The Wicked Sound favorite / best Jazz albums of 2021 (so far):
01. Marcos Resende & Index Marcos Resende & Index [FarOut]
This album was recorded 45 years ago but sound so fresh like a recent release from a young band. Previously unreleased Marcos Resende & Index self-titled debut album from 1976, contributing a crucial missing work from the glory days of progressive Brazilian instrumental music. Resende in 76 after touring Europe with his previous band returned home to Brazil as an established highly regarded keyboardist, composer, and innovative electronic musician. Inspired and invigorated by US jazz and British progressive rock he’d experienced while residing in Europe, Resende went all out acquiring a keyboard arsenal to be reckoned with, which included the Prophet 5, Yamaha CP-708 and Mini Moog. Determined to integrate his newfound inspirations with Brazilian rhythms and jazz traditions, he formed a new quartet with Rubão Sabino (bass), Claudio Caribé (drums) and the late great Oberdan Magalhães, of Banda Black Rio and Cry Babies fame. Marcos Resende & Index recorded their self-titled debut at Sonoviso Studios with the legendary sound engineer Toninho Barbosa, known as the ‘Brazilian Rudy Van Gelder’ whose impressive resumé includes the era defining classics Light As A Feather by Azymuth, Previsão Do Tempo by Marcos Valle, and Quem É Quem by João Donato. Marcos Resende & Index fits perfectly amongst these masterpieces, sharing both the timeless ethereal qualities as well as the progressive and futuristic ideals of Light As A Feather in particular.
02. Mathias Modica Sonic Rohstoff [Kryptox]
Mathias Modica’s Sonic Rohstoff is the new album on Kryptox Music. Sonic Rohstoff is a journey through abstract downtempo vibes, lofi jazz and futuristic electronica. Most people might know Modica from his earlier works as a producer, keyboard player and founder/ creative mind behind Toy Tonics, Gomma and Kryptox. Over the past two decades he has made a name for himself by discovering and breaking new talent and styles of music. This is Modica’s first album under his own name, following three albums under his monikers Kapote and Munk. All instruments are performed by Modica himself, embellished by guest musicians from the new Berlin Jazz scene.
Zurich-based musician Arthur Hnatek is one of a new breed of players who see their music as a continuum stretching between genres, always thinking in terms of links rather than boundaries, possibilities rather than limits. His time spent playing drums with similarly adventurous and unclassifiable artists Tigran Hamasyan and Shai Maestro opened his ears to the possibilities of rhythmic variation: his immersion in electronic music production and the motorik tradition of Jaki Liebzeit alerted him the possibilities of repetition. Now, with Static, he presents his first trio record: joined by his equally fearless bandmates Fabien Iannone on bass and Francesco Geminiani on tenor sax, this is music created by classic jazz line-up and steeped in an improvisational facility, yet simultaneously utterly unlike anything in the standard jazz tradition.
04. Marcelo Monteiro Deyeh [self released]
Marcelo Monteiro, a saxophonist from Sao Paulo, Brazil, has played with various Brazilian and international artists and at the same time was developing his own authorial work. Has excelled in the jazz scene in São Paulo, currently, he has performed with his group, which may be in trio, quartet or quintet version. With his group plays compositions of his own. His music follows the style of groove, funk and modern jazz, simple but very creative themes, with a hint of Brazilian swing. On his new album, Deyeh, he experimented with arrangements with flutes and saxophones, exploring the sound combining contemporary jazz, Brazilian rhythms, in a modern concept. The album was recorded remotely with each musician recording from their own home studio.
05. Amaro Freitas Sankofa [FarOut]
From the slums of Recife in Brazil’s North-East to international jazz icon, Amaro Freitas has worked tirelessly to become the artist he is today. Gaining international attention for his debut and sophomore albums Sangue Negro (2016) and Rasif (2018) arrived on a wave of instant acclaim. His new album Sankofa - a spiritual quest into the forgotten stories, ancient philosophies and inspirational figures of Black Brazil - is his most stunning and sincere work to date. But for Amaro Freitas, work isn’t just playing the piano, his art delves far deeper than music theory and practice. Explaining the impetus behind Sankofa, Amaro elucidates the imperative behind his music: I worked to try to understand my ancestors, my place, my history, as a black man. Brazil didn’t tell us the truth about Brazil. The history of black people before slavery is rich with ancient philosophies. By understanding the history and the strength of our people, one can start to understand where our desires, dreams and wishes come from.
