The Arts Fuse – Best of 2016

By Michael Ullman

Several of these discs, including the sublime Jim Hall-Red Mitchell collaboration, are unexpected pleasures.

I was generous (to myself) when compiling this list of outstanding recordings from 2016, piling up a baker’s dozen in the first category. Several of these discs, including the sublime Jim Hall-Red Mitchell collaboration, are unexpected pleasures. Jim Hall passed away three years ago. The studio album by this duo, called simply Jim Hall/Red Mitchell, is one of my favorite recordings. The new set from these musicians, which I didn’t know existed, is a live recording made at Sweet Basil’s. Joe Lovano had his 2011 set at Newport with Hank Jones on piano recorded because he thought his band was at the top of its game, even though he knew it couldn’t be released at the time. Kenny Barron is simply a grand master, and Book of Intuition is one of his best efforts. The rest should be self-explanatory. I am grateful to all these musicians for the breadth of the music they are making, from duos to big bands, their inspirations ranging from around the world.

-Kenny Barron, Book of Intuition (Impulse)
-Jim Hall/Red Mitchell, Valse Hot (Artists Share)
-Joshua Redman/Brad Meldhau, Nearness (Nonesuch)
-John Scofield, Country for Old Men (Impulse)
-Wadada Leo Smith, America’s National Parks (Cuneiform)
-Jane Ira Bloom, Early Americans (Outline)
-Kenny Garrett, Do Your Dance! (Mack Avenue)
-Mark Dresser, Sedimental You (Clean Feed Records)
-Tigran Hamasyan, Mockroot (Nonesuch)
-Andrew Cyrille, The Declaration of Musical Independence (ECM)
-Joe Lovano, Classic! Live at Newport (Blue Note)
-Kris Davis, Duopoly (Pyroclastic)
-Henry Threadgill, Old Locks and Irregular Verbs (Pi)


Michael Ullman studied classical clarinet and was educated at Harvard, the University of Chicago, and the U. of Michigan, from which he received a PhD in English. The author or co-author of two books on jazz, he has written on jazz and classical music for The Atlantic Monthly, The New Republic, High Fidelity, Stereophile, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, and other venues. His articles on Dickens, Joyce, Kipling, and others have appeared in academic journals. For over 20 years, he has written a bi-monthly jazz column for Fanfare Magazine, for which he also reviews classical music. At Tufts University, he teaches mostly modernist writers in the English Department and jazz and blues history in the Music Department. He plays piano badly.

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