My Top Ten of 2011

ThundercatThe Golden Age of Apocalypse
Mind blowing debut from Stephen Bruner alias Thundercat. Part of the incredible scene around guys like Flying Lotus and Miguel Atwood Ferguson in LA at the cutting edge of jazz, hip-hop, electronic music, dance music and the avant-garde, The Golden Age of the Apocalypse features layers of melodic bass guitar, advanced harmonies, soulful vocals and hooks and an appproach somehwhere between hip-hop and 70s fusion. (iTunes, Amazon etc)

Harriet TubmanAscension
Harriet Tubman is a trio of Melvin Gibbs (bass), Brandon Ross(guitar) and JT Lewis (drums) here expanded with DJ Singe and DJ Logic on turntables and electronics and Ron Miles on trumpet. Paying tribute to and featuring the classic phrases of Coltrane’s famous record it uses an approach redolent of Miles Davis’s Agharta and Bitches Brew bands updated with brilliant use of electronics. This funks like a wild thing and explores sonic tensions and colours at the same time. Wild! (iTunes, Amazon etc)

(Let it build, it does)

Gretchen ParlatoLost and Found
Gretchen Parlato is a most intriguing singer with a beautiful voice. I was gutted when I missed out on her quickly sold out show at the London Jazz Festival. Her latest album is produced by man of the moment Robert Glasper and it’s a wonderful record featuring beautiful originals and unique takes on Blue in Green, Juju and covers of Simply Red and Lauryn Hill/Mary J Blige. Exquisite. (iTunes, Amazon etc)

Terri Lyne CarringtonThe Mosaic Project
I can never spell her name but Terri is one of the greatest drummers around today. On this project she has collected a stellar cast of great female musicians. Some of which I was familiar: Esperanza Spalding, Geri Allen, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Nona Hendryx, Gretchen Parlato, Cassandra Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Patrice Rushen and Sheila E. Phew! But it also features also some great musicians I’d not heard of like Helen Sung, Tineke Postma, Ingrid Jensen and Linda Taylor. It’s a special jazz project that manages a musical unity despite the diverse cast. (iTunes, Amazon etc)

Khyam Allami – Resonance/Dissonance
Beayutiful! Allami is a British based oud player of Iraqi origin. He has created a special album here with acres of space and silence, intense mood creation and the most beautiful oud playing. Most tunes are minimal and sparse but there’s a balance throughout the album of more upbeat moods. Allami who currently plays drums in psychedelic rock band Knifeworld has created something special with this record. (iTunes, Amazon etc)

Steve Lawson11 Reasons Why 3 is Greater Than Everything
One of my favourite of Steve’s records. Like all Steve’s records it’s music that happens to have been created with a bass guitar, effects and loopers, but first of all, it’s music. This one features plenty of lyrical fretless and ranges between melodic instrumental songs, ambient moods and free jazz. Really worth checking out!
Available on Bandcamp, name your price

John DaversaJunk Wagon (The Big Band Album)
An amazing big band fusion record with a cast of LA musical heavyweights, this features a storming rhythm section of Jerry Watts Jr and Gene Coye and the musical brilliance of John Daversa – a great cmnposer, orchestrator and soloist.
Available from John’s website

Jill ScottThe Light of the Sun
The Philadelphia poet of soul’s latest is largely improvised freestyle in the studio with the fabulous Adam Blackstone on bass. That voice, gets me every time!
(Amazon, iTunes etc)

Steve Billman trio plus oneOdd Times for an Odd World
Melodic and intense electric jazz with great performances from underrated LA bassist Billman (the best kept secret of LA), Brad Rabuchin on sinuous guitar, Andy Suzuki on soulful saxophone and the masterful Matt Starr on drums. Relaxed, organic, melodic, intense.
Available at CD Baby, Amazon)

Fer Isella#Cosecha
Out of Argentina Fer Isella’s music is experimental, beautiful and very accessible. Ranging from post-Miles jazz interaction to minimal piano ballad, from electronic sounds and folkloric elements to post-rock to atmospheric sung ballads, this is a record deserving a wider audience. Check it out!
Available via Bandcamp

Cuong Vu 4-tetLeaps of Faith
Contemporary jazz that explores sound and atmosphere as equal relations to harmony, melody and rhythm. Intense moods are created, standards are reinterpreted, sounds are looped, lyrical melodies are voiced. Reference points might be Mark Isham’s music or Miles Davis’ early 70s tone poems but trumpeter Vu has a style of his own. Brilliant record!
Available via and Bandcamp

Little DragonRitual Union
Swedish electronic band whose eponymous debut album was an instant favourite with me. Their second with it’s 80s influenced sound took longer to grow on me, but did. This, their third is starker and more obviously club/dance influenced. The singer’s voice has a beautiful fragility. I still love their debut more than the others but this is a fine album.
(Available on iTunes, Amazon etc)

Austin PeraltaEndless Planets
A former child prodigy whose debut album at 15 featured Ron Carter, this is pianist Peralta’s third record. It will hopefully reach a wide audience not least because it’s the first asoustic jazz release on Ninjatunes and because of Peralta’s brilliant contributions to recent sets by Thundercat, Flying Lotus and the Brainfeeder collective. It bursts with playful energy at times. You get the feeling Peralta will go on to make even better records than this but it’ll do well for now. I love this tune (Algiers)
Available via Amazon/iTunes

The Deep MOFunk in the Third Quarter
Brit jazz funk-led by the talented bassist/singer Yolanda Charles, it’s refreshingly old fashioned in a classic groove way!
Currently available via Bandcamp

You probably know me well enough by now to know I wouldn’t have stuck to ten! Sometimes it may be seven sometimes twelve…all recommended. This year has been more about discovering music recorded in previous years: much time exploring Keith Jarrett’s and Paul Motian’s back catalogue, discovering Flying Lotus and that whole LA scene and finding records like Lori Williams (great jazz singer)’s debut from 2010 and Zoe Rahman’s music but the records above are all highly recommended.

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