|THE 50 TOP JAZZ RECORDINGS OF 2017
As is always true, no “best of” list of jazz recordings for a particular year would be complete unless it included hundreds of recordings. Jazz has
been in a golden age ever since recordings became widely available in the early 1920s, and there is certainly no sign of it slowing down. On
my best of 2017 list, I have limited myself to 50 releases (30 new and 20 reissue/historic CDs) covering a wide variety of styles and listed in
alphabetical order by the leader’s name. Do not hesitate to get all of them! Each is special in its own way.
30 TOP NEW RELEASES
Cyrus Chestnut - There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit - HighNote
Emmett Cohen – Masters Legacy Series Vol. 1 – Cellar Live
Richie Cole – Latin Lover – Richie Cole Presents
The Cookers - The Call Of The Wild and Peaceful Heart - Smoke Sessions
Carsten Dahl Trio – Simplicity – Storyville
Richard Dowling – The Complete Piano Works Of Scott Joplin – Rivermont
Terry Gibbs – 92 Years Young – Whaling City Sound
Kelly Green – Life Rearranged – Self-Released
Rebecca Hardiman – Honoring Ella – Self-Released
Heads Of State – Four In One – Smoke Sessions
Oscar Hernandez & Alma Libre – The Art Of Latin Jazz – Origin
Eric Hofbauer Quintet – Reminiscing In Tempo – Creative Nation Music
Jay Hoggard – Harlem Hieroglyphs – JHVM
Jazzmeia Horn – A Social Call – Prestige
Dick Hyman – Solo At The Sacramento Jazz Festivals – Arbors
Rebecca Kilgore and Bernd Lhotzky – This And That – Arbors
Lauren Kinhan – A Sleepin’ Bee – Dotted i
Mark Masters Ensemble – Blue Skylight – Capri
Gary Meek – Originals – Self-Released
Eddie Palmieri – Sabiduria - Ropeadope
Chris Potter – The Dreamer Is The Dream - ECM
River Raisin Ragtime Revue - Music Of Reginald R. Robinson – R4 Recordings
Teri Roiger – Ghost Of Yesterday – Dot Time
Bianca Rossini – Vento do Norte – Apaixonada Music/BDM Records
Cecile McLorin Salvant – Dreams And Daggers – Mack Avenue
Jason Stein – Lucille – Delmark
Gabrielle Stravelli – Dream Ago – Big Modern Music
Veronica Swift – Lonely Woman – Hodstef Music
Jim Turner – Magic Fingers – Solo Art
Stephane Wrembel – The Django Experiment I – Water Is Life Records
20 TOP REISSUES AND HISTORIC CDs
Louis Armstrong – The Standard Oil Sessions – Dot Time
Kenny Dorham – 1962 & 1966 – Uptown
Bill Evans – Another Time - Resonance
Joe Harriott – Helter Skelter – Acrobat
Earl Hines – Live At Club Hangover – Acrobat
The Jazz Couriers – Live In Morecambe 1959: Tippin’ – Gearbox
Wynton Kelly Trio & Wes Montgomery – Smokin’ In Seattle – Resonance
Lee Konitz – In Europe ’56 – Fresh Sound
Humphrey Lyttelton – Dusting Off The Archives – Lake
Charles Mingus & The Jazz Workshop All-Stars – Complete 1961-1962 Birdland Broadcasts – Solar
Hank Mobley – To One So Sweet Stay That Way – Nederlands Jazz Archief
Thelonious Monk – Les Liaisons Dangereuses 1960 – Sam Records
Sam Most – Four Classic Albums - Avid
Charlie Parker – Unheard Bird – The Unissued Takes – Verve
Art Pepper/Warne Marsh – Unreleased Art, Vol. 9 – Widow’s Taste
Oscar Pettiford – Nonet/Big Band/Sextet 1955-1958 – Uptown
Danny Stiles 5 – In Tandem – Progressive
Idrees Sulieman Quartet – The 4 American Jazz Men In Tangier – Sunnyside/Groovin’ High
The Three Sounds – Groovin’ Hard – Resonance
Various Artists - West Coast Jazz 1922-27 – Jazz Oracle
JASON MORAN PLAYS MONK
Jason Moran has been an admirer of Thelonious Monk’s music since early in his life. At the Theatre at Ace Hotel (a vintage theater that is one
of the most beautiful venues in all of Los Angeles), Moran presented In My Mind: Monk at Town Hall 1959. On Feb. 28, 1959, Monk performed
his music for the first time with a ten-piece group (including French horn and tuba among the seven horns) at a special concert. Hall Overton
contributed the arrangements, some of which (most notably on “Little Rootie Tootie”) were transcriptions of Monk piano solos. Fortunately the
concert was recorded and has been in print for decades.
