The best Jazz Albums 2018

Ambrose Akinmusire – Origami Harvest

Ambrose Akinmusire is without doubt one of the technically most complete Jazz trumpeters these days, and he´s always been keen for musical experiments. I just recall his brilliant 2016 tour with Mike Aaberg, keyboarder of Lalah Hathaway, and Thomas Pridgen, drummer of Suicidal Tendencies and Mars Volta, from which I unfortunately never found a record to include it in the radio programming.

Origami Harvest does not fall short when it comes to exploring new musical frontiers. The album features Kool AD and the Mivos string quartet among others, and got the best possible reviews in the media. An album not to be missed.

Ashley Henry – Easter EP

After leaving a landmark with his 2017 debut album on the Jazz re:freshed label, Ashley Henry is underway to become a real innovator in Piano Jazz, right along with Ai Kuwabara or Robert Glasper. Compared to his debut, his new release has gained in depth and maturity, and it bears a wider variety of musical influences. The Easter EP has been my personal favourite in springtime this year.

Brownswood – We out here

Gilles Peterson´s Brownswood Records has been acting as a taste maker and a catalyst for the young London Jazz Scene for a couple of years now. And it has helped to turn London into the world´s biggest innovation lab for any sounds related to Jazz and beyond. "We out here" is a nine-track compilation where some of the local Jazz scenes younger prodigies had their hands on. The album, as well as the video, give a very intimate view on that scene, on what they get inspired by and influenced from.

Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids – An Angel Fell

San Francisco - based multi instrumentalist Idris Ackamoor created a brilliant spiritual Jazz album this year. Afro Beats and Sun-Ra style chants bring you back to the 1970ies, and Ackamoors psychedelic style to play the sax does the rest to make you happy.

James ‘creole’ Thomas – Omas Sextet

This is the first self-titled release of James Thomas, resident of Mauritius and Louisiana, and it is certainly a notable one. But it appears he is not new to Jazz, as he has co-produced a very well received album with his cousin Reginald Omas Mamode back in 2016. Check it out here.

"Omas Sextet" has been produced with Reginald and apparently with some more family members. It is a fine new Jazz production with laid back beats, frisky percussion and relaxed keys.

Joe Armon-Jones – Starting Today

Keyboarder Joe Armon-Jones, who is one of the driving forces behind Ezra Collective and who draw my attention with his collaboration with Maxwell Orwin in 2017, released with "Starting Today" his own-name debut this year. Seemingly, he brought the best of the young London scene to the studio, with  Nubya Garcia on the sax, Ezra Collectives Dylan Jones on the trumpet, Moses Boyd on the drums and Oscar Jerome on the guitar. A blend of Afro, Dub and Spiritual Jazz hits the floor.

Maisha – There is a place

After their 2016 debut album "Welcome to A New Welcome" on Jazz re:freshed, Maisha has released a brilliant follow-up in 2018 on Brownswood Records. Maisha is a Spiritual Jazz combo, formed by some of Londons most notable young generation Jazzists. This includes drummer Jake Long, guitarist Shirley Tetteh or Saxophonist Nubya Garcia, who had an extraordinarily productive year in 2018. Thanks to Maisha, Spiritual Jazz gets a new notion and a fresh breeze.

Mildlife – Phase

This is the second release of Mildlife, a psych-funk-jazz quartet from Melbourne, Australia. Synth chords combine funky guitar and a daydream voice. Or, how the review in the Guardian puts it: Here are four musicians on guitar, bass, drums and analogue synths pretending it was 1974 and that brown was the most kaleidoscopic colour.

MND FLO – From Time

While new tendencies in Jazz in 2018 arguably came to a large extend from London, MND FLO was for me the most notable newcomer from the US. The quartet, that met in the Berkley College of Music in Boston, convinces with an interesting self-produced debut this year. MND FLO is a formation with a well established musical concept, where one can literally hear how individual musicians harmonise blindly. The compositions are melodic and laid back, and every single tone seems to fit. It is a very promising debut.

Moses Boyd – Displaced Diaspora

Moses Boyd is one of the key musicians in Londons uprising Jazz and beyond scene. He emerged, like many of the new generation UK Jazz artists, from Gary Crosbys Tomorrow´s Warriors development program, where he got to know many musicians he kept working with during the years. In this setup he put hands on many Jazz projects in recent years, as a drummer or producer.

"Displaced Diaspora" is a collection of projects and productions he had a leading role in during the last couple of years. It reflects his full musical spectrum and artistic diversity.

Nubya Garcia – When We Are

2018 was an extraordinary year for Tenor Saxophonist Nubya Garcia. She featured on five out of the nine tracks of Brownswood´s celebrated "We Out Here" compilation,  toured with standout artists like Makaya McCraven or Joe Armon-Jones, and is certainly one of the best connected artists from the young London Jazz crowd. Already the 2017 debut EP "Nubya's 5ive" was an outstanding release, her 2018 EP "When We Are" shows more maturity and artistic diversity.

I love the solid base line, particularly on "When we are", which builds the groundwork for Nubyas engaging solos which will gradually develop into explosive freakouts. The four-track-EP is simply brilliant. I´m dying for more.

RAWS​:​LA – Raw and Low Creation

Makkaya McCraven has put himself on the map as a beat scientist in various Jazz and beyond formations. With "Universal Beings", the drummer, composer and arranger from Chicago has released a good album in fall 2018, which also has been well received among Jazz critics.

However, something the Jazz world has largely missed in 2017 is RAWS:LA, one of Makkaya McCravens side projects with guitarist Jeff Parker from Tortoise, Justin Thomas on the vibraphone and bass player Benjamin Shepard who among others worked with Kendrick Lamar. All tracks on the album "Raw and Low Creation" are improvised and spontaneous compositions, played and recorded on the spot in a small live venue in Tokyo. I only discovered that album in 2018, and the record seems to have slipped completely below the radar of the Jazz press. But it is definitively one of the most brilliant works I´ve listened to in 2018.

Sons Of Kemet – Your Queen Is A Reptile

Stacey Kent – I Know I Dream

Toshio Matsuura Group – LOVEPLAYDANCE 8 Scenes from the Floor

Wojtek Mazolewski – Polka

Yazmin Lacey – When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees

Yazmin Lacey is a soul-Jazz artist from Nottingham, who released with "When The Sun Dips 90 Degrees" her second record after her last years debut. Having written and played in her bedroom for her whole life, it is only since 2014 that she formed a band and started to play shows. I just love the laidback beats and her soulful voice which bring immediately a relaxed smile to your face.

2 thoughts on “The best Jazz Albums 2018

  1. Playing many of these tracks here in Chicago @ Dorian’s. I don’t think that the RAWS tracks were released on LP (only on download). However. put together by my amigo King Hippo aka Alejandro Ayala. Nice listing.

    1. Hi Joseph
      Indeed, I guess RAWS is only available on download.
      PS: This Dorian´s seems a great bar & record shop. Have to pay you a visit if I make it to Chicago.

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