Vijay Iyer Tops 2017 NPR Jazz Critics Poll

Congrats to pianist-composer Vijay Iyer, who again tops the NPR Jazz Critics Poll, a carryover from the old Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll. The Vijay Iyer Sextet’s “Far From Over” is named best new album, followed in that category by releases from alto saxophonist Steve Coleman, drummer Tyshawn Sorey, pianist Craig Taborn and flutist Nicole Mitchell.

I was honored to again be among the 137 jazz writers around the globe asked to participate. Only one of my Top 10 picks, Taborn’s “Daylight Ghosts” (ECM) made it into the poll’s final 10, and another, the debut from supergroup Hudson (Jack DeJohnette/John Scofield/John Medeski/Larry Grenadier) made the final 20.

I agree with the consensus on Cecile McLorin Salvant‘s “Dreams and Daggers” (Mack Avenue) for best vocal album, and my 3 picks for reissues/ historical, by Jaco Pastorius, Wes Montgomery/Wynton Kelly Trio, and Monk, are in the final Top 5 in that category in the poll.

Also in the poll:

  • Jaimie Branch‘s “Fly or Die” (International Anthem) is named best debut album; my pick — Nate Smith, “Kinfolk: Postcards from Everywhere” (Ropeadope)
  • Miguel Zenon‘s “Tipico” (Miel) is named best Latin album; my pick — Antonio Adolfo‘s “Hybrido — From Rio to Wayne Shorter” (AAM Music)

“Musicians of an intellectual bent dominated this year’s Top 10, and connections among them abound,” poll organizer and esteemed jazz critic Francis Davis writes in his overview of the poll. Read that piece, and his accompanying article “The Jazz Albums of 2017 and the Power of Gatekeepers,” and make some new musical discoveries.

Want to see ALL the results from the poll, with complete ballots from all the critics, including mine? Click here

Later, I’ll post my full Top 10 list here, along with some thoughts on those releases.

 

SFJAZZ Collective, “Live: SFJazz Center 2013” (CD review)

(originally published in JazzTimes)

SFJAZZ Collective, “Live: SFJazz Center 2013 — The Music of Chick Corea & New Compositions” (SFJAZZ)

With its latest ambitious recording, the San Francisco-based SFJAZZ Collective celebrates another great composer (the group’s modus operandi), a new venue and a new addition to the band. Two years ago, the Collective saluted the music of Stevie Wonder with a release recorded over five nights at Jazz Standard in New York City. For its 11th release, a two-CD set, the octet, with new Miami-born drummer Obed Calvaire in tow, swings back to a jazz composer, the pianist and bandleader Chick Corea. The occasion: a four-night run in March 2013 that constitutes the first recorded performances at the Robert N. Miner Auditorium at the SFJAZZ Center, the multimillion standalone jazz complex that serves as the group’s home base.

Corea’s acclaimed Latin-tinged pieces are here in fresh, robust versions, starting with the disc-one opener, a take on “Spain” arranged by Venezuelan-born pianist Edward Simon, who offers a slow, moody reading of the theme before handing it off to vibraphonist Stefon Harris; the piece intensifies with solos during the samba section before returning to its beginning theme. In a similar vein, on the same disc, is “La Fiesta,” arranged by Puerto Rican-born saxophonist Miguel Zenón, who effectively shuffles the original order of the high-contrast sections. Bassist Matt Penman lays down the flamenco groove, giving rise to Zenón’s soaring alto solo and some rhythmic derring-do from Calvaire, in tandem with Harris and Penman.

Familiar Corea gems are on disc two, too—Harris’ tricked-out, multi-tiered arrangement of “500 Miles High,” its melody given a creative remixing, and Puerto Rican-born tenor saxophonist David Sánchez’s air-hanging take on the gorgeous ballad “Crystal Silence,” led by vibes and later incorporating brass-choir textures and open space for piano. Impressive originals figure in the mix, too, including Harris’ mellow “Let’s Take a Trip to the Sky”; trumpeter Avishai Cohen’s long “Home Is,” inspired in part by music from his native Israel; Penman’s rambunctious, color-shifting “Vegan Las Vegas”; trombonist Robin Eubanks’ funk-grooving “Shifting Center”; and Zenón’s multi-segmented “Grand Opening,” written in commemoration of the SFJAZZ Center’s opening.

 

Vijay Iyer Trio Tops Village Voice 2009 Jazz Poll

Acclaimed pianist Vijay Iyer‘s Historicity, a forward-thinking trio outing, has been named Album of the Year in the 4th annual Village Voice Jazz Critics Poll.

I reviewed the CD earlier this year for Down Beat. Here’s what I wrote: “A kind of dialogue — ever in flux, constantly probing, frequently morphing, informed by disparate traditions but pushing toward new paradigms — is at the heart of the performances on pianist Vijay Iyer’s trio outing with bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore. In the liner notes, Iyer describes that dialogue, on the cover tunes, as ‘a conversation between the original work and something else entirely.’ But there are also conversations here between form and freedom, light and dark tonalities, and, as the title suggests, jazz history and future jazz.”

Also among the winners in the poll, surveying the best jazz releases of the year, as chosen by 99 jazz critics from around the world (including me) are the following:

Vocal: Gretchen Parlato, In a Dream (ObliqSound)
Debut: Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society, Infernal Machines (New Amsterdam)
Latin: Miguel Zenon, Esta Plena (Marsalis Music)
Reissue: Louis Armstrong, The Complete Decca Recordings, 1935-1946 (Mosaic)

Full poll results will be published in the Voice’s Dec. 30 issue, and will be available online as early as Tuesday night. I’ll follow up with a subsequent post, and include links to the results along with a link to my list.