Tobin Mueller

Top Ten
Tobin Mueller as Moses by
Richard Schletty, Schletty Design & Music

JazzChicago's Top Jazz Albums of 2009

Here we go again - I can't believe the year is over already. 2009 proved itself to be an interesting year in that I received hundreds of releases in a year in which jazz has been loudly proclaimed to be dead. Despite admittedly not being able to hear all of the top releases, I am confident that the entries on my list will provide listeners with considerable pleasure and perhaps will even bring attention to releases which were passed over or unfairly dismissed by the entrenched hierarchy. Cases in point include Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings' wonderful "Renegades" which proves strings can be just as "jazzy" as horns. Corey Wilkes' "Cries From Tha Ghetto" took jazz back into the urban streets with exciting and unsettling results. Additionally, pianist Laurence Hobgood's outing with Charlie Haden and Kurt Elling - "When the Heart Dances" is a true sonic delight full of warmth and feeling. Meanwhile, established artists like David Binney, Donny McCaslin, Arturo O'Farrill, "Tain Watts," Branford Marsalis, Chris Potter and Enrico Rava were joined by up-and-coming young guns Wilkes, Stefano Bollani, Miles Okazaki, Emilio Teubal, Jon Gordon, Edmar Casteneda, Julian Lage and Ted Sirota. This leads to the welcome belief that the future of jazz is in good hands. Additionally, the local contingent is very well-represented with numerous Chicago artists releasing worthy albums this year.

At the very top, two releases stood out in terms of appealing to my desire for surprise, color, excitement and variety in music. Joel Harrison's "Urban Myths" took the second spot with its entrancing blend of styles and thrilling solos by guitarist Harrison, violinist Christian Howe and (especially) alto god Binney. Meanwhile, my number one album has to be somewhat shocking - even for a contrarian like myself - in that I do not recall even seeing this obscure recording reviewed (other than my own) - and more's the pity because no other album I heard in 2009 brought me more pleasure than Tobin Mueller's "Rain Bather." A kaleidoscopic panorama of pulsing big band horns, wacky organs, fiddles, flutes, clarinets and beats, that inexplicably fell completely below the radar, this truly wonderful album succeeds by accurately capturing the sound of someone smiling.

Rain Bather
#1 - Tobin Mueller
"Rain Bather"

Urban Myths
#2 - Joel Harrison
"Urban Myths"
#3 - Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings
When the Heart Dances
#4 -Laurence Hobgood
Charlie Haden Kurt Elling

"When the Heart Dances"
Cries From tha Ghetto
#5 - Corey Wilkes & Abstrakt Pulse
"Cries From tha Ghetto"
#6 - Donny McCaslin
Stone in the Water
#7 - Stefano Bollani,
Jesper Bodilsen, Morten Lund

"Stone in the Water"
Third Occasion
#8 - David Binney
"Third Occasion"
Risa Negra
#9 - Arturo O'Farill
"Risa Negra"
#10 - Jeff "Tain" Watts

#11 - Seamus Blake Quartet - "Live in Italy"

#12 - Branford Marsalis - "Metamorphosen"

#13 - Terence Blanchard - "Choices"

#14 - Miles Okazaki - "Generations"

#15 - Emilio Teubal & La Balteband - "Un Monton de Notas"

#16 - John Moulder - "Bifrost"

#17 - Chris Potter Underground - "Ultrahang"

#18 - Jon Gordon - "Evolution"

#19 - Enrico Rava - "New York Days"

#20 - Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls - "Seize the Time"

#21- Michael Jefry Stevens -"For Andrew"

#22 - Julian Lage - "Sounding Point"

#23 - Jonathan Haffner - "Life on Wednesdays"

#24 - Edmar Casteneda - "Entre Cuerdas"

#25- Chris Pasin - "Detour Ahead"

(Honorable Mentions listed below:)

Vocal Album of the Year - Dee Alexander - "Wild is the Wind"

Wild is the Wind

Top Chicago Recordings

Find all reviews here.

