There's so much good jazz being recorded around the world....a lot of it on small labels....and yet it rarely gets airplay. JAZZ it's own small way....tries to put that right!

JAZZ TODAY is a weekly radio show on Cambridge105 Radio. It is broadcast live in Cambridge UK on 105FM, on DAB digital and at

JAZZ TODAY ONLINE is a quarterly cloudcast of some of the best tracks to appear on JAZZ TODAY.

Monday 1 January 2024

Pete's Pick of 2023

One of the highlights of the Christmas period is selecting my ‘Pick’ of the previous year’s releases. It ensures I go back and listen again to my favourite albums. That said, it’s never an easy task. Hence the sizeable appendix of other albums I wouldn’t be without.

I hope there’s an album below that you may not have encountered. Something that piques your interest enough to investigate further. And you’ll find samples of all of the music on my podcasts.

Hausquartett: From the Cadavre Exquis Collection (Leo)

Hausquartett comprises Christoph Grab sax and bass clarinet, Christoph Baumann, piano, Hami Hammerli, bass and Tony Renold drums, all long-established musicians on the creative Swiss scene. On From the Cadavre Exquis Collection they give us five episodic originals that range from off-kilter waltzes to driving post-bop, bordering on freedom at times.

Cadavre Exquis , which translates to ‘exquisite corpse’, is an art term contrived by the surrealists. Apparently it’s a bit like the word game consequences, except each player draws part of a body without knowing what has been drawn before. And by analogy the band constructed this music during lockdown in a somewhat similar fashion. Check their website for videos explaining the process. When they managed to get to the studio, they produced an album of inventive and creative jazz, one with a sense of humour (reflected by the album cover!).

And even though Hausquartett have been together for over two decades, they still describe the band as a ‘work in progress’. I very much look forward to seeing and hearing where they progress from here.


Matteo Mosolo & Flavio Zanuttini: Half Black Half White Half Yellow (Caligola)

Music recorded in Udine, Italy last year by the duo of bassist Matteo Mosolo and trumpeter Flavio Zanuttini. Half Black Half White Half Yellow is subtitled Suite for Charles Mingus and was recorded a century after Mingus’s birth, with the album title clearly alluding to the dedicatee’s mixed heritage.

The recording comprises nine originals from Matteo, all of which capture Mingus’ earthy, blues-inflected sound.

According to the promo material the pair have known each other for two decades. Matteo is a musician skilled on multiple instruments and his interests extend to classical and rock music. His double bass playing can be propulsive at times. Then tender.  Check out his earlier solo outing, Isolation, where he also acknowledges the influence of Charlie Haden.

Flavio Zanuttini is a trumpeter who is as adept at performing solo as he is in a big band setting. Here his bright tone contrasts with Matteos darker hues, giving us a striking series of duets. I’m sure the big man would have been impressed.

Valtteri Laurell Nonet: Tigers Are Better Looking (We Jazz)

A band led by Finnish guitarist Valtteri Laurell Poyhonen. Within its ranks are some of the upcoming names on the Helsinki scene, such as trumpeter Jukka Eskola, saxophonist Jussi Kannaste and bassist Ville Herrala, many of whom are part of the We Jazz stable.

Key to the success of this album is the presence of veteran clarinettist Antti Sarpila, who takes centre stage on many of the pieces. And his velvety tone often adds a retro feel to proceedings. There are also some lovely voicings from the brass and woodwind.

Valtteri’s six melodic and gently swinging compositions are memorable, and based on the writings of novelist Jean Rhys. And the leaders approach is influenced by the work of Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis and Charles Mingus. On occasion it also brings to mind the work of Johnny Dankworth.

Tigers Are Better Looking was originally commissioned for a festival in Finland. Let’s hope it doesn’t mean that it is a one-off for this line-up. I could do with more.


Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra: Family (We Jazz)

So often DJs and reviewers say that a band lineup ‘reads like a who’s who of a certain region’s jazz scene’. And I’m as guilty as most. However, Gard Nilssen’s Supersonic Orchestra truly does read like a who’s who of Scandinavian jazz.

It comprises seventeen pieces including seven saxophonists, two trumpeters, two trombonists, three bass players and three drummers, with the likes of Per Texas Johansson, Eirik Hegdal, Mette Rasmussen, Petter Eldh, and Ole Morten Vagan on board. Plus the occasional import, such as Polish saxophonist Maciej Obara. And you’d certainly need a sizeable stage for that lot, which they must’ve had at the Mondrian Jazz Festival in The Hague, Netherlands, where this was recorded last October. I wish I’d been there.

