For me, every day is jazz day. I listen to or read about my favourite genre of music every day. No exception. Even when my phone rings, it’s jazz that I hear. But I do understand the need and desire to spread awareness for the music we call jazz to a wider audience. Therefore, I am all for an International Jazz Day and the celebrations so far have been exceeding all expectations on a global scale. This year unfortunately the celebrations again will mostly be online, but a celebration of improvised music and its healing force and global importance it will be. Around the world events will be streamed and where possible live concerts will be attended by an audience to show the power and beauty of this music. For me, it will be as always: every day is jazz day and I gladly share some of the excitement I had when listening to a few new recordings below. Keep swinging everyone!
Sachal Vasandani feat. Romain Collin / Midnight Shelter – I love Sachal’s voice and his control and the way he makes everything he touches his own. And not to forget his writing as well. ‘Midnight Shelter’ is another prove of his unbelievable talent and the intimate setting with the wonderful and perceptive pianist Collin fits Sachal very well and puts the focus clearly on his vocal delivery. The album starts with one of three originals, the touching ‘Summer No School’, leading into interpretations of songs by Bob Dylan, Nick Drake, Abbey Lincoln and others. Recorded in 2020 this album reflects the anxiety of that challenging year, but leaves the listener with hope for the future. An album that soothes and caresses the soul. Sachal sings with emotion and love and transports these feelings within every word. This is art as seldom heard, powerful, true and touching. Just listen to his version of Wayne Shorter’s ‘Dance Cadaverous’ to which he wrote lyrics or Abbey Lincoln’s classic ‘Throw It Away’. An early contender for album of the year. A true and timeless expression of humanity.
Francois Bourassa / L’Impact Du Silence – Bourassa is well established in the Canadian jazz scene and has as well a small international following. His new album might change that, as it for sure deserves to he heard by many people. These fourteen solo piano pieces are absolutely unique in terms of composition and performance. Contemplative and lyrical at times, gritty at others, influenced by classical music, but with space for improvisation and using silence in between notes to dramatic effects. Says Ethan Iverson about Francois Bourassa: “’His solo piano music is right on the line between composed and improvised; certain things must happen, yet there’s also room to experiment. Is Maurice Ravel dreaming of Paul Bley — or is it the other way around?” Highly recommended!
Fergus McCreadie / Cairn – Scottish pianist is slowly developing into one of Europe’s hottest new jazz acts. This, his second album, again was recorded with bass player David Bowden and drummer Stephen Henderson and takes the trio steps ahead in their career. McCreadie’s compositions are “rooted in the Scottish tradition and inspired by Scottish landscapes, combining contemporary, jazz and classical influences in a profound, mesmerising and compelling way”. In the very original and captivating music there are touches of Keith Jarrett, E.S.T. and the quirkiness of The Bad Plus, but his compositions remain unique and a revelation to listen to. A true discovery with not one weak track on the album!
Ariel Bart / In Between – I really so far liked only two harmonica players: Toots Thielemans and Antonio Serrano, but from now on I will as well include young Ariel Bart in this list. Her debut album, recorded with Mayu Shviro on cello, Moshe Elmakias on piano, David Michaeli on double bass and Amir Bar Akiva on drums, is a statement of a musician and composer much more mature than her age would suggest. Her sound is full and round and her melodic playing easy to listen to. Her band is excellent in providing the backdrop for her soli, but as well ready to step up when needed. My favourite from the album is ‘Memory Of A Child’, a touchingly beautiful ballad with wonderful performances. A great first step!!
Neal Gonsalves / Blessings and Blues – South African pianist and composer Gonsalves recorded his third album with Ildo Nanja on bass and Riley Giandhari on drums and through his compositions is reflecting his five decades spanning life. His music is a mix of genres and sounds, but is truly rooted in South African jazz. His playing from swinging to contemplative and soft, but always expressing aspects of his life and emotions. Highlights on the album include ‘The Musician’s Wedding’, ‘African Time’ and the uplifting ‘Rise And Shine’. Remarkable!!!
Florian Arbenz, Hermon Mehari, Nelson Veras / Conversation # 1: Condensed – Drummer Arbenz, know through his work with Swiss trio Vein, starts with this album a series of recordings that will see him release 12 ‘Conversations’ with 12 different groups. # 1 features Hermon Mehari on trumpet and Nelson Veras on guitar and together they create wonderful and spontaneous music, ranging from groovy to ambient. There is space for all three musicians to shine, but the focus is the musical communication between three masters of their instruments. Modern, adventurous and full of surprises. Outstanding in an overall great record are Ornette Coleman’s ‘Race Face’, Mehari’s ‘Let’s Try This Again’ and Arbenz’ ‘In Medias Res’. A wonderful start to a series, if keeping up that quality, will be worth waiting for.
Roni Ben-Hur / Stories – revered guitarist Ben-Hur called for the recording session of this new album a bunch of friends and legends – George Cables on piano, Ingrid Jensen on trumpet, the rhythm section with bassist Harvie S and drummer Victor Lewis, and special guest vocalists Magos Herrera and Tamuz Nissim. Telling stories from his life, paying tribute to some musicians he adores and showing his diverse cultural influences, were the points Ben-Hur wanted to make with this new recording. Easily done with a selection of outstanding songs, including one sung in Hebrew by Tamuz Nissim, one in Ladino and one in Spanish. Magos Herrera singing the last two in impeccable fashion, full of emotion she expresses protest and love. Cable is a wonderful and delicate pianist and Ingrid Jensen’s clear and powerful trumpet adds a fierce touch to the songs. These are great stories from around the world, worth to be re-told may times. Outstanding!