The Best Records of 2003 

From world fusion to gangsta hip-hop to Broadway-bound folk princesses, our critics sift through the year's finest.

Page 7 of 7

MONK'S MUSIC TRIO
Harmony of Odd Numbers
This record rates as the surprise of the year, engineered by a trio of SF-based veterans unknown outside of the area -- their regular gig is at a coffeehouse in the avenues. Pianist Si Perkoff seems to have digested every nuance of Monk's style without ever sounding overly imitative, and bassist Frank Passantino and drummer Chuck Bernstein are always on the beam. A real joy. (CMB)

MIKE O'BRIEN & CAOIMHIN O'RAGHALLAIGH
Kitty Lie Over
Piper O'Brien and fiddler O'Raghallaigh have produced a classic on their first collaborative release. Unlike some of the bigger-name groups who seem to regard the tunes as creatures that need to be tamed and taught tricks, these two are storytellers who relish every turn of the tale. In a great year for Irish records, this is the one I couldn't stop playing. (ACM)

TOMMY PEOPLES
Waiting for a Call
In the thirty years since his departure from the Bothy Band, Tommy Peoples' fame hasn't extended much beyond the inner circle of Irish musicians and cognoscenti, but now that he's living in Boston we can hope that will change. Most of this album was made in the mid-'80s with five newly recorded tracks rounding out the program. Like every record by this master fiddler, it's a must. (Shanachie)

HORACE SILVER
Paris Blues
Though this edition of Horace Silver's group recorded six and a half classic records for Blue Note, hardbop fans would be happy to have as many more. Few bands could beat the lineup of Blue Mitchell, Junior Cook, Gene Taylor, and Roy Brooks for swing, good humor, and excellent soloing. This unreleased 1962 concert is made-to-order for modern-jazz lovers. (Pablo)

MERLE TRAVIS
In Boston 1959
Merle Travis rarely played for Northern folk-boom audiences, and this recording shows what a pity that was. Though he had long grown accustomed to an electric guitar, a C&W audience, and a Los Angeles lifestyle, the great Kentucky thumbpicker-singer-songwriter had no trouble reverting to the style he learned back home. At his best, Travis had few equals as a solo guitarist, and he proves it here. (Rounder)

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