The Wicked Sound favorite / best EP albums of 2021:
01. The Royal Krunk Orkestra The Sirius Mystery opus 4 no 1 [Ropeadope]
The Royal Krunk Jazz Orkestra is a big band based in Atlanta Georgia, RKJO is a natural mashup of the traditional Jazz Big Band, with Rhythm & Blues and Southern Hip-Hop sensibility. Russell Gunn is the founder, composer, and director of this contemporary big band, with three releases to date - The Sirius Mystery, Get It How You Live, and Pyramids. The Sirius Mystery opus 4 no 1 is a first and also somehow the last part of a trilogy that represents the artist’s search to tell the expansive story of the African diaspora and the rich history it carries. All tracks were composed, arranged, orchestrated and conducted by Russell Gunn, with a special guest appearance from Wynton Marsalis on trumpet. The Sirius Mystery was released for a small ensemble back in 2016, and Gunn released this year a big band version of the album. The band's leader says: Being a jazz musician in the twenty-first century is a true labor of love, the money is scarce, and choosing the twenty-two piece orchestra as a means of expression can be strenuous financially. We hope this record and the one thereafter get to see the day of light, and that the Truth Seeker gets to share his wisdom and artistry with the rest of the world.
02. corto.alto Not For Now [Worm Discs]
Glasgow jazz sensation corto.alto last release Not For Now follows an acclaimed series of DIY self-releases and videos, released over the course of a year from May 2019. Originally conceived as a self-imposed challenge for the band's leader Liam Shortall to release new music every three weeks for a year, corto.alto’s incredible success has postponed any plans to end the project. Lockdown gave Liam plenty of time to better gauge a sense of perspective of where I fit as an artist in the world of music and find the right balance between over intellectualised or over commercialised ‘jazz’.
03. 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.
04. 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.
05. JK Group What's Real [La Sape]
A JK Group is a collective of forward-thinking "jazz" musicians from Australia, led by Josh Kelly, from 30/70 Collective. It's their second release to date, and it came out as an opposition to the band's 2020 debut album The Young Ones, which was meticulously planned. Many of the songs were just sketches, musical experiments that were leaping off out of the territory of the first record and pushing the sound in a number of different directions at once. As with all experiments, some songs did not make the cut. But the selections that have made it onto this vinyl really capture the magic and spontaneous energy of the session with the musicians in full flight, in sync.
06. 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.
07. 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.
08. Okvsho Orange Wine [Hip Dozer Records]
The duo Okvsho is one of the most promising prospects of upcoming musicians and producers from Switzerland. The two brothers grew up in the city of Zurich with influences from old school beat-making and house/electronic music to the modern Jazz-Scene, Funk and Neosoul. The Orange Wine EP, their first release on the label record Hip Dozer, seems like a logical new step for the duo who once again, expanded their musical horizons. For this project, they get back to their roots and combine the simplicity of beat making with the playful and improvised jazz elements the duo is known for. Funkier than ever, their full EP reflects the new exotic vibes of the modern jazz scene. By adding live instrumentation, tropical drums and dancing beats, the group shows how to surf on the smooth and groovy wave of jazzy house music.
09. Pachakuti & young.vishnu Cuentos Cortos [Melting Pot Music]
Pachakuti and young.vishnu return with a new EP after their 2020 debut album Semilla. Pachakuti is a classically trained saxophonist and pianist with strong leanings towards Jazz and Latin music. young.vishnu is a beatmaker, arranger, sampleologist and the founder of the Nima Composition Archive. On Cuentos Cortos, they are crossing lo-fi beats, jazz and new age music with seemingly effortless ease and a smooth Latin twist. Based in Berlin and Hildesheim, our duo acts like a full-blown band with Pachakuti on sax, flute, piano, clarinet and harmonium and young.vishnu on bass, drums and percussion.
