The 10 Best Jazz Albums of 2013
There's such diversity of sound, method and intent in this list that it's hard to group it all under "jazz" and still have it make sense. And yet it does, because we say so. What ties these albums together is imagination, individuality, monster musicianship and communication on a high plane.
Needless to say there are many other titles richly deserving of recognition. This is not a fallow period in jazz--the idea is hilarious--and it seems that narrowing the important releases down to 10 only gets harder every year. In some sense the Top-10 list goes against the fluid and improvisatory nature of jazz, which can reveal successive secrets with every listen, years or even decades after the fact. Take this, then, not as some permanent and final verdict. All that said, these albums will seriously wreck you.
See also: The Best Jazz Shows in NYC This Month
10. Capricorn Climber
There's something dark and elusive in the music of pianist Kris Davis, who tends toward the freer, more "outside" end of the spectrum. This quintet date finds her with Mat Maneri on viola, Ingrid Laubrock on tenor sax, Trevor Dunn on bass and Tom Rainey on drums. Together they create a kind of rough and logical elegance, identified by titles like "Too Tinkerbell" and "Pi Is Irrational." It's the sound of a close-knit community in dialogue, one of a few stirring appearances from Davis this year.
9. Guided Tour
The New Gary Burton Quartet
Vibraphone master Gary Burton, 70, once hired a new kid named Pat Metheny on guitar. Now Julian Lage, who began apprenticing with Burton at 15 and is now completely dangerous at 25, joins bassist Scott Colley and drummer Antonio Sanchez in a Burton-led group of uncommon power. Guided Tour is an improvement on the band's 2011 debut Common Ground: more live connection, strong compositions from all members, and thanks to Lage, the best recorded guitar sound you could ask for.
Mike McGinnis + 9
Brooklyn saxophonist and Maine native Mike McGinnis had a big clarinet year, both with his Ängsudden Song Cycle octet and the very slightly larger configuration of Road*Trip. The latter rescues composer Bill Smith's marvelous three-movement "Concerto for Clarinet and Combo" (1957) from obscurity. It also premieres McGinnis' three-movement "Road*Trip for Clarinet & 9 Players," a work of invigorating complexity and plainspoken lyrical beauty.