Category: Top 10

Top 10 (x2) Favorite Jazz Albums of 2015

It seems that with each year it gets harder to keep up with all the great music being released. I began with a Top 10 list, and in the end struggled to narrow it down to even 20.

Top 10 Favorite Allen Toussaint tracks

Allen Toussaint, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer who passed away this morning, is best known for his monumental work as a songwriter and producer, so it’s easy for folks to lose sight of what a powerhouse he was as a performer. I enjoy his subtle vocal style and his bandleading but it’s his piano that knocks me out, incorporating the sounds of New Orleans giants Professor Longhair and James Booker along with elements of jazz and pop, with the result being a totally distinct style.

Top 10 Favorite Phil Woods Tracks

RIP Phil Woods – here are 10 of my favorite moments by one of the greatest saxophonists jazz has ever offered the world.

DEAD50: Top 50 (10×5) Favorite Grateful Dead Tracks

I was a teenage Deadhead. Well, sort of . . .

Top 10 Most Memorable David Letterman Musical Guest Performances

Given that Dave Letterman has just had his swan song, it only makes sense for me to reflect back on some of the ones that hit me the hardest. Note that these are not necessarily the “best,” nor have I made any attempt to go back with a curator’s mind to scan the thousands of shows I never saw. These are the ones that made a mark and that I had the dumb luck to encounter, all of them awesome in their own way.

Top 10 Favorite B.B. King Tracks

I suppose I knew it was coming, but I can’t really imagine a world without B.B. King (1925-2015) in it. We all know he was one of the great voices on the blues guitar, but he was much more than that. As a singer, songwriter, bandleader and pioneer for enduring success with non-commercial black music he made a huge mark and his guitar playing far transcends the blues, as can be heard in the generations of R&B, blues and rock guitar players who have adapted his style. In the interest of expediency, there are fewer discographical notes and less commentary than usual, I just wanted to highlight 10 of the performances that have most impacted me.

Top 10 Favorite John Blake, Jr. AND Johnathan Blake Tracks

A pair of top 10 lists, featuring the brilliant and sadly departed violinist John Blake, Jr. and his son, the powerhouse drummer Johnathan Blake.

Top 10 Favorite Neville Brothers Tracks

Some of my most formative music-listening moments have come through the Neville Brothers. I got to see them live on two occasions as a teenager, while listening incessantly to what I’d consider their two truly groundbreaking albums, Yellow Moon (1989) and Brother’s Keeper (1990). The grooves were like nothing I’d ever heard before, the social conscience was dramatically overt yet poetic and the combination of the four lead voices (Aaron’s angelically high voice, Cyril’s gruff tenor, Art’s low-toned and often partly-spoken vocals and the unique saxophone style of Charles) meant that there was someone there to cover pretty much any job.

Top 10 Favorite Joan Armatrading Tracks

As Joan Armatrading embarks on the USA portion of her last extended tour, I’ve been thinking a lot about her legacy (and listening to a lot of her music). At least in this country she is vastly underappreciated, at least for an artist of her magnitude. She is a great singer, songwriter and instrumentalist (especially on guitar) and the excellence of her songs is matched by her longevity.

Top 10 Favorite Orrin Keepnews Prodctions

History-altering record producer and label head honcho Orrin Keepnews passed away on Sunday, 1 day short of his 92nd birthday. We as a society talk little enough about the great jazz musicians of the 20th century, and we certainly don’t talk much about the other contributing figures. But Keepnews, particularly as the visionary head of Riverside Records, left such a mark on modern jazz that I really can’t imagine the history of the music without him. Lately my Top 10 lists have been song/track based, but the continuity and conceptual brilliance behind the great records Keepnews oversaw lend themselves better to full albums.