#1 - Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings - "Renegades"
#2 - Corey Wilkes - "Cries From tha Ghetto"
#3 - Dee Alexander - "Wild is the Wind"
#4 - John Moulder - "Bifrost"
#5 - Ted Sirota's Rebel Souls - "Seize the Time"
#6 - John Wojociechowski - "Lexicon"
#7 - Pat Mallinger & Dan Trudell -"Dragon Fish"
#8 - Fred Anderson - "21st Century Chase"
#9 - Dana Hall - "Into the Light"
#10 - Josh Berman -"Old Idea"
#11 - Bradley Parker Sparrow - "The New World"
#12 - Aaron Koppel Quartet -"Falling Together, Falling Apart"
#13 - Darwin Noguera Evolution Quintet - "The Gardener"
#14 - Chris Greene Quartet - "Merge"
#15 (tie) Klang - "Tea Music" &
Mothra - "Tradewind"

2009 Concert of the Year - Dee Alexander -
"Wild is the Wind" CD Release concert
Checkerboard Lounge

Dee Alexander

Other Great 2009 Concerts

#2 - Ernest Dawkins' Chicago 12 - Remembering Emmett Till
#3 - Benny Goodman Tribute
#4 - Robert Irving III - Tribute to Miles
#5 - Fred Anderson's 80th Birthday Concert
#6 - Cassandra Wilson Hyde Park Jazz Festival Gala
#7 - Amina Figarova at Jazz Fest
#8 - Robert Irving III - Sketches of Brazil at Millennium Park
#9 - John Moulder - Bifrost CD Release at the Green Mill
#10 - Nicole Mitchell's Black Earth Strings at Jazz Fest

Jazz Artist of the Year:
David Binney
Runner-up: Michael Jefry Stevens

David Binney
David Binney
- for work as an composer ("Third Occasion"),
artist (Joel Harrison's "Urban Myths", Miles Okazaki's "Generations",
John Escreet's "Consequences")
producer (Donny McCaslin's "Declaration,"
Jonathan Haffner's "Life on Wednesday") and mentor in 2009.
Michael Jefry Stevens
Michael Jefry Stevens
- for releasing several
interesting albums in 09, including.:
"For Andrew," "A Scent in Motion"
"For the Children" and "Trading Post."
And for spreading jazz worldwide through touring.

Chicago Jazz Artist of the Year:
Robert Irving III
Runner up: Ernest Dawkins

Robert Irving III
Robert Irving III
for Tribute to Miles and
Sketches of Brazil concerts.
Ernest Khabeer Dawkins
Ernest Dawkins
for Remembering Emmett Till
and mentoring young musicians.

Instrumental Song of the Year: Bradley Parker Sparrow - "The New World"
Runners Up: John Moulder - "Cold Sea Triptych"
Nicole Mitchell - "What If"
David Binney - "This Naked Sunday"
Louis Sclavis - "De Charrybde en Scylla"

Instrumental Solo of the Year:
David Binney alto sax - "Between the Traveler and the Setting Sun"
(from Joel Harrison's Urban Myths)

Other Notable 2009 Recordings (in no particular order)

Find all reviews here.

Chris Potter, Steve Wilson, Terell Stafford, Keith Javors, Delbert Felix, John Davis -"Coming Together"
Bobby Sanabria - "Kenya Revisited Live"
John Abercrombie - "Wait Till You See Her"
Michael Jefry Stevens - "A Scent in Motion" and "Trading Post"
James Moody - "Moody 4A"
Fahir Atakoglu -"Istanbul in Blue"
Dafnis Prieto -"Live at the Jazz Standard"
Gabriel Espinosa -"From Yucutan to Rio"
Howard Levy - "Tonight and Tomorrow"
Avery Sharpe - "Autumn Moonlight"
Moraine - "Moraine"
Jeff Chan - "Horns of Planty"
Komeda Project - "Requiem"
John Escreet - "Consequences"
Kobie Watkins - "Involved"
Bill Carrothers - "Home Row"
Ralph Bowen - "Dedicated"
Luis Bonilla - "I Talking Now"
Eddie Daniels & Roger Kellaway -"A Duet of One"
Fred Simon Paul McCandless, Steve Rodby, Mark Walker - "Since Forever"
Louis Sclavis - "Lost on the Way"
Ramm/Moretti/Cunliffe - "Foundations"
Paul Carr - "Musically Yours - Remembering Joe Henderson"
Alan Holdsworth - "Blues for Tony"
Misha Piatigorsky - "17 Rooms"
Miroslav Vitous - "Remembering Weather Report"
NYNDK - "Hunting of the Snark"
John Surman - "Brewster's Rooster"
Gary Peacock & Mark Copland - "Insight"
Pablo Held - "Forest of Oblivion"
Roy Hargrove Big Band - "Emergence"
Zvonomir Tot - "Eloquent Silence"
Eddie Harris & Ellis Marsalis - "Homecoming"
Joel Larue Smith Trio - "September's Child"
Alexis Baro - "From the Other Side"
Enoch Smith, Jr. - "Church Boy"
Ike Strum - "Jazz Mass"

Check out 2008's Top 10 CDs

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