Preston Frazier’s Best of 2015 (Jazz): Marc Cary, Solitaire Miles, Adam Larson + Jose James

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Albums by established artists like Leslie Johnson, Marc Cary and Jose James join up-and-coming acts including Solitaire Miles, Dylan Howe and Makaya McCraven in Preston Frazier’s Best of 2015 list for jazz …

No. 10. THE LESLIE JOHNSON PROJECT – LESLIE JOHNSON PROJECT: Bassist/composer/producer Leslie Johnson returns after 2012’s Bass and Beyond with an even funkier effort. This Best of 2015 item finds him calling on friends and influences who have impacted his style and inspired him here in America, as well as in his worldwide travels. As with its predecessor, Johnson composed all the songs on this album and mixed them in his El Paso, Texas, studio. The results are passionate, funky and forward-leaning music firmly rooted in jazz and funk. Check out “Sleepwalking” and “SMH” for a heavy dose of jazz fusion.

No. 9. MARC CARY – RHODES AHEAD VOL. 2: A gem which shines brighter after each listen. Band leader and composer Marc Cary returns to his Fender Rhodes, producing an album with a diverse, gritty and expansive collection of mostly originals. Cary’s band, called Rhodes Ahead, features Tarus Mateen on basses, Terreon “Tank” Gully on drums and Sameer Gupta on tabla. They give the compositions space to breathe, adding elements of funk to the jazzy mix. Check out “Astral Flight 17.”

No. 8. DYLAN HOWE – SUBTERRANEAN: NEW DESIGNS ON BOWIE’S BERLIN: Attempting a jazz interpretation of David Bowie’s classic Berlin era is no easy task, but not in the able hands of drummer Dylan Howe. Howe’s primarily self-taught drum chops are formidable but his arranging skills are equally up to the task. Howe and core band members Ross Stanley, Mark Hodgson and Brandon Allen don’t attempt to cover Bowie; they reinvent it into something original. Steve Howe makes a guest appearance, as well. “Neukoln” and “Moss Garden” both set a nice tone.

No. 7. ADAM LARSON – SELECTIVE AMNESIA: This Normal, Illinois native brings his evocative style to New York City on this Best of 2015 release. Larson has chops, as his tenor tastefully swings, but he’s also a stellar arranger. His heady band of fellow New York-based collaborators includes pianist Fabian Almazan, guitarist Matthew Stevens, bassist Matt Penman and drummer Jimmy MacBride, who join Larson on a series of emotionally and harmonically complex compositions. The result is a collection of songs which are satisfying on more than one level. Check out the songs “Shitpay” and “Your Loss.”

No. 6. MAKAYA McCRAVEN – IN THE MOMENT: Perhaps you arrived at the Steely Dan Show a little late during the 2014 tour and missed the Bobby Broom Organi-Sation led by jazz great Bobby Broom. If you didn’t come early, you did not get to experience one for the masters of drums, Makaya McCraven. On his solo release, McCraven demonstrates the power and versatility he displayed with Broom, and also showcases his talent as a composer and band leader. The self-produced In the Moment moves from the beginning to end with evocative original compositions, thoughtful arrangements and of course stellar playing. Check out “The Jaunt” and “Lonely” to become a true believer.”

No. 5. BEN PATERSON – FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE: Another Best of 2015 jazz release from an established jazz virtuoso. Paterson, a piano virtuoso has also made his mark on the Hammond B-3 organ, infuses new light into classics like “Cry My A River” and also serves up surprises like his take on “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” If you have been fortunate enough to catch the Bobby Broom Organi-Sation you already know Paterson’s power on his instrument. Here, Paterson proves an effective band leader weaving his organ around rhythms set by drummer George Fludas and guitarist Peter Bernstein. Check out the opening track, “Cuban Chant.”

