20 discs you need

Listen up!
By JIM MACNIE  |  December 21, 2011

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• JAZZ

CRAIG TABORN | AVENGING ANGEL | ECM

Astoundingly intricate notions rendered with a glowing attack on this solo disc by the NYC pianist. Perhaps its real triumph is the array of approaches it brokers throughout the program — each distinct, yet related.

ORCHESTRE NATIONAL DE JAZZ/DANIEL YVINEC | SHUT UP AND DANCE | BEE JAZZ

Elements of the Soft Machine and other prog-prov outfits bubble up in the rock-inflected arrangements of "jazz" composer John Hollenbeck's pieces, but the ultra-tight French big band make everything fluid enough to glide, glide, glide.

MARCUS STRICKLAND | TRIUMPH OF THE HEAVY | STRICK MUZICK

With a hard-driving mix of brains and brawn, the NYC saxophonist drops a double disc of studio and bandstand sessions that proves just how freewheeling his approach can be, and how catholic his choice of rhythms is. Swing tunes, funk accents, hip-hop shadows, and blues galore.

AMBROSE AKINMUSIRE | WHEN THE HEART EMERGES GLISTENING | BLUE NOTE

The ballads have an ache, the upbeat stuff hits hard. There's directness at work in the young trumpeter's major label debut, and it comes from a wise blending of concision and extrapolation.

MATANA ROBERTS | COIN COIN CHAPTER ONE: LES GENS DE COULEUR LIBRES | CONSTELLATION

One critic wrote that it sounds more like an art installation than album, and that's a pithy way of putting it. Every move made by the intrepid saxophonist is dramatic, giving the first section of the overarching narrative about slave culture a do-or-die feeling. Symphonic swells, painful memories, and aching beauty.

AMIR ELSAFFAR | INANA | PI

Paralleling the myth of the goddess Inana, the superb trumpeter's fetching suite stumps for cultural pride while creating some of most kinetic small ensemble work around. His connection with saxophonist Hafez Modirzadeh is deep, making their incorporation of Iraqui maqam roots that much more potent.

KEITH JARRETT | RIO | ECM

His rambling solo romps have been pared down, and their essences are more engaging than ever. There are some truly wondrous passages on this live date.

MEDESKI SCOFIELD MARTIN & WOOD | IN CASE THE WORLD CHANGES ITS MIND | INDIRECTO

It's a live disc that shows how out in can be. Or vice versa. Happily it's sometimes hard to tell as the grooves start swelling and the guitarist starts riding head-first into waves. The most exciting moments come when everything tilts to the left.

TYSHAWN SOREY | OBLIQUE — 1 | PI

The knotty music lives up to the album title's implications. Sorey's a composer who enjoys scripted implosion, so the parade of flare-ups has an abstract logic. Challenging stuff played so convincingly that its whirl of emotion almost bullies you.

GERALD CLEAVER | BE IT AS I SEE IT | FRESH SOUND

A series of string passages, explosions of reeds and rhythm, an earthy gentility that's there even during the expressionistic flurries — the scenery is always changing as the Brooklyn drummer lets his music unfold. Old fashioned beauty meets newfangled creativity.

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• POP

tUnE-yArDs | WHOKILL | 4AD

Crazed, propulsive, and catchy, Merrill Garbus's songs pilfer from Africa, walk in the shadow of whimsy, and bind their inner divisiveness in a very cagey way.

STEPHEN MALKMUS & THE JICKS | MIRROR TRAFFIC | MATADOR

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  Topics: CD Reviews , Marcus Strickland, John Hollenbeck, lookback2011
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