2019 Release Rewind - Part 1 [January to June]
2019 has been a fantastic year for jazz. Whilst we have covered a lot of great releases, there were so many more we wanted to review but simply couldn't fit into our busy schedules. As a treat, we thought we would share the many more EP and LP's that got us excited over the past year. This article will start with the first half of the year up to the end of June. The following artists feature in this article:
Rosie Turton, Ivan Conti, Swindle, Angel Bat Dawid, SEED Ensemble, Folamour, Nubiyan Twist, Jerome Thomas, Snarky Puppy, Ben Hayes, Shafiq Husayn, Bill Laurance, Kiefer, Fazer, Wu-Lu, Don Leisure, Laura Misch, Ishmael Ensemble, Erik Jackson, Waldo’s Gift, Flying Lotus, Skinny Pelembe, Abstract Orchestra, Slum Village, David Sánchez, Ebi Soda, & Quantic.
Rosie Turton - Rosie’s 5ive (Jazz re:freshed, 11 January)
London based trombonist and composer Rosie Turton is upcoming in the UK jazz scene, composing and playing with septet Nerija, Where Pathways Meet and recording with Jitwam and Hollie Cook after graduating through Gary Crosby’s Tomorrow’s Warriors. After exploring the eclectic music scenes of London and New York to the Himalayas of India, 5ive is her first album featuring her own quintet. It’s an inventive mix of jazz, hip-hop and Indian classical music. Four of the tracks are originals composed by Turton and the other is an unusual re-arrangement of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Butterfly’. Turton has a dark, majestic tone and her compositions often include dramatic, climactic accelerations; ‘Stolen Ribs’ is based on a Hindustani raga and features ethereal vocals from guest Luke Newman. There is a spiritual, trance-like feel to the album with echoes of Alice Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders.
Ivan Conti - Poison Fruit (Far Out Recordings, 25 January)
Brazilian drumming legend Ivan ‘Mamão’ Conti, otherwise known for being one-third of Rio jazz-funk trio Azymuth, released his first solo album for over twenty years at the beginning of 2019. The album experiments with sounds more closely associated with house and techno as his rootsy electronic samba oozes jazz and dance music together. Helped by his son Thiago Maranhão and producer Daniel Maunick (aka Dokta Venom), the album exudes his zany, carioca character and reflects his innovation as seen with Azymuth in continuing his ‘samba doido’ (crazy samba) philosophy in warping the traditional samba compass with jazz and space-age electronics.
Swindle - No More Normal (Brownswood Recordings, 25 January)
Swindle returned at the start of 2019 with his third album to date as the album pushes the boundaries of UK jazz, grime and hip hop, bridging the distinct but closely connected music scenes together to open new possibilities. Boasting roots in the world of Grime & Dubstep, he connects a group of peers sharing creative common ground in these genres with the results spanning from lush, strings-laden soul to voicebox-heavy p-funk. It incorporates an all-star cast of MC’s in Kojey Radical, Ghetts, D Double E and P Money, to instrumentalists Yussef Dayes, Nubya Garcia, Riot Jazz, and singers such as Etta Bond, Eva Lazarus, Daley and Kiko Bun. The album was built over a three year period but Swindle takes note of his musical inspiration from an early age as he was excluded from school for having ‘way too much energy’. His early steps into music were aided by his blues guitarist father, who gave him lessons on the guitar and whose record collection, made up of soul and jazz touchstones, provided vital inspiration for his debut LP Long Live The Jazz, from 2013. This inspiration continued in the follow up in 2015, Peace, Love & Music, and is sustained in No More Normal.
