My Top 5 Jazz Albums of 2017

Following my Top 5 Classical Albums of 2017 published some days ago, let me now write about my favorite Jazz albums.

2017 hasn’t been particularly impressive for me in terms of quantity of new Jazz albums that I really loved. I found myself more and more writing about classical music, or older recordings.

Not sure if this reflects a general slowdown of new Jazz releases or simply that my taste is rather particular. In any case, I also checked for reference some of the other top 2017 lists for Jazz, and didn’t find anything particularly exciting that I had missed.

But maybe you disagree? Let me know?

So here we go, here is my list for 2017. Note that while my Top 5 Classical list only had 5 star ratings, I also had to include two 4 star albums in here, just to make the numbers.

If you’ve been following my blog for a bit, you won’t be surprised to see a large number of piano trio albums here, my favorite genre.

You’ll find download links to each album in the original reviews of the albums that are linked.


Cecile McLorin Salvant: Dreams and Daggers

Cecile McLorin Salvant Dreams and Daggers 24 96 MackAvenue 2017

Well, let’s start strong anyhow: I’ve already postulated early on that Cécile McLorin Salvant could be the THE Jazz singer of the 21st century. It didn’t take rocket science nor a truffle dog to find this, in spite of her young age, she’s received praise from all over the world, including a Grammy nomination in 2014.

Dreams and Daggers is another masterpiece, with a nice mix of standards and originals, and a must have for any Jazz lover.

You´ll find my original review here.


Helge Lien: Guzuguzu



I’ve been a great fan of Helge Lien for years, since I discovered Hello Troll. Guzuguzu really confirms that he’s one of the most talented Jazz trio artists out there. As I wrote in my review, it combines “Scandinavian lyricism combined with often extremely complex rhythms”. I think there´s nothing much to add here.

See my original review here.


Triosence: Hidden Beauty

Triosence: Hidden Beauty (24/96) Okeh 2017

Don’t get deterred by the cover art. Germany´s Triosence is one of the stars of Jazz trio based heavily on beautiful melodies and harmonies. Some would argue this is not Jazz, I don’t even bother to argue, as I simply like it very much.

You’ll find my original review here.


Tingvall Trio: Cirklar

Tingvall Trio Cirklar 24/96 2017 Skip Records

Tingvall Trio is another German group if you count there home base in Hamburg, but actually are much more international if you look at the members of the trio.

Cirklar is very good, if not their best album ever, but if you like their style (and they have a very strong regional following), you should really check this out.

You’ll find my original review here.


Shai Maestro Live at Moods

Shai Maestro on piano live at Moods March 17, 2017 (c) Musicophile
Shai Maestro Live At Moods March 17, 2017 (c) Musicophile)


My last album actually isn’t an album at all. It is the captured videostream of an outstanding concert I attended this March at Moods Zurich, the best Jazz club in town.

You’ll find my original writeup of Shai Maestro´s concert here, and it was truly an outstanding concert.

But for once, you don’t have to take my word for it. Moods has recently installed what they call, basically a platform video streaming and archiving all concerts at Moods.

And I was really lucky, the technology just went live shortly before this concert. So with a subscription fee (you can cancel anytime if you don’t like it) you can now watch the entire back catalog of recorded concerts at moods with outstanding video and very good audio quality. Check out my article about it here. And no, I’m not getting sponsored for writing this.

What do you think?

My list is obviously very biased, very personal, but such is my entire blog.

Did I miss anything? I´d very much like to hear about your personal favorites for 2017.

Shai Maestro: The Stone Skipper – Not Really A Review

Shai Maestro

Let me start by saying that I think that Shai Maestro is one of the most talented Jazz pianists out there. I’ve been a fan since I saw him live for the first time some years ago for his debut album, which I’ve reviewed here with 5 stars, and I’ve also listed him in Musicophile’s 25 Essential Jazz Albums.

With this introduction, it is very clear that there will be a “But” coming. And yes, unfortunately there is.

Artists Want To Evolve

I understand that artists want to evolve, explore new territories, be creative. This is why they are great artists. Think of Miles Davis dismissing his early stuff as old in the later years, he famously said “It’s not about standing still and becoming safe. If anybody wants to keep creating they have to be about change.”. 

The same goes for painters, or any other creative force. If you look at the different periods of Picasso, you’d hardly guess it was always the same artist. Similarly, I was very much surprised how unexciting Van Gogh’s early work was, and how much of his most admired paintings are from the last few years of this live. If these artists hadn’t evolved, humanity would have missed a lot.

