What is good about truly evolved abstract music which this is is that it forces deep thinking or simply private personal contemplation to begin and remain. Look away if you don't want to do this: other novelties are definitely available. This music will change you.

Recorded in Boston in April last year Daniel Carter's use of flute does much of the running on the opener which is the first part of the 'Seraphic Light' suite, the whole work not at any point overstaying its welcome and clocking in economically in terms of time at under an hour. 

A co-composition of the three distinguished free improvisers they collectively develop their ideas live. It is utterly remarkable not only how coherent the ideas are but how varied and plentiful they arrive and belong together.

All three navigate independent routes awake to the collective direction of travel. You do not notice process so much as outcome, that balancing of time and silence a few distracting coughs from audience members here and there and sensible amounts of audience applause notwithstanding.

Robust declarations are made that are sometimes intersecting, or oblivious to one another. William Parker is a magnetic presence for instance, has a whole story going on, walking his bass furiously or simply soliloquising; while Carter on muted trumpet (and later choosing a number of reed instruments, probing and exploratory on clarinet for instance) draws out direct, more emotional moods and that shift seems to inspire Matthew Shipp even more to explore the deeper octaves of the piano and possibilities that embrace everyone.

Part of an event called Art, Race, and Politics in America which was a concert and discussion involving all three players Seraphic Light is released in May and lights up the avant spring like a meteor. Label.

Talk about a tough gig. No pressure: stepping up the plate at the well established John Coltrane festival no less in the States, Sheila E's dad and Sheila, above, herself... plus the blessèd Gregory: http://www.greensboro.com/blogs/gotriad_extra/john-coltrane-international-jazz-blues-festival-announces-headliners/article_fbcb2874-61ab-5288-96cd-6450b8f2c099.html 

A New York Times obituary of Nathan Davis: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/17/obituaries/nathan-davis-jazz-saxophonist-and-educator-is-dead-at-81.html 

The Los Angeles mayor is a jazz fan... thank goodness for small mercies or, more in the real world, the considered results of the focus group are in, are they? Send that focus group a few albums as a thank you: The mayor can pen the next sleeve notes! Oh, hang on a second: http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-pol-eric-garcetti-president-interview-20180414-story.html 

Slate goes Miles and Coltrane 'bootleg' a-go-go.  Sadly not tangles of tapes doted over by fans spun out from tape recorders hidden up their jumpers but pretty gripping, fairly apparently. Fred takes up the thread: https://slate.com/culture/2018/03/miles-davis-and-john-coltranes-the-final-tour-reviewed.html

And what's playing? Well it has to be one of my favourite Jeff Williams albums to date. Singlehandedly (well not quite or that probably at all if you see what I mean) keeping Cool cool. And no Kit isn't at the kit or on organ for that matter. Surely one of the year's best so far.

 

Operatic in scale and full of poetic drama remarkable given it is the work of one man. Alone with a giant canvas that the piano has become, Shipp fills the air with beautiful visions and nocturnes.  Listen carefully and you will discover a sense of the baroque in the ruins of chords, a dystopia that is set plain in footfalls and silence. Shipp's progressions and episodic tonalism drift from the modal to a chiming sense of lullaby, a restless quest that somehow avoids desolation. There is a concision to Shipp's thinking that perhaps was absent in his younger days when there was a seething anger that was often exhilarating but just as regularly difficult to navigate as a listener. Shipp knows how to avoid the clichés of abstract, avant jazz and his compass is reliable. The real genius here is how he manages to avoid any puzzling sense of oblique endings and you feel safe in his hands as he guides us on a mysterious path. If any musician can be said to improvise in complete sentences that span pages of purple prose, chapters even, then Matthew Shipp is a perfect candidate. Zero? More like, on this evidence, heroic.  

1 Pat Metheny
Extraordinary achievements down through the decades whether on world tours with the Pat Metheny Group, his own innovations (for instance the pioneering use of guitar synthesizer and his own 'robot'  Orchestrion) or with such icons of free music as Ornette Coleman and Derek Bailey and in his interpretations of the music of John Zorn, the Missourian continues a story picked up by Charlie Christian and continued by Wes Montgomery in terms of innovation, new dialects and vocabulary, sheer virtuosity and joy in performance.

2 George Benson

3 John Scofield

4 John McLaughlin

5 Carlos Santana

6 Kenny Burrell

7 Bill Frisell

8 Terje Rypdal

9 Lionel Loueke

10 Eivind Aarset

11 Mary Halvorson

12 Russell Malone

13 Kurt Rosenwinkel

14 Julian Lage

15 Marc Ribot

16 Phil Robson

17 Mike Stern

18 Mike Walker

19 Wolfgang Muthspiel

20 Kevin Eubanks 

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Kyle Eastwood, 6 May