In 2007, Moran was commissioned to create In My Mind which he revived at the Ace Hotel a decade later. Rather than recreate the concert,
Moran, while bringing back the original repertoire, created his own impressions of the music. His octet with trumpeter Wallace Roney II. (the
son of Wallace Roney), trombonist Frank Lacy, altoist Immanuel Wilkins, tenor-saxophonist Walter Smith III, Bob Stewart on tuba, bassist
Tarus Mateen and drummer Nasheet Waits did not include the baritone and French horn from the original lineup. Videographer David
Dempewolf was an important part of the presentation, playing mostly silent footage throughout the concert on a large screen. While that was
sometimes distracting, the best moments were when fascinating tapes from Monk’s rehearsal with Hall Overton led into a song that was then
With his Bandwagon trio, Moran is often a sound editor, taking part of a song (sometimes as brief as four bars) and repeating it over and over
before moving on to another section. With the octet, after Monk’s theme was played, quite often a soloist improvised over a small section of the
piece that was being repeated by the horns or the rhythm section. It certainly gave a different context to the music.
The concert began with Moran soloing on piano over the original recording of “Thelonious.” As the music faded out, Moran continued listening
to the recording on headphones as he took an extensive solo. A second version was played by the live octet. Other songs that they performed
included “Friday The 13th,” “Off Minor,” “Monk’s Mood,” the complex “Little Rootie Tootie” (the only piece that really swung) and “Crepuscule
With Nellie.” Nest to Moran, Walter Smith III. had the most solos and Immanuel Wilkins took a few passionate spots. Roney and Lacy were only
heard from as soloists sparingly and, surprisingly, Stewart did not get a single tuba solo. The music had its freer moments and at times hinted
strongly at Ornette Coleman, Charles Mingus and even Charles Ives with different patterns overlapping.
While I wish that there had been more of Thelonious Monk’s style in this set (which could be called Fantasy On Monk), the music was quite
rewarding and original.
MON DAVID SINGS MARK MURPHY
One of the best male jazz singers on the scene today, Mon David mixes together the class and accessibility of Tony Bennett with the adventure
and occasional falsetto of Mark Murphy. At Catalina Bar & Grill, he paid tribute to Murphy during an inspired show filled with highlights.
Joined by pianist Andy Langham, bassist Dom Thiroux and drummer Abe Lagrimas Jr, Mon David began the long set with “Bebop Lives”
(based on “Boplicity”) and “Stolen Moments.” He took a heartfelt vocal on a slow rendition of “You Must Believe In Spring,” performed Murphy’
s lyrics to “Milestones” (which included some updates to the words including humorous references to Facebook and Twitter) and “Blue Monk,”
and dug into an emotional version of “Guess I’ll Hang My Tears Out To Dry.” Throughout the night, he hit every note in tune, displayed a
consistently warm voice, and always had a humble personality despite his obvious talent. His scat-singing used different syllables and sounds
than most other vocalists, giving him a unique style. Mon David welcomed guest Mark Winkler to duet on “Stay Hip,” his daughter Nicole
displayed a beautiful voice on “A Time For Love,” and Cathy-Segal Garcia guested on “Desafinado.” One of the most memorable performances
was Mon David’s version of the Glenn Miller theme “Moonlight Serenade” which he took at a medium-tempo and featured some wild rhythmic
scatting. Mon David also sang several songs (“Ballad Of The Sad Young Men,” “Children Of Sanchez” and a fast 5/4 version of “Better than
Anything”) solo, accompanying himself on guitar. The fun night concluded with a spirited “No More Blues” and a brief ballad.