However, what about the people who like a certain style of the artist? Sometimes this can be probably extremely frustrating for the artist, for example can you imagine an Eagles concert without Hotel California?  Other artists just move on and probably lose some of their initial audience when they evolve to a new style.

The Stone Skipper (Sound Surveyor Music 2016)

After this long introduction, you’ve probably guessed that I’m not too happy with the evolution that Shai Maestro, together with his core trio of Jorge Roeder et Ziv Ravitz, has taken on this album.

Shai Maestro Trio The Stone Skipper 24 96

This review has been in the making for several weeks now, as it pains me to write something negative about a great artist.

You still get the occasional Jazz trio, but quite a lot of the songs are going beyond Jazz. You’ll find a lot of elements inspired by Lo-Fi music, some more ethnic singing, some choral parts, the occasional synthesizer, etc. etc. etc.

Honestly, I’m probably (or actually most assuredly) a bit conservative, but most of this is not my cup of tea.

And this is in spite of the great musicians that Shai has been working here, including the fantastic singers Theo Bleckmann and Gretchen Parlato.

Let me give you some examples. The opening track A Man, Morning, Street, Rain has some typical lo-fi elements, sounding a bit like played from an old Gramophone, including even the cracks of the record. I don’t really sense a direction here.

You’ll find some choral elements in Without Words”, but again, I’m lacking structure, melody here. Or take Kunda kuchka, where you get the ethnic elements. I’m sorry, but I personally find myself skipping through those tracks very quickly.

So unfortunately, I probably really don’t get this album. Note that I’ve read several reviews in France that love this album (Jazz News has called it “Indispensable“), so really take my very personal opinion here with a huge grain of salt. Again, artists need to evolve, whether we like it or not.

My rating: 3 stars

You can find it here (Qobuz), apparently it is not yet formally released in the US (the artist says “coming soon” on his facebook page).


Update March 18: I’ve now seen Shai Maestro live playing the songs from this album, and here the music gets it’s true meaning! It really was an amazing concert.

Shai Maestro – This Avishai Cohen Alumni Will Go Places

Avishai Cohen

You cannot write about Israeli Jazz without mentioning Avishai. This bass player from Jerusalem probably is the most prominent Israeli Jazz musician, after being “discovered” by nobody less than Chick Corea back in 1996. Personally, unfortunately, I’m not such a big fan of his albums, there are some individual tracks that I really like, but there isn’t a single album I really love throughout.

Shai Maestro

Luckily, he in turn discovered Shai Maestro, when needing a piano player, and he hired him pretty much directly out of school apparently. Talk about risk-taking, but well done! You’ll hear Maestro playing the piano on Gently Disturbed, Sensitive Hours, Seven Seas, and Aurora. During this time, Maestro relocated to New York City, probably a smart choice for a Jazz musician.

Then, in 2011, at the tender age of 24, Shai Maestro decided he wanted to launch his own trio, together with Jorge Roeder (from Peru) on bass and Ziz Ravitz (Israel) on drums, and they launched their first album, simply called Shai Maestro Trio, in early 2012, on the French label Laborie Jazz.

Shai Maestro Trio Laborie Jazz 2012

I had heard Shai Maestro shortly after that on his first European tour, and fell in love with the music immediately. From what I could see during the concert, the guy is not only abrillant musician, but also very modest and humble

Since the debut album (pictured above), Maestro has recorded two more albums, The Road To Ithaca and Untold Stories (the latter including some live tracks), both are very good, but his debut still is my favorite album.

There is just such a beautiful mixture of evolving melodies, some Middle-Eastern influences, and a great understanding of the piano trio tradition (legend has it Shai discoverd Jazz at the age of 8 with an Oscar Peterson album), that you just don’t stop listening to this beautiful album.

And if you get the chance to see him live, go for it. The handful of live tracks on Untold Stories gives you some idea on what to expect, but the additional time and freedom the trio has live just creates something very very beautiful. They really interact as if they’d been together for decades.

This is one of the few musicians where I’ll safely buy any future album blindly. He’s only 28 now, so we’ll hopefully be enjoying many more albums in the future.

My rating: 5 stars (yes I know, I keep giving 5 stars quite often recently, but it is just so much more fun writing about the truly outstanding albums).

You can download it here.