Assessing the jazz world every year is a challenge, and the following albums can at times sound like George Duke, Wendy Carlos Williams, Bill Evans and Radiohead. That's a hell of a wide net.
This was supposed to be a list of five, but there were so many good ones that we turned it into seven. They represent the best of 2013; it was a good year.
Derrick Hodge Live Today
Los Angeles' Thundercat and Philly's Derrick Hodge have two very different techniques for seduction: Hodge ironed his high thread count sheets and chilled the wine the day before, while Thundercat is fumbling on the couch while cartoons blast from the TV screen. Apocalypse is a dark display of electric bass pyrotechnics that dilate the pupils and shred the mind. Live Today is a smoother gem with jutting horns and a cameo by Common. Both provide compelling arguments for putting the bassist front and center.
4. Geri Allen
Grand River Crossings
Solo discs are the true test of a pianist. This is Detroit pianist Geri Allen's third work of her planned trilogy and here she digs into the music of her hometown, with an emphasis on Motown and a brief trip to Liverpool. The album swings delicately and benefits from a few appearances by trumpeter Marcus Belgrave. Allen succeeds in creating an engaging spin through familiar tunes, expertly showing off why she is considered a master of the piano.