Jazz News

November 21, 2019

BMQ Tops the Jazzwise: Top 20 Jazz Albums of 2019

Mike Flynn & Alyn Shipton

The ultimate guide to the year's best new jazz albums as voted for by Jazzwise's peerless panel of reviewers – including the complete original Jazzwise reviews.

"If this isn’t a candidate for record of the year from many reviewers, I’ll be very surprised…” so began Alyn Shipton’s prescient five-star review of the Branford Marsalis Quartet's The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul in the April issue of Jazzwise, and what do you know, as the scores rolled in, so it proved to be. With star names, newcomers and a few jazz legends, our end-of-year Top 20s demonstrate peak creativity levels among contemporary artists, as well as archival aces aplenty. With 10 points awarded to No.1 and one point awarded to No.10 in each writer’s chart – we’ve done the maths so you can just enjoy the music!  Mike Flynn

The Secret Between the Shadow and the Soul
Okeh/Marsalis Music

Branford Marsalis, (ss, ts), Joey Calderazzo (p), Eric Revis (b) and Justin Faulkner (d). Rec. May 28-30 2018

If this isn’t a candidate for record of the year from many reviewers, I’ll be very surprised. It’s an object lesson in how an established group can dig deeper into musical and emotional resources than many a short-lived ensemble, however starry the personnel. It’s grounded, harks back to the tradition, looks forward to new ideas, yet has a confident perfection that is extremely rare.

The heart of the album is in the ballad playing. ‘Conversation Among The Ruins’ (written by Calderazzo) has not only a dazzling piano solo but some delicately poised playing from Marsalis on soprano that isn’t afraid to explore beauty and melodic richness. ‘Cianna’, also by Calderazzo, is slowish, but has one of those themes you feel you’ve heard before, it so insidiously becomes an earworm, with Branford on tenor this time. The best ballad playing on the album is in Revis’s composition ‘Nilaste’ which seems to evoke heartbreak and beauty at the same time. Not all the meters or rhythms are straightforward, but so assured is the playing that even the most complex settings sound entirely natural. And just a few bars of the quartet’s version of Keith Jarrett’s ‘The Windup’ is enough to put a smile on one’s face and relive the visceral experience of this band playing live. And within its catchy, funky setting, this track manages to combine moments of improvisational freedom, perfectly demonstrating why this is one of the most compelling live bands on the planet. Alyn Shipton

Read the full list of Jazz Albums of 2019