It's an honor being asked to participate in a Critics Poll, fun going back and listening to albums that you really enjoyed writing about, and downright nerve-wracking trying to pick 10, especially in a year where so many good recordings crossed my desk.
2016 was a very busy year in my life and a quick glance at the number of posts over the past 12 months is evidence that I did not have as much time to sit, to listen, to contemplate, and to write. Connecticut is a small state with a decent amount of venues for live music but, due to numerous obligations, I rarely took the opportunity to just bask in the glory of watching and listening to musicians create, interact, to give of themselves, to transport listeners beyond the mundane and into worlds of endless possibilities. The albums listed below (and in subsequent posts) are the ones that made days special, that made me think, helped me see the "real" world in a different light, and gave me great joy.
As one gets older, it's often tough to find joy when the world is in such upheaval. Music not only gives us a haven from the daily insanity but, like poetry, theater, books, film, sports and more, also sheds light on the issues we should not, cannot, and often ignore.
Here's Part One:
For more information, go to www.camilameza.com.
Enjoy this live version of the title song:
Here's a nice long track to enjoy:
here) and his music keeps getting stronger. It's political and topical in the manner of Charles Mingus and Max Roach and this particular quintet of musicians - Fabian Almazan (piano, Pete McCann (guitars), Ralph Bowen (tenor and soprano saxophones), Linda Oh (bass), and Rudy Royston (drums) - play with such fire and finesse that this music is alive and powerful, lovely and emotionally strong.
For more information, go to sonsofsound.com/artist/anthony-branker/.
Here's a track to chew on:
here); suffice to say, it's origins lay in saxophonist and composer Ward listening to Charles Mingus's "The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady" (1963). Ward's work for 10 musicians, created for a concert of music and dance, is filled with blues, sparkling solos, and intelligent arrangements that spark comparison to Mingus's work in its scope but does not imitate it. Especially impressive is the piano playing of Dennis Luxion and the rhythm section of Jason Roebke (bass) and Marcus Evans.
For more information, go to www.greenleafmusic.com/about-greg-ward/.
Here's a live reading of one of the album's cuts:
band - John Ellis (tenor sax, bass clarinet), Jason Palmer (trumpet), Nick Vayenas (trombone), Miles Okazaki (guitars), Gerald Clayton (piano), Peter Slavov (bass), and Kendrick Scott (drums) - and a smart group of compositions, this album features music that is contemplative yet swings, with musicians telling "stories" that flow thanks to the fine ensemble arrangements and individual solos. My review (read it here) includes quotes from both Cornelius and co-producer Kyle Saulnier.
For more information, go to www.patrickcornelius.com.
Here's one of the delightful tracks:
These are just five of my favorites - more to come in the next several weeks. Enjoy!