Top 20 Jazz albums of the last five years

top-20-jazz-albums

Every year, Jazzwise asks its writers to choose their favourite albums – the releases that most impressed and inspired them. Below are the 20 albums which received the most votes from 2010 to 2014. No list like this can ever be considered 'definitive', but every one of these albums is outstanding, and they are sure to inspire many new voyages of musical discovery

No 1Phronesis Alive

Phronesis Alive

(Edition)

Live recordings are usually unmanageable in many ways but this one has been put together with a lot of TLC, meaning attention to detail in every area. It has paid healthy dividends, with a live sonic that reflects the band’s ability to join together intimacy and energy, the tender and animalistic.” (Selwyn Harris)

 

Gregory Porter WaterNo 2

Gregory Porter Water

(Motéma)

While he has the pipes to really make a song, especially those of the soul jazz or swing persuasion, come to life, Porter is also capable of tremendous subtlety elsewhere, no more so than a crystalline reading of ‘Skylark’, in which he holds languorous, long tones to perfectly capture the wistful nature of the piece.” (Kevin Le Gendre) 

 

Courtney Pine House Of LegendsNo 3

Courtney Pine House Of Legends

(Destin-E)

Unquestionably one of the most joyous albums Pine has ever made ... Plenty of review records command fine words and then get consigned to the shelves never to be played again. I can guarantee this one will be providing the backdrop to energetic extrovert dancing for years to come. (Alyn Shipton)

 

Wayne Shorter Quartet Without A NetNo 4

Wayne Shorter Quartet Without A Net

(Blue Note)

This is the key that unlocks the door to this remarkable album, where Shorter’s maxim of “rehearsing the unknown,” with everyone responding to the impulses of the moment, results in some inspired music making that represents jazz at its finest, not just in the here and now, but of the past and the future as well. (Stuart Nicholson)

 

Michael Wollny Trio WeltentraumNo 5

Michael Wollny Trio Weltentraum

(ACT)

“An album of standards, but not your usual standards, these are pieces by the likes of Alban Berg, Gustav Mahler, Paul Hindemith, Wolfgang Rihm and Guillaume de Mauchaut which are morphed into intense, personal statements by Wollny that are revealing of his artistic growth, musical curiosity and growing stature as an artist.” (Stuart Nicholson)

 

Charles Lloyd MirrorNo 6

Charles Lloyd Mirror

(ECM)

“This is a very accomplished ensemble that certainly has the potential to rise to the heights and this album is surely a stepping stone on the way. Lloyd is an ardent melodist to whom tone, lyricism and expressivity are all.” (Stuart Nicholson)

 

Ambrose Akinmusire When The Heart Emerges GlisteningNo 7

Ambrose Akinmusire When The Heart Emerges Glistening

(Blue Note)

The set really stands out for the cohesion of the band and the leader’s strength of character. At this early stage of his career, Ambrose Akinmusire is already showing signs of being a major creative figure in the making, one who realises that the jazz aesthetic is as much about content as form, imagination as execution. (Kevin Le Gendre)

 

EST 301No 8

EST 301

(ACT)

The idea was to go into the recording studio and just play, a risky venture for any jazz group. But this band had been performing together for so long that they had the knack of making even spontaneously conceived material sound as if it was instead the result of assiduous rehearsal and careful preparation.” (Stuart Nicholson)

 

Kenny Garrett Pushing The World AwayNo 9

Kenny Garrett Pushing The World Away

(Mack Avenue)

“This exhilarating new recording – Garrett's third for the Michigan-based Mack Avenue label – feels like a real step up. With a rotating line-up mixing youth and experience, the band have a ‘live’ dynamic that’s obviously benefitted from the extensive on-the-road workouts promoting the previous CD.” (Selwyn Harris)

 

Phronesis Life to EverythingNo 10

Phronesis Life to Everything

(Edition Records)

They shift imaginatively between improvisation and classical and folk-influenced written material in a way that avoids any traditional black-and-white format. The trio has dug in over a heavy touring schedule and the rewards are clearly felt. How do you top such a high quality ‘live’ album as Alive? Phronesis just have.” (Selwyn Harris)

 

Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden JasmineNo 11

Keith Jarrett / Charlie Haden Jasmine

(ECM)

The pianist certainly feels that this is his strongest playing since Radiance – in fact, he felt maybe more so. From the opening ‘For All We Know,’ there is something compelling about the way the music unfolds, a mixture of intensity, yearning and lucid melodic development that demands you follow every nuance. (Stuart Nicholson)

 

Marius Neset Golden XplosionNo 12

Marius Neset Golden Xplosion

(Edition)

Here’s an exceptional debut recording from a 25-year-old Norwegian tenor/soprano saxophonist. The ‘saxophone’ album is a rare happening these days, something that seems to have gone out of fashion or run out of vitality. But there’s everything to suggest the opposite here is the case. (Selwyn Harris)

 

John Surman Saltash BellsNo 13

John Surman Saltash Bells

(ECM)

Fans of Road To St. Ives and Rev. Absalom Dawe may find this hard to believe but Saltash Bells is even more lovely and moving than they are. In a way, the title track really sums up the whole set. It is a truly special piece of music which adjectives like ‘haunting’, ‘elegiac’ or ‘poignant’ do not come close to describing.” (Duncan Heining)

 

Stan Tracey The Flying PigNo 14

Stan Tracey Quintet The Flying Pig

(ReSteamed)

The one that sticks in the mind most is the jaunty ‘Narpoo Rum’, as original and quirky a piece as Stan has ever produced and given an exemplary performance here. His own piano solo (which comes in straight after the head) is a masterpiece of building tension, and he’s ably followed by Messrs Armstrong and Allen.” (Alyn Shipton)

 

Christine Tobin A Thousand Kisses DeepNo 15

Christine Tobin A Thousand Kisses Deep

(Trail Belle)

From the alluring groove of ‘Tower of Song’ and the powerful imagery of ‘Story Of Isaac’, to the incredibly moving ‘Anthem’ (a duet with Gwilym Simcock) and the enigmatic ‘You Know Who I Am’, a song that Christine has been singing since the age of 10, these are interpretations that shimmer with beauty and insight. (Peter Quinn)

 

Robert Wyatt / Gilad Atzmon / Ros Stephen For The Ghosts WithinNo 16

Robert Wyatt / Gilad Atzmon / Ros Stephen For The Ghosts Within

(Domino)

“Each track is a stand out, transfiguring in its emotions without ever tipping into sentimentality. Yet by the time ‘What A Wonderful World’ hits its elegiac climax, even the hardest of hearts will be close to tears.” (Andy Robson)

 

Kurt Elling The GateNo 17

Kurt Elling The Gate

(Concord)

With the musical relationship between the singer and his long-standing collaborator, pianist Laurence Hobgood, hitting a new peak of aesthetic eloquence, the album provides a many-angled exploration of the art of the song ... The Gate will move, surprise and delight – sometimes all at once. (Peter Quinn)

 

Christine Tobin Sailing To ByzantiumNo 18

Christine Tobin Sailing To Byzantium

(Trail Belle Records)

In this beautiful collection of songs based on the poetry of WB Yeats, vocalist Christine Tobin has created an unqualified masterpiece. Setting poems from across the entire spectrum of Yeats’ oeuvre, Tobin perfectly gauges the emotional and spiritual resonances of the texts, aided by performances of incredible subtlety.” (Peter Quinn)

 

Sons Of Kemet BurnNo 19

Sons Of Kemet Burn

(Naim)

“The session was recorded direct to tape rather than digitally and there is something about the warmth and fleshiness of all the frequencies ... Music such as this, cognisant of both the jazz and folk aesthetics, is not at all easy to pull off, but Burn, with its danceable and lullaby qualities, is a very welcome addition to the canon. (Kevin Le Gendre)

 

Ambrose Akinmusire The Imagined Saviour is Far Easier to PaintNo 20

Ambrose Akinmusire The Imagined Saviour is Far Easier to Paint

(Blue Note)

Akinmusire moves beyond the shadow cast by Blue Note’s posthumous jazz greats by asserting his own independent vision of the music that looks both ways, to the past and to the future. Rather than cutting ties with ‘the tradition’, he builds on what has gone before. (Stuart Nicholson)

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