Angel Bat Dawid - The Oracle (International Anthem, 8 February)
Composer, clarinetist, singer & spiritual jazz soothsayer Angel Bat Dawid descended on Chicago's jazz & improvised music scene just a few years ago. In a very short time, the potency, prowess, spirit & charisma of her cosmic musical proselytizing has taken her from relatively unknown improviser to borderline ubiquitous performer in Chicago's avant-garde. On any given night you can find Angel adding aura to ensembles led by Ben LaMar Gay, Damon Locks, Jaimie Branch, Matthew Lux, or even doing a woodwind duo with Roscoe Mitchell. The Oracle are a batch of tracks that Angel created entirely alone – performing, overdubbing & mixing all instruments & voices by her self – recorded using only her cell phone in various locations, from London to Cape Town, but primarily from her residency in the attic of the historic Radcliffe Hunter mansion in Bronzeville, Southside, Chicago.
SEED Ensemble - Driftglass (Jazz re:freshed, 8 February)
The ten-piece project led by composer, arranger and alto saxophonist Cassie Kinoshi combines jazz with inner-city London, West African and Caribbean influenced groove. SEED Ensemble is Kinoshi’s way of celebrating the vibrant and distinctive diversity that has significantly influenced what British culture has become over the centuries. Featuring on Driftglass includes tuba player Theon Cross, trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey, tenor saxophonist Chelsea Carmichael and guitarist Shirley Tetteh. The album was awarded a 2019 Mercury Prize nomination for it’s wondrous styles and original compositions inspired by the social issues of our times.
Folamour - Ordinary Drugs (FHUO Records, 15 February)
Lyon DJ and producer Folamour released his second album which superbly tells his stories through fusing a unique blend of sunny house, soulful disco and space jazz. This is a lavish, heart-warming record that fuses glowing jazz keys and lingering trumpet motifs with low slung beats, dreamy top lines and catchy basslines. Wayne Snow adds vocal pain to the forlorn and abstract ambience of ‘Underwater Memories,’ whilst tracks like ‘Don't Make Me Leave You Again, Girl’ are rousing and live-sounding house tracks to lift your spirits, ‘These Are Just Places To Me Now’ features exquisitely filtered vocal samples that make your heartache and ‘I Only Remember You When I Sleep’ featuring Mark Borgazzi is a beautiful downtempo number that is impossibly intimate and honest. He says this of the album: “this album is dedicated to all these little things that bring me back to life every day, which help me get through the restless nights, through the big waves crashing on my shore. I have learned to find small pieces of happiness in everything I can and I wish for you to master that craft a little more every day, all your life, like I hope I will”.
Nubiyan Twist - Jungle Run (Strut Records, 15 February)
The Leeds-born and now London-based 10-piece collective have created a record that weaves together elements of jazz, soul, hip hop, African styles, Latin, dub, hip hop and electronics in a flow of thought-provoking and life-affirming music. The album is a landmark for a band that has been consistently developing their sound since their formation in 2015 at Leeds College Of Music, where ”one of the biggest factors in our sound was the exciting music scene in Leeds,’ explains saxman Joe Henwood. “From a reggae night called ‘Subdub’ to venues playing whacked-out experimental jazz.” Recorded at the band’s own self-built Henwood Studio in rural Oxfordshire, the album features two African heavyweights with the original Afrobeat maestro Tony Allen on ‘Ghosts’ and Ethio jazz pioneer Mulatu Astatke contributing vibes on the sinuous ‘Addis To London’. Producer and orchestrator Tom Excell says “conceptually Jungle Run is all about connecting different people and cultures whilst exploring the journey of individuals. This album is the pinnacle of everything we have done to date and to collaborate with the godfathers of Afrobeat and Ethio Jazz and celebrate their music in a modern context was very humbling.”
Jerome Thomas - Mood Swings [Volume One] (Jerome Thomas, 19 February)
Jerome Thomas released his second EP Mood Swings [Volume 1], the first since 2016’s debut EP Conversations. Thomas takes us through a range of emotions using his smooth harmonising tones he displays in tracks such as ‘Bruises’ and ‘Lovesick’, but also in a spoken-word form in ‘Loaded’ as he has a maturity to his sound. As an artist he can move between sounds reminiscent of jazz, soul, jungle RnB and hip hop as ‘Loaded’ sees Jerome match the punchier broken beats providing a powerful rhythm alongside German-based MC Serious Klein. His strong vocals shine throughout.
