So I know I’m on my honeymoon in Paris and I said I was going to take a break from blogging and let my guest bloggers have this space until my return. And I know I should be checking out the impressionists at the Musee d’Orsay, or strolling around the Marais in search of the perfect fellafel, or taking in the beautiful view of the city from Sacre Coeur.
But Patrick Jarenwattananon at NPR’s A Blog Supreme has hit upon a great idea that I couldn’t resist jumping on, Paris or no Paris! (In my defense, it’s 7am and it’s pouring outside…cut me some slack!)
Partly in response to The Teachout Debacle, but mostly because he is a cool guy trying to spread the gospel of jazz music to a new audience, Patrick has rounded up a group of 20-something jazz bloggers (see the list here) to come up with their list of the 5 recent jazz albums with which to turn on the non-jazz fan. We all know about Kind of Blue, A Love Supreme and Time Out, but there are countless albums released in the last 10 years that speak more to a younger set of ears and have a better chance of getting the younger generation interested in this exciting, varied and current genre.
So while my new wife sleeps blissfully, I have put together my own list. Granted, I’m close to twice the age of Patrick’s panelists. But I like to think I keep up with the Jones’s as far as new jazz is concerned. And I’ve really tried to stay true to the intent of the exercise. This is not my Top 5 Jazz Albums of the last 10 years list. This list is specifically designed for the young listener who doesn’t know much about jazz. Feel free to agree or disagree…
1. John Scofield and Medeski, Martin & Wood – A Go Go (Verve).
Old meets new in this funky collection of tunes from one of the greats of jazz guitar and one of the most popular bands of the last decade. Many have long held up MMW as one of the bands that has found a way to attract a younger crowd by going to meet them where they live. Scofield saw this too and greatly raised his profile by collaborating with them. But rather than sound like a contrived effort, this album is groove-jazz at its finest. I have actually used this album many times to hip non-jazz fans to something different, and it works almost every time.
2. Darcy James Argue – Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam)
Argue has been getting rave review since before his debut album came out thanks to his savvy use of the web. Thankfully the album did not disappoint. Argue has put together an impressive band and given them surprising charts to sink their teeth into. The music on the CD is an amazing blend of styles and has something for just about anyone. A great example of modern big band and a nice entry the music lover, regardless of their jazz background.
3. Cassandra Wilson – Blue Light ‘Til Dawn (Blue Note)
Cassandra Wilson is the finest vocalist of her generation in my opinion. And since this record was released she has distinguished herself as an incredible interpreter of just about any style of music. On this disc alone she tackles jazz standards and tunes from Robert Johnson, Van Morrison and Joni Mitchell. The production by Craig Street bears mentioning as well, as he found the perfect, spare instrumentation to highlight Wilson’s vocals.
4. Esperanza Spalding – Esperanza (Heads Up)
Brazilian rhythms, intriguing vocals, incredible bass chops…this album has it all. And to see her live is something to behold. The control she exhibits while simultaneously playing bass and singing is a wonder.
5. Herbie Hancock – River: The Joni Letters (Verve)
This album won a Grammy for Album of the Year, the first jazz album to do so since 1964. And it won for a reason. It is a perfectly crafted record, from the song choices to the production to the band and the featured vocalists. Say what you want about the formula, but this record is the perfect entree in to the world of jazz for the pop music lover. The songs are familiar, the voices are familiar, and the playing is top-notch.
There are many other great albums that have been mentioned by others, including ones from Brian Blade, Brad Mehldau, Maria Schneider, Charles Lloyd, Ben Allison, etc. And while I think these are all worthy candidates for a Great Jazz Albums list, I think they are more for the discerning jazz ear than the layman…
Do you agree? Disagree? What are your picks?