Jazz Top Ten 2004: Sonic Liberations and Elements of Style

by Tom Hull

In this big old world there's always something to make jazz out of. Here are ten of this year's best:

  1. Sonic Liberation Front: Ashé a Go-Go (High Two): yin and yang -- fierce avant-sax and friendly folk songs united by shifty Afro-Cuban beats.
  2. Matthew Shipp: Harmony and Abyss (Thirsty Ear): sums up the Blue Series with the return of the piano as the grandest rhythm instrument of all.
  3. The Vandermark Five: Elements of Style . . . Exercises in Surprise (Atavistic): the ideas come fast and furious with Vandermark's acoustic machine in full gear.
  4. David Murray & the Gwo-Ka Masters: Gwotet (Justin Time): a fast one from Guadeloupe, phattened up with Pharoah and the Latin Big Band.
  5. Charlie Haden: Land of the Sun (Verve): down Mexico way, a land of enchantment and relaxed cosmopolitanism.
  6. Triage: American Mythology (Okka): rust belt saxman Dave Rempis breaks out.
  7. Jewels & Binoculars: Floater (Ramboy): every now and then a scrap of Bob Dylan melody floats by like a leaf in a warm autumn breeze.
  8. Zu & Spaceways Inc.: Radiale (Atavistic): battle of the bands returns to the classics -- Sun Ra and Funkadelic.
  9. Satoko Fujii Quartet: Zephyros (NatSat): her records range so widely you're never sure where she'll go next, but this rhythm section wants to rock out.
  10. Don Byron: Ivey-Divey (Blue Note): the most expansive album ever by the guy who started the clarinet's return to jazz prominence.