Snarky Puppy - Immigrance (GroundUP Music, 15 March)
Immigrance is all about movement. Leader Michael League explains "the idea here is that everything is fluid, that everything is always moving and that we’re all in a constant state of immigration. Obviously the album’s title is not without political undertones." Like Culcha Vulcha, Immigrance is a studio project, and it features most of the same musicians. Though it shares that project’s ace musicianship and dynamic, kinetic spirit, it is also more raw and moodier than its predecessor. Several of the compositions put a newfound emphasis on delivering a simpler, streamlined impact. With Immigrance, Snarky Puppy is essentially practising what it preached all along: people from different places can bring their various strengths and experiences, and that can be beautiful and cohesive. The band itself is a representation of that musical expression.
Ben Hayes - See Sun (R&S Records, 29 March)
Producer and DJ Ben Hayes returned with a fresh EP in March, as he continues to conjure up sounds that draw influences from jazz, techno, IDM, jazz and the LA beat scene. With saxophonist Nubya Garcia, Shivum Sharma and Izzy Risk featuring on See Sun, he manages to move his tracks from sparkling, melodic and low slung thumps to funk jazztronica tunes alongside some lifting vocals to punctuate a summery feel to the songs. No wonder he is in demand as a producer, helping out the likes of Puma Blue, Poppy Ajudha, Oscar Jerome, Maisha and Carmody.
Shafiq Husayn - The Loop (Nature Sounds, 29 March)
The new LP by Los Angeles based polymath Shafiq Husayn, an epic project which saw its inception in 2012 through a series of studio sessions at Shafiq’s home, including collaborations with the likes of Thundercat, Erykah Badu, Flying Lotus, Bilal and Anderson .Paak. Amongst a close-knit circle of friends and family the golden tones of The Loop were created, deeply rooted in ideas of song, story, history, guidance and spirituality. The album bumps, jumps and jangles through progressions in jazz, hip hop, soul and funk. Past, present and future are brought together through a psychedelic concoction of time travelling drum machines, celestial string sections and trails of synthesizer vapour. Inflections of Sly Stone, Pharaoh Sanders and Earth Wind And Fire traverse with Marley Marl and Dilla-esqe drums making for an organic yet LA-trifying experience.
Bill Laurance - Cables (Flint Music, 29 March)
The fifth album from Snarky Puppy’s pianist Bill Laurance consist of compositions where all the instruments are entirely recorded by himself, as they are all informed by the exponential growth of technology, themes of man and machine, nature, hopes and fears for the future, and the connections - or cables - that ultimately tie us all together. Embracing electronic beats and textures, with influences from the fields of modern composition, soundtracks, ambient music, funk and electronica, Laurance includes tracks such as the dedications to 'HAL' from the film 2001: A Space Odyssey and the Saturn probe 'Cassini'; a recreation of the motion of an opening flower ('Constance'); an exploration of the fight and balance between the natural and the artificial ('Singularity'); and the concept of a time in the future when nothing will be scarce due to developments in nanotechnology ('End of Scarcity').
Kiefer - Bridges // Superbloom (Stones Throw Records, 5 April // 20 September)
Keyboardist Kiefer considers his two EP’s of Bridges and Superbloom to be a single cohesive project, with the latter’s building upon the sound created in the first EP. Striving to portray the intensity of his interactions with the world in his music, he developed his musical palette by utilising analogue synths. For Superbloom, this meant the songs are brighter and vibrant whilst Bridges saw a more refined approach to his music moving away from the improvisatory, beat-tape styles of songs on his albums Kickinit Alone and Happysad as he has structured his compositions a lot more.
