Category Archives: Aaron Diehl

My Top 5 Vocal Jazz Albums of 2015

Following my recent post on my top Classical albums of 2015, let me now follow up with my top 5 Vocal Jazz albums for this year.

Note there are a couple of “only” four star albums here, which means I don’t consider them absolutely essential. That said, I very much like all of the below and would recommend them without hesitation.

 

Cecile McLorin Salvant: For One To Love (Mack Avenue 2015)

Cecile McLorin Salvant For One To Love MackAvenue 2015

My Jazz album of the year by an outstanding young talent (review here). I’ve seen her live and this was probably one of my best concerts of the year .

 

Sarah McKenzie: We Could Be Lovers (Impulse 2015)

Sarah McKenzie We Could Be Lovers Impulse 2015

Sarah McKenzie is my other discovery of this year (reviewed here). Less innovative than Cecile McLorin Salvant, she does just old fashioned 1960-style vocal jazz. The thing is, she does it with so much charm and also includes her own originals, I’m convinced we’ll continue hearing from this young artist.

If you can catch her live as I did (see here), go for it, she’s even better live than on this album.

 

Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth By Day (Legacy Records 2015)

Cassandra Wilson Coming Forth By Day 2015

I’ve said it before, I have a love-hate relationship with Cassandra Wilson. Quite often, she just gets too close to a style that I just don’t like. On this Billie Holiday album, all is well from my perspective (see my review here).

 

Melody Gardot: Currency of Man (Universal 2015)

Melody Gardot - Currency of Man

 

To be fair, this is more Soul than Jazz, but in any case, I really like this album. See my review here.

 

Autour de Nina (Verve 2015)

Autour de Nina Verve Compilation Sophie Hunger Melody Gardot

A beautiful Nina Simone Tribute album from a variety of artists. One of my favorite vocal jazz albums of the year, reviewed here.

Will Cécile McLorin Salvant Become The Most Important Jazz Singer of Our Century? – A Review of For One To Love

As you can see from my posting history, I really like young contemporary artists. Too many lovers of Jazz and Classical music live in the past (“Ah, the times of Toscanini…” “Nobody plays like Bird anymore…” etc.).

Contemporary Artists

I disagree. We have so many fantastic artists around us right now, there is no need to live only in the past. That is not to say we should forget the past (case in point, my previous review was about a 1959 album from Oscar Peterson with music mainly from the 1930s), but the much more exciting treasure hunt is to find the contemporary gems, that don’t yet are household name.

Some examples I’ve already written about include Shai Maestro, Benjamin Grosvenor and Igor Levit, or Vilde Frang. Another one is Aaron Diehl, He by the way also plays on the album below.

Cécile McLorin Salvant

Well, to be fair, you really don’t have to be a musical truffle pig to know about the 26 year old Cécile McLorin Salvant. She’s been praised all over the place after she won the Thelonious Monk competition, so if you read any Jazz reviews at all, you should have heard about her great debut, WomanChild.

As you’ve seen from my post on my 25 Essential Jazz albums, I’m not such a big fan of vocal jazz overall. There are many singers out there with great voices, but the musical result is often a bit nondescript.

Not so here. You’ll recognize her voice immediately, she’s already developed a great style, and having the brilliant Aaron Diehl at her side is a great asset, in a way this could become a similar winning combination to Ella Fitzgerald and Oscar Peterson.

For One To Love

Cecile McLorin Salvant For One To Love MackAvenue 2015

I already liked WomanChild, but this album gets even better. There are intimate piano only ballads like Left Over, songs that could come straight out of a Jacques Brel album (Le Mal de Vivre), and the outstanding 10:33 Something’s Coming (I think I mentioned already that I have a thing for long jazz tracks, this one is no exception). There is no weak track on this album, and unlike many other vocal jazz albums, you really never get bored.

My rating: 5 stars

So to come back to the title of this post, my bold prediction is that in 30 years from now we will list Cécile in the Great Hall of Jazz along with Ella, Sarah, and Billie.

I trusted her enough that I had this album in pre-paid pre-order without even listening to it once, and will certainly do the same for her future releases!

You can get it here (Qobuz) and here (HDtracks)

UPDATE: Review  of her concert in Basel in 2015 here.

Aaron Diehl’s Space, Time, Continuum – Another Young Piano Grandmaster to Watch

These days from my admittedly biased European perspective you could say that all new great Jazz is coming out of Europe these days, especially in the Jazz piano trio space, basically since Esbjörn Svensson brought this art form into the 2000s, taking over a great legacy dating back to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett.

This is rubbish admittedly, although I have quite a number of posts in the making (at least in my head) about great artists like Triosence, Giovanni Mirabassi, the Tingvall Trio, Tord Gustavsen, etc., all from Old Europe.

But obviously already Shai Mastro I mentioned last week is from Israel, and the  birthplace of Jazz is still an absolute Jazz hotspot, and I’m jealous of anybody living in NYC for their live scene.

Aaron Diehl

Diehl really is an extraordinary talent. His first non-live album, The Bespoke Man’s Narrative (2013) was already eye-opening, and he certainly is respond for a large part in the appeal that Cecile McLorin Salvant’s debut album Woman Child had on me and many others (the album got a Grammy award nomination).

This guy, born in 1985 in Ohio, is still very young, only two years older than Shai Maestro I recently mentioned. I expect this guy to have a great career, and be part, if needed, of the living proof that Jazz is not dead, but clearly very much alive (unfortunately in too much of a niche habitat).

Space, Time, Continuum

Aaron Diehl Space, Time, Continuum 2015 Mack Avenue

Nice title, first of all. It really illustrates the relevance of punctuation.

Side note, can an album that has a track called Flux Capacitor be bad? (I assume I’ve just given away my age. If you have no idea what a flux capacitor is, think Doc Brown and DeLorean, if that still doesn’t ring a bell, well, you missed an entire decade and will just have to google it yourself).

Diehl plays here with his regular trio of David Wong and Quincy Davis, but this isn’t, except for some selected tracks, a trio album. They are joined, in various permutations, by Bennie Golson, Joe Temperley, Stephen Riley, (sax all of them) and Bruce Harris (on trumpet).

But no matter how many horns you add, the star remains Diehl. He is always present, and very nicely so. What is so special about him, is probably his touch, it always sounds easy and relaxed, no matter how complex the material gets.

On the last track, we even get a guest appearance of Cecile McLorin Salvant. Well, she’s always welcome to pop up anywhere as far as I concerned, she is truly very special. I’m looking forward to her soon to be released new album.
My rating: 4 stars, very enjoyable throughout.

You can get it here or here as downloads..