As 2016 comes to a final close, Glide recently chose its top rock/folk/alt/singer-songwriter albums of the year. However it would be wrong to leave out a list of the top jazz oriented albums of the year. Glide’s resident jazz critic Doug Collette has chose his top ten albums in the jazz world of 2016. Lets take a look!
Will Bernard – Out & About: One of the beauties of Will Bernard’s records is the authoritative band-leading by which he authoritatively leads the ensemble to make sure each member gets his chance to contribute: which he manages to do without sacrificing his own instrumental voice. Every member of the all-star group on Out and About comes close to stealing the spotlight, particularly keyboardist Bryan Charette (saxophonist John Ellis is a close second), but instead, the playing of their respective instruments only sets off Bernard’s own guitar in more vivid relief.
Mike Dillon – Functioning Broke: In keeping with the paradox of this album’s title, percussionist Dillon manages to entrance his listeners by following his own impulses to create in the spirit of the moment. A dozen cuts pass in such quick succession, Functioning Broke seems to be over almost as soon as it begins. Still, the impression it makes is as clear and memorable as the image on the back cover of the CD.
Pat Metheny – Cuong Vu Trio Meets Pat Metheny: Pat Metheny’s willingness and ability to integrate himself within the trio of his one-time band collaborator is as much a testament to the Missouri-born guitarist and composer’s humility as his prodigious skill. But none of those virtues would matter so much if the unit within which he’s working here didn’t manifest its own measure of excellence. Trumpeter Vu and his comrades compose vivid material original material and play it with comparable high style.
Charlie Hunter– Everybody Has A Plan Until They Get Punched in the Mouth: Returning to his eight-string guitar after some years playing a seven-string instrument, Charlie Hunter nevertheless eschews mere grooves to emphasize song structure here. The numbers cornetist Kirk Knuffke and trombonist Curtis Fowlkes imbue with the celebratory spirit of New Orleans are not the only ones that highlight how beautifully recorded this album is: long-time Hunter collaborator Bobby Previte’s punchy drum work comes through with great nuance, as do the low notes of Hunter’s trademark axe.
Harvey Mandel– Snake Pit: While Snake Pit isn’t so innovative as Jeff Beck’s classic Blow by Blow, there are some marked similarities between the two record. Utilizing novelty on every front here–except that of the ‘real strings’ that recall George martin’s orchestral arrangements for El Becko– the once and future guitarist of Canned Heat and hired gun for ‘The God Father of British Blues’ John Mayall offers newly-composed original material to a group of accompanists with whom whom he’d never met prior to these sessions. The result is a slate of fresh, contemporary blues, the wholly instrumental likes of which should have remarkable durability.
Pat Metheny- The Unity Sessions: Configuring this double CD set of live performances separate from a previously-released DVD collection restores the concept of The Unity Band as the Grammy-Award winning bandleader/composer/guitarist originally intended: a far more spare (and spontaneous) instrumental unit than his Groups. Thus, while the main quartet (guitarist Metheny, saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Ben Williams and drummer Antonio Sanchez) is augmented by multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Giulio Carmassi, the lean arrangements inspire similarly restrained improvisations.
Allison Miller & Honey Ear Trio – Swivel Lean: The peripatetic percussionist spearheads two trios with somewhat similar but distinctly different acoustic/electric foundations for sax, bass and drums. With her collaborators, Miller creates multi-toned, ambient backdrops in front of the intuitive interactions during which improvisations, the respective lineups venture just far enough into abstract realms. Both ensembles actually utilize electronics to supply shape and purpose to sounds stretching the boundaries of traditional jazz.
Brad Mehldau – Blues & Ballads (w/Trio); Nearness (w/Joshua Redman): Hardly a year goes by that pianist composer Brad Mehldau’s work isn’t on the ‘Best of.’ But that’s only because, whether solo or in collaboration in some form, his music engages with great intensity. And so it is with 2016’s titles, the one a totally engrossing encounter with his trio, the other a similarly stirring cull of live recordings with his kindred spirit saxophonist Redman. Mehldau continues to amaze with the versatility of his talent and his willingness to experiment.
Nolatet – Dogs: Even with New Orleans as the foundation of this group figuratively and literally—the rhythm section of bassist James Singleton and drummer Johnny Vidacovich are staples of the Crescent City scene—this quartet refuses to play to predictable form. Instead, the ensemble, rounded out by keyboardist Brian Haas (of Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) and percussionist/vibist Mike Dillon, transcends labels to engage in an interplay as intelligent as it is muscular. In so doing, Nolatet creates a dialect all its own from the respective languages of its individuals.
John Scofield- Country For Old Men: The venerable guitarist unites with old friends (keyboardist Larry Goldings, bassist Steve Swallow and drummer Bill Stewart) for a foray into country music that is much more than just an exercise in style. In fact, Sco and co. render the songs just recognizably on their interpretations of material from Hank Williams, Dolly Parton and Merle Haggard, among others. Musiclovers only casually familiar with this genre (and/or these musicians), as well as devout fans of C&W, should find this album a source of pure pleasure.