more international jazz

In a way every day is jazz day for me and as I am interested in all aspects of improvised music from all corners of this world, every day is therefore International Jazz Day for me. To prove my point, here are a few recommendations of recordings from around the world I had the pleasure listening to in the past few weeks, especially after jazzahead, where I got some of these albums:

Canada: Andrean Farrugia & Joel Frahm / Blued Dharma

This is musical communication on the highest level – pianist Farrugia and sax player Frahm inspire each other to melodic improvisation of pure beauty. The Farrugia originals are gems and fit perfectly next to the two versions of Cherokee and a gorgeous Nobody Else But Me.

Finland: Timo Lassy / Moves

Lassy is a star in his home country and deservedly so – his sax style traditional, but with an eye on modernity. This is a record based on personal experiences and the wish to express himself beyond his usual group formation – with guests including the Ricky-Tick Big Band Brass and rapper Paleface. The new compositions are powerful and so is the performance – highly recommended.

Poland: Piotr Schmidt & Wojciech Niedziela / dark morning

Another wonderful duo communication, this time by two of Poland’s leading musicians. All 12 tracks are either by pianist Niedziela or trumpet player Schmidt (or by them together) and showcase the deep understanding both players have of each other. Immaculate performances enriched by deep felt emotional content make this album a pure listening pleasure.

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Germany: Erik Leuthäuser / Wünschen

This is a truly special debut – young singer Leuthäuser fulfils his wishes with an all-star band featuring among others Joey Baron, Kurt Rosenwinkel and Greg Cohen. Vocalese in German and so much more … German lyrics to a Gato Barbieri or a Wayne Shorter track … music for a poem by Hermann Hesse … great!!!!

Norway: Arild Anderson+Paolo Vinaccia+Tommy Smith / In-House Science

This live recording of the trio with Anderson, Vinaccia and Smith is simply spectacular – it takes their music to a different level, shows the way they play together and react to each other as only groups can do that are together for a while. Andersons music is the perfect vehicle for all three musicians to improvise and create beauty in the moment. Top!

India: Harpreet Bansal / Samaya

Violinist Harpreet Bansal lives and recorded this album in Norway, but it is based on the traditional ragas her father teached her, taking them into HER time, into NOW. Her playing and sound on the violin is immaculate and transports you into a different world, where time flows slowly. Fascinating!

India: Ganavya / Aikyam: Onnu

Finally, the debut album of singer extraordinaire Ganavya is available … and everyone can listen to what I have been raving about for a while – an incredible new voice and new versions of songs we know but can discover anew in her style … check her out, don’t miss this special album and singer!

Switzerland: Elina Duni / Partir

Albania born singer Duni delivers a hauntingly beautiful solo album on which she plays all instruments and guides us with her vocals through traditional songs from her home as well as from Switzerland, Armenia, Macedonia and others and mingles them with Jacques Brel and her own music. Songs of love, loss and parting have hardly ever sounded that wonderful.

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USA: Monika Herzig / SHEROES

Composer, arranger and pianist Herzig put together a stellar cast for this recording: Ingrid Jensen on trumpet; Jennifer Vincent on bass; Ada Rovatti on tenor sax; Jamie Baum on flute; Reut Regev on trombone; Leni Stern on guitar; Mayra Casales on percussion and Rosa Avila on drums! There is a lot of variety in musical terms on the album, but it all comes together to make sense as a strong record with some incredible playing and great arrangements. Herzig is as well a jazz educator and writer and just released a very captivating and interesting book – EXPERIENCING CHICK COREA, A listener’s companion. Highly recommended!!

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Conciertos Mini is a series of concerts called, presenting old and new in an interesting mix of 30 minutes shows – two per evening. Over two nights and four concerts this May pianist Sebastian Knauer, vibraphonist Pascal Schumacher and the Orquesta Nacional de España were exploring Johann Sebastian Bach and compositions by Arash Safaian, whose works for ÜberBach are based on pieces by Bach as well. The schedule was simple: first a Bach original, then the Safaian composition, which wants us to hear Bach without listening to one of his works. Knauer is a versatile musician and plays his Bach with emotion and understanding and together with Schumacher he played the ÜberBach with verve and power. The combination of the vibraphone with the piano sounded extremely strong and the strings just added to the beauty of this mix. If you don’t get the chance to listen to this in concert, go and get the ÜberBach album – surely worth to explore, discover and first of all to enjoy!!!

