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Top 12 Jazz Albums, May 2013

by Seth Colter Walls

Top 12 Jazz Albums, May 2013


We've been working pretty hard lately, spending most of April celebrating Jazz Appreciation Month with our Jazz 101 series. But all historical respect aside, the last few weeks have been pretty great ones for the jazz of today -- even when the players want to escape the definition of “jazz” itself.

For example, Jaimeo Brown’s breakout album, Transcendence, has the feel of much millennial electronic music and turntablism, what with its sound samples and fusion-y instrumental production values. Aaron Diehl’s very refined, classic post-bop piano record, The Bespoke Man’s Narrative, has room enough for the leader to swing a Maurice Ravel composition like nobody’s business. It didn’t need reproving, but the fact is that jazz can get with any era of song.

Meanwhile, trumpeter Nicholas Payton -- he of the #BAM hashtag (for Black American Music, as opposed to merely “jazz”) -- recently dropped a live album, #BAM Live at Bohemian Caverns, on which he plays Fender Rhodes at the same time. Check “The African Tinge” to hear what that sounds like. Payton gets to call his music whatever he wants, but jazz listeners with wide-ranging ears will want to hear his fantastic mix of R&B, out-there Miles and more.

Avant-funk great Steve Coleman put out a new record, too, and up-and-coming experimental trumpeter Peter Evans showed he could do extended technique as well as standard post-boppish phrasing on Zebulon (try the long workout “3625”). And on the archival front, April saw the re-release of under-heard sets by saxophone greats John Coltrane and Anthony Braxton. Get to know your jazz, past and present, in the appended playlist.