Out of all the great albums released in 2010 and reviewed on this site, those focusing on the piano represent the greatest percentage. The piano seems to be at the forefront of innovation, perhaps because the instrument’s versatility makes it the easiest one with which to incorporate diverse styles. The list below consists of albums released in 2010 that demonstrate the vitality of piano music in contemporary jazz, whether it calls upon traditional jazz, classical music, free improvisation, or modern indie rock.
Courtesy of Sunny Side Records
The playfully virtuosic Aaron Goldberg pays tribute to Thelonious Monk, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Stevie Wonder on Home, which features saxophonist Mark Turner. Despite the musical influence or tradition at play, the music is marked by buoyant expression.
Courtesy of Pirouet Records
Consisting only of compositions by trumpeter Clifford Brown
, Joy Spring
is rooted in hard bop, although Carrothers doesn’t limit himself to any particular style. His playing balances gravity and lightheartedness with constant unexpected turns.
Courtesy of Accretions Records
Although Dawn of Midi has the same instrumentation of a piano trio (piano, bass, and drums), it is not piano-centric. Each member of the group plays an equal role in creating sparse and dynamic free improvisation.
Courtesy of Palmetto Records
Fred Hersch’s Whirl was recorded shortly after a Hersch recovered from a two-month coma, which may play a part in the album’s emotional depth. The array of standards and original tunes explore frivolous impulsivity, joy, and haunted reflection.
Courtesy of ACT Records
Vijay Iyer’s album of solo piano works displays the innovative pianist’s uniquely grand and gnarly style. Iyer uses music from a broad range of styles, including that of Thelonious Monk
, Michael Jackson, and Duke Ellington
, as foundations for elegantly craggy improvisations.
Courtesy of Mack Avenue Records
Unlike most of the other albums on this list, Danilo Pérez’ Providencia features arrangements for ensembles involving saxophone, percussion, vocals, and woodwind quintet. Implying drama and narrative, Pérez’ compositions often achieve sweeping beauty.
Courtesy of Sunnyside Records
Dan Tepfer’s compositions for piano trio welcome the influences of jazz, rock, and classical music equally. Tepfer and his group boil down their influences into an understated and brooding album of large scope and subtle expressivity.