calendar  |  musicians  |  venues  |  concert reviews  |  CD reviews  |  photos  |  features


We polled contributors Albert Brooks, J Hunter, Rudy Lu, Brian Patneaude, Tom Pierce, Andrzej Pilarczyk, Randy Treece and Jeff Waggoner on their favorite jazz releases of 2009 ...

photography, concert reviews

1. Chembo Corniel - Things I Wanted To Do
Chembo! Percussion led latin jazz. Hot!

2. John Beasley - Positootly!
Beasley on piano, Tain Watts on drums and James Genus on bass form a solid, unstoppable challenge for Brian Lynch and Bennie Maupin who are more than up to the task.

3. Ron Horton's It's a Gadget World
Featuring Horton on trumpet, Antonio Zambrini on piano, Ben Allison on bass and Tony Moreno on drums. This is a cd of seeming effortless mastery and intense beauty.

4. Donald Bailey - Blueprints of Jazz, Volume 3
Serious hard bop, blues and modal playing from 75 year old drummer and harmonica player, Donald Bailey, surrounded by veteran musicians, Odean Pope (sax), Charles Tolliver (trumpet), Tyrone Brown (bass) and George Burton (piano). This is killer music by a criminally under-sung drummer! Odean Pope, by his playing on this cd and last year's, Plant Life, is proving that he is one of the deepest and tastiest tenor sax players on the scene and, of course, any occasion with Charles Tolliver is one not to be missed!

5. Francesco Cafiso - Angelica
Angelica by 20 year old alto saxist, Cafiso, features great standards that are revisited with modern sensibility as well as original pieces. The standards are "A Floweris a Lovesome Thing" by Billy Strayhorn, "Peace" by Horace Silver, "Why Don't I" by Sonny Rollins and the title track, a true Ellington gem. Cafiso's limpid alto is ably supported by Ben Street (bass), Aaron Parks (piano) and Adam Cruz (drums).

Honorable mention:
Two by Donald Harrison - The Ballads and The Burners

CD & concert reviews
1. Chris Potter Underground - Ultrahang (AtistShare)
The most repeated phrase in music, regardless of genre, is “Damn! We should’ve recorded that!” With Ultrahang, Potter acts on that lamentation. When the reed master noticed his monstrous quartet made its best music at Sound Check, he sculpted a set of tunes out of Underground’s pre-show jams. The results are tremendous, particularly when you consider the disc’s galvanizing “fresh” feel was grown inside a studio. The groove is absolutely relentless, and the performances crackle with heat and energy. Get it, strap in, press “Play” and hang on!

2. Jeff "Tain" Watts" - Watts (Dark Keys Music)
No piano player? Well, when Terence Blanchard and Branford Marsalis are your front line, and Christian McBride pours a foundation you could build a skyscraper on, a piano player does seem superfluous. Watts starts Watts by going Marsalis one better, launching a searing take on “Return of the Jitney Man” that bodyslams the version on Branford’s own 2009 date Metamorphosen. Watts is jazz with a funk feel and hip-hop attitude, packing music that takes big chunks out of anything it doesn’t like – from our last President, to the sell-out in society. Absolutely brutal!

3. Matt Wilson Quartet - That’s Gonna Leave a Mark (Palmetto)
You know you’ve done your job when your new release annoys purists on both sides! Wilson’s smiling anarchy has traditionalists running for the exits, while free-jazz enthusiasts think the renowned drummer didn’t go far enough. To both sides, I say this: LIGHTEN UP! This disc is so filled with the joy of the moment, it could become addictive. Chris Lightcap’s dynamic bass lets Wilson stick & move with impunity, while reed players Andrew D’Angelo and Jeff Lederer cheerfully blow away anything in front of them. It’s FUN, damn it all! DEAL with it!

4. James Carter, et al. Heaven on Earth (Half Note)
A group with James Carter, John Medeski, Christian McBride, Adam Rogers and Joey Baron doesn’t sound like a concept that would work well. And it doesn’t work well – it works perfectly! This live set of passionate, envelope-stretching music has the Blue Note howling with delight at this 21st-century soul-jazz. Despite the new-jazz tendencies of Medeski and Rogers, the band pulls it back for a little ballad and a little bossa… and then Carter takes his baritone sax and practically shatters the sound barrier. Heaven on Earth: Now that’s truth in advertising!

