It's been one of those years for jazz. In our city, we've witnessed the demise of more than one outstanding live-performance venue and the doomsayers are busy publishing obits for the genre. At the same time, we've seen and heard some of the finest jazz recordings in memory. And many of those recording are by Canadian artists, often from very close to home. After jotting down 10 CDs of note, I was surprised that 8 of them are home-grown. We must be doing something right in the northern barrens. In no particular order, here are 10 CDs out of the many that I enjoyed this year, 10 that I just can't seem to keep out of the player. Dip in and enjoy.
Mnemosyne's March Murley/Braid Quartet
Mnemosyne, goddess of memory. Mnemosyne's March, memorable CD, certainly one of the top offerings of '06. Listening to the interplay of two of Canada's finest musicians, it's hard to imagine that this is the first recording for this superb quartet.
From the Heart Hilario Duran
Big Band. Bigger Sound. Huge Talent. And a Grammy nomination. Let's hope Hilario Duran keeps this Latin-flavoured big band together for a long, long time.
> go to report
Messin' Around Molly Johnson
It's been a long time coming, hasn't it? Molly Johnson fans can finally rejoice, this long-awaited release is everything we'd hoped it would be . And if you're not a Molly Johnson fan yet, what are you waiting for? Messin' Around is the perfect way to discover one of Canada's most talented exports.
At This Time Kollage
Bop is alive and well and living in Toronto. Recorded live at the Old Mill, At This Time suffers on occasion from the vagaries of live recording, but the few technical miscues don't damped the spirit or begin to hide the talent of Alleyne, Richardson, Botos, Baro et. al.
> go to review
Metheny Mehldau Pat Metheny & Brad Meldau
Singularly, Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau need no introduction. Together on this largely duet release, they blend their unique understandings of the genre into an offering that is likely to appear on many '06 'best of' lists.
Code Breaking Tara Davidson
Davidson's fine sophomore album proves that this creative, talented young sax player is the real thing, not just as a performer, but as composer, as well. Mike Murley, David Braid, Michael MacClennan and Ernesto Cervini help make Code Breaking one of the more original and satisfying listens of the year.
Sliding Down Melissa Stylianou
Local gal pays her dues opening at the Rex, heads to New York, matures as a singer and composer and returns with a powerful winner. Stylianou continues to offer unique interpretations of standards, but it's her original compositions that shine.
> go to review
Half the Perfect World Madelaine Peyroux
I can't imagine what the other half might be, but if it has more Peyroux interpretations of Leonard Cohen, then count me in.
Tales of La Juana Bernardo Padron
If Venezuelan-Canadian reedman Bernardo Padron's highly original debut album is a harbinger of things to come, then I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more of this very talented young man. Released just weeks ago, Tales of La Juana is already a staple of my current mix.
New Standards, Volume One JAZZ.FM91 (various artists, produced by Jaymz Bee)
This excellent compilation of home-grown performers is more than an invitation to explore some very fine talent, it's also a reminder that we live in a world-class city with world-class jazz musicians. Any CD offering Henry Heillig, Nancy Walker, Bob Brough, Robi Botos, Jake Langley, Richard Underhill, to name a few, will get a lot of play around my house.