Top 10 Jazz Albums, April 2014
This month's mix features fusion funk, free-jazz power workouts, chamber-music compositional exploration and some classic swing, too, of course! Click play, and you'll start off with a track from trumpeter Takuya Kuroda's major-label debut, for Blue Note. The whole thing shakes with beat lessons derived from fusion greats, but in our attached playlist, we've selected "Rising Son," "Piri Piri" and the cover of Roy Ayers' "Everybody Loves the Sunshine" (which features Jose James on vocals). Kuroda's band also boasts keyboardist Kris Bowers, whose own debut as a leader, Heroes + Misfits, treads on similar ground. (Given the laser-style synths that dominate the opening of "Wake the Neighbors," you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd stumbled on a Phoenix track.)
And speaking of fusion greatness, we've also got a brand-new entry in the Miles Davis bootleg series. (We covered some of the details in our Electric Miles Live Mega-Mix post, but suffice it to say, this thing kicks.) And in something of a bittersweet swan song, we have select cuts from the album that percussion great Chico Hamilton was working on just before his recent passing. ("Money Wish" is pure uptempo joy, while "Reluctant" has an electric bass-empowered swagger.)
In more "out there" zones, we have the album Conversations 1, led by saxophonist/flutist Roscoe Mitchell. A free-improv master, he runs the gamut here: "Darse" boasts steady intensity for five wild minutes. But this isn't a one-tone album, as Mitchell proves with the half-hour of Zen-quiet rumbling over the album's second and third tracks. Piano star Craig Taborn takes care of acoustic chops (on the opener) and blasts of avant-organ (on "Who Dat" and "Splatter"). Newcomer percussionist Kikanju Baku shows some range, too, breaking off pieces of drum shrapnel on the heaters, and employing more reserved approaches during ambient pieces.
The most impressive album of the month, though, might be Fourteen, by Dan Weiss (a jazz-world drummer of note and a student of classical music). His writing for a 14-piece ensemble -- including guitar, tuba/trombone, voices and harp -- is strong throughout, and the entire through-composed program is worth your time. But for our mix purposes, we've selected the swinging vocalese-plus-sax improv of "Part Three" and the penultimate "Part Six." Mix this all together with the latest from Ambrose Akinmusire, Cecilia Persson, David Dominique, and the ensemble Luz, and you should have enough to keep you busy until we see you again in May. Enjoy!