5. Marcus Strickland Trio - Idiosyncrasies (Strick Muzik)
There was never any question whether Strickland had the power and range to handle a sax-trio date, one of the toughest gigs in the game. But the hypnotic reedman also has a rhythm section (bassist Ben Williams, drummer/brother E.J. Strickland) with as informed a sense of expression and narrative as he does. Even better than the great set of Strickland originals, Idiosyncrasies boasts an eclectic choice of non-jazz source material from OutKast, Bjork, Stevie Wonder and Oumou Sangare. In the immortal words of Jeremy Clarkson: “MORE! More of THAT!”

· SFJAZZ Collective – Live 2009: 6th Annual Concert Tour (SFJAZZ)
- Luis Bonilla – I Talking Now!(PlanetArts)
· Denise Donatelli – What Lies Within (Savant)
· Ben Goldberg/Charlie Hunter/Scott Amendola/Ron Miles – Go Home (BAG Production Records)
· Spoke – Spoke (

LOCAL HERO AWARD (Artist Division)
What a year! We saw good stuff from Robert Lindquist, the Randy Simon Jazz Project, Collar City Creatology, and the Empire Jazz Orchestra; Steve Lambert’s long-awaited debut as a leader May was everything it was supposed to be, and more; Michael Benedict Jazz Vibes’ second disc The Next Phase was aptly titled, as the band took a great new direction; and Blossom is the Lee Shaw Trio’s best disc, period. That said, there was really only one choice at the end of the day…

Brian Patneaude - Riverview (WEPA Records)
Patneaude’s ability to recruit national players (guitarist-of-the-moment Mike Moreno, keyboardist Jesse Chandler) speaks volumes about the impact he’s already made on the scene outside the Capital Region. But it’s a reciprocal thing, because those artists can attract listeners who haven’t checked out the Patneaude Quartet’s other three discs. They’ll not only find hot new material like “Drop” and the title track, but smart reboots of Patneaude mainstays “Release” and “Jolo” that show Patneaude’s growth curve keeps going and going…


1. Kurt Elling - Dedicated to you: The music of Coltrane and Hartman (Concord)
Tribute to John Coltrane and Johnny Hartman's classic 1963 collaboration. Kurt Elling adds his own touches. He is accompanied by a string quartet. Ernie Watts plays tenor sax.

2. Julian Lage - Sounding Point
Beautiful joyful music. Imaginative and subtle. The former child prodigy finally debuts his first CD. The opening cut "Clarity" sets the tone. The trio's cover of "Lil Darlin" is unique.

3. Brian Patneaude - Riverview (WEPA Records)
Local sax hero Brian Patneaude records a CD without the usual quartet line up. Mike Moreno is on guitar, Jesse Chandler on keyboards and quartet member Danny Whelchel on drums. Outstanding cuts include the original title track "Riverview", a cover of Billy Strayhorn's "Chelsea Bridge" and an upbeat original "Drop."

4. SFJAZZ - Live 2009
The SFJAZZ Collective is an all-star jazz ensemble comprising 7 of the finest performer/composers at work in jazz today. Each season they select and arrange a single modern jazz master's works to perform along with original compositions. This year was dedicated to the works of McCoy Tyner. Incredible ensemble playing as well as solos by the entire band including Joe Lovano, Renee Rosnes, Matt Penman, Dave Douglas, Robin Eubanks, Miguel Zenon and Eric Harland. Outstanding cuts include Tyner compositions "Fly with the Wind" and "Four by Five" as well as Robin Eubanks "Yes We Did" and Rene Rosnes' Migrations.

5. Gerald Clayton - Two Shade(Artist Share)
Gerald Clayton is the son of noted bassist John Clayton and nephew of Jeff Clayton. This is his debut CD. Outstanding cuts include "Boogablues", "All of You" and the humorous "Two Heads, One Pillow."


1. Ben Wendel - Simple Song (Sunnyside)
A collection of nine intricately composed and arranged, yet highly accessible original compositions - as well as an arrangement of John Coltrane's "Lonnie's Lament" and a beautifully orchestrated version of Billy Strayhorn's "A Flower Is A Lovesome Thing" - featuring Wendel on soprano and tenor sax as well as melodica and bassoon.

2. Ben Allison - Think Free (Palmetto)
A perfect sythisis of jazz, rock and country music that's easy on the ears yet contains enough harmonic twists and turns to keep things interesting.

3. Chris Potter - Ultrahang (Artistshare)
The latest chapter in Potter's electric and eclectic quartet features a combination of original material and covers of songs by Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell.

