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PopMatters: Best Jazz of 2018

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Thursday December 06, 2018

From PopMatters

The Best Jazz of 2018
By: Justin Cober-Lake and Will Layman

Congratulations to IMN Artists Dave Holland and Joe Lovano for their placement on PopMatter’s list of “Best Instrumental Modern Jazz.”

Dave Holland – Uncharted Territories
These days it’s easy to forget that bassist Dave Holland – who has been part of the music’s tasteful but adventurous mainstream for the last 40 years – started out as rule-breaker and a firebrand, playing not only with Miles Davis’s late 1960s quintet and electric ensemble but also with folks like Sam Rivers and Anthony Braxton. Here, he gets together without fellow Englishman Evan Parker, a vigorous free improviser, and two younger stars of the new jazz scene in New York, percussionist Ches Smith and keyboardist Craig Taborn. All the music here is freely improvised in quartets, trios, and duos. Despite the lack of composition, there is an open lyricism that pervades nearly all of the relatively brief (usually about five minutes) performances. The musicians aren’t likely to seize the spotlight but prefer to play in an interwoven ensemble style and, although the date spotlights freedom, the approach to rhythm is pliant and relatively swinging. This music, if not lyrical and easy on the ears, nevertheless gives freedom a good name. It is symphonic, intimate, careful, and beautiful.

Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas: Sound Prints: Scandal
Ostensibly, the scandal behind the title of the second album from saxophonist Joe Lovano and trumpeter Dave Douglas relates to the quintet’s challenging of the traditional rules of jazz and improvisation. That idea might not entirely hold; these pieces are, after, pretty accessible in structure and harmonics. It’s the skill within those strictures, though, that makes the album so engaging. Neither Lovano nor Douglas sound beholden to their predecessors (explicitly Wayne Shorter, though hints of some of jazz’s marquee names appear), and their interwoven parts give the album its specific tenor. Linda May Han Oh adds sprightly bass playing that keeps nearly all the tracks bouncing. The highly skilled group, despite sounding straightforward at times, does pull off enough surprises – solo lines, time changes, odd meters – that the album never loses intrigue. It might not be a scandal, but it does deserve some headlines.

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