Thursday 13 June 2019

Halfway through 2019 already! Time to sort out a few of the albums that may make my Top 10 albums at the end of the year. Big dilemma this year is going to be whether to include any of the plethora of re-releases that are pouring forth at the time of writing, especially as Blue Note Records in their 75th year are releasing a host of vinyl albums that have long been out of print. Some of them have arrived already and are blasting through the house on a regular basis courtesy of my new (upgraded) Arcam amp. The following albums are the ones that have made an impression this year (so far);

Branford Marsalis Quartet: The Secret between the Shadow and the Soul. 

Marsalis plays beautifully, and the rest of the group are hugely supportive. Joey Calderazzo on piano contributes two compositions as does Eric Revis on Bass. The drummer is Justin Faulkner. Marsalsis contributes one composition and there's an Andrew Hill and Keith Jarrett tune as well. This is not heavyweight blowing, but considered and elegant and an album to be savoured with lots of listens as it has a lot to give texturally. 

Duncan Eagles: Citizen.

Saw the band play at Ashburton. Like the Marsalis album mentioned above this is a complex  album which delivers with repeated listenings. Technically this is a 2018 release, but my copy (which came from his new label Ropeadope) didn't appear until January, so I'm counting this as a 2019 release. The band are a quintet and David Preston on guitar adds a welcome dimension to the sound. Highly recommended.

Quiana Lynell: A little love.

Suddenly there has been a rush of new female artists who have something unique to offer. Quiana's album encompasses a whole range of styles from "Hip shakin' Momma" which I associate with Irma Thomas, to Donny Hathaways "Tryin' times" and George and Ira Gershwin's "They all laughed". I guess it's meant to emphasise her versatility, and I really enjoyed the album, and have played it a lot. It'll be interesting to see which of the styles she settles on for her next album.

Cyrille Aimee: Move on.

For her fourth (?) album Cyrille Aimee has abandoned her guitar trio with which she's toured for the last couple of years and moved onto something different, with a wider palette of musicians and a choice of material that she subtitles as " A Sondheim Adventure". Not all the tracks are self-evident as Sondheim material, but she has produced an album that does what it says in the title with a satisfying range of songs given her unique vocal treatment. Be not afraid of the sub-title this is a really diverse album.

Jeff Ballard: Fairgrounds.

In which drummer Ballard has gathered around himself some excellent musicians (including guitarist Lionel Loueke) and taken them out on the road, recording as they went along. There's a mixture of both self-penned and other people's material, and the band included a couple of guest appearances by Chris Cheek and Mark Lockheart (both Tenor Sax players). It's another album that I've grown into, with new depths being revealed with every listen. Recommended.

The Comet Is Coming: Trust in the Lifeforce of deep mystery.

Received quite a lot of air play on 6 music, and the music has certainly moved on from their last outing being both 'heavier' (now there's a 60's cliché!). dynamic and based around a single developed theme. Several people who saw them at the Sea Change Festival were disappointed with the live show, but this is definitely a studio based album loosely associated with jazz and extremely percussive. If all that sounds like damning with faint praise, it's not, it's a really impressive album!

There were several other albums that should probably have made the half year cut, and maybe I'll find time to mention a couple more in an upcoming blog. As to the issue of re-issues perhaps it's a topic I can also cover in another forthcoming blog. Watch this space!