The best of 2007 (and more!)

Today in Slate (which, as some of you know, is where I do most of my writing, mainly on national-security politics), I lay out—as I have in each of the last five Decembers—my picks for the 10 best jazz albums of the year. Here are the best of 2007:

Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy, Cornell 1964 (Blue Note).
Maria Schneider Orchestra, Sky Blue (ArtistShare).
Erik Friedlander, Block Ice & Propane (SkipStone).
Anat Cohen, Poetica (Anzic).
Carla Bley, The Lost Chords Find Paolo Fresu (ECM).
Paul Bley, Solo in Mondsee (ECM).
Herbie Hancock, River: The Joni Letters (Verve).
Paul Motian, Bill Frisell, Joe Lovano, Time and Time Again (ECM).
Joe Lovano & Hank Jones, Kids: Live at Dizzy’s Coca-Cola (Blue Note).
Kendra Shank, A Spirit Free: Abbey Lincoln Songbook (Challenge).

Faithful readers will notice that I have written about most of these albums (seven of the 10, to be precise) in this blog.

The Slate column also includes mini-essays about each CD and illustrative 30-second sound-clips. But, as a bonus to “Jazz Messenger” readers, here is a P.S. and two additional lists, unique to this space.

The P.S.—in the spirit of Spinal Tap, a Number 11 for the Top 10: The Bad Plus’ PROG, on the band’s own Heads Up label, distributed by Telarc.

The first bonus list—the Best New Jazz Albums of the Decade Thus Far (that is, from 2000-07):

Ornette Coleman, Sound Grammar (Sound Grammar).
Jason Moran, Modernistic (Blue Note).
Keith Jarrett, Carnegie Hall Concert (ECM).
John Zorn, 50th Birthday Celebration, Vol. 11: Bar Kokhba, Live at Tonic (Tzadik).
James Carter, Chasin’ the Gypsy (Atlantic).
Brad Mehldau, Day Is Done (Nonesuch).
Maria Schneider, Sky Blue (ArtistShare).
Wayne Shorter, Footprints Live! (Verve).
John Zorn, Masada: Live at Tonic, 2001 (Tzadik).
Dave Douglas, The Infinite (BMG/Bluebird).

The second bonus list—the Best Old But Previously Unreleased Albums of the Decade So Far. Several treasure troves have been unearthed the past few years. Most are from tape recordings of live concerts (including the Mingus Cornell concert that heads the 2007 “best” list), though some are studio dates that, for one reason or another, were never released and, over the years, got lost in the vaults. In some cases, these finds revise the standard history. (For instance, the Parker-Gillespie reveals that the fathers of be-bop perfected their art far earlier than had been assumed; the Monk-Coltrane disc shows that band in its maturity, whereas the sextet’s only previous recording was made at its beginning.) In any case, these albums form astonishing codas to already-legendary discographies:

Dizzy Gillespie-Charlie Parker Quintet, Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945 (Uptown Jazz).
Bill Evans, The Last Waltz: The Final Recordings, Live at Keystone Korner, September 1980, (Fantasy, 8 CDs).
Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane, At Carnegie Hall (Blue Note).
Happy Birthday, Newport! 50 Swinging Years (Columbia, 3 CDs).
Andrew Hill, Passing Ships (Blue Note).
Miles Davis, The Complete Miles Davis at Montreux (Warner Bros., 20 CDs).
Stan Getz, Bossas and Ballads: The Lost Sessions (Verve).
Charles Mingus Sextet with Eric Dolphy, Cornell 1964(Blue Note, 2 CDs)
John Coltrane, One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note (Impulse!).
Jaki Byard, Last from Lennie’s (Prestige).

kana813's picture

Too bad you missed:Jason Lindner's Big Band- Live At The Jazz Gallery

Charles Parrish's picture

Great List Fred. The beauty of end-of-the-year lists is that they cause us to listen to newer music we may not have heard or to listen more closely to music we already have. Three 2007 favorites that reward repeated listening:Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - FROM THE RIVER TO THE OCEAN on Thrill JockeyMarty Ehrlich & Myra Melford - SPARK on PalmettoDino Saluzzi & Anja Lechner - OJOS NEGROS on ECMGreat jazz vinyl reissues for which to be thankful:The Candid reissues from Pure Pleasure.The Impulse! reissues from Speakers Corner.

charles parrish's picture

Great list Fred. One of the benefits of end-of-the-year best of or favorites lists is that they cause us to check out new music or encourage us to listen more closely to music we already have - always a good thing. Here are three favorites that reward repeated listens:Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean on Thrill JockeyMarty Ehrlich & Myra Melford - Spark on PalmettoDino Saluzzi & Anja Lechner - Ojos Negros on ECM Also, two big reasons for fans of jazz vinyl to be grateful:The Candid reissues on Pure Pleasure.The Impulse! reissues on Speakers Corner.

Chuck's picture

Great list Fred. One of the benefits of best of and favorites lists is that they encourage us to check out new music and to listen again, perhaps more attentively, to music we already have.Three of my 2007 favorites not on your list:Fred Anderson & Hamid Drake - From the River to the Ocean on Thrill JockeyMarty Ehrlich & Myra Melford - Spark on PalmettoDino Saluzzi & Anja Lecner - Ojos Negros on ECM

rt's picture

I'm glad you plugged Maria Schneider, I saw her a year or so ago and was blown away. I also wanted to throw my two cents in on Blue Note as a club. During my time in NYC I went twice. Both times I left annoyed. The first one I was on a budget and solo and stood in the bar. The layout is terrible, the bar is off to the side (instead of merely farther away). My impression was that it was a place cashing in on a famous name and a key location. I vowed not to go back until someone was worth seeing for the extra-steep cover. This year I went back to see Haden/Meldau and sat in the real seats. Like you there were talkers around us. It was clear they came to have a NY experience not listen to a jazz show. And the layout still sucks because the servers are constantly walking in front of you. I again vowed never to go back. In my mind it is a tourist trap and even though they get big names, it is not worth the aggravation. I had a better time at Jazz Gallery with folding chairs and plastic cups.

Shawn Wurster's picture

Hey Fred,Pretty much agree with your "lists" of 2007 and for the decade thus far however, not sure how you could leave off Andrew Hill's "Time lines" of the decade list?? Wow, what an unbelievable record and sadly, his last one. I really think it is more remarkable and noteable then Ornette Coleman's newest release considering Mr. Hill's health and new compositions which I find extremely moving. Perhaps you should add this one and remove something off your decade list :)Well, it's on mine for sure.....

mds's picture

Great list, but it leaves off (like everyone else) one of the most underappreciated jazz albums of the year, Camp Meeting by Bruce Hornsby, Christian McBride and Jack DeJohnetee. Much more uptempo than most of your other selections, listen to it two or three times, and it's hard to not keep coming back for more.

listener's picture

Good list, though I'd make room for at least one of the CDs Fred's favorite trumpeter played on -- Dave Douglas's "Live At The Jazz Standard", "Moonshine", or SF Jazz's "Live 2007". I also think Joel Harrison's "Harbor" stood out.