10. 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Mark de Clive-Lowe Midnight Snacks Vol. 1 [Mashibeats]
The ever-prolific Mark de Clive-Lowe has been blessing us with so much music over the last couple of years, getting heavy into his jazz-bag with Heritage, Ronin Arkestra and Dreamweavers. Always a man of multiple vibes and styles, his latest offering Midnight Snacks vol.1 eschews his bandmates and puts the beats and basslines front and center with four instrumental tracks of broken beat, house and downtempo to wrap your ears around. Midnight Snacks are moments in time created in the dead of night - as the world sleeps, I get to imagine alternate realities. Through our imagination, we find new ideas and new possibilities, and share them in the hopes that we remind each other how things don’t have to be any one particular way. There’s always another perspective, says Mark de Clive-Lowe.
14. Raffy Bushman Beginners 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'.
Following their appearance on 2020’s acclaimed Blue Note Re:imagined project, the London duo Blue Lab Beats - producer NK-OK and multi-instrumentalist Mr DM (David Mrakpor) - present their first Blue Note release with the EP We Will Rise. The five-track EP is a project from the heart, intended to offer healing and hope to those wearied by racism and prejudice. It’s music that variously celebrates resilience, provides reassurance, and sparks joy. Pulsing through a sound that blends boom-bap grooves and jazz-funk hooks are wide-ranging influences inspired by the pioneers of hip-hop and the music of the African diaspora; a sound that tells of London, of today, while hinting at the future.
Unknown To Known is a culmination of four musicians each active in some of the most prominent musical forces around today including Sting, Van Morrison, Anoushka Shankar, Wild Flower, Ill Considered, Collocutor, Akram Khan, Dele Sosimi, Sarathy Korwar, Joy Crookes and more. On woodwinds, Idris Rahman and Tamar Osborn weave together the melodic fabric of this music, their lyrical approach gracefully compliments one another, whether they play in unison or counterpoint. Jihad Darwish oscillates between the sitar, double bass and electric bass, providing a bridge from melodic and harmonic worlds down to earthy, pulsating yet sensitive grooves which Yusuf Ahmed ties together on the drums and various hybrid percussion instruments.
17. Hummucide Decypher [Hummucide Music]
Hummucide is a four-piece minimalist-rock-jazz group. FromBadBadNotGood to Aphex Twin to Yussef Kamaal, their influences come from far and wide. Their goal is to get you dancing and feeling something special. The band have adopted many of traditional jazz practices such as improvisation and taken them to the indie band scene that is currently booming in Wellington, New Zealand. The band says: We have loved performing with many like- and open-minded musicians who can bring new and fresh ideas and approaches to form a distinctive sound that represents the community of which we are a part. Our music is inspired by jazz as well as many other dispirite influences that cross genres.
18. Bobby Rausch Hidden [Ninety Days Records]
Berlin's young future jazz trio Bobby Raush call themselves a Berlin underground music trio, and call their music 'experimental groove'. With bass clarinet, baritone saxophone, drums and a box full of effects, Lutz Streun, Oleg Hollmann and Jürgen Meyer operate in the space between jazz and hip-hop, digital and analogue, and composition and improvisation in a way that only the sizzling club atmosphere of the capital can generate. Drawing influences from electronic beats and rock vinyls alike, Bobby Raush plays the soundtrack for those tired of compromise. Handmade in Berlin!
19. High Pulp Mutual Attraction Vol. 2 [King Underground]
High Pulp returns with a brand new installment of covers, on Mutual Attraction Vol 2. A spiritual jazz journey, interpreting arrangements by Arthur Verocai, Cortex and Casiopea. The 8-piece fusion band pays homage to tracks and artists that have woven themselves into the DNA of their band. In just a few short years, this instrumental band has dabbled in everything from avant-garde jazz to beat-driven R&B to psychedelic synthesizer-heavy electronica. The band shows unique skill, poise, and top-class musicianship far beyond their short few years together. The results are a spiritual journey and a refreshing take on classics.
20. Gotts Street Park Diego [Blue Flowers Music]
Leeds-based trioGotts Street Park is like the modern-day in-house band, they build their own studio, where they are faithful to the old school recording process, often recording songs in one take to an analog tape. They produced already for artists such as Mabel, Yellow Days, Kali Uchis, Grentea Peng and Rejjie Snow, and most notably with Celeste, with whom they recorded two tracks on her debut EP Lately. Their music fuse soul, hip-hop, r’n’b, and jazz, and this wonderful mix we can expect from Diego, a jazz-inflected, instrumental record inspired by cult movies.