2008: The Year in Recordings

One afternoon hanging out with a good friend and fellow writer in the Crescent City during my November completion of the Randy Weston book manuscript for our publisher (Duke University Press) we started speculating on the various end-of-the-year lists we’d been called to participate in.  For me that included the JazzTimes magazine, and Francis Davis’ Village Voice respective year-end "critics" polls.  My friend threw up his arms and wondered aloud how one even arrives at such a list given the dearth of comprehensive listings of the releases of a given year.

    Thank goodness I have a ready solution to this personal conundrum – my radio playlist file.  Thanks to a year-long stint of program subbing on air at the Crescent City’s great radio station WWOZ (www.wwoz.org), and particularly to several months of alternating hosting with the superb Maryse Dejean the Sunday evening new release program "What’s New", I was blessed with a ready index of my favored new releases for the year.  

    I won’t be so bold as to label this some sorta "best of" list — and one will readily ascertain that the numbers are a bit uneven, there’s no particular ordering, and certainly no top 10 or top 25 or whatever arbitrary number — so here are some ’08 releases and reissues worthy of your attention:


Recommended 2008 Releases



New Releases


Sonny Rollins, Road Shows, Doxy


Joe Lovano, Symphonica, Blue Note


Catherine Russell, Sentimental Streak, World Village


Charles Lloyd, Rabo de Nube, ECM


TK Blue, Follow the North Star


Esperanza Spalding, Esperanza, Heads Up


Jenny Schienman, Crossing The Field, Koch


Dafnis Prieto, Taking The Soul for a Walk, Zoho


Sumi Tonooka, Long Ago Today, Kindred Rhythm


Jose James, The Dreamer, Brownswood


Dr. Michael White,

Blue Crescent


Basin Street


Gilfema +2, Obliq Sounds


Evan Christopher, Django ala Creole, Classic Jazz


Robin Eubanks, EBB Live Vol. 1, REM


Marty Sheller Enemble, Why Deny, PVR


Conrad Herwig, The Latin Side of Wayne Shorter, Half Note


Cassandra Wilson, Loverly, Blue Note


Rosa Passos, Romance, Telarc


Eric McPherson, Continuum, Smalls


Jaleel Shaw, Optimism


Vijay Iyer, Tragicomic, Sunnyside


Elio Villafranca, The Source In Between, Ceiba Tree


Adam Rudolph, Dream Garden, Justin Time


Corey Wilkes, Drop It, Delmark


Danilo Perez, Across the Crystal Sea, Universal


Vanguard Jazz Orchestra, Live at the Village Vanguard, Planet Arts


Kurt Elling, Nightmoves, Concord


Bennie Maupin, Early Reflections, Cryptogramophone


Mike Reed’s Loose Assembly, The Speed of Change, 482 Music


Liz McComb, The Spirit of New Orleans, Gve


Marcus Shelby Jazz Orchestra, Harriet Tubman, Noir


JD Allen, Now!, Sunnyside


Dave Holland, Pass It On, Dare2


SF Jazz Collective, Live 2008, SF Jazz





Sarah Vaughan, Live at the 1971 Monterey Jazz Festival, MJF


Lester Young, Live at Birdland, ESP disk


McCoy Tyner, Fly With The Wind, Milestone

Anthony Braxton, The Complete Arista Recordings, Mosaic


Return to Forever, Anthology, Concord


Henry Grimes Trio, The Call, ESP disk


Art Pepper, The Croydon Concert, Widow’s Taste


Coleman Hawkins, The Hawk Flies High, Riverside


John Coltrane, Traneing In, Prestige


Steve Lacy, The Forest and the Zoo, ESP disk



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2 Responses to 2008: The Year in Recordings

  1. Pingback: rem its the end of the world | Digg hot tags

  2. drjazzphd says:

    Nice list, Willard. A couple minor corrections and observations.

