Guy Berger

Best Jazz Albums of 2003

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Article here. Kaplan includes Passing Ships, Jaki's Last from Lennie's, Holland's Extend Play, the Bad Plus album, and others.

Guy

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I've got half of them. And the author gets docked one letter grade for refering to Stan Getz' "alto".

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Meanwhile, Mike Zwerin's always interesting (only partly jazz) choices are as follows:

Recordings from the margins of pop music

Mike Zwerin IHT Wednesday, December 17, 2003

PARIS Here are some holiday gift suggestions of recent recordings from the margins of popular music, which is herein defined as music other than "serious" music. This may be the least popular "popular" music you'll ever hear. The margin is not a bad place to be.

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"THE SOUL OF A MAN"(Columbia/$ Legacy): The well-produced soundtrack from Wim Wenders's 2003 film about the blues is an eccentrically authentic combination of old and new, acoustic and electric, male and female, and black and white. Cassandra Wilson, Eagle-Eye Cherry, T-Bone Burnett, Lou Reed, Beck, Bonnie Raitt, Blind Willie Johnson, J.B. Lenoir and Skip James sing blues songs by Johnson, Lenoir and James.

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BA CISSOKO"Sabolan" (Marabi/$ Melodie): So-called world music can be either too esoteric to be popular or too popular to be taken seriously. Ba Cissoko is in the sweet spot. Koras, guitars, percussion and keyboards are played by four young Guineans of griot descent who live in Marseille and were trained in Conakry by the kora master M'bady Kouyate. Accompanied by caustic urban grooves that have been likened to Mory Kante, they sing about ancient Mandingo sagas and contemporary alienation.

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PAT MARTINO"Think Tank" (Blue Note): At the age of 34, a brain tumor caused Pat Martino to lose his memory. He asked himself what all those guitars were doing in his house and he learned to play them all over again and there has ever since been a special spirituality about him. In homage to John Coltrane, "Think Tank" is one of his best albums, and the band - Joe Lovano, Gonzalo Rubalcaba, Christian McBride and Lewis Nash - may just be the band of the year.

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ROBERT WYATT"Cuckooland" (Hannibal/Ryko): More grainy, mournful, childlike songs and singing by the ex-Soft Machine drummer and enduring cult hero. Wyatt is a sort of homemade John Lennon. (Two of his previous albums are named "The End of an Ear" and "Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard.") Guests include David Gilmour and Brian Eno, and Wyatt has learned to play the trumpet, sounding, not surprisingly, like Chet Baker.

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GREG OSBY"St. Louis Shoes" (Blue Note): As the title, which deserves a prize, implies, this album is based on tradition and takes off from such standards as "St. Louis Blues," "Bernie's Tune" and "East St. Louis Toodle-Oo" in marvelous new ways. The irony is always respectful, the creativity never timid. Along here with Nicholas Payton on trumpet, the saxophonist and bandleader Osby is one of not all that many illustrations that jazz is still alive and kicking.

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ANOUAR BRAHEM"Vague" (ECM): The Tunisian oud player Brahem has renewed the instrument by combining it with Western forms, European musicians and the ECM sound. It might be called difficult easy-listening music. You can keep it in the background and go on doing whatever you're doing, but if you do listen it merits your full attention. Guests include Dave Holland, Jan Garbarek and nay-player Kudsi Erguner.

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JOHN GREAVES"The Trouble With Happiness" (Le Chant du Monde/ Harmonia Mundi): Greaves is a British singer-songwriter who has lived in France long enough to be underrated at home and overlooked just about everywhere else. "No Dice" ends with a line about being "cleaned out washed up mangled hanging on the line to dry." A kind of left-field Elvis Costello, Greaves has an ear for poetry and a dramatic voice and is subtly accompanied by Sophia Domancich on piano and Vincent Courtois on cello.

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TONY MALABY TRIO"Adobe" (Free Lance/Harmonia Mundi): The trouble with trios with only one horn is that no matter how good the horn person is, once he or she is finished we are left with - horrors - bass and drum solos. Without anybody to fill in the points of the triangle, three larger-than-life musicians are required. (Ornette Coleman with Charlie Haden and Billy Higgins, for example.) Recorded in Brooklyn by Parisian producers, "Adobe" features the hot young tenor saxophonist Tony Malaby with Drew Gress on bass and Paul Motian on drums, and they also qualify.

And two reminders:

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LUCINDA WILLIAMS"Car Wheels on a Gravel Road" (Mercury): From 1998, Williams's bluesy, punky, country voice sings soulful songs about towns named Rosedale, Greenville and Jackson and about concrete and barbed wire and drunken angels.

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JOHN COLTRANE"Blue Train" (Blue Note): 1957 chordal Coltrane playing through the blues and out the other side. One of the best-selling albums in the jazz catalogue, it is also one of the rare ones to remain of its time and yet not be dated.

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International Herald Tribune

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"What does it say about the state of jazz that the three best jazz albums of the year are previously unreleased recordings made some two to four decades ago?"

It may say that the person writing the commentary isn't listening to anything. Or, it may say that the person writing the commentary isn't hearing what they *listen* to.

Jeez, give me a break! Has this guy heard The William Parker Violin Trio Scrapbook CD? Or any of a zillion-and-one CDs that I could name off the top of my head?

Total rubbish. Complete crap.

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I would like to know what lazaro's favorite albums for 2003 are? :w:o

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Late entry:

Ron Horton (FSNT) Subtextures; seriously good CD, part hommage to Andrew Hill and others but sounds like a fully realised mature statement. Great tunesand fantastic playing all round, Frank Kimbrough is dark wizrd at the keys especially when not trying sound like Hill.

highly recommended

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