Top 10 labels sorted by alphabetical order based on quality most and quantity next.
Standouts this year from Emile Parisien and Janne Mark.
Quiet year but the latest duo album from Raymond MacDonald and Marilyn Crispell saved the day.
Blue Note, USA
Standouts included a Wayne Shorter magnum opus and new direction for Kandace Springs.
The Jarrett standards album was superb as was the first Bro to be released. Both Jarrett and Bro have second albums due soon that promise much.
A pretty solid year all in all. Tim Garland for me had his best release and showed once again what a world class player he is evident however for ages.
One of the UK’s very best jazz top tier labels at the moment.
An unheard Coltrane album, tick that box. Huge for the label. And Sons of Kemet were also tops on a label that Universal have brought back. The corporate grip on their branding is unfortunate however and so historic imprints mean less than they should although Blue Note suffers least in this regard.
Great Steve Coleman live at the Vanguard album a big highlight. Pi I think are the best avant label in the world currently.
Another solid year. Jeff Williams the pick of the bunch with his best album to date and Julian Siegel too scored mightily with Vista.
Young Turks, England
Heaven and Earth by Kamasi Washington did not disappoint. In fact it is the best album that I have heard all year, I think preferring it even to The Epic.
The list is curated and arranged alphabetically. [In terms of ranking if you want that, ECM is first, Young Turks second, Blue Note third, Whirlwind fourth, Edition fifth, Gearbox sixth, ACT seventh, Pi eighth, Babel, ninth, and Impulse tenth.]
Some labels have fallen off the marlbank radar entirely because they have become inactive or their roster has changed for the worse. Major labels are once again mostly not where the action is taking place. So, Sony label OKeh really dipped in quantity and activity this year while Nonesuch relied as they have done for years on the jazz front on a few big artists only in Brad Mehldau and Joshua Redman who both produced some superb work.
Sunnyside did not grab me much this year, last year I was quite a fan, and needs a sharper focus in terms of where they are in terms of their A&R.
Biophilia were consistently excellent and nearly made the top 10. Check out their Maria Grand release. (Grand pictured above.)
Of the many avant labels Cleanfeed was OK but patchy and they have had better years in the recent past. Dare2, Dave Holland's label had a very good year shaped around Uncharted Territories which is after the Kamasi the album that I have enjoyed most so far this year.
Spartacus in Scotland hardly registered on my listening while Stoney Lane impressed with their Sara Colman release most and in What We're Made Of achieved one of the best vocal jazz albums of the year.
Manchester’s Gondwana kept the spiritual flame burning but often what they are putting out is predictable.
Brownswood had a very quiet year and when it succeeded via over hyped compilations mainly seemed more brand conscious than ever.
Jellymould had a disappointing year and while Northern Irish label Lyte had an interesting Jean Toussaint release they certainly need new names on the roster as do their English counterpart Jellymould.
Re. Christine Allen’s label Basho the big question is will The Impossible Gentlemen record again? If so a new phase for Christine Allen's groundbreaking label might begin but the prospects are not at all clear.
Ubuntu did very well to release the best Martin Speake album that I have ever heard.
RareNoise kept the faith with World Service Project on the prog-jazz front.
Teddy D did well in profile terms especially built around festival touring with their acclaimed Making Other Arrangements.
Skip in Germany hardly registered this year but they have an ace up their sleeve because of the Tingvall Trio back catalogue. Camjazz were pretty quiet in Italy and Ozella have released nothing of note. The good news is that labels are emerging all the time and artists can be more DIY than ever via Bandcamp.
A hearty moo rather than silly boo greets the news that James Farm play De Doelen, Rotterdam in a rare appearance on 7 October. If you had thought that the Farmers had deserted the Farm you might be forgiven. The four-piece have on their records to date the knack of sounding like an indie band without sacrificing their jazz content one little bit. Close-knit with a superb debut behind them already released three years before City Folk all of the players, sax star Joshua Redman, pianist Aaron Parks, sounding remarkably like Brad Mehldau on catchy opener ‘Two Steps’, bassist Matt Penman, who cropped up on the Olivia Trummer album Fly Now, and Charles Lloyd drummer Eric Harland all contribute tunes, and their individual approaches to composition allows for a certain shifting around not that the quality varies too much and tunes flow into a group sound. Redman is more bittersweet than usual and really quite lonesome on ‘City Folk’ the title track, he’s like the hero in a romcom, Parks more accessible certainly than on his own brilliantly avant solo album Arborescence, while Penman beefs up his riffs to breaking point. Harland usually heard in freer situations with Charles Lloyd is able to relax a bit in the more conventional material but still finds that edge the material needs.
12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18. At Snape, Oxford, London, Milton Keynes, Cardiff and Hastings this autumn. Less cryptically put another way this string of numbers adds up to 90. Or in loose translation the “Letters I Haven’t Written” tour in October as singer, songwriter, musician, composer Gwyneth Herbert returns to the road and releases an accompanying recording.
Herbert, a “national treasure” of whimsy and playfulness who belongs as much to the theatre, music hall, jazz club and concert stage as she does the record listener continues to place her art as an ever changing exhibit in a vitrine of curiosities for us all to admire.
She packs her French horn and ukulele with her, jumps on the post train, pianist Tom Gibbs, bassist Sam Burgess, guitarist Rob Luft, and drummer Corrie Dick her fellow posties, to deliver these missives in person — shore to shore.
Tyshawn Sorey leads an electro-acoustic band on Pillars, a three-CD/two-LP event release issued early next month.
Inspired by Tibetan ceremonial music and Roscoe Mitchell among others and rooted in Zen, Sorey says: “I see the ideal experience as meditative, akin to how it works with ambient music, so that you’re almost ‘listening without listening’ – a Zen way of experiencing music.”
The revered drummer composer developed Pillars in a residency at Roulette in Brooklyn and expanded the piece to an octet.
“The notation is the map, not the destination. It’s not dissimilar to John Coltrane’s extended works, in that it’s the dynamic flow that’s the most important thing. I think we achieved something special in the studio that we could never replicate live. To me, the recording is the piece.”
Look for it on Firehouse 12 Records.