Suspicious Activity? by The Bad Plus (2005). My approach to the music of The Bad Plus is about as roundabout as they come. During their most recent stint at the Village Vanguard I read a deeply unflattering writeup that made them sound like something I wouldn't be in to. At some point I started following the band's blog: Do the Math and became impressed with just how smart they are. When Ethan Iverson posted his list of great jazz recordings from 1973-1990 in response to Dave Douglas musings about post-Vietnam era music I knew I had to check this group out. They have taste and great influences. So with Suspicious Activity? added to my collection I couldn't be happier with the sound.
This is smart and exciting piano trio music. There's a fresh, deeply satisfying physical pull toward a rockin' groove that drives this sound. "Anthem for the Earnest" is particularly addictive. And there are all these interesting harmonic twists and inventive arrangements at work as well. I hope this group continues to play and evolve together. I want to hear it.
Another Shade of Blue by Lee Konitz (1997). In the liner notes to Another Shade of Blue Lee Konitz speaks simply about the joy of playing the melodies he hears. And this is exactly what makes Konitz so engaging to listen to. He is such a consistent conduit for amazing melodic ideas that thrive and startle the attentive ear with inventiveness and spirited verve. His lyrical playing has recently has recently become a fixture in the HurdAudio rotation and Another Shade of Blue is just exquisite.
Recorded live at The Jazz Bakery in Culver City, Konitz teams up with Brad Mehldau on piano and Charlie Haden on bass for a blues, a standard and three ballads. This is beautiful, melodically driven music played with big, responsive ears.
And for the eye, there's the wonderful painting by Kenneth Noland on the cover reminiscent of the great album covers Blue Note used to have back in their prime.