Sunday, December 18, 2005

Safe jazz ruled the roost in 2005

This year's chart-toppers in jazz, vocalist Michael Buble and saxophonist Kenny G, reflect the culture in 2005: conservative, polite, palatable.

Buble's lightweight and swinging sophomore disc, "It's Time," was the year's top performer on the Top Jazz Albums chart, and earned the crooner No. 1 honors on the Top Jazz Artist recap as well. Even though the Vancouver youngster covers new standards (including the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love"), the CD is decidedly retro and safe.

On the contemporary jazz charts, Kenny G was the champ: No. 1 on both the Top Contemporary Jazz Artists and Top Contemporary Jazz Albums tallies with "At Last . . . The Duets Album."

The majority of the year's most assured and improvisationally adventurous CDs, including Jason Moran's "Same Mother" and Keith Jarrett's "Radiance," were like shooting stars on the Top Jazz Albums chart. They scaled toward the top only to quickly fizzle.

As for longevity, three discs released in 2004 remained solid: Chris Botti's "When I Fall in Love," Diana Krall's "The Girl in the Other Room" and Harry Connick Jr.'s "Only You," which was last year's chart-topper on the Top Jazz Albums recap.

One of the most compelling jazz trends of 2005 was the emergence of never-before-released CDs recorded between 40 and 60 years ago. The three essentials -- rare jewels unearthed for posterity -- are the Dizzy Gillespie/Charlie Parker bop fest "Town Hall, New York City, June 22, 1945," John Coltrane's "One Down, One Up: Live at the Half Note" from 1965 and the best of the pack, "At Carnegie Hall," recorded in 1957 by the Thelonious Monk Quartet with John Coltrane.

Jazz's restless spirit was manifested with the unveiling of new artists, who at first blush appear eager to break some rules in furthering the music. Blue Note Records expanded its roster with pianist Robert Glasper, who launched his solo career with the auspicious "Canvas." Meanwhile, Concord Music Group also set its sights on the future by signing three impressive youngsters: trumpeter Christian Scott, pianist Taylor Eigsti and vocalist Erin Boheme.


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