06. Myele Manzanza Crisis and Opportunity, Vo.1 - London [Deep Matter]
World-renowned drummer/composer, & producer/beatmaker, Myele Manzanza, has proved that he's an artist who continues to dissolve the borders between modern jazz and electronic beat production. Having released three solo albums, and racking up tours and collaborations with Jordan Rakei, Theo Parrish, Miguel Atwood-Ferguson, Recloose and Amp Fiddler amongst others. Myele is already developing a strong live presence in his new London base; his quartet has shared stages with the likes of Hiatus Kaiyote, The Bad Plus, Alfa Mist, and drawing packed houses to top venues such as The Jazz Café and Ronnie Scott’s. Crisis & Opportunity Vol.1 - London features a top tier cast of young London based talent including Ashley Henry (piano), James Copus (trumpet), George Crowley (tenor saxophone), Benjamin Muralt (bass) and additional contributions from the legendary Mark de Clive-Lowe (synths), with Myele Manzanza (drums) captaining the ship.
07. Kaidi Tatham An Insight To All Minds [First Word]
Kaidi Tatham is a legendary multi-instrumentalist. Once dubbed "the UK's Herbie Hancock" by Benji B, he's a virtuoso on the keys and a true innovator in sound production as one of the original creators of the Broken Beat sound. Over the years his musical prowess has blessed numerous projects, initially with the likes of Bugz In The Attic and The Herbaliser, and more recently with DJ Jazzy Jeff (through the PLAYlist projects), Andrew Ashong (on the acclaimed Sankofa Season EP last year) and with a longtime accomplice, Dego. This is in addition to session work for artists such as Mulatu Astatke, Slum Village or Amy Winehouse. An Insight To All Minds is Kaidi's 3rd solo album under his own name, following several EPs and two albums for First Word; 2018's acclaimed It's A World Before You and the re-press of his seminal 2008 sophomore album In Search Of Hope last year.
08. JAUBI Nafs at Peace [Astygmatic]
JAUBI continue the Nafs journey, which commenced with the single Satanic Nafs (featuring the remix by legendary LA producers The Gaslamp Killer & Mophono) released in March 2021. Now JAUBI draw on the elements of North Indian classical music, Hip-Hop and modal/spiritual jazz in their debut LP entitled Nafs At Peace. The journey officially began back in April 2019 when London’s multi-instrumentalist and 22a Record label boss Ed “Tenderlonious” Cawthorne and Polish pianist/composer Marek “Latarnik” Pędziwiatr of EABS/Błoto, visited the group to record in Lahore. Together they channeled their personal struggles at that time into the two recording sessions allowing the musicians to find a spiritual path through this musical purge.
09. Menagerie Many Worlds [Freestyle]
Australian 9-piece Spiritual Jazz group Menagerie announce their highly anticipated third album ‘Many Worlds’, released 15th January 2021 on esteemed U.K label Freestyle Records. Menagerie is the Melbourne-based Jazz ensemble founded by producer, songwriter, guitarist, DJ and recording artist Lance Ferguson, also the driving force behind The Bamboos, Lanu, Rare Groove Spectrum and Machines Always Win. Recorded at Union Street Studio by award-winning engineer John Castle, ‘Many Worlds’ features some of Australia’s finest musicians, including pianist Mark Fitzgibbon (a regular performer at Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge’s original Dingwalls sessions), drummer Daniel Farrugia and renowned saxophonist Phil Noy (The Bamboos). Inspired by both the post-Coltrane generation of the 70’s, labels like Strata-East, Impulse! and Tribe, along with the current ‘New Wave Of Jazz’, Menagerie aligns with the world of Kamasi Washington, Shabaka Hutchings and Nubya Garcia, whilst also bringing their own unique twist.
10. James Brandon Lewis Jesup Wagon [TAO Forms]
Astonishing new work from the fertile creative mind of tenor saxophonist–composer James Brandon Lewis. Performed by the Red Lily Quintet (James Brandon Lewis, Kirk Knuffke, William Parker, Chris Hoffman, Chad Taylor), an exceptional & singular inter-generational ensemble, this album speaks to the forever-evolving continuum of the jazz tradition. Voted Rising Star Tenor Saxophonist in the 2020 DownBeat Magazine International Critic’s Poll, James Brandon Lewis supercharges his remarkable evolution with Jesup Wagon, a brilliant and evocative appreciation of the life and legacy of turn-of-the-19th century African-American musician-painter-writer-scientist George Washington Carver.
