Huff Post Grammy Preview: The Actual Best Albums Of 2016

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Friday February 10, 2017

From The Huffington Post

Grammy Preview: The Actual Best Albums Of 2016
By: Michael Giltz

Hey, I know exactly why people do best of the year lists: to force themselves to knuckle down and watch that final movie they missed, read that acclaimed nonfiction book, check out that cool new TV show (See you in a few months Legion. Promise!) and so on. Every year I do the same with music, with the build-up to the Grammys as my deadline. And unlike the Grammys, I don’t stick to a bizarre eligibility period (in this year, albums are eligible if they were released between October 1, 2015 and September 30, 2016). I get it, they have to draw the line somewhere. But does it have to be right before the big fall season when the biggest albums of the year come out? Just move the Grammys towards summer a little (and have one award year cover 14 months of music). It’s as if the Oscars stopped including movies released in November and December and we had to wait until February of 2018 to watch La La Land sweep everything in its path…by which time no one would care anymore. It won’t be easy, but fix it. And now, my list of the best albums of the year. Like any list, I hope it’s quirky and distinctive and reflects my own obsessions. You won’t say, ‘He’s exactly right! That album IS the 23rd best album of the year!’ But if it’s an album in a genre you love or by an artist you’ve been meaning to check out, I hope seeing it here will inspire you to give it a listen. More music is available more readily than ever before. Maybe this can guide you towards some great stuff.

On the list…

1. (tie) DAVID BOWIE ‘” Blackstar + Lazarus EP (featuring Mark Guiliana on drums) / LEONARD COHEN ‘” You Want It Darker
Two great artists deliver gorgeous, haunting swan songs on their way out the door. Bowie has come to mean more and more to me in recent years as I began to fully appreciate just how damn good he’s been. Leonard Cohen has been a touchstone for me ever since the Jennifer Warnes’ tribute album Famous Blue Raincoat stopped me dead in my tracks. Is my appreciation colored by their deaths? Of course! I’m only human. But I do know this: Bowie’s 2014 album was both a critical and commercial triumph after many years when I wasn’t paying attention to him. And Cohen enjoyed a late career resurgence, delivering several albums in a row that were good to very good indeed. So these triumphs didn’t come out of nowhere. Bowie’s embrace of a jazz band as his backing group showed him pushing boundaries right up to the end. Cohen continued to tend the small, romantic patch of land he’s been tending for more than 50 years.

Kamasi Washington’s debut album The Epic proved jazz could still demand attention from the world at large if it was great enough. I’d drifted away from the genre, a combination of lack of access and no sense of excitement. Maybe I’ve been missing out all along because this year I was seeking it out and yes, seek and you shall find. I had no idea Joshua Redman and Brad Mehldau toured as a duo in 2011. Listening to this live recording, I’m even more mystified as to why it took five years for them to put out an album. It collects three covers and three originals and the entire collection is electric. I don’t know why, but given it’s just a piano and a saxophone, for some reason I imagined a close, intimate dance. (Maybe because it’s called Nearness after the ballad ‘The Nearness Of You’?) Hell no, these two are out there ‘” no net and they could care less, flying off into space and trusting the other to catch them when they fall beautifully back to earth. It’s probing and fearless and thrilling stuff.

JOE LOVANO ‘” Classic! Live At Newport
Well, hell, that’s a pretty damn boastful album title. And damned if they don’t deliver.

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