United We Swing – Spanish Harlem Orchestra
My absolute favorite album of the year. It’s really hard to come up with new ways to describe the individual and collective genius of this group. It is also quite redundant to refer to this recording as their best work ever, though it is, but so were all their previous albums upon release. All the best elements of their sound are on display. The music is alive and blazing hot. The musicianship and singing are simply brilliant.
Another classic from the best Salsa group in the entire universe.
A Tale Of God’s Will (A Requiem For Katrina) – Terence Blanchard
Soulful, haunting, beautiful.
The pain, heartbreak and outrage over Katrina felt in every note.
Djin Djin – Angelique Kidjo
I found all the celebrity collaborations on the album to be way overdone and really unnecessary. Fortunately though, the best songs on the album and there are plenty, are the ones with Angelique by her self singing majestically and backed by a fine mix of African pop and traditional African rhythms.
River: The Joni Letters – Herbie Hancock
Far from being a run in the mill tribute album, it is a highly original interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s music and lyrics by Herbie Hancock. Even though this album also has other singers and musicians collaborating on it, the music does not suffer as a result of that. It all blends and seams perfectly producing some really elegant, powerful and timeless jazz.
From The Badlands – Papo Vazquez Pirates Troubadours
Raw, funky and ferocious Latin Jazz and a gorgeous ballad thrown in for good measure.
Back East – Joshua Redman
A few standards, a few originals, a few Sonny Rollins songs covered and Eastern music rhythms throughout along with some fiery Bop.
Renunciation – David S. Ware Quartet
A live recording from 2005. It is thunderous, relentless, intense and uncompromising. It may be called Free Jazz but to me it defies names and categories. It’s music from another stratosphere.
The Art of Love & War – Angie Stone
Great old-school Soul with some hot modern R&B. Fine vocals and real talent. A gem.
We’ll Never Turn Back – Mavis Staples
Songs from the Civil Rights Movement era brought back to life. The beauty and power of the music is profound and very moving. Sadly, these anthems are just as relevant today as they were back then.
Mavis Staples is a national treasure.
As I Am – Alicia Keys
Another milestone in her career. A major talent and creative force in the world of music today.
Rokku Mi Rokka – Youssou N’Dour
A superb mix of African blues, soul, pop and even some hip hop and it all works at the hands of this supremely gifted artist.
Momento – Bebel Gilberto
Nothing particularly new just more smooth Brazilian jazz and traditional bossa nova, sung beautifully by Bebel. Good enough for me.
Magic – Bruce Springsteen
An old rock vet who is still making some of the best music of his career and who still has lots to say, about the Iraq war in particular and the criminals in suits that are behind it.