BEST JAZZ The Best Jazz on Bandcamp: June 2021 By Dave Sumner · July 16, 2021

It’s summer, and the music in this column is the perfect soundtrack for the season. We’ve reached the halfway point of yet another incredibly strong year for the modern jazz scene. This column is just the starting point to discover it all.

Jake Baxendale and Jasmine Lovell-Smith
Sanctuary

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Sanctuary moves from a somber mood, meant to reflect pandemic isolation, into a celebratory exuberance, mirroring the return to in-person contact. In the work of the Wellington, New Zealand-based composers (and saxophonists) Jake Baxendale and Jasmine Lovell-Smith, those polar opposites are just transitory states—lives necessarily adapting to conflict, no different than any non-pandemic year. Even when the tracks settle into something bordering on introspective, the duo’s 11-piece ensemble maintains a tonal quality of giddy excitement. There are echoes of James Moody’s 1958 classic Last Train From Overbrook, the way those pieces focused not on the reasons for Moody’s own isolation, but, instead, on the hope of a brighter tomorrow. (I also strongly recommend checking out Lovell-Smith’s Towering Poppies recordings, on which she collaborates with musicians like Cat Toren, Kate Gentile, and Josh Sinton.)

Todd Cochran TC3
Then and Again, Here and Now

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

It was a winding path that led Todd Cochran to this straight-ahead session. A collaborator with the legends of jazz during the nascent stages of avant-garde, free improv, and soul-jazz, the pianist-composer helped guide jazz to destinations far beyond its bop origins. For his return as session leader on Then and Again, Here and Now, Cochran favors music that has traditional jazz and the blues at its roots. With bassist John Leftwich and drummer Michael Carvin, the pianist gives a new voice to jazz standards, and with a tone capturing the passing of time since their birth.

Miguel Ângelo Quarteto
Dança dos Desastrados

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

On Dança dos Desastrados, every note, every beat has a melodic perspective in mind. This is not a new thing for Miguel Ângelo. The bassist has a talent for establishing epic dialogues on the strength of his flowing melodic statements. His Porto, Portugal-based quartet with alto saxophonist João Guimarães, pianist Joaquim Rodrigues, and drummer Marcos Cavaleiro is a go-to for those of you who can’t get enough of the Brian Blade Fellowship—or any musician with a similar approach to a melody.

Tomoko Omura
Branches Vol.2

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

On the second installment of the Branches project, Tomoko Omura further expands her re-envisioning of Japanese folk songs and modern pop culture as jazz arrangements. What’s striking about this music is the way the distinctive qualities of Japanese music and jazz are allowed to fully blossom, with their commonalities framed as bonds and their differences reconciled as counterpoints. I strongly recommend checking out the violinist’s other releases in this collection.

Ches Smith & We All Break
Path of Seven Colors

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

From an experimental music perspective, Ches Smith brings life to sounds never before unleashed upon the jazz scene. By applying that same approach to traditional Haitian music, he brings life to music that was already established when jazz itself took its first breaths. On Path of Seven Colors, that convergence of new and old results in a rich rhythmic dialogue that carries gentle melodies along its surface. The drummer is joined by pianist Matt Mitchell, saxophonist Miguel Zenón, bassist Nick Dunston, vocalist Sirene Dantor Rene, and master drummers Daniel Brevil, Markus Schwartz, and Fanfan Jean-Guy Rene.

Jaubi
Nafs at Peace

Merch for this release:
Vinyl LP, Compact Disc (CD)

At the time of its birth 50 years ago, the spiritual jazz movement was about following roots back to places of origin and transcending the temporal plane to a higher place. By contrast, the modern incarnation of spiritual jazz is more focused on finding the connections that tie us together. The Lahore, Pakistan sextet of Ali Riaz Baqar (on guitar), Zohaib Hassan Khan (on sarangi), Qammar “Vicky” Abbas (on drums), Kashif Ali Dhani (on tabla), Tenderlonious (on wind instruments), and Latarnik (on keys) are proof of that tactic’s rewards. Spiritual jazz with a strong modal approach, North Indian classical music, and hip-hop all combine in a way that, at times, achieves a state bordering on serenity.

