Monday January 04, 2010
Critics Picks: Top 50 New Albums and Top 10 Historical Releases
We compiled our top 50 new releases and top 10 historical/reissue recordings of 2009 from year-end lists by our critics. To see each voter’s ballot, go to this page. Only CDs and box sets released between Nov. 1, 2008, and Oct. 31, 2009 were eligible. Some releases may have slipped through the cracks, however, as release dates shifted or weren’t available.
Original blurbs by Evan Haga and Jeff Tamarkin. Review excerpts by Thomas Conrad, Steve Greenlee, Christopher Loudon, Bill Milkowski, Mike Shanley, George Varga, Michael J. West and Josef Woodard.
Top 50 New Releases (see the entire list here)
1. Joe Lovano Us Five
Folk Art (Blue Note)
In his 57th year, the saxophonist, composer and bandleader Joe Lovano is something of a jazz absolute: consistent in quality but traversing schools, styles and formats in a way that argues the music has somewhere to go without accommodating pop. His 2009 Blue Note release, Folk Art, recorded with a new group he calls Us Five, only reinforces his reputation as the consummate jazzman, an explorer and historian in equal doses. Folk Art is centered in postbop but plays in and around the avant-garde, and it features elements that, on paper, might seem gimmicky, but in Lovano’s hands foster thrilling music.
A cross-generational quintet, Us Five features two drummers, Otis Brown II and Francisco Mela, and Lovano uses them to ramp up the intensity as well as multiply the options for exchange. (“It’s as if there are 20 different bands,” he told JT’s Geoffrey Himes.) Then there’s Lovano’s arsenal of texturally brazen woodwind oddities, including the taragato and aulochrome, and the fact that Folk Art is his first album featuring his original compositions exclusively. Those tunes, alternately burning (“Powerhouse”), loping (“Folk Art”), tender (“Song for Judi”) and askew (the Ornette homage “Ettenro”), brilliantly underscore the group’s sensibility—one of dynamic interaction and aesthetic versatility. E.H.