It's about this time of year that I start noting the albums that have been released during the current year that I've particularly enjoyed. 2021 being what it is it's not been a normal year for releases. Not only has it been a period of lock down, but here in south-west England the weather has been, to say the least haphazard with a very dry April and (so far ) an incredibly wet May. If you look at the release schedules for albums you'll notice that record companies keep on changing the dates of new releases on a regular basis. I've also been playing tracks that were (supposedly) been released during 2020, but have only now reached me. Rather confusing! However these are the starting five, all of which have definitely been released during 2021, and present as diverse an approach to 'jazz' as it would be possible to find.
Emmet Cohen - Future stride.
It's based around a basic trio of drums (Kyle Poole), Bass ( Russel Hall) and Cohen himself on piano. Several of the tracks have trumpet Marquis Hill) and Melissa Aldana (Tenor sax). The tunes are a mixture of old (one from 1919 ) Rogers and hart and Duke Ellington and other are self composed. Stride is a piano style that requires a specific left hand technique, and Cohen finds many ways of adapting the style to the range of music that he's chosen. The album is full of variation and an enormous sense of fun, and his piano playing isn't the only time he occurs on this brief list. Highly recommended.
Nubiyan Twist - Freedom Fables.
A nine or ten pice band that have taken elelments of the jazz styles of the emergent London jazz scene and harnessed it a more afro centric kind of style, with a punchy horn section. They're going to be doing a huge tour later in the year, as well as playing at WOMAD. The album displays a range of facets of their playing from a track with Soweto Kinch together with a wide range of (guest?) vocalists. Actually it's really hard to pigeon hole their style, which is probably why it fits so well into 'The Edge of Jazz'
Shai Maestro - Human.
An Israeli pianist with a distinctive style, and a strong and cohesive Trio. There are a range of styles in his largely self composed album for ECM. The one cover is Duke Ellington's 'In a sentimental mood'. There are a range of tempo's and the recording quality is superb. What makes it even more impressive is the trumpet playing of Philip Dizack. His controlled tone suits the album superbly, and this is certainly the best recording of his work that I've heard. It's not an album to sit down and get into right away, but after many listens it's still giving me an increasing sense of satifaction and enjoyment.
Veronica Swift - This bitter earth.
Her fifth album - although she's only 24, and the second for Mack Avenue. The selection of songs are representative of a feminist view of the world through songs. . There's a basic trio backing her (Emmet Cohen makes his second appearance of this list) with a string quartet on some of the ttracks and a rather wonderful version of cCarole King's " He hit me (and it felt like a kiss)" which has a guitar accompanyment by Armand Hirsch. The choice is, to say the least, eclectic, but her voice is wonderful throughout.Worth seeking out.
Vijay Iyer - Uneasy.
I think this is the third Vijay Iyer album on ECM. I very much liked the lat one 'Far from over' but the trio on this new album is the strongest that he's recorded with. The very much in demand bass player Linda May Han Oh gives the set a very much fulller sound and the drummer Tyshawn Sorey uses the whole of what must be a very large kit to great effect. All but two of the tracks are Iyer originals, with a Cole Porter tune and one by Geri Allen to complete the set. Like the maestro album mentioned above the recording quality is amazing, and if you can afford it, think about splashing out on the vinyl version. Again, not an immediate album, but one that I've been playing more and more.