Monday, 13 December 2021

Edge of Jazz Top Ten Releases 2021. 

Eventually this turned out to be just as difficult as in any 'normal' year! 2021 wasn't/hasn't been by any stretch of the imagination ordinary in any way, with release dates being announced, changed and often withdrawn. So there are a couple of releases that probably would have made it onto this list, but in the case of two of them they're pencilled in for February 2022. Watch next years list!

 10. "The News" - Andrew Cyrille Quartet:

Andrew Cyrille is the drummer on this set. He's probably one of the least 'showy' drummers working today, and this album showcases what he does best, sitting in with a first class band, recorded, brilliantly  by Rick Kwan in New York City. Cyrille contributes three of the tracks, but he's backed by an-star band with Bill Frissell on guitar, David Virelles on piano and synthesizer and Ben Street on Double Bass. Frizzel contributes three songs, Virelles two and the other is the Steve Colson tune 'Leaving East of Java'.
The result is a beautifully laid back set in which all the participants get to contribute to the sum of the whole. This is not a 'showy' album, but rather beutifully session that demands repeated attention.

9. "It's all your fault" - Mike LeDonne Big Band & Groover Quartet.

Entirely new to me - though not to several people that I spoke to who had been to see him in New York. As far as I can tell his last recording was in 2006, so this came to me out of the blue and highly recommded, and it's a lttle gem. It's split into three Groover Quartet tracks and five Big Band tracks.The Quartet is Eric Alexander on Tenor Sax, Joe Farnsworth on drums & Peter Bernstein on guitar, all of whom play in the Big Band. LeDonne himself on (probably) B3 is the sort or organ player who sits back, rather than sitting in front of the mix. It's an album that I confess I'd never have found myself, but it's really grown on me, and although I started with the quartet tracks, the Big band tracks have a lot to give.
Give it a listen!

8. "Squint" - Julian Lage.

You can't go on being a youthful prodigy for ever, and this album sees Lage coming of age with a new label (Blue Note) and a much more defined sound as a leader than some of his previous outings.It's a trio outing, and fairly laid back for the most part. Dave King plays drums and Jorge Roeder plays bass, but it's Lage who is the front man, having written all the tracks bar one - "Emily". It's the sort of album that requires several listens before it starts to reveal its layered depths. Don't expect guitar histrionics - because Lage isn't that sort of guitarist, but it's really satisfying and has been late night listening since its release.

7. "Night Owl" - Nick Hempton Quartet.

I feel slightly guilty about this, and a couple of the other albums that appear on this years list, in the same way as I used to feel bad about playing white label pre-releases sent to me by companies during the 70's and 80's, however that's all the apology you'll get, because like those this album deserves wider recognition. You can get a copy from He's a hard blowing tenor sax player from New York, sometime habituee of "Small's Jazz Club" who has released a slew of albums over the last few years - all self promoted - but this is the best. It's a Hammond based quartet with the advantage of Peter Bernstein on guitar, and a mixture of standard and self written material. If you doubt that the word "groove" still applies to jazz today - this is the antidote.

6. "Friends with Monsters" - Nishla Smith.

Part of a thriving Manchester based scene, that also brought me Emma Johnson's Gravy Boat and Silent Night Gang. this album is as left field a vocal album as I've come across this year, and was a late arrival from Whirlwind Records. The songs are all self -writtenn, apart from "It might as well be Spring" and the band, also mostly Manchester based are suitably esoteric in their backing of her songs. Perhaps seeing her live might allow her to unravel some of the content of the songs, but they are marvellously diverse in approach and subject. Watch out for some of the trumpet playing of Aaron Wood, but mostly revel in a performer and songwiter who isn't copying anybody elses style and providing some wonderfully diverting listening. 

The top five and two that nearly made it will appear next week!

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