Before the countdown, I would like to remember three musicians who passed away 2015:
- Allen Toussaint. Allen Toussaint was not only one of the major voices in the pantheon of musicians from New Orleans. His songs also provided the soundtrack to Rock n’ Roll, and Rhythm and Blues. I had the privilege to see him perform with Davell Crawford back in 2010 at the Celebrate Brooklyn summer fest. Think you don’t know his work? Well, check out this list of his ten essential songs, along with ten songs sampled from Hip-Hop.
- Pierre Boulez. In high school, I began to study, compose and arrange classical music. And I seriously thought about becoming an orchestral conductor. I admired folks like Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Boulez, who could bring a group of musicians together and get the best out of them, and out of the music. Not only did I admire Pierre Boulez as a conductor, but I loved his work as a jazz pianist.
- Mark Murphy. This jazz singer was one of the major proponents of vocalese. My former husband, who’s not much of a singer, loved to sing Mark Murphy’s version of Stolen Moments. I couldn’t help but smile. And my favorite song was Red Clay.
May they, along with Natalie Cole, David Bowie, and Glenn Frey, play on in that great band up in the sky. And now, here’s the rundown of my favorite albums for 2015, in no particular order.
- Cuba: The Conversation Continues by Arturo O’Farrill. I listened to this album on the heels of watching him sit in with the Afro-Brazilian big band Letieres Leite & Orkestra Rumpilezz at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. To me, he’s become the proponent of big band music from the African diaspora. Mind blown.
- Sylva by Snarky Puppy. Just a mellow polyrhythmic sound.
- Tomorrow is My Turn by Rhiannon Giddens. Solo debut from member of Carolina Chocolate Drops. Saw her perform this live at Prospect Park. She plays with authority.
- Currents by Tame Impala. Loved this album from the first note. Great instrumentation, love the rhythms. Just a tight set all around.
- Afrodeezia by Marcus Miller. This will be one of my all-time faves!!
- Afro Blue by Harold Mabern. This album plays like fine wine. Exquisite.
- Lost and Found by Buena Vista Social Club. Yes, they might have been found, but they’ve never lost it. Crackling good set.
- Gaadi of Truth by Red Baraat. India meets Brooklyn meets New Orleans. A rousing, rowdy combination of musical genres.
- Zoy Zoy by Tal National.
- Love Somebody by Reba McIntire. Too long away from the recording studio. One song, “Pray for Peace,” is worth the price of the ticket.