By Bob Ruggiero
By Hilary Hughes
By Peter Gerstenzang
By David R. Adler
By Devon Maloney
By Brian McManus
By Jessica Hopper
By Harley Oliver Brown
6. Keith Jarrett & Charlie HadenJasmine (ECM) Dueting the great bassist holds Jarretts mannerisms in check, but thankfully, not his ardor.
7. Steve Coleman & Five ElementsHarvesting Semblances and Affinities (Pi) As governed by theories regarding this, that, and the other thing as Colemans work from his M-Base enfant terrible days, but rhythmically streamlined (no forced beats now) and harmonically spacious in its voicings for two brass, Jeri Shyus colortura, and Colemans own surging alto.
8. Vijay Iyer Solo (ACT) Michael Jacksons Human Nature is a little frilly, and Monks Epistrophy a little dense. But together with Iyers own angled originals, insightful interpretations of Ellingtons seminal Black and Tan Fantasy and proto-minimalist Fleurette Africaine make this a successful follow-up to Historicity.
9. Geri Allen Flying Toward the Sound (Motema) I dont think Ive ever heard another pianist so closely evoke Cecil Taylor without surrendering to his influence completely.
10. Paul Motian Lost in a Dream (ECM) Melody-based chamber improvisation ne plus ultra.
Though I like all of these just fine, my own list is very different:
1. ICP OrchestraICP 049(ICP)/br> Conspicuously missing from the polls upper echelons, in what may be a sign of belt-tightening, are large ensembles. But the latest, typically superb effort from this 10-member Dutch outfit, guided by pianist Misha Mengelberg and drummer Han Bennink (and dotted with American expatriates like violinist Mary Oliver and saxophonist Michael Moore), fills the gap and then some. As swank and precise as it is rollicking, and knowingly evocative of both Ellington and the wildest and woolliest free jazzsequentially and then simultaneously on Moores arrangement of Mengelbergs The Lepaerd.
2. Dominic Duval & Cecil TaylorThe Last Dance(Cadence Jazz) /br> CT at his most churning, rooted deep in his keyboards lower half, as if threatening his duet partner with redundancy if he cant keep up. But no worries there.
3. Mark RibotSilent Movies (Pi)/br> High, wide, and lonesome solo guitar starring in a revisionist Western set somewhere between Avenue B and Boot Hill.
4. Mary Halvorson Quintet Sings (Firehouse 12)
5. Myra Melfords Be BreadThe Whole Tree Gone (Firehouse 12)/br> Astor Piazzollas ghost smiles benignly on intricate and quietly adventurous small-group pieces that stab with their sense of unfulfilled longing.
6. Paul MotianLost in a Dream (ECM)
7. Rudresh Mahanthappa & Steve Lehman Dual Identity (Clean Feed)/br> My preference for this stand-off with a fellow altoist near Mahanthappas own age comes down to their shared belief in the value of stridency (the legacy of Jackie McLean) and the sharper edge that Liberty Ellmans guitar lends the rhythm section.
8. Michael Formanek The Rub and Spare Change(ECM)/br> Who knew the veteran bassist was such an impressive composer? Though the most impressive aspect of all might be the ample room his gambits leave for interplay with stellar sidemen Tim Berne, Craig Taborn, and Gerald Cleaver.
9. Billy BangPrayer for Peace (TUM)/br> Only Time Will Tell, the latest of Bangs tips of the cap to violin forebear Stuff Smith, is as swinging and vivacious as anything youre ever likely to hear delivered by a putative avant-gardist, and sets the tone for everything that follows.
10. Benjamin HermanHypochristmastreefuzz: More Mengelberg (Special Edition) (Roach)/br> I say you can never get enough Mengelberg, the greatest living jazz musician never to take up residence in the U.S. But this also makes my list because Herman, a young Dutch altoist, is quite a find. And, to be honest, because his two versions of a Mengelberg homage to Peter Brøtzmann, one studio and the other live, sound like they could be the theme to a 60s British exploitation flick about rumbling teds and rockers that might show up on public access in the dead of the night.
Honorable Mention: Lucian Ban & John Hébert, Enesco Re-Imagined (Sunnyside); Evan Christopher, Remembering Song (Arbors); Empirical, Out n In (Naim); Amir ElSaffar & Hafez Modirzadeh, Radif Suite (Pi); John Escreet, Dont Fight the Inevitable (Mythology); Bill Frisell, Beautiful Dreamers (Savoy Jazz); Tomas Fujiwara & Taylor Ho Bynum, Stepwise(NotTwo); Microscopic Septet, Friday the 13th: The Micros Play Monk(Cuneiform); Joe Morris, Camera(ESP-Disk); Jeremy Pelt, Men of Honor (HighNote). And Sarah Wilsons Trapese Project(Brass Tonic), for her vocal on Joy Divisions Love Will Tear Us Apart, the years most inspired cover.
Reissues:Stan Getz & Kenny Barron, People Time: The Complete Sessions(Sunnyside); The Complete Novus & Columbia Recordings of Henry Threadgill and Air(Mosaic); The Complete Ahmad Jamal Trio Argo Sessions, 19561962(Mosaic). Vocal: Catherine Russell, Inside This Heart of Mine (World Village). Debut: Chris Drye, Bizingas (NCM East). Latin: Guillermo Klein, Domador de Huellas: The Music of Gustavo Cuchi Leguizamon (Sunnyside).
Mosaics Threadgill box was voted Best Reissue, while Chucho Valdes and Cassandra Wilson took the Latin and Vocal categories, respectively. This was the second victory for Wilson, whos become as automatic in polls of this sort as Ella Fitzgerald was in the late 50s and early 60s. The surprise was just behind her, where a never-before-issued live performance by Irene Kral, a singers singer who died in 1978 without ever gaining a large public following, tied White House/Vogue/New Yorker flavor du jour Esperanza Spalding for second place.