No. 4. GORAN IVANOVIC – GORAN IVANOVIC TRIO: This late 2015 effort is much more than the sum of its parts. Ivanovic, a Chicago-based, Croatia-born nylon-string guitarist, is no newcomer to the music business as the former child prodigy has an accomplished career melding Balkan folk pieces with his own brand of Spanish and Latin American music. With his three-piece trio featuring Matt Ulery on bass and Pete Tashjian of drums, their self-titled debut is guaranteed to amaze, even after repeated listening. Elements of fusion, and folk/Latin music are blended in an innovative and challenging way. Try “Alvorada Americama” and “Sick Puppy” the sample the band’s power.

No. 3. DENNIS ROLLINS VELOCITY TRIO – SYMBIOSIS: An excellent find, the Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio combines traditional jazz with fascinating electronic compliment to create a sound which is both innovative and traditional. Rollins, a trombonist, harnesses a powerful trio featuring Ross Stanley and Pedro Segundo, deftly working his way through group composed original and fresh jazz compositions. Segundo’s driving yet nuanced pulse combines with Stanley’s propulsive Hammond organ, making for an irresistible combination. This UK-based jazz trio’s CD is not to be missed. Check out the tracks “Utopia” and “Senora Do Almortao.”

No. 2. JOSE JAMES – YESTERDAY I HAD THE BLUES: Jose James is an expert record maker. This is the second year in a row he’s made one of my year-end lists. Yesterday I Had The Blues – his tribute to Billie Holiday – is a must own. Throughout, James is at the height of his powers, never overreaching. His phrasing and tone are expertly crafted for the songs, almost making you forget that these gems were crafted for a female voice. Listen as “Good Morning Heartache” and “God Bless the Child” both reach new heights under his tutelage. Meanwhile, Jason Moran’s piano works well in its interplay with the stick work of Eric Harland. These little touches elevate an album from good to great.”

No. 1. SOLITAIRE MILES – SUSIE BLUE AND THE LONESOME FELLAS: This self-produced project is confounding, complex, joyful and ultimately brilliant. Miles, an accomplished and seasoned jazz vocalist, still is able to stretch herself with the Susie Blue persona. On the album, she cleverly leans on country, swing, pop and of course jazz. Instead of attempting to recreate the swing of the 1950s, Miles pays homage to it while challenging her band to create an authentic but new bedrock for her voice. Guitarist Neal Alger proves a formidable collaborator too, contributing arrangements that are another piece of the puzzle which makes Susie Blue and the Lonesome Fellas such a treasure – and my top Best of 2015 entry. “I’m a Fool to Care” and “I Gotta Have My Baby Back” are a sample on the classic interpretations on this stellar release.

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PRESTON’S BEST OF 2015 HONORABLE MENTIONS

JOSHUA REDMAN + THE BAD PLUS – THE BAD PLUS JOSHUA REDMAN: What do you get when you do a Vulcan mind meld between tenor sax legend Redman and jazz innovators the Bad Plus? Seven new originals by four out-of-the-box musicians, and a few reworks of their classics. The quartet occasionally flirts with disaster, but always deliver. Pianist Ethan Iverson, bassist Reid Anderson and drummer David King push Redman to stretch even more than his lofty norm. “As This Moment Slips Away” and “Lack of Faith But Not In Mine” will amaze.

LINDER BROS. – LINDER BROS.: Eight original jazz fusion tracks by the duo which features the bassist for the pop-rock group Dirty Loops (Henrek Linder) and his guitar playing brother Erik. The playing is, of course, stellar but the arrangements are equally high quality and energetic. Check out “Pi” and “When I was 18.”

FATOUMATA DIAWARA AND ROBERTO FONSECA – AT HOME: LIVE IN MARCIAC: Cuban-based pianist Roberto Fonseca teams up with Ivory Coast-born singer and actress Fatoumata Diawara for a infectious groove filled collaboration. Songs like “Sowa” and “Real Family” push the duo and their band to the limits, and are a great fusions of Afro-Cuban jazz and international rhythms.

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier

Preston Frazier is a bass-playing lawyer living in Atlanta. His first Steely Dan exposure was with an eight-track cassette of 'Pretzel Logic.' He can be reached at [email protected]; follow him on Twitter: @slangofages. Contact Something Else! at [email protected]
Preston Frazier
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