Will Layman is a writer, teacher and musician living in the Washington, DC area. He has been a contributor to National Public Radio and WNYC's "Soundcheck" as a jazz critic. He plays rock, funk, and jazz in the bars and clubs in and near the nation's capital. His fiction and humor appear in print and online.
There is so much wonderful creative music these days that even an apartment-bound critic misses too much of it. Here is jazz from the last 18 months that shouldn't be missed.
West Coast pianist Denny Zeitlin creates a classic and adventurous live set with his long-standing trio featuring Buster Williams and Matt Wilson on Live at Mezzrow.
Jazz drummer Jeff Cosgrove leads brilliant organ player John Medeski and multi-reed master Jeff Lederer through a revelatory recording of songs by William Parker and some just-as-good originals.
A nimble jazz power trio of drums, tenor sax, and piano, the Chad Taylor Trio is free and fun, funky and fiery on The Daily Biological.
Jazz trombonist Nick Finzer shines with his compositions on this mainstream jazz sextet release, Cast of Characters.
Improvising and brass shaking from three trombones plus tuba equal a whole lotta fun on Joe Fiedler's Live in Graz.
Jazz guitarist Steve Cardenas' Blue Has a Range sports modern but vintage jazz guitar at the center of a gorgeously balanced group of composer and players.
Joshua Redman's 1994 quartet of young jazz lions reunites as contemporary masters on RoundAgain.
Micah Thomas' Tide is the debut of a young jazz pianist who is comfortable and fluent in a "new mainstream": abstraction as well as tonality, freedom as well as technical complexity.
On the release of his latest, Hero Trio, saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa records his first session of covers, playing jazz standards and hip-pop with a fabulous trio featuring bassist François Moutin and drummer Rudy Royston.
Two of the top players in modern jazz make the second in a sequence of quintet recordings that presents jazz as unusually easy to love even as it maintains modern complexity.
The jazz guitar trio is a classic format, and John Scofield, Steve Swallow, and Bill Stewart are as well-equipped to venerate it and renew it a bit on Swallow Tales.
The most notable trumpet player in jazz today, Ambrose Akinmusire, creates a major recording focusing on his quartet leaping from mode to mode.
Jazz trumpeter and composer Dave Douglas has constructed a tribute to Dizzy Gillespie that gives his young band as much voice as possible, with two reinterpretations of Dizzy classics and seven originals.
Jazz pianist and composer James Carney returns with a session featuring sparkling collective improvisation and inventive composition.
Jazz pianist Aaron Parks' grooving but exploratory quartet returns for a second recording after being on the road, and it's stunning.
Kurt Elling's collaboration with pianist Danilo Pérez features impressionistic and daring playing and poetic lyrics, making it one of the highlights of a brilliant jazz vocal career.
Matthew Shipp's The Piano Equation is a fully improvised solo piano recital to stand the test of time, sitting in the realm where mathematics and magic collide.
In arranger Vince Mendoza and the WDR Big Band, singer Luciana Souza has partners who understand that it's important she beguile rather than batter.
Jazz was working all the angles in 2010. Is there any other genre that has as much range -- from solo instruments to big bands, from instrumental to vocal, from European musicians to both North and South Americans, from truly pretty music to raucously avant-garde "noise"?
Guitarist Liberty Ellman's compositions for this brilliant sextet on Last Desert demand that you pay careful attention, but not that you tolerate harsh tonalities.
An unlikely trio of trombone, cello, and piano fuses jazz, creative improvised music, and European art music without sounding cobbled together. Reverso are Vincent Courtois, Ryan Keberle, and Frank Woeste.
On From This Place, Pat Metheny's recent and superb quartet is supplemented by orchestral arrangements on ten new Metheny originals.