And finally, 1 to 5, again in alphabetical order.
This just has the edge on Deal With It! from the start of the year, as I think it’s a more unified, coherent piece of work. Inventive arrangements help avoid the risk of monotony: the quartet can sound like a mini big band, with trumpet contrasting with the saxes, or can blend together for a more orchestral sound. They’re all fine soloists, too. One of those rare records which simultaneously manage to be musically sophisticated and sheer good fun.
A modern day incarnation of the classic organ and tenor combo. Keyboardist Cooper-Moore (who doesn’t seem to have a first name) is one of Parker’s regular sidekicks, but generally plays piano. I don’t know what type of organ he’s playing here but he gets a sound from it which is a bit reedier than the classic sweaty r’n’b Hammond sound. Tenorist Darryl Foster is a new name to me, but sounds very good indeed. A splendid record, which at once sounds right in the tradition and utterly fresh and new.
There must be a better way of describing this style of ostinato-based jazz than post-EST, but right now I can’t think of one. Compared to the Swedish group, their material isn’t as appealingly melodic, but they do more with it when they come to improvise. They’re quite right to give themselves a band name, rather than performing as the Jasper Høiby Trio, since this is very much a group music. At any point, any of the band can be improvising, and any of them underpinning them with the piece’s basic groove. Like the Brass Jaw album, proof that being young and well-hyped doesn’t automatically mean you’re rubbish.
Pope’s probably best-known for his long stint as Max Roach’s tenor player, and has a highly-personal slightly bleary saxophone sound. For this album he’s put together an octet of three saxophones, two trumpets, piano, bass and drums, and explores various ways of using this combination. Sometimes they sound like a big band, sometimes like a rowdy Mingus ensemble, and sometimes most of them drop out to give us a small group (there’s a gorgeous long ballad performed solely by tenor and bass). There’s fine individual playing from everyone in the band, notably James Carter on tenor and baritone sax, Terell Stafford on trumpet, and Jeff “Tain” Watts on drums.
Two under-rated members of the middle generation of UK jazz musicians, altoist Martin Speake and pianist Nikki Iles, together with a couple of fine Canadians, bass player Duncan Hopkins and drummer Anthony Michelli. A record which needs a few listens before it reveals its treasures – on first hearing it comes across as a bit cerebral – but you’ll discover a lot of top class improvising and a surprising amount of undemonstrative passion once you persevere. I was about to describe Martin Speake as “the modern-day Lee Konitz” until I remembered that the modern-day Lee Konitz is of course Lee Konitz.
It’s been a good year for Edition Records, who released two out of my top five. The other three are all on small labels as well.