2016 was a challenging year, but a great year for music. I’ll choose 16 albums for you that rocked my world and some other highlights too. Feel free to comment with your choices…
Chance the Rapper – Coloring Book
Full of light and life, this was a record of joy and optimism, combining hip-hop and gospel. It’s an essential album -and as a mixtape, it’s free. Chance is the culmination of all the great independent musicians who decided they didn’t need the labels any more
Childish Gambino – Awaken My Love
Donald Glover aka Childish Gambino is a creative force, known for acting and comedy (I came across him first in Community), he also has a brilliant hip-hop career. For him to record an album with no rapping was a brave move. That it sounds like the lost masterpiece of P Funk updated to a now-style production makes it a wonderful record.
David Bowie – Blackstar
Enough has been written about this record by now. It’s dark and it’s not a record I listen to all he time but it’s deep, and all the deeper for featuring the line up from Donny McCaslin’s stellar Casting for Gravity.
Bad Bad Not Good – IV
Great album. Jazz, jazz not jazz. Essential.
A Tribe Called Quest – We Got it From Here
The most I’ve listened to ATCQ since People’s Instinctive Paths. Passionate, current. A great elegy to Phife Dawg.
Sevana – EP
Direct from Kingston, Jamaica, irresistible soulful reggae.
Çiğdem Aslan – A Thousand Cranes
The beguiling follow up to her debut album. Cigdem’s voice gets stronger, more supple and expressive with time.
Gallant – Ology
What a talent, what a voice! If this album sounds a little restrained and over-produced compared to Gallant live, that’s just what you might expect, him having signed to Warners (well that’s what my son said anyway), it’s still a souring soul debut.
Anderson Paak – Malibu
He has such a great ear for a catchy melody and is a wonderful rapper and musician. At times his lyrics just stray a little towards unsubtle carnality for my tastes. Otherwise it’s a straight win.
Richard Bona and Mandekan Cubano – Heritage
Combine a virtuous jazz influenced Cameroonian superstar bassist/singer and a right as anything Cuban band. Virtuosity is reined in in service of party groove and sweet atmosphere.
De La Soul – And the Anonymous Nobody
ATCQ took the plaudits but this was a fine record by De La Soul with a wide range of musical styles and guests and worthy in its own right. Very accessible record.
Tedeschi Trucks Band – Let Me Get By
Stunningly good album – what a band – what a singer – what songs? Combines rock, soul, blues and gospel into a sound that never sounds like anything other than Tedeschi Trucks Band. A great live sounding record!
Kenny Wellington – Free Spirit
Kenny is a great guy and this album immerses us in he soulful jazz grooves of late 70s early 80s with an updated Blackbyrds vibe. Kenny plays some righteous trumpet and was of course writing and playing tunes in London back in those former times.
Native Dancer – EP Vol II
Great London future jazz outfit. Sometimes I mistake their sound for Hiatus Kaiyote, not a bad thing at all – but they have their own sound. Frida is a fabulous talent.
Skepta – Konnichiwa
Grime inspires, every time we cover Stormzy in our jazz trio it turns heads. The record combines the swagger, the musical innovation of grime at its best and the sheer fun that Skepta exudes.
Kirk Franklin – Losing My Religion
In a sense the list ends where it began – with a great Gospel album – closer to Chance the Rapper’s album than you’d imagine. Kirk does appear on Coloring Book of course. Sharper minds than mind would recall that this one actually came out in November 2015 but who am I to let chonology get in the way of a good narrative.
Also recommended: Berhana – EP, Derrick Hodge – The Second, Maxwell – blackSUMMERS’night, Nx Worries – Yes Lawd!, Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade, Common – Black America Again, Schoolboy Q – Blank Face LP, Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component, J Cole – 4 Your Eyez Only