The plan was for 36 of my favorite CDs including reissues or "historical" releases. The final count for this year is 44! And I missed a few. In the next few weeks, I'll be "catching up" with releases that came out over the past few months and I did not have the time to write about (and there are a number that deserve your attention). As I look at other lists created by friends and other reviewers, critics and musicians, one has to reiterate that 2017 was a major step forward for music. Personal became political became reality and begat artists who felt the need to step up, who could not believe what they were seeing and hearing. Even with several special elections that turned Senate or House seats from red to blue, one cannot see 2018 being any calmer. If anything, life could get "hotter" as politicos and journalists, pundits and prognosticators, feel no compulsion to compromise - "my way or the highway" has certainly replaced "let's work together" as the national mantra.
Into the fray this year came pianist, composer, and educator Vijay Iyer. He put together an amazing Sextet - Steve Lehman (alto saxophone), Mark Shim (tenor saxophone), Graham Haynes (cornet, flugelhorn, electronics), Stephan Crump (bass) and the indefatigable Tyshawn Sorey (drums) - and gave them music to really dig into. There are moments where the fire coming from the rhythm section may overwhelm your speakers but that note how the horns continue to ride those waves. Note the subtle work of Graham Haynes, the occasional forays into Fender Rhodes (few pieces this year funkier than "Nope"), and how the leader pushes, persuades, and often lets loose with torrents of notes that match the intensity of Crump and Sorey. It's not all "sturm and drang" but this album, titled "Far From Over" (ECM Records) grabs ahold of the mind, shakes it, and reminds us to stay involved.
his memoir "Good Things Happen Slowly: A Life In and Out of Jazz" was published to very positive reviews, and his new solo piano album "Open Road" (Palmetto) was released. What made this album stand out in the Hersch repertoire is not just the excellent interpretations of material by Antonio Carlos Jobim, Benny Golson, Billy Joel (!), and Thelonious Monk (no surprise there) but the three fascinating original pieces. One piece, "Through The Forest", runs nearly 20 minutes and covers so much territory without getting bogged down in cliches or at a loss for a through-line. In fact, what stands out is how outside of genre the music is (a nice way of saying don't pigeonhole the piece by calling it jazz, classical, or whatever.)
ensemble - Rubin Kodheli (cello), Nadje Noordhuis (trumpet, flugelhorn), Nick Finzer (trombone), Owen Broder (baritone saxophone, bass clarinet), James Shipp (vibraphone, percussion), Vitor Gonçalves (piano, accordion), Sheryl Bailey (guitar), Tal Mashiach (bass), and Anthony Pinciotti (drums) - is excellent. One can tell this music is for the concert hall and larger clubs yet much of the time one wants to dance ("Kenedougou Foly" closes the program and I dare you to sit still.
after "Some Other Time: The Lost Session from the Black Forest", which Resonance released earlier this year. The albums are fairly similar though they have different material. The later recording seems livelier, punchier, as if the trio had a good dinner and were digging each other's company. Bill Evans remains quite popular 37 years after his passing and there are a lot of albums to choose from. The spark of inventiveness can be heard throughout "Another Time" and that makes the music infectious.
That's a wrap, as they say, for 2017. These albums made me feel good while listening and writing; some even helped my mood get so much better. I was sick and hospitalized in July and early August so music really made my recuperation time move by. Thanks to the promoters and the publicists, thanks to my fellow writers for keeping me honest, and thanks to the artists for taking chances and not settling for just good! Thanks to you for reading and reacting. Be healthy, be safe, and be generous throughout the Holiday and into 2018. Change is all around us. We must be ready and resolute and never, ever, lose your sense of humor and love of music.