The best Jazz Albums 2016

Another year has passed, and it was a very good one for Contemporary Jazz. 2016 did not see the same big breakthroughs as the preceding year, when a combo around Kamasi Washington redefined Jazz for the 21st century. Some big names in the Jazz scene announced new records, but few of them could really convince as a top release. 

Instead, a massive bunch of young talent released an array of amazing records in the genre, and showed us the path to the Bop of the future. Hip-hop and R&B continues to influence Contemporary Jazz big time, but seventies fusion and electronic soundscapes increasingly become a source of inspiration as well. 

Here go the best Jazz Albums 2016 in alphabetical order. 


Airelle Besson – Radio one

French trumpeter and composer Airelle Besson is a rising star on the European Jazz scene. Her 2016 album is a strong statement for her talent, and it is her best album to date. The album convinces with her subtle trumpet play, which goes in perfect symbiosis with the voice of Swedish singer Isabel Sörling.




Holland, Loueke, Potter, Harland – Aziza

Top Jazz musicians Dave Holland, Lionel Loueke, Chris Potter and Eric Harland finding together to create a joyful record with Afro Jazz influences. Definitely worth the listen.


Badbadnotgood – IV

Torontos quartet Badbadnotgood always has been a Jam project playing on the boundaries between Jazz and HipHop. Their fourth album, succinctly called IV, may not only be their most Jazz-centric, but also their most mature records to date. Don’t miss that fun and forward thinking combo.

Camila Meza  - Traces

A fantastic debut record from Chilean singer, guitarist, composer and arranger Camila Meza. Her music plays somewhere between Jazz, Latin and Pop, and comes with beautiful soundscapes and emotional depth. Truly refreshing and enjoyable.

Cyrille Aimée: Let’s Get Lost

Vocalist Cyrille Aimée convinces with a joyful and timeless voice, and a very distinct selection of songs on her latest album. She is extremely polyglot and she’ll let you hear this in every single tone on her album. And the excellent guitar play by Adrien Moignard makes the cherry on the cake.


Daymé Arocena - One Takes

Skillfull and charismatic Cuban singer Daymé Arocena reimagined six covers and created a powerful afro Jazz sensation. Dancefloor shakers that leave no hip untouched.

Ezra Collective - Chapter 7

Watch out for the UK Jazz sensation 2016! Originating from a London-based platform for young Jazz musicians, this five-piece combo defines itself around Afro Beat and Hip Hop with a love for Jazz music. Brilliantly arranged compositions, featuring among others Zara McFarlane as a guest vocal.

And my gosh, that piano solo at minute 2:00 sure is the coolest solo this year. 

GoGo Penguin – Man Made Object

The Manchester based Trio GoGo Penguin have been very well received in the Jazz world with their first two albums in 2012 and 2014. So there was no doubt they will go big, and they recorded their third album Man Made Object with Blue Notes Records. While some critics claim that their earlier releases have been more playful than the current one, I see this as a sign of maturity and confidence. Vibrant bass lines combine with a fascinating Piano soundscape, and a kickass breakbeat drum fuels the whole thing with an irresistible forward momentum.  




Jeff Parker – The new breed

Guitarist Jeff Parker has been member of quite some noise rock, post rock, electro and jazz formations up to now. The best known of them may be the Chicago based band Tortoise, with whom Parker released a new studio album earlier this year as well. In parallel, he runs his own Solo project, and the new breed is a compilation of works he did solo over the past few years. It is with no doubt a brilliant piece of artwork, retro and futuristic at the same time, a selection of gems that Parker guarded in this vaults. The opener track “Executive Life” had me in a second, and I can’t stop listening. My gosh, just listen to that humming bass and that lazy 70ies melody loop! That’s the work of a genius.

Josef Leimberg – Astral Progressions

Long years he worked successfully as a producer, composer and trumpeter for the likes of Snoop Dogg, Erykah Badu or Kendrick Lamar. Now, Josef Leimberg does his very own thing. Astral Progressions is fusion jazz of the finest kind, and a whole array of innovators and game changers bring in their momentum and are contributing to the album. Kamasi Washington plays on it, Bilal sings on it, Terrace Martin contributes…Josef Leimberg sure has his connections sorted out. Get ready for this truly cosmic fusion Jazz sensation.

Julian Lage – Arclight

Many say it is the best Jazz album of the year. Many say he is the best guitarist in Jazz for the years to come. He got his first Grammy nomination already with his debut record back in 2010. So yes, Julian Lage achieved already more than most Jazz musicians could ever dream of. Arclight is a brilliant Jazz record released with Mack Avenue. 