Mon David is a major talent well worth discovering.
THE DEBUT OF THE TRIAD SESSIONS
At the Bar Fedora at the Au Lac Restaurant, as part of Cathy Segal-Garcia’s Jazz DTLA series, the vocal trio of Kathryn Hopkins, Aviva
Diamond and Karen Celeste Cruz (called The Triad Sessions) made their debut. With accompaniment by Todd Hunter on electric piano,
guitarist Al Garcia, bassist Gabe Davis, drummer Kevin Winard, and trumpeter Nolan Shaheed, the singers performed together and in
separate minisets. The music was primarily standards that gave each of the vocalists a chance to display their winning personalities.
Highpoints included Kathryn Hopkins’ version of “Devil May Care,” Karen Celeste Cruz’s assertive and humorous interpretation of “What Lola
Wants,” Aviva Diamond’s sweet voice on “I’ve Never Been In Love Before,” and the full trio on “Blue Skies.”
This group is a work in progress. The songs that had the three singers performing together were basically melody statements with some
harmonies but little improvising even on “It Don’t Mean A Thing.” Unfortunately the band was consistently overeager to play, greatly
increasing the volume (and sometimes the tempo) whenever a singer’s chorus was finished. They were also too loud at times (Winard never
used brushes) with Shaheed’s trumpet playing often competing with the singers. Whenever a vocalist would count off a song, the keyboardist
jumped in to immediately count it off at a slightly different tempo. The singers will have to learn how to control their band or pick out
musicians who enjoy accompanying vocalists.
However there was plenty of good singing to be heard throughout the night and this concept has a lot of potential. There is excellent chemistry
between the vocalists and I look forward to their future progress.
AMERICAN JAZZ FROM THE DUTCH JAZZ ARCHIVE
During the past few years, the Nederlands Jazz Archief (Dutch Jazz Archive) has put out attractive sets of previously unreleased but very well
recorded performances starring American jazz artists at concerts in Holland. The quality of the music is quite high, particularly on their three
most recent CDs.
Ella Fitzgerald’s ‘S Wonderful has her sets from May 5, 1957 (with pianist Don Abney, guitarist Herb Ellis, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Jo
Jones) and Feb. 27, 1960 (with the quartet of pianist Paul Smith, guitarist Jim Hall, bassist Wilfred Middlebrook and drummer Gus Johnson).
Ella was at the peak of her powers during this period as she shows on such numbers as “Angel Eyes”(which was her favorite song), “Lullaby Of
Birdland,” “Air Mail Special,” “The Lady Is A Tramp” and “Too Darn Hot.” Did anyone ever sing better?
One of the great tenor-saxophonists, Don Byas’ decision to move permanently to Europe in 1946 resulted in him being permanently
underrated in the United States. Originally strongly influenced by Coleman Hawkins, Byas had a swing era sound but an adventurous spirit
that took him harmonically to bebop and beyond. On Groovin’ High, Byas on July 4, 1964 is joined by pianist Pim Jacobs, bassist Ruud Jacobs
and drummer John Engels for jam session versions of eight standards. While there are some loose moments during the spontaneous set, Byas
succeeds at taking some wild chances (including a few unexpected cadenzas), really tearing into such numbers as “Billie’s Bounce,” “Groovin’
High” and a lengthy “Indiana” while coming up with a steady stream of fresh ideas.
However Hank Mobley’s To One So Sweet Stay That Way (which makes my list of the top recordings at the beginning of this column) is the
most essential of the three CDs due to its rarity (when was the last time that the tenor-saxophonist was featured on a “new” session?) and his
superior playing. The CD has music from three different sessions from March 1968. Mobley is featured on three numbers with a quintet also
featuring pianist Pim Jacobs, in a different quartet with pianist Rob Agerbeek on five numbers, and showcased on two songs with a big band,
possibly his only time documented with that large an ensemble. Mobley, who always had his own mellow tone and hard bop style, is in top
form throughout, whether playing a medium-tempo “Summertime,” “Airegin,” “Blues By Five,” “Like Someone In Love” or his own “Three
These three rewarding CDs are available from www.jazzarchief.nl.