Each month I write a series of short reviews on artists who are transforming the landscape of Jazz. Here you'll find some of the brightest new voices in Jazz as well as new releases that you should definitely add to the soundtrack of your life.
Clicking on the artist's name will take you to that musician’s website and on the album title to hear or purchase their music.
Laura Jurd is the crypto currency of Jazz. Wildly creative, her work moves fast and break things, slaloming through intriguing instrumentation, with songs that are the creative equivalent of landmines. Whether you hear this album as an opus, experimental music or a unique soundtrack, 'Stepping Back, Jumping In' works on too many levels to be ignored. One of the best albums of 2019 so far.
Pulling out all the stops, 'ámbar' is perhaps the fullest realization of guitarist/vocalist Camila Meza's unique musical imagination. Strings, Latin percussion and Meza's remarkable skill on the guitar, pace this new work. An ode to "achieve love's fullest potential," 'ámbar' roams with luscious melodies, careful arranging, and the perfect application of the vocalists' amoré.
In 'Finding Gabriel,' Brad Mehldau pushes back against the hate of America's current political polarity. For Mehldau, biblical references, synthesized tracks and the rhythmic genius of drummer Mark Guiliana make for a compelling musical polemic. Between the lines are songs that speak to spiritual renewal and the grace of embracing hard truths.
Even when quiet and contemplative, 'Carib' is full of the instrumental Afro-Caribbean spirit saxophonist David Sanchez has been known for throughout his career. Potent playing aside, Sanchez gifts us with a complete work, telling stories through songs that seem to sing about the strength of being at peace, while his band makes intricate melodies sound effortless.
Take three uniquely gifted musicians, put them in an intimate trio setting, and watch 'Wonderment' happen. Violinist Zach Brock, bassist Matt Ulery and drummer Jon Deitemyer are all respected bandleaders, compose at high levels, and have a dedication to sonic detail that makes their collaboration, and ‘Wonderment', a highlight in Jazz for 2019.
Slashing through contemporary musical genres to create a new breed of Jazz is treacherous work. Theo Croker makes it sound easy with 'Star People Nation,' his latest achievement blending neo-soul, R&B, and various forms of Jazz. Guests Chronixx, Rose Gold, Eric Harland and Kassa Overall help the album pulse, pop, and stay in the groove.
Historically Miguel Zenón's alchemy has been to mix important cultural elements into sophisticated modern Jazz. 'Sonero: The Music of Ismael Rivera' celebrates the Afro-Puerto Rican vocal pioneer Ismael 'Maelo' Rivera. Popular salsa tunes are reborn with a new found angularity as Zenón brilliantly arranges songs Rivera championed during his career.
Andrew Munsey's debut work 'High Tide' lands low on the periodic table of Jazz. Dense compositions outline a compelling album that often flirts with levity only to quickly bat it away. Even his softer songs like 'Driftwood' and 'Undertow' flow into the dark uncharted territory of challenging emotions. A fully satisfying work by a this promising young drummer.
'33' builds on bassist Or Bareket's reputation for making unique Jazz with musical elements he collects from around the world. Shachar Elnatan plays the foil to Bareket while guest vocalist Camila Meza shines on 'Tzafonah.' Chronicling the eternal cycle of life and death, ’33' weaves together music in an endearing reflection of all things bass and Bareket.
No one sounds quite like Anat Cohen. Her playing is exceptional and personal in ways that make her a world class artist. 'Triple Helix,' has musical director Oded Lev-Ari helping to shape the tentet's latest collection of traditional and original compositions. Enjoy hearing how this ensemble matches the sophistication, and grace of Cohen's clarinet.
Appropriately titled, 'Worlds Collide' is bassist Michael Janish's way to collapse all of his musical interests into one album. This work just breathes differently, combing through a vast expanse of music with a stubborn resistance to cliches and over done arranging. Jason Palmer, John Escreet, Rez Abbasi, and Clarence Penn all excel as if hand picked for the job.
'Tokyo Stories' is not what most would call a "Jazz" album. And that's exactly why I like it so much. Francesco Tristano crafts this homage into a deeply immersive creative pursuit that elegantly blends improvisation with a mastery of electronic atmospherics. Music, sounds, silence and field recordings flow effortlessly into musical spaces that are easy to get lost in.
