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Slate's Best Jazz Albums of 2016

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Monday December 19, 2016

From Slate

The Best Jazz Albums of 2016
By: Fred Kaplan

Everyone knows that music has charms to soothe a savage breast, but few have read the rest of William Congreve’s line, which claims it can also “soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak,” and so, in these times of breast-beating savagery, heads full of stones, and tangles in desperate need of unknotting (times to try men’s and women’s souls, one might say), there is still a vital place for music in our lives. And so, here are my picks for the 10 best jazz albums of 2016, followed by the year’s four best previously unissued old treasures.

4. Fred Hersch Trio, Sunday Night at the Vanguard (Palmetto)
Another piano trio, this one led by a longtime master of the format. The album (its title resonant of Bill Evans’ 1961 classic, Sunday at the Village Vanguard) consists of an entire set, in the order the songs were played, at the same club, this past March. Half of the tracks are originals, half are covers of pieces by Richard Rodgers, Jimmy Rowles, Thelonious Monk, and the Beatles—all laid down with Hersch’s usual harmonic inventiveness and rhythmic zest.

5. Brad Mehldau Trio, Blues and Ballads (Nonesuch)
And yet another piano trio, by yet another master (Mehldau made his first mark, in the mid-to-late ’90s, with a series of albums called Art of the Trio, Vols. 1-5), this latest installment—mainly standards by Cole Porter, Buddy Johnson, and Charlie Parker, along with a couple Beatles tunes—confirms his standing as the bluesiest of balladeers.

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