A break from live jazz over Christmas and the chance to get in some listening in front of the hi-fi speakers. Here’s a countdown of the ten recordings released in 2010 I have enjoyed the most.
10 Phronesis: Alive (Edition)
The Danish double bassist Jasper Hoiby who has made his home in England is bringing his big, accurate tone and pliant style to all manner of British bands, but it is in this band which he leads that he sounds even bigger, even more pliant. Ivo Neame plays piano and brings a mixture of strong harmony and a real searching spirit to his playing. The drummer is Mark Guiliana.
9 Brad Mehldau: Highway Rider (Nonesuch)
A double album of new compositions from the pianist, played by his trio (Larry Grenadier on bass, Jeff Ballard on drums) sometimes with a second drummer (Matt Chamberlain), sometimes with saxophone (Joshua Redman) and often with a chamber orchestra for which Mehldau has done all the arrangements. A wide screen movie for the imagination
8 Vijay Iyer: Solo (ACT)
Epistrophy gets a hypnotic, rocking back and forth intro, with the two hands bouncing off one another and throwing up minimalist cross-rhythms; Darn That Dream gets an extraordinary reconstruction and re-harmonisation, its pliable beauty managing to survive and be enhanced by all this pulling about. A challenging, absorbing and rewarding solo piano recording.
7 Charles Lloyd Quartet: Mirror (ECM)
Is there a more perfect match than I Fall In Love Too Easily and saxophonist Charles Lloyd? It’s a stunning start to an exceptional disc. Just try the old spiritual, Go Down Moses, for an example. This is a master class in the art of saying so much without showing off, without shouting, with just sharing the love.
6 Christine Tobin & Liam Noble: Tapestry Unravelled (Trail Belle Records)
The singer and her pianist collaborator have changed the order of the songs and Christine has added her original Closing Time to round the album out, but otherwise this is all the songs on Carole King’s Tapestry LP given new interpretations. Both musicians have realised the beauty of simplicity and straightforwardness.
5 Django Bates: Beloved Bird (Lost Marble)
We are only a few bars into Scrapple From The Apple – still in the tune, in fact – and an unmistakeable sequence of chord voicings and a slight slowing of the beat moves us seamlessly from the bebop of Charlie Parker to the 21st-century style-splicing, post-modern jazz of Django Bates.
4 Henry Threadgill Zooid This Brings Us To Volume II (Pi Recordings):
The iconoclast saxophonist still sounds like no one else, and does things with his music that no one else can do. Guitarist Liberty Ellman slots in perfectly to the Threadgill sound and style, Jose Davila adds trombone and the characteristic tuba bass, leaving bass guitarist Stomu Takeishi to play the role of colourist while drummer Elliot Humberto Kavee keeps the rhythms sinuously funky.
3 Keith Jarrett/Charlie Haden: Jasmine (ECM)
The pianist and double bassist united in their attempt to find the deepest beauty in jazz standard tunes. It’s recorded in Jarrett’s small studio. The last time we heard this intimacy and unadorned feel from Jarrett was in his solo disc, The Melody At Night, With You. As with that album, I have the feeling my initial listen to Jasmine is the start of a long friendship.
2 Paul Motian/Chris Potter/Jason Moran: Lost In A Dream (ECM)
The sure sign of drummer Motian’s greatness is to be found not only in his own subtle touch but most strikingly in the playing of his two young sidekicks. Both saxophonist and pianist are slower, more contemplative than we are used to from their own albums, and both explore new musical territory in a hugely satisfying way.
1 Loose Tubes: Dancing On Frith Street (Lost Marble)
Not just some roughly recorded scraps of tape off the cutting room floor – it’s the band sounding as fine as it ever did, a live recording from Ronnie Scott’s 20 years ago, some seven years after Loose Tubes grew out of a Graham Collier-amassed bunch of young musicians and just hours before those musicians all went their own way, most of them to continue shaping the sound of British jazz.