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We live in a great time of access to listeners for recording artists.  

You don’t have to live in New York or Los Angeles or Chicago or Atlanta to have a recording career. Artists can be signed to major media companies or remain independent, and still have relevant and appropriate access to the recorded music marketplace.

The state of the live performance infrastructure to support all of the musicians being produced each graduating semester still needs to catch up with the technology available today.  However, after almost two decades of digital distribution and the Internet being available to the general public – the art and science of recording, producing and distributing music is on point for the most part.  

With a number of truly fine albums released by our label alone in 2013, unsurprisingly, my list contains lots of music out on the Artists Recording Collective (ARC) label, but objectively so.  That music and the artists who recorded it stack up against anything released by any label [.]


I chose 6 records (in no particular order of merit – all are brilliant) that were simply great by most any objective and artistic measurements; then, looked at all of the other non musical things like who the artist was, what label they were with, what fellowship or grants they won, any publicist generated hype, other reviews, etc.

  1. MATT WHITE – The Super Villain Jazz Band (ARC-2505): When I heard the previews of this recording, I knew it was going to be really noteworthy.  My impression was also shared by DownBeat reviewer (****).
  2. WAYNE SHORTER – Without A Net (Blue Note): Many predict this to be the “album of the year”. I do too. A recording career of innovation, brilliant compositions and prolific artistry since 1964.
  3. EASTERN BOUNDARY QUARTET – Live from De Werf (ARC-2475): An international super-group of improvising virtuosity. Too many times we go looking for a forest to chill out in and there are significant quantities of trees providing more than enough shade all around us.  This recording reinforces the fact that jazz is an international music that has been embraced by all peoples.
  4. ELDAR DJANGIROV – Bach/Brahms/Prokofiev | Breakthrough (Motema): My favorite recordings feature artists who are masters of music and their instruments, regardless of genre. What makes jazz so special to me is the improvisational component. Not just memorization of a bunch of patterns and licks, but the coherent improvisation/spontaneous composition in the moment. Eldar can do both brilliantly. These are Eldar’s 9th and 10th CDs and all of them are really (really) good and he is only in his twenties. And, if anyone is wondering whether or not jazz is a contemporary art, one needs look no further than artists like Eldar, Esperanza and Gerald.  
  5. GERALD CLAYTON – Life Forum (Concord Jazz): Likely my personal favorite among this list and a recording that includes the core group of my favorite next generation “jazz” musicians. Lessons learned. Beyond. Own voice. The young masters. Next …
  6. BOBBY WATSON – Check Cashing Day (Lafiya Music): Genius. Not only is Bobby Watson a great saxophonist, composer and bandleader; he’s taken up the mantel that all of his generation should be doing in our times to ensure that jazz music maintains its contextual relevance.  His impact upon the modern jazz scene goes beyond the wizardry of his alto flights. With this and every one of his records, he shows substance, along with intellect and gangs of chops. Rumble, young man, rumble …

Peace, Cb