As the year winds to a close, I wanted to start a "best of" thread.
Despite the pandemic, this was a wonderful year for new releases. More depth of recordings than previous years. Of my top ten, the first six never left my CD player:
1 Carla Bley Life Goes On ECM
2 Bill Frisell Valentine Blue Note Records
3 Maria Schneider Orchestra Data Lords ArtistShare
4 Thumbscrew The Braxton Project Cuneiform
5 Liberty Ellman Last Desert Pi Recordings
6 James Brandon Lewis Quartet Molecular Intakt Records
7 Immanuel Wilkins Omega Blue Note Records
8 Micah Thomas Tide Self-Released
9 Matthew Shipp Trio The Unidentifiable ESP Disk
10 Charles Tolliver Quartet Connect Gearbox Records
If this list was expanded to top twenty, there would also be Nels Cline Singers "Share the Wealth" and Charles Lloyd "Live at the Lobrero" included. Surprisingly, this would make Blue Note my choice for top label as I have pretty much passed by many of its releases in recent years.
Three reissues/previously unissued gems to mention as well: Sonny Rollins "Live in Holland", Charles Tolliver "All Stars", and Bill Evans "Live at Ronnie Scott's"
Although the pandemic relegated much of my listening to livetsteam broadcasts, I was fortunate to catch several great concerts in person at the beginning of the year:
1. Charles Tolliver Quintet. An Die Musik. Baltimore MD. Feb 29, 2020. Wonderful to hear the maestro along with Buster Williams and Lenny White play some of my favorite Strata East songs.
2. Ethnic Heritage Ensemble "Raise Your Spirits" Tour. First Unitarian Church, Pittsburgh PA. Feb 24 2020. Is there a more charismatic performer than Kahil El Zabar?
3. Joshua Redman "Still Dreaming" Quartet. August Wilson AACC. Pittsburgh, PA. Feb 15, 2020. Tight quartet paying tribute to the Old and New Dreams repertoire.
So many great livestreams to consider, but some of my favorites were:
1. In Order to Survive, Vision Festival-Healing Soul- William Parker always amazes. James Brandon Lewis and Rob Brown were a formidable duo of saxophones.
2. Thumbscrew, Roulette-Playing music from the new CD as well as previewing the forthcoming 2021 album. One of the best trios around.
3. Miles Okazaki and Trickster-The Jazz Gallery. Tight group at its peak. Both sets were amazing. His "Trickster Live" recording via Bandcamp was also a highlight.
4. Tom Harrell Trio, Village Vanguard-although some streaming problems during the broadcast, his lyrical compositions and thoughtful playing were amazing.
5. Mike Reed's Loose Assembly, Constellation-Group contained all of Chicago's finest playing some challenging, but rewarding, music. Would love this to be a recording.