I have followed Wynton's music since the 1990s, put him on the first cover of Jazzwise, met him once briefly backstage at the Festival Hall a few years before when I was working for long defunct magazine Jazz on CD, interviewed him at the end of the 1990s over the phone when he was still on Columbia and at the peak of his early career powers, he was stubborn and talked about Bach eventually being helpful I guessed by his tone although he does that regularly in interviews, seen him play concert halls, jam in the Vortex, and even rap at Ronnie’s. The last time I heard him play was when he shared the stage with Wayne Shorter at the Barbican and afterwards sat with the super connected publicist Judy Lipsey waiting for the great man to show (which he did not) at Smithfield cocktail bar the Oriole as Tom Farmer warmed the room and Wynton's musicians and entourage chilled.
These days because Wynton plays mainly in big band settings, often just sitting among the trumpet section not needing at all to conduct or even with the grandest symphony orchestras in tow the distant days when he led a small band seem remote although from time to time he does it still and is an inveterate jammer in addition always in small band settings opening up say with 'Sweet Georgia Brown'. Live I would contend that he is even better than on record but some records are stone classics. Black Codes for instance has influenced players from different styles, say Byron Wallen who emerged out of the Woody Shaw sound. Incredible technique, brilliant stage manner. I don't care for the didacticism and his close relationship with big business but that is nothing to do with music and I suppose you could argue you cannot build an institution and maintain one as he has done by not doing this. No one else hand on heart could challenge him as the greatest living jazz trumpeter all caveats aside.
A brilliant film composer, superb live, I have seen him in clubs and concert halls, never interviewed him but would love to, he writes operas, leads bands, brings on new players and encourages everyone. He talks tough, knows his politics and collaborates with leading academics, did a huge amount after Katrina to help New Orleans his home town in any way he could. Blanchard rocks. Album to get: Bounce.
On the phone once Hargrove put me on hold. He's a busy man and does not mince words! Hard bop fans forget often that his sound goes back to Clifford Brown. Trad guys might even hear Little Jazz in his sound. He's big in neosoul (D'Angelo), cool, has incredible players you may have never heard of in his bands and is the best dressed male jazz musician on the planet. Albums? Go back to the 1990s and find Diamond in the Rough.
Well, Stanko I have interviewed many times and visited his home in Warsaw where we listened to Cecil Taylor records and he made very nice tea. Last time I saw him was in Bath. He is an aesthete and is well read. I love his music and always will particularly when he plays free which he does not do much now or when he does wraps it inside disarmingly simple melodies. A fine composer, albums to get: Leosia or Music for K.
I have never heard Rava play live or met him. His sound like Stanko's belongs with the angels. A hero in Italy he has brought on many young players including Giovanni Guidi one of today's most individual pianists anywhere. Album to get: The Pilgrim and the Stars.
Ambrose Akinmusire First time I heard Ambrose was when he was a teenager and was playing in the Steve Coleman Big Band. He did not become a star until much later. He's a fine composer and small band leader. He reminds me of Kenny Wheeler. Album to get: RisingGrace.
Wadada Leo Smith
The most significant avant jazz trumpeter on the planet. Check out his sublime fairly recent work with Vijay Iyer.
I have only heard Eddie once playing a club set in an upscale pizza place and spoke to him far too briefly beforehand a few years ago. We talked about Miles Davis, you got to have a gimmick Miles advised him! Eddie is a very intellectual and interesting person to talk to and like David Murray is good at deadpan tongue in cheek chat. We moved on to chat a bit about psychiatry an expertise of his and inevitably the Mwandishi band he was important in with the Herbster. Henderson has a lovely buttery sound and plenty of fire power. Go for his Capricorn period or any record that he is on.
Unique Japanese influenced sound involving the timbre of a flute, electronics and massive amounts of space.
Brilliant tone, Eastern language filtering in and quarter tone technique. Open sound.
Unique jazz rock and prog sensibility absorbed into her compositionally driven sound. Stratospheric rise with Dinosaur.
Mainstream Cubop. Influenced by Dizzy Gillespie. First bandleader I ever saw in Ronnie Scott's. A revelation.
Nils Petter Molvær
Influential Norwegian future jazz charismatic player currently with a Sly and Robbie album out. Album to get: the classic Khmer.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Go for Anthem. Snappy dresser, very affable guy to talk to. Imaginative, brave, daring.
Nicholas Payton Controversial, radical trad, influential New Orleans figurehead digging deep into trad and mainstream terrain. Increasingly plugged in. Expect the unexpected.
16 Jeremy Pelt
Best hard bop stylist on the planet. Think Freddie Hubbard. Live, I have seen him in a school hall and in a club, he is a natural communicator.
I first heard him as an unknown in Robert Glasper's band. Now's the time. The new Roy Hargrove??
Innovative middle eastern sounds and a cool amalgam of compositionally driven concepts heralded Ahmed's remarkable rise. On Radiohead's radar.
His records are hugely collectable. I have only seen him once playing a theatre in Warsaw in the 1990s. That was unforgettable. Think Clifford Brown, think the song of singing.
Andy Scott + Group S, Ruby & All Things Purple, Basho ***1/2
RUBY, RUBY, RUBY: The cardinal virtues of this just appearing album, which features the saxophonist Andy Scott plus a big cast of players including pianist Gwilym Simcock, saxophonist Rob Buckland, bass guitarist Laurence Cottle and baritonist Chris Caldwell, are its sheer skill, passion and meatiness. The reeds have great quality, Scott has managed to incorporate plenty of light and shade for his ensemble to bask in and relax. The fun tune is a rip up of the cheesy Tom Jones medallion dangler Sex Bomb, think Weather Report here with the cologne of the Jaco Word of Mouth band scented through it, second thoughts that analogy, at least the cologne bit, might put you right off, customised by Scott for extra reediness and fewer wall plugs. Little Glass Box marks the end of the first part of the album and the beginning of the next, most of the tunes are either very short (Eighteen) or bulgingly long (the title track). Listen in 20 minute shifts, three or four tunes at a time, for best enjoyment as the album might nail you to the floor given its intensity and huge detail. The emotional saxophone lead lines at time crowd like skiers about to slalom down a mountain and run like the wind. The great English saxophonist Barbara Thompson guests movingly on La Grande Image and jazz-rock lion Jon Hiseman drums on the tune which was recorded at the Colosseum legend’s studio.