Tommy Smith Quartet: Calum Gourlay, Tommy and Pete Johnstone at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. (Sebastiaan de Krom out of shot)
Photo credit: Patrick Hadfield
Welcome to the first of London Jazz News’ four annual lists, naming and proclaiming the musicians and bands who have somehow left their mark this year, with contributions from a wide range of jazz people: musicians, writers, promoters… The other three, which will be published either side of Christmas, will be 'live memories', 'recorded memories', and 'wishes for 2018’. You can add your own nominations in the comments sections. These 2017 contributions have been compiled by LJN Editor-at-Large Peter Bacon: 

Mike Stern: For Trip, great album, all the greater for its backstory. (Rob Adams – journalist)

Django Bates: For two powerful recorded contributions - leading his own Beloved Trio and as part of Anouar Brahem’s quartet - to the ECM catalogue, and for celebrating the Sgt Pepper half-century in his own fashion. (Peter Bacon)

The Infinitude Quintet at Eastside Jazz Club, Birmingham
Photo credit: Alison Bentley
Ingrid and Christine Jensen with Ben Monder, Infinitude Quintet: Canadian sisters in jazz and in life, their compositions lean towards Kenny Wheeler, with rock and free jazz influences. In their own words: trumpeter Ingrid: “…we can find space, and craziness, and find our way in and out of it…" Saxophonist Christine: “…it’s all about people sharing their time and energy and love of the music together.” (Alison Bentley)

Chris Laurence Quartet w. Frank Ricotti, John Paricelli, Martin France: Sheer mature artistic perfection. (Brian Blain)

Alexander Hawkins: A musician creatively and persistently redefining, transforming existing music as a source, a musician doing it in a captivating and convincing way and from an urgent personal need. Among the strong, remarkable examples from the younger generation, last year I chose French pianist Eve Risser, this year Alexander Hawkins. (Henning Bolte)

Jacob Collier: I am biased, of course, as I am earning my keep as “product manager“ for Jacob's album. However, the sheer energy, the amount of talent and love of music in such a beautiful human being makes me feel even happier to do so. (Götz Bühler, editor Jazz thing - European Jazz Legends)

Leo Richardson: London-based tenor saxophonist burst onto the scene this year with The Chase - a Blue Note-inspired album that was as technically impressive as it was fun and listenable. Drawing on the legacy of Dexter Gordon and early Herbie Hancock grooves, Richardson’s quartet left a high-water mark for swing in 2017. (Jon Carvell)

London Vocal Project & Pete Churchill: In May, LVP performed Jon Hendricks’ rendering of Miles Ahead for the first time in the UK, after a New York premier in February. Every note of  Gil Evans’ score became a lyric and the ensemble performance was breathtaking. As a collective musical achievement, with MD Pete Churchill largely responsible for making it happen (with the late Jon Hendricks of course), this little accolade hardly does it justice. (Mike Collins)

SEN3: Likewise tipped for 2018 by Jazzwise editor Mike Flynn, ‘extended trio’ SEN3 brought something genuinely new in 2017 with the brave and unlikely fusion of their Grime Reworked series of gigs, bringing jazz chops to bear on classics of this dark form of electronic hiphop. This pathfinding experiment met with a predictably bewildered response, the final gig was cancelled by the venue, and they immediately became my heroes of all time. (AJ Dehany)

Christian Sands: probably one of the best piano players of today's jazz. (Ralf Dombrowski)

Yazz Ahmed: Yazz has made great leaps forward this year, bringing out her album La Saboteuse, playing a great set at Cheltenham Jazz festival and touring her Alhaan Al-Siduri to Bahrain. (Tony Dudley-Evans, Jazzlines Birmingham and Cheltenham Jazz Festival)

Chucho Valdes: At 76, still going stronger than ever. He graced us with his virtuosic playing at the Barbican in November, together with his compatriot Gonzalo Rubalcaba in a mad exposition of Cuban delights. I’ve never heard two towering pianists play together so joyfully; a perfect combination of individual expression and improvised dialogue. (Sebastian Fox)

