I recently wrote a post on some of the albums of the last year or so that I’ve kept returning to. There are a few recent jazz (for want of a better word) releases that I’m really enjoying and keep returning to that I’ve wanted to write about for a while. So without further ado…
First up is the latest album by the Canadian quartet Badbadnotgood, which must surely be one of the coolest band names out there. Released in July, IV is, as you’d expect, the band’s fourth album. IV is mostly an instrumental album and could just as easily be described as a hip-hop album (as opposed to a jazz album). The album has a retro feel about it while at the same time sounding fresh and modern. It’s a good combination. Killer tracks include Speaking Gently, Confessions Pt.2 and Lavender. Check them and the others out. The album includes three vocal tracks. In my experience the odd vocal track on a largely instrumental album is often the weakest track on the album. Not so here. The three tracks really add something to the album and the track In Your Eyes, featuring Charlotte Day Wilson, is one of the best tracks on the album and will surely find itself on some of the better chill-out compilations out there. For my money it has to be a contender for one of the best albums of 2016.
Next up is Cliff Hangin’ by Eli Degibri, which received five stars in a recent Downbeat review. I don’t slavishly follow Downbeat’s recommendations but when they award an album with five stars it’s invariably worth checking out, which I did. Cliff Hangin’ is clearly a jazz album and what I’d call a straight-ahead affair. The album features Degibri on tenor and soprano saxophones, the rest of his quartet consisting of fellow Israeli musicians on piano, bass and drums. The standard of musicianship on the album is second-to-none, Degibri himself having played with Herbie Hancock for a number of years. Degibri has killer chops but plays with a warmth and joy which is often hard to capture on record. What stands out for me, however, are the tunes. Unlike a number of jazz albums this one has tunes which are actually recognisable and which you can hum along to. Stand out tracks for me include the album opener, The Troll, Cliff Hangin’ itself and Shesh Besh. Highly recommended.
Last up is Rob Garcia’s Finding Love in an Oligarchy on a Dying Planet. While Badbadnotgood walk away with best band name, Rob Garcia surely walks away with best album name. Garcia is a Brooklyn-based drummer and this release finds him surrounded by other prominent New York-based musicians including Noah Preminger (sax), Gary Versace (piano) and Masa Kamaguchi (bass). Like BBNG’s IV, Garcia’s album features a number of guests, including Joe Lovano on tenor saxophone, Kate McGarry, vocals, and Brendan Burke, also vocals. Like IV, the vocal tracks are some of the best on the album. The plaintive People are Everything featuring McGarry is a stand-out track as is Mac N Cheese on which Burke vents about the state of the world, including bank fees, dead bees and trees. The stand out track for me though is the Charlie Mingus-like Terror, Fear and Media which features wicked solos from the Preminger, Versace and Garcia. The album is a concept one of sorts, chockful of decent tunes and with each band member playing their socks off, though I think it’d be fair to say that the album is less accessible than the two featured above.
There’s something here I hope for almost all tastes. If you like what you hear or even if you don’t like what you hear, then let me know!