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THE BEST OF 2007 | JAZZ

Stars past, present and future

December 16, 2007|DON HECKMAN

Michael Brecker "Pilgrimage" (Telarc). There's a tendency to give sentimental credibility to recordings released after an artist's death. But this is a major recording by a major artist, even though it was Brecker's last -- a stunning epilogue to a brilliant, far too short career.

Charles Mingus Sextet With Eric Dolphy: "Cornell 1964" (Blue Note). Newly discovered, this is sheer gold -- historic performances by one of the very finest ensembles Mingus ever led. Best of all, there is extraordinary playing -- on alto saxophone, bass clarinet and flute -- from Dolphy, who died 12 weeks after the gig at age 36.

Maria Schneider "Sky Blue" (ArtistShare). Schneider's usual atmospheric blend of big-band sounds is tempered here with simmering rhythms and some showcase soloing. And in "Cerulean Skies," the CD's epic central piece, she announces a fascinating expansion of her already masterful composition skills.

Joshua Redman "Back East" (Nonesuch). As the median age range of marquee jazz players continues to rise, saxophonist Redman, at 38, is one of the rare under-40 musicians who are making waves. "Back East" displays his ability to star in the difficult saxophone-bass-drums instrumental format.

Robert Glasper "In My Element" (Blue Note). Combining the inventiveness of jazz with the beats and accents of rap and hip-hop isn't exactly a revelation. But few of the young artists working at distilling the disparate elements can match Glasper's success at reaching out to audiences of each genre.

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