Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Top Ten - Finally

I know I'm about 2 months late, but I thought I'd go ahead and give myself a little bit of closure and finally publish a Top-10 list. I know most people are beyond caring about this sort of thing, but I started thinking back about how I wished that I had made lists in 2008 and 2009, and didn't want to feel the same way a year from now. So, for myself more than anyone else, here I provide with you a list of my 10 favorite jazz CDs of 2010:

1) The Claudia Quintet - Royal Toast

2) The Bad Plus - Never Stop

3) Stephan Crump Rosetta Trio - Reclamation

4) Guillermo Klein - Domador de Huellas

5) Mary Halvorson - Saturn Sings

6) Dan Weiss Trio - Timshel

7) Mike Reed's People, Places and Things - Stories and Negotiations

8) Paul Motian - Lost in a Dream

9) Avishai Cohen - Introducing Triveni

10) Polar Bear - Peepers

When I look at this list, I feel a little embarrassed that there are no Latin, straight-ahead, or free jazz albums to be found. Well, the Guillermo Klein album is technically a Latin jazz album, but it's far removed from the traditional grooves that define the genre. The Mary Halvorson and Mike Reed discs have their free-ish moments, but the compositions steer the ship more than the improv on these recordings. A good portion of the Avishai Cohen swings, but it's nowhere near a proper straight-ahead album.

I can only conclude that my tastes, right now, tend towards music that doesn't fit neatly into any box. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe it's a bad thing, probably it's a little of both. It's telling that my overall number 1 album of the year, hands-down, was not anything by a jazz musician, but The Age of Adz by indie singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens. Parts electronica, classical, folk, avant-garde noise and rock and roll, the music is a genre unto itself. I guess, at this point, that's what my ears are most looking for. Maybe that'll change soon, but for now, the harder to describe, the better.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What's So Great About 2010?

By now, all of the critics and bloggers have spoken, and something close to a consensus has been reached about what was the best jazz released in 2010. If you're like most jazz fans, you probably bought a few new CDs in 2010 but still feel in the dark about most of the music being praised. Also, if you're like most jazz fans, you're probably curious to hear all that stuff you didn't have the time or money to acquire. That's where AccuJazz comes in and saves the day.

We've created a channel called, simply, "Best Jazz of 2010," for all of you curious listeners. The channel's programming is based on the Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll, regarded by many as the most definitive poll of its kind. VV critic Francis Davis asked 120 of his critic friends to make Top-10 lists. Each critic's number one pick received 10 points, their number two got nine points, and so on. When all of the points were added up, a master list was formed. You can check out the Top 50 here: Village Voice Jazz Poll.

The big winners were Jason Moran (the channel's posterboy on our homepage), Rudresh Mahanthappa and Mary Halvorson. Since they placed highest in the poll, you're likely to hear their music more often than, say, Pat Metheny's Orchestrion album, which placed 50th. Go give the channel a listen and see if you agree with the critics or not. What CDs were your favorites of 2010? Which ones did you think should have made the list but didn't?

You can also listen to my personal Best of 2010 channel, Staff Picks: 2010 Faves, which, to be honest, isn't all that different from the Village Voice-programmed channel. Still, there are plenty of CDs I loved that didn't make the VV list, and, likewise, CDs on the VV list that I couldn't get into.

There's also the 2011 Jazz Grammy Nominations Channel, which is a startlingly different playlist from my channel or the Village Voice-inspired channel.

So, whose taste do you identify with most? The critics, me, or the NARAS? Head over to AccuJazz.com to find out.

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 Round-Up

It's a widely-practiced ritual among the jazz cognoscenti to take stock of the past year's jazz output before toasting to the New Year. By now, dozens and dozens of bloggers have posted their own Top-10 lists, a few engaged in a digital round-table discussion, and one critic compiled 120 of his friends' opinions to form something close to a definitive list.

I didn't quite make the pre-New Year's deadline, but this post is my own humble reflection on jazz in 2010. First, I bring news of new AccuJazz channels that have a year-end round-up nature to them: the 2011 Jazz Grammy Nominations Channel and Staff Picks: 2010 Faves, both now featured on the AccuJazz homepage.

The Grammy Channel is playing music from most all of the albums nominated in the jazz categories for the 2011 Grammy Awards. See a complete list of nominees here. After the awards are presented on February 13, I'll change up the programming a little bit so you'll hear the winners slightly more often than the other nominees.

