Jason Moran Ten (Blue Note) This was quite a year for the pianist Moran was was awarded a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship. Ten refers to the the years his trio “The Bandwagon” has been together and this recording mixes a variety of new compositions which his fresh interpretation of Monk’s “Crepuscule With Nellie.” Most fascinating is his “Old Babies,” which is based on a very early twentieth century recording by the legendary pioneering performer, Bert Williams, and whose vocals Moran evokes in his piano on this.
Owen Howard Drum Lore (BJU Records) The genesis of this recording came from Howard’s participation in a jazz workshop’s composition class when someone asked why he a drummer was participating, and the result is this disc of eleven drummer penned compositions, superbly performed by Howard’s combo. Of Howard’s playing, I have noted, “Even when not upfront, his playing complements and pushes the soloists through these fascinating compositions that is a lesson that student at the jazz workshop hopefully by now has learned.”
Maurice Brown The Cycle of Love (Brown Records). A Chicago native who studied at Southern University’s acclaimed Jazz Program, Brown has a warm, lively tone and with a wonderful group produces some superb music. The music on this, his second album, exhibits some a playfulness and melodic qualities that can bring a smile to one’s face, yet there is plenty of substance here.
Lena Seikaly Written in the Stars (self-produced). Distinctive interpretations by this young Washington, DC area singer who has such a marvelous voice. Interesting song selection of standards and originals with a highlight for me being her rendition of the Charles Mingus ballad “Duke Ellington’s Song of Love.”
Catherine Russell Inside This Heart of Mine (World Village). Russell, daughter of the legendary band leader Luis Russell and bassist carline Ray delights us as she mines “lesser known songs from decades past and revive them in a lively fashion that avoids being campy. Her vocals are a model that many singing jazz and blues would do well top listen to and learn from how she delivers her songs as well as marvel from the sensitive and sympathetic support she receives.”
Gabriele Tranchina A Song Of Love’s Color (Jazzheads) This, I wrote, “is a wonderful release that is sure to charm listeners with not only Gabriele Tranchina’s lovely voice, but her wonderful expressiveness and the tight playing in support of her. This is a recording that easily lends itself to repeated listening.”
Azar Lawrence Mystic Journey (Furthermore). The saxophonist with his fine band joined by Eddie Henderson on trumpet and the late Rashied Ali on drums has produced a phenomenal recording that suggests the inspiration that John Coltrane provided Lawrence on a body of terrific material and performances.
Antonio Sanchez Live in New York (CamJazz) Strong double CD performance at NYC’s Jazz Standard with drummer joined by his brother David on tenor sax, Miguel Xenon on alto sax and Scott Colley on bass for some truly special performances.
Issac Delgado L-O-V-E (Sony Classical) The Cuban singer’s marvelous tribute to Nat King Cole is centered around the three albums Cole recorded that were recorded for Spanish speaking audiences. I wrote that the “combination of Delgado’s vocals and the exquisite accompaniments result in this being one of the year’s most enchanting recordings.”
William Parker I Plan To Stay A Believer: The Inside Songs of Curtis Mayfield (Aum Fidelity). A lively double CD all star free-jazz big band exploration of the music of Curtis Mayfield that may have some ragged edges but makes compelling listening.