Every day we audition many new releases, hoping to find a few songs with that indefinable “magic” that will keep you listening to Excellence In Jazz on CapRadio. In evaluating recent releases, our jazz staff has come up with ten artists we recommend you keep an ear on in 2020!
Gary G. Vercelli
Vocalist Catherine Russell’s CD “Alone Together” topped the 2019 JazzWeek national airplay chart, collecting 5,465 spins from stations across the country (including many on CapRadio!). What sets Russell apart from her peers is her energy, her clear diction, and her ability to reach into your soul with her sincere interpretation of standards. Watch for more energized excitement from Cat Russell in 2020.
Standout Track: “Early In The Morning”
Works For Me
Posi-Tone Records producer Marc Free consistently assembles unique groups of rising young musicians. Works for Me is essentially a modern bop quintet featuring a guitarist in place of a trumpet. On a brilliant reworking of Joe Henderson’s “Jinrikisha,” guitarist Tony Davis and saxophonist Alexa Tarantino both shine with effortless solos. Watch for Davis and Tarantino in 2020, both as members of this collective and as leaders of their own groups.
Standout Track: “Jinrikisha”
Christian McBride is everywhere! The host of NPR’s Jazz Night in America and Sirius XM’s The Lowdown: Conversations with Christian, McBride is also arguably the most sought-after bassist in modern music. McBride demonstrates his skills as a composer, arranger, and lyricist on “The Movement Revisited,” a five part suite saluting four key figures in the civil rights movement. Expect Christian McBride to add to his staggering body of work in 2020.
Standout Track: “Soldiers (I Have A Dream)”
Rachael & Vilray
Rachael Price has a distinctly recognizable voice. Although obviously influenced by Billie Holiday, she is also delightfully original as she interprets new songs composed by Vilray that sound like they could have been standards in the 1940s or ‘50s. Guitarist Vilray writes refreshing new material that is tied stylistically to a past era. Check out the witty lyrics on “At Your Mother’s House.”
Standout Track: “At Your Mother’s House”
This mostly female group out of the United Kingdom produced, in this writer’s opinion, the best jazz album of 2019 with “Blume.” Their fresh, revolutionary sound and unique compositions blend the sounds of classic mid-1960s Blue Note recordings with modern styles, such as hip-hop and Afrobeat. Jazz lovers around the world should be excited to see what they have in store for us in 2020.
Standout Track: “Nascence”
Another U.K. based artist, 22-year-old vocalist Sahra Gure is already making waves in the exciting and highly competitive London jazz scene. In 2019, she graduated from Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance, won the Musicians’ Company Young Jazz Musician Award and released her debut EP, “Love Me with Me.” She began her career as a classical violinist, but the sound on this release, which Gure wrote and produced, is undeniably neo-soul. Hers is definitely a career worth watching.
Standout Track: “Better Dream”
Joel Ross is a phenom. The young vibraphonist plays with such fluidity and creativity that one cannot help but focus on every note his mallets produce. I am told he is even better live. His debut album, “Kingmaker,” was released in May 2019 and was a big success. Ross did not stop there, however, as he has already put his stamp on 2020 as a featured artist on saxophonist Jure Pukl’s upcoming release, “Broken Circles.” With a busy performance schedule and new recordings in the works, Joel Ross is worth keeping an eye on this year.
Standout Track: “Sustained Optimism”
Known for his role in blending modern jazz and soul with hip-hop, baritone vocalist José James has been putting out solid albums and collaborations for more than 10 years. So it’s no surprise that he’ll be making a splash in 2020. James’ new album, “No Beginning No End 2,” is out on March 6 and is a sequel to his 2013 Blue Note debut, which featured contemporary heavy hitters like Robert Glasper and Pino Palladino. This time around he’s working alongside the likes of Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah and Laura Mvula. If the first single is any indication, I’d say this album will be a hit.
Standout Track: “I Need Your Love”
They always say that the second album is the most important for a new artist to prove themselves. If so then Dallas, Texas born vocalist Jazzmeia Horn has set the bar pretty high with a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Vocal Album of 2019. Released this past year on Concord, “Love & Liberation” is full of blues, R&B and plenty of wonderful post-bop swing. Horn proves her ability to compose as well as rejuvenate old classics alongside pianist Victor Gould, bassist Ben Williams and drummer/vocalist Jamison Ross. Look out for her in 2020, as she’ll surely be continuing to prove her chops throughout the new year.
Standout Track: “Free Your Mind”
If there’s one artist that shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon, it’s gotta be pianist, composer and bandleader Jon Batiste. He’s become fairly well known through television since becoming the musical director and house band leader of “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” in 2015 and releasing two albums this past year, both recorded live at the Village Vanguard in NYC. The two sessions, titled “Anatomy of Angels” and “Chronology of a Dream,” capture Batiste and his band, Stay Human, in perhaps their most comfortable and engaging atmosphere. Be sure to watch out for this rising star as he continues to honor and innovate Black American music in 2020.
Standout Track: “Soulful”