Tuesday 8 December 2015

Top ten albums of 2015 (continued!)

"Symbiosis" Dennis Rollins Velocity Trio:

One of the constantly under estimated talents on the British jazz scene, Rollins has produced a series of albums that merit attention. This 2015 selection is a terrific example of both solo-ing and a group playing together who have a complete understanding of what Rollins, as leader, is trying to do and showcases his trombone playing really well. If you get an opportunity to see this band on the road - take it!

"New Ansonia" Misha Mullov-Abbado:

Abbado is the bass player on this album, but it's a real group effort, with Tom Green counterpointing the alto sax playing of Matthew Herd. All the tracks are his own compositions except for the version of Earth Wind & Fire's "September" and they are terrific. The album was co-produced by Julian Joseph and it's difficult not to hope that a follow-up happens sooner, rather than later.

"All in" Beats and Pieces Big Band":

This 13 piece band not only managed to produce this album, but also toured with it. It's a regret that I didn't get to see them because the album is such a splendid example of just how good British Jazz is in 2015. There's a huge variety of styles on the album and Ben Cottrell who is named as 'Director' manages to allow space for a goodly amount of solo-ing, as well as some really great ensemble playing. It's out on the Efpi label, and is well worth hunting down.

"Floating Points" Elaenia:

  An album that appeared with some help from the Momentum Music Fund through the Arts Council of Great Britain. It straddles a range of what used to be called 'styles' but in the 21st century could be described as classical jazz electronica- but even that doesn't do it justice. It's this years left field choice on the list, and is largely the work of Sam Shepherd with help from a whole diversity of sources.  So no apologies for it making the top ten, it's an album that I've listened to consistently since I got it, and fits a plethora of moods.

"Strata" Ivo Neame:

If you're familiar with his existing back catalogue you'll find this an album that pushes the boundaries further out. Neame is joined by an interesting array of musicians including vibes player Jim Hart and sax player Tori Freestone. The result is a mixture of the unexpected all based on strong tunes all written by Neame himself. It's a fascinating expansion of boundaries, an indication of even more exciting work to come and is a very satisfying and enjoyable album.

So you think that's the end?

Shocked by the fact that there's not an American in sight in the top ten (John Scofield nearly made it!) I'm allowing myself an eleventh, which is actually a bit of a cheat. I have a friend called Ian who travels extensively abroad (and I mean extensively!) and is kind enough to bring me back CD's he's browsed, usually in transit lounges, but this next one I didn't get 'til this year, although it was probably released on the German 'Pirouet'  label in 2014 It's thoroughly recommended;

"Ramshackle Serenade"  Goldings, Bernstein and Stewart:

Comfort music if you like, but a trio that are so clearly at ease with each others playing that it mixes up some seamless self compositions with other tracks by artists as diverse as Horace Silver and Antonio Carlos Jobim. They all allow each other space to develop solidly constructed solo's. I have no idea whether it's readily available in this country or not, but it is worth seeking out.

That's it then! 2015 in eleven albums that have consistently blown me away, and probably bear no relation to any other top 10 albums of the year - but hey! It's my list. Enjoy!

Monday 7 December 2015

Edge of Jazz Top Ten Albums of 2015:

These are in no particular order, but are the albums that I've enjoyed the most during 2015, and in a couple of cases that listeners have said that they really enjoyed as well. Trying to explain why I like some of the chosen ten is almost as difficult, because sometimes with music it's all in the notes....

"Skyline" Tom Green Septet:  

Difficult to think of an album that I've played more than this one (perhaps with the exception of the next one!). This album is a stunning example of what British jazz is about in 2015. Even with the difficulty and expense of keeping a seven piece on the road, Tom also played some blinding live gigs - one of which I was able to attend- and live the band surpassed the sound that they achieved on this magnificent album.

"Outsiders Insiders" Emily Saunders:

I did wonder after the long wait after "Cotton Skies" whether Emily could deliver anything that would better it. This did it in spades. Helped by an empathetic backing 'band' the album contains a series of songs that were, from my point of view, unsurpassed in 2015. Working on the assumption that the south-west might provide a somewhat better summer in 2016 than it did this year, this will be a window open-must play album for next summer- and probably until she tells me the follow up is ready to go.

"You've got to dig it to dig it, dig?" Derek Nash Acoustic Quartet:

This crept out right at the end of the year and is a wonderfully paced set of tunes that are lovingly and creatively crafted by the whole quartet to follow up their previous album "Joyriding" and actually includes "Morning Glory" from that set as a bonus track. You can hear the premise on which the tunes were created by listening to my 1st December show on the Phonic.FM Mixcloud page - and hear two of the tracks as well.

"String Theory" Partikel:

Since the series of dates that they did touring to promote the album they seem to have spent a lot of time abroad (including a visit to China). This remains a favourite, possible as a result of seeing them at my 'gig of the year' at St Lawrence's Chapel in Ashburton [venue of the year bar none!] The whole concept is a strong one, and the string quartet is both empathetic and supportive to what the band are trying to achieve.

"Fables" Girls in Airports:

This the fourth album from the Danish band was the first to have an international release. One of my younger listeners e mailed me to say "Cool-jazz for people who don't know they like jazz" It's difficult to top that description, but this meld of two saxes, a rhythm section and Mathias Holm's keyboard playing certainly has a novel and at times haunting sound.

The remaining six albums follow!!!