My year-end "best-of" lists are a little skewed this year. Half the jazz I heard live in 2004 was in New York City, where I was lucky enough to be studying ethnomusicology at Columbia...
My year-end “best-of” lists are a little skewed this year.
Half the jazz I heard live in 2004 was in New York City, where I was lucky enough to be studying ethnomusicology at Columbia University on an arts journalism fellowship. I not only missed half the Seattle jazz year, I didn’t keep up with all the new releases, either, since I was spending a lot of time at Willie’s Steak House in the Bronx (New York’s Latin jazz hang), Tonic (the downtown club) and, well, yes, even the library.
So I’m splitting my top live performances between Apples and Emeralds. I hope this will highlight one of the differences between these two great cities, which isn’t so much that the music is always better in New York — it isn’t — but that you get to hear concerts that never make it out West.
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As for recordings, look upon my list more as 10 albums I found exceptional rather than a bona fide “top 10,” since I’m still catching up.
Grand Opening, Rose Hall, with Wynton Marsalis, the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Dianne Reeves, Mark O’Connor, Roy Haynes, Abbey Lincoln, Joe Lovano and others. This actually was pretty flat as a concert, but it was so exciting to be at the opening of the very first hall built specifically for jazz, it didn’t matter.
Cecil Taylor Big Band, Iridium. Oceanic, spiritual, funny, crafted, slippery, but following its own uncanny logic, the great experimental pianist’s large group performance is an example of the kind of show one never sees in Seattle.
João Gilberto, Carnegie Hall. Like an electromagnetic force, the master of bossa nova pulled everyone in the packed house into his tiny world — 10 fingers and six strings. Exquisite.
Bill Frisell/Paul Motian/Joe Lovano, Village Vanguard. Frisell’s been on such a laid-back country jag, you forget this trio plays killer post-bop in a three-way conversation so swift, sophisticated and smart it makes you laugh out loud, mid-phrase.
Daryl Sherman, Waldorf Astoria mezzanine. Sitting at the grand piano Cole Porter kept in his room when he lived at the Waldorf, Sherman upholds the tradition of the Great American songbook with a cheeky insouciance New Yorkers relish.
Luciana Souza and Romero Lubambo, Jazz Port Townsend. A woman in front was crying after the Brazilian singer’s ballad; guitar players, on the other hand, were trying to decide where to throw away their guitars after hearing Lubambo’s incredible speed and intelligence.
Paul Rucker, Consolidated Works, Earshot Jazz Festival. The Seattle cellist amassed a splendid big band that combined free improv and Butch Morris-style “conduction” for a sweetly shaped evening of sound.
Yosuke Yamashita, Kirkland Performance Center, Earshot Jazz Festival. With bassist Cecil McBee, drummer Pherooan AkLaff and a pair of marvelous Kabuki musicians, Yamashita blended jazz and Japanese traditions in sparkling, inventive ways.
Eddie Palmieri, Jazz Alley. Journeying back to a time when salsa was king, Palmieri’s band played clanging classics with jazz nuance and chops. Trombonist Jimmy Bosch. Wow!
David Sanborn, Jazz Alley. We often form ideologies about what is good or bad in music that prevent, rather than help, us from hearing clearly. Call Sanborn simple-minded, smooth, commercial, whatever you like, but he played some of the most integrated, compelling jazz I heard all year.
10 CDs to check out
Maria Schneider, “Concert in the Garden” (ArtistShare).
Branford Marsalis, “Eternal” (Marsalis Music).
Susie Ibarra, “Folklorico” (Tzadik).
Jerry Gonzalez, “Jerry Gonzalez Y Los Piratas Del Flamenco” (Sunnyside).
Bill Frisell, “Unspeakable” (Nonesuch).
Rosa Passos, “Amarosa” (Sony).
New Stories, “The Music of Elmo Hope” (Origin).
Alison Krauss, “Lonely Runs Both Ways” (Rounder).
Von Freeman, “The Great Divide” (Premonition).
Vijay Iyer, “In What Language” (Pi).
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