Some of my entries have been a bit dark and inward-looking lately (probably the bloody weather's got something to do with it), so in an effort to keep it a little more light-hearted and outward-looking, I thought I'd put together a list of my most absolutely favourite music in the world, the stuff that really gets me going. And so, the first five albums are listed below, in no particular order:
D'Angelo - Voodoo
Think hip-hop meets gospel and funk and all the greatest elements of Afro-American popular music from the US and mix it with something amazing from another planet - this album is totally off the scale in so many ways. Vocal harmony overdubbing madness combined with an incredible band that couldn't sit back on the beat any further if they tried (or could they!?)...striking lyrics telling tales of ghetto life and relationships and homage to musical gurus....'Brown Sugar', his first release in '95, is also well worth a listen, but this plus a live at Jazz Cafe makes a total of three albums in six years. I'm not up with the full story, but apparently it's something to do with his extra-curricular activities...come on mate! leave the drugs at home and start pumping out another ten of these! This music is too amazing for there to be so little of it.
Afro Cuban All Stars - A Toda Cuba Le Gusta
In my humble opinion, this spinoff from the Buena Vista Social Club album is a far sight better than the former. Great program of tunes ('Maria Caracoles' never fails to get me dancing), all-star cast of old 'son' singers with new badass young guys...the Cuban thing doesn't get much more real than this. Back in the early days when I was just discovering Latin music, this was a great accompaniment to all the latest Timba stuff, 'Salsa Cubana', coming out of Havana these days...
Bill Evans Trio - Portrait in Jazz
If 'Explorations' was the vibe album, and 'Sunday at Village Vanguard/Waltz For Debby' was the live experience, then this is the demo. This is what this trio could do - young giant Scott La Faro, while playing also at the time with Ornette Coleman, is terrifying, sounding more like a ultra-low guitar on some stuff (check the solo on 'Witchcraft'), and Bill is suitably inspired in melody and line ('What Is This Thing Called Love') as well as harmony ('Spring Is Here'). Sadly, these four albums are all that remain of such a groundbreaking trio, together for a little over two years...one of the many stories of Jazz folklore is the tragic tale of Scott La Faro's untimely death in a car accident on a remote country road, about a week after the abovementioned live recordings were cut. Bill Evans spent the next twenty years (so the story goes) looking for someone comparable, whom he finally found in Marc Johnson, about a year before Bill's own untimely passing in his early 50's.
Vinicius Cantuaria - Tucuma
Intriguing album from self-exiled Brazilian in New York. Cantuaria's playing style is strongly from Joao Gilberto (but then, who in the Brazilian singer-songwriter-guitarist tradition doesn't?), and this is the core of the experience, surrounded by electronics, spoken word, shades of the avant-garde, but still strongly Brazilian and Bahian, and played by a fantastic band including Joey Baron and Bill Frisell. The perfect accompaniment for that overwhelming melancholia of post-relationship blues!
Harry Connick Jr - 20
Back in the early history of it all, when I was just starting to ask the question, "What is this thing called jazz?", Harry was (and in some ways still is) the man - this charming (and similarly terrifying) solo album with guests demonstrates his highly successful and entertaining amalgam of all the styles of the great Stride and Swing pianists, plus a bit of Monk and his own left-field, slightly frenzied musical imagination, and all done barely out of high school! In a lot of ways, I still want to play like this, one day...