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Take Five's Top 5 Jazz CDs Of 2008

Rudresh Mahanthappa.
Mark Duggan
Courtesy of the artist
Rudresh Mahanthappa.

Whether openly or covertly, all music types love this time of year. It's not just that Christmas shopping gives us an excuse to visit our local record stores; it's also that we're hard at work making Top 10 lists and checking them twice before we get there. Some may claim to hate best-of manifestos on principle, but deep down, what could a performing artist, reviewer or radio programmer enjoy more than recommending new music?

Those of us behind the Take Five series wanted to get in on the act, too. So we asked NPR Music's contributing jazz partners WBGO, WDUQ and Jazz24 to recommend their top jazz albums of the year for our Best CDs of 2008 series. We then compiled what we thought were the very best of the best — and added our own personal picks.

For more entries the Take Five sampler, click here. Subscribe to the Jazz Notes newsletter.

Copyright 2024 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Take Five's Top 5 Jazz CDs Of 2008

The Roy Hargrove Quintet

"Strasbourg/St. Denis"

From 'Earfood'

Late last year, Roy Hargrove took his touring band into a Los Angeles studio (with master engineer Al Schmitt on hand) and ripped out a set of tunes that the band had been playing every night on the road. There were originals, some standards and a few surprises, too. The band sounds incredibly tight, and Hargrove's solos are dazzling yet concise. Not a moment is wasted in the disc, either in the playing or the listening. The band seems to be having a hell of a good time, and it's infectious. --Nick Francis, Jazz24

I Heart Lung

"Interoceans I (Upwelling)"

From 'Interoceans'

Guitarist Chris Schlarb's projects capture a form of emotional release that few avant-garde musicians can muster. At its core, I Heart Lung is a duo with drummer Tom Steck, but Interoceans is a community. After recording a series of Brian Eno-inspired drones, I Heart Lung enlisted additional contributions from guitarist Nels Cline, trumpeter Kris Tiner, field recorder Aaron Ximm and many more. These meditative, exploratory and sometimes intensely rocking improvisations were woven into the album's basic framework. And while avant-garde jazz tends to frown upon post-editing, I Heart Lung creates an organic world, which ties all these disparate elements into a sound that moves together. --Lars Gotrich, NPR Music

Aaron Parks

"Peaceful Warrior"

Invisible Cinema is 24-year-old pianist Aaron Parks' debut album for Blue Note. Parks has worked on the road and in the studio for years with Terence Blanchard's sextet, including on the soundtracks for the Spike Lee films When the Levees Broke and Inside Man. Each of Invisible Cinema's entirely original compositions could serve as soundtracks to movies that have yet to be filmed. --Shaunna Morrison Machosky, WDUQ

Rudresh Mahanthappa


From 'Kinsmen'

If you've followed Indian-American saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa over the last few years, you might have seen this coming. He plays the alto with a searing fervor, rendering his methodically formulated compositions with an uncalculated, natural feel. But Kinsmen is ambitious even for him. Soon after Mahanthappa met Kadri Gopalnath, who's made a career of adapting the saxophone to South India's carnatic ragas, he charged himself to organically cross-breed Indian classical music and jazz. Happily, Kinsmen side-steps the heavily medicated New Age fusion that tends to mar these sorts of collaborations. It simply interlaces ideas and techniques where they work together sensibly, spinning webs of fiery improvisation over busily clattering percussion. Whatever it is, it's fresh, relevant and eye-opening — or at least, to invert a favorite cliche, "good enough for jazz." --Patrick Jarenwattananon, NPR Music

Dave Holland Sextet

"Pass It On"

From 'Pass It On'

Bassist Dave Holland crafts near-perfect compositions for players and listeners alike. Whether in a big-band or small-group setting, his first notes are powerful enough to draw everyone into his tunes. There's always a group feel to what's going on, and the interplay is infectious. The title track to his new album, Pass It On, brings together altoist Antonio Hart, pianist Mulgrew Miller, trumpeter Alex Sipiagin, drummer Eric Harland and longtime Holland musical conspirator Robin Eubanks on trombone. Holland and his group have made one of this year's finest records; pass it on. --Gary Walker, WBGO

Lars Gotrich
Listen to the Viking's Choice playlist; subscribe to the newsletter.
Patrick Jarenwattananon