And although many of these players are versed in free jazz, this is no left-field blow out. The eight originals were composed and arranged by Gard and saxophonist Andre Roligheten (both regulars on my end of year lists).

Recording a band of this size at a festival must be some task, but the engineers have done a great job, capturing everything from the ensemble at full tilt to the subtleties of a bass solo. Along with the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, this must be one of the most exciting big bands on the European stage.


John Pope Quintet: Citrinitas (New Jazz and Improvised Music)

Jazz from Newcastle Upon Tyne, recorded live over two nights at the Star and Shadow Cinema last April. This is the second release from the John Pope Quintet, one of the most interesting bands on the UK scene. They’ve been together for seven years and take inspiration from the work of Ornette Coleman and Misha Mengelberg amongst others.

Citrinitas gives us eight originals from John, occasionally funky, falling into a kind of bluesy free-bop bag, with some tasty unison playing from the front line. Which can easily dissolve into a loose polyphony. Alongside John on double bass are Jamie Stockbridge and Faye MacCalman reeds, Graham Hardy trumpet and flugelhorn, and Johnny Hunter percussion.

And it’s good to see the quintet being lauded outside of Tyneside. In fact the album has recently got a rave review on a Scandinavian website. Wouldn’t it be good to see the band representing the UK at an international festival such as Jazzahead ?

And kudos to New Jazz and Improvised Music for doing a stellar job in documenting the creative scene in the North of England.


Jochen Rueckert: With Best Intentions (Colonel Beats)

A new album from drummer Jochen Rueckert is always something to celebrate. And this one is no exception. It features the top-rung international lineup of Nils Wogram, trombone, Mark Turner tenor sax, Joris Roelofs, bass clarinet and Doug Weiss bass.

It is yet another production with a timeline influenced by the pandemic. Not only that, it seems Covid determined the selection of the music itself, Jochen choosing simpler pieces, allowing plenty of space for his bandmates to blow. And blow they do. Underpinned by the driving bass and drums of Doug and Jochen.

The soloing is top drawer. And worthy of particular mention is the title track, a wonderful duet featuring just Nils and Joris.

It’s an album that has been a regular on my CD player ever since its release earlier in the year. I think it’s one of the leader’s best. And they’re a band I very much hope will stay together and even record again. And Jochen’s credits on the CD case have some interesting asides regarding music streaming services that I must admit, raised a smile.


German Lema & Nicolas Ojeda: Su Trazo y El Silencio (Ears & Eyes)

An album of mainly ballads from pianist German Lema and bassist Nicolas Ojeda, recorded in Buenos Aires in the Autumn of 2022.

The album as a whole is a tribute to Nicolas’s late father, renowned artist Julio Ojeda. Before his death the pair gave him a parting gift, a rendition of Jimmy Rowles’ The Peacocks. They subsequently went on to record this album, which features a version of that song.

The remaining five pieces are originals from Nicolas and German. Memorable tunes, beautifully rendered by the pair. German seems to be better known as an organist, but clearly he is equally adept at the piano.

The album title translates to His Sketch and Silence, and the artwork features a striking painting from Julio, one that somehow captures the music herein. Su Trazo y El Silencio is released on Ears and Eyes Records, a label making a great job of documenting the current Argentinian scene.


Rudy Royston Flatbed Buggy: Day (Greenleaf)

Day is the second outing on record for Rudy’s quintet Flatbed Buggy, following their eponymous debut back in 2018. On board are Gary Versace on accordion, John Ellis, bass clarinet, Hank Roberts cello, Joe Martin bass and Rudy on drums. And as with its predecessor, Day gives us jazz with a hint of blues, country and Americana.

Rudy provides eight originals alongside one each from Hank and Joe. They often have a hoe-down feel and regularly get me shuffling around the floor. And whereas Rudy described the music on the band’s debut as dusty (!), here he says there is more of an indoor feel to proceedings.

Rudy has established his credentials with the likes of Bill Frisell, JD Allen and Dave Douglas. His seemingly effortless swing underpins the melodic solos of his bandmates. The album is dedicated to his late brother, and also to his mentor, cornetist Ron Miles, who died in 2022. And most of the track titles allude to the concept of ‘time’.

It’s a most enjoyable outing. You can find Day on Dave Douglas’s Greenleaf Records.


