time to wave goodbye to the 2016 jazz thread. See y'all in the 2017 jazz thread.
2016 jazz short list
Another year gone. Like last year I've compiled my short list of favorite jazz albums from 2017. There was actually a lot of interesting stuff this year. And I listened to plenty of it. But my short list (which like last year will not be any set number like Top 10 or Dozen or whatever, nor will it be ranked in any numbered order) is made up of the very top tier albums that I feel like totally encapsulated the year in jazz for me. These are the albums that I just kept coming back to, and that I feel like ones that I'll continue to revisit post-2016.
The Bad Plus - It's Hard
Part of the what I love so much about The Bad Plus is that they have been doing these sorts of concept albums. Whether it was an album featuring a vocalist on For All I Care, or their own take on The Rite Of Spring, or teaming up with Joshua Redman last year, the band really seems to approach albums as an album. It's Hard is completely a covers album. And I thought it was fantastic. Part of that is the choice of covers which strikes even closer to my own personal mixtape than For All I Care (which I also love) did. Their take on "Time After Time" and "The Beautiful Ones" are stunning. And any jazz album that can tackle the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Johnny Cash with the same enthusiasm is commendable.
Nels Cline - Lovers
I've been a fan of Nels Cline since the late 90's. I still kick myself for losing the CD version of Rise Pumpkin Rise that I got back when MP3.com still sold you CD's. I've heard lots and lots of Nels Cline albums over the last twenty years. And somehow Lovers feels to me like a grand statement. It is an achingly gorgeous accomplishment. An album with a cast of countless performers that manages to master the art of restraint. I'm thrilled that Blue Note took notice and released this thing to the masses. Cline has always deserved a bigger audience than he had. And this one feels like pure proof of that.
Miles Davis - Miles Ahead: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Davis purists probably hate this album, right? I mean, how can you really make any kind of 'best of' from Davis' work? You can't. And the audacity in releasing a bunch of edits of the original songs! And how you gonna end this with new tracks by Robert Glasper? The truth is these are all valid complaints, and yet part of what makes this project so interesting to me. Glasper also released an album of Davis reinterpretations this year as well. And y'know what? I found myself coming back to THIS weird album far more. Somehow, hearing these abridged versions of originals mixed with the re-enacted dialogue and the new tributes... it all has a very odd juxtaposition that is equally jarring and fascinating.
Heliocentrics - From The Deep
Man, I love this band. From The Deep is actually a collection of outtakes from (seemingly) their whole career. I guess they've been around for about a decade now, come to think of it. So this is maybe a celebration record. The thing is, for nineteen tracks that span a decade, it sure sounds cohesive. This is classic Heliocentrics spacey funk jazz. All of these tracks dance around the three minute, feeling like old dusty singles. This is serious head-nodding music. I know that I'm not ranking the records here, but this would have to be my jazz album of the year. I certainly listened to it more in 2016 than any other record on this list.
Dr. Lonnie Smith - Evolution
The first Dr. Lonnie Smith album to grace Blue Note since 1970 is a total victory lap. Here Smith is surrounded by a rather large cast of supporting players both old and new. The result is an awesomely layered soup of funk and jazz that is absolutely uplifting in nature. It also has an amazingly organic feel as if the entire thing was recorded in one amorphis jam session. This is really fantastic stuff, and definitely my favorite Dr. Lonnie Smith albums that I've heard.