Radka Toneff & Steve Dobrogosz
Norway's best selling jazz album of all-time is a lilting affair laced, as its title suggests, with the country's folk influences. Tragically, vocalist Radka Toneff committed suicide weeks after its original release. Regular pianist Steve Dobrogosz forms the other half of the duo, playing with restraint suitable to Toneff's quavering fragility.
The Spirits of Our Ancestors
Pianist Randy Weston set out to make an album reflecting the traditional music he had heard in Morocco using local musicians. The plan fell through due to the Gulf War and instead he moved the project to New York and recruited the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Pharoah Sanders, Dewey Redman, Idris Muhammad and Idrees Sulieman.
Lebanese oud player Rabih Abou-Khalil enlists the help of trumpeter Kenny Wheeler to produce a stunning mix of Middle-Eastern sounds and modern jazz. It's so good that AllMusic reviewer Kurt Keefner said, "In both mood and scope, it can almost be characterised as a new Kind of Blue." Maybe not quite so lofty, but outstanding nonetheless.
Buena Vista Social Club
Buena Vista Social Club
Ry Cooder was the catalyst for bringing together some of Cuba's most renown jazz musicians and - as old as some of them were - their spirits were still well and truly alive. Vocalist Ibrahim Ferrer and pianist Rubén González are standouts. The ensuing concert tours are now legendary, especially for any lucky enough to catch one.
The Prosthetic Cubans
Using the Latin backing band Los Cubanos Postizos, guitarist Marc Ribot brought modern sensibilities to traditional Cuban jazz in this tribute to experimental composer Arsenio Rodriguez. The more relaxed tracks on the album are the most pleasing, but the others have plenty to offer too, particularly the original composition Postizo.
2009 [Real World]
English outfit Portico Quartet play a soothing blend of modern creative jazz. Percussionist Duncan Bellamy provides the group with some distinction courtesy of the Hang, a Swiss invention that involves two steel sheets that are glued together to look a bit like a UFO. Well deserving of their meteoric rise in the international jazz world.
Lloyd Miller & the Heliocentrics
The perfect pairing of ethnomusicologist Dr. Lloyd Miller with UK collective The Heliocentrics makes for a listening experience that is hard to beat. This infectious brew of jazz with traditional Asian sounds might appear like kitsch on the surface, but when mastered like this is quite simply… well… groovy. What is there not to like?
Pianist Tigran Hamasyan's music is strongly influenced by Armenian folk tradition, and Shadow Theater is almost certainly his most jazz-oriented and most pleasing album. Mark F. Turner's review for All About Jazz commented that, "...the common thread is the inventive way the music balances ethnicity with a modernist verve."
Black to the Future
Sons of Kemet
Led by Shabaka Hutchings, the release of Sons of Kemet's fourth album was met with widespread critical acclaim and quickly gained popularity with jazz audiences. This time around Hutchings abandons his saxophones for reeds and woodwinds, combining Latin and African influences into an at times very funky blend of avant-garde jazz.
Tenor saxophonist Nubya Garcia joins the London jazz explosion with this worldly sounding concoction of original music. Allmusic's Thom Jurek states, "Source, with its adventurous, kinetic, and sophisticated approach in wedding modern composition, improvisation, and production to rhythmic and harmonic traditions, is one of the very best." Fully agree.
Top 100 (Pre-1980)
Next 100 (Pre-1980)
Top 100 (Post-1980)
The Swing Era
Post-War Big Bands
West Coast Cool
More Hard Bop
The Explosive 60s
The Creative 70s
Twists & Turns
The ECM Sound
Keys to Jazz
Keep on Singin'