Any jazz fan comes to learn that sidemen are the soul and guts of the music: indispensable even when their presence is obscured. And there are rewards inherent in the act of accompaniment, despite the thankless portrait painted in Side Man, the wrenching Warren Leight play. Melodrama aside, it’s not often that sidemen get singled out for their work, which is why this list seemed like a fine idea. Before the year-end roundup effort chugs into gear, here’s a list of 10 laudable sideman performances from 2006.
Richard Bona: Mike Stern, Who Let the Cats Out? (Heads Up) – The rapport between Bona and Stern is well documented-I’ll refer you to the July/August issue of JazzTimes, which featured the pair on the cover-and it has recently produced some fine moments on both artists’ albums. Bona’s contribution to this release, on fretless electric bass and wordless falsetto vocals, marks the finest of those moments. His multi-tracked effort on “Language” is a particular highlight, precisely for sounding like something that neither artist would have done without the other. Whether you choose to call it fusion, pop, global jazz or just music, there’s no mistaking what Bona brings to the table.