2012 was a banner year for recorded jazz, if the more than 100 CD’s that arrived in my mail box are any indication. Even still, I’m sure I missed a few that might have bowled me over–but that’s o.k., since I found it impossible to whittle this “best-of-list” down to a top-ten. Instead, I’m entering 14 albums that made an indelible impression. This isn’t a “best of San Diego” kind of list, although there are many SD connections here–which says a lot about the rich-in-talent residents, (and former residents) that populate the local jazz landscape.
Jason Robinson -Tiresian Symmetry (Cuneiform)
Nine of the best players on the East Coast scene ripping through Robinson’s difficult charts and making it all sound joyful.
Elliott Sharp Trio – Aggregat (Clean Feed)
Bracing, free jazz that takes no prisoners. Sharp plays guitar and saxophone and is ably supported by bassist Brad Jones and drummer Ches Smith. A lot of mayhem, but it all swings, somehow.
Slumgum w/ Hugh Ragin- The Sky His Own (9 Winds)
Slumgum is Jon Armstrong on saxophone, Rory Cowal on piano, David Tranchina on bass and Trevor Anderies on drums. As a unit they are superb, and the addition of Ragin’s soaring trumpet work make this essential.
Diane Moser & Mark Dresser -Duetto (CIMP)
Moser can straddle the divide between kinetic energy and lyric contemplation and Dresser follows her like a shadow, then steps into other dimensions. Intimate listening.
Hugo Carvalhais – Particula (Clean Feed)
I’d never heard of bassist Carvalhais before, but Particula is a stunning set of totally modern music, with saxophonist Emile Parisien, violinist Dominique Pifarely, pianist Gabriel Pinto and drummer Mario Costa. I found it hard to stop listening to this disc.
Crispell, Dresser, Hemingway – Play Braxton (Tzadik)
Braxton’s longest running rhythm section team up to revisit the visionary music of the master composer. Lock-tight, and wild, each member brings an individual force into motion.
Sara Serpa- Ran Blake – Aurora (Clean Feed)
This is a sublime pairing. Serpa’s voice is pitch-perfect, crystal clear and utterly devoid of artifice. Blake’s purity of harmonic conception leaves plenty of space.
Vinny Golia Sextet – Abstractions & Retrocausalities (9 Winds)
Like Mingus meeting Ornette Coleman’s Prime Time, this disc rocks and swings hard. Golia’s mastery is well supported by trumpeter Dan Rosenboom, saxophonist Gavin Templeton, guitarist Alex Noice, bassist Jon Armstrong and drummer Andrew Lessman.
Diane Moser – WDMO (Planet Arts)
Moser the pianist and composer are well documented on this release which spans the gamut between Latin grooves and freer material. Excellent cast featuring Peter Sprague, Marguerita Page, Rob Thorsen, Duncan Moore, Mary Redhouse, Will Parsons and Chad Moser.
Vlatkovich Tryyo – Pershing Woman (pfMENTUM)
Trombonist Michael Vlatkovich tears it up on this blistering live set with Jonathan Golove on electric cello and the explosive Damon Short on drums.
Dan Clucas Lost Iguana Ensemble – Do You Know The Ways (Plutonium Records)
Trumpeter Clucas offers up an entirely original set of music here with virtuosi contributions from drummers Brian Christopherson and Dave Wayne, cellist Jessica Catron and the tuba of Mark Weaver. Definitely worth seeking out.
Zen Widow -Screaming In Daytime (pfMENTUM)
The trio of Garth Powell on drums, Gianni Gebbia on saxophone and Mathew Goodheart on piano get a serious injection from special guest Wadada Leo Smith.
Ian Tordella – Tragic Comedy (Self Produced)
Tordella puts together an unusual group with the twin guitars of Jeff Miles and Joey Carano, fueled by the deep rhythm of Danny Weller and Richard Sellers. Great tunes.
Third Story -Third Story (Self Produced)
Bassist Danny Weller assembled this group to explore ECM-type textures, and with piano powerhouse Joshua White, guitarist Jeff Miles and drummer Jens Kuross, a sublime set of pensive compositions unfold.