Editorial picks for the most popular new releases of the year!

Written by | New Releases, News

With 2019 quickly coming to a close Nigel and I thought it appropriate to take a look back at some of the great release’s we’ve featured in our new release program over the year and pick our top releases for the year. That decided, the next question was how do we choose, all of the albums that we have featured over the year have been great albums and given free rein this list would end up very long list indeed. For the sake of transparency, we decided to look at the albums that generated the greatest attention from you, our followers. We looked at the number of plays generated on our playlists, the highest reader engagement across all of our Social Media accounts and the number of views on the website. Note, the albums are not presented in any particular order of merit. So here we go:

Branford Marsalis Quartet | The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul

In Early March The Branford Marsalis Quartet released The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul on OKeh Records. The album was the first Branford Marsalis Quartet release in nearly seven years, following the release of his previous album titled Four MFs Playin’ Tunes.

The quartet that Branford Marsalis has led for the past three decades has always been a model of daring, no-apologies artistry, of ever-widening musical horizons and deepening collective identity. With like-minded support from pianist Joey Calderazzo and bassist Eric Revis (each with 20 years of service to the group) and drummer Justin Faulkner (the “rookie” who has been aboard since 2009), the band has long been a model of how to sustain and enlarge a musical outlook that is both historically and stylistically inclusive.

Gregor Lisser Double Quartet | On Eleven

“If you are in a hurry, go slowly” – this Chinese proverb has been set aside on the Swiss composer and drummer Gregor Lisser’s On Eleven, his debut album with the Gregor Lisser Double Quartet. Lisser explores how deceleration can be expressed musically, in complex as well as thrilling and catchy ways, across the album’s seven compositions and the arrangement of Coleman’s “Lonely Woman”. Even the title he’s given this first release, On Eleven, hints at the artistic essence of the album.

“Speed has become the mantra of our age. At the same time, slowness can sparkle with unparalleled wonder” said Lisser. But if anyone is expecting to find a sense of solemn monotony in his compositions, the rousing album opener “State Of Mind” will soon set them straight!

Plume | Plume

After Boston and New York, the French-American saxophonist known as PLUME has arrived on the Parisian scene with astonishing energy and an alto sound that is sweeping everyone off their feet. This atypical and distinctive musician has made an intense and spiritual album that brings the mystique back to the very heart of jazz. With special guest Ambrose Akinmusire.

PLUME is a shadowy presence in a city. His instrument slung over his shoulder, he is a samurai of the saxophone for whom the repetition of gestures is a kind of plenitude, for whom the articulation of a phrase must attain a kind of evidence, for whom the deployment of sound is a way of getting in touch with a spiritual resonance. PLUME chose jazz the way one enters into religion. Music is for him neither a pretext nor an artifice. It is a quest. An obsession. And it is perhaps a salvation.

Joey DeFrancesco | In The Key Of The Universe

As he’s made abundantly clear over the past 30 years, Joey DeFrancesco has plenty of soul. On his adventurous new album, In The Key Of The Universe, the master organist turns his musical attention to his spiritual side, tapping into a strain of metaphysical jazz that’s fueled sonic searchers for more than half a century. Joey D calls upon disciples and missionaries of jazz to join him in paving the way to enlightenment.

In The Key Of The Universe, released on March 1st on Mack Avenue Records, arrived almost exactly 50 years after the release of Karma, the landmark album by legendary saxophonist Pharoah Sanders. One of the primary exponents of spiritually-oriented jazz, Sanders makes three guest appearances on the album, including an update of his best-known track from Karma, the cosmically influential “The Creator Has A Master Plan.” Playing the drums on that track was the great Billy Hart, who reunites with Sanders as well as DeFrancesco, with whom he’s worked several times over the years since joining the organist for his 1989 album Where WERE You?

Paul Jost | Simple Life

“Simple Life” is Paul Jost’s follow-up to his successful debut release “Breaking Through” and features his quartet with Jim Ridl-piano, Dean Johnson-bass and Tim Horner on drums. The album also features Joe Locke as a special guest on a number of tracks. Paul said, “I was blessed to experience the joy of having these extraordinary musicians and dear friends share both their boundless talent and love in realizing this album”.

The songs included on “Simple Life” not only look back, paying tribute to the tradition, they also look forward to reaching outside the traditional boundaries of the genre. However, this album is even more as it documents a part of Paul’s philosophy and vision. On the album, Paul takes his hand to a number of standards from the jazz repertoire bringing a fresh approach while at the same time respecting their history and place in the American Songbook. He weaves his way artfully through the verse of “Give Me the Simple Life”, brings his rhythmic skills to Ellington’s “Caravan” and provides us with a heartfelt rendition of “Folks Who Live on the Hill”.

Bill Evans | Evans in England

Resonance Records, released Evans in England, a vibrant, previously unreleased set of recordings featuring music by Bill Evans with bassist Eddie Gomez and drummer Marty Morell captured during an engagement at Ronnie Scott’s celebrated jazz club in December 1969.

Evans in England succeeds a pair of widely acclaimed Evans releases from Los Angeles-based independent Resonance that featured the pianist’s short-lived 1968 trio with Gomez and drummer Jack DeJohnette: 2016’s collection of lost studio sides Some Other Time and 2017’s set of Dutch radio recordings Another Time. The latter release was named one of the year’s top historical releases by DownBeat, JazzTimes, the U.K.’s Jazzwise, and the NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll.

In 2012, the label released its first album devoted to unissued music by the pianist, Bill Evans Live at Art D’Lugoff’s Top of the Gate, a set of two never-before-heard 1968 concerts from the Greenwich Village club featuring the trio with Gomez and Morell recorded by Resonance founder and co-president George Klabin when he was just 18 years old.

