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Jazz Now

NPR's A Blog Supreme is asking contributors and readers to name five albums you would recommend to somebody looking to get into modern jazz.

Here are my picks:

The Bad Plus - These Are the Vistas. Already the one album I've seen mentioned the most on these lists and for good reason. It may capture the best of modern millennial jazz music. Equal parts lyrical and dischordant in the best ways, The Bad Plus swagger through this record with driving force and relentless energy. It's as punk as any acoustic jazz album. For the cross-over crowd, covers of Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and Blondie's "Heart of Glass" are accessible but full of enough restless energy to subvert expectations. Is "These Are the Vistas" the most timely jazz album of the decade?

David Binney - Welcome to Life. This is probably my single favorite jazz album of the decade. Binney assembled a group of musicians who all lead their own groups and bring their distinctive individual styles to elevate Binney's sinewy and intricate compositions. Brian Blade's drumming constantly propels the music forward while accenting unexpected places and always building tension. The interplay between Binney's alto sax and Chris Potter's tenor shifts subtly from unison melodies to interesting harmonies that diverge and intersect with the piano of Craig Taborn and guitar of Adam Rogers. Each of the sax players contributes solos that have particularly strong narrative arcs.

Brad Mehldau - Largo. Mehldau's sparse arrangements, deliberately delicate playing and first rate production (courtesy of Jon Brion) make it a good entry point from listeners who enjoy music in the precious NPR indie darling category. And the covers of songs by Radiohead and The Beatles

Chris Potter Underground - Follow the Red Line. Chris Potter may be the most impressive sax and woodwind player in jazz today, because he approaches his playing with unrestrained musicality. In personnel, Potter's quartet is almost like an abridged version of David Binney's group, with Potter working again with Craig Taborn (Rhodes) and Adam Rogers (Guitar.) But where Welcome to Life is more subtle and intricate, Follow the Red Line is raw and visceral. Both are products of the same New York scene but lets each leader make his own artistic statement.


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