Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Now's the time

EDIT: Er, in my haste to respond, I neglected that this meme was "five modern jazz records that might grab those that aren't interested in jazz." I still stand by most of my selections, because a lot of these records came into my life when I wasn't super well-versed in modern jazz, or because I saw them act as entry points for other people I know.

I'm so happy to see that there's a bounty of twenty-something active musician-journalist-bloggers out here on the jazzy section of the internet. One of them, Patrick Jarenwattananon of NPR's A Blog Supreme, has instigated a "Jazz Now" series, inviting fellow Montrealers Nextbop and AccuJazz's Lucas Gillan, among others, to post about their top five jazz records of the past decade.

Having been in and around jazz school for most of this decade, it's quite telling to see what records and artists have made waves among my fellow students and musicians. I'm not going to limit myself to five records (because, honestly, neither did PJ), but reflect more generally on records that affected me and my friends.

When I was in high school, I was still building my vocabulary of the tradition. My method of buying jazz records was looking for albums by artists I had heard of, playing tunes I had heard of or wanted to learn. The recommendations of my teachers were also immensely helpful. One day I hung out with pianist Gordon Webster, who played me Chris Potter's Gratitude (Verve, 2000). It may have been the first time I had heard any of those players - Potter, Kevin Hays, Scott Colley and Brian Blade. The odd-metered tunes didn't feel choppy but had a natural groove to them, and the flow of tunes like "Sun King" and "High Noon" bowled me over. I remember saxophonist Evan Smith transcribed "Sun King" at McGill, and some of my compatriots were experimenting with fitting standards in odd meters in the vein of Potter's arrangement of "Star Eyes." Related obsessions included Joshua Redman's Timeless Tales (for Changing Times) (Verve, 1998), and anything Dave Holland put out with the Quintet or the big band. Recently, the saxophone hero du jour around McGill (and rightfully so, I might add) is Donny McCaslin, a regular collaborator with the Altsys Jazz Orchestra, not to mention his phenomenal turn on Dave Douglas' Meaning and Mystery (Greenleaf, 2006), Maria Schneider's Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004) and his own outstanding records on Sunnyside. I'm partial to Soar (Sunnyside, 2006).

The '00s brought new directions in what was possible in a piano trio. Obviously, it seemed like everyone but me had imbibed the Brad Mehldau kool-aid - it took me seeing him live at The Spectrum in 2004, days after Elliott Smith's death, with the tunes that would comprise Anything Goes (Warner Bros., 2004), to really appreciate what was going on with his playing and with that trio. Similarly, The Bad Plus' These Are the Vistas (Columbia, 2003), and mainly Dave King's drumming, made waves with my circle, though it took my discovery of Ethan's blog to understand and re-contextualize the music. Jason Moran's work with the Bandwagon is what spurred me in the direction of Andrew Hill and the late-'60s Blue Note "New Thing." Facing Left (Blue Note, 2000) is my favourite, with Björk sitting beside Ellington, but the live record from the Vanguard (Blue Note, 2003) really seemed to affect others I knew. And when Robert Glasper exploded on the scene with Canvas (Blue Note, 2005), it was the most elegant fusion of hip-hop with jazz that I had yet heard. He wasn't forcing the two together, as so many '90s experiments seemed to, but the rhythmic cadence and sensibility of an MC's flow seeped into his lines.

This is shaping up to be an entirely rambling and far-too-long post, so I'll just list records that attained cult-classic status among my immediate circle of colleagues and friends:
- Kurt Rosenwinkel, The Next Step (Verve, 2001) & Deep Song (Verve, 2005)
- Fly, Fly (Savoy Jazz, 2004)
- Maria Schneider, Allegresse (enja, 2000) & Concert in the Garden (ArtistShare, 2004)
- Brian Blade Fellowship, Season of Changes (Verve, 2008)
- Reid Anderson, Abolish Bad Architecture (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 1999) & The Vastness of Space (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2000)
- John Hollenbeck: Claudia Quintet, I Claudia (Cuneiform, 2004) & Large Ensemble, A Blessing (Omnitone, 2005)
- Guillermo Klein y los Guachos, Live in Barcelona 2005 (Fresh Sound/New Talent, 2005) - okay, so maybe this one hasn't made the rounds at McGill, in Montreal or in Canada yet, but I fell in love with Guillermo's music the first time I heard "El espejo" and everyone I've played this for has been amazed by it, as well.

Locally, people like Joel Miller, Christine Jensen, Frank Lozano and the whole crew of Effendi artists and alumni have been greatly influential on the writing and playing of my peers. Key albums: Miller's Mandala (Effendi, 2004) and Jensen's Look Left (Effendi, 2006).

1 comment:

Peter Hum said...

As I expected, you offer an excellent list.
ps: That Mehldau 2004 show was at the Spectrum? In the fall? If so, I was there...