Michel Camilo | Essence

For his landmark 25th album as a leader, Michel Camilo wanted to do something truly special. The Dominican-born pianist set out to celebrate in a big way: namely, by reconvening his all-star big band for the first time in a quarter-century to explore the full scope and breadth of his remarkable career.

Essence, released on the Resilience Music Alliance label shows the essence of Michel Camilo’s artistry spanning the last 40 years. The music, arranged in collaboration with trumpeter and long-time collaborator Michael Philip Mossman, is drawn from key points along Camilo’s storied trajectory. Most of the material has only been heard in trio settings in the past, while much of it hasn’t been revisited in the studio since the original recordings. All of it, however, vividly reflects the composer’s diverse influences, bringing together the various strands of his passion for jazz improvisation, Latin roots, and classical training.

Ola Onabule | Pointless

Socially conscious singer/songwriter Ola Onabulé has built an enviable career as an international touring performer and has now turned his attention to the North American market with a newly recorded collection of original songs. Onabulé’s meticulous attention to detail in his arrangements and production, as well as the support from Sennheiser/Neumann, have contributed to the manifestation of an impressive recording.

Point Less, is a follow up to Onabulé’s last album, It’s The Peace That Deafens, with the new album boldly expressing his views on social injustice, reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. It is an activist’s call – at once a celebration of life and a cautionary take on the social forces that threaten it. Violence, immigration, xenophobia, betrayal, and dignity are themes considered on Point Less, rendered with a powerful and knowing generosity of spirit. Onabulé is rueful yet optimistic.

Michael Janisch | Worlds Collide

Following the breadth of 2015’s live album Paradigm Shift, bassist Michael Janisch launches new project Worlds Collide with a band featuring saxophonist John O’Gallagher, trumpeter Jason Palmer, guitarist Rez Abbasi and drummer Clarence Penn. Recorded in Abbey Road’s legendary Studio 3, and engineered/mastered by Tyler McDiarmid, it also includes guest saxophonist George Crowley, keyboardist John Escreet and drummer/percussionist Andrew Bain.

The twofold title ‘Worlds Collide’ primarily speaks of the variety in Janisch’s six engaging tracks. Each is quite different to its neighbour because this is a collection of individual pieces written over a period of time, often personal in their inspiration, driven purely out of his mindset and experiences in those moments. But he also sees it as analogous to what is going on in the wider world right now, especially the continual toxicity of social disclosure driven by tribalist views from differing positions on the political spectrum.” With Worlds Collide Janisch has glimpsed a new horizon for himself and, with inimitable verve, is going for it.

Michel Petrucciani | Colors

Michel Petrucciani “Colors” the new 18-track compilation set for release on BMG 2LP, 2CD, and digital compilation to be released to mark 20 years since legendary pianist’s death. Features exclusive track ‘Montelimar’ plus liner notes by Charles Lloyd, Ahmad Jamal, Marcus Miller, Lenny White and Steve Gadd. To mark the 20th anniversary of his death in 1999, BMG released a 2LP, 2CD, and a digital compilation album featuring a selection of his emblematic compositions, including the track ‘Montelimar’, which is released here on an album for the very first time.

Across the course of a relatively short career, Michel Petrucciani overcame the effects of the bone disease osteogenesis imperfecta to become a major force in the jazz world. The first non-American artist to sign to Blue Note Records, with whom he recorded for seven years, Petrucciani went on to work with Francis Dreyfus and released a total of 16 studio albums. Revered as a consummate interpreter of the American Songbook, Petrucciani was also a formidable composer and it’s his varied catalogue of original music that is showcased with this 18-track compilation (15 for the double LP)

Bria Skonberg | Nothing Never Happens

Whether it’s the hassles and hurdles that arise for a musician touring the world, the run-of-the-mill mishaps that inevitably disrupt daily life, or the barrage of bad news constantly clamouring for attention; Bria Skonberg succinctly captures the hectic tenor of our times in the title of her latest album, Nothing Never Happens. The trumpeter and vocalist found her own escape in order to craft a new set of originals and artfully chosen covers that spans the emotional and stylistic spectrum.

Released in November, Nothing Never Happens invites listeners to join Skonberg in diverting attention from the overload of social media, breaking news, political bickering and negative energy, with a stunning album that at times channels the ubiquitous anger and hopelessness that confronts us all in the modern media landscape, but at others manages to drown out that white noise and shine a light on the serene and the celebratory.

Giuseppe Millaci | The Endless Way

Giuseppe Millaci and his Vogue Trio released their long-awaited follow-up to their 2017 Debut release “Songbook” on Hypnote Records. Titled “The Endless Way” the album the new album marks a new stage in the development of the trio highlighting the interplay between the three musicians. Since the release of Songbook the trio has maintained a rigorous touring schedule and many of the influences and impressions gained on the road have inspired the music on “The Endless Way”.

Since it’s inception the trio has been very active on the European jazz scene performing throughout Europe as well as internationally and their first release garnered the Octave de la Musique – Pointculture award in 2018. The new album “The Endless Way” features the same line-up and can be seen as a further continuation of the direction set by Songbook. As mentioned above, the music included on “The endless Way” reflects the bands travel experiences as the trio sheds light on a series of concerts in Central America that has proved to be a key moment in the evolution of their music.

As the year draws to a close we want to thank all out readers for regularly checking in and we’re looking forward to showcasing a lot more exciting new jazz music in 2020 and beyond.

New Release Spotify Playlist

The Jazz In Europe New Release playlist features tracks from the new releases featured on Jazz In Europe. Updated weekly, this playlist is the perfect place to discover new music from the leading jazz musicians currently on the scene. We hope you enjoy this selection.

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Last modified: December 20, 2019