Fazer - Nadi (Squama, 12 April)
Munich quintet Fazer released their second album Nadi following the success of their 2018 debut Mara. The group feature two drummers as they their polyrhythmic grooves channel their intensity as the album title refers to a term rooted in traditional Indian medicine. This inspires their free movement between composition and improvisation as the bassist, guitarist and trumpeter combine to create their spacious lyrical melodies coupled with dub-like basslines.
Wu-Lu - S.U.F.O.S (The Vinyl Factory, 26 April)
Wu-Lu’s new EP S.U.F.O.S. (Save Us From Ourselves) is the latest project since his 2018 EP N.A.I.S (Not As It Seems). The Brixton-based producer, arranger and multi-instrumentalist collaborates with long-term friends Binisa Bonner, Kwake Bass, Nubya Garcia, Eun, Demae Wodu, and Morgan Simpson. Thematically, it’s a reflection of where Wu-Lu sees himself and his people in 2019 London. This EP taps into racial injustice in Britain, black empowerment and self-exploration. Spending much of his time working behind the scenes for a range of artists, this EP will help define him as a soloist. Wu-Lu says "the EP is about family in every sense of the word: blood family, spiritual family, extended family, your family. It's the perception of my own experience and the young people who haven't got a loud enough voice yet".
Don Leisure - Halal Cool J (First Word Records, 3 May)
Don Leisure graces us with a 17-track album of beats, Halal Cool J, which is a pun on the name of rap star LL Cool J; the vibe of the project is closer to the sort of dusty, mystical beats RZA perfected during the Wu-Tang Clan’s ’90s reign as here the ’60s Stax soul samples and kung fu soundbites have been switched out for Eastern European loops and snatches of Turkish dialogue. It’s a head-nodding, static-coated musical blend that radiates a sense of sonic wanderlust. Probably best known as 50% of Darkhouse Family, along with Melange label boss Earl Jeffers, they released their acclaimed debut album The Offering in 2017 and subsequent remix project last year, featuring DJ Spinna, Kaidi Tatham and more. The duo are coolly establishing themselves as Cardiff's very own Mizell Brothers, recently producing Kamaal William's latest work, featuring on Kutmah's recent Izwid compilation, and collaborating on the Chicago x London project Where We Come From, featuring Makaya McCraven, Joe Armon-Jones, Nubya Garcia, Theon Cross and First Word label-mate Quiet Dawn, amongst others. In Don's words: "I got into Turkish music around about 2006 when Egon (ex-Stones Throw) put out a Turkish Funk podcast showcasing artists like Baris Manco, Erkin Koray & Selda. The musical rabbit hole led me to discover re-releases on labels like Finders Keepers, and I've been hooked ever since. It's hard to find original pressings of Turkish music in the UK, so when my cousin landed a job in Istanbul, it was the perfect opportunity to make a bunch of trips there, armed with a portable turntable, hunting for dusty records. After my first visit, I formed a relationship with Deform Records owner, Ozan. He invited me back to play a few times at Arkoada, in the Asian side of the Kadikoy district in Istanbul, DJing in the same neighbourhood the original Turkish psych legends would've hung out and performed in, back in the 1970s. The influence of western artists fused with fuzzed-out traditional instruments and themes is something I'm still amazed by to this day, and I'm always discovering amazing Turkish records that refuel my love for this sound”.
Laura Misch - Lonely City (Self-released, 3 May)
Laura Misch released another seven-track project following on from 2017’s Playground as this again sees Misch utilising the saxophone as a human voice to provide a smooth electronic jazz record that reflects on the theme of loneliness in cities. This time there is more focus on the production of electronics as they swirl throughout to create different soundscapes to map the vision of Misch’s music to describe loneliness in urban spaces, which was partly inspired by her reading of Olivia Laing’s The Lonely City.
