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

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Featuring great new albums from Sons of Kemet, Roxana Amed, Belmondo Quintet, Graham Costello’s Strata, Jihye Lee Orchestra, Julian Lage, Anaïs Reno, Paul Towndrow and Dara Tucker

Below you will find extracts from the original Jazzwise reviews from the June 2021 issue, which you can enjoy in full (along with many thousands more) in the new Jazzwise Reviews Database. For more information, please visit:

Roxana Amed


Sony Music Latin

This seventh album from the Buenos Airesborn, US-based singer-songwriter Roxana Amed presents a supremely atmospheric collection of 14 songs. As evidenced by album opener ‘Tumbleweed’, which vibrates between sweetness and edgy abstraction, what Amed does exceptionally well is to draw the listener in by creating very specific sound-worlds... Peter Quinn

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Belmondo Quintet


B Flat Recordings

The Belmondo brothers have been luminaries of French jazz for several decades now, busy in any number of musical situations. Their quintet came into being in the late 1980s and this is just the latest of their many albums, albeit with variations in the line-ups. Lionel, born 1963, is the senior partner, some four years older than his brother; both were tutored by their late multi-instrumentalist father Yvan, to whom they dedicate their final pair of pieces. Fittingly, these have an elegiac quality, the prosaically titled ‘Song for Dad’ like a sublime lament... Peter Vacher

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Graham Costello’s Strata

Second Lives

Gearbox Records 

On this, their second album, Graham Costello's Strata temper their most turbulent raw-noise excursions with ambient hums, infectious minimalist loops, alternations of lyrically meditative short interludes and chord-punching rock, thrilling drumming from the leader, and arresting improv, notably from piano star Fergus McCreadie, and guitarist Joe Williamson... John Fordham

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Jihye Lee Orchestra

Daring Mind

Motéma Music 

Bursting with ingenious ideas throughout (some might feel even a few too many), Daring Mind sounds like one of 2021’s real standouts, and confirmation of Jihye Lee’s big future in the front rank... John Fordham

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Julian Lage


Blue Note 

Older and wiser, Lage has now been signed to the Blue Note label by Don Was, and he has surrounded himself with his regular working group which debuted on Mack Avenue’s Love Hurts in 2019. Wise decision. On ‘Bloo’s Blues’ and ‘Saint Rose’, two standout tracks in an album of exemplary originals, Lage, Roeder and King demonstrate the all important group empathy to the extent his “guitar trio” has a group sound that somehow exceeds its individual component parts... Tony Benjamin

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Anaïs Reno

Lovesome Thing: Anaïs Reno Sings Ellington & Strayhorn

Harbinger Records

It’s astonishing to think that Billy Strayhorn was just 16 when he began to write what was to become his signature tune, ‘Lush Life’ – a song whose chromaticism and large leaps make it one of the trickiest standards to sing. Recorded in 2020, when she was similarly aged 16, this debut album from Swiss-born, NYC-resident vocalist Anaïs Reno celebrating the music of Strayhorn and Duke Ellington offers a remarkable introduction to a singular talent... Peter Quinn

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Sons of Kemet

Black to the Future


With their borders-down aesthetic, fierce social conscience and sax, tuba and two-drum-kit combo, the Kemets have always packed a punch. But with opener ‘Field Negus’ and closer ‘Black’, both featuring lyrics written and spoken by poet Joshua Idehen, sparked by Black Lives Matter protests, and with guests ranging from Angel Bat Dawid and Steve Williamson to grime MC D Double E – Black to the Future has the tightly coiled righteous fury of opuses such as Attica Blues and Freedom Suite... Jane Cornwell

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Paul Towndrow

Deepening the River


Conceived as a suite to run continuously, this 57-minute composition falls into eleven sections, each of them to some extent following the maritime history of the Clyde since the 17th century. It is a piece to be listened through in order many times to catch all its nuances and its overall power, and it is a fine achievement for Paul Towndrow and the excellent band he drew together to bring it to life... Alyn Shipton

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Dara Tucker

Dreams of Waking: Music For a Better World

Green Hill Music

While every song covered on vocalist, songwriter and bandleader Dara Tucker’s Dreams of Waking: Music For a Better World is a bona fide classic that has long since been imprinted on our musical consciousness – from the beautiful recasting of James Taylor’s ‘Secret O’ Life’ to the stripped back piano-vocal arrangement of Randy Newman’s ‘I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today’ – the brilliance and subtlety of the arrangements, together with Tucker’s remarkable storytelling gift, combine to make each one sound bracingly fresh... Peter Quinn

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Read the reviews of all of these albums, and many more, in the June 2021 issue of Jazzwise. Subscribe today

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