The Wicked Sound favorite / best EP albums of 2021 (so far):
01. Tamil Rogeon Son Of Nyx [Soul Bank Music]
Melbourne-based, jazz violist/violinist and orchestral composer, Tamil Rogeon, returns with the new album Son Of Nyx, released on Soul Bank Music (part of the !K7 Music Group). His first full-length album in three years, Son of Nyx is one of the very few viola-led jazz LPs of our time. Named Son of Nyx after Greek God of satire, Momus, (who is twin of Oizys and son of Nyx, Goddess of the night), the album is a swirling six-track prism of exploratory modal jazz, afro-latin percussion and boundless string-led composition, featuring some of the most exciting musicians working in Melbourne today. From Bamboos keyboardist, Daniel Mougerman, 30/70 and Gondwana Orchestra vocalist, Allysha Joy, to “freaky” post-bop drummer, Danny Fischer, and co-produced by long-time Rogeon collaborator and revered DJ, keyboardist and house producer, Harvey Sutherland in his studio in Melbourne.
02. Maya Dunietz Free The Dolphin [Raw Tapes]
Maya Dunietz is a prodigy pianist, an avant-garde sound artist, an award winning composer. This is a unique kind of jazz. Glimpses of folk lullabies, African scales and rhythms, moments that border with free jazz, and homage to the old school traditions of stride & blues - as fluffy as an Erroll Garner composition and as intense as Ahmad Jamal only to be delightfully interrupted with out-of-scale psychotic outbursts. Maya blends her infinite influences into a holistic, post-modernistic, never-dull experience. Maya: I am incredibly grateful for the magical and pure sound that Rejoicer and Doctor achieved in this recording, Its one of the best trio sounds I ever heard and really stands out in its quality. Every instrument sounds beautifully clear as if it was playing alone and in the same time fuses perfectly with the other two, blending into a strong yet gentle colour.
03. Kuja Orchestra 2020 [Jazzagression]
Kuja Orchestra is a Helsinki-based instrumental band, whose music combines rap, jazz, reggae, funk, and Soul, as well as flamenco rhythms. We provide a musically relaxed atmosphere without rigid genre limitations. The starting point is a good groove, for which Kuja has been known for for several decades. Finnish nine-piece Kuja Orchestra delivered a superb album on Jazzaggression full of funk-fuelled mutations of jazz, Afrobeat, Latin jazz, dub and psychedelic rock. It was rather good, though undoubtedly criminally overlooked. There's much to enjoy throughout, from the Afro-tinged, jazz-dance-friendly brilliance of Sauna Funk and the warm jazz-funk flavours of Elevator Groove, to the rousing dancefloor hedonism of Kuja's Disco, and the fittingly titled fun of celebratory closing cut Party Boat. From start to finish, the collective combines superb grooves with some seriously good solos and horn arrangements.
04. Rosie Turton Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II [self released]
Rosie Turton new EP, Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II, follows the release of the trombonist’s debut LP Rosie’s 5ive (Jazz re:freshed) in 2019, which solidified her unique voice as a composer and band leader within the UK jazz scene. Expansions and Transformations: Part I & II is an exploration of impermanence and evolution and how this intertwines music and mind. The EP starts with an intense Part I, unsettling tensions between the rhythm section interspersed with the flickering of electronic sounds. Through this bed of sound comes a melancholic song-like melody. It leads into Part II with a brief calming of the storm, and suddenly erupts into a mood bringing sunshine and brightness. Reminiscent of the joyful music of Pharoah Sanders and Abdullah Ibrahim.
05. Nathaniel Cross The Description Is Not The Described [FirstWord]
Nathaniel Cross has been a prominent force behind the scenes for several years now as an arranger and trombone player. His skill set has seen him perform and record with a wide range of luminaries including Solange, Emile Sandé, Stormzy, Zara McFarlane, Kano, David Murray, LCSM, Swindle, and Macy Gray to cite a few, additionally to working on both of Moses Boyd's albums, including the Mercury Prize-nominatedDark Matter. The Description Is Not The Described is a four-track instrumental opus that falls within the cracks of contemporary jazz, whilst encompassing a wide range of black music sub-genres that he heard growing up in a British-Caribbean household. The overview for this EP at the core of each track is jazz arranging, but disguised under a range of styles of music from the black diaspora says Nathaniel. Sonically, the full-set threads in strains of bruk, calypso, dancehall, neo-soul, hip hop, gospel, afro-cuban and West African music.
