The Best Jazz Albums of 2011
Wunderkind trumpeters, South Korean singers, and jazz that doesn’t quite sound like jazz.
8. Youn Sun Nah: Same Girl (ACT). This South Korean singer, who’s been living the past decade in France, has a wide range, a commanding air, a casual lilt that’s dead-on precise. On paper, some of the tunes might seem twee—for instance, a slow cover of “My Favorite Things,” just her singing and thumb-strumming the kalimba—but they work: It’s potent, appealing stuff. Her northern European band is so-so. She’s never toured the States; she should, soon.
9. Noah Preminger: Before the Rain (Palmetto). Preminger, just 24, plays tenor sax with a husky tone and fleet phrasings, mainly ballads, backed by a band—pianist Frank Kimbrough, bassist John Herbst, and drummer Matt Wilson—that cooks and simmers with controlled abandon.
10. Chris Dingman: Waking Dreams (Between Worlds Music). A new name to me, Chris Dingman plays vibes with shimmering percussiveness. His music, on this self-distributed CD, is brooding, haunting; also wistful and romantic. The snap band includes Ambrose Akinmusire on trumpet (see above). Very lyrical, very appealing.
Miles Davis Quintet: The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1, Live in Europe, 1967 (Columbia Legacy). Twenty years after his death, Sony/Columbia keeps milking the Miles Davis cash cow. Now they’re releasing official versions of bootlegs, and, hey, why not! Vol. 1 (three CDs and a DVD of a televised live concert) captures the “second great quintet” (Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Ron Carter, Tony Williams) near the end of their run, in peak form, trapeze-flying with no nets: absolutely thrilling.
Acoustic Sounds’ Quality 45rpm Pressings, Verve Series. All hail Analogue Productions, the audiophile record company in Salina, Kansas, for hiring the best engineers to invent a new formula for pressing vinyl. The results are simply staggering. Check out the 45rpm remaster of the 1956 Ella & Louis (Fitzgerald & Armstrong). If you have a good stereo, you’ll swear they’re in the room! Direct-order from their website.
Music Matters Jazz 45rpm Blue Note reissues. Glory, too, to the L.A.-based Music Matters Jazz, which reissues Blue Note classics, packed in handsome gatefold covers and stretched out across two 45rpm black vinyl LPs—which tend to sound better than the original pressings! My favorites from this year, I think, were Sonny Clark’s Sonny’s Crib and Sam Rivers’ Fuchsia Swing Song. Order from their website.
See Magnum's photo gallery of jazz greats.
*Correction Dec. 9, 2011: This article originally misidentified Orchestre National de Jazz as Quebecois. It is French. This article also originally misspelled Kidd Jordan's name.
Fred Kaplan, Slate’s “War Stories” columnist, also writes widely about culture and blogs about jazz for Stereophile. His latest book is 1959: The Year Everything Changed. He can be reached at email@example.com.