In 2008 I spent some time experimenting with audiophile-quality digital music playback. Still working on that, but in the process I rediscovered some of my favorite CDs and found some new favorites, too. Here's a list of what (I think) got the most rotation on my playlist in 2008:
Taylor Eigsti - Lucky to Be Me
Still a teenager when he recorded this album in 2006, Taylor Eigsti is an absolute monster on the keys. He's a serious, heavy player. I picked this one up in '07 and it has remained a fave all through '08 as well, getting lots of airtime in my car. Although his roots in fusion show through in several of the tunes, his unique interpretations and total command of straight-ahead jazz standards on this disc is awesome. His take on "Woke Up This Morning" is one of the coolest, most grooving tunes on any jazz CD I own.
Yellowjackets - Twenty Five
The 'jackets have always been and will remain for me one of... if not the... top favorite bands of all time. More than any other group, the Yellowjackets have influenced my own playing and musical direction. So it's no surprise that one of their albums is in my top 5. "Twenty Five" is a CD / DVD combo that was released in 2006. I picked it up last year and it has certainly been in high rotation ever since, as are most of my other CD's by this group. Seeing them live was incredible - this live recording captures that energy really well. And the DVD, showing a bunch of other tunes performed live, is really cool too.
Lyle Mays - Lyle Mays
This self titled album was a hard one to find. I finally snagged a copy off Amazon and am so happy to have it in my collection now. I used to veg out to this album in Banff; its hauntingly beautiful and I can't hear this music without flipping back in my memory to the time I spent in that beautiful place and the events that happened there. It was a time of discovery and new horizons, and discovering this album by Lyle Mays is one of the biggest musical finds of my life. Lyle Mays is a legend among keyboard players. I'm still spinning this one a lot, particularly when I'm in the mood to shut out other distractions and really listen to the music.
EST - Tuesday Wonderland
Esbjorn Svensson Trio has been high on my playlist since I discovered them through a friend in Germany. Seeing them live was another mind-blowing event. I'm so glad I got the opportunity two years ago to do that, because last summer Esbjorn Svensson passed away in a tragic diving accident. These guys were in their 40's but they came practically running out on stage with sneakers and punky t-shirts and just played the shit out of their instruments for almost two hours straight, and then ran out. So vibrant and intense - no wonder they had a huge following among young people and shows with a rock concert atmosphere. EST has something of a cult following; they were really something special and this is a great album.
Moncef Genoud - Aqua
I discovered Moncef Genoud several years ago, and since that time he made appearances at the Montreal Jazz Festival and launched his first US release of a CD, "Aqua". His earlier recordings I had to specially order from Switzerland. Anyway, its good to see his music finding an audience in North America, and this album is really a lovely piece of work. I completely enjoy his playing, it always inspires me and never fails to satisfy when I need a good dose of straight-up acoustic jazz. Moncef is a wonderful improviser, and I was totally into his music a long time before I realized he is blind. He obviously doesn't advertise this as a way to get attention; his playing is so fluid and lyrical that once you start listening, his blindness will seem meaningless.
Bobby McFerrin - The Best of Bobby McFerrin
Discovered through imeem.com, I found this tune by Bobby McFerrin called "Freedom is a Voice" with the Yellowjackets playing accompaniment. Once every few years I come across a tune that makes my neurons fire so frantically that I'll put it on repeat for hours, put on my Sennheisers, and have a musical and spiritual awakening until about 3AM. This song is one of those. I had to get the CD, and happily found that there are some fantastic cuts on this disk, including a couple of great collaborations with Chick Corea. McFerrin, Yellowjackets, Chick Corea... what a combination of talent; this is really a cool album. And yes, it does have "Don't Worry, Be Happy".