Henry Butler, Regina Carter, Orbert Davis among the year's best in jazz

December 4, 2014 3:55 PM

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Henry Butler, Steven Bernstein and the Hot 9: "Viper's Drag" (Impulse). Butler, one of today's most leonine jazz pianists, partners with trumpeter Bernstein and like-minded spirits in an exuberant reappraisal of music from Butler's hometown, New Orleans. Butler's colossal pianism and evocative vocals would have been enough to make this recording a keeper. But add the contributions of Bersntein, bassist Reginald Veal, drummer Herlin Riley and others, and you have an irresistibly life-affirming album that addresses the roots of jazz.

Jack Cooper: "Mists: Charles Ives for Jazz Orchestra" (Planet Arts). Can the gnarly, rhythmically complex, densely scored works of 20th century iconoclast Ives be transformed for large jazz ensemble? The task may seem formidable, but arranger Cooper accomplishes it brilliantly, applying a jazz aesth...

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