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2015

Ahmad Jamal Live in Marciac August 5th 2014 Jazz Village JV 570078.79 Ahmad Jamal (p), Reginald Veal (b), Herlin Riley (d) and Monolo Badrena (perc). Rec. 5 August 2014 As Keith Shadwick observed, Jamal ‘used space in preference to bustle, and melodic and harmonic lucidity rather than jumble’. Those same preferences are still very much in evidence on this live set, recorded by the octogenarian pianist and his wonderfully lithe rhythm section in France last year. There can be few more coolly groovy jazz minimalists than Jamal, whose remarkable defining sense of relaxed-yettaut ensemble dynamics remains undiminished by the passing years. It’s a magnificent, life-affirming performance, also captured on film. Robert Shore

Cécile McLorin Salvant For One to Love Mack Avenue MAC1095 CŽ cile McLorin Salvant (v, p), Aaron Diehl (p), Paul Sikivie (b) and Lawrence Leathers (d). Rec. date not stated For One to Love sees Cécile McLorin Salvant take her audience on another engrossing journey of discovery. If her critically acclaimed WomanChild deliberately eschewed songs about love, this follow-up basks in it, while sharing the earlier album’s fascinatingly different choice of repertoire. Penning five of the album’s 12 songs, McLorin Salvant’s album opener ‘Fog’ seems almost painterly, and hearing the singer’s endlessly sustained opening words (‘Love appeared’) you’re struck anew by the timbral richness of her voice. Peter Quinn

Michael Gibbs and the NDR Big Band Play A Bill Frisell Set List Cuneiform Rune 400 The NDR Big Band featuring Christof Lauer (ts), Fiete Felsch (as, ss), Ingolf Burkhardt (t), Klaus Heidenreich (tb), Vladislav Sendecki (p) and Jeff Ballard (d) with Bill Frisell (g). Rec. 26 October 2013 Every song bar Gil Evans’ ‘Las Vegas Tango’ is out of Frisell’s playlist, but Gibbs sometimes cheekily, sometimes darkly, re-pitches them in new contexts. Gibbs’ ability to arrange in precise detail yet create great plains of space sets Frisell off dramatically on a sumptuous ‘You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away’, but it’s ‘On The Lookout/ Faraway’ with its surging sea drifts of brass rising and falling against Frisell’s meditative voicings that we know we are in the midst of something unique. Andy Robson

Polar Bear Same As You The Leaf Label 8431900099824 Seb Rochford (d, perc, v), Mark Lockheart, Pete Wareham, Shabaka Hutchings (ts), Tom Herbert (b), Leafcutter John (g, electronics), Asar Mikael and Hannah Darling (v). Rec. April 2014 Polar Bear’s sixth album is the most emotionally engaging music I’ve heard from them. Though recorded in London, Seb Rochford’s relocation to the Mojave Desert to mix surely added to its haunting ambience. ‘Unrelenting Unconditional’ begins a ritual climax, in which a sax pans past like a freight-train in the night, the instrument’s siren-calls elsewhere become highregister screams, and a wild dog barks. The effect is meditative, dislocating and gripping all at once. Nick Hasted

Nat Birchall Invocations Jazzman JMANCD 082 Nat Birchall (ts, bells, shakers, v), Adam Fairhall (p), Tim Fairhall (b), Johnny Hunter (d), Christian Weaver (congas, batta drum, shekere, bells, shakers) and John Ellis (v). Rec. 12 November 2014 A tweak of the personnel in Birchall’s latest ensemble brings a subtle but resonant shift in his fertile seam of late Coltraneinspired spiritual jazz. Pianist Adam Fairhall is present once again, providing questing solos that frequently occupy the first post-head slot, setting a serious-as-yourlife mood for Birchall to delve into. Birchall, for his part, is firmly in control with an unshakeable sincerity. He’s playing with more elegance than ever, offering wide, hollering outpourings of emotion and delicately controlled overblowing that bespeaks a fragile yearning. Daniel Spicer

The best music of 2015 33

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