As usual, plenty of top-flight jazz was released this year, and I only had the chance to hear a fraction of it.
I’ve been asked to submit several Top 10 lists to various publications and polls, so I thought I’d go include and offer my picks here, too.
Below, in alphabetical order, are 10 of my favorite new jazz releases of 2013:
The Wayne Shorter Quartet’s ”Without a Net” topped this year’s NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll, which drew the participation of 136 writers (including me) from around the world.
Releases from the Craig Taborn Trio, Charles Lloyd & Jason Moran, Cecile McLorin Salvant, Steve Coleman & Five Elements, and Tim Berne’s Snakeoil rounded ou tthe Top 5 vote getters.
Interesting to see that three from my own Top 10 — Shorter’s CD, the Dave Douglas Quintet’s “Time Travel,” and Terence Blanchard’s “Magnetic” — were among the Top 10 in the NPR poll.
Refreshing concept, smartly executed: Brooklyn-based trombonist Brian Drye and his father, baritone saxophonist Howard Drye (both hail from Rhode Island), team up for a double-album featuring original compositions honoring their various influences. The horns are the thing, with the two joined by trumpeter Jeff Hermanson and clarinetist, alto and soprano saxophonist Mike McGinnis, and the piano-less rhythm section of bassist Dan Fabricatore and drummer Vinnie Sperrazza.
Rich sonorities and engaging themes characterize these 10 tracks, with highlights of the first disc (Howard’s pieces) including the soprano-led soul-jazz groove tune “Precious Silver,” dedicated to Horace Silver; the slinky ballad “The Empty Chair,” for Johnny Hodges; and jaunty opener “Blues for Jimmy.”
On disc two (Brian’s tunes), “Elbows,” for Monk, is all sharp angles and quirky twists, and offers plenty of space for the trombonist’s rangy, invigorating solo. Also notable: Brian’s moody, color-shifting “April 1st, 1910,” dedicated to Harry Carney, and bouncy bop burner “Home Brew.”
Dumpstaphunk, “Dirty Word” (Louisiana Red Hot Records)
The New Orleans funk is steep and the let’s-all-get-along unity groove is deep on Dirty Word, the second full-length recording from a band that’s steadily evolved since its informal start a decade ago at Jazz Fest, as an all-star collective led by keyboardist Ivan Neville. Once something of a loosely organized outfit heavily informed by the Meters and the Neville Brothers—Ivan is Aaron’s son, guitarist Ian is Art’s son, and practically the entire band has worked with Nevilles bands old or new—Dumpstaphunk now is more focused and song-oriented. And influences like P-Funk and Sly and the Family Stone make their presence known on Dirty Word.
Drummer-singer Nikki Glaspie, a relatively new addition, helps recast the sound and feel of the band, locking in from the get-go with twin bass guitarists Hall and Nick Daniels III, and sharing lead vocals on opener “Dancin to the Truth.” That tune and the title track launch the disc with hard-slamming rhythm figures and multicolor keys and guitars, the kind of sonic gumbo that typically keeps fans moving nonstop during the group’s raucous shows.
Like the band’s hometown concerts, the CD is party-packed with musical guests, starting with Ani DiFranco, who sings on “Dirty Word,” and saxophonist Skerik and Troy Andrews, a.k.a. Trombone Shorty, who provide tangy blasts on “I Wish You Would.” The biggest bash comes with “Raise the House,” its Meters/Neville groove bolstered by the playing and singing of keyboardist Art Neville, Trombone Shorty and the Rebirth Brass Band. Flea, of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, makes it a triple-bass showdown on the heavy funk-rock crunch of “If I’m in Luck,” a ’70s Betty Davis track here benefiting from Glaspie’s soulful blues belting and Ian Neville’s acid-washed solo. And a three-part horn section enhances the percolating funk of “I Know You Know” and Larry Graham’s “Water.”
Jazz Grammy Nominees: Wayne Shorter, Terence Blanchard, Gregory Porter, Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge
The top Grammy nominations largely left me cold, but several worthy projects are recognized in Grammy’s jazz categories.
