Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
In the following article, I explore five contemporary jazz albums that might be of interest to you, if you are into music. In the last couple of decades modern jazz has been thriving. I think it is important to mention the artistic works of contemporary jazz composers who could be considered musical geniuses, just like Miles Davis or John Coltrane, of the older generation.
Jamie Cullum – Momentum (2013)
Momentum is the sixth studio album of Jamie Cullum, produced by Jim Abbiss and Daniel Nakamura, and released via Island Records. The record mainly contains original materials. In terms of genre, the elements of jazz and pop can be sensed within, therefore Momentum could be considered a crossover jazz album. Jamie Cullum has always walked the line well, keeping a jazz influence in his own songs, combined with influences from other genres, to appeal to a wider audience. Momentum is not an exception, even if you are not into jazz, you may find something for yourself in it, nonetheless.
Susanna Aleksandra – The Siren (2021)
Susanna Aleksandra is one of the ambassadors of the younger generation specialising in jazz music. The Siren is evidence of the musical talent of the Estonian songwriter and jazz composer. Aleksandra has traveled a lot in recent years to gain experience, spending significant time in Paris and in Los Angeles. Eventually, she settled down in Finland, where The Siren was recorded and released by Eclipse Records. If Gregory Porter’s album is considered smooth jazz, and Esperanza Spalding’s Junjo pulls us towards modal jazz, then Susanna’s Aleksandra’s The Siren would be put in between, right in the middle. Several subgenres of jazz music appear on this record and it clearly shows professionalism, making it a very solid contemporary jazz record.
Scott Henderson – HBC (2012)
One of the true gems of fusion-jazz was made by Scott Henderson (guitar), Jeff Berlin (bass), and Dennis Chambers (drums). Besides a couple of original pieces, several covers of Wayne Shorter and Herbie Hancock compositions were added to the album. Scott Henderson has always been one of the pioneers of fusion jazz and his collaboration with Berlin and Chambers proved to be beneficial as well. The supergroup is clearly one of the most experienced and most creative formations of all time, and HBC proves just that.
Gregory Porter – Take Me To The Alley (2016)
This is one of my favourite records from Gregory Porter and it is probably one of the best smooth jazz albums of our time. It is the fourth LP from Porter, and was recorded in Los Angeles and New York City during the autumn of 2015. It has earned a Grammy for the California-born jazz singer. Furthermore, it got critically acclaimed by several music critiques and magazines including The Guardian, The Telegraph and All About Jazz. Due to its smooth jazz elements, the record reminds me of the album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis and the former jazz scene of New York City in the 1950’s. However, just like the previously mentioned record of Jamie Cullum, Take Me To The Alley also has the attributes of crossover jazz, including elements of blues and pop music as well, which makes the record even more exciting.
Esperanza Spalding – Junjo (2006)
Junjo is the first studio album of female bassist, singer, and musical prodigy, Esperanza Spalding. In the songwriting and recording process, there were two other musicians who got involved; Aruan Ortiz (piano) and Francisco Mela (drums). It was released in 2006 and the LP was produced by Spalding herself. The record contains eight tracks, including four original tunes from Spalding (“Junjo”, “Two Bad”, “Perazela”, and “Perazuan”) and one original pieceby Ortiz (“Mompuana”). The rest are covers that were originally written by other musicians and composers. The record contains elements of bebop, modal jazz, but also latin melodies which makes it truly an avant-garde LP. It got critically acclaimed by All About Jazz and AllMusic.
Some skeptics have been saying that blues and jazz are the musical genres that are nearest to extinction. But if you ask me, this could not be further from the truth. New artists and composers have been coming up day by day with new compositions and records. Some of them may follow the older musical traditions of jazz like Jamie Cullum or Gregory Porter, others would rather boldly experiment like Esperanza Spalding, Susanna Aleksandra, or Scott Henderson. I believe jazz is constantly evolving just like other genres. Fortunately, there are people from the younger generations to come up with new musical ideas and carry them on to develop this kind of music as well. Jazz is not dying. It is transforming to thrive again.