Monday, December 23, 2013

The Rest of the Best Of 2013 (Part 5) with Best Debut

I promise - this is it.  Making up my mind has always been an issue (except for my favorite flavor of ice cream) and this List is approaching record (no pun intended) numbers.

Noah Preminger released his 3rd CD as a leader and continues to mature as a musician and composer. "Haymaker" (Palmetto Records) features Ben Monder (electric guitar), Matt Pavolka (bass) and the exciting Colin Stranahan (drums).  The leader wrote 7 of the 10 tracks, building most of the pieces off the fine interplay of the rhythm section and Monder's often brilliant accompaniment.  A highlight of the young tenor saxophonist's career is his work on ballads which one hears on pieces such as "My Blues for You" and "Tomorrow" are exemplary. This is a working group so one would be wise to catch them in person.

Tenor saxophonist/composer Dayna Stephens also continues to impress with this smashing Sunnyside release "That Nepenthetic Place" - like Preminger above (and the saxophonists below), Stephens is a fine composer, playing to his (and his bandmates') strengths.  Joe Sanders (bass) and Justin Brown (drums) join Taylor Eigsti (piano) to create a formidable rhythm section.  With guest such as Ambrose Akinmusire (trumpet), Jaleel Shaw (alto saxophone) and Gretchen Parlato (vocals), these tracks crackle with excitement and ingenuity.

Other highlights of 2013 include "Lifted Land" (Criss Cross) from David Binney, "Bridges" (PosiTone Records) from pianist/
composer David Ake (and a great sextet), "Time Travel", the newest collection from Dave Douglas and his new Quintet), and "Works" (Connection Works Records) from the trio of Michel Gentile (flute), Daniel Kelly (piano) and Rob Garcia (drums)

The Dickens Campaign is the trio of Kirk Knuffke (cornet), Jesse Lewis (guitar) and leader/drummer Deric Dickens and "Oh Lovely Appearance" (self-released) is a fine and fun collection of tunes dedicated to the work of musicologist Alan Lomax.  There's blues, gospel, country, folk, hard rock, jazz and more coursing through the 44-minute program.  Knuffke continues to impress as one of the more "soulful" young brass players and Dickens is a player who does not need to show off; instead, each song has its own personality.  Oh, what fun! For more information, go to

The latest Steve Coleman & Five Elements CD is a quintet hit titled "Functional Arrhythmias" (Pi Recordings); the music has a danceable quality thanks to the superb bass and drums of Sean Rickman and Anthony Tidd.  The rhythm guitar work of Miles Okazaki gives great support to the front line of Coleman (alto saxophone) and the fine young trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson.  As one works his way through the songs, melodies arise over the powerful rhythm tracks and you can really hear how the sax and trumpet weave through.  Funky, rich and pleasing listening, Steve Coleman continues to blaze trails.

Finlayson's debut as a leader came out this year on Pi Records as well.  "Moment and the Message" also features guitarist Okazaki alongside pianist David Virelles, bassist Keith Witty and drummer Damion Reid.  While the focus is most certainly on the excellent musicianship, do not ignore the leader's fine compositions as well as his smart arrangements.  There is so much going on that one is continually surprised when returning to the CD.  Information about this release and the Coleman disc can be found at

2013 was a splendid year for creative music and there is much to be thankful to for.  Most of all, I'm thankful to you, dear reader, as I begin the 5th year of blogging about music in Connecticut and the music that comes to me from around the world.  Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and may 2014 bring the peace and tranquility that we all yearn for.

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