Top 10 Jazz Albums, May 2014
Welcome to your monthly roundup drawn from the best new releases in jazz! First up is a brand-new record from guitarist Marc Ribot, Live at the Village Vanguard, that already feels heavy with history, given how Ribot's trio includes the legendary Henry Grimes on bass. Grimes played with Albert Ayler at the Vanguard during the late 1960s as well, and so Ribot's selection of Ayler tunes (such as "Bells" and "The Wizard") feels like an explicit way to honor his bass player's legacy. But everything on the record is stellar, including the two late-Coltrane tracks: "Dearly Beloved" (which starts out with a gorgeous arco solo from Grimes) and "Sun Ship." Same goes for the gently abstracted standards that the group tosses in, as well.
The history-making (and referencing) doesn't stop with that release, either. This month brings us the latest album from 83-year-old Sonny Rollins, Road Shows Vol. 3. Is this where you should start with Rollins? Well, not really: Go to Saxophone Colossus or A Night at the Village Vanguard for the intro course. (Or just check out our Artist Spotlight on Rollins.) But if you love jazz enough to know those albums already, do make time for this latest live-recording compilation. Highlights include the new tune "Patanjali," which builds a nice head of steam. And "Solo Sonny" -- one of those extended cadenzas for which he's justly famed -- is a thrill.
Another grand master from the '60s shows up this month, too. Sounding in tip-top avant-garde form is saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, in his second album with Craig Taborn (on organ and piano) and newcomer percussionist Kikanju Baku, titled Conversations 2. This edition is more consistently wild than the first. So if you dig the high heat, check out Mitchell's circular-breathing prowess on "Stay Hayfer." There's even some (acoustic) fusion stuff happening in "They Rode for Them," which sounds like a merger of 2014-era Chicago footwork DJ beat madness colliding with the sound of late-'60s Chicago free-improv drone. It's a beautiful noise.
It isn't just old-timers in our playlist, though. Young guns Ingrid Laubrock and Kris Davis contribute to drummer Tom Rainey's surprise album of standards, Obbligato. And Wilco guitarist Nels Cline shows up on two excellent improv releases: Macroscope, by his own Nels Cline Singers group, as well as the collaborative Woodstock Sessions, Vol. 2, led by Medeski, Martin and Wood. Put it together with exciting Afro-Latin experimentation by Arturo O'Farrill, as well as new releases by Brian Blade, Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Ensemble, and Albert van Veenendaal, and there's plenty of music in our attached playlist to get excited about. So click play, and enjoy!