Europe Jazz Media Chart: My three favorites of 2021

Christof Thurnherr, Jazz’n’More (Switzerland)
- DANIEL HUMAIR: Drum Thing (Frémeaux & Associés)
- YUSSEF DAYES TRIO: Welcome To The Hills (Vinyl Me Please/Cashmere Thoughts Recordings)

Jacek Brun, (Germany)
- FIONA GROND: Interspaces (Unit Records)

The debut of the young trio around the German-Swiss singer and composer Fiona Grond convinces with a remarkable maturity. We have not heard something so beautiful and subtle for a long time. This album has such an important authenticity and originality. Fiona Grond does not imitate, she is herself, she is in her own world and shows us the power of beautiful acoustic music. This debut will be remembered for a long time.

- STEPHANIE NILLES: I Pledge Allegiance To The Flag - The White Flag (Sunnyside)

The voices of African American activists continue to ring in the ears of the avant-garde. One such musical example is the late, great bassist/composer Charles Mingus, whose music was vehemently charged with outrage over the rights of the oppressed. His messages, both frank and nuanced, are touchstones for many musicians grappling with these issues, including singer-songwriter / pianist Stephanie Nilles, who interprets Mingus canon on her new recording I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag - the White Flag. Very touching, balanced and restrained, yet full of charisma and flair.

- KARI IKONEN: Impressions, Improvisations and Compositions (Ozella)

All too easily, this album could have become a heavy slog. In just under forty minutes, you find a dense web of inspirations: from Arabic scales to Japanese sounds to free jazz and concepts from his favorite painter, Wassily Kandinsky. To realize his vision without compromise, Ikonen even developed a device that allowed him to play microintervals on his grand piano. But things turned out differently: The results sound more dreamlike and intoxicating than head music. A lot of excitement for one record. This kind of expression is not at all obvious and requires the listener to open up and broaden their perspectives. But it's worth trying, because we are dealing with an extraordinary work here.

Mike Flynn, Jazzwise (UK)
- JAMES FRANCIES: Purest Form (Blue Note)
- KENNY GARRET: Sounds from the Ancestors (Mack Avenue)

Anna Filipieva, (Russia)
- IGOR BUTMAN: Only Now (Butman Music Records)
- EVGENY PONOMAREV QUARTET: Clockwise (Rainy Days Records)
- ILUGDIN TRIO: My Story (Jazzist)

Jan Granlie, (Pan-Scandinavian)
- WILLIAM PARKER: The Music Of William Parker - Migration of Silence into and out of the Tone, Vol.1-10 (AUM Fidelity)
William Parker has done a massive and creative box of ten CDs with focus on the female voice. Great from the start to the end.

- MARIO PAVONE / DIALECT TRIO: Blue Vertical (Out of Your Head Records)
The last recording with the bass player Mario Pavone, where all the musicians (Dave Ballou -tp, Matt Mitchell - p, Tyshawn Soreys) knows that this is the end.

- LEE MORGAN: The Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
The complete Lighthouse concerts with Lee Morgan, Bennie Mouphin (ts, fl, bcl, Harold Maberh (p), Jamie Merit (b) and Mickey Roker (dr) on 12 LPs or 8 CDs. Marvelous music from the start to the end.

Henning Bolte, Written in Music (Netherlands)
- CANSU TANRIKULU W/ GREG COHEN, TOBIAS DELIUS: Kantoj De Fermiteco (LowSwing Records LOSW 07)
Label's website
Jazzfest Berlin 2021 concert / ARTE

Brilliance in the shimmer of dark vaults - magic and bewildering enchantment

- ALISTAIR PAYNE / SUN-MI HONG IN: Slow Walk (self-released)
Artist webpage
Youtube 1
Youtube 2

Trumpet and drums: substantial tools when betaking oneself into danger zones, greet the dragons and sounding the world. These duets, created with Occam’s razor seem to be both engraved and volatile, evident and ungraspable, daring and down to earth… And above all: they excel in playful clarity. Scotsman Payne and Korean woman Hong are part of a young and vibrant international scene shining in Amsterdam.

