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Reissues and Historical Releases: Best of 2008

2008: not a good year for the economy, certain politicians, or the Detroit Lions. In the realm of reissues and historical releases, however, it was a surprisingly good year. A highly subjective and belated list follows, presented in alphabetical order:

Lorez Alexandria, For Swingers Only. Chicago record store Dusty Groove continues its own nifty reissue series with these early-1960s Windy City small-group sides from underrated singer Lorez Alexandria.

Anthony Braxton, The Complete Arista Recordings. Mr. Braxton may well be the last giant of jazz, and this broad array of recordings made in the mid-1970s provides a key part for that argument.

Lou Donaldson, Here ‘Tis. Because an organ combo with Donaldson, Grant Green and Baby Face Willette can party on my stereo any time.

Stan Getz, Sweet Rain. Music from Getz’s late-1960s Chick Corea period.

Dizzy Gillespie, Showtime at the Spotlite. The birth of a bebop big band, replete with Thelonious Monk sitting in the piano chair.

Andrew Hill/Chico Hamilton, Dreams Come True. A piano-drums meeting of masters.

Bobby Hutcherson, Head On. Hutch’s group with saxophonist Harold Land circa 1971, sounding as if they’d been checking out some electric Miles. The three long bonus tracks are as good as the original album material.

Helen Merrill, Dick Katz Sessions. Merrill’s encounter with Clifford Brown remains her best-known recording, but these two albums, recorded more than a decade later in the late 1960s, showcase her singing in even better and more nuanced form.

Roscoe Mitchell, Nonaah. AACM co-founder Mitchell in solo, duo, trio and quartet outings. An avant-garde tour de force from the Nessa label, with bonus tracks.

Grachan Moncur, Evolution. Roiling early-1960s avant-bop with Jackie McLean and Lee Morgan; it sounds like a muggy, brooding August summer night in a city on the verge of a riot.

Pendelum, Live at the Village Vanguard. Dave Liebman and Richie Beirach’s one-off late-1970s progressive-hardbop group–entry #1,357 in the annals of why 1970s jazz did not suck.

Sonny Rollins, Road Shows V. 1. The CW on Rollins of the past 40 years has been to go for the live stuff. Sometimes the CW is right. If this is the start of a Rollins “Dick’s Picks” series, Sonny fans will be in good shape for years to come. Includes a single track from the 2007 Carnegie Hall trio performance.

Gene Shaw, Breakthrough. Obscure early-1960s Chicago hardbop gem from a Mingus sideman.

John Zorn, News for Lulu. Avant-tart rundowns on the hardbop songbook.

Support-your-local-record-store plug: 2008 was also hard on the record-store biz. I’m very lucky to live just a few blocks away from Landlocked Music, an excellent indie record store in downtown Bloomington, and many of the CDs on the above list were purchased there.

David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

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