What's the fun in running a jazz radio site if I don't throw in some editorialized programming now and then? Hence, my own Best of 2010 channel. Instead of limiting myself to a set number of albums or songs, I just went through all the music we had from 2010, added everything that I really dug, and ended up with 36 CDs. I think that's a good number, right? Not too big or too small. I'll present a proper Top-10 list in an upcoming separate blog post. Here's the complete 36-album list, in alphabetical order:

Jason Adasiewicz - Sun Rooms
The Bad Plus - Never Stop
Jeb Bishop Trio - 2009
Regina Carter - Reverse Thread
The Claudia Quintet - Royal Toast
The Nels Cline Singers - Initiate
Avishai Cohen - Introducing Triveni
Colorlist - A Square White Lie
Stephan Crump with Rosetta Trio - Reclamation
Dave Douglas - Spark of Being Vol. 2: Expand
Amir ElSaffar and Hafez Modirzadeh - Radif Suite
Exploding Star Orchestra - Stars Have Shapes
Larry Goldings and Harry Allen - When Larry Met Harry
Tord Gustavsen - Restored, Returned
Mary Halvorson - Saturn Sings
Fred Hersch Trio - Whirl
Ideal Bread - Transmit Vol 2 of the Music of Steve Lacy
Vijay Iyer - Solo
Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden - Jasmine
Guillermo Klein - Domador de Huellas
Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth - Deluxe
Charles Lloyd - Mirror
Rudresh Mahanthappa and Bunky Green - Apex
Brad Mehldau - Highway Rider
Myra Melford's Be Bread - The Whole Tree Gone
Mostly Other People Do the Killing - Forty Fort
Jason Moran - Ten
Paul Motian - Lost in a Dream
Danilo Perez - Providencia
Polar Bear - Peepers
Julian Waterfall Pollack - Infinite Playground
Mike Reed's People, Places and Things - Stories and Negotiations
Christian Scott - Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
Jeremy Siskind - Simple Songs for When the World Seems Strange
Greg Ward's Fitted Shards - South Side Story
Dan Weiss Trio - Timshel

I hope you enjoy listening to my 36 favorite jazz albums from 2010. Please share your favorites in the comments section, won't you?

Also, look out for another best of 2010 channel in the next week or so. This one will be based solely on the definitive Village Voice Jazz Poll. Listen for whose taste you like better: 120 critics, or... me.

To finish up this 2010 Round-Up, I'll share two more lists I posted on Twitter last week, because you can never have enough lists.

Favorite live shows of 2010

I try to see music pretty frequently. I probably averaged around 2.3 shows a week throughout 2010, and I'm pretty sure I can say that every single one of them was worth the time and money, but when I thought back over the year, there were exactly 9 shows that stuck out as having been particularly mind-blowing for me. Here they are, in chronological order:

Ben Allison at the Green Mill, 2/13
Tuneful, focused, alternately playful and serious. Amazing violin solos by Jenny Scheinman.

Matt Wilson Quartet at the Green Mill, 4/2
The perfect combination of musicianship and showmanship. Using a beer glass as a percussion instrument, earnestly covering a Beyonce tune without fancy re-harmonizations or rhythmic trickery, the whole band chanting a Carl Sandburg poem, these are but a few of the pleasures in store when you attend an MWQ show.

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International at Schubas, 4/17
Tight, fun, loud, danceable African pop. Smiles and booty-shaking all around.

Tyshawn Sorey, Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis at the Chicago Cultural Center, 5/14
Patient, meditative, focused and eye-opening. One utterly engrossing 70ish-minute-long piece.

Greg Ward's Fitted Shards at the Velvet Lounge, 9/17
Mindful long-form fusion-flavored post-bop delivered with passion.

Jeff Parker Organ Quartet at the Green Mill, 9/21
Full-throttle soul-jazz from everyone's favorite jazz chameleon.

Wadada Leo Smith and Gunter "Baby" Sommer at the Hungry Brain, 11/7
Two masters freely improvise a joyous, engaging, constantly surprising set of music.

Daniel Lanois' Black Dub at Lincoln Hall, 11/23
Roots rock? Reggae? Jazz? Whatever it is, it's one incredible band. Brian Blade really, really knows how to play those drums.

The Bad Plus at the Jazz Showcase, 12/16
TBP's completely realized individual style fuses jazz, rock, contemporary classical and Fisher Price toys into something that I just can't get enough of. First set was a little tentative; second was everything one could hope for at a TBP show.

And now, for one more list:

Favorite Jazz cover art of 2010

Because I do care what a CD looks like. Listed in alphabetical order:

Nels Cline - Initiate

Avishai Cohen - Introducing Triveni

Colorlist - A Square White Lie

Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden - Jasmine

Dave King - Indelicate

Little Women - Throat

Polar Bear - Peepers

And thus concludes my 2010 Round-Up. Here's to an even better 2011!