Lil Maxine – Little Girls Lovesongs

Vienna based Jazz trio Lil Maxine impressed us with an outstanding debut album this year. Brilliant song writing comes together with simple, yet minimal arrangements – yes, the minimalism also applies to the video.




Marquis Hill – The way we play

Chicago’s trumpetist Marquis Hill had redefined post-bop/hard-bop already with his 2014 album. He now signed with Concord Jazz and convinces with a very mature and elaborated record. The album comprises well written originals as well as some standards, for instance “My Foolish Heard” featuring vocalist Christie Dashiell. And Hills soft sound on the trumpet as well as on the bugle is simply terrific. A stylish, subtle and forward-thinking approach to post-bop Jazz.

Neil Cowley Trio – Spacebound Apes

Neil Cowley Trio surprised us with an album that sounds quite different than their previous releases. Spacebound Apes is a thoughtful concept album with all possible factettes. It has subtle moments like in “Grace”, where Cowleys piano carries it all and some electronics are used to add to the texture of the soundscape. But it can also rock out, like on “The City and the Stars”. For me, this is their best album to date and I get hungry for more. Please keep that momentum and become the Radiohead of Jazz!

Yussef Kamaal – Black Focus

London based Yussef Dayes and Kamaal Williams released their debut records on Brownswood this year. Synth keys, drums and a strong bass line creates a soundscape as contemporary as it could be. Stunning, bass saturated electro Jazz experiments flavoured with lots of great musical ideas.

Contemporary Christmas Jazz

The days are getting shorter and at last, colder temperatures are setting in. All of these are unmistakeable signs that Christmas is around the corner, and that it is time to think about an appropriate soundtrack.
Contemporary Jazz Club was looking for some recent productions that we can recommend you. Don’t take us wrong, we love the Jazz Standards, and Christmas Jazz is a genre with plenty of great old classics. But there are a couple of fantastic Christmas Jazz productions around, all of which deserve our recognition.
Here goes our list of recommended Christmas Jazz Albums and Reviews, in no particular order.

  • A Mellow Jazz Christmas – a Compilation of Kind of Blue Records

This compilation of the Switzerland based Kind of Blue Label features eight groups. All of them were asked to records some Christmas tracks during their normal sessions, and the result is striking. Prominent examples are Phil Woods Quintet with “Sleigh Ride for One”, Stanley Clarke Trio with “We tree kings” or Eddie Henderson with “Silent Night, Holy Night”.

“A Mellow Jazz Christmas” is a truly sophisticated Jazz album that will get you into the right mood for the season.

Check to get an impression.


  • Vintage Christmas by David Ian – Naxos Records

Vintage Christmas - David Ian

Toronto born Jazz Pianist David Ian released with “Vintage Christmas” a superb Christmas album with reinterpretations of eleven Christmas classics such as “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” or “Christmas Time with You”. The arrangements of the Trio are simple and swinging, getting the classics down to their most basic elements, accompanying them with modest voices. Yet this album sets an example of how contemporary Christmas Jazz could sound like. These songs don’t fight for attention and won’t overwhelm you with virtuosity, but they will get you in a laid-back Christmas mood.

Check this sample song on Youtube


  • Winter Songs by Kirsty Almeida & The Troubadours – All Made Up Records

Winter Songs - Kirsty AlmeidaGibraltar-born Kirsty Almeida is a quirky and very talented singer, producer and songwriter from Manchester. She gave up her deal with a major record label, to get full control and freedom of creativity for her work.

Now “Winter Songs” does not perfectly fit into the Jazz genre, but it is a fun collection of covers and own compositions that any open music mind will love. Be it on the lovely warming version of Joni Michell’s “River”, or on Maria Carey’s “All I want for Christmas is you”, Kirsty’s creativity will conquer your heard.

Check this report from BBC to get to know more about Kirsty and her work.



  • Christmas Jazz by The Michaelmas Ensemble

The Michaelmas EnsembleSwinging, heartwarming and with a contemporary touch all famous holiday classics get reinterpreted here. The Michaelmas Ensemble is a sextet where most baseline melodies are carried by the piano or the saxophone. The singers voice is what you’d expect from a great Bar jazz entertainer. That album will not set a new shape of Jazz to come, but it will settle you comfortably in front of the open fireplace.