4. Gary Burton - Quartet Live (Concord)
Gary Burton + Pat Metheny + Steve Swallow + Antonio Sanchez. = good music.

5.(tie) Dave Douglas - A Single Sky (Greenleaf)
Dave Douglas - Spirit Moves (Greenleaf)
Two collections of original music and unique covers by the prolific trumpter featuring a big band and a brass quintet.

Honorable mention:
Sam Yahel - Hometown (Positone)
Kendrick Scott - Reverence (Criss Cross)
Le Boeuf Brothers - House Without A Door
(Le Boeuf Brothers)
Joshua Redman - Compass(Nonesuch)

CD & concert reviews

1. Heath Brothers - Endurance (Jazz Legacy Prod)
Warmth, beauty, ideas & swing - pretty much sums up these two indomitable survivors. Brilliant saxophonist/composer Jimmy (83) & impeccable drummer Albert “Tootie” (73) are extending the legacy of the Philadelphia musical family, which included bassist Percy, who passed in 2005 at 81. They’ve played individually since the 40’s with numerous icons like Parker, Gillespie, Monk, Coltrane, Miles Davis & the Modern Jazz Quartet. The buoyant, timeless spirit of this sophisticated, yet invigorating mainstream music is enhanced by the sparkling support of two 30-somethings, pianist Jeb Patton and bassist David Wong, who have been with the quartet for a number of years. I loved them on the 2008 Jazz Cruise & eagerly await their return to it in January 2011.

2. Claudio Roditi– Brazilliance X 4 (Resonance Records)
I was very fortunate to catch this dynamic, uplifting quartet live earlier this month on the Jazz Cruise, where they truly excited audiences with their heated, yet exquisite blend of Be Bop and Samba. Trumpeter/flugelhornist Roditi’ s career, since migrating from Brazil 30 years ago to study at Berklee, has been studded with excellent performances (live and recorded) with memorable bands, including Dizzy Gillespie’s United Nations Orchestra, Paquito D’Rivera, the current Dizzy Gillespie All-Star Alumni Orchestra and his own groups.  This CD of 9 originals and Miles Davis’ “Tune Up”, while maintaining a flavor of the melodic ease and lilt of Brazil, is very much a strong Post Bop record, with its drive & impressive solos. Special kudos to vibrant pianist Helio Alves and imaginative drummer Duduka Da Fonseca of Trio Da Paz.

3. Lynne Arriale – Nuance: The Bennett Studio Sessions (Motema Music)
I had found a number of Arriale’s previous eleven recordings (all trio performances) elegantly melodic, passionate and full of textures & colors on standards and originals that consistently held my interest.  This CD fits that description too; but with irrepressible trumpeter Randy Brecker added to the trio for a broader dimension, she’s produced a stunning statement that is both touching and forceful. The tunes consist of six of her originals as well as classics by Monk and Gillespie that collectively run an absorbing gamut of moods and tempos. They demonstrate both her ongoing growth as an artist, and security & serenity as a person.

4. Christian McBride & Inside Straight – Kind of Brown (Mack Avenue)
The enormously respected, award-winning bassist Christian McBride, with 20 years of playing with stalwarts like Bobby Watson, Benny Golson, Roy Hargrove, Freddie Hubbard, and many recordings on his own needs little introduction to jazz fans. But given the fact that most of his own CD’s the past 10 years have focused on fusion, pop and funk, this CD could be viewed as a re-introduction to devotees (like myself) of the straight-ahead, post-bop subgenre. The bright-sounding, exuberant original material played so joyously by the powerfully swinging band of alto/soprano saxophonist Steve Wilson, vibraphonist Warren Wolf, pianist Peter Martin and drummer Carl Allen, along with McBride, proclaims this is JAZZ, with a capital “J”!

5. Edward Simon Trio - Poesia (Camjazz)
I was first captivated by the depth of this superior 40 year old Venezuelan pianist/composer in the extraordinary quintet Horizon, led by Bobby Watson in the early 1990’s. In addition to his lilting rhythms, attractive touch and distinctive ideas, I feel an exoticism, perhaps reflecting both his roots and an impressionistic, cinema-like quality. This complete package, plus his writing, seizes one’s attention, especially with creative giants like bassist John Patitucci and drummer Brian Blade interacting and contributing at such a high level.

