Thursday, 20 December 2018

Ten best albums of 2018; Part 2.

There's a very good reason why this is appearing late, not just my tardiness, but also the inability of BT to provide service at some crucial times this December. However, here it is, in all it's splendour,the five to one of albums rated by Edge of Jazz in 2018.

Five: Tony Kofi; "Point blank"

Pretty straightforward blowing, but what blowing! Toni Kofi, backed by 'The Organisation" worked their way through a whole bunch of jazz standards. Kofi plays both alto and baritone sax on the album, but it's all driven along by a really tight band, with Pete Whittaker the organist propelling the whole delightful album along. I played every track on the album in one show or another and you can expect to hear it again in 2019.

Four: Jakob Bro; " Bay of Rainbows"

It always felt wrong playing tracks from this album between two and four in the afternoon. This is a real "late night listen". Bro is, to say the least, sparse in his approach and there are some solo and some group tracks on this album that was (and at times you forget this) recorded live in New York with Thomas Morgan on Bass and Joey Baron on drums. It's recorded with all the clarity you expect from ECM recordings, and this is a belting album that gives more with every listen.

Three: Various Artists; " We out there"

London continues to be melting pot of music and particularly jazz, and this album demonstrates everything that is good about the emerging scene that's been developing. It says a lot for the varied music on here that several of the bands have subsequently recorded albums, whilst others (like Kokoroko!!) are going to produce albums during 2019. What makes it especially creditable is that although the sleeve says "recorded over three days in London" you'd never have guessed with most of the tracks that there were any time constraints at all. There are errors and wrong notes but it all adds to the refreshing gust of wind blowing through British jazz.

Two: Cecile McLorin Salvant; "The Window"

After two encouraging Mack Avenue albums Cecile decided to record both in the studio and live in front of audiences an album on which she's accompanied only by a piano and organ played by Sullivan Fortner (one track has a tenor sax as well). The strength and inventiveness of what was done is staggering in its depth, choice of material and performance. She manages to perform all the songs in such a way that it's often difficult to remember that the backing is so sparse and that its only one persons voice. It's the sort of album that refreshes belief in what a solo human voice can do.

One: Jean Toussaint All Star 6tet; "Brother Raymond"

The album blew me away and then I saw the band perform it, once as a sixtet and the next time as a quintet (that was Ashburton at the start of November). The album was recorded by an ever changing rhythm section, but a constant frontline of Dennis Rollins on trombone, Byron Wallen on trumpet and Jean Toussaint on tenor sax. They are going to re-record parts of the programme as a live album, which will include new material that isn't on this album. The sense of togetherness that the band bring to the album is audible, and the ability to reproduce the sound live (even without Rollins at Ashburton) is amazing. I have a short interview with Jean, but aim to catch up with them in 2019 to turn it into a programme feature. A terrific album that you ought to own! 

Two that nearly made the top ten.

Madeleine Peyroux; "Anthem"

Madeleine Peyroux given a full band major recording label makeover. Somehow Peyroux doesn't get swamped by what is an all start band fronted by Larry Klein on keyboards, but also featuring Dean Parks and a luminary group of other Hollywood musicians. The material is strong, and so are the performances. Highly recommended.

Gwyneth Herbert; "Letters I haven't written".

I'm clearly biased as I contributed to the crowd funding that brought this album into being in mid November. It's a collection of songs that is based on the premise that everybody has letters that they could/should/would have written, but didn't. Part of the attraction of Gwyneth is that the performance is an important part of the story that the album has to tell. I believe (and hope) that she's going to tour this a bit more in 2019 and getting to a performance will enhance the strength of what is on offer in the album.

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