Baker's Dozen Significant Recordings of 2001

Howard Mandel's Baker's Dozen Significant Recordings of 2001

Originally published in Musical America International Directory of the Performing Arts 2002.

Also see Mandel's article "Jazz Now" at

copyright © 2002

Of approximately 1600 unsolicited CDs submitted for review from August 2000 to August 2001, time of this writing, these stand out for excitement, originality, relevance to current trends in creative jazz, and sheer listenability. -- HM

Miles Davis: It's About that Time, Live at the Filmore East 1970 Columbia Legacy C2K85191 Never before released, this three-decade old jazz-soul-rock-fusion concert is still the cutting edge of modern American concert music. Trumpeter Davis with Wayne Shorter, Chick Corea, Dave Holland, Jack DeJohnette, and Airto Moriera -- all stars of jazz now -- convened a new fan base eager to hear fearless energy, exploratory impulse, individual excellence and ensemble cohesion in a dance with chaos. Where has all that power gone?

Don Cherry: Complete Communion Blue Note 22673 The reissue from 1965 repays discovery: Trumpeter Cherry's two paired suites for hand-in-glove improvisers (saxophonist Gato Barbieri, drummer Edward Blackwell, bassist Henry Grimes) represent a peak of melodically inspired free play, and a challenging alternative to Miles's electric wild style.

Jane Ira Bloom: Sometimes The Maginc Arabesque AJO 155 Soprano saxophonist Bloom is subdued but incisive with her fine-tuned rhythm trio playing spare original compositions, and in a capella renditions of "Bewitched" and "How Are Things In Glocca Morra?"

Charlie Haden: Nocturne Verve 440 013 611-2 Bassist Haden, assisted by Havana born and conservatory-educated pianist Gonzalo Rubalcaba, orchestrates classic Cuban boleros -- unltra-romantic ballads -- graced with heart-on-sleeve solos from Joe Lovano and David Sanchez (tenor saxes), Pat Metheny (acoustic guitar) and Federico Britos Ruiz (violin).

Henry Threadgill's Zooid: Up Popped The Two Lips PI Recordings PI 102 Threadgill, playing astringent alto saxophone and flute, sets his haunting motifs amid a uniquely prickly but resonant ensemble of acoustic guitar, oud, tuba, cello and traps kit.

Bob Belden: The Black Dahlia Blue Note 7243 5 23833 2 5 Saxophonist-composer Belden produces something like a noir opera for jazz instrumentalists, illuminating the characger of a ost-WWII Los Angeles dream girl-murder victim against dramatic backdrops that include a chamber orchestra and a Stan Kenton-like Latin jazz explosion.

Ernest Ranglin: Modern Answers to Old Problems Telarc CD-83526Z Ranglin is a veteran Jamaican studio guitarist who offers soothing wisdom in eary-going tunes laid out by a practiced band percolating n breezy pop-reggae rhythms from Caribbean conga and African talking drum.

Bill Frisell: Blues Dream Nonesuch 79615-2 Downtown sophistication comes to Big Sky country in electric guitarist Frisell's most ambitious effort yet, lacing his his lonesome Western Swing sound through cooly lush arrangements for pedal steel guitar, rhythm section, and trumpet-alto sax-trombone.

Tiziano Tononi & The Society of Freely Sincopated Organiz Pulses: We Did It! We Did It! (Rahsaan and the None: The Music of Rahsaan Roland Kirk and More (!) As Seen/Felt/Re-interpreted by . . .) Splas(c)h Records CDH 811.2/812.2/813.2 Take this 3-cd set as ample evidence of the enthusiasm, expertise and vigor of one corner of the European jazz scene, as drummer Tononi directs a 15-member ensemble through de- and re-constructions of works by black Americans including Bechet, Ellington, Waller, Monk, Mingus, Kirk, COlgtrane, Steive Wonder and Jimi Hendrix.

James "Blood" Ulmer: Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions Label M Idiosyncratic guitarist Ulmer dons the hat of urban bluesman and Black Rock elder, singing a slew of tunes from the Howlin' wolf songbook in a roaring slick production by fellow BR guitar-slinger Vernon Reid.

David Murray Power Quartert: Like a Kiss That Never EndsJustin Time JUST 153-2 Saxophonist Murray's avant-gutbucket yowl has warmed and deepened since he burst on New York in the '80s -- now he's the closest jazz has (except for Sonny Rollins) to a tenor saxophonist in the tradition of Coleman Hawkins, Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon. Another superb rhythm trio (piansit Jon Hicks, bassist Ray Drummon, drummer Andrew Cyrille) lends more than just support.

Maria Schneider Orchestra: Allegresse Enja ENJ 0303-2 Schneider's compositions for jazz orchestra have become more distinctive with each successive album; here she unfolds subtle gestures and beautiful voicings in gently comelling pieces, including a 20-minute "Dissolution."

Keith Jarrett, Gary Peacock, Jack DeJohnette: Whisper Not ECM 1724 A two-CD set recorded live in Paris 1999 sets the current benchmark for straightahead trios: piaanist Jarrett, after a two-year abeyance from performance, has further distilled his sensibility, refined his touch, and stretched his 20-year bandmates' repertory to embrace Sammy Cahn and Victor Young standards as well as finger-busting bebop themes.

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