Stories » John Coltrane, Bill Frisell & The Bad Plus make 'Best of 2018'

Top 10 for Dec

John Coltrane, Bill Frisell & The Bad Plus make 'Best of 2018'

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Though it's always been the case to some extent, jazz has increasingly become more an approach to creating music than an easily definable style. Scanning over the year's standout jazz releases, what's most impressive is the divergent paths they take, each boldly different and incorporating a wide range of influences in distinctive ways.

The major story of the year was, all too typically for the genre, about a long-dead artist. Both Directions at Once, the much-touted "lost John Coltrane album," was indeed an exciting find, a thrilling glimpse at a previously unheard session with the iconic saxophonist's classic quartet at the height of their powers. It didn't reveal anything particularly new in the broad strokes, but it did serve as a reminder of Coltrane's relentless push forward. That quality is shared by all the artists on this year's list, all of whom are finding their own ways to reinvent a genre that thrives on continual evolution.

From these 10 albums, perhaps only Walter Smith III's Twio and the Bad Plus' rebirth, Never Stop II, would be recognizable to listeners in Coltrane's era. The former is a tightrope-walking sax-bass-drums trio date in the Sonny Rollins mold, with the imaginative tenor saxophonist Smith unleashing torrents of bracing melody over the roiling rhythms of drummer Eric Harland and bassists Christian McBride and Harish Raghavan. The addition of Philly pianist Orrin Evans to the longstanding Bad Plus gave that impish trio a reinvigorating jolt of raucous power.

Guitar hero Bill Frisell, meanwhile, continues to refine his achingly gorgeous sound with a career-highlight solo outing that is captivating in its shimmering lyricism. Here's the list


Ambrose Akinmusire Origami Harvest (Blue Note)

Henry Threadgill 14 or 15 Kestra: Agg Dirt … And More Dirt (Pi)

Bill Frisell Music IS (OKeh)

Dan Weiss Starebaby (Pi)

Tyshawn Sorey Pillars (Firehouse 12)

Walter Smith III Twio (Whirlwind)

Mary Halvorson Code Girl (Firehouse 12)

The Bad Plus Never Stop II (Legbreaker)

Dave Holland, Evan Parker, Craig Taborn, and Ches Smith Uncharted Territories (Dare2)

Matthew Shipp Zer0 (ESP)