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15 Jazz Albums To Look Out For In 2013

Wayne Shorter.
Wayne Shorter.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of joining Bob Boilen and Robin Hilton on All Songs Considered as they previewed some of the big upcoming releases of 2013. My pick was No Beginning, No End by the chameleonic vocalist Jose James. Though he certainly has a way around the standard repertoire, this album finds James more in an R&B vein — it's not far removed from the brisk acoustic snappiness of turn-of-the-century D'Angelo, but certainly not limited to that aesthetic. James has a way of rationing his delivery just so, with the slightly streetwise authority of a Barack Obama stump speech. If you were into Robert Glasper's Black Radio, you'll dig this.

There are plenty of other buzzed-about jazz/-ish records coming in 2013, though. Here's a quick rundown of 15 more.

Joe Lovano, Cross Culture: The saxophonist clearly feels he has a thing going with his double-drummer band, Us Five. This is his third album with this group, and unlike the previous record, this one is almost entirely made up of original compositions. He tweaks his own sonic palette, adding a mezzo-soprano saxophone and tarogato to the proceedings, and welcomes guest guitarist Lionel Loueke to spice up the proceedings on six tunes. Out this Tuesday, Jan. 8.

Jack DeJohnette.
R. Masotti / ECM Records
Jack DeJohnette.

Jack DeJohnette, Special Edition: Around this time last year, drummer Jack DeJohnette was named an NEA Jazz Master and launched a year-long 70th birthday tour campaign. Here's a reminder why he's worthy of the hubbub: A four-disc box set reissuing the 1979-1984 albums made with his Special Edition bands. These groups featured star sax soloists like David Murray, Arthur Blythe and Chico Freeman; from what I've heard of this music, it reveals his composing to be both heady and earthy, ancient and of the future. Here's a chance to rediscover why DeJohnette is more than just a great drummer. Out Jan. 15.

Chris Potter, The Sirens: You might say that the saxophonist Chris Potter plays with an epic or heroic quality: Whatever predicament he finds himself in, he's reassuringly strong enough to play his way out of it. Appropriately, his newest project is actually a song cycle inspired by The Odyssey. On his boat is the big-name crew of Craig Taborn (keys), David Virelles (more keys), Larry Grenadier (bass) and Eric Harland (drums). Sing, muse. Out Jan. 29.

Rudresh Mahanthappa, Gamak: Recent years have seen Rudresh Mahanthappa become a star in the jazz world for his busy-bee alto saxophone and the way he seamlessly incorporates South Asian music into his repertoire. His new album Gamak returns to the quartet formation responsible for his breakout successes, with a key personnel addition: Dave Fiuczynski, a guitarist with a similar inclination for virtuosic fusions. Mahanthappa and "Fuze" both play in the band of the aforementioned Jack DeJohnette, and the Gamak repertoire reflects their ongoing collaboration. Out Jan. 29.

Matthew Shipp, Greatest Hits: It's hard to know where to start with improvisers as prolific and unrestricted as pianist Matthew Shipp. That's why a forthcoming Greatest Hits compilation might serve as a good introduction for the curious. It's culled from his output over 12 years on the Thirsty Ear record label — the company where he curates a series of jazz-influenced releases. Acoustic and electronic; organic and conceptual; solo, trio or with some other configuration, the disc showcases his range. Out Jan. 29.

John Hollenbeck, Songs I Like A Lot: The composer and percussionist John Hollenbeck admits he was never really into pop music as a kid. But he couldn't deny all of it, and when he received a commission from the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, he had a jazz orchestra to indulge his Jimmy Webb earworms. The result is this collection of mostly covers, from Ornette Coleman to Imogen Heap to "Man Of Constant Sorrow," featuring the voices of Theo Bleckmann and Kate McGarry, and dressed up in the intersecting minimalism thing he's so good at. For a taste, check out Hollenbeck's Newport 2011 set, where his Large Ensemble played some of these tunes. Out Jan. 29.

