Top 10 Jazz Albums, March 2013
Next time you read an article about the "death of jazz," or about the supposed end of the "standards tradition" in jazz, feel free to direct the writer of said piece to this month's Jazz Roundup (and playlist).
Between the new Wayne Shorter (an early candidate for Album of the Year), a blistering live box set from free-jazz pioneer Peter Brotzmann, a crisp debut from a new group led by Jason Marsalis, and a keen new cover of "No Church in the Wild," there should be a little something for everyone in the 10 releases selected for March. (This doesn't even include the new one from Nicholas Payton, which I intend to get around to next month.)
Moreover, the Duke Ellington tradition is served well in multiple ways: Drummer Terri Lyne Carrington uses "Money Jungle" to make a very contemporary political point, while the Buffalo Philharmonic take symphonic Duke to a new performance height.
For fans of folk- and/or rock-inflected improvisation, there's a new title from the leader in that field, Pat Metheny. But guitar fans will also want to be sure to check out the new one from Timucin Sahin's quintet. (Any band with Tyshawn Sorey on drums is apt to have a lot of power, as well as subtlety -- and this group has both.) Elsewhere in the realm of the avant-garde, we have a hot one from Oliver Lake, the legendary member of the World Saxophone Quartet (as well as the Black Artists Group): All Decks is a fine addition to the top tier of his late period. It has the blues, the experimental fire, and much more besides.
Add to this month's haul a key reissue from the Art Ensemble of Chicago -- the long-hard-to-find Reese and the Smooth Ones, paired with two other familiar classics -- and it's hard not to consider that the tradition seems in rather rude health. Get a taste of all of the albums from the attached playlist (if you care at all about jazz, make sure to listen to the Shorter album in its entirety). If you'd like to spend an hour being bashed around (and occasionally made to dance like mad), skip straight to the finale: a one-track, 52-minute set of Peter Brotzmann playing in a band with bassist Bill Laswell, drummer Hamid Drake and Maâllem Mokhtar Gania, who plays the guembri, a West African lute-style instrument.