The best new jazz albums: Editor's Choice, December 2020

Monday, November 23, 2020

The Editor's pick of the best new albums reviewed in the December 2020 issue of Jazzwise, featuring Keith Jarrett, Elina Duni & Rob Luft, Mary Halvorson, Rob Mazurek and Sun Ra Arkestra

Patrick Cornelius’ Acadia

Way of the Cairns

Whirlwind Recordings

Patrick Cornelius (s), Michael Janisch (b), Kristjan Randalu (p) and Paul Wiltgen (d). Rec. May 2019

'Acadia is a reincarnation of Patrick Cornelius’ co-led TransAtlantic quartet that toured prolifically from 2006-9 and released an eponymous album along the way. It signals a change in direction for the quietly established New York-based alto saxophonist. The stimulus is the ‘great outdoors’ of Acadia, the spectacular rocky coastline of the Northeastern tip of Maine, which has inspired Cornelius’ originals on his fourth release for long-time associate/bassist Michael Janisch’s Whirlwind Recordings. Programmatic jazz of this kind isn’t always noteworthy but this is an exception. The themes are mostly on the folky side, with a Celtic-ish kind of feel, creating an airily pastoral ambience in keeping with the bucolic source of inspiration, while the ensemble’s sturdy, animated rhythmic backbone reflects its rugged terrain...' Selwyn Harris

Read the full review in the Reviews Database


Elina Duni/Rob Luft

Lost Ships

ECM

Elina Duni (v), Rob Luft (g), Fred Thomas (p) and Matthieu Michel (flhn). Rec. February 2020

'On Lost Ships, guitarist Rob Luft makes his ECM debut and vocalist Elina Duni presents a new ensemble – and the result just happens to be a minor classic. On the strength of this album, Luft, a BBC New Generation Artist and an impressive soloist in ‘jazzy’ jazz ensembles – whether it be honouring Monk and Coltrane with saxophonist Dave O’Higgins or in Byron Wallen’s Four Corners – seems to have been put on earth to work in tandem with Duni. Implicit in working with such an exceptional talent is subtlety in both technique and conception, of doing the right thing at precisely the right moment, to enable her talent to blossom...' Stuart Nicholson

Read the full review in the Reviews Database



Mary Halvorson’s Code Girl

Artlessly Falling

Firehouse 12 Records

Mary Halvorson (g), Maria Grand (ts, v), Adam O’Farrill (t), Michael Formanek (b), Tomas Fujiwara (d), Amirtha Kidami and Robert Wyatt (v). Rec. 8 and 9 December 2019

'Few artists are in such vibrant dialogue with those twin impostors, rigour and imagination, as Mary Halvorson. Practice, practice, practice, then wail, exhorted Charlie Parker, and there’s something equally seductive in Halvorson’s ability to sound so insouciant and unpremeditated, when in fact every song has a bear trap structure expressed through giddying technique. Artlessly Falling meditates on poems written by Halvorson that have a particular metric shape. So ‘Lemon Tree’ is a tanka (a 31-syllable Japanese one-liner), the title track a sestina (six verses of six lines, but, heh, that’s only the beginning), and, for fans of Jodie Comer, there’s a villanelle (think Dylan Thomas’ ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’). But of course, you need know none of that to revel in this oh-so-beautiful album...' Andy Robson

Read the full review in the Reviews Database



Keith Jarrett

Munich 2016

Rec. 16 July 2016

Budapest Concert

Rec: 3 July 2016

ECM

'It seems such a short step from 2016, when Keith Jarrett recorded these two double albums towards the end of his European tour, to his shock announcement last month that he has been forced to retire from jazz. The recorded evidence here reveals the creative spirit burning as strongly as at any point in his career – never at loss for ideas or inspiration, he continued to raise the bar for solo piano performance ever higher. Sometimes, it is easy to overlook the enormous creative challenge Jarrett set himself; each concert a tabula rasa, starting free from predetermined ideas or goals, by spontaneously creating a concert recital from the depths of his musical imagination in front of paying audiences in the most prestigious concert halls in the world...' Stuart Nicholson



Rob Mazurek Exploding Star Orchestra

Dimensional Stardust

International Anthem/Nonesuch

Rob Mazurek (picc-t, elec, syn, comp), Damon Locks (v, elec, text), Nicole Mitchell (f), Macie Stewart (vn), Tomeka Reid (clo), Joel Ross (vib), Jeff Parker (g), Jaimie Branch (t), Angelica Sanchez (p, el p), Ingerbrigt Håker Flaten (b), Chad Taylor, Mikel Patrik Avery (d, perc) and John Herndon (drum machines). Rec. August 2019 – March 2020

'Soloists like Branch and flautist Nicole Mitchell are given full range to express themselves and the whole thing feels playful (yet at the same time deadly serious) and untrammelled by rule or convention. Proof positive that the spontaneous spirit of jazz and modern recording methods may not be mutually exclusive after all...' Kevin Whitlock

Read the full review in the Reviews Database



Sun Ra Arkestra

Swirling

STRUT

Marshall Allen (as, EVI), Knoel Scott (as), James Stewart (ts, f), Danny Ray Thompson (bs, f), Michael Ray (t), Cecil Brooks (t) Vincent Chancey (frhn), Dave Davis (tb, v), Farid Barron (p), Dave Hotep (g), Tyler Mitchell (b), Wayne Anthony Smith Jr (d), Elson Nascimento: Surdo (d, perc), Stanley ‘Atakatune’ Morgan (congas) and Tara Middleton (v, vn). Rec. 2020.

'Since becoming the musical director of Sun Ra’s Arkestra in 1993, long standing member Marshall Allen has diligently orbited Ra’s music, his philosophy and the musicians involved around the world on a seemingly endless tour schedule. This has resulted in introducing new generations to Sun Ra’s musical heliocentric visions and legacy, many of whom were discovering it for the first time. By way of celebrating this massive achievement the 15-piece Arkestra decamped to Rittenhouse Soundworks in Philadelphia to record what would be their first album in over 20 years. Swirling is the glorious result, where new arrangements from Sun Ra’s voluminous songbook are revived and re-energised...' Edwin Pouncey

Read the full review in the Reviews Database

Never miss an issue of Jazzwisesubscribe today!

Subscribe from only £6.25

Start your journey and discover the very best music from around the world.

Subscribe

View the Current
Issue

Take a peek inside the latest issue of Songlines magazine.

Find out more