Top Ten Contemporary Jazz in 2017, Issue #02, the best albums (January-February 2017)

1 – Nicolas Kummert: La Diversité 

The major new international release from Belgian saxophonist Nicolas Kummert featuring guitarist Lionel Loueke.

Kummert’s quartet brings together four diverse and creative minds in a unified album that will propel him to wide international attention. Six of the album’s 14 tracks are actually duets featuring Nicolas and Lionel, highlighting the free-spirited interaction that has developed between them. (Bandcamp)

2 – Cameron Graves: Planetary Prince

A wonderful and eclectic album by Kamasi Washington’s pianist and a founding member of the West Coast Get Down collective.

Cameron Graves is a pivotal figure ushering in a seismic shift within the jazz landscape and the game-changing arrival of the genre-blurring Los Angeles West Coast Get Down collective. With the release of Planetary Prince, the debut album by visionary pianist, keyboardist, composer and West Coast Get Down founding member, Cameron Graves, continues the evolution sparked by the 2015 release of Kamasi Washington’s The Epic. (Mack Avenue)

3 – Omer Klein: Sleepwalkers

The newest work by the Israeli-born pianist, recorded with his world-touring trio featuring Haggai Cohen-Milo on bass and Amir Bresler on drums.

For jazz fans torn between European introspection and American intensity, Omer Klein offers a possible solution. Born in Israel and based in Germany, he spent a number of years in New York, playing with Avishai Cohen and Donny McCaslin and recording an album for John Zorn. The result is a pianist who falls somewhere between the abstraction of ECM and the gritty energy of the Bad Plus. (The Times)

4 – John Abercrombie Quartet, Up And Coming

The second album recorded by the jazz-rock pioneer with Marc Copland on piano, Drew Gress on double bass, and Joey Baron on drums.

Abercrombies liquid phrasing and glowing tone enabled by the thumb technique he has honed since eschewing a plectrum in recent years animate his five originals and the pair by Copland, as well as a take on the exotic-sounding Miles Davis classic Nardis done in the spirit of Bill Evans. Up and Coming has a twilight atmosphere, with melodic flow the guiding light. (Amazon)

5 – Colin Vallon Trio: Danse

The fifth album by the Swiss jazz pianist with Patrice Moret on double bass and Julian Sartorius on drums.

The Colin Vallon Trio has found its own space in the crowded world of the piano trio by quietly challenging its conventions. On its third ECM album Vallon again leads the group not with virtuosic solo display but by patient outlining of melody and establishing of frameworks in which layered group improvising can take place. (ECM Records)

6 – Anne Quillier Sextet: Dusty Shelters

The second album from the French pianist and music writer featuring Pierre Horckmans on bass clarinets, Aurélien Joly on trumpet and flugelhorn, Grégory Sallet on saxophones, Michel Molines on double bass, and Guillaume Bertrand on drums.

Inspired by Ambrose Akinmusire, Aaron Parks, David Binney, Maria Schneider… Anne Quillier 6tet create a rich dazzling enlightning music. Each piece is a painting, a tale in which writing,improvisation, reality and imaginary are meddled. (Collectif Pince-Oreilles)

7 – Wingfield, Reuter, Stavi and Sirkis: The Stone House

An incredible album recorded live in the studio by four Jazz masters with no overdubs: all of the music on this album was completely improvised with no music written down or rehearsed. A controversial but illuminating work featuring British guitarist Mark Wingfield, German touch guitarist Markus Reuter, bassist Yaron Stavi, and drummer Asaf Sirkis.

With all participants in peak form – at their most unpretentious and uninhibited best – The Stone House Sessions ranks as one of the most adventurous, intuitive, high-stakes gambles the genre has ever witnessed. These kind of moments just aren’t supposed to happen in the confines of a studio. This is one bet that pays huge dividends … prepare to be blown away! (Bandcamp)

8 – Ralph Towner: My Foolish Heart

After critically-lauded projects with trumpeter Paolo Fresu (Chiaroscuro) and with fellow guitarists Wolfgang Muthspiel and Slava Grigoryan (Travel Guide), Ralph Towner returns to solo guitar with this new release for ECM.

Unsurprisingly from a player so known for picturesque sensibility (though always a delight to hear), My Foolish Heart paints another lovely series of aural images with a rich depth of experience behind it all. (All About Jazz)

9 – Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau, S/T

The collaborative project by American mandolinist virtuoso and vocalist Chris Thile and award-winning American pianist Brad Mehldau.

The affair is a vivid and fruitful meeting of minds that allows for dazzling tight interplay and delightful improv alike. Even a too-brief set can pack plenty of surprise. Fans of either artist doubtlessly are already set to come with open ears and unlikely to be disappointed; after all, it’s friction among such different basic elements that often sets off the more colorful sparks. (All About Jazz)

10 – Benoît Lugué: Cycles

The new experimental jazz album from the French bassist’s sextet, which features Matthis Pascaud on guitar, Martin Wangermée on drums, Denis Guivarc’h on saxophone, Johan Blanc on trombone & microKorg, and Olivier Laisney on trumpet.

In developing this new project, I wanted to work on the concept of trance music. Through this group I develop an electric sound inspired by contemporary jazz but also by rock, world music, pop, electronic music … I realized thus a synthesis of the many influences which I crossed since I became a musician. (Republic of Jazz)

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