Top Ten CDs from 2015

This is the list of the best CD of 2015, according to me. These days I mostly listen to jazz and I have big preference for jazz guitar and for organ trios (that’s a group with guitar, Hammond B3 organ and drums) and in general I prefer small groups as opposed to large bands.

The list below is mostly in random order, except for the first entry – which for me was the best CD of the year.

  • “Messin’ With Mister T.”  (Dave Stryker)  I have followed guitarist Dave Stryker for over ten years, and he seems to be getting better every year.  This CD is a tribute to tenor saxophonist Stanley Turrentine, in whose band Dave Stryker played for over 10 years.  In addition to his regular organ trio Dave has invited premier saxophonists of today to play on this record. The list includes Eric Alexander, Chris Potter and Jimmy Heath.  It’s hard to pick my favorite cuts from this record – at the moment I would choose “Impressions” and “Gibraltar”.  In my opinion this is the best jazz CDs to come out this year.
  • “Family” (Steve Johns)  Steve Johns is a drummer and on this record he leads a band consisting of his son on bass and his wife on tenor and soprano saxes. In addition he has two special guests playing guitar: Bob DeVoe and Dave Stryker.  I listened to this CD a lot, and even attended the CD release gig at the Kitano in NYC.
  • “Blue” (Vic Juris) – This trio (guitar, bass, drums) record was first released in September, but I only found out about it in December. I was driving in my car when the song “Lonely Woman” came on and it was beatiful! “Lonely Woman” is a tune written by Horace Silver, and made famous by Ornette Coleman. Vic’s version is actually very close in arrangement to the original recording by Horace Silver, he is showing his chops by playing piano lines and chords on a guitar. A beautiful record.
  • “The Real Thing” (Eric Alexander)  Great CD form tenor man Eric Alexander. I’m familiar with Eric’s work because I have seen him perform on Tuesdays with Mike LeDonne quartet. This record has an additional treat for me – guitarist Pat Martino is a guest on several tracks.
  • “Say When” (Steve Davis) Steve Davis is trombonist I like.  Among other bands he plays in a group called One For All, which also includes Eric Alexander and Jimmy Rotondi. I was lucky to meet Steve Davis at the Jamey Aebersold summer jazz camp in Louisville.  This record is hard swinging main stream jazz album, with some unusual takes on standards  “When the Saints Go Marching In” and “What Is This Thing Called Love”.
  • “Afro Blue” (Harold Mabern) Harold Mabern is a pianist who has been on the jazz scene for a long time (for example he played with Wes Mongomery). This record is collaboration between Harold Mabern a stable of some of the best jazz singers and musicians on the scene today. This includes singers such as Nora Jones, Jane Monheit and Kurt Elling, horn players Eric Alexander,  Jeremy Pelt and Steve Turre and guitarist Peter Bernstein appears.  In fact to promote this record Harold Mabern appeared at Google. Check out that performance here.
  • “AwwlRight” (Mike LeDonne) Mike LeDonne is an organist who leads a “Goover Quarter” at Smoke nearly every Tuesday evening. Typically this group includes Eric Alexander on tenor and  Peter Bernstein, a favorite of mine, on guitar. This CD is a sampling of what this group does. I dare you to listen to this CD and not tap your foot!
  • “Catch and Release” (Nick Hempton) I confess, I bought this CD because Peter Bernstein was one of the musicians. Turned out Peter was only on one cut, yet the rest of the CD is actually great. Nick Hempton is saxophonist whose compositions comprise this record.  All the songs were recorded at Smalls jazz club in NYC. The title “Catch and Release” refers to the unusual way this CD was put together. Each cut was recorded, mixed and then released on the Internet, and only then the musicians returned to Smalls to record another. Eventually there were enough tunes to make a whole record.
  • “Search for Peace” (Heads of State) Another gem from Smoke Session Records. Four veteran musicians, whose names I have often heard on the radio but wasn’t very familiar with, came together and made this record.
  • “All I Know” (Rachel Caswell) Rachel Caswell is a vocalist from Loiusville (I think). This is an unusual record in that the only accompaniment consists of guitar or bass – that is all the songs are performed with voice and guitar or voice and bass. There are couple of reasons I like this record. First Rachel has a lovely voice that is pleasant to listen to, second I like music that is minimally arranged and having just one instrument plus voice is very effective, finally the guitar player is Dave Stryker and I love the way his style of playing mixes with the singing.

> Science Fiction Readings: Fall 2015

Here are two SF books I read since the summer.

  • Aurora (Kim Stanley Robison) – Long time ago, when I was just a teenager, I read a big fat book about a generational ship travelling through space. I do not remember the name or the author of the book, but do remember liking it. So when I asked some friends about generational ship stories, they recommended  Aurora.  The book tells a story of a generational ship that is near the end of its 120 year journey to a planet near a star that’s 8 light years from Earth. The author goes into some details of how such a ship could survive in the void of space. Everything needs to be recycled since proper balance of chemical elements in the biospheres is essential, as there is not place to replenish the supplies.  When the ship arrives at its destination, the selected planet turns out to be less than ideal, and after serious political upheaval the people of the ship split in two faction: one stays and one decides to go back to Earth. The story is told from the the point of view of Freya, the daughter of the ship’s chief engineer, who then becomes the leader of the people on the return trip.  I liked reading the book,  even the slow parts where the author spent time explaining various scientific details.
  • World of Ptavvs (Larry Niven)  – This is an odd little book, in which an alien, who crashed on Earth millenias ago and survived in a stasis field, is revived. He tries to gain mind control over all humans to turn them into slaves. The “muguffin” is mind amplifier that was left on Neptune, or was it Pluto. It was a quick read.