Ishmael Ensemble - A State of Flow (Severn Songs, 3 May)
Pete Cunningham’s jazz electronica group Ishmael Ensemble released their debut album in May as the album follows the theme of flow; the flow of water, of time, of cultural exchange and of roles within the Ensemble. A State Of Flow touches on various styles of jazz, stirring ambient invocations, club-ready percussive workouts, spiralling grooves, hazy psychedelic electronica and Japanese lyrics as he collaborates with local Bristol vocalists Holysseus Fly and Yama Warashi, as well as acclaimed horn player Yazz Ahmed. The album maintains a uniform sense of clarity and poise. Throughout, expressive peals of saxophone, crisp drum flourishes and finely-textured electronic brushstrokes can be heard as recurrent main motifs, even as stylistic diversions mimic tributaries, arrowing out of the Severn. This album is borne of strong vision and stronger hometown pride in Bristol.
Erik Jackson - A Sunday Evening in Los Angeles // For Your Intentions (Nuages Records, 3 May // 14 June)
Erik Jackson has an incredible output as a producer. His heady brand of experimental, largely instrumental hip-hop/jazz/DnB has been praised by everyone from hardcore underground hip-hop heads, DnB purists to traditional jazz fans around the globe. A Sunday Evening in Los Angeles is a collection of tracks created on the Teenage Engineering OP-1. Many samples were from late-night radio stations. Most nights he stayed up late sweeping through stations on the OP1. Jackson states “it was a different way to dig for sounds. From radio samples, recorded static and old news reports, the Los Angeles vibe is infused into this project”. This was followed by For Your Intentions which is classic Erik Jackson as it makes contemplative and provoking soundscapes as the songs move between each other like a chilled-out rainy Sunday mix.
Waldo’s Gift - Improvisations (Astral Tusk, 10 May)
Waldo’s Gift were born out of their improvisatory residency at The Gallimaufry in Bristol, quickly gaining notoriety in their hometown before achieving wider national attention. Their latest single 'Vordhosbn' is an Aphex Twin rework never aimed to match the beautiful intricacy of his production, but rather to replicate that energy with human imperfection. That came out in November but before then they treated us to their debut album Improvisations back in May. which succinctly details them as a group; raw improvisation and the organic flow of their music as they feature a lot of woozy guitar and effects combined with juxtaposed drum and bass elements.
Flying Lotus - Flamagra (Warp, 24 May)
The sixth studio album from LA producer Flying Lotus is his first since 2014’s You’re Dead! The album features an eclectic range of collaborations including director David Lynch, Anderson Paak, George Clinton, Little Dragon, Tierra Whack, Denzel Curry, Shabazz Palaces, Thundercat, Toro y Moi and Solange. The 27 track record oozes jazz-funk whilst still providing hints of the beat scene he is a part of in LA, as Lotus showcases his ability to craft an LP with a strong theme but also great dexterity. Lotus said that he had gathered different material from the past five years in the process of making the record, and had a ‘thematic idea’ about making an album with a fire concept during that time. He imagined an "eternal flame sitting on a hill", and upon hearing David Lynch talking at a party he was attending, asked him to record the same words for his album, at which point he said the idea for the album became fixed.
Skinny Pelembe - Dreaming Is Dead Now (Brownswood Recordings, 24 May)
The debut album from Doncaster-raised musician Skinny Pelembe meditates on grief, heartache, stunted aspirations and fresh possibilities as many of the songs on this record have germinated through a decade-long process. Many of his lyrics are directly drawn from a nightly dream journal, where he notes down his dreams as they happened, transplanting them into new contexts in his songs. The album is co-produced by Malcolm Catto (The Heliocentrics) who’s links to to the LA hip-hop world saw Skinny's musical hero and iconic beatmaker Madlib drop by the studio during sessions for the record. The album artwork nods to two of his favourite albums, Alice Coltrane’s “Journey to Satchidananda” and The White Stripes’ “White Blood Cells”, a pair of references that speaks to the diverse palette of influences which have always influenced him. Bright stitches of colour are threaded through dark-hued, heavyweight material, luminous guitar riffs slicing through tough, tight-programmed drum beats, washed over with feedback and layers of reverb.
