Top 5 Los Angeles Jazz Albums of 2011
Despite what some may believe, Los Angeles has a rich jazz history. From Central Avenue to Hermosa Beach, early innovators like Hampton Hawes, Charles Mingus and Dexter Gordon honed their chops in this town before attaining global recognition. Thankfully that tradition continues today. Los Angeles is not lacking in young jazz talent. Want proof? In no particular order, here are our top five LA-influenced "jazz" albums of 2011.
The Lost and Found (Obliqsound)
Oftentimes becoming a "jazz vocalist" doesn't take much more than picking up a microphone and saying "shoo be doo be." Gretchen Parlato isn't a vocalist. She's a musician. Her vocals on her newest release purr over a great, reserved rhythm section that tackles songs as varied as Wayne Shorter's "Ju-Ju" and Simply Red's "Holding Back the Years." Parlato's rich, soulful blend should tip off a lot of vocalists that there are other ways to sing a song than chest-pounding melismas.
The Golden Age of Apocalypse (Brainfeeder)
Considering that Flying Lotus is jazz royalty (Alice Coltrane is his great aunt) it is not surprising to see him making room for jazzbos in his cosmic corner of the record bin, Brainfeeder. Bassist Stephen Bruner's label debut is a fuzzy album of '70s-indebted jazz and R&B, aided by vintage oscillating keyboard sounds and enough intricate production work to fry a dispensary-addled brain. Bruner wields his bass like a child's toy, drawing fleet-fingered lines at every turn. Good luck transcribing that stuff, jazz nerds.