By Albert Brooks
Nippertown contributing photographer Albert Brooks weighs in with his Top 11 albums (plus a few honorable mentions) of the past 12 months:
1. JIMMY GREENE: A Beautiful Life (Mack Avenue Records)
This album is a special gift that Greene is graciously sharing with the world. It is an album of simply beautiful music that honors the beautiful life that was his daughter, Ana Grace. The album has a stellar line-up of world-class musicians offering their musical support to Greene in this moving tribute: Renee Rosnes, Christian McBride, Lewis Nash, Pat Metheny, Kenny Barron and others. This is a must-have album!
2. ANTHONY BRANKER & WORD PLAY: The Forward (Towards Equality) Suite (Origin Records)
This is one of the more thought-provoking albums I heard this year. With The Forward, Branker has composed a suite of music inspired by personal reflections on what America means to him as a first-generation American. One highlight among many here is the powerful recitation of Claude McKay’s poem “If We Must Die.” The impressive line-up here includes saxophonists David Binney and Ralph Bowen, trombonist Conrad Herwig, pianist Jim Ridl, bassist Kenny Davis, drummer Donald Edwards, conguero Renato Thoms and vocalist Alison Crockett, as well as 16 fifth grade students from Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary in Piscataway, NJ providing spoken word contributions.
3. AZAR LAWRENCE: The Seeker (Sunnyside Records)
The Seeker is a powerful album recorded live at the Jazz Standard in New York. Lawrence is a ferocious and lyrical saxophonist who may come out of the Coltrane lineage, but is his own man both as a composer and improviser. This album features a powerful line-up – Nicholas Payton on trumpet, Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums, Essiet Okon Essiet on bass and the fine young pianist Benito Gonzalez – and all the excitement of a live performance.