Abstract Orchestra - Madvillain vol. 2 (ATA Records, 24 May) // Abstract Orchestra, Slum Village - Fantastic 2020 vol. 1 // Fantastic 2020 vol. 2 (Ne’Astra Music, 6 December // 13 December)
Led by saxophonist Rob Mitchell, Abstract Orchestra released the second volume of their homage to the work of producer Madlib and MF Doom’s Madvillain project. Recorded live in its entirety, the album has been quickly released since their 2017 debut exploring J Dilla’s music as they continue to celebrate hip hop’s finest through their fresh big band sound. Abstract Orchestra also combined with Slum Village’s T3 and Young RJ to offer a refresher on the hip hop group’s 1997 and 2000 albums Fantastic.
David Sánchez - Carib (Ropeadope, 7 June)
This album has been nominated for the 2020 Grammy’s Best Latin Jazz Album as saxophonist David Sánchez pays tribute to all Afro-descendent communities who have helped define his music and his Puerto Rican culture’s broad-ranging beauty and idiosyncrasies. This recording is part of a new series of recordings which begin with all original pieces inspired by the musical traditions of Puerto Rico and Haiti, then travels to other Afro-descendent musical traditions throughout the Americas. Sánchez sees this album is a continuation of the Puerto Rican rhythms he used in his first album in 1994, The Departure, as well as the bomba music tradition from Puerto Rico heard in his 2000 album Melaza.
Ebi Soda - Bedroom Tapes (Sola Terra, 21 June)
Based in Brighton, Ebi Soda recorded their DIY EP Bedroom Tapes in a small university flat as the group thrive on being inspired by the atmosphere of a rave. Their anti-traditional approach to jazz, therefore, leads to their music characterised by erratic drum breaks, multi-effect soundscapes and searing trombone lines as their DIY ethic means the birth of their tunes are from their sweaty, smokey bedrooms and not in big band halls. This release follows their self-titled EP that came out a few months before this year.
Quantic - Atlantic Oscillations // Atlantic Modulations (Tru Thoughts, 21 June // 22 November)
New York-based British producer and DJ Quantic has released Atlantic Oscillations, bringing together new players and concepts with a dance-orientated sound that showcases Will “Quantic” Holland’s artistry and rare ability to intertwine the electronic with the orchestral. The LP is the first Quantic album under his main solo moniker since 2014’s critically acclaimed Magnetica, and in the interim, the prolific artist has raised the stakes with further highly praised side projects including The Western Transient, Flowering Inferno, Quantic & Nidia Góngora and Quantic y Los Míticos del Ritmo. He has also relocated to Brooklyn, built his new recording studio ‘Selva’ and taken a bi-monthly residency at New York club space ‘Good Room’, where much of this release was tried and tested. Quantic says “this record feels like it grew naturally as I grew to know New York. I had started the record with electronic sketches in Ableton but soon found that with my new studio setup I was able to record everything with live musicians”. Taking its name from such a formidable weather force, the release aptly brings together Quantic’s global travels and the musical influences developed along the way, especially time spent in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The EP Atlantic Modulations features remixes from Sampology, Dan Shake, Alfa Mist and Quantic himself.
You can buy all of the releases mentioned above via the links below:
Jerome Thomas - Mood Swings [Volume One]
Ishmael Ensemble - A State of Flow
Erik Jackson - A Sunday Evening in Los Angeles
Erik Jackson - For Your Intentions
Skinny Pelembe - Dreaming Is Dead Now
Abstract Orchestra - Madvillain vol. 2
Abstract Orchestra, Slum Village - Fantastic 2020 vol. 1
Abstract Orchestra, Slum Village - Fantastic 2020 vol. 2
Quantic - Atlantic Oscillations