Miles Davis, Live In Europe 1969: The Bootleg Series Vol. 2: The working band that Miles Davis led from 1969-70 — made up of living legends Wayne Shorter (saxophones), Chick Corea (piano), Dave Holland (bass) and Jack DeJohnette (drums) — was never captured by Miles' record company. In his autobiography, he regretted this: "Man, I wish this band had been recorded live because it was really a bad motherf- - - - -," he dictated. But European state broadcasters did document a few concerts, including video footage. That's made possible another three-CD + DVD box of a fascinating Miles Davis quintet tearing it up on stage. Out Jan. 29.

Wayne Shorter, Without A Net: Speaking of Wayne Shorter, there's a good chance this will end up as the consensus jazz album of the year. When one of the most influential composers in jazz history puts out a record, and many of the tunes are new, and they're played by his acoustic go-anywhere quartet of 10 years ... yeah, I'm excited too. The collection of live recordings, including the 23-minute tone poem "Pegasus" (recorded with a wind ensemble), comes out Feb. 5.

Terri Lyne Carrington, Money Jungle: Provocative In Blue: In February 1963, Duke Ellington released Money Jungle, a trio album employing fellow strong personalities Charles Mingus and Max Roach. The drummer and educator Terri Lyne Carrington is celebrating its 50th anniversary by releasing her rescoring of it. Christian McBride and Gerald Clayton occupy the all-important bass and piano chairs, respectively; they're joined by additional guests like Clark Terry (!), Lizz Wright and Tia Fuller. Out Feb. 5.

NEXT Collective, Cover Art: A gathering of eight of today's most sought-after young musicians — a generation which has enjoyed unprecedented access to music across boundaries — covers some favorite pop songs. Assuage your curiosity for how D'Angelo, Bon Iver or Drake might sound as improvised instrumental music. And listen for the signatures of pianist Gerald Clayton, or bassist Ben Williams, or trumpeter Christian Scott. Out Feb. 26.

Antonio Sanchez, New Life: Drummers who wield both the sticks and the composer's pen are represented well on the release schedule early this year. Antonio Sanchez — the right-hand man for Pat Metheny for over a decade — continues the trend with his third album for his Migration small group. Fiery, yet unfolding with broad expanses and clear logic, a live performance of New Life material was one of my personal highlights from the recordings WBGO and NPR Music made in 2012. Out Feb. 26.

Kendrick Scott.
Todd Williams / Courtesy of the artist
Kendrick Scott.

Aaron Diehl, The Bespoke Man's Narrative: An award-winning young pianist who was playing in Wynton Marsalis' band straight out of high school, Aaron Diehl has already acquired a reputation as a historically informed musician. For his debut album, he takes a few cues from the Modern Jazz Quartet. He borrows the same vibes, bass and drums instrumentation, and at least a few of the tunes have a similar sense of space, order and restraint. It's not the only highly-tipped 2013 record Diehl will be featured on, either — he's on the new album from vocalist Cecile McLorin Salvant, due out in the summer. Out March 19.

Kendrick Scott, Conviction: Speaking of drummers as bandleaders, here's an effort from Kendrick Scott, known as the guy behind Terence Blanchard's quintet, among many other bands. Sequenced as one continuous stream, Conviction has moments of standard sleek jazz modernism from top New York players. But it also opens with back-to-back covers of electronic rock songs by Broadcast and Sufjan Stevens, the latter of which features a vocal turn from bassist-cum-singer-songwriter Alan Hampton. See also: Kendrick Scott and Oracle in concert last year. Out March 26.

Rebecca Martin, Twain: The vocalist Rebecca Martin's last album was a collection of standards, recorded only with a saxophonist (Bill McHenry) and a bass player, Larry Grenadier. Think of Twain as a sequel of sorts: It's a program of mostly originals, backed only by Grenadier, who is also her husband. As a singer, she has a sense of nuance that fits a spare setting well; as a songwriter, she's already put out several albums of her own tunes. Out March 26.

Darcy James Argue, Brooklyn Babylon: The debut recording from composer Darcy James Argue, Infernal Machines, launched him from Brooklyn-based unknown into the international conversation (and touring circuit). It's also left many anxious for a follow up. Brooklyn Babylon is the soundtrack to a live painting-and-music multimedia presentation, a collaboration between Argue's Secret Society big band and visual artist Danijel Zezelj. If you can't wait until April, preview a bit of it from Secret Society's performance at the 2012 Newport Jazz Festival. Out April 30.

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