Ugly Beauty: The Month in Jazz

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Friday December 21, 2018

From Stereogum

Ugly Beauty: The Month In Jazz ‘” December 2018
By: Phil Freeman

This month’s column is a little different than the ones before it. Since December is a pretty thin time for new releases, I’ve decided to talk about ten albums that almost made my Best Jazz Of 2018 list, and five (actually six) of the best reissues or archival releases of the year.

The Bad Plus, Never Stop II (Legbreaker)

The thirteenth album by this long-running piano trio marked a major change: pianist Ethan Iverson, who’d gradually become a more prominent figure than his bandmates, writing a highly regarded blog and doing the lion’s share of interviews, left the group. He was replaced by Orrin Evans, whose music as a leader is very different from Iverson’s or the Bad Plus’s, but he fits right in. As I said in February’s column, ‘Evans is a Philly player who’s got a lyrical flow, but he packs a lot of muscle into his melodic statements, which makes him a good match for Dave King, whose drumming is some of the heaviest in contemporary jazz. In between the two sits Reid Anderson, the most classically trained member of the trio but also someone with a bone-deep knowledge of jazz and a bouncy, swinging style. These tunes have a lot of whomp, but there’s a lot of subtle beauty here, too, and the overall sound of the trio is fantastic – the piano rings out, the bass is a thick boom, and the drums never quite dominate, no matter how hard King hits.’

Joshua Redman/Ron Miles/Scott Colley/Brian Blade, Still Dreaming (Nonesuch)

This album, which I discovered late in the year (it came out in May) is kind of a tribute to a tribute. Here’s the story: In the late 1970s, four musicians who’d played with Ornette Coleman – Redman’s father Dewey, cornet player Don Cherry, bassist Charlie Haden and drummer Ed Blackwell – formed a group called Old And New Dreams to play Ornette’s music. Now Ornette’s gone, as are all the members of Old And New Dreams, but Joshua Redman is paying tribute to them with this new group. All the music was written by Redman or bassist Scott Colley, except for versions of Haden’s ‘Playing’ and Coleman’s ‘Comme Il Faut,’ but it has a leaping, bluesy energy and the melodic and harmonic freedom that comes straight from Ornette. It’s really something.

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