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 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.
comprises nine originals from Matteo, all of which capture Mingus’ earthy,
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
& 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
Royston Flatbed Buggy:
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
The album features some memorable lilting melodies combined
with some sensitive playing. A kind of musical panacea for these turbulent
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.
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.
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