CD reviews

LJN YEAR-END LISTS (3) Recorded Memory of the Year 2018

For this, the third and last of our year-end lists, LJN contributors and friends remember their favourite recordings of 2018. 

Tom Barford  Bloomer (Edition). Before this record was released, saxophonist Tom Barford told me to stop worrying about how to classify different types of music. “Whatever you listen to, it’s supposed to make you feel something,” he said. “Otherwise, what would be the point?” Then his record makes the point: intricate rhythms, vast, beautiful, open soundscapes and a special highlight called Space to Dream which, every time, will leave you doing exactly that. (Matt Pannell)

John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse! Deluxe Edition). An unplanned opportunity for John Coltrane to bring his quartet into Rudy van Gelder’s studio for an afternoon in 1963 gave birth to the recording of 14 songs, two of which had only been recorded once. Everything about this release is magic, from the playing, the spontaneity and even to the design of the album’s packaging. (Martin Hummel)

Francesco Diodati – Yellow Squeeds Never the Same (AUAND). Guitar-led, shifting Steve Coleman-esque themes are funky and gently euphoric. The grungy tuba, strong horns, spiky piano and rock-edged guitar make you feel like something new and intriguing is happening. Some tracks were previewed at their memorable Barbican performance at the London Jazz Festival in November. (Alison Bentley)

Eric Dolphy – Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance Records) is an incredible achievement. A beautifully pressed and presented 3-LP vinyl set plus book, revisiting Conversations and Iron Man, working from the surviving mono masters, adding 85 minutes of unreleased material – hidden treasures – from those two days of Alan Douglas-produced sessions. The sound quality is stunning. Every note and nuance is brought out in the extraordinarily fresh mix. One guesses it would be just how Dolphy would have wished this amazing playing to be heard. (Geoff Winston)

Kaja Draksler/Petter Eldh/Christian Lillinger – Punkt.Vrt.Plastik (Intakt). I am very proud to locate it in Europe. (Michael Rüsenberg,

Paul Dunmall Jon Irabagon Mark Sanders and Jim Bashford  The Rain Sessions (FMR Records). Paul Dunmall and Jon Irabagon took advantage of a visit to UK of the latter to record a double sax double drums album; it’s powerful stuff.(Tony Dudley-Evans)

Flat Earth Society – Untitled #0 (Igloo). The double album from Belgian band is quirky, erratic, imaginative and sometimes a bit silly, but always exciting and always trying something different. (Peter Slavid)

The Last Poets – Understand What Black Is (Studio Rockers). A misguidedly controversialist interviewer led a car-crash Q&A instore at Rough Trade where the core trio of Abiodun Oyewole, Umar Bin Hassan and Baba Donn Babatunde demonstrated their conscientiousness and conviction with a commanding presence. In the group’s 50th year, their first album in two decades is a vital blend of politically and spiritually committed spoken word with genre-popping backings from the best of younger British jazz talent including Jason Yarde and George Crowley. (AJ Dehany)

Keyon Harrold – The Mugician (Sony Legacy). A modern jazz album from 2017 that in my mind is an instant classic. (Nick Davies)

Ingrid Jensen – Invisible Sounds: for Kenny Wheeler (Whirlwind Recordings). Because there was such love and attention put into these vibrant new arrangements of Kenny’s amazing tunes (Sarah Chaplin)

Yusef Lateef Eastern Sounds (Original Jazz Classics/Prestige). Not a 2018 record but I’ve been discovering and exploring Yusef Lateef’s catalogue, which I was unfamiliar with, especially Eastern Sounds. (Ciro Romano)

Lydian Collective – Adventure (Lydian). Impressively idiosyncratic debut which might have had the purists up in arms, but was infectiously groovy and simply fun, all ways up. (Rob Mallows)

Ingrid Laubrock – Contemporary Chaos Practices – Two Works For Orchestra With Soloists (Intakt). A journey of sound that couldn’t be more exciting. Ingrid Laubrock reveals herself in the two orchestral works as a brilliant composer and in the environment of her musical friends, Mary Halvorson, Kris Davis and Nate Wooley, as a great soloist. (Patrik Landolt, Intakt Records)

Brad Mehldau’s After Bach (Nonesuch). It is complicated to decide. I think I was the most impressed when I heard Brad Mehldau’s After Bach this year for the first time. What a deep understanding of musical structures without losing emotions! A great record among many others that appeared in 2018. (Ralf Dombrowski, Munich)

Charles Mingus Pithecanthropus Erectus (1956 – Speakers Corner vinyl release). A beautiful reissue which achieves the startling distinction of competing with the original in terms of sound quality. (Andrew Cartmel)

