BEST OF 2016: Albert Brooks’ Top Jazz Albums

December 28th, 2016, 2:30 pm by Greg

Yes, it’s that time of year once again – best of the year list-time, that is. We’re gathering together Best of 2016 from various media outlets, our own contributors and our readers, too.

Here’s a list of Top Jazz Albums from Nippertown contributing photographer Albert Brooks:

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BEST TENOR SAX ALBUM
A Master Speaks by George Coleman is indeed a master class by the esteemed master of the saxophone. Accompanied by Mike LeDonne on piano, (the late) Bob Cranshaw on bass, George Coleman Jr. on drums and Peter Bernstein on guitar, Coleman’s tone is like a warm sable wrap and his improvisational choices a primer in erudition, taste and excitement. The Master Speaks, and those with ears that hear must listen! (Smoke Sessions)

BEST PIANO ALBUM
All hail Kenny Barron, who is the unmitigated, incomparable and peerless exemplar of pianism and quintessential jazz trioism. The combo a trois that delivers Book of Intuition includes, along with Barron, the amazingly simpatico Johnathan Blake and Kiyoshi Kitagawa. They operate as one intuitive organism, and “Magic Dance” – one of many highlights on the album – is commended as required listening for anyone having a bad day, who’s lonely, who may be depressed about the recent elections or who is just in need of sonic uplift. This album is a paragon of beautiful energy and therefore a musical embodiment of hope, something that is sorely needed at this time. (Verve International)

BEST ALBUM OF COMPOSITIONS/ARRANGEMENTS
Beauty Within is another marvelous offering from Dr. Anthony Branker, the most eloquent, socially conscious, interesting and challenging composer-arranger on the scene today. This album is aptly named for what it is, i.e., a work of unparalleled beauty. The musicians on Beauty Within comprise an A-Team of virtuosos who give loquacious musical expression to the passionately lyrical concepts of Dr. Branker. They are Ralph Bowen, Fabian Almazan, Linda Oh, Rudy Royston and Pete McCann. (Origin Records)

BEST ALBUM COMBINING BLUES & MODERN JAZZ
Americana is the latest from the powerful JD Allen TrioJD Allen, Rudy Royston and Gregg August. On Americana, Allen taps into the blues and other roots of America’s greatest art form and incorporates their folk sensibilities into his modernist approach. His burnished tone, utterly distinctive, strikingly effortless and soulful playing is in the direct lineage of Coltrane and Rollins but an alchemy that is entirely and instantly identifiable as his own. (Savant)

BEST TRUMPET ALBUM
Jersey Cat is Freddie Hendrix’s paean to the many great musicians that have come out of New Jersey, not the least of whom is one gentleman which Freddie’s virtuosic trumpet playing immediately brings to mind – Woody Shaw. Jersey Cat has several burning numbers that showcase Freddie’s and the ensemble’s chops, but many ballads as well that illustrate his intense lyricism. Freddie Hendrix is a great, great talent deserving of much wider recognition. Joining Freddie in his tribute to Jersey Cats are Cecil Brooks III, Abraham Burton, David Gibson, Corcoran Holt, Brandon McCune and Bruce Williams. (Sunnyside)

BEST COVER SONG FROM 2015 THAT I DIDN’T HEAR UNTIL 2016
Shirley Horn made the classic recording of “Here’s to Life” on her eponymous 1992 album featuring lush Johnny Mandel orchestration. No one, including Emma Larsson, could achieve or emulate Horn’s gold standard rendition. However, Larssen offers a thoroughly enjoyable performance of this song, giving it her own stamp and therefore my approval.

BEST 2015 EARWORM THAT CONTINUES TO WIGGLE IN 2016
I am not certain if Mike Bisio’s “AM” is the abbreviation for time-connected ante meridian or stands for the verb “to be”! All I know is that this is one catchy tune, featuring the instrumentation of accordion, trumpet, bass and drums. Bisio is a great composer, and I am sure that this song will find its way into a movie some day – it has that quality. In fact, I guarantee it.

HONORABLE MENTIONS
Jeff Watts, Blue Volume 2 (Dark Key Music)
Scott Tixier, Cosmic Adventure (Sunnyside)
James Brandon Lewis, No Filter (BNS Sessions)
Kenny Garrett, Do Your Dance (Mack Avenue Records)

MORE BEST OF 2016 LISTS
Rudy Lu’s Top 10 Concerts
Kathy Conway’s Top 10 Concerts
Paste’s Top 10 Comedy Specials
Fact’s Top 10 Album Covers
Entertainment Weekly’s Top 15 Entertainers
Richard Brody’s Top 13 Concerts
Fred Rudofsky’s Top 27 Albums
Ed Conway’s Top However Many Shows
American Songwriter’s Top 10 Songs
J Hunter’s Top Jazz Albums (Part Deux)
Newsweek’s Top 11 Documentary Films
Don Wilcock’s Top 10 Blues Albums
The Chicago Tribune’s Top Four Poetry Books
Pitchfork’s Top 25 Music Videos
Stanley A. Johnson’s Top 10 Favorite Musical Places
Time Magazine’s Top 10 Nonfiction Books
TV Guide’s Top Television Shows
J Hunter’s Top Jazz Albums (Part 1)
Esquire’s Top 25 Movies (So Far)