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Howard Mandel

01 Dec 2019 3:21 PM | Howard Mandel (Administrator)

11 albums I've liked most in 2019 - descending order

1. Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic Records), Kris Davis

2. Transcending Toxic Times (Ropeadope Record), The Last Poets

3. We Are On The Edge (Pi), Art Ensemble of Chicago

4. The Terror End of Beauty (Sunnyside), Harriet Tubman

5. Love and Liberation (Concord), Jazzmeia Horne

6. Simone Zanchini Play the Music of Nino Rota (In + Out Records), Simone Zanchini & Frankfurt Radio Big Band conducted by David Grottschreiber

7. The Ambiguity Manifesto (Firehouse 12 Records), Taylor Ho Bynum 9-tette

8. Too Hot for Words (Delmark), Metropolitan Jazz Octet with Dee Alexander

9. Live at Montmarte (Storyville), Ronnie Cuber

10. Trane's Delight (Concord Piquante), Poncho Sanchez

11. On Firm Ground (Linus), Jane Bunnette and Maqueque

I can't stop listening to Diatom Ribbons, which has so many different approaches, levels, edges, moods, multiplicities of interactions, considerations and sheer sounds, exciting solos that keep their kicks even on repeat, and great rhythms! Rhythmic propulsion also imbues Jamalaadeen Tacuma's fantastic and variegated production of Transcending Toxic Times for The Last Poets, whose messages are as immediate and urgent as ever – but since it's the album not as "singing" I'm hearing, this isn't my "best vocal album" that Jazzmeia Horn's Love and Liberation strikes me as being, further demonstration of hot talent and love of music making.

Then there's Harriet Tubman: The Terror End of Beauty. Magnificent, hard rockin,' deep trolling way out black music. And the Art Ensemble of Chicago's We Are On The Edge brings the band's ethos into the 21st century with an expanded pallet that beguiles, mystifies, moves. 

For something utterly different check out the amazing accordionist Simone Zanchini improvising madly on Nino Rota themes with the Frankfort Jazz Big Band (true confession, I wrote the liner notes, am proud of them and believe this music is well-worth the recommendation). Taylor Ho Bynum's 9-tette declaring The Ambiguity Manifesto I find very companionable and fresh, abstract but taking me along for the ride. Dee Alexander shines (as always) singing rare and often upbeat Billie Holiday songs on Too Hot for Words, to fine "little big band" arrangements. Ronnie Cuber doesn’t get the recognition he deserves for his big bold baritone saxophonics – the program Live at Montmarte with organist Kield Lauritsen's trio is thick and fast, real jazz. Two great Latin jazz albums --  gotta give it up to Pancho Sanchez for Trane's Delight from the core of the subgenre impulse, and Jane Bunnett with Maqueque On Firm Ground -- a party sparked by young women of Cuba. 

• Reissues or Historical albums listed in descending order

1. The Art Ensemble of Chicago and Associated Ensembles (ECM). 21 albums by AACM standard bearers – besides the AEC, Roscoe Mitchell and Lester Bowie's separate projects, and Wadada Leo Smith's Jack DeJohnette's – as produced by Manfred Eicher.

2. Nat King Cole Hittin' The Ramp: The Early Years (1936-1943) (Resonance). Fantastic 182 tracks, unavailable for decades, charting the rise of the finest mid-century male jazz vocalist, better swinging than Bing, more mellifluous than Pops, more charming than Sinatra, a model for all to come. . ..

3. Been There, Done That - Ben Sidran (Sunset Blvd Records) A canny songwriter, hip wit, smart bandleader, cool pianist, and worthy heir of an American heritage.

• Best Debut albums

Ephemeral Certainties (Delmark), Javier Red. Distinctive pianism, knotty quartet.

Clockwise (Pi), Anna Weber. Orchestrated and improvised synchronized minimalism.

And of course there are many more . . .

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