06. The Rongetz Foundation Velvet Bullet [Brooklyn Butterfly Sound]
The Rongetz Foundation is back with a new album named Velvet Bullet. The forceful music of the adapting sextet is generating a wide range of sensations. From the punchy Sun Strike to the hypnotizing Optophobia, auditors will be able to bounce and dance to Velvet bullet, Whirling Dervish and Baroque Buffoon. Rongetz acts as caster in chief and brings in some of the most promising talents of the New York jazz scene. Simon Moullier on Vibes is already recognized by Herbie Hancock and Quincy Jones as one of the best musician of his generation, same goes for Jonathan Barber (Drums) Tivon Pennicott (Tenor Sax) and Alexander Claffy on Acoustic Bass. Also featuring on the album is a Nuyorican gem that Rongetz discovered in Manhattan few years ago, Carlos Jimenez (Flute). Keita Oggawa (Percussion) from Snarky Puppy has also joined the team on two tracks.
07. Ruby Rushton Gideon's Way [22a]
Ruby Rushton return to 22a with a four-track album teaser combining a fusion of sounds from across the jazz spectrum in their own distinctive style. The band has forged an instantly recognizable sound since their debut release Two For Joy back in 2015, hitting the sweet spot by simultaneously sounding classic and forward-thinking. The EP title track Gideon’s Way carries on the cinematic “cop music" theme from the band's 2019 LP Ironside, taking inspiration from ITV’s sixties cop classic Gideon’s Way. The EP is fronted by virtuosic flute from bandleader Ed ‘Tenderlonious’ Cawthorne and soulful trumpet by Nick Walters, who combine with tight catchy leads and fierce solo work. Aidan Shepherd underpins the operation with slick synth and key work whilst Tim Carnegie delivers a suite of tight knit drum breaks. Gideon’s Way leaves the door ajar for the fifth Ruby Rushton album, scheduled for release later this year.
08. FKAjazz Understood [Trew Culture Music]
Grammy-Nominated & Billboard charting musician and music producer, FKAjazz aka Samir Zarif performed & recorded with Nicholas Payton, Jill Scott, Jon Batiste, the Jason Marsalis Quintet and other luminaries before enrolling at the Manhattan School Of Music in New York in the early 2000s. Before taking on the moniker, FKAjazz, Samir Zarif was a part of many indie jazz groups & big bands including the Miguel Zenon Identities Project and more. Branching beyond jazz, FKAjazz channels multiple aspects of Black-American Music (jazz, hip-hop, R&B, etc.) into a highly personal approach as a composer, musician, producer, and DJ. With Understood the love story continues. The subtleties of the music with its chill flavor, silky vocals from artist Chandanie, colorfully painted pictures through lyrics, and the ever-flowing passionate saxophone of FKAjazz, Understood puts you in a deep love trance. Produced by FKAjazz with pianist Noah MacNeil, Yoshiki Yamada on bass, and Justin Swiney on drums, Trew Culture brings a vibe that’s universal in nature.
09. Wildflower Better Times [Tropic of Love]
Wildflower, the project comprising Idris Rahman, Leon Brichard and Tom Skinner, continues its journey with the third release Better Times, setting ahead with a deep, relentless and unique sound, constantly evolving and effortlessly hitting the aim. The beauty of Blue, Yellow, Green and Red, recorded in London in 2019, lies in the openness to form and structure these tunes, whilst a sense of groove and melodic development is maintained throughout. The confidence and versatility of the musicians is key, and so is the interaction between them, characterising a natural flow of unfolding musical ideas and embracing a New York musically care-free ethic, without having to wear their combined influences on their sleeves. Each song has a colour reference suggestive of mood tone and internal balance, enabling the audience to concur that Wildflower is not just a band, it is as ever an experience and one that allows its listeners to emerge and engage in a time where a perfect fusion of global sounds and jazz exists as a remedy, one you can feel and enjoy the benefits from everyday.
10. Raffy Bushman Beginner's Mind [Bridge The Gap]
Having honed his craft along with like-minded musicians over the years as musical director of Unit 31, and founder of The NuShape Orchestra, Pianist and composer Raffy Bushman’s music tells the honest and personal story of his lifelong musical journey through Hip Hop, Jazz, Classical, and Gospel, all major voices contributing to his own individual sound. His new EP Beginners Mind follows Raffy's 2020 debut EP Look Up. This new EP sees him work with a new band featuring drummer Finn Booth and bass player Mikele Montolli. On 'Beginner’s Mind, Raffy says: This is a piece about being conflicted and not knowing the best way through a difficult situation. I really like the recording has turned out, especially the sound of the drums, which have a real intensity to them and sound very immediate despite being played with brushes, often associated with 'quiet jazz'.