THE PAST year in jazz was marked by a renewed vigor on the trumpet front and the confirmation, and in at least one case the arrival, of several major new talents. It was a year in which a number oflong-lived visionary ensembles provided the most enthralling and successful albums of their careers even as individual members put out vigorous and diverse solo albums.
As always, much of the best jazz came in the form of reissues, but for every step rooted in the past, tentative, sometimes bold steps forward were taken by a coterie of committed players. As saxophonist/composer Chico Freeman noted on his brilliant "Tradition In Transition" album, "The transitional music of today will be the tradition of tomorrow."
The two most impressive players of 1982 were 32-year-old Freeman and 21-year-old trumpet sensation Wynton Marsalis, who started the year as a sideman in old pro Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers and ended it as a triple winner in downbeat magazine, copping jazzman of the year honors, top trumpet (by a three-to-one margin over the legendary Miles Davis) and best album for "Wynton Marsalis" (Columbia). That album, rooted in a classical hard-bop style, belied the player's age: as surprising as Marsalis' superchops and obvious commitment to a decidedly uncommercial approach were his uncommon sense of invention and melodic improvisation.
Marsalis was heard on three excellent and typically percolating Blakey collections: "Live at Montreux and Northsea" (Timeless), "Straight Ahead" and "Keystone 3" (both on Concord). He also shared a provocative album with Freeman: "Fathers and Sons" (Columbia) made strong roots-level connections by teaming Wynton and his promising saxophonist brother, Branford, with their father, New Orleans hard-bop pianist Ellis Marsalis. On the flip side, Freeman was teamed with his father, hard-blowing bop saxophonist Von Freeman: the results were mercurial and inspired.
Freeman continued his avowed reconciliation between the traditions of jazz and the quests of the avant-garde on "Destiny's Dance" (Contemporary) and "Tradition in Transition" (Musician). His playing on both was intelligent and original, highly energetic when it needed to be, reflective elsewhere. The connections continued, between European intellectualism and Pan-African emotion, between blues urgency and be-bop energy, between improvisational ingenuity and compositional adventurism.
Cultural traditions were also a recurrent motif in albums by the Art Ensemble of Chicago, Air, and Old and New Dreams, the three most innovative cooperatives in contemporary jazz. The Art Ensemble, whose theme is "Great Black Music--Ancient to the Future," is captured in its natural habitat, the concert stage, for the first time in "Urban Bushmen" (a double album on ECM). The spontaneous compositions range from the near silence of the one-note, seven-minute long "Ancestral Meditation" to lyrical expositions and mesmerizing tribal chants, from ferocious solos to cacophonous traffic-jam encounters. No ensemble has expanded the parameters of avant-jazz and maintained its integrity over such a long period of time as much as this one.
Outside the group, trumpeter Lester Bowie's "The Great Pretender" (ECM) was a sonic delight, particularly the side-long exploration of the '50s rhythm 'n' blues classic that gives the album its title. Bowie's exuberant virtuosity and decidely impish humor encompassed TV themes, Latin jazz and free-form excursions. Almost as impressive: saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell's See RECORDINGS, F11, Col. 1 RECORDINGS, From F10 "Snurdy McGurdy and Her Dancin' Shoes" (Nessa) and the Joseph Jarman/Don Moye collaboration, "Earth Passage/Density" (Black Saint).
Old and New Dreams, alumni and stylistic descendants of Ornette Coleman and his spontaneous compositional principles (acoustic, pre-harmolodic version), were also captured in a brilliant live performance on "Playing" (ECM), with trumpet visionary Don Cherry and saxophonist Dewey Redman releasing vibrant solo albums ("El Corazon" and "The Struggle Continues," respectively, on ECM) as the year ended.
Sphere, the Thelonious Monk tribute band featuring Monk alumni Charlie Rouse and Ben Riley, put out an appropriately compelling album of Monk compositions, "Four in One" (Musician), recorded the same day that Monk died.
Air's "80 Degrees Below '82" (Antilles) was another compelling album encompassing the vibrant history of jazz, from Jelly Roll Morton and Scott Joplin to free-form explorations.
Several other talents deserving recognition joined together on pianist Anthony Davis' "I've Known Rivers" (Grammavision), a vivid showcase for Davis' superb chamber-style compositions and the stellar talents of cellist Abdul Wadud and flutist James Newton, the latter also heard as a soloist on "Axum" (ECM) and in duo and trio settings on "Portraits" (India Navigation).