Several of the nominees — including Terence Blanchard, Wayne Shorter, and Gregory Porter — made my own Top 10 jazz list (to be published by JazzTimes, NPR and the JJA). Wayne Wallace‘s “Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin,” my pick for Latin jazz CD of the year, was honored in Grammy’s Latin Jazz category. And kudos to the great — and omnipresent — jazz bassist Christian McBride, nominated for best jazz instrumental album.
Chuck Owen and the Jazz Surge didn’t nab a nomination for best large ensemble for the group’s “River Runs” CD (also on my Top 10 list). It deserves one.
The good news: The longtime University of South Florida jazz prof picked up TWO nominations in other categories: best instrumental composition for “Bound Away” and best instrumental arrangement for “Side Hikes — A Ridge Away.”
Best Improvised Jazz Solo
Don’t Run – Terence Blanchard, soloist
Song For Maura - Paquito D’Rivera, soloist
Song Without Words #4: Duet – Fred Hersch, soloist
Stadium Jazz – Donny McCaslin, soloist
Orbits – Wayne Shorter, soloist
Best Jazz Vocal Album
The World According To Andy Bey – Andy Bey
Attachments – Lorraine Feather
Liquid Spirit – Gregory Porter
WomanChild – Cécile McLorin Salvant
After Blue – Tierney Sutton
Guided Tour – The New Gary Burton Quartet
Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue – Terri Lyne Carrington
Life Forum – Gerald Clayton
Pushing The World Away – Kenny Garrett
Out Here – Christian McBride Trio
Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album
Brooklyn Babylon – Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society
Night In Calisia – Randy Brecker, W¿odek Pawlik Trio & Kalisz Philharmonic
Wild Beauty – Brussels Jazz Orchestra Featuring Joe Lovano
March Sublime – Alan Ferber
Intrada – Dave Slonaker Big Band
Best Latin Jazz Album
La Noche Más Larga – Buika
Song For Maura – Paquito D’Rivera And Trio Corrente
Yo – Roberto Fonseca
Egg¿n – Omar Sosa
Latin Jazz-Jazz Latin – Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet
Best Instrumental Composition
Bound Away – Chuck Owen, composer (Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge)
California Pictures For String Quartet – Gordon Goodwin, composer (Quartet San Francisco)
Koko On The Boulevard – Scott Healy, composer (Scott Healy Ensemble)
Pensamientos For Solo Alto Saxophone And Chamber Orchestra – Clare Fischer, composer (The Clare Fischer Orchestra)
String Quartet No. 1: Funky Diversion In Three Parts – Vince Mendoza, composer (Quartet San Francisco)
Best Instrumental Arrangement
Invitation – Kim Richmond, arranger (The Kim Richmond Concert Jazz Orchestra)
On Green Dolphin Street – Gordon Goodwin, arranger (Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band)
Side Hikes – A Ridge Away – Chuck Owen, arranger (Chuck Owen & The Jazz Surge)
Skylark – Nan Schwartz, arranger (Amy Dickson)
Wild Beauty – Gil Goldstein, arranger (Brussels Jazz Orchestra Featuring Joe Lovano)
Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist(s)
La Vida Nos Espera – Nan Schwartz, arranger (Gian Marco)
Let’s Fall In Love – Chris Walden, arranger (Calabria Foti Featuring Seth MacFarlane)
The Moon’s A Harsh Mistress – John Hollenbeck, arranger (John Hollenbeck)
Swing Low – Gil Goldstein, arranger (Bobby McFerrin & Esperanza Spalding)
What A Wonderful World – Shelly Berg, arranger (Gloria Estefan)
The nominations were announced Friday night. For the full list, click here
GearHead: John Patitucci’s New ebook and Online Lessons
Technology beyond technique
John Patitucci, the first-call double bassist, bass guitar virtuoso and current member of Wayne Shorter’s critically acclaimed quartet, draws from a wide variety of teaching experiences in Melodic Arpeggios and Triad Combining for Bass, a recent Kindle eBook published by David Gage String Instruments, the renowned New York bass shop.
