JJ Wheeler’s Festive Five

Plus highlights past and future
By thejazzbreakfast’s guest writer, JJ Wheeler 

Here’s a few of my choice highlights from 2012, followed by some things I’m looking forward to 2013. All lists are in no way written in order of merit – I liked different things for different reasons.


imaginary roomAdam Baldych & The Baltic Gang Imaginary Room (ACT): For making me believe in the violin as a contemporary Jazz instrument once again. Also, superb writing, arrangement and delivery that never tires.

Dominic J Marshall Icaros (F-IRE): Genuinely exciting music with youthful energy yet sophistication and technical ability normally expected from musicians well beyond the piano trio’s age.

Trish Clowes And In The Night-time She Is There (Basho): Strikingly fascinating music. Undoubtedly unique and more enticing with every listen.

lighthouseGarland/Simcock/Sirkis Lighthouse (ACT): Every bit as good as you’d expect from three stellar names in creative Jazz/Classical/World music (and more).

Pixel Reminder (Cuneiform): The CD with the biggest ‘bite’, in my opinion. Punk-Jazz without being annoying, repetitive or cliched.

EPs of 2012

I wouldn’t normally include these, but there have been a couple of ‘download only’ EPs that have blown me away this year available either free or very cheap that I think people should know about.

Arkala Arkala Means I Love You: Birmingham based duo Ben Kane and Tom Forde combine to create atmospheric music that’ll pull the heart-strings, no question. Available at http://arkala.bandcamp.com

Sefiroth Ensemble Arboles Llorian Por Lluvia: 10-piece electro-acoustic chamber ensemble playing contemporary interpretations of traditional Sephardic (Judeo-Spanish) repertoire, much of which dates back to the Medieval period and draws upon Arabic, Turkish, Greek and Eastern European influences. Amazing results. Available athttp://sefiroth.bandcamp.com


Unfortunately, my concert attending this year has been hampered by illness, so here’s three I’ve picked from earlier in the year when I was out and about.

Dave DouglasDave Douglas with the Royal Academy of Music Big Band – Duke’s Hall, London (26 Jan): The culmination of Dave’s 2012 week-long visit to the Academy (to be repeated Jan 2013) saw a spectacular night showcasing the college’s amazing young talent alongside a leading light in the world of Jazz. Truly remarkable all round.

Kenny Wheeler Quintet – The Vortex, London (27 Mar): Fulfilling a long-time ambition of mine to see the great man up-close and personal, with accomplished support from Stan Sulzman, Gwilym Simcock, Chris Laurence and Martin France.

Garland/Simcock/Sirkis (Lighthouse Trio) – The Forge, London (15 May): Having been blown away by the same trio at the 606 just a couple of weeks beforehand I HAD to be at the album launch at The Forge. I was not disappointed. Made especially fun as I was able to view the gig from a Bird’s Eye position!

Releases I’m looking forward to in 2013

John Hollenbeck w/Frankfurt Radio Big Band Songs I Like A Lot (Sunnyside Records): That little genius is at it again, this time re-working a set of other people’s songs. Look out for the unbelievable version of Queen’s Bicycle Race. It’ll blow you away.

Reuben Fowler Big Band title TBC (Edition): This year’s winner of the Kenny Wheeler Prize as well as the MBF’s Peter Whittingham Award is using all of the prize money/benefits to record the very music that won the acclamations.

Wayne Shorter Without A Net (Blue Note): Still unbelievable at age 80, as evidenced by live performances world-wide. Accompanied by the other three members of his now long-running quartet (Brian Blade, John Pattitucci, Danilo Perez), Blue Note have us chomping at the bit to get our hands on a copy.

Marius Neset Birds (Edition): If it’s anything near his debut release Golden Xplosion, it’ll be featured heavily in next year’s ‘Best Of…’ lists. Also on the album are all three members of Phronesis. Expect fireworks.

Categories: CD review, Live review

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