Tingo: Kvartetten Fra Verdens Ende (GO’Danish Folk Music)

It’s not often I feature albums on a folk music label. However, the ‘Quartet from the End of the World’ use Nordic folk tunes and folk-based originals as a basis for improvisation.

They’re a band I was lucky enough to see live while I was on holiday in Denmark last June, where they enthralled a small crowd crammed into a courtyard off a back street in Copenhagen. The band comprises Tim Evie on trumpet, Cecilie Strange saxophone, Benjamin Gower-Poole bass and Per Rask Ringsted, drums.

The album features some memorable lilting melodies combined with some sensitive playing. A kind of musical panacea for these turbulent times.

And Tingo are one of a number of Nordic band mining territory between jazz and folk. If this approach is up your street, then the bands Here’s To Us and Maridalen are also worthy of investigation.


Robert Jukic 4 : Res Publica (Jazz Cerkno)

I have long been a fan of the music of Slovenian bass player Robert Jukic, ever since I picked up a copy of his epic Jazz For Masses fifteen or so years ago. And his later album Operation Charlie was one of my Picks of 2012. Since then I’ve been following his output with interest.

His album Res Publica is the third release from his quartet. It was recorded live at the Jazz Tserkno Festival in Slovenia in May 2022 and revisits compositions from the band’s two studio albums, Caminos de Gloria (from 2021) and Izza (from 2022). 

Robert's music falls into a loose free-bop style and his compositions allow his bandmates plenty of space to have their say. And in the live setting they do just that. The quartet features compatriots Tomaz Gajst on trumpet, Bostjan Simon on reeds and Kristijan Krajncan on drums.

Elsewhere Robert Jukic’s eclectic approach has placed him into rock, folk and classical settings. But here it’s undiluted and exciting contemporary jazz performed by a classy band that deserve wider recognition.


A selection of other releases I wouldn’t be without:

Chris Batchelor’s Zoetic - Telling the Tale (Pokey); Flen - Valkommen Till (self-released); Johan Lindstrom & Norrbotten Big Band (Moserobie); Mixing Memory and Desire - Strange Destination (WLJWC); Trieders Holz - Vertraute Orte (nWog); Elina Duni - A Time To Remember (ECM); Mark Lotz - Freshta (Zennez/Berthold); OyvindLAND - Nonett (Ora Fonogram); Per Texas Johansson - Den Samsta Losningen Av Alla (Moserobie); Meinrad Kneer Quintet - Der Zweite Streich (Jazzwerkstatt); Philippe Cote & Francois Bourassa - Confluence (Odd Sound); Hans Ludemann TransEuropeExpress Ensemble - On The Edges 3 (BMC); Andre Roligheten - Marbles (Odin); Hugues Mayot’s L’Arbre Rouge - Invocations (BMC); Allison Miller - Rivers In Our Veins (Royal Potato Family); Henri Texier - An Indian’s Life (Label Bleu); Galumphing Duo - Contrast of Opposites (AMP Music); I.P.A. - Grimsta (Cuneiform); Deon - Soft Steel (Trytone); Velvet Revolution - Message in a Bubble (BMC); Nils Wogram - The Pristine Sound of Root 70 (nWog); Tomas Fujiwara - Pith (Out of Your Head); Will Bernard & Beth Custer - Sky (Dreck to Disk); Clement Janinet La Litanie Des Cimes - Woodlands (BMC); Steven Kamperman - Maison Moderne (Trytone); Florian Arbenz - Conversation #10 Inland (Hammer); Shannon Barnett Quartet - Alive at Loft (Klaeng); Mark Lotz Trio - Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out (Zennez); Regnfang - Alting Har En Tid (self-released); Linley Hamilton - Ginger’s Hollow (Whirlwind); Melissa Pipe Sextet - Of What Remains (Odd Sound); Terese Lien Evenstad - Movement (Berthold); Frans Vermeerssen, Dion Nijland & Thomas Jaspers - The Trail (Trytone); Gina Schwarz & Multiphonics 8 - Way To Blue (Cracked Anegg); Michal Tomaszczyk - Zadora (self-released); AAAPUZ - AAAPUZ (Trouble in the East); Chris Biscoe - Music Is – Chris Biscoe Plays Mike Westbrook (Trio); Karmen Roivassepp & Aarhus Jazz Orchestra - Ambivalence (Jaeger Community Music); Sam Bardfeld Trio - Refuge (Brooklyn Jazz Underground); Robert Jukic 4 - Res Publica (Jazz Cerkno); NoSax NoClar – No Dahiss (Yolk)

No comments:

Post a Comment