Wise Retrogression (Dusty Groove)The solo project of composer and producer Takashi Okada, this imaginative disc is the latest in a string of brilliant discs from Japan fixated on the jazzy possibilities of broken-beat and electronic jazz. With help from folks like Mark de Clive-Lowe and Kim Hill, this uplifting debut is all soul.
Same Mother (Blue Note)
New York pianist Jason Moran may claim jazz as his home turf, but his albums always range about in unpredictable ways—a previous album featured a chilling adaptation of “Planet Rock” for the piano. His latest features more of the same, balancing aggressive, muscular swagger with delicate, classicist arrangements.
S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M. (Fat Beats)
With independent hip-hop congealing into a directionless mass of purist sound-alikes, it’s always refreshing to hear something like this debut from One.Be.Lo, formerly one-half of Binary Star. While he’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, the disc’s crisp production and thoughtful rhymes rank among the year’s best.
Evolution Revolution (Warner)
This collection examines the masterful comedian’s early years, 1966-1974. Most of these tracks have been feature elsewhere, but taken together, they provide a fascinating look at how Pryor developed the self-confidence to make people feel profoundly uncomfortable.
Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings
Naturally (Daptone) Powered by their stirring cover of Woody Guthries’ “ This Land is Your Land,” these New York funk revivalists come strong on their sophomore disc. The Dap-Kings’ vintage, circa 1969 chops and Jones’ powerful wailing will have you double-taking (and then dip-diving).
Hua Hsu is a doctoral student at Harvard University, a DJ and a writer for Slate, the Village Voice and the Wire, among other publications.