photo by AllegroArtsLive Music
1- ERIC REED - THE DANCING MONK. After deciding to left the religious temple for a while, Reed returned to his good old days and did a good rendering of Monk’s themes.
2- DENNY ZEITLIN - LABYRINTH. The veteran pianist shows he’s in top form. Exemplary in his completeness and impressionism. Remains one of the best around, always doing his job in the most unique way. This is surely a job of a great master!
3- ANTHONY PRINCIPE TRIO - NEW AND OLD SWING. The songs are more than commonplace, but with his great dexterity and vigor they became new ones. A tour-de force recording!
4- STÉPHANE KERECKI / JOHN TAYLOR - PATIENCE. Impressing in their solid introspection. The news here is that the players souls became one and the music rolls effortlessly. Consistently. Nothing could be more natural than one playing with the other, although they had never worked together before. Who knows, maybe in some other dimension had they met… That could explain the great empathy devised in this recording. For my taste, one of Taylor’s best ever.
5- BIG BAND PHAT - THAT’S HOW WE ROLL. A refreshing new approach of doing things others have done for so long. Super modern and traditional at the same time. And the recording…
6- JESSICA WILLIAMS TRIO - FREEDOM TRANE. The always competent, underrated and little known master pianist, along with her evergreen cohorts, do it again: an peerless pianism work honoring John Coltrane; her perennial master…
7- BOB BROOKMEYER - MUSIC FOR STRINGS, QUARTET & ORCHESTRA. If there weren’t any other reason, I’ve chosen him to remember we all have lost this great musician, teacher, arranger and human being. We’ll be missing you very much, Bob!
8- JOÃO BOSCO - SENHORAS DO AMAZONAS. One of the greatest jazz singers of the world, along with a no less spectacular band extremely well arranged by the late talented Steve Gray. The Brazilian percussion shines all along. One of the very best of this year. It’s a real pity Mr. Grey could not check the result of his great work among his fans. (Incidentally, Mr. Bosco is one of Brazil’s greatest songwriters).
9- GEORGES PACZYNSKI TRIO - PRÉSENCES. Another solid work from this great drummer and leader (a sort of French Art Blakey…). This time with a very young team. A top form trio in a great jazz performance. As an added bonus, a thoughtful drum solo of his.
10- MIKKO GUERRINI/STEFANO BOLLANI - ITALIAN LESSONS. An all Italian musical work from two great masters which mixes classical with jazz and piano with some very soulful strings. A living proof these Italian are in the forefront of this art called jazz…
11- GIOVANNI MIRABASSI TRIO - LIVE AT BLUE NOTE TOKYO. For me, this recording marks a departure from his past works. This time, he took a more upfront approach which made it to communicate better through ever changing moods. Thus, the changing pace in each song keeps boredom out of the way. a welcome novelty, indeed!
12- FLORIAN ROSS - MECHANISM. In this hermetic piano solo work, Ross shows, through more than a dozen capsule songs, mostly of his, that less is more: very little inflections from the themes themselves transformed each one in a great piece of jazz, reminiscent of what used to do Ms. Billie Holliday. A work of a genius at his prime.
13- ELDAR DJANGIROV - THREE STORIES. A solo work which, in my view, represents his most important work to date. A very solid pianism is displayed all along. There’s a delicious mix of pop songs, classic ones and others of his own pen. Self assurance is the main ingredient here and his classical musical formation shows itself all the time with no ill side effects. This young artist has certainly done a senior work.
14- VIJAY IYER - SOLO. Another solo piano of great originality. Here, never a me-too work, far, far away from it. Listen to his rendering of Monk’s “Epistrophy” and also “Fleurette Africaine” from Ellington.
15- MATIJA DEDIC - MD IN NEW YORK. A new kid on the bloc, this eastern European does something special with the songs “Blue in Green”, by Bill Evans, and “Maiden Voyage”, Herbie Hancock’s masterpiece. A piano trio with well inserted enhancing effects of some electronic keyboard instrument. Refreshing throughout.
16- BILL ANSCHELL - FIGMENTS. Another piano solo work with very original interpretations of several standards. Easy going in its (apparent) simplicity. No wasted notes here! Be sure not to be misled by its easiness on the ears…
17- RICHIE BEIRACH - IMPRESSIONS OF TOKYO. One of my favorite piano players, Beirach this time decided to come alone, choosing impressionistic songs of his own penning, specially done to pay homage to a country that, from time to time, reconstructs itself. Tokyo, of course, is the centerpiece of this rendering.
18- GONZALO RUBALCABA - FE. Like Beirach, by himself. This is probably his best effort to date. Surely his most mature; a work of a seasoned artist, devoid of that show-offs of his early years, here replaced by feelings of great intensity and sentiment. This is a musical drink to be sipped very slowly…
19- GERALD WILSON - LEGACY. I don’t know how important was the help of Gerald’s son Anthony in this project, but all I can say is that, at his ninety-two years of age, Mr. Wilson senior has done one of his most consistent recordings in many years. I dare say his best ever, although it is difficult to guarantee this, considering the gigantic span of this musician prolific years.
20- ANTONIO FARAÒ - DOMI. He did it to honor his son Dominic. Along with bassist Daryll Hall and the great drummer Andre Ceccarelli, following his excellent “Woman’s Perfume”, done with this same drummer and bassist Dominique Di Piazza, Faraò’s newest follows his tradition of excellence. Here, we have someone who gives all his fingers to the keyboard in great abandon through long phrasings, to the sole benefit of the music. But, be warned: nothing is wasted!
21- CLAUDIO FILIPPINI - THE ENCHANTED GARDEN. Go with confidence: there’s much enchantment here. Along with Luca Bulgarelli on bass and Marcelo Di Leonardo on drums, Mr. Filippini did certainly one of the most instigated and colorful piano trio recordings of this year. Don’t miss it! If you decide to buy only one CD this season, get this one…
22- TED ROSENTHAL - OUT OF THIS WORLD. Supreme elegance and refinement. The popular American songbook has never been so well revered. This recording may as well become a classic of the gender. A very worthy successor of his awesome “Impromptu”. If you, by any chance, decide to buy just two CD’s in this Christmas, it will be very difficult to make a mistake if you choose Ted’s latest to go with Filippini’s.
This is not any “best-of-the-year” list. My intent was just to share with you some good music I listened this year. As it’s easy to see, the piano is a kind of obsession of mine. No matter how hard I try to keep it away, it’s always around…
Merry Christmas and happy new year!