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3 and 4 and more

Before the International Jazz Day of 2018, there were already concerts and events all over the world leading up to the big show in St. Petersburg, having a week of jazz focused activities with a bit more than the usual mainstream media attention. When celebrating the International Jazz Day we should not forget what we as well celebrate: freedom of expression, global respect and understanding and individual as well as group communication, as all this is an integral part of the music we call Jazz.

I went to see the Pablo Martin Caminero Trio at club Clamores in Madrid, featuring the wonderful pianist Moises P. Sanchez and Michael Olivera on drums. The Trio did perform music from Pablo’s recent albums ‘Salto al Vacio’ and ‘OFNI’ and was a slightly jazzier affair than his bigger ensemble is, but without neglecting the flamenco touches which are part of his compositions and musical heritage. Sanchez is one of the leading Spanish pianists of the younger generation and performed some captivating and excellent soli, with Olivera keeping time immaculately. Pablo is one artist I love to hear, with his full sound and amazing improvisations – one that never disappoints! I hope he will record this trio at one point, as it is worth it and should be heard by more people than the approx. 120 in the club.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Nels Cline 4 just released an album on Blue Note entitled ‘currents, constellations’ which features beside Cline the incredible guitar player Julian Lage and Scott Colley on bass and Tom Rainey on drums – the quartet, with Jorge Roeder on bass instead of Colley, came to Madrid’s Clamores for two shows, in support of the album release. I was lucky enough a few years back to see Nels and Julian as a duo at Winter Jazz in New York and therefore did look forward to the quartet show and wasn’t disappointed at all – the interplay and communication between the two guitar players is second to none, ideas flowing freely to be picked up and transformed, answers given to questions that hadn’t been asked, smiles all around and a stunned and excited audience. The music ranges from Robert Johnson to Metallica if I may mention two extremes of influences … blues informed jazz segments are followed by rock riffs any heavy band would be proud of, then moving on to a free sequence just to break into a swing phrase right after … and Rainey and Roeder at the heart of things, making these musical excursions of Cline and Lage safe. Extraordinary!!!! Go and see these guys in concert and if they don’t come your way, just get the record!!

 

My friend and jazz critic / researcher Fernando Ortiz de Urbina gave in Madrid’s jazz record shop Jazz y Mas a very interesting lecture on the Miles Davis album ‘Miles Ahead’, with details on Miles, arranger Gil Evans and producer George Avakian, which overall told the story of a complicated, but extremely successful album production.  Even a Miles Davis fan like me could learn a few new and interesting facts here. Thanks Fernando.

jazzahead 2018

April, time to go to Bremen to network and see some young musicians perform. jazzahead is the global meeting for the jazz industry and as every year has been inspiring and extremely interesting thanks to the presented music. Inspiring because the mood throughout the convention was very upbeat and positive, despite all the problems that have arisen with music delivery going to the streaming world in a rapid tempo, one change the jazz consumer isn’t participating in as fast we would need. Positive, as this situation is seen as a challenge to question old and now dysfunctional models in the industry and to come up with valid answers – a period of transition in many aspects. And a period of great music from all corners of the globe. This year’s country focus was on Poland, a country that historically has a lively and unique jazz scene and still produces amazingly talented musicians today – young pianist and composer Kasia Pietrzko (who didn’t perform at the showcases the country had to offer) being only one very good example.

I missed the Polish night showcases on Thursday night, simply sitting outside the venue talking to other label heads about the state of the business and enjoying a warm spring night, but from the TV recordings, which can be watched at the jazzahead website, the performances by Marcin Wasilewski, Joanna Duda, Monika Borzym and the Atom String Quartet seemed to have gotten great receptions by the international audience. The first act I squeezed in between meetings on Friday was by Swedish singer Emilia Martensson and her band featuring Fulvio Sigurta on trumpet, Luca Boscagin on guitar, Sam Lasserson on bass and Adriano Adewale on percussion. A powerful and in her Swedish roots based jazz singer with a very unique style and a group that perfectly supported her – I need to follow up on her and check the recordings.