- KILLING POPES: Ego Kills (Clean Feed)

Ego Kills is as disturbing, unsettling as it is entertaining, rough as it is refined, undermining as it is creatively constructive. It makes turns and bifurcations but leaves a lot to its listeners. Berlin drummer Oliver Steidle has a remarkable, stupefying way of fanning out rhythm patterns, superimposing and crossfading them, operate them as sliding panels and agile rotating parts thereby generating kaleidoscopic hyper- and surrealistic musical sceneries, sceneries of rich imagination spiced up with good doses of humor. Linearity becomes largely dissolved in it. Reality particles get dispersed and at the same time are strongly connected by a relentlessly ticking beat. Through its clarity, control, and consistency it never feels overloaded but as a liberating wonderland exorcising present nightmares of daily life. It works by virtue of a highly agile generative framework that emerged from the fruitful collaboration of Oliver Steidle and Dan Nicholls, a real stroke of luck. Keyboarder Nicholls acts both as a contributing musician and as a visionary producer who, above all, ensures that the strengths and magics of Steidle and the other featured musicians – quite a potent crew - are brought to full effect: Frank Möbus (el-g), Phillip Gropper (sax) Phil Donkin (el-b), Jelena Kuljic (voc, sampling) and Nathalie Sandtorv (voc, sampling). It’s a very own universe not only of sounds that the Popes conjure. It’s a universe enlivened with mythical creatures inspiring the music as well as acting in and through the music. In short, as popes they take the freedom to summon their own deities and celebrate them amid the horrors, disgust, chaos, drivel, pomposity, grandness and joy of present everyday life.  It’s a transcendental attitude and quality enabling to enter and give shape to some freeing zones (and leave behind the pontifical). It’s music with a cause … and an answer to the question how music and music making relates to social and political realities.

Dick Hovenga, Written in Music (Netherlands)
An album like no other. One long, masterful trip in music. Brilliantly written and put to music by sound-wizard Sam Shepherd (Floating Points) with the fascinating presence of jazz legend Pharoah Sanders, who shows once more here quite how full of passion and emotion his playing is. The strings of The London Symphony Orchestra provide the beautiful atmosphere on top. Promises is a masterpiece.

- FERGUS MCCREADIE: Cairn (Edition)
No debut album this year surprised me more than Cairn from the young Scottish piano player Fergus McCreadie and his amazing trio. Cairn is a debut that contains everything that makes this genius piano player so amazing. The compositions, in which the jazz has been fuelled by Scottish nature, are perfectly balanced and give plenty of room for improvisation. A truly fantastic record that needs everyone’s full attention.

- TIMO LASSY: Trio (We Jazz)
To introduce your new trio with a record that is simply called Trio, and then to extend it with a large group of strings is not a usual thing, I would say. But Finnish tenorsax player Timo Lassy carries off the trick. In fact he has made the most wonderful record of his career. Trio is such an album where you fall in love with it right from the moment the strings kick in and Lassy plays his lovely cool sax to full emotional effect. Lassy is absolutely on top of his game, as are his trio companions, while the strings give every composition they play a lovely extra glow. (The wonderful arrangements are from newcomer Marzi Nyman. Keep on eye on that guy!) ​

Tony Dudley-Evans, Peter Slavid and Sebastian Scotney, LondonJazz News (UK)
- ALEXANDER HAWKINS: Togetherness for sixteen musicians with the Riot Ensemble (Intakt Records)
REVIEW by Geoff Winston

- JULIAN SIEGEL JAZZ ORCHESTRA: Tales From The Jacquard (Whirlwind)
REVIEW by Richard Lee

- RUBEN FOX: Introducing…Ruben Fox (Rufio)
REVIEW by Adam Sieff

Patrik Sandberg, Jazz (Sweden)
- LEE MORGAN: Complete Live at the Lighthouse (Blue Note)
- JOHAN LINDSTROM SEPTETT: On The Asylum (Moserobie)

Lars Mossefinn, Dag og tid (Norway)
- MATS EIIERTSEN: Hymn for Hope (Jazzland Recordings)
- FLUKTEN: Velkommen håp (Odin)

Matthieu Jouan, (France)
- PUNKT.VRT.PLASTIK: Somit (Intakt Records)
- CRAIG TABORN: Shadow Plays (ECM)

Axel Stinshoff, Jazz thing (Germany)
- MARC JOHNSON: Overpass (ECM)
- ENRICO RAVA: Edizione Speciale (ECM)

Luca Vitali, Giornale della Musica (Italy)
- CRAIG TABORN: Shadow Plays (ECM) 

- CHRISTIAN WALLUMRØD: Speaksome (Hubro)

- PAOLO ANGELI: Jar'a (ReR Megacorp)

Yves Tassin, JazzMania (Belgium)
- MICHEK PORTAL: MP85 (Label bleu)

- ANDY AMLER MEGAOCTET: Just a Beginning (PeeWee!) 

- DANS DANS: Zink (Unday)

Jos Demol, (Belgium)
- RENAUD GARCIA-FONS: Le Souffle Des Cordes (E-motive records)

- LORENZO DI MAIO: Arco (Igloo records)

- STEPHEN GODSALL: Atlantic Skies (self produced)