The Questions, by Kurt Elling. Familiar songs made new through imaginative arrangements and Elling’s resonant baritone. The stark renditions of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and “Skylark” will bring goosebumps.
Sonero: the Music of Ismael Rivera, by Miguel Zenón.
This gorgeous tribute to a legendary Puerto Rican musician and composer is full of beautiful melodies and inspiring improvisations. Zenón constantly takes Latin jazz in new directions.
Clean, by Paul Jones.
This scintillating set of originals blurs the lines between jazz and modern classical music, all of them highlighting Jones’s deft playing and intelligent arrangements.
In the Key of the Universe, by Joey DeFrancesco.
Blending jazz and psychedelia, this album is a throwback to great 1970s albums such as Santana’s Borboletta. Also features outstanding saxophone playing by revered master Pharoah Sanders and rising star Troy Roberts.
Wild Lines, by Jane Ira Bloom.
Inspired by the poems of Emily Dickinson, this master of the soprano sax creates lovely, sinuous lines and compelling melodies that evoke the poet’s enigmatic writing. This is part of an emerging genre: jazz and poetry, and so is
Sung with Words, by Helen Sung.
This innovative recording features poems by former laureate Dana Gioia set to music by pianist Sung. Highlights include “Meet Me at the Lighthouse,” “Pity the Beautiful” with vocalist Jean Baylor), and “Mean What You Say.” Probably the best of the recent jazz-literature combos.
Circuits, by Chris Potter.
The greatest living jazz saxophonist scores with another major statement. A departure from his previous record, the meditative The Dreamer Is the Dream, this more electric album indeed electrifies.
Carib, by David Sanchez.
This topnotch tenor saxophone player opens new territory in Latin jazz with an album that synthesizes many strains of Latin jazz, blending Puerto Rican (especially the bomba), Cuban and even Haitian rhythms and sounds.
Abbey Road, by the Beatles.
Because we celebrated its 50th anniversary last fall, I listened to it with fresh ears over the past year. Not just because of the side two “suite,” the fabs’ swan song and masterwork more than holds up. If “Oh! Darling” doesn’t give you a thrill, you must be deaf. You don’t need a link to this one!
Raices Jazz Orchestra. You’ve never heard finer Latin jazz in a big band format as this group samples all varieties of Latin rhythms and harmonies.
Heritage/Evolution Vol. 2, by the Prism Quartet.
Beautiful and haunting saxophone quartet pieces that bridge the chasm between jazz and classical music, composition and improvisation, while featuring tenor giants Joe Lovano, Chris Potter, and Ravi Coltrane.