The best new jazz albums: April 2022

Thursday, March 17, 2022

The Editor's Choice albums from the April issue of Jazzwise, featuring Theo Croker, Joy Ellis, Michael Leonhart Orchestra, Brad Mehldau, Danilo Pérez, Flora Purim and Mark Turner

Theo Croker 

BLK2Life: A Future Past

Sony Masterworks/Music On Vinyl

Theo Croker (t, ky, fl, samples), Michael King (ky, p), Eric Wheeler (b), Shekwoaga Ode (d, perc), Jeff Parker (g), Anthony Ware (as, ts, bs, ac, bcl, f), plus guests Ari Lennox, Ego Ella May, Charlotte Dos Santos, Kassa Overall, Iman Omari, Malaya, Wyclyf Jean (v) and Gary Bartz (as, ss). 

This 13-track oratorio takes the ancient-to-future vibe and invests it with fury, connection and understanding, makes it a call-to-arms. While the notion of history repeating itself finds voice in the cycles so intrinsic to jazz, there’s a hero’s journey in here too – non-linear and meandering, staccato and golden, lit by trumpet and immersed in blackness... Jane Cornwell

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Joy Ellis

Peaceful Place 

Oti-O Records

Joy Ellis (p), Henrik Jensen (b) and Adam Osmianski (d)

Opening with 'My Peaceful Place' the set comes into focus, establishing the strong partnership between Ellis’ lyrical piano and Henrik Jensen’s propulsively melodic double bass over Adam Osmianski’s insinuating percussion. The track is a model of the restrained clarity that runs through the album’s seven tracks, and you sense that Ellis’ peaceful place is at the piano, playing this music. One standout is the elegiac 'Losing', which begins with a Sati-esque simplicity, passing the melodic elegance between piano and bass with just enough implied emotion to avoid the risk of schmaltz... Tony Benjamin

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Michael Leonhart Orchestra

The Normyn Suites  

Sunnyside Records

Michael Leonhart (t, frhn, tb), plus the Michael Leonhart Orchestra

The playing of multi-instrumentalist and composer Leonhart and his orchestra – which here includes the stellar talents of Eric Friedlander, Keyon Harrold, Freddie Hendrix, Catherine Russell, EJ Strickland and more – displays breathtaking scope and elegiac insight. Lasting a little over five minutes, from its otherworldly choral introduction and harmonic stasis to the emotive, perfectly judged solos by trombonist Jim Pugh and tenorist Walt Weiskopf, ‘Nostalgia’ (from 'Suite #1') is the most captivating passage of music I’ve heard this year... Peter Quinn

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Brad Mehldau

Jacob’s Ladder


Brad Mehldau (p, el p, syn, Hammond bass pedals, perc, d, v, spoken word), Luca van den Bossche (v), Mark Guiliana (d, el d), John Davis (Elektron Octatrack), Joel Frahm (ss), Tobias Bader, Luca van den Bossche, Becca Stevens, Tinkerbell, Timothy Hill, Safia McKinney-Askeur (v), Lavinia Meijer (harp), John Davis (d-prog), Motomi Igrashi-de Jong (linore), Chris Thile (v, mandolin), Pedro Martins (v, g),  Fleurine, Damien Mehldau, Cécile McLorin Salvant, (spoken word), Joris Roelofs (bcl) and Paul Pouwer (b-drum)

Jacob’s Ladder is the closest the pianist-composer has come to a full-on prog-inspired concept album: a texturally expansive, kaleidoscopic mishmash (on paper) of influences, use of symphonic-like and fugal form plus a giant bank of analogue synths, too long to list here, that rivals even that of Keith Emerson (an early childhood inspiration of Mehldau’s) in his heyday. Conceptually speaking, the album could be the 'Finding God' to his previous Finding Gabriel... Selwyn Harris

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Danilo Pérez ft. The Global Messengers 


Mack Avenue

Danilo Pérez (p), Tareq Rantisi (perc), Vasilis Kostas (laouto), Layth Sidiq (vn, v) Naseem Alatrash, Farayi (v), Roman Diaz (batá), Faris Ishaq (f), Zaraté (v), Eirini Tornesaki (v) and  Kalesema Children’s Choir of The Ark of the World (v)

Pérez draws on his strong social conscience in creating Crisálida (meaning chrysalis). From the safe confines of a nurturing cocoon, the Panamanian pianist’s new collaborators – the Global Messengers – truly blossom, on a release that crosses borders in more ways than one... Hugh Morris

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Flora Purim 

If You Will


Flora Purim, Diana Purim (v), Grecco Buratto (g), Andre de Santanna (b), Léo Costa (drums), Airto Moreira, Alberto Lopes, Gibi dos Santos, Krishna Booker (perc), Diana Purim, Caro Pierotto, Maria Joana, Emina Shimanuki, Kana Shimunaki, Mari Nobre, Niura Band, Grecco Buratto and Krishna Booker (bv)

Two tracks into If You Will, the first studio release in 15 years by Brazilian icon Flora Purim, comes the declamatory ‘This Is Me’, a bold reworking of the band jam tune ‘I Don’t Wanna Be Myself Again’ by drummer, percussionist, longtime Purim collaborator and, well, her husband Airto Moriera – this time featuring a celestial chorus and unapologetic, take-no-prisoners vibe; one of the all-time greats of Brazilian jazz fusion, Purim knows a) exactly who she is; and b) the seductive power of those emotional, often ecstatic vocals... Jane Cornwell

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Mark Turner

Return From The Stars


Mark Turner (ts), Jason Palmer (t), Joe Martin (b) and Jonathan Pinson (d)

On the title track, the ways the harmonies build and sway in improv conversation - drawing melodic motifs toward new turns or dropping back to let Joe Martin's bass briefly take the dominant role between the purrs of the horn lines and the tick of the drums – showcase Turner's intuitions about this instrumentation's collective potential for integrating through-written chamber music and freewheeling soloing... John Fordham

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All of these albums, and many more, are reviewed in the April issue of Jazzwise magazine. Never miss an issue – subscribe today

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