Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Jazz Selections for 2016

My selections for best jazz releases of 2016 are limited to an EP and a reissue. Other releases during the year came to my attention but were ruled out for various reasons. It’s possible that I may return to some of the other music purchased during the year and find good things that I had not noticed previously.

Jakob Sorensen, Nomad.  This EP of almost twenty-one minutes, and four songs, is a second release for Jakob Sorensen. His Bagland was released last year. Nomad contains many of the same members, that is, Alex Jonsson on guitar, Mathias Jaeger on piano, Frederik Sakham on bass, and Jakob Sorensen on trumpet. Andreas Skamby now replaces drummer Frej Lesner from Bagland.  Like other examples of Northern European jazz, this recording contains a group dynamic with more emphasis on melody than on featuring the skills of a particular musician. There are instruments that appear prominently in these four songs composed by Jakob Sorensen.  “Eick,” the first song, opens with a haunting piano phrase that is repeated throughout much of the song. Midpoint or so, the guitar figures promptly on one channel while the trumpet appears on the other channel, both of which are accompanied by the phrasing of the piano. “Nomad,” the second song, opens with a strong bass line and features drumming that serves to accent the melody carried by the trumpet. Sorensen’s skill with his trumpet comes across the most in the third song, “Brave Men” and in the fourth song, “The Mountain That Disappeared.” Sorensen’s tone is strong, with no jarring or discordant notes altering the overall experience. Although it is unfortunate that the album isn’t longer, this EP hints at good things to come from Jakob Sorensen and the other members of his band.

Matthew Halsall, On the Go (Special Edition). This remastering of the album On the Go, released originally in 2011, has been expanded with the addition of three other songs, “Only You,” “Singing Everyday,” and “Breathless,” which add twenty-two minutes to the original album. These three additions are similar to the mood created by “Samatha,” a song that distinguishes the original release because of its meditative and melancholic qualities.  “Only You” is a trio effort composed of Gavin Barras’ bass, Adam Fairhall’s piano, and Matthew Halsall’s trumpet. Both “Singing Everyday” and “Breathless” place emphasis on Matthew Halsall’s trumpet, showing his mastery of the instrument, while “Breathless” also offers Fairhall a chance to solo.  Rachel Gladwin’s harp is noticeably absent in these additions to the album; her harp would have fit nicely in “Only You," for example. Even so, this remastering has improved the overall album and makes it more representative of what Matthew Halsall was trying to achieve with his album On the Go, the third release of his after Colour Yes in 2009 and Sending my Love in 2008.