Best Jazz Releases 2019
2019 has been an incredible year for jazz. Our contributors and writers have worked hard to pick through countless jazz records from throughout the year to bring you a definitive guide into what we've been digging this year. Here are our 2019 picks:
Ryan Porter - Force For Good (World Galaxy / Alpha Pup, 14 June)
Recorded over six years, Force For Good shows a broad array of bright and lush compositions which are tightly bundled together into one coherent and flowing record. The album sees LA-based trombonist Ryan Porter confidently lead the core instrumentalists from the West Coast Down, as well as seeing performances from Thundercat, Josef Leimberg, Robert Miller, Aaron Haggerty, Lyndon Rochelle, Jumaane Smith and Nia Andrews. Unsurprisingly, the album features powerful performances across the board and is nothing short of a musical masterpiece.
Favourite Songs - Madiba; Heaven Only Knows feat. Nia Andrews; Carriacou
Kassa Overall - Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz (Self-released, 11 January)
Released early in 2019, Kassa Overall’s Go Get Ice Cream and Listen to Jazz has fought hard to remain within contention. However, in reality, it was never under much of a threat, not because of a lack of contenders (as there was a long list of them), but because of how fucking stellar it is. The producer, drummer and rapper Kassa Overall has jubilantly caught the eyes and ears of the contemporary scene, having recently signed to Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood Recordings. The record beautifully merges jazz with hip-hop, electronic elements and spoken word to produce one of the freshest and innovative sounds of 2019.
Favourite Songs - La Casa Azul; What’s New with You; Who’s on the Playlist
Yelfris Valdés - For the Ones… (Música Macondo Records, 4 October)
2019 saw Cuban-born London-based trumpet player Yelfris Valdés release his debut album, and he absolutely smashed it. This refreshing record sees the trumpeter harness the power of electronics deftly and subtly, weaving it into his compositions rather than making it the primary feature. Full of energy and exuberance, Valdés’s impassioned and powerful playing rings true, as he has created a truly spiritual experience.
Favourite Songs - Red Eclipse / Full Moon / After Sly
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah - Ancestral Recall (Stretch Music / Ropeadope Records, 23 March)
Prolific trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah’s Ancestral Recall sets out to explore his ancestral roots and break down how westerners look, feel and think about music. Relying heavily on West African rhythms and beats, the record transcends the traditional boundaries of jazz and musical cultures, creating rousing and boundary-pushing compositions. Ancestral Recall undoubtedly demonstrates Scott’s propensity to innovate and be at the forefront of the jazz world like all the greats who have preceded him. We wish Christian the best of luck for his third GRAMMY award nomination.
Favourite Songs - I Own The Night; Prophecy; Before feat. Elena Pinderhughes
Vipertime - Shakedown (Hyde Park Book Club Records, 28 May)
The debut album from the Leeds 4-piece offers a raucous introduction to their unique setup of two drummers (Charlie Grimwood and Luke Reddin-Williams), a bassist (Matias Reed) and a tenor saxophonist (Ben Powling) as they create a phenomenal jazz-punk sound that has elements of psychedelia and spiritual jazz to it. Whilst there are moments of more subtlety and quietness, Shakedown really showcases the group’s pounding drums, snarling basslines and impassioned saxophone in a spectacular and distinct sound - something which sadly has been missed and gone under the radar by the music circles outside of Leeds. Growling, snarling rhythms dominate throughout as this album will get you itching to thrash around your bedroom whenever you listen to it - a pure, raw energy that never fails to disappoint.
Favourite Songs - Augury; Tic; Corvid; Flight; Shakedown
Jasmine - Bring to Light (Tight Lines Records, 5 April)
A very busy year of new music from Jasmine and her quintet with this debut EP, their ‘Blackout’ single as well as releases with their fellow Leeds jazz outfit Têtes de Pois. Bring to Light has some excellent ambient interludes that allow breathers from the breathtakingly mysterious moods that Jasmine plays with such ease as she structures her saxophone phrasing and solos with great intelligence. The rhythm section all play simply gorgeous grooves throughout that contribute to making this record really hard to turn off. Having seen them play an astounding set recently at Brudenell Social Club which reinforced my love for this EP, I can’t wait to hear more fresh music from them next year.
