Kokoroko sounded fresh on their debut record, we heard a classic bebop set from the late, great Joe Harriott, and Charles Lloyd completed his three-part trio masterpiece
Hot live bands don’t always make hot records, but south London eight-piece Kokoroko nailed that transition with Could We Be More – a canny 15-track tapestry of the hip jazz references, updated Afrobeat and highlife vivacity, and seductive vocal hooks with which they charmed audiences from jazzers to Fela Kuti fans. Read the full review
Between the mid-1990s and his tragic accidental death in 2008, the Swedish pianist/composer Esbjörn Svensson gave classy piano-trio jazz an enthralling stadium-rock drama and drive. These delicate unaccompanied piano pieces, unreleased until now, show a contrastingly private Svensson – but with just the same vivid imagination and subtlety of touch.
A rare studio album from the still enthusiastically touring Sun Ra Arkestra, with the now 98-year-old leader and saxophonist Marshall Allen applying his late mentor Ra’s eclectic composing and intuitive free-harmonising methods to a fragmented 21st century. Allen’s own coolly sashaying Marshall’s Groove is a standout. Read the full review
Tel Aviv-born improviser and composer Oded Tzur’s unique tenor-sax whisper doesn’t come from mimicking saxophonists, but the ghostly sound of the bamboo bansuri flute and studying India’s raga forms. Word is spreading about his international quartet including New York drummer Johnathan Blake – this quietly distinctive set can only speed that up.
Jamaican alto saxophonist Joe Harriott was one of UK jazz’s brightest stars between the 1950s and 70s, a firebrand of a performer at home in free-improv and the bebop of Charlie Parker. He’s enthralling in the latter style on this sensitively remastered release of a classic live set.
That Israeli-born trumpeter/composer Avishai Cohen is a devoted Miles Davis admirer is evident in almost every sound he makes, but so is the independence of his imagination. Naked Truth is barely 40 minutes long, but it’s an exquisite piece of ensemble spontaneity, made with Cohen’s uncannily bonded regular quartet. Read the full review
A landmark multi-genre fusion project crafted by Chicago drummer-producer Makaya McCraven across seven years, In These Times is an amalgam of African American influences, and much more – segueing jazz, hip-hop, east European folk, classical strings and spoken word, in startling mixes of studio and live sounds. Read the full review
This recently unearthed 1973 New York live recording by Cecil Taylor and his quartet reveals a unique genius reaching his fearless prime, shared with like-minded legends of the cliffhanging art of flat-out free-jazz in saxophonist Jimmy Lyons, bassist Sirone and drummer Andrew Cyrille. Surging energy balanced with meticulous detail.
Jimi Hendrix was American guitarist/composer Mary Halvorson’s inspiration as a child. She has reinvented guitar improvisation in comparably radical ways, but also blossomed into a major contemporary composer. Avant-funk and warped swing, graceful classical-string sounds, headlong boppish grooves and more collide on these fearless but warmly communicative albums. Read the full review
The final album in the octogenarian master Charles Lloyd’s three-part series celebrates trio improvisation from fascinatingly different angles. Sacred Thread takes the most global stance, in these intriguing conversations between Lloyd’s vaporously lyrical tenor sax, flute, and oboe-like tárogató, Zakir Hussain’s whirlwind percussion and Julian Lage’s rich-textured guitar.