Here are the best albums of jazz artists released in 2018

With Alexa lurking in the ether ready to grant our every musical wish, it has never been easier to access a vast musical universe. But the same technology that makes it the best time for listeners has diverted money from the artists who make the music we love, undermining their ability to create and document their work.

Cellist and composer Zoe Keating, an ardent musician’s rights activist and advocate for transparency, revealed that Spotify paid her around $ 10,000 for around 2.6 million streams in 2017. To get the same amount through the sale of CDs, she would only have to peddle around 750 copies.

Considering the intimidating calculations and the weak negotiating position musicians find themselves in with streaming services, it’s almost a miracle that artists continue to record albums. In the jazz world in particular, releasing a CD is often no better than a gamble as the attention it generates could lead to more and better gigs.

But another major motivation for creating a jazz album, although musicians don’t often put it so bluntly, is to engage in an ongoing conversation with peers from the past, present, and future. As part of an ever-changing exchange, an album sends vibrations through time and space, creating ripples that cannot be predicted or limited. And there have been a lot of nice vibes like this released this year. Here are my favorites, in alphabetical order.

Tiffany Austin “Unbroken” (Con Alma Music)
A singer endowed with a beautiful sound and a penetrating musical vision, Tiffany Austin, based in Berkeley, establishes herself as a major talent with her second album, an intelligent, well conceived and often moving project. Working with a leading team of musicians drawn primarily from New York City, she conjures up a resilient and invigorating world of African-American music in all of its brilliant humanity, encompassing country dances and prayer services, protest marches and demonstrations. revelry in nightclubs, repression and transcendence.

Electric Squeezebox Orchestra “The Falling Dream” (OA2 Records)
Under the able direction of East Bay trumpeter Erik Jekabson, this talented big band has honed a full book of impressive original material during a series of weekly residencies. Starring special guest percussionist John Santos, the band’s second album is bolstered with memorable tracks and striking solos from pillars like baritone saxophonist Charlie Gurke, alto saxophonist Sheldon Brown, tenor saxophonist Mike Zilber and trumpeter Darren Johnston (all renowned conductors themselves).

Masaru Koga “Flower Fire” (Vegamusic-USA)

A creative force on the Bay Area scene for more than two decades, San Francisco saxophonist, flautist and shakuhachi player Masaru Koga has played a vital role in a variety of culturally brewing groups. On his debut album as a frontman, he creates his own jazz statement and beyond with glowing melodies delivered by stellar improvisers such as pianist Dahveed Behroozi, percussionist Jimmy Biala, bassist Ken Okada, drummer Bryan Bowman and guitarist Tim Volpicella.

Steven Lugerner SLUGish Ensemble “An Eight of Nine” (Slow & Steady)
San Francisco multi-wind player Steve Lugerner has brought together an array of talent for a set of instrumental arrangements of dectets focused on indie rock songs from artists such as Wye Oak, My Brightest Diamond, The Velvet Teen. and Beach House. You don’t have to know the original sources (I’m not) to marvel at the pithy beauty of these pieces, which function less as vehicles for solos than as brilliant, extravagant chamber works that challenge constantly gravity.

The Snowy Egret by Myra Melford “The Other Side of the Air” (Firehouse 12)
Berkeley pianist / songwriter Myra Melford writes music brimming with possibilities, suggesting cries of blues and heavenly chimes, ecstatic prayers and whispered confidences. Surrounding herself with some of jazz’s most exquisite instrumental vocals, including cornettist Ron Miles, guitarist Liberty Ellman, drummer Tyshawn Sorey and bassist Stomu Takeishi, she lets Snowy Egret fly and soar over the band’s second album, in using the compositions as maps for impromptu trips. in kingdoms of unpredictable forms.

Jemal Ramirez “African Skies” (Joyful Beat Records)
There aren’t many opportunities to catch San Jose drummer Jemal Ramirez in performance these days, but he’s doing a fantastic job in the studio, including his second outing with a star-studded Bay Area cast. playing improvised versions of standards (“Speak Low” and “Save Your Love For Me”) and recent jazz tunes (“It Always Is” by Tom Harrell and “Youthful Bliss” by Christian McBride). With the late bassist John Shifflett, saxophonist Howard Wiley, pianist Matthew Clark, trumpeter Mike Olmos (and SFJazz Collective vibraphonist Warren Wolf as sole ringer), the esteemed ensemble brings laid-back authority and abundant energy to a program. which invites repeated listening.https: //

Joshua Redman “Till Dreaming” (Nonesuch)
Since the start of his career as a conductor, Berkeley saxophonist Joshua Redman has assiduously avoided the music associated with his legendary father Dewey Redman until he brought together this powerful quartet to explore the tunes associated with the band. alumni of Ornette Coleman Old and New Dreams. Starring drummer Brian Blade, bassist Scott Colley and cornet player Ron Miles, “Still Dreaming” intersects original tracks with foundational tunes from Dewey, Charlie Haden and Don Cherry, playing fierce, visceral and quicksilver music that takes root in the earth while rising up to the heavens.

Edward Simon “Sorrows and Triumphs” (Sunnyside)
As a longtime member of the SFJazz Collective, East Bay pianist Ed Simon has plenty of opportunities to write and arrange for larger arrangements, but these chamber jazz works featuring the five musicians Imani Winds and his Afinidad quartet (alto saxophonist David Binney, bassist Scott Colley and drummer Brian Blade) represent some of his most lively and ambitious writings. The music is deeply imbued with Simon’s Venezuelan heritage and the entire Caribbean Basin, with luscious orchestrations that don’t sacrifice rhythmic vitality.

Kristen Strom “Moving Day: The Music of John Shifflett” (OA2 Records)
The unexpected death of San Jose bassist John Shifflett in the spring of 2017 left many members of the San Jose Bay area music scene behind and raised the appalling prospect that his rarely played music would languish without being heard. Longtime friend and colleague, reed expert and flautist Kristen Strom has brought together some of her most striking tunes and a stellar cast of South Bay musicians for an album that reveals Shifflett as a songwriter with a marked expansive melodic vision. by a dry mind and shameless emotion. Release.

Denny Zeitlin “Wishing on the Moon” (Sunnyside)
The ensemble of North Bay Piano Maestro Denny Zeitlin with bassist Buster Williams and drummer Matt Wilson is one of the most engaging trios in jazz, but the group doesn’t have many opportunities to perform of our days. Marked by hyper intuitive interaction and effervescent joy, this particularly strong live date was captured in a Dizzy’s Club Coca-Cola in 2009. ”the trio turns each piece into an irresistible adventure.

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Brass Magic “Fanfare” (slow and constant)
George Brooks Elements “The Alchemy” (Earth Brother Music)
Sheldon Brown Group “Blood of the Air” (Edgetone Records)
George Cotsirilos “Mostly In Blue” (OA2 Records)
Ben Goldberg and Michael Coleman “Practitioner” (BAG Productions)
Benny Green “So and Now” (Sunnyside Records)
Alan Hall “Heroes, Saints and Clowns” (Ridgeway Records)
Richard Howell and the sudden changes “Coming of Age-Mangaku” (IYOUWE) *
David K. Mathews “The Fantastic Vocal Sessions, Vol. 1 ”(Effendi Records) *
Anne Sajdera “New Year” (Bijuri Records)
John Schott Real Trio “ACT II”
Hristo Vitchev “Of light and shadows” (music of the sounds of the first orbit)
* Full Disclosure: I wrote cover notes for these albums.

Ada J. Kenney