Should I call what ensues the bestest of the best or the magical 10 or, even, the most amazing 10? No need: the bands and artists I am writing about are all original, different, talented, but I feel they deserve a little special tribute, that’s all, so I hope you will enjoy reading about their art just like I enjoyed writing about it!
1. “Nighthawks” - Peter Horsfall (A.P.P. Records)
A must buy album, one that will make the listener dream with eyes wide open! Lyricism matched with tender tones accompanied by the shadows of the night. I wrote about Horsfall’s “Nighthawks” after attending his album launch last month: this 10-track album is a perfect debut, full of promise and utter talent.
Top track: “Couldn’t stop lovin’ you”
2. “The Chase” – Leo Richardson Quartet (Ubuntu Music)
In truth, this album went BOOM the moment I played it! I was speechless, stunned by such craft. Hard bop combined with an unmeasurable passion, tenor saxophonist Leo Richardson and his quartet, have not stopped the accolades. And can you blame them? “The Chase” is fast-paced, ridiculously rich and, well, a superb album! Note well, young wizard drummer Ed Richardson (no relation to Leo) playing on the album.
Top track: “Demon E”
3. “Moment frozen” – Entropi (Whirlwind Recordings)
Another beautiful jewel in the crown of this band that never stops to amaze me. An incredible saxophonist whom I have complete admiration and respect for, Dee Byrne’ and her quintet, are a band that’s been together since 2010, they represent an innovative jazz, inventive and free. Jazz at its best.
Top track: “Stelliferous Era”
4. “The Late Trane” – Denys Baptiste (Edition Records)
Baptiste puts together a genius composition on this album and, not just musically, BUT in as far as the thematic (Coltrane) with a stellar cast! If this album is not already in your collection, then it should be. Tenor and soprano saxophonist Baptiste reinforces his reputation as a super talented musician by his clever arrangements and original compositions on “The Late Trane” which needs to be listened at very high volume to appreciate all the various nuances!
Top track: “Astral Trane”
5. “It’s always 9.30 in Zog” – Dave O’Higgins (JVG Productions)
O’Higgins, a veteran of the jazz scene, has written most of the tracks on this album. This is not just impressive, but makes this particular work of his, slick and so very addictive to listen to.
With talented musicians as part of his quartet, namely Sebastiaan De Krom on drums, Graham Harvey on piano, Geoff Gascoyne on double bass, “It’s always 9.30 in Zog” was one of the great releases of 2017 for me.
Top track: “The adventures of Little Peepsie”
6. “Ruler Rebel”, “Diaspora”, “The Emancipation Procrastination” – Christian Scott (Stretch Music/ Ropeadope)
The genius that is Christian Scott Atunde Adjuah, trumpet player par excellence, but also composer and executive producer, released the above three albums in sequence last year by defining them as “The Centennial Trilogy”.Apart from the fact that I personally believe this to be a fantastic move, my accolades for these 3 works have not changed, in fact, on re-listening to any of them, I am still of the firm belief that Scott produced some of his strongest compositions last year.
The 3 works can be listened together or apart, they are cohesive, they are rules-breaking pieces of musical art. They uplift and stun at the same time. Scott’s creativity is just in that he is at his best when let loose just like we hear on this trilogy!
Top tracks: “Rise again” (Ruler Rebel) – “IDK” (Diaspora) – “Cages” (The Emancipation Procrastination)
7. “A Vigil for Justice. A Vigil for Peace” – Robert Mitchell (Depth of Field Records)
Pianist, composer, poet, visionary, Robert Mitchell’s album blew my mind when I first heard it. At the album launch held at the Vortex in London last year, I was almost in tears: his music and his poetry shake one’s soul, they make one reflect. His piano becomes an extension of his heart and soul. Mitchell’s music travels with darker tones, the ones where single notes resonate forever, where a whole piece manages to break the boundaries and elevate our minds.
Top track: “The Migration” (ft Thami Hlabangana – narrator)
8. “Canzoniere” – Canzoniere Grecanico Salentino (Ponderosa Music Records)
Another stunning surprise and work of musical genius. CGS, a 7-piece band from Salento, Italy’s most southern part of the Puglia region and indeed, most intriguing and spellbinding.
Mauro Durante’s band, himself a phenomenal player on violin, frame drums and guitar, collected rave reviews after they landed in London for a gig at Rich Mix last month.I am in awe of this band that has managed to carry the flag of their own land, the beautiful Salento region, and yet still creating a music that is both traditional and modern with portentous rhythms and clever lyrics!
Top track: “Tienime” (Hold me)
9. “Journey to the Mountain of Forever” – Binker & Moses (Gearbox Records)
A double album which added the drummer and saxophonist duo solidly in the firmament of jazz. A completely different album from their debut “Dem Ones”, all the tracks are pieces of utter individuality. Modern and abstract at time, “Journey to the Mountain of Forever” also hosts some great guest musicians who, in turn, make the album complete. Tori Handsley, Evan Parker, Byron Wallen to name some. I love the way the duo cleverly builds up the tempo and the adrenalin…. listen to a track like “The Shaman’s Chant” for example and rest assured to be left hypnotized!
A true concept album.
Top track: “The Shaman’s Chant
10. “Relationships” – Trevor Lawrence Jr (Ropeadope)
I love what the label Ropeadope have achieved, they are so multi-layered and diverse. Their artistry is just in the fact that they are able to gather under their wings so many great artists, and one of them is, indeed, drummer Trevor Lawrence jr. A super music pedigree released “Relationships” last year and, even on a quick first play, the album immediately caught me. Fast and slow tempos, inventive lyrics, mixing jazz tunes with soulful beats and rap, bringing in artists like Kamasi Washington, LeAnn Rimes, Drumpimp to name a few, Lawrence jr succeeds in exploring both sides of the musical spectrum.
Top track: “Lovestoned”
by Erminia Yardley