Monday 3 July 2023

 Normally by this time of the year I've curated a list of albums that I've really liked so far during the course of that year. This year, so far, I haven't got around to it - and I blame being busy - and I do mean busy.

So ahead of that list, here are my excuses, in no particular order:

The weather was too hot in June

I've been on holiday

The studio has been refurbished and it took a lot of time

My book got published.

Fundamental laziness.

Jacob Young: Eventually. 

Jacob Young is not a guitar slinger. If you like reflective and introspective guitar playing then he ought to suit. The band Mats Eilertson on bass and Audun Klieve on drums are never anything except empathetic to the material, which is all written by Young himself. If this all sounds rather under-whelming, it's not. It's an end of day with a glass of wine sort of album, which I really like.

Keiko Matsui: Euphoria.

Having moved to a new label (Shanachie) pianist Matsui pursues a new direction with a newly formed more electronic feel to it. She's also recruited a cross section of class guests, some from her 'smooth jazz period' like Kirk Whalum, but pushes on with new sounds including Randy Brecker and Joel Ross, who's also truning up across a slew of other people's album.This is a highly recommened choice and change of direction.

Duncan Eagles: Narration.

Saw him when he played Ashburton Arts a couple of years ago, and he now turns up on the US based Ropeadope label, with a new band. Tomasz Bura who plays keyboard and synths adds a new dimension, but the real strength is in the self written material. I especially like 'Surbiton' (the tune not the town - I had an unfortunate happening there some years ago!), but there are some extended workouts which extend the range of his work. Sleeve notes are mimimalist though.

Gretchen Parlato & Lionel Loeke: Lean in.

Wasn't certain that I'd like this, but I do. Like Joel Ross, Loueke seems to crop up all over the place, but this album with mainly duo songs - fleshed out in places with sparse bass and percussion features a wide spectrum of material, mainly self written either alone or together, but also including the Dave Grohl song 'Walking after you'. He is a magnificent guitar player, and her voice is ideally suited to the material.

Eliane Elias: Quietude.

Now on Candido Records this places Elias back in her best form, and singing mainly in Portuguese a range of songs from a range of artists from A.C. Jobim to Vinicius de Moraes and beyond. She also plays some very tasty piano, mainly with just bass and drums, but in places, lots of added percussion. It actually sounds like an album she enjoyed making. Recommended.

Billy Childs: Winds of change.

I really rate the ability of Mack Avenue Records to pick up on emerging talent, and though Childs has been part of the labels house band for some time, his ability to write tunes and play them really well is fullly demonsrated on this album. Unusually he's used Ambrose Akinmusere on trumpet to complete the quartet, and it really works well. He's also ably supported by Scott Coley on bass, and Brian Blade on drums. Be interesting to see which direction he goes in next.

Billy Valentine: And the Universal truth.

This from the re-energised Acid Jazz label is a magnificent album. The choice of material is eclectic to say the least, from Price to Curtis Mayfield and Pharoah Sanders to Gil Scott Heron it's beautifully underplayed - empathetic to the originals but his voice brings something new to each of them. he's also helped along by luminary guests like Larry Goldings on keyboards and (yes!) Joel Ross on vibes. The guitar playing by Jeff Walker is pretty special through out. It's also got my favourite vocal track of the year (so far) a version of Stevie Wonder's  'You haven't done nothin'. Check this out. Very special.

More soon - perhaps (unless the weather gets hot again!)

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