Leading a band built to swing, Alexa Tarantino uses 'Winds of Change' to showcase just how easy she makes complex improvisation sound. Each composition is propelled by the talent of Nick Finzer, Christian Sands, Joe Martin and Rudy Royston. Tarantino soars throughout, whether on the mournful 'Without' or the musical tornado 'Ready Or Not.'
Despite the dystopian name, The Comet Is Coming is has quickly become one of the premier acid-rock Jazz bands in the UK. 'Trust In The Lifeforce Of The Deep' is a powerful view into the world of high energy improvisation. TCIC sounds much bigger than the trio they are, as poet Kate Tempest helps make 'Blood of the Past' into this year's best anthem for change.
Josh Lawrence is on a roll. 'Triptych' follows 'Contrast' and 'Color Theory' as the latest example of what a complete musician he is. Lawrence plays with power, and precision, easily pivoting from hard bop, to swing, classical, pop or avant-garde. You'll hear a bit of each in 'Triptych' as Lawrence moves through several compelling originals as well as a nice EWF cover.
Warning! Dave Zinno's compositions can be addictive. 'Michelle' dances with a lovely sophistication, 'Larrytown' swings with a delicate balance and 'Seventh Hour’ will cleverly muscle its way into your musical imagination. All this shepherded by Zinno's Unisphere band - a group that distinctly sounds like they absolutely love playing with one another.
Ralph Moore returns with his signature silky sound and a lovely set of tunes embracing the voice he used as one of the best young tenor sax players in the late 80's and early 90's. 'Three Score' speaks to a time when hard bop was re-interpreted by players who musically grew up on the bandstands of legends like Art Blakey, Kenny Barron and Woody Shaw.
What do you get when you cross the sophistication of Jazz, with the catchiness of a good pop tune? Hiroe Sekine's new album 'Hiroe's Spirit!' Produced by Russell Ferrante, this album combines the ingenuity of Sekine's compositions with the talents of Bob Shepard, Larry Koonse and Abraham Laboriel. The perfect amount of cello, violin and vibes doesn't hurt.
Jennifer Wharton guides her group 'Bonegasm' through fabulous charts written around her skill as a leading bass trombonist. Trombonists tend to support each other, and so it's no surprise that you'll find many playing on this album - a work that becomes the latest platform showcasing what a great musician, collaborator and bandleader Wharton is.
Brent Brickhead makes crossing over sound effortless and cool. Blues, funk, soul, chill and Jazz all get their turn in this exceptionally strong debut release. Spin this album to please everyone in your family regardless of their musical tastes. Songs range from dense chromatic romps, to smooth glides you’ll soon be dancing to. Don't sleep on Brickhead or his album!
Hazama’s band sails through gorgeously intricate charts that make ‘Dancer In Nowhere’ one of the best albums to come out in 2019. Subtle, complex, delightfully surprising and vibrant throughout, this album will delight all parts of your head, heart and soul. Hazama is yet another wildly creative leader reinventing what larger ensembles can sound like.
Silberstein sounds older than his years. With ‘Future Memories’ he glides through tunes that flow together as well as his fingers do across the fret board of his guitar. Running from pensive to lively romps, this album outlines a superior talent who’s yet to put out a bad release.
Never one to sit on her laurels, drummer Allison Miller has taken off on a new journey with her fabulous group Tic Tic Boom. This time the theme is 'Glitter Wolf,' where you'll find rock, Jazz, folk and anything else Miller wants to experiment with, to satisfy her creative aspirations.
I firmly believe that Behn Gillece can play faster than I can type or talk. No matter how fast, his lines are long, elegant and often stunning. 'Parallel Universe' is his latest gem, refining contemporary hard bop with a creative edge that keep his music swinging from beginning to end.
Telling stories with music is ancient and bassist Iris Ornig keeps up her end of the tradition with 'Storyteller,' a well crafted album of smart and engaging songs. With each original composition you get a sense that this is just the beginning of many more special albums and things to come from this talented musician.
As an original member of the M-Base Music Collective, bassist Reggie Washington got in on the ground floor of experimenting with every aspect within the musical cannon of Jazz. ‘Vintage New Acoustic’ is a steady stream of ideas that keeps to this theme, whether invigorating solos or an inspired reinvention of 'Footprints.'
One of Canada's most gifted saxophonists, Allison Au is at the apex of composers who use quartets to hone their creative voice. 'Wonder Wander' is a good title for an album that rambles through everything Au does well - swinging tunes, thoughtful playing, and a mercurial curiosity for measuring the emotional weight of sound.