A new quartet, with guitarist Joe Morris the second seed. The Indian motifs are part of Ware's spiritual quest, but when he plays, it's hard to escape the here and now. While most tenor saxophonists try to sound like John Coltrane, Ware has simply lived the life, finding his own unique way, elevating everyone around him. A MINUS

Cassandra Wilson
Loverly [Blue Note]

After numerous attempts to modernize the songbook and capitalize on a deep voice invoking Vaughan-Carter-Lincoln, she retreats into a scattered set of old songs and comes up with her most satisfying album. It's all in the details: the Jason Moran piano that drives "Caravan," the upbeat sass of "St. James Infirmary," and the way she wraps her voice around Reginald Veal's solo bass on "The Very Thought of You." A MINUS

Honorable Mentions

The Microscopic Septet
Lobster Leaps In

Vintage postmoderns regroup for a rousing round of trad jazz in a tradition wholly their own.

Mike Reed's People, Places & Things
[482 Music]

Drummer-led freebop, with two racing saxes invoking the late-'50s Chicago underground, and flying off.

Scott DuBois

Guitarist-driven vehicle—steady enough to keep avant-saxman Gebhard Ullmann on track, wild enough to get him excited.

Rudresh Mahanthappa's Indo-Pak Coalition

With Pakistani-American guitarist Rez Abbasi, both sides are over the conflict, and world-class tabla player Dan Weiss is way beyond.

Maurice Horsthuis
Elastic Jargon
[Data ]

Music for many strings, including bass and guitar, the tone more classical than jazz but fresh nonetheless.

Bob Mover
It Amazes Me . . .

Slow, smoky ballads, lustrous sax, Kenny Barron accompaniment, and improbably touching vocals.

Martial Solal Trio
Longitude [CAM Jazz]

Eighty-year-old freebop pianist walks on the wild side.

The Beautiful Enabler
[Clean Feed]

Mark Dresser and Gerry Hemingway, grads of Anthony Braxton's '80s quartet, audition a new saxophonist: Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Charles Lloyd Quartet
Rabo de Nube

A lonely voice crying over a prickly bed of Jason Moran piano.

Collision (Duck)

Two-thirds Bad Plus and cellist Hank Roberts skewing the groove, Tim Berne's alto sax bowling over and ducking under.

Corey Wilkes
Drop It

The hot young trumpet out of Chicago, funkier than that mosquita's tweeter.

Torben Waldorff

Special award for best performance by Donny McCaslin in a supporting role.

Bill Easley
Business Man's Bounce
[18th & Vine]

An old-fashioned tenor sax honks, bops, pitches woo, and wisecracks over Nat Cole.

Steve Lehman Quartet
[Clean Feed]

"For Evan Parker" strikes me as a parody, a little joke at the end of a live, vibrant sax-trumpet parry.

Jim Hall & Bill Frisell

Intricate, intimate guitar duets, subtle and silky, with an extra quartet disc to celebrate.

Wadada Leo Smith's Golden Quartet

Dense Vijay Iyer–led background, shredded by razor-sharp trumpet.

Sheila Jordan
Winter Sunshine
[Justin Time]

At 79, still the fan, reminiscing about her girlhood crush on Bird, wishing she could scat like Ella.

Ernestine Anderson
A Song for You
[High Note]

One of Johnny Otis's chick singers, stillswinging at 80; who wouldn't, with HoustonPerson pitching woo?

Ryan Blotnick
Music Needs You


Cool postbop guitar and suave Pete Robbins alto sax, sneaky and just a tad

Brazilian Trio


Helio Alves, Nilson Matta, Duduka Da Fonseca: names that needn’t hide behind 
a flag—not least because their piano jazz doesn’t betray a single Brazilian

Júlio Resende
Da Alma

[Clean Feed]

Soul jazz from Portugal, dreamy flights of fancy tethered to wide-awake 

Jerry Bergonzi


Solid as ever, with John Abercrombie’s guitar a classy diversion.

Grace Kelly/Lee Konitz

[Pazz Productions]

Prodigy entertains world-class group, holds her own as they play

Kenny Davern/Ken Peplowski


A Clarinet Summit, the double-your-pleasure theme extended by pairing Howard
 Alden and James Chirillo on banjo and guitar.

Lee Konitz & Minsarah
Deep Lee


Past 80, Konitz continues to play difficult music with delicate aplomb, 
backed by Florian Weber’s fine piano trio.

Harry Whitaker
One Who Sees All Things [1981­82]


Avant-fusion, reverting to the true radicalism of bebop.

Bryan Beninghove
Organ Trio

[CD Baby]

Honking sax, greasy organ, loud drums—a throwback to ’60s Newark.

Tobias Gebb & Trio West
An Upper Westside Story

[Yummy House]

Witty, drummer-led piano trio fill in spaces between stand-out guests Joel
 Frahm and Champian Fulton.

Duke Robillard
A Swingin’ Session With Duke Robillard

[Stony Plain]

Blues journeyman swings and grins his way through r&b joints, tickled by 
post-Dixieland horns.

Every Woman Is a Tree 

[Clean Feed]

Swedish sextet, full of sharp angles with rough edges, three horns slugging
 it out, and vibes like the sound of breaking glass.

Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly
The Speed of Change 

[482 Music]

Drummer-led postbop, with alto sax, cello, and vibes for a light, trippy 

Bobo Stenson Trio


Triangulating Silvio Rodriguez, Alban Berg, and Ornette Coleman—into 
something else.
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