do. Fortunately, I loved it. While some free jazz just sounds unpleasant to me, Kelsey's music sounds exciting, strong and alive, like Ornette Coleman's. I'm not a critic, and so I don't have the right words to describe it, I just liked it.

6. Eric Alexander: Survival of the Fittest. A very good album that I have listened to a lot.

7. Barbra Streisand: Love Is the Answer (Deluxe Edition. The deluxe edition has "Quartet Versions" of the songs and they're much better, to my ears, than the standard "Orchestra Versions." But then again, I don't know why Charlie Parker wanted to play with strings. In any case, the quartet version of Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most is worth the entire album price. Barbra can sing.

I also liked to Vijay Iyer Trio (Historicity, Somewhere was an WRTI hit) and Robby Ameen Days in the Life, but I'm not prepared to rank them. The free Ropeadope Label Sampler had some good songs, like the Dred Scott Trio's song This Ain't No Russian Novel, Baby.

The only other 2009 album I bought was Jeff "Tain" Watt's Watts album. It pains me to say this since Superwatts (with Kenny Kirkland) is one of my favorites, but this did nothing for me and was a big disappointment. I guess I'm saying I hated it. The dialogue in Devil's Ring Tone: The Movie is funny though.

I understand jazz albums don't sell much, so it seemed to me I should "speak up" and say that I loved these ones, even if I don't have the skills to say why I liked them so much.

Late update: I should include Peppe Merolla's album Stick With Me.

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