Favourite Songs - Cold Sweat, King Kobra, Luminescence pt. 4, Tune For Moira
Mark de Clive-Lowe - Heritage & Heritage II (Ropeadope Records, 8 February & 5 April)
I could not quite believe what I was hearing when I first stumbled upon Mark de Clive-Lowe earlier this year, Heritage had just come out and starting to read in MdCL’s bio I was ecstatic to hear Heritage II would come out in a couple of months time. If there was a Grammy for busiest jazz musician of the year, MdCL would be up there as aside form these two albums he has released an EP and album with Ronin Arkestra as well as another solo album called CHURCH Sessions. Both of the Heritage albums are superbly conceptual in linking his themes into music as the albums are a journey of discovering more about his bi-cultural upbringing. The first album is the daytime part as he utilises his experience in electronic production to create a sound that subtly moves to you to different states of tranquillity; the second album is the nighttime part and explores heavier rhythms which splurt out almost like a deep, intense spiritual trip. ‘Memories of Nanzenji’ is a nostalgic wonder and ‘Bushidō II’ is a sensational sequel that is as much a jazz tune as it is a sweaty, moshy slammer - so many different sounds that make this whole double album flow between each song amazingly.
Favourite Songs - Memories of Nanzenji, Asa no Yume, Mizugaki & Bushidō II, Mirai no Rekishi, The Silk Road
Antoine Berjeaut & Makaya McCraven - Moving Cities (Musiques au Comptoir, 6 December)
Paris-based trumpeter, composer and electronic producer Antoine Berjeaut has collaborated with Chicago drummer, producer and groove-god Makaya McCraven for this album as they bridge the Paris-Chicago scenes to display the evolution of international metropolises between their individualistic and collective endeavours. The album really encapsulates how jazz can transcend its own boundaries through the abundance of other genre influences, with Moving Cities doing this with the addition of electronics that bends instruments into an inspiring spectacle. Putting their improvisations into writing sessions fitted in between playing gigs together both in the US and in Europe, they have captured a sound that smacks you in the face with astonishment. Accompanied by French saxophonist Julien Lorau and Chicago bassist Junius Paul, the record changes from fast-paced rhythms to chill head-bop tunes magnificently as Berjeaut and McCraven have produced a superb album that is drowning in their combined wisdom.
Favourite Songs - Shadows, Twelve Donkeys, Diggin the White Room, Triple A, JP’s Beats
Ashley Henry - Beautiful Vinyl Hunter (Sony, 6 September)
Inspirational, powerful, driven and beautiful. This is an album which since its release has not ceased blasting through my speakers, and always at max volume. Imaginative collaboration with some of jazz’s most powerful musicians, pianist Ashley Henry has sky rocketed his sound into a new sonic universe. This is edge of your seat music; laying down a musical base layer of clever chord changes and intense rhythms, his collaborating pals, particularly noting Binker Golding and Makaya McCraven, excitedly feed off, and contribute to one almighty sound. It’s modern composing at some of its finest. Ashley Henry, after this album, is certainly breaking walls and limits for this genre’s exciting future.
Favourite Song- Battle (feat Binker & Moses)
Maria Chiara Argirò - Hidden Seas (Cavalo Records, 27 September)
Rising star Maria Chiara Argiro is one to add to that playlist right now if you haven’t already. Hidden Seas, a conceptual album reflecting and exploring the theme of the sea, sounds a little lame in description at first. But Maria paints a stunning seascape of sound. You really do feel the push and pull of the tides reflected deeply in the rhythms. You’ll experience the wild currents and thundering storms through this recent revelation of a vocalist, Leila Martial. Saxophonist Sam Rapley lays down some scandalous saxy vibes. Hidden Sea’s place in my top 3 of 2019 was sealed from their live performance. They left with a standing ovation, a lasting impression and now half their spotify listening hits are mine.
