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Phil's Jazz Pleasures 5

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Phil's Jazz Pleasures January 2021

Best Jazz from the Last Decade

There have been many in the last month making lists of the best jazz of 2020. Personally, I did not find 2020 a great year for new jazz. For me, the year’s standout album was by 80 year old Charles Lloyd – his live celebration entitled 8. So what I have done here is to look at some of those albums that were selected as part of the best of the year over the last decade.

So, in 2010 there was a superb album by the phenomenally creative pianist Jason Moran. I have selected Feedback pt2 which is a celebration of Hendrix’s famous 1967 Monterey Pop Festival performance and loops the original music. One of my favourite British bands is Empirical – and they are my choice for 2011 with their Elements of Truth album; Yin and Yang is my track choice. 2012 saw the emergence of the quite phenomenal Vijay Iyer with his extraordinary kaleidoscopic piano key and mood shifts. If you have never listened to Jijay before you will get a real treat doing so. My track preference is his delightful version of Michael Jackson’s Human Nature; jazz piano on a whole new level.

For 2013 I have chosen the lovely alto player Kenny Jarrett’s homage to Sonny Rollins from his Pushing the World Away album. If that does not get you dancing – nothing will! The whole album is a complete delight. Keith Jarrett and Charlie Haden are two colossal musicians whose partnership connects so well highlighting the best of both. Their ease with each other is never better than on my choice for the album of 2014 – Last Dance. The title is poignant as it was released just after Charlie’s untimely death. The track I have chosen is Cole Porter’s Every Time We Say Goodbye; one of my very favourites, so perfection all round!

Kamasi Washington’s impressive triple disc solo studio album The Epic had to be my 2015 choice. After all his wonderful work as a sideman for the likes of Lauren Hill and Stanley Clarke, Kamasi eventually produced his own quite beautiful solo album. I have chosen the track Isabelle. Moving onto 2016 and my favourite is the British-Barbadian sax player Shabaka Hutchings with one of his bands – the South African based, Ancestors. The album is called Wisdom of Elders and my pick of tracks is The Observer.

2017 is a no brainer!! I was privileged enough to watch Denys Baptiste do his Late Coltrane tribute show at The Grand in 2018. I can honestly say it was one of the very best concerts I have ever seen. This was no copyism! The sound was glorious – doubling instruments carefully, dipping into modern forms such as drum n bass with Denys’ strident sax truly evoking memories of Coltrane. This was jazz at its very best and so moving. I have selected Transition as my favourite track but it was hard! My choice for 2018 has to be We Out Here a collection of music from many young London jazz musicians. I could have chosen all the tracks but my favourite is Abusey Junction by Kokoroko.

One of the most innovative jazz groups of my lifetime brought out a 50th anniversary album in 2019 and it is impossible not to choose it. The seminal Art Ensemble of Chicago were an extraordinary band and my choice of tracks – two please - takes me right back to how they celebrated African rhythms and Black political struggles and issues. The tracks are Mama Koko and Saturday Morning (live). So much music – not just jazz – owes a great deal to these innovators. Jazz never sounded quite the same again.


This Month’s Playlist

2010    Jason Moran | Feedback pt2 on Ten

2011    Empirical | Yin & Yang on Elements of Truth

2012    Vijay Iyer Trio | Human Nature (Trio Extension) on Accelerando

2013    Kenny Garrett | L’Ouvert (Homage to Sonny Rollins) on Pushing the World Away

2014    Keith Jarrett & Charlie Haden | Every Time We Say Goodbye on Last Dance

2015    Kamasi Washington | Isabelle on The Epic

2016    Shabaka & the Ancestors | The Observer on Wisdom of Elders

2017    Denys Baptiste | Transition on The Late Trane

2018    Kokoroko | Abusey Junction on We Out Here

2019    Art Ensemble of Chicago | Mama Koko & Saturday Night (Live) on We Are on the Edge - a 50th Anniversary Celebration


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