2016’s First Quarter Jazz Scorecard


Now that March is behind us it’s time to take stock of how the first quarter of 2016’s jazz releases shook down. There were a ton of really phenomenal releases. Here’s a few of my favorites (I’m hoping to write up longer reviews of these in the near future, so stay tuned):

Vijay Iyer/Wadada Leo Smith, a cosmic rhythm with each stroke (ECM) – As I wrote in my review of this magnificent album for the March issue of Point of Departure, expect to see this one at the top of a whole bunch of year-end best-of lists and critics polls.

Icepick, Amaranth (Astral Spirits) – One of the first LP offerings by the Austin-based label Astral Spirits, which has put out a string of fabulous avant-garde/free improv jazz cassettes. A straight up power improv trio – Nate Wooley, trumpet; Ingebrigt Haker-Flaten, bass; Chris Corsano, drums – Icepick is as good as free improv gets. Instant communication, endless ideas, lots of direction and places to explore.

Roswell Rudd/Jamie Saft/Trevor Dunn/Balasz Pandi, Strength and Power (RareNoise) – I’m reviewing this for the June issue of Point of Departure, so I won’t tip my hat beyond saying that this is some pretty great free improv from a lineup with about as diverse a background as you will find.

Matt Parker, Present Time (BYNK) – I’m pretty sure Parker can do anything. For his second release he swings his ass off, goes a little out, nods to the minimalist gestures that folks like Colin Stetson have turned to, and backs vocalist Emily Braden on a slamming version of “I’m Confessin’ (that I love you).”  A big burly sound and the merging of a whole lot of different frameworks, ideas, and concepts into a singular voice makes Parker an impressive player, composer, and bandleader.

Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra, All My Yesterdays (Resonance Records) – A two-disc set with a massive booklet. The first disc is the infectious recording from this legendary band’s first public performance at the Village Vanguard. “The Little Pixie” is great. The second is from a performance at the Vanguard a few months later. Swinging, immediate, scintillating stuff. Don’t even think about it, go buy this now.

Things to look out for on the horizon as 2016 grows older:

DE3, Live at Maxwells (Sunnyside) – Dropping May 13, Live at Maxwells features one of the tidiest, purest, no-frills, right-down-to-business trios you’ll hear. Trumpeter Duane Eubanks, drummer Eric McPherson, bassist Dezron Douglas. Miles likened Wynton Kelly to black coffee. The same applies here.

Colin Stetson, Sorrow – Stetson’s re-imagining of Henryk Gorecki’s 3rd symphony dropped April 6. A super risky move that paid off in a big way. More on this to come – lets just say the double kick drums in the first movement are brilliant.

Jack DeJohnette, Ravi Coltrane, Matthew Garrison, In Movement (ECM) – I haven’t heard this yet, but I’m definitely intrigued. Tenor/bass/drums trio? Check. DeJohnette? Check. The sons of Trane and Jimmy Garrison? Check and check. Ok, so maybe the narrative is what is driving my intrigue here. Who cares. Can’t wait.  Out May 6.

And highlights in the non-jazz world coming in April:

Ravi Shankar, In Hollywood, 1971 (East Meets West Music) – This is a Record Store Day release, so go by your favorite local shop on April 16 and fight the crowds looking for that Justin Bieber picture disc, Linkin Park reissue, and the lame Daft Punk remix of Junior Kimbrough. In Hollywood, 1971 is stunning.

Tashi Dorji & Shane Parish, Expecting (MIE Music) – A set of eight charming freely improvised duos by these two North Carolina based guitarists. Improvised American primitive guitar? That’s about as best I can do to describe it in a few words.  A limited run of 400 LPs. If you miss out on the vinyl, get the download.

Lesley Flanigan, Hedera (Physical Editions) – This EP has two tracks, the twenty minute title track and the five minute “Can Barely Feel My Feet.” Electronics + looped/layered/processed vocals. In a the same realm as Juliana Barwick. Minimalist, haunting – each listen captivates more than the last.


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