Courtesy of Blue Note
American-bred, U.K.-based Stacey Kent eschews jazz standards to sing in French.
Looking back over the hundreds of jazz albums that have crossed my desk this year, it's clear that many things stay the same. That's not a bad thing: Jazz is rooted in deep traditions that have sounded relatively timeless for decades. For example, Miles Davis' classic 1959 recording Kind of Blue is still a bestselling jazz album every year. It still sounds fresh in 2010.
Many newer releases feature a number (if not a majority) of jazz standards. These tried-and-true songs have been recorded many times over by many artists. In the pop world, these would be called "cover songs." Standards can be excellent, imaginative re-workings or perfectly pleasant emulations, depending upon the hands or voice crafting the tune.
It's refreshing when a jazz artist, while still rooted in tradition, breaks away from standard material and does something altogether different. The following five recordings do just that, whether in the form of a concept, original material or unique instrumentation. All are accessible to casual jazz fans while pleasing to the purists.