Next was new group LASSEN, featuring musicians from Belgium and Norway and performing a straight and highly individual jazz set, reminiscent of early and edgy Jan Garbarek, but still modern and accessible. The group consists of Harald Lassen on sax, Bram de Looze on piano, Stian Anderson on bass and Tore Flatjord on drums and will release their first album soon on Jazzland recordings. Worth checking out.

After that I heard a bit of the concert by Adam Baldych with the Helge Lien Trio – sitting outside to watch the gig on a big screen and enjoying a beer … not bad at all, especially as violinist Baldych and Lien delivered a concert of great music between classical and jazz, with swing and room for explorations.

The last show for me on Friday night was by the Finnish Pauli Lyytinen Magnetia Orkestri, featuring beside Lyytinen on sax the amazing trumpet player Verneri Pohjola, Mika Kallio on drums and Eero Tikkanen on bass. The first thought that came up when listening to their music was: Edvard Vesala! The Magnetia Orkestri has the same playfulness, power and melodic approach as some of Vesala’s music. Fresh and exciting and played on the highest level.

Saturday’s showcases started for me with German sax player Paul Heller, who grouped with Dutch jazz legend and keyboarder Jasper Van’t Hof, Martin Gjakonovski on bass and Bodek Janke on drums to deliver a jazz and fusion show of top quality. After that it was Okeh recording artist Markus Stockhausen, who presented his latest album ‘Far Into The Stars’ live to an enthusiastic audience. His band Quadrivium, with Angelo Comisso on keyboards, Joerg Brinkmann on cello and Christian Tomé on drums, created beautiful sounds and grooves for Stockhausen to lay his enchanting trumpet melodies on top. Live and on record this is special music by a very special composer and performer.

Petros Klampanis, the Greek bassist who lives in New York, and his group performed a wonderful set based on Klampanis’ compositions, which take the listener to melodic excursions between jazz and classical music – dreamlike, accessible and beautiful. And with the immensely talented pianist Kristian Randalu, who recently released his first album on ECM, Bodek Janke on drums and a string section consisting of Olga Holdorff and Sofia Baltatzi on violin, Sara Rilling on viola and Gregor Furhmann on cello, he had the band to perform his music to perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I wanted to see Jazzmeia Horn a bit later, but didn’t make it into the venue, so full was the place – instead I watched the performance on TV and did enjoy her show a lot – she truly is a special talent and her vocal skills and her scatting are very impressive. Looking forward to see her again hopefully soon and on stage instead on a screen. Pianist Gregory Privat really got his audience in his showcase with Chris Jennings on bass and Laurent-Emmanuel Tilo Bertholo on drums. Rhythms from Martinique and a general influence from Caribbean music are informing his very personal style of jazz. A great musical understanding within the trio did help to make this a remarkable set.

On recommendation I went to see the show of the ACA SECA trio, which started 20 past midnight …. but left after 2 songs as the sound in the room was simply unbearably bad and one couldn’t really enjoy the music, which seemed to be really interesting. Pity.

jazzahead is a celebration of jazz, of improvised music in all its forms. It is not an industry event for clapping each other on the shoulder, but an exchange of necessary ideas for changing the way our music is distributed, marketed and brought to a wider audience. Streaming as such is not the real problem – the problem is to get the jazz audience to switch to the new form of listening to music and they will, once the streaming services have improved the way this music (and classical music as well) is presented in a way the consumer wants it to be.

GURLS …. and more

While visiting Oslo mid-February we used the opportunity to go and see the band GURLS in the great venue Viktoria Nasjonal Jazz Scene right in the centre of the city. GURLS are Hanna Paulsberg on saxophone and vocals, vocalist Rohey Taalah and bass player and singer Ellen Andrea Wang and they celebrated the release of their first album ‘run boy, run’. All these musicians have other projects and this is one they did for the fun of it and it seems to develop into something bigger than expected – opening slots for the Oslo shows of Norwegian stars A-HA and a tour are just the beginning, deservedly great reviews for the album and show pushing things further. The show featured the songs from the album, which are about boys … great songs, all written by Hannah Paulsberg and performed to perfection – cool tracks, jazzy, poppy where necessary and in general not giving a damn about genres … all flows, is deep and sometimes funny … just great music. Rohey is simply an amazing performer and she makes Hanna’s songs her own in a very special way, but GURLS is the combination of three amazingly talented artists, who seems to have tremendous fun with what they are doing. Just check out songs like Pork Chop Lover or Dis Boy. Live they have a drummer for a few songs, on the album they all play percussions as well. The show in Oslo ended spectacularly with 12 or so more female musicians entering the stage, either singing or playing brass instruments to give the finale the grandness it deserved. Go out and get the album and/or catch them live – these gurls are worth it!!

