Best of Jazz in the 00's, Our Beloved Noughties
January 9th 2010 by Andrew Lienhard

For those infected with a desire to make best-of lists, the end of the decade affectionally called "The Noughties" provides a much-anticipated windfall. My stab at a "Best Jazz of the 00's" consumed the first week of this new decade as I methodically sifted through the 350+ jazz albums I had accumulated in the previous one. In the process I noticed several trends in the music.

First, there's renewed focus on original music, especially among new artists. Most debut albums were as much a playing debut as they were a program of new compositions. The music is more complex too -- rhythmically, harmonically, structurally, etc. But that complexity is not a means to an end as it was in the 70's and 80's. It's more of a base than a flavor. And there's much greater cross-pollination between mainstream genres. Hip-Hop entered the music, so did Indie Pop and Electronica. Radiohead became the new Rogers & Hart.

Vocalist Gretchen Parlato

The major catalysts of jazz in the 00's were musicians such as Kurt Rosenwinkle, Robert Glasper, and Vijay Iyer. Mixing beats and sonic textures, this funky crew frequently collaborated with musicians outside the traditional borders of jazz. Iyer explored a fusion of the Avant-Garde with World and Hip-Hop while Glasper broached Hip-Hop more directly working with artists like Mo Def and Q-Tip.

 Other schools meanwhile pursued a more romantic, ethereal sound. Aaron Parks, Terence Blanchard and Brian Blade, to name a few, fused their affinity for complex rhythms with the sweeping drama of late 19th century classical. The jazz press tagged it Intellectual Smooth Jazz, an antithesis to the rough edges found in Iyer and (like-minded pianist) Jason Moran's music. Vocalists followed suit, no better example of whom is Gretchen Parlato who co-wrote much of the music on "In a Dream" with Glasper. Her music owes as much to the rhythmic sensibilities of her peers as their mutual love affair with indie pop music.

 And so the experimentations continue. Considering jazz continues to teeter around 1-2% of all music sales, it's safe to say that such reinvention is welcome. Now for some lists (in no order).

 MODERN INSTRUMENTAL JAZZ (quartets and larger)

Aaron Parks "Invisible Cinema"

Brian Blade Fellowship "Perceptual"

Dave Douglas "Strange Liberation"

Mark Turner "Dharma Days"

Joshua Redman "Elastic"

Liberty Ellman "Ophiuchus Butterfly"

Kurt Rosenwinkle "Enemies of Energy"

Nicholas Payton "Sonic Trance"

Chris Potter "Traveling Mercies"

Mike Moreno "Between The Lines"

David Binney "Cities and Desires"

Bob Reynolds "Can't Wait for Perfect"

Michael Brecker "Pilgrimage"

Ravi Coltrane "In Flux"

Adam Rogers "Art of the Invisible"

Kenny Garrett "Standard of Language"

Terence Blanchard "Flow"


 Danny Grissett "Encounters"

 Marc Copland "Some Love Songs"

 Marcin Wasilewski "January"

 Mulgrew Miller "Live at Yoshi's"

 Jason Moran "The Bandwagon"

 Robert Glasper "In My Element"

 Brad Mehldau "Live In Tokyo"

 Bad Plus "Prog"

 Uri Caine "Live at the Village Vanguard"

 Vijay Iyer "Historicity"



 Herbie Hancock "The Joni Letters"

 Gretchen Parlato "In a Dream"

 Amanda Baisinger "Short Songs"

 Luciana Souza "Neruda"

 Eliane Elias "Bossa Nova Stories"

 Esperanza Spalding "Esperanza"

 Patricia Barber "Verse"

 Dianne Reeves "A Little Moonlight"

 Randy Crawford & Joe Sample "Feeling Good"



 Harry Connick & Branford Marsalis "Occasion"

 Pat Metheny & Brad Mehldau "Metheny/Mehldau"

 Marc Copland &; Greg Obsy "Round and Round"

 Marc Copland & Vic Juris "Double Play"

 Sergio Salvatore & Christos Rafalides "Dark Sand"

 Vijay Iyer & Rudresh Mahanthappa "Raw Materials"



 Fred Hersch "In Amsterdam: Live at the Bimhuis"

 Gonzalo Rubalcaba "Solo"


Now get out there and make your own lists and Happy 10's!

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