Also noteworthy: Woody Shaw's "Master of the Art" (Musician); Miles Davis, "We Want Miles" (Columbia); Ricky Ford, "Tenor for the Times" (Muse): Steve Eliovson, "Dawn Dance" (ECM); Shadowfax, "Shadowfax" (Windham Hill); John Scofield, "Shinola" (Enja); David Grisman, "Mondo Mando" (Warner Bros.); John Surman, "Amazing Adventures of Simon Simon" (ECM); Heath Brothers, "Brotherly Love" (Antilles); Steve Tibbets. "Northern Song" (ECM); Ronald Shannon Jackson, "Mandance" (Antilles).
As a whole, the jazz scene remained more adventurous, uncompromising and innovative than its pop counterparts, thinking forward even as it paid its debts to the past. Hardly a concert took place this year without at least one Monk tune being played, and there was a bustle of electric eclecticism as a number of bands sought to fulfil or expand the harmolodic philosophies of Ornette Coleman. Such veterans as Miles Davis, Red Rodney, Ira Sullivan, Stan Getz, Dexter Gordon, Cecil Taylor, Johnny Griffin and Ornette Coleman put out solid albums, while young lions like Anthony Braxton, Arthur Blythe, David Murray and Pat Metheny continued their exploratory sorcery.
The albums singled out here are readily available, but many fine albums are on small, independently distributed labels that one must search out. With little air play to bolster awareness, magazines like downbeat, Coda, Jazz Times, Musician (and particularly Cadence, for the small labels) become invaluable, trustworthy reference tools for searching out the best among the eclectic in what is rightfully called America's classical music. BEST LOCAL ALBUMS--Jazz, Rock, Pop and Bluegrass: More than 60 albums featuring local musicians were released in 1982. Some were deficient in quality of recording or pressing, but all celebrated the diversity of music in Washington. Here's a quick rundown on the best offerings:
The Bill Potts Collection gave us four superb archival jazz albums recorded in Washington nightclubs during the '50s: "One Night in Washington" (Musician) turned out to be the most exhilarating Charlie Parker find in more than a decade; Bud Powell's "Inner Fires" and the third and fourth volumes of Lester Young (on Pablo) weren't far behind.
Tommy Keene, "Strange Alliance" (Avenue Records)--Disconsolate but surprisingly hook-filled power pop.
Sweet Honey in the Rock, "Good News" (Flying Fish)--The glories of a cappella singing where culture and politics meet in heart-songs.
Buck Hill, "Easy to Love" (Steeplechase)--Talk about a tenor for the times! This saxman bloweth and the world begins to heareth.
Shirley Horn, "All Night Long" and "Violets For Your Furs" (Steeplechase)--Two live recordings from the Northsea Jazzfest capture Horn's distinctive vocal interpretations of classic American popular songs.
Egoslavia, "Egoslavia" (9 1/2x16 Records)--Tense urban postpunk with a heavy dose of inner-city funk.
Trouble Funk, "Drop the Bomb" (Sugarhill)--The best of the Chocolate City funk bands has honed its big, booming and irresistible funk beat at countless monster dances.
Helen Schneyer, "On the Hallelujah Line" (Folk Legacy)--Emotional explorations of songs of faith and hope offered in diverse traditional styles.
Johnson Mountain Boys, "Walls of Time" (Rounder)--Brand new bluegrass in the unvarnished tradition of the Monroe Brothers and Flatt and Scruggs.
Kathy Fink, "Doggone My Time" (Rooster)--Solo and group offerings in a warmly eclectic folk manner.
"Flex Your Head" (Discord)--A startling, sometimes disquieting anthology of 11 Washington hard-core rock bands.
Gil Scott-Heron, "Moving Target" (Arista)--Backed by the best band of his career, Scott-Heron has sharpened his political rap-jazz with a new sense of humor and subtlety.
"Richard Smallwood Singers" (Onyx International)--Vibrant small ensemble gospel from a Washington institution.
Four Out of Five Doctors, "Second Opinion" (Nemperor)--Catchy pop anthems from a group that belongs on the airwaves; this second effort had a harder, semimetallic edge missing on last year's debut.
Terry Scott, "Terry Scott" (Elektra)--Accessible black rock in the Foreigner/Free mold.
Glenn Edward Thomas, "Take Love" (EMI)--Thomas' seductive crooning placed him squarely among soul music's new romantics.
Mike Auldridge, "Eight String Swing" (Flying Fish)--The dobro wizard from the Seldom Scene proved that six strings are not enough to contain his solid string inventions.
IMPORTS: You may have to look hard, but there are fine German label compilations on psychedelic rockers, the Slickee Boys ("Here To Stay" on Line Records) and a three-volume collection of local blues and folk figures from L&R Records--"Flora Molton and the Truth Band" (Vol. 1), "Archie Edwards" (Vol. 2) and "Bowling Green John Cephas and Phil Wiggins" (Vol. 3).