Then it was time to head again to one of the TAKE FIVE sessions for young English jazz musicians which Serious sets up every year at a place called Bore Place in the English countryside near Sevenoaks. I have done a few of these and always enjoyed passing on a bit of experience to young artists and answer their questions. They are there for a week with lectures and music making (under the guidance of John Surman) and I always try to stay and listen to these newcomers working together on compositions they brought for the group. This time the musicians selected for TAKE FIVE were:

Al MacSween – piano

Ant Law – guitar

Camilla George – alto sax

Helen Papaioannou – saxes

Jonathan Silk – drums

Nubya Garcia – saxes

Rob Luft – guitar

Scott Flanigan – piano

After my talk for and with the young jazz musicians I was happy to hear them play a composition by Nubya Garcia, which was extremely cool and beautiful and the musicians executed the music with passion and amazing skills. A lot of talent there, without a doubt – I had met Rob Luft before at the Montreux Academy, a similar venture, and do enjoy his debut album RISER a lot and I had seen Nubya in New York at Winter Jazz .. a very good show !! Jazz is in good hands with these young artists … looking forward to hear more of and from them!!

Stacey, Goran and more …

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What is there more to enjoy than a great concert … and I got two last week!!! First Stacey Kent, who brought her working group to Madrid for a show at the Teatro Nuevo Apolo, performing in the small group setting material from her new orchestral album ‘I know I dream’. A tight band, led by husband and composer Jim Tomlinson, who has worked with writer and lyricist Kazuo Ishiguro on various songs, including ‘Bullet Train’, which was performed on the night. Kent seems to move effortless through the songs and sang immaculate – deserving the standing ovation and long queues to sign her records after the show. Wonderful!

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The day after it was a Balkan groove party at the Teatro Circo Price : Goran Bregovic and his ensemble got everyone up and dancing after a few minutes and kept the groove going for almost 2 hours! Mostly performing songs from his latest album ‘Three letters from Sarajevo’ (which features special guests Bebe and Rachid Taha), but as well going into his past hits – like Ederlezi, Bella Ciao and Kalasnjikov – much to the audience’s delight. Great music – great fun!!!!

A few recommandations:

Michel Camilo / Live in London    The first solo live recording by piano great Camilo and a perfect combination of the power play he is known for and his more lyrical side, both showcased impressively on this concert recording. A master at work.

Wolfgang Haffner / King of Spain    Drummer Haffner is in very good company on this tribute to the country he chose to live in – Jan Lundgren on piano, Sebastian Studnitzky on trumpet, Daniel Stelter on guitar, Christopher Dell on vibraphone and Lars Danielsson on bass help to create a beautiful and laid-back atmosphere throughout the album. To be enjoyed with a glass of Rioja wine to make this a perfect experience!

Paolo Vinaccia / Dommedag ifølge Paulus    This CD/DVD set is something truly special: Vinaccia came up with the concept and co-wrote all the music for this touching and emotional concert for drums (Vinaccia), guitar (the amazing Eivind Aarset) and choir (The Norwegian Soloist’s Choir under Grete Pedersen). Be moved by the strength of the music, its emotional content and expression of the love for life. Essential listening!!

Winter Jazz 2018

New York is always worth a trip, but when Winter Jazz is on and Jazz Congress is in town, even more so! Wednesday, January 10 was the first day of the Jazz Fest with a showcase of new British talent, hosted by Gilles Peterson and featuring Terry Callier-influenced singer, guitar player and composer Oscar Jerome, young trumpet player Yazz Ahmed, who musically sits somewhere between Nils Petter Molvaer and Ibrahim Maalouf, saxophonist Nubya Garcia and last but not least one of saxman Shabaka Hutchings bands, The Comet is Coming – a powerful trio of Sanders-inspired saxophone, electronics and drums. Some amazing talent on display – the first three acts still kind of work in progress and Shabaka showing again his incredible potential – no surprise one of his other bands, Sons of Kemet, have been signed to the new Impulse! label.

