Jazz Now


13 Oct 2009, 2:49

NPR's A Blog Supreme recently had a series of posts called Jazz Now. The premise is that each contributor will provide a list of five albums released in the last ten or so years that would make a great introduction to modern jazz to someone not familiar with it. I was very excited to see this, as it started from an observation I had also made about the problem that when people ask for recommendations on what albums would be good for a introduction to jazz, they are almost never recommended albums recorded within the last 30 years (or, heck, as of this year, even the last 50). I've been trying to avoid this in my own recommendation recently, both to people looking to get into jazz and to casual jazz fans that are only familiar with well-known older albums. Of course, when I heard about this series, I knew I had to put together my own list, and here it is.

Brian Blade & The Fellowship Band - Season of Changes (2008 Verve)
While perhaps lacking the obvious hook that some of my other selections contain, anyone interested in checking out recent jazz should be introduced to this particular thread of modern mainstream with its bold, declamatory melodies; flirtations with rock and pop; and accessible, while still high level, improvisation. This album in particular is a good starting place because of the diversity of the tracks, with various instrumental groupings from a sax/organ duo to full six-piece band.
Further listening:
-Aaron Parks - Invisible Cinema (2008 Blue Note)
-Kurt Rosenwinkel - Deep Song (2005 Verve)
-Chris Potter - Underground (2006 Sunnyside)

The Vandermark 5 - Simpatico (1999 Atavistic)
The loud, heavily distorted guitar that begins this record and then segues into a full on blast of angry skronk would be a great hook for fans of noise-y, aggressive rock.
Further listening:
-Human Feel - Galore (2007 Skirl)
-Paul Flaherty and Chris Corsano - The Hated Music (2000 Ecstatic Yod)
-Shot X Shot - Let Nature Square (2008 High Two)
-Joe Morris Quartet - Beautiful Existence (2004 Clean Feed)

The Claudia Quintet - I, Claudia (2004 Cuneiform)
With a unique combination of classical minimalism, microtonality, and oblique rhythmic structures, the Claudia Quintet would be a great starting point for those into music more on the avant-garde side.
Further listening:
-Cuong Vu - It's Mostly Residual (2005 Intoxicate)
-Tim Berne's Bloodcount - Saturation Point (1997 Screwgun)
-Chicago Underground Duo - Axis and Alignment (2002 Thrill Jockey)

Dave Holland Quintet - Critical Mass (2006 Sunnyside)
Another case of a recommendation without an obvious hook, beyond its general excellence, Holland's quintet work would simply be a great introduction to the world of the rich vein of straight ahead modern jazz.
Further listening:
-Vijay Iyer - Tragicomic (2008 Sunnyside)
-Joshua Redman - Compass (2009 Nonesuch)
-Michael Brecker - Pilgrimage (2007 Heads Up)
-Fred Hersch - Trio + 2 (2004 Palmetto)

The Bad Plus - These Are The Vistas (2003 Columbia)
A popular choice, this album, and this band in general, is often selected because of their choice of rock and pop covers. I would agree with that, but I selected them simply because I think the piano trio format would be a good place to start for someone not familiar with jazz. Because of the piano's prevalent use in rock and pop, a new listener could become accustomed to jazz's structural, rhythmic, and harmonic differences without also having to deal with a less familiar instrument (such as sax or trumpet).
Further listening:
-Bobo Stenson Trio - Cantando (2008 ECM)
-Brad Mehldau - Day Is Done (2005 Nonesuch)
-Esbjörn Svensson Trio - Leucocyte (2008 Emarcy)


  • gwalla

    I'll have to check out some of those suggestions, thanks! [i]Love[/i] The Bad Plus. They're an interesting thing to start people on because the fact that they pop covers tends to obscure the fact that their work can be pretty out there. A spoonful of sugar...

    15 Oct 2009, 21:39
  • gwalla

    BTW, what's your opinion of Mads Tolling? The New York Times has been raving about him off and on, and he's got a show coming up in SF, and I'm curious.

    16 Dic 2009, 18:56
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