PRINT December 2002

Music: Best of 2002

Ben Ratliff


1. Steve Coleman (Knitting Factory, New York, Feb. 4) A nearly seamless set of improvisation, and after thickets of odd-meter funk chants, the band launched into Rodgers and Hart’s “Bewitched.”

2. Abbey Lincoln (Alice Tully Hall, New York, Mar. 7–9) Fela, Willie Nelson, and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan have proved it, too: The best performers play basically the same number over and over.

3. Bill Charlap Trio (Jazz Standard, New York, Apr. 9) The control, the discipline, the variations on old songs and standard jazz forms: Wow.

4. Eddie Palmieri (Woolsey Hall, New Haven, CT, Apr. 22) A re-formed version of his two-trombone Latin-jazz band from the ’60s, Conjunto La Perfecta, honored a great, adaptable concept.

5. Mark Turner Trio (Village Vanguard, New York, June 27) I guess it was jazz, but I’m still not sure; elastic and cool, with a strange combination of delicacy and confidence.

6. Super Rail Band/Orchestra Baobab (Central Park Summerstage, New York, July 14) The two great reenergized West African bands of the early ’70s. A hot guitar hero in Djelimady Tounkara, a cool guitar hero in Barthelemy Attisso.

7. Hamiet Bluiett’s Baritone Nation (Iridium, New York, Aug. 27) Elephant-herd blues, by four baritone saxophones.

8. El Gran Combo (Madison Square Garden, New York, Sept. 7) A three-hour fortieth-anniversary blowout.

9. Grandmaster Flash (MuseumsQuartier, Vienna, Sept. 14) A special mix of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turn It Loose” for seventeen thousand Austrian kids.

10. High on Fire (Northsix, Brooklyn, NY, Sept. 27) Matt Pike seems to be a sweet guy with bad teeth and some authority problems, as well as the absolute king of doom metal. And what did you accomplish by age thirty?

Ben Ratliff is a jazz and pop critic at the New York Times. His book, The New York Times Essential Library: Jazz (Times Books/Henry Holt), was published last month.