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Thursday off to a dinner with Pat Rains, the manager of David Sanborn and the getting back to Le Poisson Rouge, the main venue of the fest – this time just to see Jose James celebrating Bill Withers. This was one great show: Jose took these songs and made them his own, from Lean On Me to Ain’t No Sunshine and Hello Before (featuring the wonderful Jean Baylor) he showed respect to the originals, but put his stamp on these songs as well. Making them modern, cool and a pleasure to listen to in this form. Supported by an exceptional band, featuring pianist Sullivan Fortner, guitarist Brad Allen Williams, Ben Williams on bass and Nate Smith on drums, as well as Markus Strickland as a special guest, the soul and jazz grooves on the music got top treatment and carried James to new heights. A sensational gig, nothing less!!!

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Friday was the first day of the Jazz Marathon and I started at 6 pm at 55 Bar to see Tessa Souter, whose forthcoming new record I listened to already and did enjoy. The gig was just her with bass and guitar and an intimate affair, perfect to support her voice. The new songs sounded good live as well and I thoroughly enjoyed that set. Next for me was David Sanborn at B B King’s – with his new jazz band Sanborn seems to be rejuvenated and full of energy: even so, the band isn’t that new, as I saw them late 2016 already and they performed more or less the same repertoire – 3 compositions by Michael Brecker, some Sanborn classics and other jazz standards – but they seem to be tighter and more powerful … Andy Ezrin on piano, Wycliffe Gordon on trombone, Ben Williams on bass and Billy Kilson on drums have develop into a group that is starting to have its own sound. This could be an interesting band to see moving forward in the coming months. Powerful jazz!! As I was hanging at Dave’s gig and enjoyed it so much that I didn’t leave in time for my next gig, I simply missed James Brandon Lewis, the young sax player I worked with the last few years, who is finally getting some recognition and as well now is part of Marc Ribot’s project Songs Of Resistance. Next time ….

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The Jazz Marathon continued on Saturday, but my first showcase was at 11:30 pm and was by The Baylor Project, whose self-released debut album garnered 2 Grammy nominations …the group of singer Jean Baylor and drummer husband Marcus are blending Soul, R&B and jazz in a perfect way, carried by Jean’s incredible vocal skills. A Saturday morning can’t start better than this mix of gospel, jazz and deep musical expression. Great! The first show of the evening was the Theo Croker Big Brother Big Band – combining his usual working band with some of New York’s most amazing talents, Croker lead a big band only for the second time and surprised the capacity audience in the Poisson Rouge with a mix of standards and own compositions. Opening the show with Moten Swing, Milestones and Bobby Timmons Moanin’ in the arrangement by Quincy Jones, was his way to pay his dues to the great composers and arrangers in the jazz history and the big band played these arrangements with fa ire and passion that made the young audience jump!!Theo Croker successfully combining the past and presence of jazz!! He surely is one to watch!!!

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Next up were Norwegian neo-soul band ROHEY at the Nublu – a packed venue seems to have turned into a music business meeting: at least 3 label representatives, managers, artist and media were gathered to see the US debut of one of Europe’s most acclaimed new groups and Rohey Taalah on vocals, Ivan Blomqvist on keys, Kristian Jacobsen on bass and Henrik Lodoen on drums delivered big way! As much as I like the album, this show was simply impressive: powerful vocals over grooving synth sounds and danceable rhythms got the audience going beginning to end. Not only a very strong US debut, but already one gig to be remembered for a while in the young new year.

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Last, but not least I was on my way to see my old friend Jamaaladeen Tacuma, whose project Brotherzone ended the festival for me – with a musical, political and social relevant show. Powerful grooves over spoken words from Wadud Ahmad and Abiodun Oyewole (of The Last Poets). A perfect ending to my Winter Jazz Fest.

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Sunday morning – on my way to a brunch meeting and sitting tired, but happy in the Metro when the door opens and 5 gentlemen come in and start singing a simply wonderful vocal arrangement of My Girl …. Smiles all around and we gladly give a few bucks for this … New York is full of music!

