The best new jazz albums: Editor's Choice, August 2021

Friday, July 16, 2021

Outstanding new albums from John McLaughlin, Jaimie Branch, Michael Mayo, Ulysses Owens Jnr Big Band, Fabia Mantwill Orchestra and more

Read the full reviews of all of these albums and many more in the August 2021 issue of Jazzwise magazine – out now. Subscribe today

Jaimie Branch – Fly Or Die Live

International Anthem Records

Jaimie Branch (t, v, vibraslap), Lester St Louis (clo, v, tiny cymbal), Jason Ajemian (b, v, egg shakers) and Chad Taylor (d, v, mbira). Rec. 23 January 2020

By the time of the recording, Branch and her band had reached that perfect point when the material had been honed to near-perfection but had not yet become overly familiar; and even better, this isn’t just a presentation or recreation of two albums in a different (non-studio) environment, it’s an organic dialogue with them – so new ideas bubble up spontaneously and the band run with them. Kevin Whitlock

James Francies – Purest Form

Blue Note

James Francies (p, ky) Joel Ross (vib) Immanuel Wilkins (as) Elliott Skinner, Bilal, Peyton (v) Burniss , Traviss (b) and Jeremy Dutton (d). Rec. 2020

What stands out the most on Purest Form is the beguiling beauty of some of the textures, particularly ballads such as ‘Melting’ and ‘Eyes Wide Shut’, where Francies has chosen exactly the kind of disturbingly vaporous synth sounds to resonate with a voice as singular as that of Bilal. Kevin Le Gendre

Fabia Mantwill Orchestra – EM.PERIENCE


Fabia Mantwill (s, v, comp, arr, cond), 26 piece orch with guests Kurt Rosenwinkel (g), Nils Landgren (tb) and Ben Wendl (s). Rec. date not stated

Yes, the majority of her orchestra may come from the classical world, but they are given pieces of conceptual and programmatic originality that makes genre distinction irrelevant – it was Duke Ellington, after all, who said, “There are only two types of music, good and bad,” and this most assuredly is of the former variety. Stuart Nicholson

Michael Mayo – Bones

Artistry Music/Mack Avenue

Michael Mayo (v, perc), Andrew Freedman (kys, p, el g), Nick Campbell (el b, el g, synth), Robin Baytas (d), Eli Wolf (prog), Scott Mayo and Valerie Pinkston (v). Rec. August–September 2019

Cut at Figure 8 Recording, Brooklyn, with Grammy-winning producer Eli Wolf (Al Green, Norah Jones, The Roots) at the controls, Bones, Mayo’s debut album, is a work of startling originality, presenting a musical sound-world which references everything from The Beach Boys to J Dilla. Peter Quinn

John McLaughlin – Liberation Time

Abstract Logix/Mediastarz

John McLaughlin (g, p), Julian Siegel (ts), Oz Ezzeldin (p), Gary Husband (p, ky, d), Étienne M'Bappé, Jerome Regard, Sam Burgess (b), Ranjit Barot, Nicolas Viccaro and Vinnie Colaiuta (d). Rec. Autumn 2020

Other than his two reflective solo piano pieces, ‘Mila Repa’ and ‘Shade of Blue’, all tracks are the product of multi tracking. But you’d never guess ‘Lockdown Blues’ by McLaughlin’s group The 4th Dimension was made this way, such is the group interplay. Stuart Nicholson

Ulysses Owens Jnr Big Band – Soul Conversations

Outside In Music

Ulysses Owen Jnr (d), Stefon Harris (vib), Walter Cano, Benny Benack III, Summer Camargo, Giveton Gelin (tpts), Eric Miller, Gina Benalcazar, Wyatt Forhan, Chris Glassman, Seth Weaver, Michael Dease (tb), Alexa Tarantino, Erena Terakubo (as), Diego Riviera, Daniel Dickson (ts), Andy Gatauskas (bs), Takeshi Ohbayashi (p), Yashushi Nakamura (b) and Charles Turner III (v). Rec. December 2019

The repertoire mixes jazz classics with band-member originals and the accent is on uplift and joyful harmonies laced with the blues. Arrangements are focussed, solo strength high and the showcase brass is as tight as a nut. Mike Hobart

Matt Ridley – The Antidote


Matt Ridley (b), Ant Law (g), Alex Hitchcock (ts), Tom Hewson (p) and Marc Michel (d). Rec. October 2019

The guitarist Ant Law adds a fresh electric flavour to Ridley’s organic mix of classical, jazz and rock but it’s steered well clear of any jazz-rock hybrid by Ridley. It’s one of the strongest releases by homegrown jazz talent in 2021 so far. Selwyn Harris

Read the full reviews of all of these albums and many more in the August 2021 issue of Jazzwise magazine – out now. Subscribe today

Subscribe from only £5.83

Never miss an issue of the UK's biggest selling jazz magazine.


View the Current

Take a peek inside the latest issue of Jazzwise magazine.

Find out more