    Dafnis Prieto’s excellent modern latin jazz recording which you mention above is not on Zoho Music, but rather on his own label, Dafnison. Indeed, the Cuban-born/NY-based drummer did put out at least two fine records on the Zoho label, this release is his first self-released album and it generated a much deserved cover story in Modern Drummer. Prieto is widely known for his playing with pianist Michel Camilo.

    The label which released the new Gilfema +2 record is actually a German label with a relatively recent US presence called Obliqsound (one word) and they have one of the finest, most progressive electronic/jazz catalogs of any label on the scene today (they seem to come from a post-rock, electronic, DJ mindset – what some might consider “future jazz”). Btw, the group name Gilfema is an anagram of the the first two letters of each members’ first name – ‘Gil’ (Gilles Lionel Loueke – Gilles (pronounced something like ‘jill’ with a soft g/j sound) is the real first name of the current Herbie Hancock guitarist/former Terence Blanchard sideman and current Blue Note recording artist); ‘fe’ (Ferenc Nemeth – drums); ‘ma’ (Massimo Biolcati – bass). The three met at Berklee in Boston when they were going to school together. The + 2 are the excellent NY-based saxophonist John Ellis (who spent a good deal of time in New Orleans, mind you) and the rising star multireedist Anat Cohen (she plays clarinet only here).

    JD Allen’s excellent sax trio record on Sunnyside, which you mention above (with Gregg August on bass and Rudy Royston on drums) is actually called “I Am I Am.” This is a superb recording and one should note that there is another equally compelling sax trio recording this year by tenor player Donny McCaslin on Dave Douglas’ artist-friendly Greenleaf Music label. The album is called “Recommended Tools” and features Hans Glawischnig on bass and Johnathan Blake on drums (Johnathan (sic) is the son of the underappreciated Philadelphia-based jazz violinist John Blake, Jr.) and has been in NY now for some time (Black, the younger, and altoist Jaleel Shaw whose new release you mention above, grew up playing together and continue to do so in NY).

    The full band name of Adam Rudolph’s group which you mention above, is Adam Rudolph’s Moving Pictures. This group has several recordings of varying group size and instrumentation dating back to 1992 on Flying Fish and Adam’s own label, Meta Records. Most are still in print and all are available on iTunes and other digital outlets. The best song on this album, imo, is a song they’ve been doing at the end of every set for some time, called “Walking The Curve.” On Dream Garden the track features stunning clarinet work by reedist Ned Rothenberg and trumpeter Graham Haynes and masterful group percussion sounds orchestrated by Rudolph (a truly underappreciated jazz percussionist who left his native Chicago at 23 to study music in West Africa with his childhood friend, drummer Hamid Drake – who also appears on this record).

    I should mention that many of these above artists I’ve worked with this professionally this year and I feel particularly strong about Mike Reed’s groups, Charles Lloyd’s new quartet with pianist Jason Moran newly filling in the piano chair previously held by Geri Allen (and before her, reverse chronologically, Brad Mehldau, Bobo Stenson, Michel Petrucciani and Keith Jarrett); Adam Rudolph’s music (which was brand new to me, despite his over 30 years in the music business); Aaron Parks’ debut on Blue Note Records, Bennie Maupin and Todd Sickafoose’s genre-defying Cryptogramophone release called Tiny Resistors (all of which seem to be making a number of critical ‘best of’ lists for 2008.

    I will post my own list on my blog (http://jazzclinic.blogspot.com) in a couple weeks when I’ve narrowed down my choices.

    Other top jazz release lists by various critics can be found at AllAboutJazz.com: http://www.allaboutjazz.com, the Jazz Journalist Association’s website: http://www.jazzhouse.org/10_08/?who=10_menu and in upcoming issues of The Village Voice (their third annual poll administered by critic and author Francis Davis, whom I should note, just received his second Grammy nomination for liner notes, for his work on the Miles Davis “Kind of Blue” 50th Anniversary box set on Columbia Legacy) and the Jan/Feb issue of JazzTimes magazine (where a list of the top 50 recordings of 2008 will appear, according to their poll of writer participants).

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