The Ed Palermo Big Band – The Adventures of Zodd Zundgren (Cuneiform Records). The music of Frank Zappa and Todd Rundgren reworked for the contemporary jazz fan, in uproarious fashion. This glorious CD is big band music for people for whom the rock and pop music of the ’60s and ’70s are standards, just as the popular songs of the ’30s and ’40s were the standards for a previous generation. (Jane Mann)

Emile Parisien – Sfumato live in Marciac (ACT). A tasty combination of Europe’s finest, with just enough Wynton Marsalis thrown in to lift the mixture without spoiling it. (Jon Turney)

Evan Parker, Barry Guy, Paul Lytton – Music for David Mossman, Live at Vortex London (Intakt). A stunning home game of the three pioneers of European free music. Parker, Guy and Lytton in top form and an honourable tribute to the recently deceased founder of the Vortex Club, David Mossman. (Anja Illmaier, Intakt Records)

Barre Phillips – End to End (ECM). A final stage in his journey of sublime solo improvisations, that started 50 years ago. (Olie Brice)

Phronesis – We are All (Edition). There have been many excellent releases this year and it is hard to pick just one. But if I have to, I think Phronesis’ latest album We Are All fits the bill. Each time I listen I hear something new, and it has made me rethink their earlier work too. (Patrick Hadfield)

Bryn Roberts and Lage Lund – Hide the Moon and the Stars (BMR). Bryn and Lage’s new record sounds as live and spontaneous as their in-person performances. Stunning is one word that comes to mind. The other is dancing. These two musicians dance so well together with their instruments and their ideas that one would think they were from the same family. Pick it up! (Sienna Dahlen, Montreal)

Ana Silvera – Oracles (Gearbox Records). Just how do you turn deep personal loss into something so beautiful and life-enhancing? Well the short answer is that lesser mortals cannot. And Silvera is no ordinary mortal. Absolutely everything is perfect about this work of art, it will stay with you for a long time, you feel the chill of death then the warmth of life. It is breath-taking, literally. (Mary James)

Walter Smith III – Twio (Whirlwind Recordings). This is my ‘less is more’ pick. Smith is a well established figure keeping heavy company on the international scene: he can do dense and complex. On this recording he strips back the layers, plays standards in the exposed setting of the trio with Joshua Redman for occasional company. There’s economy of expression and directness of communication in a set that bursts with energy. I’ve returned to this over and over this year. (Mike Collins)

Gary Smulyan – Alternative Contrafacts (Steeplechase). A feast of smart jazz thinking and performing with baritone sax legend Smulyan explores ‘contrafacts’ – tunes written of pre-existing chord sequences – with only bass and drums in support. A wealth of fun, skill, inspiration and fine playing from all concerned. And it’s not (quite) about Donald Trump. (Mark McKergow)

Sons of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile (Impulse!). A positive political piece bringing diverse genres into a unified record. An overwhelming and carefully crafted album from a continually developing group. (Dan Bergsagel)

Mark Turner & Ethan Iverson – Temporary Kings (ECM). Varying shades of deadpan from the tenor saxophonist and the pianist, but beneath their wry, oblique, incisive musical conversations, there lie strongly beating hearts and the ability to search out the most subtle of emotions. (Peter Bacon)

Julian Siegel Quartet – Vista (Whirlwind Recordings). Illustrating the creative importance of working together as a quartet for many years, saxophonist Julian Siegel’s Vista, with pianist Liam Noble, double bassist Oli Hayhurst and drummer Gene Calderazzo, is an inspiring studio recording inherently projecting the excitement of the post-bop tradition, yet crackling with contemporary improvisation. Compositionally, it’s mostly Siegel; but these 69 minutes are absolutely about the band – and WHAT A SOUND! (Adrian Pallant)

Mike Westbrook Orchestra – Catania (Westbrook Records). No recording has absorbed more of my listening time this year than that of a 1992 concert in Sicily by Mike Westbrook’s Orchestra, Catania. Quite why Mike is not more widely recognised in this country is beyond me. But this fantastic live recording is one that I will probably be returning to many times in the coming months – great orchestral writing and playing, and fine solo work, particularly from the great Chris Biscoe. (Graham Roberts)

Michael Wollny. White Blues, track from the album Wartburg (ACT). I had the privilege to translate Michael Wollny’s thoughtfully written and personal sleeve-note for the two albums Oslo and Wartburg, released simultaneously. The pianist was a complete joy to work with. His way of listening and responding to the issues raised by a piece of prose is just as easy and natural as his way of being as a musician. Wartburg opens with a seven-track sequence from the trio, followed by this gentle masterpiece from the Parisien/Wollny duo. (Sebastian Scotney)

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