Year-End Odds and Ends: Jazz, Vol. 1

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by Pico

The other day, I explained our lack of year-end lists that all good music review sites do by a still-bountiful stack of unexplored CD’s that deserved some checking out before I can put together a tally that looks somewhat informed. Even after this clearinghouse of an article I’ll still be writing about 2009 jazz records into 2010, but this and succeeding volumes should cover a big chunk of what needs to be recognized before we turn the page on the “aughts.” And yes, there’s gonna be a pop/rock version coming up, too.

For jazz alone, it’s a real grab bag of musicians and styles: from old legends (like the drummer in the picture) to the newer heavies and some who are still finding their audience. Here are my impressions compressed down to single, concise paragraphs a piece. These are all recommended and some are bound to make that list.

Oh, and Happy New Decade!

Chico Hamilton Twelve Tones Of Love: This latest in a long line of Hamilton records stretching back some 55 years sets out to show him in a variety of settings from duet to a nonet with mostly fresh compositions by the leader. For a guy who is going to be 90 in just a few years, this master of creative timbres, subtle shadings and modulated moods remains in a very elite class of jazz drummers of all time. On this far reaching affair, Chico does appear to be assessing his long career but as Maxwell Chandler’s liner notes clarifies, he is using “the past as a jumping off point to where he is now.” That’s a good way of putting it.

Mario Adnet/Philippe Baden Powell Afrosambajazz: The Music Of Baden Powell: The title aptly sums it up: the songs are by Brazilian samba giant Baden Powell, and are delivered in a “jazzy” way. Well, not entirely just jazz, but classically minded as well. Acoustic guitarist Mario Adnet added large orchestrations which accentuate the majesty in Powell’s music. He also brought in the late composer’s son, Phillipe, to help with arrangements and add piano to some tracks. It’s a rich listening experience that does a fine job of bringing out Powell’s masterful melodies.

Alex Terrier New York Quartet Roundtrip: The NYC residing Parisian saxophonist Alex Terrier self-released his second album Roundtrip last October. It’s a very sophisticated, swinging kind of jazz and every song (all written by Terrier) has it’s own personality, from the urbane, fluent beauty of “Tompkins Square” to the Ornette Coleman stream of consciousness of “The Dark Side Of Democracy.” On top of that, Terrier’s soprano sax is very distinctive, in a good—read, lyrical—kind of way. Roundtrip is solid from beginning to end.

Jeff Presslaff Red Goddess: Manhattan-born, Princeton-educated pianist Jeff Presslaff has spent the last dozen years helping to make Winnepeg, Manitoba the fastest-growing jazz scene in Canada. Although he’s got a wild side to him, for his latest release Red Goddess Presslaff sticks with the straight-ahead in a trio setting. This was inspired by his coming across two young musicians who he’s developed a great rapport with: bassist Julian Bradford and Scott Senior. The music on this disc crackles from beginning to end; I particularly like how Senior’s drums resonate in the mix and his extensive background in Cuban and Brazilian forms of music shine through on many tracks. Bradford plays with big ears and Presslaff himself is inventive and spunky without being overbearing. The delightful acoustic funk of “‘Nother Monkish Thing” is one of many standout tracks. Red Goddess is that rare piano trio record that is both a little unconventional and plenty accessible.

Joshua Breakstone Trio No One New: Here’s another straight-ahead trio, only this one is led by a sizzling guitarist in Joshua Breakstone. Breakstone likes to keep his lines single-note, but he does so much with those non-harmonized notes by keeping them logical, fluid and swinging. His trio consist of two experienced hands in bassist Lisle Atkinson and drummer Eliot Zigmund, but Breakstone’s been around the block a few times himself: No One New marks his 19th record as a leader going back to 1979. The music, mostly Breakstone originals, don’t break any new ground but traverse bebop territory with much adroitness and reverence. For fans of that kind of jazz, No One New will give them nothing to complain about.

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron

S. Victor Aaron is an SQL demon for a Fortune 100 company by day, music opinion-maker at night. His musings are strewn out across the interwebs on,, a football discussion board and some inchoate customer reviews of records from the late 1990s on Amazon under a pseudonym that will never be revealed. E-mail him at svaaron@somethingelsereviews .com or follow him on Twitter at
S. Victor Aaron
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