Mammal’s most recommended new albums: Jazzy stuff

Main categories - jazz

Last time I did death metal. Next time will be more death metal. As an interlude and a diversion, I offer you my top choice of jazz and jazz-related albums of the year so far. Once again I’m wearing my Other Music Guy hat that my colleagues at Metal State made for me. It has pictures of bunnies and kittens on it.

Most jazz doesn’t slot easily into most metal brains. There are, however, metal lovers whose tastes are broad. Yes, some of you even like jazz, or at least the better rock, prog or metal with a jazzy flavor. If you have a sense of adventure and exploration, try this bunch. They are five very different types of music. Jazz has numerous sub-genres, just as metal does.

You may note I’ve given the highest rating to all of these picks.

Cassandra WilsonCassandra Wilson – Coming Forth by Day

Release date: 6 April 2015
Label: Legacy Recordings
Genre: Classic jazz
Tracks: 12
Length: 59 minutes
Location: Jackson, Mississippi, USA

This is the only “pure jazz” album I’m highlighting along with my jazz rock, jazz prog and jazz metal fusion selections, but what a magnificent album it is! I couldn’t possibly leave it out, no matter how non-metal it is. Now 59, Cassandra Wilson continues to reap accolades and awards. Many jazz critics rate “Coming Forth by Day” her best album ever. Some have already decided it’s the jazz album of the year. One, writing for the New York Times, believes she is the most important jazz musician of the last 30 years. The album, a slickly modernised tribute to the legendary Billie Holiday, has penetrated deep into my heart. Ms Wilson’s voice is smoky, sultry, seductive and goddamn sexy. Her interpretations of great classic jazz songs sound like bittersweet romance steeped in warm sunsets and balmy evening breezes.

Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5

Visit Cassandra Wilson on Facebook.

Gavin HarrisonGavin Harrison – Cheating the Polygraph

Release date: 13 April 2015
Label: K-Scope
Genre: Jazz-prog fusion
Tracks: 8
Length: 50 minutes
Location: London, UK

Gavin Harrison won his high and fully deserved reputation as the drummer of Porcupine Tree and guest drummer for any number of the world’s best prog rock bands. With this solo album he departs farther away from Porky Tree than Steven Wilson did when he went solo… yet at the same time Harrison has reprocessed Porcupine Tree and reinvented their music. “Cheating the Polygraph” was five years in the making as Harrison reworked some of his old band’s finest songs and turned them into masterpieces of modern jazz. This isn’t a covers album, it’s stunningly original rethinking. Neither is it a showcase for Harrison’s drumming, brilliant though he is with the sticks. The music comes first, and it flows magnificently. It isn’t standard fusion, either, it’s better to call it prog-tinted jazz.

Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5

Visit Gavin Harrison on Facebook.

John ZornJohn Zorn – Simulacrum

Release date: 17 March 2015
Label: Tzadik Records
Genre: Avant-garde jazz rock
Tracks: 6
Length: 44 minutes
Location: New York, USA

You could name just about any genre and John Zorn would compose something stunning in that genre and play it like a maestro. He could probably play all of the instruments too. He has credits on literally hundreds of albums as composer, arranger and/or musician. On “Simulacrum” he reveals a harder and heavier facet of his all-embracing skill. With deep, strong riffs as his building blocks, he’s constructed an album with a post rock feel underlying the intricacy and unpredictability of his experimental jazz.

Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5

Visit John Zorn on Facebook.

The Black CodexThe Black Codex – Episodes 27-39 (Double Album)

Release date: 11 February 2015
Label: Freia Music
Genre: Jazz-prog fusion
Tracks: 13
Length: 1 hour 51 minutes
Location: Netherlands

Christiaan Bruin, the composer, multi-instrumentalist and arranger behind The Black Codex, came up with a novel concept. The Black Codex is running for one year. Every week, subscribers receive one song, or “episode”. Subscribers can also buy the episodes in CD box sets. If you’re a newcomer and like what you hear, you can catch up on all of it. I could have chosen the entire series because it’s all great music, but I homed in on this album because it was the first I heard in the series. Bruin is also the man behind two of my favourite Dutch symphonic prog bands, Sky Architect and Chris, so I figured his Black Codex work would be good. It is. It’s exceptional. The music may be more prog than jazz, but Bruin blends the two forms with ease and flair.

Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5

Visit The Black Codex on Facebook.

TrepaliumTrepalium – Damballa’s Voodoo Doll (EP)

Release date: 9 February 2015
Label: Self-released
Genre: Progressive jazz metal
Tracks: 6
Length: 24 minutes
Location: Poitou-Charentes, France

You may not be familiar with Glen Miller but you know what swing is. It’s the type of 1940s jazz they play in clubs in World War Two movies. You also know what death metal is. Mix that with swing and you have the basic and outlandish formula for Trepalium. Add large doses of dark humour, an unbridled spirit of fun, and some damn catchy tunes, and you have this super EP. I highly recommend Trepalium to fans of Diablo Swing Orchestra (and vice versa).

Mammal’s rating: 5 out of 5

Visit Trepalium on Facebook.

Mammal’s most recommended: Assorted genres • Art rock, post rock & math rock • Black metal • Core • Melodic & symphonic death metal

Posted on September 11, 2015, in Album Reviews and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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