Top 5 jazz albums of 2016 blaze their own trail

Carol Banks Weber - AXS Contributor
By: AXS Contributor Dec 18, 2016
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The top five jazz albums of 2016 feature true originality, as the diverse artists march to the beat of their inner muses, bucking every trend and remaining firmly affixed to the genre that the rest of the world forgot.

They’re less likely to attract Grammy® attention, yet more likely to stay in your heart for the rest of your days. Their moving testaments go beyond what’s popular down to the DNA of a feeling that links us all.

One of the albums came out even earlier than 2016, yet still receives plenty of positive play. The others, well, see for yourself…

  • Colin Cannon’s 'Intermission (Farewell)'
    Colin Cannon’s slightly redacted March 21, 2016 album manages to be both infinitely melodic and elusively ambient. At first listen, the Berk
    Elizabeth Petronio

    Colin Cannon’s slightly redacted March 21, 2016 album manages to be both infinitely melodic and elusively ambient. At first listen, the Berklee-trained, multi-instrumental rebel seems to throw the kitchen sink at heavily sampled, multi-stylistic tracks from his own imagination. Cannon doesn’t hold back, sampling voices, conversations out of context loaded with emotional fervor, an old 1950s movie snack ad, then throwing them against the wall of a sweeping, haunting choir. Cannon’s third album features over 20 musicians for the original set-up, utilizing instruments such as a ukulele, string section, vibes, and the usual jazz suspects. Cannon’s hands are all over several guitars, synth and sound effects, and that ukulele.

    “I’ve posted all your real life characters here, all you goofy, f*cked up oddities of human beings — and besides you people, I don’t particularly care who else listens to this — it wasn’t made for them. Like all music, this is just another self-absorbed attempt to make a story out of everything, to make everything seem connected and designed, when in reality maybe nothing is… Well, maybe everything is… I wouldn’t know, so quit buggin’ me.”

    He may say (in the liner notes) that he doesn’t care what you think, but in his music, he cares very deeply.

    (March 2016)

  • Mark Wade Trio’s 'Event Horizon'
    Released in 2015, bassist Mark Wade’s debut jazz album with pianist Tim Harrison and drummer Scott Neumann continued to catch fire with more
    Kief Schladweiler

    Released in 2015, bassist Mark Wade’s debut jazz album with pianist Tim Harrison and drummer Scott Neumann continued to catch fire with more and more listeners and critics (he’s this year’s DownBeat “Reader’s Poll” choice). Everybody who listens to this original, nine-track, album falls in love with the possibilities of jazz in the modern world. An unlikely jazz hero, Wade jumps right in there with his own measured, classically enhanced, brilliant waves of jazz energy from start to finish, opening eyes and hearts. His is a bass that holds complicated beats while extrapolating a whirlwind of dreams on its own. Wade neither takes over or holds back, a feat in bass-speak. In a Sept. 20 interview with AXS, Wade said this about his intentions: “My concept for this record was one where all three members were equal as soloists and ensemble players. To me, that's when the trio format is at its best. Traditionally, the role of the bass player is that of the accompanist. One of the reasons I waited as long as I did to record, is that I wanted to really develop my voice as a soloist….” He does, changing the game for bassists everywhere.

    (Feb. 2015, self-produced)

  • Ariel Pocock’s 'Touchstone'
    Surrounded by monster jazz musicians — guitarist Julian Lage, drummer Eric Harland, saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Larry Grenadier — voca
    Photo courtesy of Christopher Drukker, used with permission

    Surrounded by monster jazz musicians — guitarist Julian Lage, drummer Eric Harland, saxophonist Seamus Blake, bassist Larry Grenadier — vocal newcomer Ariel Pocock, 22, stuns on her debut album with her vast expertise around several styles and confidence transforming covers with grace and wonder. A triple threat, Pocock is a deep-in-the-pocket pianist, singer, and songwriter. Most female jazz singers tend to tread lightly, opting for a pretty image over substance. Pocock is not that girl. A past winner of the Seattle-Kobe International Jazz Vocal Audition and the Essentially Ellington Competition, Pocock attacks the 12 original songs and covers like a pro, without compromising the pure essence of who she is: a starry-eyed ingénue with depth you’ve never imagined.

    (Sept. 2016, Justin Time Records)

  • Marcos Pin’s 'Broken Artist'
    Spanish jazz instructor, guitarist, and composer Marcos Pin uses only six original instrumentals to showcase his love of jazz, often in spit
    Photo courtesy of Marcos Pin, used with permission

    Spanish jazz instructor, guitarist, and composer Marcos Pin uses only six original instrumentals to showcase his love of jazz, often in spite of the personal hardships endured. “Each one of the pieces relates to a particular moment during the day where the Broken Artist (the main character) deeply meditates on a particular happening and emotion that we artists face and fight on a daily basis.” Living his art every day, Pin relies on the traditional quintet for his modern, hard-bop edge in the numbers that capture the feeling of emotion and motion throughout a day in the life of the broken artist. While nobody this side of Spain knows of Pin, those lucky enough to hear this album are immediately transported into the world of the working jazz musician pounding the pavement for his next chance, chasing that elusive gig, and agonizing about the loved ones left behind. What’s even more remarkable, Pin gets you to feel what that’s like.

    (May 2016, Free Code Jazz Records)

  • Jaimeo Brown Transcendence’s 'Work Songs'
    Jaimeo Brown is a hard-working, thinking man’s drummer and producer who sought to tell stories of the forgotten people of his ancestry. He s
    Photo courtesy of Jaimeo Brown, used with permission

    Jaimeo Brown is a hard-working, thinking man’s drummer and producer who sought to tell stories of the forgotten people of his ancestry. He started with the April 9, 2013 release of his new Transcendence, a high-concept, jazz/folk/hip-hop album surrounding the music of the Gee’s Bend Alabama quilters, harkening as far back as the 19th century. Beautiful, tragic music rose up out of necessity — to while away the hours and foster a sense of community, which Brown steadfastly respects in his time-honored research and the execution of his original, sampled, volumes. Work Songs expands on the theme of music during hard times to include other impoverished peoples in his second album, “a fabric woven of the forgotten voices of coal miners, Southern prisoners, gandy dancers, stonemasons, and cotton pickers rendered from our contemporary perspective. I find the remnants of African-American work songs in the majority of music America listens to today.” A lavish, living exhibit, Brown's Transcendence tracks 12 separate yet unified stories of hardship music.

    (Feb. 2016, Motéma Music): 





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