Com­ing up with a top five jazz list is tough – there are far too many out­stand­ing al­bums to choose from, writes Ray Comiskey

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC2006 -

IT’S BEEN a very good year for jazz CDs, enough to make the job of pick­ing only five favourites more off-putting than eat­ing sushi in Lon­don with an es­pi­onage con­sul­tant. 2006 yielded a clas­sic in Bob Brook­meyer’s Spirit Mu­sic (ArtistShare), a glo­ri­ous ex­am­ple of his or­ches­tral writ­ing, im­pec­ca­bly per­formed by Ger­many’s New Art Orches­tra.

Equally strik­ing were François Cou­turier’s Nostal­ghia – Song for Tarkovsky (ECM), a re­mark­able evo­ca­tion of the spir­i­tual el­e­ments in the great Rus­sian di­rec­tor’s work, and Joe Lo­vano’s Streams of Ex­pres­sion (Blue Note), an in­spired re­vis­it­ing of the mu­sic of Miles Davis’s Birth of the Cool and Tadd Dameron.

Then there were Keith Jar­rett’s solo, The Carnegie Hall Con­cert (ECM); the epony­mous Metheny-Mehldau (None­such), a de­light­ful col­lab­o­ra­tion; and House on Hill (None­such), a last recorded hur­rah from Mehldau’s orig­i­nal trio, in­clud­ing Jorge Rossy on drums.

More re­cently there were Paul Mo­tian on Broad­way Vol 4 (Win­ter+Win­ter) and Jimmy Heath’s fine big-band opus, Turn Up the Heath (Planet Arts). And vibist Ste­fan Har­ris ex- plored later Elling­ton works on African Taran­tella (Blue Note) to im­pres­sive ef­fect.

Trum­peter To­masz Stanko’s great Pol­ish quar­tet took their in­ter­ac­tion to new and freer heights with the grip­ping Lon­tano (ECM), while Kenny Wheeler pro­duced a typ­i­cally lyri­cal album, It Takes Two (CamJazz), with the highly com­pat­i­ble John Aber­crom­bie, John Par­ri­celli and An­ders Jormin. Vet­eran al­toist Bunky Green proved there’s creative life af­ter 70 with An­other Place (La­bel Bleu), fronting a quar­tet that in­cluded the ad­ven­tur­ous young pi­anist, Ja­son Mo­ran.

Singers pro­vided a cou­ple of savoury sur­prises. Nancy King, one of Amer­ica’s best kept se­crets, duet­ted with Fred Her­sch in Live at Jazz Stan­dard (MaxJazz), and the lit­tle-known Su- sanne Ab­buehl emerged with the ar­rest­ing Com­pass (ECM), which in­cluded set­tings of po­ems by Joyce and William Car­los Wil­liams, as well as pieces by Be­rio, Chick Corea and Sun Ra.

Martin Speake’s Change of Heart (ECM) took four years to come out, but with Paul Mo­tian, Mick Hut­ton and Swe­den’s Bobo Sten­son gelling beau­ti­fully, it was worth the wait. An­other Scan­di­na­vian pi­anist, Ketil Bjørn­stad, found the per­fect trio part­ners in Palle Daniels­son and Mar­i­lyn Ma­sur for his spare, melodic style with Float­ing (Uni­ver­sal).

Clearly, pi­anists re­mained a ma­jor force on CD. The great John Tay­lor led the re­mark­able An­gel of the Plea­sance (CamJazz), while Ste­fano Bol­lani and Misha Alperin, who, like Tay­lor, gave solo con­certs in Kilkenny Arts Week, pro­duced Pi­ano Solo (ECM) and Blue Fjord (Jaro), re­spec­tively. Ge­off Keezer, at the height of his pow­ers on Wild­crafted (Maxjazz), also made a ter­rific duo album, Free As­so­ci­a­tion (ArtistShare) with Jim Hall. And pi­anists John Donaldson and Mark Ed­wards showed four hands could be bet­ter than two with Live at Ap­pleby Jazz Fes­ti­val (Trio).

On the lo­cal scene, there were some no­table re­leases. Ro­nan Guil­foyle re­leased the ex­cel­lent Live in Dublin (Auand), with Ju­lian Ar­guelles and Jim Black. There were com­pelling de­buts for the Kai Big Band with Pro­jec­tions, and the quin­tet Cor­ti­sol with Mis­cel­la­neous Meet, while long­time res­i­dent Sami Moukaddem pro­duced two al­bums, Crest of a Wave and Soul Food, both in­formed by his roots in Le­banese cul­ture.

But all this doesn’t in­clude such stir­ring big­band CDs as Maria Sch­nei­der’s Days of Wine and Roses (ArtistShare), John Hol­len­beck’s Joys and De­sires (In­tu­ition), Jim McNeely’s Up from the Skies (Planet Arts) and Slide Hamp­ton’s The Way (Planet Arts). Or such un­usual groups as Paquito D’Rivera’s beau­ti­ful Jazz Cham­ber Trio (Chesky), Anouar Bra­hem’s Le Voy­age de Sa­har (ECM) and Mark Feld­man’s What Exit (ECM).

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