“I felt like it would be good to do a book that would show the directions I’ve been going as a teacher and as a player,” Patitucci said recently from Atlanta, where he was playing sessions for a recording by pianist and composer Ted Howe. “A lot of books offer exercises in a very rudimental, up-and-down technical way. I wanted to develop a book using arpeggios in a very melodic way. Instead of just sounding like you’re running scales, you have the melody that arpeggios can bring. That has been influenced by Wayne—his stuff sounds like these combinations of sounds and arpeggios. There is obviously some chromaticism and scales mixed in, but the lyricism from the way he combines arpeggios is quite astounding. Obviously it’s a little harder to get around on the bass, but it’s a worthy challenge.”
Episode One also includes an emphasis on hearing and understanding intervals. “That helps with ear training,” the bassist said. “Using your ear to identify what intervals are coming at you is a powerful thing.”
The Kindle project isn’t Patitucci’s first foray into new media. Last year, he launched an interactive bass school through ArtistWorks; the online program has Patitucci provide video tutorials and written materials to students all over the globe, and give commentary on students’ work. “It takes kids from, ‘This is how you stand and hold it,’ all the way through grooving and tradition and jazz playing and information about Brazilian and Afro-Cuban stuff,” he said. “There are hundreds of lessons there, and basically a bass book of downloadable stuff you can get.”
The end game, Patitucci explained, is always to lead players in the direction of freedom, achieving technical mastery and accomplishing high-level “hearing” in order to free themselves up to more fully play in the moment, to connect directly with the music and fellow musicians: “If you’re struggling technically, it gets in the way of your rhythm and everything else. It’s all really about tools that will help you play more musically and expressively, with more richness, no matter what style. It’s to help you be freed up on the instrument no matter what music you play on the bass, to get around freely.
The Brooklyn native, 53, who spent his teenage years in Northern California and later lived in Los Angeles before returning to the New York area, has plenty more on his CV in terms of education. He recently began his second full year as an artist-in-residence at the Boston-based Berklee Global Jazz Institute, headed by his Shorter Quartet bandmate Danilo Pérez. A music professor at the City College of New York for a decade, Patitucci, who followed his hero Ron Carter into that position, earlier served as artistic director of the Bass Collective in New York. He has also worked with the Thelonious Monk Institute and Betty Carter’s Jazz Ahead program.
To some degree, Patitucci views today’s culture of formal jazz education as akin to an alternative mentorship. He thinks jazz degree programs might be the next-best substitute for the type of informal on-the-road training once more widely available to younger players.
“Schools are trying to pick up the slack,” he explained. “Nothing can replace being on a gig for years and going on the road and playing hundreds of gigs, but we’re trying to do our best to mentor and put students in performing situations and teach them history and practice and theory—and the practicality of it.”
Pascal Le Boeuf, “Pascal’s Triangle”
Pascal’s Triangle is probably located, very loosely, on that part of the jazz spectrum also occupied by the likes of e.s.t., the Bad Plus and trios led by Vijay Iyer and Robert Glasper. Pianist and composer Pascal Le Boeuf, bassist Linda Oh and drummer Justin Brown, who began as a subset of the Le Boeuf Brothers Quintet, boast the sonic calling card of a traditional piano trio but fully absorb contemporary influences ranging from art-rock to urban rhythms.
The music, all penned by the 26-year-old Le Boeuf, is characterized by moments of great drama, sudden twists and turns, genuine interactivity and a free-spirited vibe nevertheless built on thoughtful arrangements (available for sheet music download from the disc). Opener “Home in Strange Places” triangulates among pretty balladry, jagged groove-making and dark experimental touches, while “What Your Teacher …” is a dazzling, hyperactive dance among three equal partners, and the solo-piano piece “Jesse Holds Louise” feels like sophisticated mood music.
This is next-wave jazz of a particularly high caliber.