Big hits, no plugs: the albums of 1993: Jazz

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On WEA, Joshua Redman's Wish signalled the arrival of a great new tenor saxophone voice pitched somewhere between the classic tradition of smoochy balladeers like Ben Webster and Dexter Gordon and the rhythmic intensity of Ornette Coleman or Dewey Redman, Joshua's dad. He eases through the changes of the normal blues, ballads and stompers repertoire with a masterful command.

On EMI's Blue Note label the vocalist Cassandra Wilson finally made an album to better her Blue Skies set of a few years ago. Blue Light 'Til Dawn is a stripped- down-to-the-bone collection of old blues and standards where her big voice is made to carry the show almost alone, accompanied only by a shimmer from percussion, steel guitar, bass and the odd interjection of violin, clarinet or cornet.

The annual dump-truck's worth of David Murray albums includes at least one essential item in Ballads for Bass Clarinet (DIW). Murray demonstrates the incredible range of the instrument - which looks like an antique radiator - by going from stratospheric trumpet register to basso profundo squalls while somehow managing to retain melodic unities.

The British clarinet and alto sax player David Jean Baptiste released an excellent low-budget debut, Grooved On A Four (Saxology), which demonatrated a Murray-like emotional attack driven with remorseless swing by Andrea Vicari's piano. Among other British players, Julian Joseph's Reality (East West) confirmed the promise of his debut, while US3's Hand On The Torch (Blue Note) set the agenda for jazz-rap fusion.

In the jazz equivalent of the chill-out room ECM Records still hold sway, and on In The Evenings Out There, pianist Paul Bley, bassist Gay Peacock, drummer Tony Oxley and reeds player John Surman created a chamber music series of mainly solo and duet pieces that perfectly capture that late night meets early morning feeling. A reassertion of traditional modern jazz values of the highest order can be heard on the soprano saxophonist Dave Liebman's quite outstanding Setting The Standard (Red), which opens with the perennial jazz-pub favourite 'Milestones' and never lets up thereafter.

Re-releases continued to appear with at least the frequency of new recordings. Hammond organ maestro Big John Patton's Let 'Em Roll (Blue Note), Pharoah Sanders' superb Heart Is A Melody (Evidence) and - for completists - another five CDs from the Sun Ra vaults (all on Evidence) are among the best on offer.

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