Favourite Songs: Maria - Watery Universe
Ruby Rushton - IRONSIDE (22a, 5 April)
Tenderlonious led Ruby Rushton’s Ironside was unbelievably recorded over just two days in the Abbey Road studios. Just flute, trumpet, keys and drums, these four musicians have such a unique sound. In this generous year in jazz, I have not found any other album to make me shout the notes out louder than Ironside. 10 tracks of simply ridiculously addictive melodies and improvisational licks that stick in your head like musical super glue. I haven’t been able to shake them out of my noggin since April! And if you’re interested in jazz as a new genre for yourself, this could be no better place to start. They blend the classical sequence of passing the improvisational baton along the players, whilst pushing their instrument’s expectations to new levels in such a thrilling approach. You’ll finish the album just wanting to do trumpet impressions to every note change. And trust me, ‘Where Are You Now?’ will remain in your conscience for at least a year.
Favourite Songs: Ruby Rushton - Triceratops/The Caller
Joel Ross - KingMaker (Blue Note Records, 3 May)
The debut album from American vibraphonist, Joel Ross, has caught many critics’ attention. The quintet called Good Vibes features Ross, Immanuel Wilkins on alto, Benjamin Tiberio on bass, Jeremy Corren on piano and Jeremy Dutton on drums. The album feels timeless yet unique, with an emphasis on soloing in a call and response format. The vibraphone is such an interesting lead voice for a jazz record, and a formula that has worked many times in the past, and Ross really brings his own to the instrument’s haunting chimes. Some tracks feel passionate and free like the best in fresh improvised jazz, while others are slow, melancholic and staggeringly beautiful, with their interplays between the vibraphone, piano and sax. A timeless classic that proves 2019 still has gems for more orthodox jazz fans.
Favourite songs - Touched by an Angel, Ill Relations, Is It Love That Inspires You?, KingMaker
The Comet is Coming - Trust in the Lifeforce of the Deep Mystery (Impulse! Records, 15 March)
The jazz and electronica trio needs little introduction as to why they make the list of top jazz records in 2019. Thrilling and epic, this album tops its following album for me (The Afterlife) as it gives more of those transcendental and heavy tones that make The Comet is Coming so perfect. The cosmic atmosphere is owed mostly to synth player ‘Danalogue’ (Dan Leavers) with complementary rhythms supplied by drummer ‘Betamax’ (Max Hallett). ‘King Shabaka’ (Shabaka Hutchings) is something out of this world, sometimes on the sax and sometimes on the bass clarinet, he gives us the raw sound we know from Sons of Kemet presented in its Afrofuturist context as if Sun Ra had got his Arkestra into electro and house. The album feels both socially relevant and spiritual and has some heavy tunes and more atmospheric chimes. It’s one of the trio’s best for me.
Favourite songs - Birth of Creation, Summon the Fire, Super Zodiac, Unity
John Coltrane - Blue World (Impulse! Records, 27 September)
Blue World is one for both John Coltrane nerds and the wider jazz community. Featuring alternate takes of some classic Coltrane tracks from 1964, like ‘Naima’ and ‘Village Blues’, the record is a piece of jazz history that 2019 is lucky enough to have witnessed. The album was written for Gilles Groulx’s film ‘Le Chat dans le Sac’ from Rudy Van Gelder’s studio and features the legendary quartet of Coltrane, Jimmy Garrison on bass, McCoy Tyner’s piano and the drums of Elvin Jones, a group that is undeniably one of jazz’s greatest. The soloing is of course at its very peak and the rhythm section are as tight as ever. These recordings feel both familiar and new and gives us more access to Coltrane’s unrelenting genius.
Favourite songs - Naima - Take 1, Blue World, Like Sonny, Village Blues - Take 1
Kinkajous - Hidden Lines (Running Circle Records, 7 June)
Hidden Lines is a beautiful record from the London group, combining a great production with virtuoso playing. It is another classic in the medium of jazz and electronica and another indicator of 2019’s move to the stars for inspiration. Like with The Comet is Coming, Kinkajous create an outer-space atmosphere with repetitive keys and synths from Maria Chiara Argiro, elegant basslines from Andres Castellanos, and ripe jazz rhythms with the drumming of Benoit Parmentier. As well as being on the saxophone, Adrien Cau plays the bass clarinet, similarly to Shabaka Hutchings, on tracks like ‘Jupiter’ which really adds to the astral tones. The album provides the vibrancy of the current UK jazz scene while also having elements of Four Tet’s style of ambient electronica.
Favourite songs - Black idiom, Pt.2, Jupiter, Loke, Dotah
You can buy all of the albums mentioned below via the links below: