When compiling my lists of best jazz records, broken up into 3 distinct areas of jazz, I used three criteria for inclusion on one of these lists:
1. Is it good enough? (duh)
2. Is it jazz? (duh)
3. Have I already reviewed it in some form or another?
The third requirement came about because I only wanted to include records that I took the time to listen closely enough to be able to write a short essay about what I heard. But that also helped me to whittle down the candidates to a manageable number of records.
I covered a hell of a lot of jazz records this year, but for every jazz record reviewed, there were four or five more I listened to and for various reasons didn’t review. A few of these records were worthy of praise and with more time I’d have jotted down a few paragraphs each of my impressions of these discs. A handful of these might have even made one of those “Top Jazz Albums” lists for 2012, but hey, rules are rules. However, that doesn’t preclude me from putting of these such CD’s into a list of its own. Hence, a “Top 2012 unreviewed jazz records of 2012″, aka, my “whiff” list, is born.
Not formally included in the four-part series of Best Of albums, think of if more as the four parts a the main part of a book and this whiff list as an appendix.
Here are those unreviewed gems, with short remarks about them attached (click on titles to read the reviews wherever they were done by some other SER contributor):
Neneh Cherry & The Thing – The Cherry Thing: The reason I backed out of reviewing this is because Mark Saleski did the honors for us on the site. Mark put this in his non-jazz list and I’m calling it “jazz.” But that hard-to-define character is much of the appeal of this one-off meeting between Don Cherry’s stepdaughter and a Scandinavian whack jazz supergroup The Thing (saxophonist Mats Gustafsson, bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten and drummer Paal Nilssen-Love). Cherry brings her sublime funk-jazz vocal stylings and the Thing brings the unpredictable impulsiveness and punch. It’s a match made in whack jazz heaven.
Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet – Walk Love, Sleep: Speaking of Nilssen-Love, here’s the latest from his sometimes employer, the German free jazz tenor sax giant. Brötz still has the chops…or should I say, lungs…and that’s evident even in a ten-piece band. This isn’t a perfect album, though: there are a few quiet interludes. I don’t want to hear quiet when I’m listening to a PB record, just gimme the unrelenting noise, dammit!
Kurt Rosenwinkel – Star Of Jupiter: Rosenwinkel’s stature as a composer/leader/sideman guitarist is nearly up there with the three-headed monster Metheny/Scofield/Frisell, and Star Of Jupiter might not put him closer to their level, but he doesn’t fall behind, either. His PMG-styled vocalizations admittedly sound cool and maybe because they amplify what are some really fetching melodies. And the tone of that guitar is so distinctive and pretty alluring at the same time. Rosenwinkel made maybe not his grand statement, but it’s mighty consistent.
Lionel Loueke – Heritage: Loueke is a pretty singular guitarist too, maybe even more so than Rosenwinkel. An appealing mesh of George Benson and Western Africa (Loueke is from Benin), when he’s doing that world fusion thing, it’s no genre exercise, it’s who he is, and no one is mating African music to contemporary jazz better than he is these days.
Mary Halovorson/Peter Evans/Weasel Walker – Mechanical Malfunction: I put Mary Halvorson’s own Bending Bridges on my “regular” whack jazz list, but she’s been involved in so many other projects released in the past year, it was simply impossible to adequately survey it all. And that’s a pity because she consistently throws herself into interesting settings without regard to how much of a leadership role she plays in it. No matter, her Jekyll-n-Hyde guitar stands out in any musical situation, and it does here even amidst trumpeter Peter Evans and drummer Weasel Walter, two credentialed whack jazzers themselves. Still, I like Mechanical Malfunction because of the whole group improvisation aspect of it: there’s anarchy and democracy being practiced at the same time. And hearing Mary go off the deep end just makes it ever more fun.
Can – The Lost Tapes: This odds ‘n’ ends compilation Not really jazz, it’s vintage krautrock, from the guys who practically invented the genre, but amidst all the wildness going on, there’s something resembling jazz — at least in spirit — going on there.
Christian Scott – Christian aTunde Adjuah: I covered the prior two discs, Live At Newport (2008) and Yesterday You Said Tomorrow (2010), but this double-disc’er is going beyond even the fairly lofty ambitions of those prior two. The young trumpeter makes grand statements about the state of the world — which isn’t easy to do without lyrics — and incorporates a bevy of contemporary music styles inside the jazz aesthetic, also a difficult task. But, he pulls off both. Perhaps it’s because he didn’t reach this spot suddenly, he’s been building up to it over the last two or three releases. In any case, Scott is one of the rare jazz musicians making something truly unique and contemporary with real artistic value but also easily embraceable. Christian aTunde Adjuah is a little long, but he has a lot to say.