Sunday, December 22, 2013

2013 NPR Jazz Critics Poll

The results of Francis Davis' annual poll, which this year is being hosted by NPR Music, are now online. There's also a separate article by Mr. Davis with his thoughts on the results and his personal choices. Here are my comments, which I posted at the end of his article:

"I was surprised that Without A Net (Wayne Shorter) was the #1 album, but I suppose I shouldn’t be. I knew that a large portion of the jazz audience was looking backwards, but I didn’t realize so many critics were as well. It’s not a bad album, but it’s not anywhere near his best work or the best of what was released in 2013. As for the rest of the poll, there’s a lot to like, but I was also puzzled that Functional Arrhythmias (Steve Coleman) rated so highly, as I think Coleman’s last couple of releases were much stronger. In fact, I thought Jonathan Finlayson’s Moment and the Message was a better take on M-Base concepts. But kudos to Mr. Davis for some of his personal choices, particularly for calling attention to records from Myra Melford, Eric Revis, and Taylor Ho Bynum..."

The individual choices of each critic, including mine, have also been posted separately.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Top Jazz Releases of 2013

Here, in order, are my top 10 jazz releases of 2013. I kept my list to 10 in order to conform to the format established by Francis Davis, who graciously asked me to take part in his 8th annual jazz critics poll, hosted this year by NPR Music. For this blog I cheated and added an "Honorable Mention" list as well, below the list of my main choices.

My top 10 are:

Mary Halvorson Septet - Illusionary Sea (Firehouse 12)
Ms. Halvorson takes yet another step forward in an already remarkable career. In a lineage with Point of Departure.

Convergence Quartet – Slow & Steady (No Business)
Taylor Ho Bynum and Alexander Hawkins both figure again on this list, and along with Dominic Lash and Harris Eisenstadt, reinvent a traditional-sounding trumpet/piano/bass/drums lineup.

Taylor Ho Bynum Sextet & 7-tette – Navigation (Firehouse 12)
Fascinating to hear how he approaches recasting a set of materials over four performances outside of his work with Braxton.

Drew Gress – The Sky Inside (Pirouet)
Compelling compositions and arrangements from Gress, and compelling performances from his long-time collaborators. 

Craig Taborn – Chants (ECM)
A dark, complex record that with mysterious depths beneath the surface. 

Alexander Hawkins – Song Singular (Babel Label)
The record that puts Hawkins in the same league as Melford, Taborn, Fujii, etc. 

Ralph Alessi – Baida (ECM)
Alessi seems in total command of his horn and his approach, and he sounds like he’s having fun as well. 

Satoko Fujii Trio – Spring Storm (Libra)
Another winning trio record. 

Francois Houle/Havard Wiik – Aves (Songlines)
A beautiful dialogue between clarinet and piano.

Nate Wooley – (Sit In) The Throne of Friendship (Clean Feed)
Wooley has some pretty wild freer recordings, but I like him best when he balances composition with unique arrangements. 

Honorable mentions:

Ingrid Laubrock Anti-House - Strong Place (Intakt)

Gabriella Friedli Trio – Started (Intakt)

Samuel Blaser/Benoit Delbecq/Gerry Hemingway - Fourth Landscape (Nuscope)

Harris Eisenstadt – Golden State (Songlines)

Tim Berne's Snakeoil - Shadow Man (ECM)

Satoko Fujii – Gen Himmel (Libra)

Full results of Mr. Davis' poll will be posted in the coming days at