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.

Cassandra Wilson: Coming Forth by Day – Lady Day Meets Nick Cave

Billie Holiday

Tribute albums are really hot again these days, see for example Autour de Nina (praised here), or Nina Revisited (not very positively reviewed here), focusing on Nina Simone.

Billie Holiday is another Jazz legend that gets her share of tribute albums (José James, Carmen McRae, even Tony Bennett, just to name a few).

I have to admit something here, as much as I admire Billie, I don’t listen to her very often, as her early albums where her voice was still fully developed are usually poorly recorded, and the late albums that have a decent sound quality show her beyond her peak.

Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson has always been a Jazz singer that was never afraid of getting close to pop music; actually, I’m not a universal fan of her because of that.

In any case, her last album, Another Country, I really liked (with the exception of the awkward O Sole Mio), so I was really looking forward to her new 2015 release.

Coming Forth By Day

Cassandra Wilson Coming Forth By Day 2015

Coming Forth by Day is, as mentioned above, a tribute album to Billie Holiday, and it was released very timely on Lady Day‘s 100th birthday.

The tracks include well-known standards like Don’t ExplainStrange Fruit, and You Go To My Head. However, you’ll be surprised when you hear them here how different they sound.

The key difference is the production. Nick Launey, better known for working with Nick Cave, is responsible for the arrangements. T-Bone Burnett, who ruined (to my ears) the Diana Krall album Glad Rag Doll, is limited to playing the guitar, so he doesn’t do too much damage.

In summary, you get Bille Holiday Meets Nick Cave, with Wilson’s absolutely unmistakable voice. Is it worth getting? Not across the board, but some tracks are good enough to justify the purchase. I’d personally pick Don’t Explain, You Go To My Head, and Strange Fruit for that honor. Ah, and Good Morning Heartache is a bit weird, but needs a special mention.

Unfortunately, unlike some earlier albums, this album isn’t particularly “audiophile”, as a bit overproduced and compressed. But in a way, that goes well with the overall ambiance.

So listen before you buy, but it is certainly worth checking out.

Overall rating (in spite of some annoying tracks): 4 stars