Signposts of Posthistory

The Best New Jazz CDs of the Year of Louis and Miles

7. David Murray, Octet Plays Trane (Justin Time):
The Iridium performances were so startling, you wondered if a record would measure up. It does, though you may need a breather after the opener, a room-filling assault on "Giant Steps," complete with a polyphonic transcription of Coltrane's solo. There was a time when a Murray octet was news, but this one—easily a match for its predecessors—glided in under the radar. D.D. Jackson makes up for his own RCA albums, and who can explain how Murray manages to keep lighting fires under James Spaulding?

8. Clark Terry, One on One (Chesky):
An unexpected stunner that doubles as a primer on jazz piano. Terry and 14 pianists, from John Lewis to Tommy Flanagan to Kenny Barron to Geri Allen to Eric Lewis, engage in duets dedicated to 14 great dead jazz pianists (Hoagy Carmichael is in on a pass—any excuse to play "Skylark"). Yet it's not just another repertory tribute, because Terry plays with a wry magnificence that belies his 80 years (as of December 14). In sweeping in so many good players, it creates an ipso facto lingua franca. Good liner notes—by the musicians.

9. Keith Jarrett, Whisper Not (ECM):
A similarity in tempo and attitude; recurring bass solos, which, even when played by Gary Peacock, are recurring bass solos; and the pianist's mouselike squeals are overcome by sheer elation as he delights himself (and a Paris audience) with dazzling variations on familiar but well-chosen standards: eight jazz, four pop, and one in between—"Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams," which he begins with lambent stride. The ballads succumb to slow motion, but the meditative longueurs and facile bluesisms are long gone. When Jarrett, Peacock, and Jack DeJohnette lift off at medium-up tempos, they create their own orbit. "Bouncing With Bud," "Groovin' High," and "What Is This Thing Called Love" are spectacular, as are the encores.

Miles Davis in 1959, when he recorded the bestselling jazz album of the year 2000
photo: Don Hunstein
Miles Davis in 1959, when he recorded the bestselling jazz album of the year 2000

10. Marty Ehrlich's Travelers Tales, Malinke's Dance (Omnitone):
He's everywhere, but this may be the most completely pleasurable album Ehrlich has made. The quartet is taut as a wire, with Jerome Harris and Bobby Previte laying down the rhythm, and tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby bringing more bite to this session than to his own Sabino(Arabesque). But it's the leader's centered alto that shines hottest, galloping through "Pigskin" and jauntily essaying a cadenza on an "I Remember You" variation aptly named "Bright Remembered."

11. Jason Moran, Facing Left (Blue Note):
This grew on me slowly, though it's a good sign when you keep coming back. Moran may be the least linear, chord-stringing pianist since Ahmad Jamal. He subordinates melody and harmony to rhythmic configurations, mesmerizing himself with vamps. It's delightful to hear a revival of Jaki Byard's "Twelve" or Ellington's "Wig Wise" (even these are close-order improvs based on rhythmic skeletons), yet his own compositions also seem to have been born of the latter's home, Money Jungle. Still, for originality he rivals Shipp's New Orbit. Sensible length, too.

12. Andrew Hill, Dusk (Palmetto):
His most appealing album since the 1968 Grass Roots. Ehrlich, Ron Horton, and Greg Tardy man the front time, rolling with the punches of his knotty originals, but the pianist is the heart of the matter. Hill's solos step forward with the determination of a man unwilling to play anything that anyone might anticipate; he bypasses familiar cadences and resolutions as though they were land mines, and he generates suspense if you're stepping close behind him, wondering if he'll make it. He always does.

13. Benny Golson, Remembering Clifford (Milestone):
This is one CD I knew would make my list months ago, though when I examined the small print, I realized it came out in 1998 and got lost in the recesses of my office. I include it anyway, because I discovered it in 2000, just as I expect I will discover or rediscover CDs that came out this year and did not get the attention from me they merit. Golson shares the tenor spot with Ron Blake and Mike LeDonne chairs the rhythm section, and the nothing-new of it is accomplished with much charm, authority, and canny voicings.

The best reissue of the year, hands down, is Mosaic's The Complete Columbia Recordings of Mildred Bailey, and I urge you to spring for the 10-disc, $160 mail-order set (203-327-7111) before the 5000 copies are gone. More on reissues next time.

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