  • Christmas by The Classical Jazz Quartet


The Classical Jazz Quartet

This group has an impressive line up which raises the attention of every Jazz aficionado: Kenny Baron on the piano, Stefon Harris on the vibraphone, Ron Carter on Bass and Lewis Nash on the drums. But it is not the well know Christmas classics that you are going to get here. This album is a skilled selection of Holiday Themes in Classical music instead. It sets off with Hallelujah from G.F. Händel, goes on with Jesu bleibet meine Freude from J.S. Bach, and finishes with six pieces of the Nutcracker Suite from Tchaikovsky. You get an album full of sophisticated Jazz reinterpretations of classical masterpieces here, not comparable to the well known Christmas classics.


Check Allmusic to get an impression.

Marco Llano Trio and Zephyros String Quartet – Odysseus – Album Review

With his new album “Odysseus”, Marco Llano raises our attention with an interesting and noteworthy release. Born on the Canary Islands, he started his career as a Trumpet player in Barcelona before he promoted in Jazz Studies in the Conservatoire of Brussels. He now works as a trumpeter, composer and arranger and lives between Tokyo, Barcelona and Brussels.
Odysseus may stands for that personal story, combining classical music and Jazz, taking the listener onto a musical journey across the globe. The album brings together a pianoless jazz trio – trumpet, double bass and drums – with a classical string quartet. It contains three innovative Jazz compositions plus a classical composition with four movements called “Suite Mediterranea”. The latter is solely played by the string quartet, and the four movements come between the Jazz arrangements, framing them together perfectly.
“Een Klein Bolero Voor U” – Flemish for a small Bolero for you – contains solos of the trumpet and the double bass and brings the strings into a dialogue with the two Jazz soloists. In “Tokyo’s Labyrinth”, the composer showcases his first musical impression of Japan. But the albums highlight may be “The Fighter” featuring Spanish Jazz guitarist Albert Vila. It is a very dynamic track with tense moments, showing Marco Llanos maturity as a composer and as a soloist on the trumpet.
Check Marco Llanos new album online and hear it on air on Jazz Radio Contemporary Jazz Club.

Riccardo Del Fra – My Chet my Song – Album Review

There are arguably few that knew Chet Baker better than Riccardo del Fra. He has been playing the double bass on his side between 1979 and 88, the years that many call the most interesting and mature in Bakers career as a composer, arranger and band leader. In these nine years, he recorded twelve albums with the trumpeter, and has seen all ups and downs in his personal life as well as in his virtuosity as a musician.

Time passed by, Riccardo del Fra settled in Paris and became a reference name in the french Jazz scene. Since 2004 he heads the section for Jazz and improvisation on the conservatoire nationale supérieure de musique et de dance in Paris, which means that he knows and influences a great part of the young French Jazz talent.

His 2014 release “My Chet my Song” is not just another homage to Chet Baker. It is a poetic and emotional re-interpretation of some of Bakers compositions, accompanied with some eclectic pieces of Del Fra’s own writing. For the recording, he works with the risings stars of the French Jazz Scene. Above all Airelle Besson,  who impresses with a series of smooth improvisations and solos on the trumpet and the bugle. Together with Perrick Pédron on the saxophone and Bruno Ruder on the piano, she reinvents Bakers melodies in an unprecedented manner. A fine example of how Saxophone, Double Bass, Trumpet and the Piano retake Bakers ideas is showcased in this section of “For all we know”, in itself a song that has been written by Fred Coots and covered by Chet Baker. All songs have been recorded with the Filmorchester Babelsberg.

Unsurprisingly, Del Fra’s bass play takes a leading role in the arrangements of most songs on the record, carrying the melodies with a smooth but solid baseline foundation not often seen in Jazz. Del Fra even takes us into some unexpected surprise moments, like in “I’m a fool to want you”, when after a culminant fortissimo the listener is left alone with nothing more than a mystic but firm bass line, waiting for Ruders’ Piano solo to set in. Magical moments like these make up the real essence of this record.

I consider “My Chet my Song” as one of the most interesting Jazz releases in 2014. Enjoy it now on

Tatiana Ladymay Mayfield – A Portrait of Ladymay – Album Review

Tatiana Ladymay Mayfield - A Portrait of Ladymay - Album Review

Tatiana Ladymay Mayfield – A Portrait of Ladymay – Album Review

Tatiana Mayfield from Fort Worth, Texas is an uprising star among young jazz vocalists. Her voice is very refreshing and joyful to listen to and her talent is undeniable. Her vocabulary includes classic and timeless jazz interpretations and her scat was described to be “as natural as breathing”. She also has an affinity to sing some excellent R&B interpretations.

