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

Our pick of the best new jazz albums reviewed in the May 2020 issue of Jazzwise, featuring Gary Bartz & Maisha, Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Gilfema, Trilok Gurtu, Jasper Høiby, Tony Kofi, Charles Lloyd, The Necks, Kandace Springs

Gary Bartz & Maisha

Night Dreamer Direct-To-Disc Sessions

Night Dreamer ND007

Gary Bartz (as, ss), Jake Long (d), Shirley Tetteh (g), Al MacSween (ky), Twm Dylan (b), Axel Kaner-Lidstrom (t) and Tim Doyle (perc). Rec. October 2019

Ever since his headline slot at We Out Here Festival last summer, US sax great Gary Bartz had been enjoying some well-deserved attention [see feature on p36]. His band for that show was the London-based spiritual jazz group Maisha and this new release, recorded straight to vinyl for Night Dreamer Records (an innovative young label based in the Netherlands), documents their fruitful collaboration... Thomas Rees

Read the full review in the May issue

Tim Berne’s Snakeoil

The Fantastic Mrs 10

Intakt CD340

Tim Berne (as), Oscar Noriega (bcl), Marc Ducret (g), Matt Mitchell (p) and Ches Smith (d, vib, glockenspiel, Haitian tanbou, gongs). Rec. May 2019

For a band that features a good deal of New York composer/saxophonist Tim Berne’s signature methods – knotty, muscular horn and guitar polyphonies bumping off hard-accented staccato rhythms, spacey improv meditations, changing duo dialogues within the ensemble – Snakeoil’s five recordings over their eight-year life all sound absorbingly different. Berne, not a character given to reckless claims, thinks that The Fantastic Mrs 10, the band’s debut on Switzerland’s Intakt label, is their best release yet – and these sometimes free, sometimes tightly-wrought, and imaginatively diverse tracks are powerful endorsements of that... John Fordham

Read the full review in the May issue

Gilfema

Three

Sounderscore SO001

Lionel Loueke (g), Massimo Biolcati (b) and Ferenc Nemeth (d). Rec. January 2018

All good things come round again. Three is the trio’s first album in a dozen years but there’s a nary a sense of a comeback here. Over the years they’ve toured together in different formats, so the easeful intimacy of their interaction remains as supple and subtle as ever. Loueke is simply one of the most sophisticated guitarists of his generation, gracefully moving between the deep grooving of the aptly monikered ‘Happiness’, molten with Biolcati’s superb electric bass figure, to the soul-dark ‘13th Floor to Heaven’, with Biolcati now on double bass and Loueke all complex harmonies and vortexing lines... Andy Robson

Read the full review in the May issue

Trilok Gurtu

God is a Drummer

Jazzline D770705

Trilok Gurtu (d, perc), Frederik Koster (t), Christophe Schweizer (tb), Sabri Tulug Tirpan (ky), Jonathan Cuniado (b), with Emre Meralli (vn), Kaplana Patowary, Zara (v) and the Junge Norddeutsche Philharmonie cond. Wolf Kerschek. Rec. 2019

Gurtu is right: God is a drummer, she told me so, and this is a God that celebrates peace, reverence, life, all unrecognising of nation or religion. With God Is A Drummer, Gurtu has drawn together his 50 years in recording to pay homage to the those he holds dear. Thus ‘Obrigado’ summons the spirit of Joe Zawinul, notably in his Syndicate era, with a riotous groove interpolated by konnakol rhythms and spikes of strings... Andy Robson

Read the full review in the May issue

Jasper Høiby

Planet B

Edition Records EDN 1149

Jasper Høiby (b, elec), Josh Arcoleo (ts) and Marc Michel (d). Rec. 2019

With his Fellow Creatures album in 2016, Danish virtuoso Jasper Høiby (bassist with the thrilling European power trio Phronesis) showed he had a formidable composer’s imagination, restless for wider horizons. With Planet B, Høiby begins a sequence of four albums set to occupy him for the next five years, devoted to big themes bearing on humanity’s prospects on the planet. Electronics sometimes unleashes stirring harmonies that make this trio – Høiby on double bass and effects, the increasingly excellent Josh Arcoleo on tenor, and France’s Marc Michel on drums – recall a big declamatory ensemble like Charlie Haden’s Liberation Orchestra... John Fordham

Read the full review in the May issue

Tony Kofi

Another Kind of Soul

The Last Music Co LMCD217P

Tony Kofi (as), Andy Davies (t), Alex Webb (p), Andy Cleyndert (b) and Alfonso Vitale (d). Rec. 30 November, 1 December 2019

The transmigration of souls is a curious concept, but the soul of Cannonball Adderley must surely have alighted, Bird-like, within that of Tony Kofi. The altoist has been fascinated by Adderley since his teenage years, since when he’s developed his own blues-based, bop-driven, soul-detailed sound, a voice as robust as his hero’s, yet profoundly his own. Since 2018 Kofi has collaborated with Webb on various incarnations of Adderley’s music which have included narration (Webb has a distinguished lineage in musical theatre) and vocals. However, this is a straight-ahead instrumental take on Adderley, live and dangerous, focusing on Cannonball’s late 50s material when he was close with Miles and Coltrane but also starting out afresh with brother Nat... Andy Robson

Read the full review in the May issue

Charles Lloyd

8: Kindred Spirits Live from the Lobero

Blue Note 800157

Charles Lloyd (ts, f), Gerald Clayton (p), Julian Lage (g), Reuben Rogers (b), Eric Harland (d) with guests Booker T Jones (org), Don Was (b). Rec. March 15, 2018.

Charles Lloyd has been an unacknowledged genius working in plain sight for far too long. Ever since his remarkable series of albums on the ECM label that began with Fish Out Of Water in 1990, the creativity and invention of his playing seems to have increased in direct proportion with each year passing year, so that with 8, his 80th birthday concert at the Lobero Theatre in Santa Barbara on March 15, 2018, he has produced one of the most satisfying albums of his career. Every note he plays here is valuable; he is the eternal storyteller whose melodic lines assume a narrative arc whose logic somehow seems analogous to the ages old storyteller’s art... Stuart Nicholson

Read the full review in the May issue

The Necks

Three

ReR Megacorp Necks14

Chris Abrahams (p, org, ky), Tony Buck (d, perc, g) and Lloyd Swanton (ac b, el b). Rec. 2019

The 21st album from these Australian sidewinders plays out like an epic triptych, each expansive panel showcasing a disparate strategy from their formidable repertoire. Opener, ‘Bloom’, harkens back to the mutant rock’n’roll curveball locked within 2018’s Body, with Buck cantankerously rattling Marley’s spectral chains as his comrades hop aboard a hurtling Reichian express bound for Düsseldorf. The remainder of the album is more sedate... Spencer Grady

Read the full review in the May issue

Kandace Springs

The Women Who Raised Me

Blue Note 003161902

Kandace Springs (v, p), Steve Cardenas (g), Scott Colley (b), Clarence Penn (d). Rec. date not stated

Following her critically acclaimed 2016 debut, Soul Eyes, and 2018’s Karriem Riggins-produced Indigo, the singer that Prince said possesses ‘a voice that could melt snow’ is back with her most straight-ahead release to date. The concept for the album, which sees Springs reunite with Grammy-winning producer Larry Klein, is simplicity itself and all the stronger for it; namely a tribute to the female vocalists who have had a particularly significant impact on Springs, including key touchstones such as Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack, Sade and Nina Simone... Peter Quinn

Read the full review in the May issue

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