The ‘best of’/’highlights lists’ for 2015 have been and gone and there were a lot of them this year it seemed. They are always entertaining. Jazzwise mag inveigled a huge cast list to each compile one with a complex point scoring system – always intriguing results. I managed not to do one in December, or even early January (I just got busy… didn’t get around to it). There is pleasure to be had in looking back however. So here we go. It’ a very personal selection, dependent entirely on my idiosyncratic preferences and what may have appealed on a particular day or at different times. Rules of my game are explained for Live thrills and recorded pleasures respectively.
Gigs & Live Moments ( a small slice)
For a live gig or moment within a gig, the simple rule is ‘Can I still conjure up the moment and the thrill?’, or maybe it returns unbidden to give me a tingle of pleasure at the recollection.
Anthony Braxton at the Lantern, Colston Hall in Bristol for his only UK appearance. A unique and mysterious improviser I’ve remained haunted by the Ghost Trance Music
Julian Arguelles at Cheltenham Festival with a septet playing inventive arrangements of his enchanting, exuberant music
When I looked back, I realised a trio of duos with Gwilym Simcock stuck out:
Gwilym Simcock/ Jason Rebello at Wiltshire Music Centre in the Bath Festival. Intergenerational? Maybe, but certainly interactive and plenty of fireworks alongside lyrical flights
Gwilym Simcock/ Brigitte Beraha at Falmouth University, an impromptu moment at the end of a solo concert, a moment of magic as piano and voice took flight together on I fall in love too easily
Gwilym Simcock/ Michael Wollny at a tribute to John Taylor, two former pupils of the maestro let fly on Ambleside Days, an extra ordinary moment.
Norma Winstone/ Ralph Towner Another tribute/ celebration and another duo. These two slid into a version of Celeste that gave me goosebumps at an ‘Evocation’ of Kenny Wheeler’s music in London Jazz Festival.
Paolo Conte at the Barbican. Is it jazz? Cabaret? Pop? Who cares – the veteran, unclassifiable Italian crooner wove his spell and charmed everyone ( that’ll be me and what seemed like a significant proportion of Italian and Italian descended London residents)
Kamasi Washington at the Lantern again this time for one of two UK appearances(the Lantern had a good year for coups!) and demonstrating live with only septet (no massed choirs or orchestra on hand) why his debut deserved the title The Epic
I could list all those moments at my regular haunts (St. James Wine Vaults, Bath; BeBop Club; increasingly irresistible, The Hen and Chicken), however one each:
Iain Ballamy – at the Wine Vaults. Never knowingly miss an opportunity to hear him. Back in January last year at the Wine Vaults, just the theme from East of Sun was worth the trip.
Wildflower Sextet – at the BeBop Club early in the year. Any Wayne Shorter related outing is likely to get my but this sextet led by Matt Anderson were a particular delight.
Hotel Bristol – at The Hen and Chicken. Fierce competition for this slot, but the Andy Sheppard orchestrated quartet has it with fierce blowing, delectable melodies and grooves and the inevitable top-drawer collaborators.
In the case of recorded music the question is ‘Do I still get the urge to play the CD/ Download?’ Memory can be deceptive and what happened most recently can loom larger than it should. Discovering that iTunes has sneakily logged a good proportion of my listening, reveals what have been the most frequent of my ‘just got to listen to that again’ or ‘I’m in the mood for..’ choices. Taken alongside what has got stuck in my (old tech) six CD changer and picking a few faves from albums I’ve reviewed, generates a list that may reveal more about my preferences than anything else, but also looks pretty high quality to me.
Heavily edited in the interests of not overdoing it –
Stuck in the CD changer
Kamasi Washington – all three discs of The Epic. It’s a throwback (whether jazz or dance music), its very current, its so the ‘next thing’, its irresistible.
Julian Arguelles – Let it Be Told, Mining the South African repertoire and arranging for Big Band its fabulous (and coming to Cheltenham Jazz Festival in 2016)
Babelfish – Chasing Rainbows was this piano, voice, bass and percussion quartet’s second outing. Understated, fizzing with energy, creativity and exquisitely twisted melody.
Reviewed with humility and repeating on the playlist
Andy Sheppard – Surrounded by Sea. Trio Librero with the addition of Elvind Aarstead, whisperingly magical
Charles Lloyd – Wild Man Suite, a unique instrumentation. Maybe only Charles Lloyd would respond to the suggestion of adding strings by doing it with lyra and cimbalom, but its vintage Lloyd
The Printmakers – its been a bit of wait, but in Westerly at last we have a recording of this sublime and joyful music from Brit super group
Others, some reviewed some not, but high on the count of ‘plays’
Bebe Buchanan Tagel – Gone . Danish outfit, featuring that Arguelles chap again. Euro? Yes, lyrical? Yes? Distinctive – oh yes. Thanks Peter Bacon for the review tip-off
Drifter – Flow An Edition Records orchestrated quartet with Alexi Tuomarila on piano. Vibrant, exciting contemporary jazz
Mads La Cour – Almuji I keep returning to this loose limbed, weaving in and out of structures blowing from the Norwegian trumpeter’s quartet
Eyebrow – Garden City hypnotic and uplifting slowly evolving grooves and hooks from this trumpet, drums and effects duo of Pete Judge and Paul Wigens
Indigo Kid – Fistful of Notes Not nearly enough fanfare around this second outing for Dan Messore’s quartet playing his enticing and quirky melodies
Veneri Pohjola Another Edition Records release, early in 2015, Finnish trumpeter Pohjola on a set of emotion packed originals and the leaders gorgeous, bang up to date trumpet sound kept calling me back