Jazzwise Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2015

Ahmad JamalAhmad Jamal Live in Marciac August 5th 2014

Jazz Village

As Keith Shadwick observed, Jamal ‘used space in preference to bustle, and melodic and harmonic lucidity rather than jumble’. Recorded by the octogenarian pianist and his wonderfully lithe rhythm section in France last year. There can be few more coolly groovy jazz minimalists than Jamal, whose remarkable defining sense of relaxed-yet-taut ensemble dynamics remains undiminished by the passing years. It’s a magnificent, life-affirming performance, also captured on film. (Robert Shore)

 

Cecile McLorin SalvantCécile McLorin Salvant For One to Love

Mack Avenue

For One to Love sees Cécile McLorin Salvant take her audience on another engrossing journey of discovery. If her critically acclaimed WomanChild deliberately eschewed songs about love, this follow-up basks in it. Penning five of the album’s 12 songs, McLorin Salvant’s album opener ‘Fog’ seems almost painterly, and hearing the singer’s endlessly sustained opening words (‘Love appeared’) you’re struck anew by the timbral richness of her voice. (Peter Quinn)

 

Michael GibbsMichael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band Play A Bill Frisell Set List

Cuneiform Rune

Every song bar Gil Evans’ ‘Las Vegas Tango’ is out of Frisell’s playlist, but Gibbs re-pitches them in new contexts. Gibbs’ ability to arrange in precise detail yet create great plains of space sets Frisell off dramatically on a sumptuous ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, but it’s ‘On The Lookout/Faraway’ with its surging sea drifts of brass rising and falling against Frisell’s meditative voicings that we know we are in the midst of something unique. (Andy Robson)

 

polar bearPolar Bear Same As You

The Leaf Label

Polar Bear’s sixth album is the most emotionally engaging music I’ve heard from them. Though recorded in London, Seb Rochford’s relocation to the Mojave Desert to mix surely added to its haunting ambience. ‘Unrelenting Unconditional’ begins a ritual climax, in which a sax pans past like a freight-train in the night, the instrument’s siren-calls elsewhere become high-register screams, and a wild dog barks. The effect is meditative, dislocating and gripping all at once. (Nick Hasted)

 

Nat BirchallNat Birchall Invocations

Jazzman

A tweak of the personnel in Birchall’s latest ensemble brings a subtle but resonant shift in his fertile seam of late Coltrane-inspired spiritual jazz. Pianist Adam Fairhall is present once again, providing questing solos that frequently occupy the first post-head slot, setting a serious-as-your-life mood for Birchall to delve into. Birchall is playing with more elegance than ever, offering wide, hollering outpourings of emotion and delicately controlled overblowing that bespeaks a fragile yearning. (Daniel Spicer)

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