My All-Star CD's of 2007: The Best Of The Rest

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by Pico

Either it’s been a strong year music-wise, or I’ve simply been listening to more new releases than I usually do. It’s probably a combination of both but regardless, there was a lot of good chaff left on the floor by the time I finalized my All-Stars Starters and Alternates lists. And so, here’s a list of the records that merited serious consideration for all star status. On some days, a few of these selections sound like all stars to me. Despite some shortcomings, I’d have no problem recommending any of these. For your convenience, these selections are grouped by genre. Click on the links within the CD titles where provided to find more information on these records elsewhere on this blog:

All That Jazz

Joel Frahm We Used to Dance

Frahm is not widely recognized among the tenormen outside the NYC area, but he should be. This record testifies for him well.

Robert MacGregor Refraction Of Light
MacGregor has come seemingly out of nowhere as a fully developed tenor sax talent. Both his advanced compositional and playing style reminds some of Blue Note Wayne Shorter, but MacGregor is his own man. An up and comer to watch for in the post-bop jazz scene.

Chris Potter Follow The Red Line: Live At The Village Vanguard
Potter is another New York-based tenor guy but one whose made a name for himself some time back. On Red Line, Potter introduces five new originals in a live setting and is backed by an electric band featuring Craig Taborn on the Fender Rhodes. It’s no-nonsense fusion with chunks of challenging hard bop thrown in and would be a great listen for anyone who is a fan of either.

Manhattan New Music Project Jazz Cycles
Modern creative jazz outfit MNMP playing some inpsired, final works of noted composer Paul Nash. Nash literally gave his last ounce of energy to the project and it’s a fitting tribute to his legacy.

Jean-Luc Ponty The Acatama Experience
This isn’t a total return to Ponty’s classic seventies fusion style, but it’s close enough. Old friends Philip Catherine and Allan Holdsworth make guest appearances.

Miles Davis The Complete ‘On The Corner’ Sessions
The most important reissue of the year, even though much of it is a tough listen and it’s rather pricey (recently discounted to $100 at Amazon). You pick this one up more for the historical importance and to answer a lot of the “where did so-and-so get that cool idea from” questions.

Groundtruther Altitude
This third part of the Charlie Hunter/Bobby Previte trilogy is arguably the best part of this improvised stew of industrial jazz. Adding MMW keyboard John Medeski to the mix provided more spice to the soup.

Drew Gress The Irrational Numbers
Gress is a very good acoustic bass player, but on The Irrational Numbers he proves to be a very fine composer, too. He takes on the impossible challenge of combining improvised music with chamber jazz with a little bit of electronics thrown in and mostly succeeds.

Steve Allee Colors
Allee didn’t make his mark with acoustic, straight-ahead jazz and didn’t make his mark leading a trio. But here he did both well enough to make you think that he did.

Pop and Other Guilty Pleasures

Scott Fisher & 1am Approach Step Into The Future
Perhaps the best album of the year by an unsigned artist. A gifted singer, songwriter and keyboardist who’s niche is a pleasing blend of reggae, pop and jazz.

Julie Dexter/Khari Simmons Moon Bossa
If you’re curious about that hybrid brand of music call “soul bossa,” this one’s a good CD to find out if you’d like it. Singer Dexter and bassist Simmons (India.Arie) combine to mix Brazilian flavored covers and originals and effectively update Sergio Mendes’ brand of jazzy pop.

Machan Motion Of Love
A similar style to Moon Bossa, but Machan writes almost all the tunes and trades in some of the soul for more jazziness. Full of first call session musicians, Motion Of Love is tastefully played and put together.

The Old Rockers

The Eagles Long Road Out Of Eden
One disc full of very good, fresh classic California rock spread out over two discs. At the price of one disc, though, who’s complaining?

Mark Knopfler Kill To Get Crimson
Knopfler has long ago fallen off the rock radar screen even though his art continues to expand well beyond the Dire Straits days. But little of what he does these days really qualifies for rock; it’s more American roots music: country, blues and folk. All the same, it does qualify for quality listening.

John Fogerty Revival
Fogerty has always been Fogerty but he seems even more so on Revival. A couple of tracks short of solid, but worth the purchase.

Neil Young Chrome Dreams II
One of Neil’s odd and ends releases. As such, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, but not as uneven quality-wise as these things tend to be. “Ordinary People” is an epic track.

Warren Zevon Stand In The Fire
This reissue from 1981 captures Zevon at the height of his powers; he cleaned up enough to put on a lively, focused show. And the time frame meant he was going to heavily cover songs from his classic 1976-1980 period. Why do we miss Warren? This live set answers why.

James Taylor One Man Band
You’ve heard most of these songs hundreds of times before and JT hadn’t changed his style in 35+ years, but so what? Taylor is a great live act and hearing these songs with little accompaniment makes us remember what great songs these are in the first place.

da’ Blooz:

James Blood Ulmer Bad Blood In The City: The Piety Street Sessions
Got this CD back in August and somehow neglected to listen to it until now; dang, what was I thinking. Folks, I whiffed in a big way here, this one is a true All-Star. Look for a full review sometime in January.

Robben Ford Truth
Ford has no tricks up his sleeve for this standard fare blues-rock CD, but his solid songwriting, polished band and of course, his unmatched guitar playing make this one worth the purchase.

Bryan Lee Katrina Was Her Name
As long as you like Bryan Lee (and why wouldn’t you, if you like the blues?), there’s no reason not to like this record. The Braille Blues Daddy always delivers solid, dependable electric blues. Always.

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