John Carroll Kirby's Septet album was recorded live in the studio with a range of talents playing keys, vibes, bass, percussion and drums. The composer and keyboardist leads the charge and approached the album wanting to play with the chaos of jazz fashion in the 70's/80's, bands like Weather Report and Miles Davis. He sure does that but there is beauty in the madness, with plenty of lush and golden keys dancing above lithe and ad hoc rhythms.
12. Sons of Kemet Black To The Future [Impulse]
Sons of Kemet returns in 2021 with their new album Black To The Future, the follow-up to 2018’s Mercury Prize nominated breakout release Your Queen Is A Reptile. This release finds the UK-based quartet at their most dynamic – showcasing harmonically elegant arrangements and compositions, coupled with fierce, driving material that will be familiar to initiated fans. Frenetic, spiritual, cosmic jazz energy from Shabaka Hutchings, Theon Cross and crew featuring guest spots from the likes of Kojey Radical, Moor Mother, Angel Bat Dawid, Joshua Idehen, D Double E.
13. Matt Carmichael Where Will The River Flow [Pothole Music]
Matt Carmichael released his debut album on his own label, Porthole Music. He has already developed quite a profile and an impressive list of collaborations; he also reached the finals of BBC Young Jazz Musician 2020. His quartet, formed five years ago, consists of his contemporaries, award-winning Fergus McCreadie on piano, Ali Watson on bass and Tom Potter on drums. Like McCreadie, Carmichael creates music that feels highly personal, fusing an energetic yet sensitive modern jazz into a bedrock of Scottish traditional music.
14. Amanda Whiting After Dark [Jazzman]
Taking cues from Dorothy Ashby and Alice Coltrane at their most delicate, renowned Welsh harpist Amanda Whiting’s mesmerizing Jazzman full-length LP After Dark arrives as soft as moonlight to gladden the soul and delight the ear—without forgetting to bring the swing. Summoning the nocturnal mood suggested by the album’s title, Whiting’s harp flows and cascades, dances and alights, broods and haunts, informed by a deep understanding of both classical and jazz music, ultimately revealing a top-drawer composer with rare melodic gifts at the top of her game.
15. JD73's Electrio Pyramid [Atjazz]
JD73's Electrio - Pyramid is a colourful & energetic live recording session presenting 8 incredible pieces of music. Dan 'JD73' Goldman is known the world over for his contributions to the world of Jazz & modern electronic soul music and is backed up on Pyramid by Hamlet Luton (Bass) and Gordon Kilroy (Drums) completing the ElecTrio. Dan's ability to construct these incredible melodic gems centered on the sound of the Rhodes Piano is something to behold. This is a real collectors album and if you're a fan of Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Bob James & George Duke you need this on your record shelf for sure.
16. Jackson Mathod Travels in a Confined Space [self released]
Jackson Mathod is a multi-instrumentalist and singer. Drawing on influences from the likes of Miles Davis, Submotion Orchestra and Christian Scott to name a few. Jackson studied Jazz atGuildhall School of Music and Drama, but never feeling fully embedded in the Jazz world, he quickly went onto the session musician circuit, playing for high profile artists such as Stormzy and Jordan Rakei. This year he finally released his debut 8-track Latin-infused album Travels In a Confined Space. The project features a whole host of talented Jazz musicians ranging from Harry Pope, James Beckwith, David Mrakpor, Miguel Muziq & Joao Caetano.
17. Chris Potter Sunrise Reprise [Edition Records]
One of the most prolific improvisers of his generation Chris Potter, returns with the follow up to his 2019 Circuits album: a powerful and cathartic record featuring keyboardist James Francies and drummer Eric Harland. In Sept 2020, a small window emerged from the restrictions and saw an opportunity to record Sunrise Reprise with his Circuits trio. It was the first time anyone in the group had recorded with other musicians in months, and for prolific musicians such as these, it resulted in an outpouring of collective creativity, energy, and spirit.
