NPR logo Top 10 Jazz Jewels of 2007, from WDUQ

Top 10 Jazz Jewels of 2007, from WDUQ

Of the hundreds of jazz CDs that were released this year, these are 10 of the best. All meet these criteria: The albums feature solid, engaging and interesting compositions, they're not simply collections of same-old jazz standards, and they're worth repeated listens. Please note that these are in no particular order or ranking.

Top 10 Jazz Jewels of 2007, from WDUQ

Chris Potter

The Absence

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Chris Potter

  • Song: The Absence
  • from Song for Anyone

Chris Potter proves on this CD that he's not only one of today's leading saxophonists in a small group setting, but also a brilliant composer and arranger for a larger, non-traditional ensemble. Potter weaves a guitar/bass/drums rhythm section with woodwinds and strings to create a captivating, textured, thoroughly original album. Listen to “The Absence.”

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Song
Song for Anyone
Album
Song for Anyone
Artist
Chris Potter
Label
Sunnyside
Released
2007

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Rachel Z

Maps

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Dept. of Good and Evil featuring Rachel Z

  • Song: Maps
  • from Dept. of Good and Evil
  • by Dept. of Good and Evil

Rachel Z seamlessly moves through jazz covers of pop songs by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Joy Division and Sting to a reworking of a piece from the opera Lakme to jazz standards by Wayne Shorter and Joe Henderson. The musical conversation between the band members is fresh, technically versatile and inviting. Listen to the group’s version of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Maps.”

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Song
Dept. of Good and Evil
Album
Dept. of Good and Evil
Artist
Dept. of Good and Evil
Label
Savoy Jazz
Released
2007

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Metheny Mehldau

A Night Away

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Pat Metheny & Brad Mehldau

  • Song: A Night Away
  • from Metheny Mehldau Quartet
  • by Metheny Mehldau Quartet

Guitarist Pat Metheny and pianist Brad Mehldau released their first CD of mostly duet pieces (Metheny/Mehldau) in 2006. It was one of the best albums of last year, a meeting of minds that should have happened sooner. Now with a quartet, they have one-upped themselves. Listen to “A Night Away.”

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Metheny Mehldau Quartet
Album
Metheny Mehldau Quartet
Artist
Metheny Mehldau Quartet

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Cover for In My Element

Medley: Maiden Voyage/Everything in Its Right Place

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Robert Glasper

  • Song: Medley: Maiden Voyage/Everything in Its Right Place
  • from In My Element

Pianist Glasper melds a Herbie Hancock classic with Radiohead tune, yet still maintains his own sound on this track from his third release as a leader. His original compositions represent a nice change from ordinary piano-trio fare. Listen to “Maiden Voyage/Everything in Its Right Place.”

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Song
In My Element
Album
In My Element
Artist
Robert Glasper
Label
Blue Note
Released
2007

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Cover for McCoy Tyner Quartet

Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit

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McCoy Tyner

  • Song: Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit
  • from Quartet

This one was recorded live at Yoshi's (in Oakland, Calif.) over New Year's weekend in 2006. Tyner, now pushing 70, sounds as strong as ever. The band, including Joe Lovano on sax, Christian McBride on bass and Pittsburgh's Jeff "Tain" Watts on drums, is in top form. Listen to “Walk Spirit, Talk Spirit.”

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Song
McCoy Tyner Quartet
Album
McCoy Tyner Quartet
Artist
Mccoy Tyner Quartet
Label
McCoy Tyner
Released
2007

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Cover for Sky Blue

Rich's Piece

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Maria Schneider

  • Song: Rich's Piece
  • from Sky Blue

Although the Grammy-nominated Sky Blue is not particularly well-suited for radio airplay (some long quiet stretches and long track lengths), it is great for attentive listening on an iPod or stereo. Every note is masterfully arranged and executed. The musicianship, as with any of Schneider's projects, is absolutely stellar. Listen to “Rich’s Piece.” Purchase the CD.

Tom Harrell

Nights at Catalonia

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Tom Harrell

  • Song: Nights at Catalonia
  • from Light On

One of this trumpeter's most accessible CDs in a while, this one doesn't sacrifice any of the “musician's musician” technicality and harmonic precision for which he's so well-known. Every song is an original composition. Listen to “Nights at Catalonia.”

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Song
Light On
Album
Light On
Artist
Tom Harrell
Label
Highnote
Released
2007

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Dayna Stephens

Beginning Of An Endless Happy Monday

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Dayna Stephens featuring John Scofield

  • Song: Beginning Of An Endless Happy Monday
  • from The Timeless Now
  • by Dayna Stephens

Dayna Stephens is a notable young (well, under 30) saxophonist deserving of wider recognition. His fresh compositions don't rely as much on fancy flourishes as the use of space and restraint -- even when he burns through a song. Fans of John Scofield should enjoy the three tracks on which he appears, including this one, “Beginning of an Endless Happy Monday.”

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Song
The Timeless Now
Album
The Timeless Now
Artist
Dayna Stephens
Label
CTA
Released
2007

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Cover for Pilgrimage

The Mean Time

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Michael Brecker

  • Song: The Mean Time
  • from Pilgrimage

This CD is the final recording from the legendary Michael Brecker, who passed away in early 2007 after battling MDS (myelodysplastic syndrome). Jazz masters and friends Herbie Hancock, Pat Metheny, Brad Mehldau, John Patitucci and Jack DeJohnette join Brecker for this powerful, passionate and personal celebration of his creativity. Listen to "The Mean Time."

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Song
Pilgrimage
Album
Pilgrimage
Artist
Michael Brecker
Label
Heads Up

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Cover for Lawn Chair Society

Uncovered Heart

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Kenny Werner

  • Song: Uncovered Heart
  • from Lawn Chair Society

If you enjoy “Uncovered Heart,” bear in mind that only one other track on this CD is as straight-ahead in tone. The rest is an inventive and intriguing exploration of acoustic and electronic elements. Pianist Werner is joined by a group of virtuosos: trumpeter Dave Douglas, saxophonist Chris Potter, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade.

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Song
Lawn Chair Society
Album
Lawn Chair Society
Artist
Kenny Werner
Label
Blue Note

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Sky Blue

Purchase Music

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Album
Sky Blue
Artist
Maria Schneider Orchestra

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