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One Writer's Subjective Opinion re: Best Discs of 2003

DISCS THAT MADE 2003 BEARABLE (in no order whatsoever)

1) Elvis Costello, North (Deutsche Grammophon) The sardonic, erudite rocker turns into (for this album at least) a sober, haunted crooner, crafting his very own counterpart to the 1950s romantic-angst concept album Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely but with all original songs, written with the poignancy of standards like "One For My Baby" and "Angel Eyes."

2) Lee Morgan, Sonic Boom (Blue Note) Sure, this material here's been out before in 1980 and 1978, but hasn't been around for awhile -- thank the Intrepid BN Vault Trolls for bringing two "lost" Morgan albums back on one [!] disc. Morgan is at his rippling, bristling best, accompanied by David "Fathead" Newman (who brings a sharp, R&B-charged energy to the proceedings), George Coleman and Julian Priester.

3) Barbara Sfraga, Under The Moon (A440) Great & truly MODERN jazz singer who doesn't approach her craft as if music stopped dead with the Great American Songbook. Sings like a genetic cross-wiring of Sheila Jordan and Joni Mitchell, too.

4) Jeff Buckley, Live at Sin-e - Legacy Edition (Columbia/Legacy) This set is technically not a reissue, as about 75% is previously unreleased. The late Buckley was an AMAZING vocalist, one who was Beyond Category.

5) Dan Reeder, s/t (Oh Boy) Somebody once said "comics are people who say funny things; comedians are funny people." I say: some folks do songs that are witty and/or funny, but forget to make them well-structured, substantial songs that one can listen to more than 4 or 5 times with saying, "yeah, I get it already." Dan Reeder remembers - and works in blues, folk, gospel and rock influences in memorable songs with wry, sometimes R-rated, satirical lyrics.

6) Abyssinia Infinite featuring Gigi Shibawa, Zion Roots (Network Medien) See my review on this site.

7) Dave Douglas, Freak In (Bluebird) Fusion the way it ought to (and can) be.

8) The When The Sun Goes Down The Secret History of Rock & Roll series (Bluebird) Don't let the "Rock & Roll" tag put you off -- these compilations and collections collect some darn fine blues, early country and pre-1940s pop.

9) Justin Morrell, Tri(O)range (Sonic Frenzy) Delicious, Impressionistic guitar/piano/bass chamber jazz that remembers the blues.

10) Miles Davis, The Complete Jack Johnson Sessions and Thelonious Monk, various reissues (Columbia/Legacy) Simply on general principles: great music with great sound, bonus tracks and extra liner notes.

Happy Holidays (if possible), everybody!

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