It's list season, all right.
It's list season, all right.
I know, I know, you've been clamoring to see my top 10 jazz albums of the year throwdown. I see you, all three of you actually interested — I'm still working on something to appease the year-end listmaking gods, lest my music junkie badge be revoked. But the exercise always leaves me feeling like I haven't heard enough records to make a proper list. I mean, there's always that promising free-ish trio record on an obscure Dutch label which you just never got around to checking out in time, and there are always like twenty of them.
So this year, inspired by The Fader blog's wonderful Listmania feature (see: 2009 edition), we present a list of lists, capturing the year in jazz ephemera from NPR Music's vantage point. If you want a more traditional top 10, try the Take Fivelist, Josh Jackson's list (WBGO), or Shaunna Morrison Machosky's list (WDUQ). If you want something even more arbitrarily ranked, but longer and less useful, read on:
Best covers on Vijay Iyer's Historicity: 6. M.I.A., "Galang" 5. Julius Hemphill, "Dogon A.D." 4. Ronnie Foster, "Mystic Brew" 3. Leonard Bernstein, "Somewhere" 2. Stevie Wonder, "Big Brother" 1. Andrew Hill, "Smoke Stack"
Worst mustaches from Bill McHenry Quintet, live at the Village Vanguard, Jun. 8, 2009 (downloads!): 4. Ben Street 3. Duane Eubanks 2. Andrew D'Angelo 1. Bill McHenry
Books about jazz that came out in 2009 I would have read if I had had the time to read books any more: 1. Robin D.G. Kelley, Thelonious Monk: The Life And Times Of An American Original 2. Terry Teachout, Pops 3. Mark Miller, Herbie Nichols: A Jazzist's Life 4. Helene LaFaro-Fernandez, Jade Visions: The Life And Music Of Scott LaFaro 5. Elijah Wald, How The Beatles Destroyed Rock And Roll (actually, I have started reading this and it may become an interview for ABS — it's a great historiography of popular music at large, including early jazz) 6. Freedom, Rhythm & Sound 7. Gary Giddens & Scott DeVeaux, Jazz 8. Bo Lindstrom & Dan Vernhettes, Traveling Blues: The Life and Music of Tommy Ladnier 9. Stuart Broomer, Time And Anthony Braxton 10. Probably a few others I've forgotten
Top things which the Boss Lady has used to describe works of jazz: 3. Old Movies 2. Dancing 1. Old Movies with Dancing in them
Highest profile gigs for Esperanza Spalding: 3. The White House (2nd time) 2. The White House (1st time) 1. The Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony
Favorite debut records of 2009: 3. Gerald Clayton, Two-Shade 2. Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy 1. Linda Oh, Entry
Possible/confirmed collaborations I have spent time dreaming about this year: 4. When Muhal Richard Abrams plays with the Jazz At Lincoln Center Orchestra at the NEA Jazz Masters ceremony 3. If Guillermo Klein were to move back to New York and hire Sara Serpa (or Sofia Rei Koutsovitis) as the wordless vocalist in Los Guachos (the Luciana Souza role) 2. If Esperanza Spalding were to join Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings, making for an all-female, all-African American, all super badass group 1. If Maria Schneider were to be commissioned by the IOC to come up with a new theme song for the 2010 Vancouver games, which she would be perfect at (I mean, have you heard Sky Blue? That record sounds like the Olympics)
Best uses of unconventional instruments, 2009: 6. Dan Weiss, tabla 5. Edmar Castaneda, Colombian country harp 4. Joe Lovano, aulochrome 3. Cooper-Moore, diddley-bow 2. Brandon Seabrook, banjo 1. Casey Benjamin, vocoder
Why no cellist is on that list, in no particular order: 1. Peggy Lee 2. Dana Leong 3. Fred Lonberg-Holm 4. Fred Katz (emeritus award) 5. Erik Friedlander 6. Tomeka Reid 7. Diedre Murray 8. Tomas Ulrich 9. Hank Roberts
Why this year is the year of the big band, in no particular order: 1. Roy Hargrove 2. Dave Douglas 3. John Hollenbeck 4. Darcy James Argue 5. Django Bates 6. Graham Collier 7. Pedro Giraudo 8. Because Bob Brookmeyer is still alive
Why this year is the year of the saxophone trio, in no particular order: 1. JD Allen, Shine! 2. Marcus Strickland, Idiosyncrasies 3. Darius Jones, Man'ish Boy 4. The Fully Celebrated, Drunk On The Blood Of The Holy Ones 5. Digital Primitives, Hum Crackle Pop 6. Fly, Sky And Country 7. Jerome Sabbagh, One Two Three 8. ACT, ACT 9. Because Sam Rivers and Sonny Rollins are still alive
Was this the year of the saxophone trio or the big band? 1. Big Band 2. Saxophone Trio 3. Didn't you hear? Jazz is dead and needs saving.
