Wednesday 13 December 2017

Eight to one - The Top 15 jazz album pick from "The Edge of Jazz".

Having ravenously consumed fifteen to nine in the last post this the list from eight to one, with the proviso that with the exception of number one they appear in no particular order. I'm happy to say that my list and the one published in the December  2017 "Jazzwise Magazine" carry only a couple of similarities, which is as it should be given that the show is called Edge of Jazz!

"Far from over" - Vijay Iyer Sextet.

I've tended to find that a lot of ECM recordings are recorded to sound very clinical. This recording of pianist Vijay Iyer is the human face of the label. Not only are there a variety of tempos and arrangements, but Iyer seems to appreciate that moving from the trio format with another three instruments requires that there is a fluidity that is available. It also helps that the 'sidesmen' are of the highest quality with Mark Shim the tenor sax player being outstanding and able to empasise well with the leader. Requires several plays!

"A social call" - Jazzmeia Horn.

I didn't pick up on this until it was pointed out by a listener. As a first album for a major label, and as an award winning singer I was inclined to be sceptical. However I've worked my way into it and although in places it sounds as if the producer wanted to cover all the soul/blues/jazz corners, her voice transcends it all, and the backing sextet perform admirably. A whole page of 'thank yous' perhaps indicate that the battle between what the record company want her to be, and what she is ( a potentially great jazz singer) has ways to go/

"Formidable" - Pat Martino.

An exciting return for the sometimes troubled guitar virtuoso is summed up quite accurately by the title. The basic trio on the album (great shout for organ player Pat Bianchi) are joined on a slection of the tracks by Adam Neiwood on tenor and Adam Norris on trumpet. But the real star is Martino playing on a selection of material that allows him to stretch out. There's even a new version of El Hombre. A delight.

"Common Spaces" - New Simplicity Trio.

It's often difficult to know what a piano led trio still has to offer, but New Simplicity Trio excel with set that has compositions from each of the members, with an additional Charlie Mingus composition. Each of the players has an individualistic approach to their instrument, none more so than nominal leader Antonio Fusco whose approach to a drum kit lies outside the normal. Add Henrik Jensen (Bass) and Bruno Heinen (Piano) and trio move outside the normal expected parameters of the format.

" Circle of  Chimes" - Marius Neset.

Not the normal jazz ensemble line-up, the group have a cello player and a flute and a piccolo player in addition to Ivo Neame on piano, Jim Hart on Vibes and another appearance for Lionel Loueke., as well as Bass and drums. Neset wrote and arranged all the tracks and as well as Sax also manages to play |Melodica on one track. The result is a series of expertly crafted soundscapes that demonstrates where jazz can go in the early 21st century. Every play will reveal fresh layers.

"Marseille" - Ahmad Jamal.

Jamal continues to astound. An octogenarian he has brought new ideas to a series of albums of which Marseille, a homage to the City of the same name, is 2017's. There are three very different versions of the central theme, one an instrumental, and the other two vocals with Abd Al Malik, and an entirely different take from Mina Agossi. Probably the best way into this classic is through the track "Pots en verre", but it's an album that reveals many facets of his work.

"Time for the dancers" - Russell Malone.

Saddled with what has to be the worst jazz album cover of the year the contents prove just what a brilliant guitarist Malone is. The band, as you might expect are tight like that, with pianist Rick Germanson proving a wonderful foil for Malone's fluid guitar style. There is a wide range of styles and an interesting comparison is possible between the trio version of "Pocket Watch" from the 'Triple play' album. Aspiring guitarist could do worse that listen to the album in full to pick up on some excellent techniques from a master technician.

"The Chase" - Leo Richardson Quartet.

Can't think of another album recently that I've sequentially played every track from, and that at the time of writing I'm working my way through again. Leo Richardson and his band have produced a stunning album aided and abetted on three tracks by Quentin Collins, and another by Alan Skidmore. Throughout the album there are nods to Horace Silver, but this is a hard-bop album that proves that a sax led quartet still has new things to say when it's played by such a tightly knit ensemble. If you are encouraged by these lists to buy only one album in the remainder of 2017 make it this one, For me, the #1 album of the year by a country mile in a year that gave it lots of competition.

Hope you enjoy the choices. It would be good to receive some feedback. Positive or negative!.  

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Fifteen to nine - The Edge of Jazz Top 15 albums 2017 (Part One)

These albums aren't in any particular order (although the #1 is an outstanding disc)

"Together as one" - Dinosaur.

Amazing even the band themselves,this became a Mercury Prize nomination. Although  Laura Jurd's previous work has been outstanding, this band seems to have finally given her a context in which to frame  her trumpet playing. This is not to detract from the other members of the band who play an integral part of what they set out to do. Infused with sometimes unexpected electronica this laid down a direction for what happens next.

"Meet Lionel Loueke" - Vampires.

Having been aware of what the Vampires had done in the past the band had given no indication that given the eclectic support of Lionel Loueke they would be able to produce anything so satisfying. The album fuses their antipodean roots to Loueke's African inspired playing. The result was a pot pouri of a broad series of styles and influences, and an obvious delight in each others playing. You'd never guess that this was a one-off album that you can only hope gets repeated in another outing sometime in the future.

"Isang" - Camilla George Quartet.

There seems to have been quite a number of fusion albums this year where there has bee a coming together of a whole series of different cultural reference points and some excellent composing. This is one of the best of the genre. Not only because of Camilla George's Sax playing but  also because it's
performed by a band who have bonded together to become more than the sum of their parts, especially the outstanding piano playing of Sarah Tandy.

"Stretch Music" - Christian Scott.

The re-appearance on the vinyl album. 2017 had the unexpected bonus of record companies starting to provide 12" slabs of black vinyl again. This is one of two albums that will appear in this category. It's not really clear when Scott recorded this magnificent set, but remarkable because of his delightful trumpet playing set against a range of different musical genres. I saw him play this year (jaw dropping and nothing like the Miles Davis sound-alike tag that he undeservedly picked up). A magnificent treat - especially when played loud!

"Up and coming" - John Abercrombie.

It's difficult to describe Abercrombie's style of playing, laid back hardly nails it. What marks this set out as being so good is the comfort of the group work. I can't remember whether this is the first set with Marc Copeland on piano but he adds a counterpoint to where Abercrombie wants to go. The whole album is great, but I especially like the great reading of Miles Davis's "Nardis"

"Landed in Brooklyn" - Julian & Roman Wasserfuhr.

Whoever decided to record the brothers in the US with an all star backing band provided an album that I've played an awful lot. They provide trumpet (Julian) and piano (Roman) and all the tunes, but get stellar help from their US support - especially Donny McCaslin who turned up on all sorts of albums during the course of the year (including his own solo effort). It's a rich fusion of their German roots and the influence of being in America. Some really strong tracks ( try SNCF)

"Aytche" - Joseph Shabason.

I know nothing much about Shabason - whose name I have mercilessly mis-spelt during the year. The album is a jazz ambient fusion. However, describing it thus barely does it justice. I would guess that it's minimalist sound has as much to do with scarcity of resources as anything else but its flow and nuance makes it highly listenable. In fact, now that I've sat down to write about it I can do no better than put it on the turntable and play it again. Left field and highly recommended.

The remaining eight will follow next week!