Jazz 100
The Best of 2015
The Best Jazz Ever Released Digitally


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The Epic
Kamasi Washington
2015 [Brainfeeder] 3CDs


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Purposely harking back to the early-1970s, this 3-disc retro-spiritual funky-soul set sounds like the newest thing in jazz to younger listeners. Kamasi Washington is an L.A.-based tenor who knows how to package himself. Fortunately, he also knows a thing or two about composing and arranging music. A popular album with nice jazz creds.





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Bird Calls
Rudresh Mahanthappa
2015 [ACT]


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This all-original set from by New York-based sax-man Rudresh Mahanthappa takes its inspiration from the music of legendary bop alto-saxophonist Charlie 'Bird' Parker. The approach taken is to deconstruct the more adventurous elements of Parker's music and infuse them with influences of Indian raga, funk and post-bop. It works.





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The Thompson Fields
Maria Schneider Orchestra
2015 [ArtistShare]


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This set may be one of Maria Schneider's more reflective outings, but it is never dull. Schneider's childhood roots in rural Minnesota provide the inspiration for a dazzling ecologically-themed set, with regular cohorts pianist Frank Kimbrough, and saxophonists Donny McCaslin and Scott Robinson on hand providing seemingly intuitive support. Nice stuff.





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Made in Chicago
Jack DeJohnette
2015 [ECM]


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Recorded live at the 2013 Chicago Jazz Festival, this record reunites drummer Jack DeJohnette with Muhal Richard Abrams, Roscoe Mitchell and Henry Threadgill from the city's AACM artistic movement of the 1960s and '70s. Whilst all of them have mellowed since the heyday of the avant-garde, this fine effort proves they have not been tamed.





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III
Bixiga 70
2015 [Glitterbeat]


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Brazilian group Bixiga 70 is proving that Afrobeat is alive and well. Moreover, this glittering effort shows it is moving ahead in leaps and bounds. This music pays tribute to the late Fela Kuti… the Nigerian musician and human rights activist who pioneered the Afrobeat sub-genre. Caution: This music incites physical activity!





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Epicenter
Chris Lightcap's Bigmouth
2015 [Clean Feed]


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Bassist Chris Lightcap may not be able to slip under the radar for too much longer if he keeps making records like this. Keyboardist Craig Taborn is prominent in this set of seven originals and a cover. The one non-original is a sensational version of the Velvet Underground's 'All Tomorrow's Parties'. Nico and John Cale would no doubt approve.





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Mockroot
Tigran Hamasyan
2015 [Nonesuch]


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Pianist Tigran Hamasyan's combination of originals and vibrant new arrangements of Armenian folk songs on this record has made more than a few sit up and take notice. The Guardian's John Fordham comments that, "Hamasyan’s vibrant, jazz-inflected and uninhibited angle on world-music has a very personal feel." Feels good.





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Dança dos Tempos
Fabiano do Nascimento
2015 [Now Again]


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The debut album from young Brazilian guitarist Fabiano do Nascimento features legendary percussionist Airto Moreira in his first album project in over ten years. Although hard to pigeonhole, there are definite elements of samba-jazz, bossa nova and folkloric Brazilian music to be found here. Recorded live in the studio with no overdubs and minimal mastering.





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Kalthoum
Ibrahim Maalouf
2015 [Impulse!]


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Born in Lebanon and now living in Paris, trumpeter Ibrahim Maalouf set out to make a record celebrating, "…women whose artistic influence has had an impact that reaches all the way down to our lives today." With this goal in mind, he chose to interpret an hour-long song by legendary Egyptian diva Oum Kalthoum. The result is stunning.





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Into Forever
Matthew Halsall & The Gondwana Orchestra
2015 [Gondwana]


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Manchester-based trumpeter Matthew Halsall expands his line-up to notably include a string quartet and the soul poetry of vocalist Josephine Oniyama. Although the band is bigger this time around, the music is best described as minimalist spiritual jazz. The sound is pure and refreshing, with Halsall doing just the right thing at just the right time.


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