The Year In Music: Jazz Pared All The Way Down

Matthew Shipp, Theo Bleckmann and Sam Newsome i i

hide captionJazz musicians striking out on their own. From left, Sam Newsome (photographer credit: Takashi Kubo), Matthew Shipp (photographer credit: Lena Adasheva) and Theo Bleckmann (photographer credit: Susie Knoll/München).

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Matthew Shipp, Theo Bleckmann and Sam Newsome

Jazz musicians striking out on their own. From left, Sam Newsome (photographer credit: Takashi Kubo), Matthew Shipp (photographer credit: Lena Adasheva) and Theo Bleckmann (photographer credit: Susie Knoll/München).

Courtesy of the artists

This week, Morning Edition is taking a look back at the music and trends of 2010. On Monday, we talked about sprawling, ambitious pop albums.

This year saw jazz go big, with musicians recording very large ensembles: 18-piece big bands, a swing choir, a 40-person wind ensemble, an entire chamber orchestra with star guest soloists. But the opposite was even more true.

It was also a big year for jazz musicians who focused on their small groups. Their really, really small groups.

It's a brave jazz musician who is willing to make a true solo album. But one soprano saxophonist has made his last two albums completely unaccompanied. His name is Sam Newsome.

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Newsome's is one of at least two solo sax records this year. There's also music from solo bass clarinet, solo bass, solo guitar — a handful of those — and at least one solo voice recording.

For his 2010 solo album, Theo Bleckmann took a big box of percussion instruments and toys with him to a Swiss monastery. On his recording of the standard "Comes Love," he accompanies himself with Indonesian frog buzzers.

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  • "Comes Love"
  • Album: I Dwell In Possibility
  • Artist: Theo Bleckmann
  • Label: Winter & Winter
  • Released: 2010
 

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Jazz musicians are used to working with collaborators, supporting them with rhythm and harmony as they take their solos within a group. Jazz pianists are perhaps best equipped to record solo. They can accompany themselves, in a sense: They can play melodies and harmonies at once.

A lot of pianists released solo albums this year — at least 10 by my count. Matthew Shipp is one of them; he's known as an adventurous improviser, fond of dissonances and free exploration. But he also likes to play over hymns and jazz standards.

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It's rare for jazz musicians to record solo albums, in large part because getting there takes a lifetime of practice and invention. This year, a lot of jazz musicians showed that off.

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4D

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  • Album: 4D
  • Artist: Matthew Shipp
  • Label: Thirsty Ear Recordings
  • Released: 2010
 

Blue Soliloquy

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  • Album: Blue Soliloquy
  • Artist: Sam Newsome
  • Released: 2009
 

I Dwell In Possibility

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Purchase Featured Music

  • Album: I Dwell In Possibility
  • Artist: Theo Bleckmann
  • Label: Winter & Winter
  • Released: 2010
 

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