I’m gonna come out and say it — most years there’s at least one wonderful record I hear but cannot explain satisfactorily. In 2018, it’s Minor Empire, Uprooted (World Trip).
But pick up that CD for sure.
One of the very coolest covers ever, and with five-star content (particularly first track):
From “Police Incidents”
First, a classic Students Are Back muck-up:
“At 11:13 AM, a caller reported that a couch was stolen from outside their apartment door. Later in the day, the caller reported finding her couch in another apartment. The resident said his roommates must have brought it in and the caller insisted it was her couch, according to the report.”
Next, some Street Surrealism:
“At 4:30 PM, a caller reported that a man approached the caller and her friend, asked to use their cell phone and said he needed to speak with Herbie Hancock, the jazz artist.”
It was a joy to labor with you on the long-gone dream of the music-magazine internet.
(This guy was an insanely easy edit, btw. Just fun conversations and you have a perfectly clear, vivid and balanced essay at the end.)
The last time we saw him perform was at the New England Conservatory, the same week as the Marathon Bombings. He stopped in the middle of the show to announce that one of the supreme powers of music was its ability to heal and that he was consciously setting out to do that this night.
He worked magic. We came out of the hall with soaring spirits, an enormous dark weight lifted from us. Randy Weston healed us like no other performer at an essential moment of anguish. Eternal thanks and peace.
This is your prime starting spot. Little Niles, Live at the Five Spot and (esp.) Uhuru Afrika are masterpieces. Uhuru changed my head forever in that I heard jazz as African music like never before.
Maybe no surprise, this is the second stop — which shows you how he got to my first pick. Jazz a La Bohemia and Solo, Duo & Trio feature tremendous lineups and not a weak moment of playing.
This is the less-well-known recommendation that keeps exploding and expanding with that collective soul strength. Will make you spin around the room. Play loud.
I think Tanjah was the album that introduced me to Weston, maybe from a review by Robert Palmer. I don’t know how many of his records I own — many, many, many.
My favorite African Jazz Pioneers album is Live at Montreaux Festival. The S/T debut is my second pick.
Seymour Reads the Constitution (Nonesuch) came out more than two months ago, but it got lost in a pile until this weekend. Wish I had the smarts to take it to Montana, or at least Montreal. I thought this same group’s Bach project earlier this year worked as music but was emotionally opaque. This set churns and simmers with the despair, anxiety and outrage apt in these times while it makes the Beach Boys’ “Friends” and Paul McCartney’s “Great Day” into full-bore jazz workouts the way so many others try and fail to achieve, then throws in amazing reworkings of a pair of my favorite players and writers, Elmo Hope (“De-Dah”) and Sam Rivers (“Beatrice”).
But the apex is that the title tune original goes on such a slightly melancholic frolic. You should read Mehldau’s explanation of how the number came about, though it does involving talking about dreams and the death of Seymour Hoffman.