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.
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.
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!