Every year at this time, I sit before my computer and try to make sense out of the year just past. I'm sorry to report that the task is not getting easier. For example, in 2014 jazz received more press and social media coverage than in any previous year, but most of it was due to a group of ill-conceived satiric pieces that displayed little understanding of the music or its musicians. Trumpeter Nicolas Peyton continued to raise his argument that the word jazz (which he considers racist) should be replaced with something politically correct like "Black American Music". However, many of the books and albums I reviewed reinforced my belief that jazz is truly an international music. And speaking of recordings, was there any real need for a note-by-note copy of "Kind of Blue" or duets by Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga?
Thankfully, jazz was resilient enough to endure such prattle. Here are some of the recordings, concerts, videos and books that helped me keep the faith. All of the links below will take you to our original reviews, and everything will open in a new window so you won't lose your place in this article.
Best concerts, recordings, books and videos of the year: Listed in alphabetical order by artists/authors, top 3 picks for all but instrumental and vocal CDs, for which the sheer number of releases dictates fifteen choices each:
Best Vocal CDs: Cyrille Aimée: "It's A Good Day" (Mack Avenue)
Jackie Allen: "My Favorite Color" (Avant Bass)
Janice Borla: "Promises to Burn" (Tall Grass)
Amy Cervini: "Jazz Country" (Anzic) Júlia Karosi: "Hidden Roots" (Dot Time)
Julie Kelly: "Happy to Be" (Jazzed Media)
Lauren Kinhan: "Circle in a Square" (Dotted i)
Claire Martin: "Time and Place" (Linn)
Kate McGarry/Keith Ganz: "Genevieve and Ferdinand" (Sunnyside) Rozina Pátkai: “Você E Eu” (self-produced)
Vanessa Perea: "Soulful Days" (Zoho)
Sara Serpa/André Matos: "Primavera" (Inner Circle)
Melissa Stylianou: "No Regrets" (Anzic)
Vertical Voices: "Fourward" (self-produced)
Roseanna Vitro: "Clarity: Music of Clare Fischer" (Random Act) A few more CDs: I'd like to mention two albums on which I wrote the liner notes: Dena DeRose's "We Won't Forget You: An Homage to Shirley Horn" (High Note) and Ann Hampton Callaway's "From Sassy to Divine: The Sarah Vaughan Project" (Shanachie). These albums have not been reviewed here (the links will let you purchase the albums), but I was very proud to be part of these superb recordings. Farewells: We lost many jazz giants in 2014, including Horace Silver, Joe Sample, Buddy DeFranco, Aaron Sachs, Jackie Cain, Herb Jeffries, D. Russel Conner, Little Jimmy Scott, Tim Hauser, Gerald Wilson, Charlie Haden, Kenny Wheeler and Paul Horn. Also, three brilliant comic improvisers: Sid Caesar, Robin Williams and Mike Nichols; a documentary filmmaker who occasionally covered jazz musicians: Robert Drew; and two dear personal friends (both jazz musicians): Jim Riley and Stan Baran.
Finally... Thanks to all of our loyal readers, and those who have donated money, time and services to this site. We hope to continue for many years to come, and we trust that we will continue to receive your support and readership.
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