Ben Goldberg
Everything Happens to Be

The echoes of traditional jazz bounce off the walls of Ben Goldberg’s music. The music is warped and strange, as if buckling beneath the strain of being compressed to fit the length of the clarinetist’s latest recording. For this session, Goldberg collaborates with musicians who have a proven track record with that kind of approach. Guitarist Mary Halvorson, tenor saxophonist Ellery Eskelin, bassist Michael Formanek, and drummer Tomas Fujiwara traverse time and distance, recalling the sound of New Orleans one hundred years ago as they offer a vision of what it could become a hundred years from now.

Danilo Gallo Dark Dry Tears
A View Through a Slot

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

The melodies of A View Through a Slot conjure the image of something on the prowl. At times, they have a menacing quality, as if they might just unleash a wave of volatility to shatter the gentle beauty. And sometimes, they do. But just as often, the quintet of bassist Danilo Gallo; saxophonists Massimiliano Milesi and Francesco Bigoni; drummer Jim Black; and guitarist Lorenzo Corti use those melodies as the entrance ramp to an infectious groove and cheerful bounce.

Kama Kollektiv
Toivo

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

You’d spend more time marveling at the way the Kama Kollektiv shepherds a melody from first note to last if it weren’t for the music’s inviting flow and its tendency to sweep you away. The quartet of trumpeter Kirsi Harju, bassist Jonathan Nagel, pianist Jetse de Jong, and drummer Yoad Korach craft music that is melodic and catchy, yet rhythmically elusive. Pop music sensibilities are meshed with modern jazz’s free spirit, with the occasional nod to the atmospherics of new century Nordic jazz.

Young Pilgrims
We’re Young Pilgrims

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD), Vinyl LP

Three trumpets, two trombones, two drummers, a baritone sax, a sousaphone, and a full tank of gas—Young Pilgrims write music with the ‘pedal to the floor.’ But the heavy brass and combustible attitude are all employed in the service of booming melodies and an irresistible sense of fun. This album is full of anthems to fuel the summer season.

Johannes Wallmann
Elegy for an Undiscovered Species

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

On the latest from Johannes Wallmann, there’s a near-perfect unity between the flowing grace of the string orchestra and the gravitational force of the jazz quintet at the ensemble’s core. The pianist finds the sweet spot where big sound and intimate phrasings coexist. Each of Elegy’s six pieces, averaging about 10 minutes in length, allows for simultaneous enjoyment of the wide expanse of the compositions and the bright resonance of any one moment. Contributors to the session include trumpeter Ingrid Jensen, tenor saxophonist Dayna Stephens, drummer Allison Miller, and bassist Nick Moran.

WE3
WE3

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

The music here emits a deep grumble—like the earth is warning of upheaval. Then, the trio of Francesco Chiapperini (on baritone sax, bass clarinet, and synths), Luca Pissavini (on violone), and Stefano Grasso (on drums and electronics) go about proving it. Even when the volatility is (briefly) tamped down, the trio still generates all kinds of tension. The melodies are delivered in bursts, and left at the mercy of the trio’s rhythmic intensity. Riccardo Luppi and Simone Quatrana make guest appearances, on sax and piano respectively. (The latter also contributed to Chiapperini’s excellent 2016 release, Paradigm Shift.)

Almog Sharvit
Get Up or Cry

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Almog Sharvit achieves cohesion through differentiation. His debut Get Up or Cry is compartmentalized into expressions of psychedelic jazz, bluegrass, pop music, and electronic experimentation, and each of these influences exerts its influence over individual tunes. And despite nothing sounding normal and nothing being the same, a singular vision emerges that ties it all together.

Mario Pavone Dialect Trio + 1, Blue Vertical &
Mario Pavone The Tampa Quartet, Isabella

Merch for this release:
Compact Disc (CD)

Two final albums from Mario Pavone have been released in the wake of his May passing. The sadness of losing an adored musician is compounded by the fact that Pavone dedicated this music to his granddaughter Isabella, who had herself passed a year earlier; in the album notes for Isabella, Pavone frames his own impending passing as an opportunity to be reunited with her. Both albums have the feel of a man who was at peace with both his present and his future. Some pieces have an excitable motion—bumpy and skittering—while others waver and sway. Pavone’s Dialect Trio is comprised of trumpeter Dave Ballou, pianist Matt Mitchell, and drummer Tyshawn Sorey. The Tampa Quartet is guitarist Michael Pavone, alto saxophonist Mike DiRubbo, and drummer Michael Sarin.

Read more in Jazz →
NOW PLAYING PAUSED
by
.

Top Stories

Latest see all stories

On Bandcamp Radio see all

Listen to the latest episode of Bandcamp Radio. Listen now →