A Portrait of Ladymay (2012) is her second studio album, after her first album From All Directions (2009) which she recorded with fellow students while she attended University of Northern Texas. A Portrait of Ladymay starts with For You, a lovely opener with Brazilian Bossa-Fusion influences and one of the highlights on the album. It is followed by several classic and post-modern jazz compositions where Mayfields shows her understanding of the style and interpretation.

The second part of the album surprises with some refreshing R&B compositions. Above all the song Real, which made it to the top of the UK Soul Chart in fall 2012. All in all a very enjoyable album from a young Jazz vocalist with a great potential. Listen to Tatiana Ladymay Mayfield now on

Nicola Conte Free Souls

Nicola Conte – Free Souls – Album Review

Nicola Conte Free Souls

Well known Italian guitarist, composer and producer Nicola Conte blesses us with his new album Free Souls this summer. About half of the songs are written or co-written by himself, including the catchy opener Shades of Joy, co-written with Gregory Porter. The others are well selected cover versions such as Ode to Billie JoeFree Souls is a collection of songs that were recorded between 2006 and 2013, as a side-project in parallel to several other of Conte’s albums.

Unusual for Conte, Free Souls features a fine selection of guest singers such as Marvin Parks, Melanie Charles or Heidi Vogel. Notable guest instrumentalists include Logan Richardson (alto sax) or Till Brönner who features an impressive trumpet solo on A prayer for Lateef.

Nicola Conte’s typical bossa-influenced acid jazz with vintage touch is also predominant throughout his latest album, making Free Souls a very pleasant easy listening experience.


Snarky Puppy - We Like It Here - Album Review

Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here – Album Review

Snarky Puppy – We Like It Here – Album Review

Snarky Puppy, a Jazz – Funk – Rock – Fusion ensemble based in Brooklyn, had a recent Grammy success for their 2013 album “Family Dinner”. Each song was recorded with a guest singer, and vocals were the core element of the album.

The new 2014 album “We like it here” however does not follow quite the same formula. In fact it is a live recording, done without any overdubs, recorded in a studio in Utrecht – Netherlands, only instrumental and without any vocals. It is an impressive testimony of the bands ability to change and transform, yet still a clear evolution from previous studio works such as the 2010 album “Tell your friends”. Eclectic bass lines, played on the guitar or on the Moog, build a core element of the tunes. Great trumpet solos and funky guitars is also part of the formula. The entry track “Shofukan” gives a good resume of what Snarky Puppy is all about. Mystical melodies, moving solos, excellent drum play and moments that makes your hair on the arms stand up. One of the best albums of Snarky Puppy, now to be heard on

Snarky Puppy – Shofukan recording



zara mcfarlane

Zara McFarlane – If You Knew Her – Album review


zara mcfarlane

With “If You Knew Her”,  London Jazz singer Zara McFarlane publishes her second album in Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label. The songs are transcendent and mystical, at times come with the warmth of 70’s Stevie Wonder songs, at times are striped to the bare essentials of a great talented Jazz Singer’s voice. Her singing style leaves a lot of room for the melodies to develop and opens space for imagination. And the band supports the voice to develop the ambinet and melancholic spirit of the songs. “If You Knew Her” moves away from the classical jazz singer’s genree. It is an album ahead of times. Listen to Zara McFarlane’s new album now on


nels cline singers macroscope review

Nels Cline Singers – Macroscope – Album Review


nels cline singers macroscope review

Jazz and avant-garde guitarist Nels Cline released “Macroscope”, the fifth album with the Nels Cline Singers in April this year. Each track on is a story by itself, evolving from simple chords into stunning melodies, massive guitar riffs and distortions. Now to be heard on

Bill Laurance Flint Review

Bill Laurance – Flint – Album review

Bill Laurance Flint Review

London based pianist and producer Bill Laurance, founding member of the much acclaimed Snarky Puppy, released with “Flint” his first solo album in May this year. It is stylistically very expansive and genre-crossing, bringing in influences of electronic music while its roots stick with Jazz. Laurance creates wide and fascinating soundscapes with his piano playing, often accompanied with synthesized strings that add an effect of space and openness, as it can be heard on opening track “Neverending City”. The bassline is very concise, leaving space to the piano melodies to develop. Often, as on “The Good Things” or on “Ready Wednesday”, very decently played break  beat drums complete the picture. Flint from Bill Laurance is definitely a new 2014 release to consider.

Listen now on

Listen now on