Here we are only halfway done with 2012 and it’s already been a bangin’ year for modern and mainstream jazz, whether you prefer a celebration of the tradition or an expansion of the frontiers. The artists born in the 70s and 80s naturally tend to be the ones bringing the fresh perspectives, but as the list reveals, those born in the 20s and 30s are still making music with a lot of life in them…including a “new” set of recordings by someone who’s been dead for more than thirty years.
So here are the selections, which like the non-jazz list, are unranked and unlimited to a set number of choices. Also like the non-jazz list, there are eleven selections. Pure coincidence, I swear. Click through the titles for the complete reviews …
Vijay Iyer – Accelerando: The use of modern rhythms, imaginative arrangements, creative material and just plain, old fashioned butt kicking virtuosity makes Accelerando a strong album from nearly every aspect by which a modern jazz album can be judged. The frontrunner for the jazz album of 2012.
Orrin Evans – Flip The Switch: Orrin Evans poured in heaping doses of his heart as well as his head in making this album, setting a new high water mark for this exceptional talent.
Brandon Wright – Journeyman: A solid, tight set from a fast-rising saxophone star who on his second time out already got the chops and the vision down.
Bills Evans – Live At Art D’Lugoff’s Top Of The Gate: Not the best-ever live Evans souvenir but it’s well engineered and any newly released recordings by this man is a rare treat.
[SOMETHING ELSE REWIND: See S. Victor Aaron's non-jazz Half-Year List of Top Albums for 2012.]
Brian Charette – Music Organ Sextette: Charette had a great idea to shake up the traditional organ combo format by adding four horns to it and offered something unique that succeeded not because of the idea, but because the idea was executed so well.
Luis Perdomo – Universal Mind: This set led by Ravi Coltrane’s pianist is everything you could ask for from a mainstream jazz piano/bass/drums record: well-constructed compositions, exemplary performances and outstanding rapport.
photo: Keith MajorKenny Garrett – Seeds From The Underground: Few can distill the influences of jazz’s greats from the 50′s and 60′s into a singular, spiritual voice like Kenny Garrett’s sax and songs. This is one of the better products of his appealing style.
Steve Kuhn – Wisteria: Kuhn’s unwavering commitment to the melody, along with the devotion to understated prowess of a prime trio lineup, lifts Wisteria well above your run-of-the-mill piano trio albums.
Ahmad Jamal – Blue Moon: At 82, Jamal sounds as vital as ever. Manolo Badrena amps up the groove factor.
Omer Avital – Suite Of The East: Underrated bassist/composer Avital waited for the right time to record this stash of songs, and given the performances of these special musicians, he wisely struck while the iron was red hot.
Aruán Ortiz – Orbiting: Elegant and incisive, Ortiz spins his songs like a mystery to be solved over several, satisfying listens. Guitarist Dave Gilmore makes a great guitar foil.
NEXT UP: Part 3, Whack Jazz