18. Rebecca Vasmant With Love, From Glasgow [Rebecca’s Receords]
Glaswegian musician, producer, DJ and curator Rebecca Vasmant announces her debut LP With Love, From Glasgow’, showcasing the breadth of the incredible Jazz talent the city has to offer. Through the ethereal, floating textures of LP opener Start Of Time via the uptempo beats and horns of first single Jewels Of Thought, and the sombre, reflective sonics of tracks such as Morning Mourning, From Glasgow, With Love is textured, emotive and calming listen from start to finish. A crucial insight into the modern-day sounds of a city which has already contributed so much to music culture.
19. PS5 Unconscious Collective [Hyperjazz]
Unconscious Collective is the first album by PS5 - the new ensemble led by Pietro Santangelo (Nu Guinea, Slivovitz, Fitness Forever). It’s a further step in the label’s path in trying to connect the musical tradition of South Italy, the love for African-American music, and new ways of expression. The arrangements wrote by Santangelo are based on great freedom of improvisation: while the melodic textures of the two saxophones didn’t give any clear references, the other musicians followed the rhythmic pulse and its unpredictable ways. The music moves naturally along an imaginary line highlighting the ancestral connection between Jamaica and Ethiopia or between Nigeria and Cuba.
20. Jan Van Angelopoulos Streams [Terenga Beat]
The drummer-composer Yannis Angelopoulos, aka Jan Van, is a well-known musician in the Athens jazz scene, accompanied by three fellow musicians, he created an album Streams with a tough background story. By the end of May, a few days after the end of the lockdown, they gathered in a studio and recorded a live session of spontaneous compositions and improvisations. During that session each musician took a step back to listen and give space to one another. None of the tracks was composed before the recording. The result is a deep album which consists of organic beats with spiritual jazz vibes, sometimes exploring fusions with demotika (traditional) elements, sometimes leaning to cinematic atmospheres.
21. Joel McCullough Starsign [self released]
This South Florida native’s musician Joel McCullough combines traditional jazz and prog rock, along with Afro-Cuban funk and South Beachelectronica, into that jazz-fusion vibe that we might as well call “Miami Modern.” As a keyboard player and composer, Joel manages to find the best in every style of music he works with. As an arranger and bandleader, he seems to bring out the best in every musician he works with.
22. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few Cosmic Transitions [Division 81 Records]
Isaiah Collier a brilliant talent from Chicago leads the way on Soprano and Tenor Saxophone, with the support of the other members Jeremiah Hunt, Michael Shewoaga Ode, and Mike King. A release filled with a wide range of human emotions and musical possibility. Cosmic Transitions, is a Five-part suite, that addresses interpersonal relationships during a Retrograde period. Isaiah Collier & The Chosen Few fully explore moments of the past, present, and yes the future. Each part of the Suite weaves into the next. Not for the faint of heart, the album sets out to be a timestamp for before and after. The recording of this project took place on September 23rd, 2020 at Rudy Van Gelder's legendary studio where greats like John Coltrane, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, and many other great musicians expressed what they felt in those moments. Cosmic Transitions was crafted with the full intention to awaken those who hear it.
23. Athletic Progression cloud high in dream, but heavy in the air [Touching Bass]
Touching Bass released the progressive second album (and third project) from Danish/Tanzanian trio, Athletic Progression — Jonas Cook (keys), Jonathan J. Ludvigsen (drums) and Justo Gambula (bass). cloud high in dreams, but heavy in the air sees the Aarhus-based band dive deeper into their intricately fused world of experimental, groove-based music. Recorded over the course of one week in Copenhagen in 2019, bringing together songs that had been marinating and evolving during their live shows, they finally felt ready to eternalise them in the studio. The rest of the album was written in in the studio, turning iphone memos of ideas from soundchecks into songs and improvising.
24. Throttle Elevator Music Final Floor [Wide Hive]
Final Floor is eleven new tracks featuring saxophonist Kamasi Washington and trumpeter Erik Jekabson with longtime collaborators and songwriters Matt Montgomery and Gregory Howe. Joining them are Mike Hughes on drums, Kasey Knudsen on Alto Saxophone, Ross Howe on Fender Guitar and Mike Blankenship on organ. As the title indicates, this album represents the final original recordings of Throttle Elevator Music. Final Floor has upscale energy with elements of rock and punk that fuel the overall sound and dynamically bring an edge back to jazz.
