Top 10 List: Best Recordings of 2014

0
3556

Yosvany TerryYosvany Terry: New Crowned King (5Passion)
This album truly is a very important addition to the literature of music. In it Yosvany Terry has awoken the spirit of the Arará tradition long held sacred by the people of Dahomey (now Benin), who were carried in slave ships to the Caribbean—Haiti and principally Cuba—where they settled in the Matanzas region and practiced worshipful chants for over one hundred years. Read our full review…

Elio VillafrancaElio Villafranca and the Jass Syncopators: Caribbean Tinge (Motéma)
This album goes where no album in the idiom of Afro-Latin Jazz has ever gone—into a rarefied realm. Mr. Villafranca digs deep into the realm, using drums of passion with metaphors of Afro-Caribbean origin in an angular attack to shake the very foundations on which music might otherwise have been built and awakens the Orishas with its splendour. Read our full review…

Alfredo RodriguezAlfredo Rodríguez: The Invasion Parade (Mack Avenue)
A pianist of unbridled genius has produced an album of rare and gem-like beauty. The music has been fashioned from another dimension. Mr. Rodriguez is intense throughout. His wit is wickedly exquisite and the music is almost carnival-like in tone and manner. No pianist should be this virtuosic. Mr. Rodriguez flies in the face of convention. Read our full review…

Manuel Valera SrManuel Valera Sr.: Recuerdos (Mavo)
An album of boleros played with ethereal beauty. Mr. Valera’s tone is gentle, yet intense and utterly magnificent. Nothing quite so beautiful has been made since Charlie Haden made his Nocturne album almost a decade ago. Mr. Valera’s musicianship is breathtaking. His intensity is exciting and utterly moving. Read our full review…

Carolina CalvacheCarolina Calvache: Sotareño (Sunnyside)
The elegant pianistic urgings—whether in consonant or in dissonant harmony—at the delicate hand of the Colombian-born Carolina Calvache are much too seductive to resist. Whether she is recalling a hymn from another time or simply “singing” in praise of her mother, Ms. Calvache plays with poignant dynamics and captivating curling notes that pierce the heart. Read our full review…

Miguel ZenonMiguel Zenón: Identities are Changeable (Miel)
Mr. Zenón has been building up to this current landmark with his amazing long-time quartet including the virtuoso pianist Luis Perdomo, bassist Hans Glawischnig whose extraordinary musicianship gives him such a deep understanding of this music and the mighty percussion colourist Henry Cole, plus an expanded winds and brass band, The “Identities” Big Band. Read our full review…

Spanish Harlem OrchestraSpanish Harlem Orchestra: Spanish Harlem Orchestra (ArtistShare)
The celebrated ensemble led by pianist and musical director Oscar Hernández has scored another big hit with this 2014 recording. The Orchestra is in fine form. This two-time Grammy Award-winning ensemble makes it easy to fall in love with this studio album that features Chick Corea and Joe Lovano. But the entire album is superbly recorded as well. Read our full review…

Dave ChamberlainDave Chamberlain’s Band of Bones: Caravan (Independent)
Trombone choirs are few and far between. Good trombone choirs even less so and great ones almost non-existent. Some of the finest choirs of this kind have been led by Steve Turre’s and there have been others in the Eastman school, Julliard and CSU… Here’s one from left field: Dave Chamberlain’s Band of Bones, a fine ensemble of nine trombonists backed up by a trio and quartet. Read our full review…

Manuel ValeraManuel Valera and New Cuban Express: In Motion (SteepleChase)
This new album by Manuel Valera and the New Cuban Express In Motion is the third release since Mr. Valera formed the band. The new cast of characters includes the terrific bassist, Hans Glawischnig and awesome trumpeter Alex Sipiagin. This incarnation makes their sound rounder and fuller with the addition of a trumpet and the more voluptuous acoustic bass. Read our full review…

David VirellesDavid Virelles: Mbókò – Sacred Music for Piano, Two Basses, Drum Set and Biankoméko Abakuá (ECM)
This album completes the triumvirate of recordings by the three most talented Cuban-born musicians living in New York today. An album of immense and haunting beauty, Mbókò combines the stark beauty of a rolling piano with the thunderous attack of African drums. At the confluence of this is music born of Santeria. Its magical melding of chants and worship is evident in this mystical music.