2021 Jazz Albums Tour with Chris Searle

OF ALL the jazz albums that burst in 2021, my favorite is They’re all on that old road (Ogun Records), recorded in London in 1976, and starring two late protean masters, saxophonist Elton Dean, the son of the Salvation Army pillars of Nottingham, and pianist Keith Tippett, whose father was a policeman from Bristol.

Surprising jazz origins perhaps, but from such roots arose their distinct musical genius, and playing in a quartet with British bassist Chris Lawrence and Cape Louis Drums supremo Moholo-Moholo, they created a record of a powerful and historic dynamism.

Dean combines an extraordinary attack on the opening Edeeupub and Dede-Bup-Bup with a tender lyricism on ballads like Nancy with the Laughing Face and Naima de Coltrane.

Tippett’s keyboard flourishes and the starburst solo seems tied to Dean’s streaming alto horn and saxello, Lawrence plays with deep and touching artistry and the brilliantly inventive Moholo-Moholo brings and mixes Africa in this live mix of London.

The quartet transforms a song associated with Billie Holiday, Easy Living, into a free hymn of enormous excitement. Here, the spirits of musical heroes of the past unite in a haunting session of sonic wonders.

Daniel Herskedal is a tuba and bass trumpet virtuoso, born in Molde, Norway, in 1982.

His Call for winter (Edition Records) is a solo masterpiece, an evocation of the Scandinavian winter played with fertile artistry and a deep feeling, as if jazz is looking for new origins.

Herskedal’s lucid notes wrap around Lynx Tracks and in Glacier Hiking he emits a sound so unique that the northern skies resonate with the depth of his breath.

In Ice Crystals, he duets with his over-doubled self in a blue blizzard of haunting, chilling stamps. Amazing music, superbly played.

Slowly (Sunnyside Records) is Noah Haidu’s 75th birthday tribute to stellar pianist Keith Jarrett, forced into retirement by illness after decades of groundbreaking solo and trio performances.

Haidu plays alongside griots and jazz pioneers; bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart.

It is an album of lyrical beauty, sometimes borrowed, and Jarrett’s pianist, struck by the blow, lucidly continues in the art and the instrumental emotion of his heir.

Williams composed the serene levitating Air Dancing and Hart the shrill Duchess and the fascinating Lorca, a tribute to the great playwright.

Jarrett’s love for standards is reflected in the trio’s optimism in their evocative versions of What a Difference a Day Made, Georgia and But Beautiful.

But it’s when Haidu ties together two tunes, knitted together by the rhythmic compulsion of Williams and Hart – Jarrett’s Rainbow and his own Keith Jarrett, that this album finds its most inspired and profound moments, as if two pianists were just doing it. ‘a.

A resonant drum solo by Jim Bashford opens Woody Shaw’s Zoltan, the first track from the Xhosa Cole Quartet’s debut album, Know them, Know us (Stoney Lane Records).

Here are four sizzling young minds in great shape, with the incisive trumpet of Jay Phelps, the assured and grounded tenor saxophone of Cole and the dancing bass of James Owston.

Let’s move on to the Blues Connotation of Ornette with the full vocals of Phelps’ horn and the warm tone of Cole to the familiar melody of Rogers and Hart of Manhattan with guest pianist Reuben James.

Born in Birmingham, Cole knows and blows all about city life with his city buddy James and compatriot Brummie-horn Soweto Kinch whose alto saxophone joins us, with solos on On a Misty Night by Tadd Dameron and the Lee Morgan extravaganza, Untitled Boogaloo.

But for me, the pinnacle of the album is the quartet’s interpretation of Monk’s Played Twice, with its sudden bursts of booming Cole and Phelps notes: a bubbling sonic preface through 2022.


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