Tommy Smith Quartet: The Quartet released an outstanding tribute to John Coltrane during the year, Embodying the Light, and played a hugely exciting concert in the Edinburgh Jazz Festival. Backed by Calum Gourlay, Pete Johnstone and Sebastiaan de Krom, Smith's playing is reaching new heights. Superb! (Patrick Hadfield)

Jason Yarde: This and every year. (Alan Hayward)

Stefano Amerio: The unseen musician in the room, the engineer of Artesuono Studio, Udine, Italy for beautiful sound and undoubted inspiration to all involved on the Julian Costello Quartet's Transitions and on Maciek Pysz's and Daniele di Bonaventura's Coming Home. (Mary James)

Rob Luft: A young guitarist who has contributed so much in recent years to fellow musicians’ gigs and albums finally, at the ripe old age of 23, released his own: Riser is exciting and different, and shows why he is so much in demand. (Peter Jones)

Alice Zawadzki: I think she’s fabulous (Barb Jungr)

Thelonious Monk and Mike Gibbs: two birthday boys of 2017 (combined age of 180 years), continuous inspiration. (Hans Koller)

Binker and Moses: London sax/drums duo, for both their terrific double CD Journey To The Mountain Of Forever, and their sustained creativity over a full 90 minutes of duo performance at the Edinburgh Jazz Festival in July. (Mark McKergow)

Rob Luft - two nominations
Publicity picture
Big Bad Wolf: Debut Pond Life was a real boxer’s uppercut of an album and the band’s Rob Luft the Mohammed Ali of jazz guitar, floating like a butterfly and stinging with his impressive soloing. (Rob Mallows)

Skeltr: For sheer energy and pace, Sam Healey and Craig Hanson’s intense new duo is gathering momentum fast. A  fairground ride for the soul. (Steve Mead)

Vein Trio: The Swiss trio brought Spring delight with their inviting, original music in The Chamber Music Effect, only to follow it in the autumn with remarkably intelligent and successful interpretations of Maurice Ravel’s output in Vein Plays Ravel (UK saxophonist Andy Sheppard guesting). I can’t recommend highly enough this longtime collaboration between pianist Michael Arbenz, bassist Thomas Lähns and drummer Florian Arbenz for such astonishing attention to detail and sheer dedication to art. (Adrian Pallant)

Jihad Darwish: For bravely reclaiming his own name despite obvious reasons many wouldn't, and in a period which I think reflects this honesty, bringing to conclusion an utterly honest, original, and impressive album of his own work, due for release in 2018. On the bandstand always digging in and asking the best of himself and most importantly encouraging it from those on stage with him. (Robin Phillips)

Petter Eldh (Michael Rüsenberg, Köln,

Dave Holland: I love the fact that Dave who lives over there is so frequently over here and is making such a big difference. I couldn't get to what sounds like his big UK gig of the year as the focal point of the Ambleside Days Festival (Mike Collins wrote it up for his own site) but I did get to the NYJC gala. A new album with Evan Parker? Bring it on! (Sebastian Scotney)

Jasper Høiby: For bass playing that lit up three great bands I heard live this year - Phronesis, Fellow Creatures, and Malija (twice). Each in their way is an absolute gem. (Jon Turney)

Darcy James Argue's Secret Society: In 2016, the band whose work best anticipated the poisonous double-think and fake fake news of the new world order was Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society. Now it’s nearly 2018, and the 45th president, against all common sense, is still in the White House. When it’s all over, Argue’s Real Enemies will evoke the mood of the current madness as vividly as a newspaper home page. (My review of Real Enemies from 7 Nov 2016) (John L Walters)

Burton Greene at Cafe Oto
Drawing by Geoff Winston (© 2017. All Rights Reserved.)

Burton Greene: I’ll spotlight the pianist who accompanied Patty Waters at a great gig at Cafe Oto. One of the best pianists I’ve heard playing live, he’s not well known here. Based in Amsterdam for many years (via Chicago and New York), his versatility, invention and sharpness bring to mind the palettes of Cecil Taylor, Monk and Keith Tippett. He just made that piano sing! His double CD recorded live in Amsterdam in 2016-17 is titled Compendium. (Geoff Winston)

1 comment:

  1. Tony Woods Project released a wonderful album, Hidden Fires, a sublime combination of English traditional music and sophisticated jazz.