20 songs, 1hr 29 min, 12 min reading time.
I’ve acquired another 75 or so albums since the last one on this list, so hopefully I’ll get my act together a bit quicker than this time and get you another lot a bit more promptly!
1) “Saturday Club” – Corduroy
Corduroy’s return to recording new material after nearly 20 years was a delightful surprise. If it was slightly disappointing that the album mostly consisted of the sort of pastiche instrumentals with which they started their career, Saturday Club was amongst the vocal gems.
Album: “Return of the Fabric Four” (2018)
Label: Acid Jazz Records
2) “Yours Sincerely” – The Colourfield
It was only upon buying the Japanese issue of The Colour Field’s sublime 1985 album Virgins And Philistines (containing the one hit everyone remembers, Thinking Of You), that I realised the US issue with which I’d been making do didn’t contain the track Yours Sincerely. When it came on, I had a Proustian shiver as I realised I probably hadn’t heard the song for nearly 30 years.
Album: “Virgins and Philistines” (1985)
Label: Chrysalis Records
3) “A Little Gossip” – Eliane Elias
The wonderful Brazilian pianist has in recent years focused almost entirely on vocal albums. Her singing is mediocre, her piano playing a vibrant joy. So the release of the entirely instrumental album ‘Music From Man Of La Mancha’ was thoroughly welcome.
Album: “Music From Man Of La Mancha” (2018)
Label: Concord Jazz
4) “All the Things You Are / Serpentine Fire” – Geoffrey Keezer Trio
A new Geoffrey Keezer album is always a reason to celebrate. If it can be done on a piano Keezer can do it, from hard bop to elegant solo work. Here, he segues from Jerome Kern into Earth, Wind And Fire. As you do.
Album: “On My Way to You” (2018)
Label: MarKeez Records
5) “Strangers on a Street” – Mamas Gun
Mamas Gun are a laid back, soulful band whose albums feel like they could have been recorded at any time in the last 50 years. This is such a warm, comforting sound.
Album: “Golden Days” (2018)
Label: Monty Music
6) “Lovin U More” – Lewis Taylor
One of the great lost soul voices, somehow Lewis Taylor never made it big, despite the acclaim afforded his solo releases. Indeed, he retired from being a solo performer in 2006.
Album: “Stoned, Pt. 1” (2002)
Label: Slow Reality
7) “Down On The Corner” – Dave Weckl Band
I first heard Dave Weckl backing Michel Camilo at Ronnie Scott’s. Camilo is no slouch as a performer, but there were people there who had gone just to see Weckl. This is a drummer who can hold his own performing with the GRP All-Star Big Band, after all.
Album: “Multiplicity” (2005)
Label: Stretch Records
The British saxophonist Tim Garland is endlessly inventive and productive, as evidenced by this album of orchestral music performed with the Northern Sinfonia and Chick Corea, no less. Rosa Ballerina is a beautiful tune written for his daughter which he has recorded several times in different arrangements.
Album: “The Mystery” (2007)
9) ” Play To Win – Remastered” – Heaven 17
Penthouse And Pavement seems to have received a critical reassessment in recent years. Hard to believe it’s nearly 40 years old. Funny to learn how John Wilson – whose sound absolutely dominates tracks like Play To Win – became part of the process by complete fluke.
Album: “Penthouse And Pavement” (1981)
Label: Virgin Records
I’ve heard enough dreadful cover versions of Stevie Wonder songs to know that if you’re going to do it, at least try something different. Not a problem for Jacob Collier. This won’t be to everyone’s taste, but as a huge Stevie Wonder fan since I was 14, I think it’s lovely.
Album: “Regina” (2017)
Label: Ground Up Music
I believe just moments ago I wrote that Geoffrey Keezer can do anything. Proving my point, here he is as a subtle accompanist to the sadly mediocre vocalist Kelley Johnson, with a perfectly judged solo kicking in at about 2.40.
Album: “Music is the Magic” (2005)
Label: Sapphire Records
12) “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” – Gil Scott-Heron
I’m not sure why Gil Scott-Heron isn’t wider known. His spoken-word pieces combined jazz and soul with social and political awareness, and his influence on rap is gargantuan. The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was released in 1971. 1971! Eight full years before Rapper’s Delight supposedly gave birth to the rap genre.
Album: “Pieces Of A Man” (1971)
Label: Ace Records
13) “On The Boulevard” – The Manhattan Transfer
I have a relationship of almost cognitive dissonance with The Manhattan Transfer. Their doo-wop, 1930s style material leaves me completely cold, but throughout their career they’ve also recorded songs by great modern songwriters like Rod Temperton, Donald Fagen (who gave them the wonderful Confide In Me) and, as here, Jay Graydon.
Album: “Mecca For Moderns” (1981)
Label: Craft Recordings
14) “Song For My Father” – Horace Silver
Talking of the great Fagen, anyone who has heard ‘Rikki Don’t Lose That Number’ will hear here how influenced by the jazz of the 1960s Steely Dan were.
Album: “Song For My Father” (1999)
Label: Blue Note Records
15) “The Well’s Gone Dry” – The Crusaders
And on the subject of musical appropriation, I had no idea until I bought The Crusaders’ Southern Comfort that Chemical Brothers had lifted the bass for Block Rockin’ Beats.
Album: “Southern Comfort” (1974)
Label: The Verve Music Group
16) “I’ll Remember April” – Phineas Newborn Jr.
I discovered Phineas Newborn Jr. when Geoffrey Keezer mentioned him as a big influence. He’s something of a forgotten name in jazz, sadly, even though Oscar Peterson once said of him “If I had to choose the best all-around pianist of anyone who’s followed me chronologically, unequivocally… I would say Phineas Newborn Jr.”
Album: “Fabulous Phineas” (1958)
Label: BMG Music
After such a long wait – 26 years – it’s fair to say that CHIC’s album appropriately entitled ‘It’s About Time’ was a bit of a let down. Too many guest artists, and remaking ‘I Want Your Love’ with Lady Gaga on vocals was sacrilege. That said, it did hit occasional highs, as here.
Album: “It’s About Time” (2018)
Label: Nile Rodgers Productions
18) “Broken People” – Ole Børud
You want versatile, you’ve got to hand it to Ole Børud. He has played in hard rock, heavy metal and hardcore punk bands, and yet his solo career covers pop, funk, and jazz styles. This wears its West Coast influences very clearly.
Album: “Keep Movin” (2011)
19) “Last Rites of Rock ‘n’ Roll” – Joshua Redman
Joshua Redman is a fabulously versatile saxophonist. Don’t be put off by the squawky opening minute here, once it gets going he really swings.
Album: “Beyond” (2000)
Label: Warner Records
20) “It’s Alright With Me” – Holly Cole
Holly Cole has always had an interesting approach, whether in her choice of material (she made an entire album of Tom Waits covers, for example), or her approach to old standards. Here’s her take on Cole Porter.
Album: “Holly Cole” (2007)
Label: Tradition & Moderne