Monday, December 24, 2007


Recently, my friend William, who gets really excited when music magazines publish their best-of-the-year-album-lists, asked me for my five favorite jazz albums I purchased in 2007. William said to include new releases as well as re-issues. His request was unusual because most music rags normally list at least 50 to 100 albums they deemed their best.

Why five I asked? Listing 50 to 100 would be too easy. Narrowing down the many jazz finds I purchased required thorough consideration, William said. Fair enough. I enjoyed the challenge although I wondered if William would think I'm nuts because Booker Ervin's "Exultation," Frank Strozier's "Cool, Calm, and Collected," and Steve Lacy's "The Straight Horn of Steve Lacy," re-issues I scored this year, didn't make the cut. I expect William to contact me soon. Finally, after thorough consideration, I selected the five jazz albums I listened to over an over.

1. David Murray
Scared Ground-Justin Time

Wow! This is the saxophonist 220th album. That has to be a world record. "Scared Ground" is a lean album. Murray and pianist Lafayette Gilchrist soloing on “Family Reunion” is still dancing in my ears. And vocalist Cassandra Wilson was the prefect fit for those eerie songs written by poet Ishmael Reed.

2. Kenny Cox
Introducing Kenny Cox and the Contemporary Jazz Quintet-Blue Note

Two classic Detroit jazz albums (Kenny Cox and the Contemporary Jazz Quintet and Multidirection) recorded in 1968 and 1969 re-issued on one disc. Pianist Kenny Cox, bassist Ron Brooks, saxophonist Leon Henderson, drummer Danny Spencer, and trumpeter Charles Moore did what’s expected from Detroit jazz pros. They sung from start to finish.

3. Red Garland
Red Alone-Prestige/Moodville

Recorded in the spring of 1960, Garland was in his element on this solo album, playing mostly standard love songs. This album feels like a love letter.

4. Ron Carter
Dear Miles-Blue Note

Bassist Ron Carter, pianist Stephen Scott, drummer Payton Crossley, and percussionist Roger Squitero reworked “My Funny Valentine,” “Seven Steps to Heaven,” “Someday My Prince Will Come” and “Bye Bye Blackbird,” songs Davis turned into classics. The quartet made the standards sound brand new.

5. Lafayette Gilchrist
Lafayette Gilchrist3-Hyena

The Baltimore native fingers speed across the piano keys a la the late jazz pianist Don Pullen. Gilchrist is not your run-of-the-mill jazz pianist. The pianist brings his musical influences to the table. On this trio album, Gilchrist serves up a hearty portion of jazz mixed with Go Go and Hip Hop.
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