Jazz discoveries so far in 2015

The blogging has been heavy on the economics of late, so here is some good music that I heard for the first time in 2015:

  • Preservation Hall Jazz Band – That’s It!. By my old-fogey standards, this counts as a new recording–it was issued in 2013. And it’s one of the most fun things I’ve listened to in a while. It is very far from the musty recreations of New Orleans traditional jazz that I feared; the Preservation Hall group on this recording has a lot of younger players, and they are doing all original tunes not standards. The result is lively, rhythmic and feels not at all preserved.
  • Jazz Jamaica From The Workshop. This 1962 session features many of the instrumental giants that would go on to dominate Jamaican music–Roland Alphonso, Tommy McCook, Don Drummond, Ernest Ranglin. For any reggae lover like myself, that is enough to recommend it. But they are not playing reggae here, this is actually properly in the jazz idiom. In a way it feels like a glimpse of an alternate musical future–what if Tommy McCook had gone on to do lots of tenor-and-rhythm dates for Blue Note? It didn’t happen, and I’m happy to have reggae and dub instead, but it’s still fun to listen and ponder. The real star of the session is guitarist Ernest Ranglin, whose virtuosity works well in a jazz context (his great latter-day recording Below The Bassline is a more conscious fusion of jazz and Jamaican rhythms).
  • Moacir Santos – Coisas. Wonderful miniatures by a largish ensemble led by the Brazilian composer, from 1965. Far superior to his 1970s outings on Blue Note.
  • Gil Evans – The Individualism of Gil Evans. The famous Gil Evans-Miles Davis collaborations (Sketches of Spain, etc) are of course classic recordings and I was exposed to them early on in my jazz education. But over the last couple of years I’ve been exploring Evans’ recordings under his own name, many of which are fantastic and much less well known. The moody arrangements on this are fantastic; I particularly liked the slow and spooky cover of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful.”
  • Gary Burton – A Genuine Tong Funeral. The title is a bit of a joke, as the recording carries a disclaimer that this music has nothing whatsoever to do with Chinese traditional music. It’s a series of longer pieces composed by Carla Bley featuring Gary Burton’s vibes quartet augmented by a larger group with horns. An excellent example of the rethinking of big band music that was going on in the 1960s.
  • New Jazz Orchestra – Le Dejeuner Sur L’herbe. Another innovative big band recording from the 1960s, previously mentioned here.
  • Jan Garbarek – “Hasta Siempre” from Wichi-Tai-To. Garbarek’s early recordings for ECM come highly recommended as masterpieces of the 1970s avant-garde, but I have generally found them to be more miss than hit. One of the hits is this fantastic cover of Carlos Puebla’s tune–a.k.a. “the Che Guevara song”.

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