Best non-Jazz Now things to set the Jazz Internet abuzz this year: 5. Terry Teachout's "Can Jazz Be Saved?" column 4. The fall and rise of JazzTimes 3. Something that Wynton or Branford said, again T-2. Darcy James Argue T-2. Vijay Iyer 1. The continuing saga of Rafael Gisbert, jazz purist, and the man who rewarded him
Jazz writers who made odd, if not sniping comments about NPR on the Jazz Internet, ranked by how much I admire their writing anyway (truly, no joke): 2. Chris Rich 1. Ben Ratliff
People who linked to ABS who misspelled my name in doing so: 2. Everyone 1. Their Mother (it's OK, I'm used to it by now)
Jazz Now contributors by age (average where appropriate), in ascending order: 1. Dean Christesen, RVAJazz 2. Adam Schatz and James Donahue, Search And Restore 3. Lucas Gillan, AccuJazz 4. Sebastien Helary and Justin Wee, Nextbop 5. Patrick Jarenwattananon 6. Alex Rodriguez 7. Lars Gotrich 8. Mike Katzif 3,000,000. Josh Jackson (C'mon man, you dish it out plenty too.)
Best new jazz things of 2009 that aren't recordings or performances: 1. The Checkout 2. every new jazz blog combined, including this one
Five great Stevie Wonder jazz covers, 2009: 1. Stefon Harris, "They Won't Go (When I Go)" 2. Vijay Iyer, "Big Brother" 3. Gretchen Parlato, "I Can't Help It" 4. Marcus Strickland, "You've Got It Bad Girl" 5. something from Jen Chapin, Revisions: Songs Of Stevie Wonder, which I haven't heard in full but would imagine ought to make this list
Top 11 albums from 2009 on Sunnyside Records, which wins my unofficial vote for label of the year, all of which I would recommend: 11. Donny McCaslin, Declaration 10. Aaron Choulai Trio, Ranu 9. Dan Tepfer & Lee Konitz, Duos With Lee 8. Sofia Tosello, Alma Y Luna 7. Yaron Herman Trio, Muse 6. Rez Abbasi, Things To Come 5. Jane Bunnett, Embracing Voices 4. Fred Hersch Pocket Orchestra, Live At Jazz Standard 3. Miles Okazaki, Generations 2. John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble, Eternal Interlude 1. J.D. Allen Trio, Shine!
Other 2009 albums on Sunnyside Records I have yet to give a full listen to, in the order I anticipate them stealing a place in the above list: 1. Roswell Rudd, Trombone Tribe 2. Ben Wendel, Simple Song 3. Venissa Santi, Bienvenida 4. Chris Morrissey, The Morning World T-5. Like, 20 more. Seriously, Francois Zalacain, where do you get all these people? "What are your overheads?"
Favorite Newport Jazz Festival performances I saw that weren't recorded by NPR Music and its partners WBGO and WGBH: 8. Tony Bennett 7. By Any Means Trio, with Rashied Ali (RIP) ailing 6. Christian McBride Trio 5. Roy Haynes Quartet With Ron Carter 4. Joshua Redman Double Trio 3. Mos Def and whatever you call that ensemble he brought 2. Branford Marsalis Quartet 1. The Vandermark 5
Favorite Newport Jazz Festival performances that were recorded by NPR Music: 1. I suppose you'd ask my mother to name her favorite child, too (it's my sister, I know, don't rub it in)
Least favorite Cornel West interludes on Terence Blanchard's otherwise decent new record: T-1. "Beethoven" T-1. "Jazz Man In The World Of Ideas" T-1. "A New Note" T-1. Any others I'm forgetting
Most courteous members of Dave Douglas' Brass Ecstasy, by volume of spit emptied on our carpets during our Tiny Desk Concert: T-1. Dave Douglas T-1. Vincent Chancey T-1. Nasheet Waits T-1. Marcus Rojas 2. Luis Bonilla (we still love you anyway, man!)