25. Anthony Joseph The Reach Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives [Heavenly Sweetness]
British-Trinidadian poet/musician/author Anthony Joseph’s latest album contains multitudes. Operating as a dedication to poetic ancestors and a coming together of musical generations, The Rich are Only Defeated When Running for their Lives is also an almighty jam. Recorded live last August, it shows off the prowess of a team of master musicians, for instance, the foregrounding of a formidable horn section of top-level saxophonists of very different aesthetic stripes - Shabaka Hutchings, Jason Yarde (who also produced Joseph’s 2018 album is credited as producer/composer/arranger), Colin Webster – a longstanding Joseph collaborator and Denys Baptiste, whose credits include McCoy Tyner and Billy Higgins). There are the fragile interruptions of French jazz pianist, Florian Pellissier, while contributions from veteran percussionists Roger Raspail and Crispin Robinson provide further grit, delicacy and depth.
26. Aver & Move 78 The Algorithm Smile Upon You [Village Live]
The Berlin-based band consists of Doron Segal on keyboards, Nir Sabag on drums, Hal Strewe on bass and Aver on sampler and production. The eight tracks of their EP are crafted from hours of studio improvisations, that have then been chopped-up, rearranged, and layered with additional strings, flute and horns. This many-layered approach has helped create the band’s signature sound: a balance between free flowing jazz and automated, programmed hip-hop.
27. DJ Toner Q4rtet Blessed Are The Weird People [Vinyl Digital]
Blessed Are The Weird People is the brand new album by the Spaniard Dj and producer DJ TONER. It counts 12 songs filled with the Lo-Fi and Jazzhop aesthetic. This album features the participation of trumpeter Erik Truffaz (Blue Note, etc), the renowned Spanish musician Jorge Pardo (Chick Corea flute and sax), and the Mongolian singer based in Spain Lian Faz.
28. Floating Points, Pharoah Sanders & The London Symphony Orchestra Promises [Luaka Bop]
Eighty-year-old spiritual jazz pioneer Pharoah Sanders presents his first album of original material in over a decade. Teaming up with electronic music wizard Sam Shepard (a.k.a. Floating Points) and recording with The London Symphony Orchestra, Promises is a nine-track suite released via Luaka Bop. Shepherd composed the music, played various instruments, electronic and otherwise, and enlisted the London Symphony Orchestra to perform it.
29. ex equoJoao Donato, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad João Donato JID007 [Jazz Is Dead]
Joao Donato brings his flavour, now near synonymous with his name, to a new album in the Jazz Is Dead series with Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad: Joāo Donato JID007. On the first day of recording, João Donato was so flattered that to learn Younge and Muhammad had crafted some tunes for him to grace that on the second day, the maestro showed up to the studio with a composition in honour of his new musical partners: Adrian, Ali and Gregory. Gregory (aka Greg Paul) delivers an effortlessly buoyant rhythm to support Donato’s whimsical and wistful Fender Rhodes. Younge and Muhammad added the flute melody after the sessions, a perfect tribute and compliment to this master arranger, sweet and melancholic at the same time.
29. ex equoGary29. Bartz, Adrian Younge, Ali Shaheed Muhammad Gary Bartz JID006 [Jazz Is Dead]
The shadow that Gary Bartz casts over the last six decades of progressive Black music, and his continued dedication to the same, makes him a logical and very welcome contributor to the Jazz Is Dead label.A look at his body of work reveals dalliances with bebop, hard bop, free jazz, spiritual jazz, soul jazz, jazz-funk, fusion and acid jazz, all while resolutely remaining unmistakably Gary Bartz. His groundbreaking and highly influential Ntu Troop albums of the early ‘70s and his jazz-funk work including two classic albums with the Mizell Brothers, one of which supplied A Tribe Called Quest with a sample that was smooth like butter. An alto saxophonist steeped in the history and tradition of his instrument who is also restlessly experimental and not prone to the purism of any kind, he enjoys both the respect and admiration of his peers and the hero-worship of several generations after him – including Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad, which inevitably led to Gary Bartz JID 006.
Breathe captures the Hammond B-3 organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith during his 75th birthday run at the Jazz Standard in NYC in 2017, the same week he recorded his acclaimed trio album All In My Mind. On this night the good doctor took the stage with an expanded line-up featuring Jonathan Kreisberg on guitar, Johnathan Blake on drums, John Ellis on tenor saxophone, Jason Marshall on baritone saxophone, Sean Jones on trumpet, and Robin Eubanks on trombone. Two additional studio tracks that open and close the album present the unique collaboration between Doc and Iggy Pop including a sublime cover of Donovan’s 1966 hit Sunshine Superman.