PRINT December 2001


Ben Ratliff


1. John Lewis (Alice Tully Hall, New York, Jan. 18) How inept we seem to have been in not recognizing his swing and sensuality, and what a way to go out, with an almost perfect live retrospective only sixty days before this jazz master’s death.

2. Carlinhos Brown and Timbalada (Salvador da Bahía, Brazil, Feb. 25) When Brown let loose with the heavy, dense James Brown funk, the crowd froze. When he played this year’s Carnaval hit, a cheery cha-cha-cha, the crowd exploded.

3. Pantera (Hammerstein Ballroom, New York, Mar. 9) Still impressively hard and loud and direct in their eleventh year.

4. Mark Morris Dance Group (Brooklyn Academy of Music, Mar. 15) Consummately American, mixing classical moves with Motown choreography.

5. Nação Zumbi (Abril Pro Rock, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil, Apr. 20) When the rap-metal thrashing switched over to the ciranda rhythm, the 7,000 teenagers on hand broke up their freestyle mosh circles and switched to ciranda circles.

6. Joe Lovano Quintet (Village Vanguard, New York, May 29) Working with the idea of a trio, but leading five musicians on stage, Lovano enabled players to jump in and jump out of the music.

7. Wayne Shorter Quartet (Avery Fisher Hall, New York, June 28) Shorter is jazz’s last god, and the band sounds like they’re on a holy mission.

8. Ozzfest (PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, NJ, Aug. 11) “THROW SOME DIRT!” yelled the singer from Papa Roach. A few minutes later it was raining sod. Stupid. Give me goth kids over metal jocks any day.

9. Jason Moran Trio (Iridium, New York, Oct. 9) Finally, a young jazz pianist who is recognizably of his generation, with a creative, fractious mind that hasn’t been frozen by fealty to Hancock and Tyner.

10. N.E.R.D., In Search Of ( Funnier than the Beastie Boys, stupider than Jay-Z, and a real album-qua-album, full of scorn and funk, pop knowledge, and weird left turns.

Ben Ratliff is currently at work on a book about jazz’s essential recordings.