Top 10 Jazz Albums, February 2012
You may think you know what Miles Davis sounded like alongside Chick Corea, Jack DeJohnette and Wayne Shorter -- after all, that core group (along with a few other folks) made Bitches Brew. But the album was famously futzed-with in the studio, both by producer Teo Macero and Miles himself (who was getting into tape effects, in addition to electric amplification). The latest edition of Sony's "Bootleg Series" highlighting various Davis bands through the years finds Miles just before he went electric with that group. It's a kick to hear "Spanish Key" and "Miles Runs the Voodoo Down" as the experimental hard-bop pieces (with Corea's keyboards) that they apparently originally were.
Here in 2013, though, there's no shortage of great new jazz. Most exciting for me was the return of Anti-House, the quintet of German saxophonist Ingrid Laubrock: her emerging partnership with Mary Halvorson's guitar keeps getting better, and the two will likely appear on some more records yet to be released in 2013.
For the rest of this month's lineup, I spent time catching up with albums released late in 2012. Titles that come out in the fourth quarter of a calendar year are doomed to be under-represented in year-end summations, but this past winter brought us an especially hot oversight. Only two jazz critics in our Rhapsody poll voted for Rafiq Bhatia, but if the young guitarist's full-length debut, Yes It Will, had come out even a month earlier, I suspect that would have changed. No matter: We can celebrate the album's tricky rhythms and math-rock energy -- as well as Rhapsody poll-victor Vijay Iyer's gala guest appearances -- right now.
We can also herald the top Latin album in our poll, Bobby Sanabria's Multiverse, as well as the quiet but consistent quality of albums put out on the Criss Cross label. From Afro-Cuban to post-rock -- with plenty of swing in between -- this month's picks should keep you engaged until the first "big event" jazz album of the year: the Wayne Shorter album that comes out in early February and has one really satisfying surprise on it. Stay tuned.