Honorable mention:
Kurt Elling – Dedicated to You – The Music of Coltrane &Hartman (Concord)
Jackie Ryan– Doxy

features, concert reviews

1. Jame Carter - Heaven on Earth
James Carter, in my view, consistently releases interesting recordings, but his latest may be his best. This recording has vitality and panache. A lineup of musical stalwarts lend mightily to “Heaven on Earth” being an exceptionally exhilarating recording that romps from beginning to end. Credos for an incredible recording should also be extended to John Medeski (Hammond B-3 organ), Christian McBride (electric bass), Adam Rogers (guitar), and Joey Baron (drums). And, dare I say again, Carter is just awesome. With the exception of the first cut, ‘Diminishing,” which pushes the jam band template to the brink of an avant garde foray, the remaining five songs have, in some form and fashion, an inimitable blues orientation. You can’t go wrong with this recording.

2. Seamus Blake - Live In Italy
This is a marvelous and accomplished recording, without one disappointing cut. Blake, David Kikoski on piano, Danton Boller on bass, and Rodeny Green on drums, dish up some extraordinary and inventive surprises as they play both original compositions and standards. Just an alert for those acoustic purists, there is an occasional use of electronics but to prodigious effect.

3. Tom Harrell - Prana Dance
Without deviating from his progressive sound and vibes, this recording has a beguiling and enchanting aura, especially the title cut. This is an emotionally and intellectually satisfying recording. Helping Harrell deliver the goods are Wayne Escoffery (saxophones), Danny Grissett (piano), Ugonna Okegwo (bass), and Johnathan Blake (drums). This is an absolute keeper.

4. Lynne Arriale - Nuance: The Bennett Studio Sessions
Pianist Lynne Arriale has been flying far too long below too many listeners’ radar and her finest outing yet may, unfortunately, be recognized as another blip on the jazz screen. But I am here to tell you that “Nuance: The Bennett Studio Sessions” is majestic, an Olympian production. And I hate to say it, because I am not a fan of his, but Randy Brecker on trumpet, adds a special texture and tone to this recording. In fact, though I am choking on the words, Brecker ushers this recording from very good to great. Throughout this recording, Arriale, along with Brecker, George Mraz (bass), and Anthony Pinciott (drums), delivers elegance, edge, and earnest emotion. Wait to you hear her scintillating playing on Monk’s “I Mean You,” her hard punching phrasing on “Yada Yada Yada,” and her cordial chords on her original composition, “A Gentle Soul.”

5. Mark Masters Ensemble -Farewell Walter Dewey Redman
The surprise this year is Mark Masters Ensemble’s “Farewell Walter Dewey Redman.” Originally, arranger Mark Master was supposed to record with Redman but unfortunately Redman passed away, so the recording took a different spin and became a tribute to the legendary saxophonist. In Redman’s stead, the great Oliver Lake was chosen to take the alto saxophonist chair. This is a swinging, tap your foot, recording throughout. The arrangements for this sixteen-piece ensemble have rangy contours, sharp edges, and a lot of bite. Soloists are given ample freedom to explore and inspire, and Lake wastes no time in delivering that fire and passion readily associated with Redman. A tremendous recording indeed.

Honerable mention:
Jackie Ryan’s - Doozy
Melody Gardot - My One and Only Thrill
Bobby Sanabria - Afro-Cuban Dream ...Live & In Clave
Wilson “Chembo’ Corniel - Things I Wanted To Do
Claudio Roditi - Brazilliance x 4
Marc Cary’s Focus Trio - Live in 2008
Joshua Redman - Compass
Joel Harrison - Urban Myths
Charles Tolliver - Emperor March


1. Mike Stern - Big Neighborhood (Headsup Records)

2. Kurt Elling - Dedicated To You (Concord Records)

3. Ben Wendel - Simple Song (Sunnyside Records)

4. Kat Edmonson - Take To The Sky

5. Brian Patneaude - Riverview (WEPA Records)

CD & concert reviews

1. Mulatu Astatke and the Heliocentrics - Inspiration, Information, Vol. 3 (Strut)
It's called "Ethio-jazz" but it has to be heard to believed.

2. Allen Toussaint - The Bright Mississippi (Nonsuch)
Toussaint, the legendary Nawlin's pianist, gets hep with a bunch of young(ish) jazz cats.

3. Steve Kuhn - Mostly Coltrane (ECM)
Kuhn, who was Coltrane's pianist before McCoy Tyner, knows what he's doing.

4. Mary Halvorson - Dragon's Head(Firehouse 12 Records)
A veteran of Anthony Braxton's ensembles, she is forging a new way without leaving soul, melody and swing behind.

5. Lucky Thompson - New York 1964-65 (Uptown Jazz)
A treasure trove of newly discovered music from one of the most distinctive voices on jazz saxophone.