Okehlogo.jpg  update:

The first half of 2018 will see a bunch of releases that we are particularly happy and proud about:

Till Brönner & Dieter Ilg  /  Nightfall    Intimate musical conversations by two masters of their instruments! Essential listening!

Camille Bertault  /  Pas de geant    New album by the young French singer with her astonishing vocal acrobatics – produced by Michel Leonhart.

Bill Frisell  /  Music IS     A simply wonderful Frisell solo recording which gets him to the essence of his music. Stunning!

Kurt Elling  /  The Questions      The leading jazz vocalists new release is full of deep music and lyrics that ask the big questions in life! Not to be missed!!

Sly & Robbie + Nils Petter Molvaer  /  NORDUB     Jamaican groove masters Sly & Robbie meet NPM and are creating together a fantastic and accessible new musical world. Get up and dance!

 

2017

As every year, I have a look back on the last 12 months and see a very varied picture: a scary movement to the political right across the globe and a rise of right populism that makes me feel uneasy …. Race and gender discrimination increasing and ‘fake news’ dominating the headlines, as it is not the true story that counts, but how many eyeballs and sales one gets …. The I in the centre and the We in the background …. but thankfully in all of this madness there is still music to give moments of joy and intense emotions. I have been extremely lucky to be able to see over 50 shows in the last 12 months and listen to tons of records as well and what I perceived as the Best of the Best I will list below –

The best gigs of 2017

1 Julian Lage – both shows I attended of him this year – jazzahead and Clamores in Madrid – were simply stunning in terms of musicality, improvisations and emotional content.

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2 Chris Potter – at the Madrid Jazz Festival – a powerful trio performance with the tasteful use of electronics. One of the leading saxophonist of today in truly amazing form.

3 Tigran Hamasyan – a solo piano concert of incredible deepness and beauty.

4 Pepe Habichuela – Pepe @ 60 with the amazing guests Miguel Poveda and Silvia Perez Cruz. A master celebrating his life and music. Simply beyond!

5 Dee Dee Bridgewater – Dee Dee brought her Soul to Madrid and got the audience going!

6 Fred Hersch Trio – sublime piano expressions.

7 Dave Holland Trio – a group performance of the highest level, giving a lesson on the history of improvised music.

8 Michael Leonhart Orchestra – powerful and captivating arrangements and compositions at New York’s Winter Jazz Fest.

9 Michel Camilo & Tomatito – the art of the duo, perfectly set in the Teatro Real in Madrid.

10 John Scofield’s Uberjam – one of the guitar masters of our time – groovy, funky and full of ideas.

Not to forget Lee Ritenour, Bill Frisell and strings, Camilla Meza, Christian Scott, Jose James, Madeleine Peyroux, Becca Stevens, Cristina Branco, Ganavya ……..

 

My favourite records of 2017           (excluding OKeh)

1 Hudson / Hudson – a record that got it all: great compositions and amazing playing that captures the listeners imagination and heart.

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2 various artists / Celebrate Ornette – a wonderful box set celebrating the genius of Ornette Coleman. A must have!

3 Ellen Andrea Wang / Blank Out – a truly special album with new compositions by bass player and singer Wang. Modern and cool!

4 Ron Miles / I am a man – essential and powerful. Miles’ strongest statement so far!

5 Fred Hersch / Open Book – solo piano excursions of the highest level.

6 Bill Frisell, Thomas Morgan / Small Town – the beauty of the duo performed to perfection!

7 Café Drechsler / and now …. boogie! – the more than welcome return of the power trio – amazing interplay and improvisations!

8 Silvia Perez Cruz / Vestida de nit – another little master piece by Spain’s best kept secret … Stunning!

9 Rohey / a million things – what a voice, what songs!! One for the future. Check them out!

10 Jef Neve / Spirit Control – Belgium’s piano master with strings and electronics … captivating.

And of course, there have been the OKeh releases I had the pleasure to be involved with – some incredible and globally celebrated music from Dee Dee Bridgewater, Somi, Silje Nergaard, Stacey Kent, Regina Carter and Markus Stockhausen.

Look out for more great recordings from OKeh in 2018!