Among the notable albums released this year was Wayne Shorter’s “Without a Net.”
By NATE CHINEN
Published: December 13, 2013
- 1. Craig Taborn Trio “Chants” (ECM) The deep, seductive intelligence at work in “Chants,” Craig Taborn’s first piano trio album in a dozen years, suggests an ocean of influences distilled into an original potion. Unpacking his terse compositions in communion with the bassist Thomas Morgan and the drummer Gerald Cleaver, Mr. Taborn gives each oblique maneuver a purpose, and often a flicker of intrepid grace.
2. Wayne Shorter Quartet“Without a Net” (Blue Note) Thepostbop sage Wayne Shorter has made volatility a trademark of his quartet, to the extent that its concerts can feel like enigmas to be parsed. Here we only have choice moments that put his saxophone at the center of a drama shaped by developing insights from Danilo Pérez on piano, John Patitucci on bass and Brian Blade on drums.
3. Bill Callahan “Dream River” (Drag City) On his strongest album (and there have been some really good ones lately), Mr. Callahan applies his dark, dry baritone to a bundle of songs about love and death and luck and motion, using ordinary language to extraordinary ends. His ruminative deadpan meets a deceptively simple backdrop: some masterly guitar work, some drums and flute, all put together with sly serenity.
4. Andy Bey “The World According to Andy Bey” (HighNote) Mr. Bey, a songbook savant now approaching his mid-70s, has already recorded memorably in the solo piano-and-vocal format. But this album finds him in extravagantly fine form, not only embroidering standards but also singing his own perceptive and idiosyncratic songs in a still-limber voice that should be registered with the Smithsonian.
5. Ashley Monroe “Like a Rose” (Warner Bros. Nashville) A quiet stunner of a country album, full of traditional-sounding songs that refuse to recoil from uncomfortable realities; the title phrase holds the implication of a survival badge. Ms. Monroe’s singing is soft and clear, subversive precisely in its sweetness.
6. Dave Douglas Quintet “Time Travel” (Greenleaf) The trumpeter Dave Douglas formed a smart new quintet last year, and along with a beautiful album of hymns, it created this knockabout winner, capitalizing on the diversity of a roster with the saxophonist Jon Irabagon, the pianist Matt Mitchell, the bassist Linda Oh and the drummer Rudy Royston.
7. Eric Revis, Kris Davis, Andrew Cyrille “City of Asylum” (Clean Feed) Three generations of improvisers from far-flung aesthetic coordinates — Mr. Revis, a bassist; Ms. Davis, a pianist; and Mr. Cyrille, a drummer — devoted most of their first album to a free-form expedition, testing every premise and taking nothing for granted.
8. Chris Potter “The Sirens” (ECM) Heroic proficiency has never been a problem for Mr. Potter, the tenor saxophonist. Impressively, this album, inspired by “The Odyssey,” is more a study in reflection than exertion, with exquisite ballad work and plenty of shifting texture, much of it conjured by a pair of brilliant pianists, Craig Taborn and David Virelles.
9. Earl Sweatshirt “Doris” (Tan Cressida/Columbia) Not the only painfully self-aware album this year by a rapper of intoxicating skills — just the least opportunistic, and the most credibly human. The brisk wordplay, the stoner cadence, the stylish production, the tightknit crew: none of it puts Mr. Sweatshirt at ease, and for now that’s just fine.
10. Cécile McLorin Salvant “WomanChild” (Mack Avenue) This American debut of an arresting young jazz vocalist allows for comparison to Abbey Lincoln and Sarah Vaughan (and for bonus points, Valaida Snow), but that’s not its end game. Ms. Salvant has designs on a trickster’s kind of traditionalism — and the right trio, led by the scholarly pianist Aaron Diehl, to play her straight man.