21st Century Modern

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As we move into the new century, jazz artists continue to merge and blend pre-existing genres in ways that make it hard to find easy labels. Today's jazz artist is likely to pull from the avant-garde, post bop, 3rd stream and modern fusion all within the same piece. Yet as these artists draw from all these eclectic sources, we begin to see some similarities in a lot of new jazz in the 21st century.

The 21st Century Modern genre at JMA is for artists who do not easily fit into pre-existing genres such as the aforementioned, Post Bop, Avant-Garde, Fusion, or 3rd Stream, but whose music may contain elements of all those genres, as well as other elements from outside the jazz world.

Despite all these eclectic elements, we do find some things in common with many of the artists listed in our 21st Century Modern genre.

1)Many artists in this genre feature arrangements and composition in their music, along with improvisation based on chord progressions, or entirely freely improvised sections as well. Large scale pieces with multiple sections are often a part of this genre. There is an attempt in modern jazz to blend composition and improvisation in ways that make them hard to tell apart.

2)Larger ensembles (5 to 8 pieces) and 'mini-big bands' play a part in a lot of modern jazz. Instruments like the violin, cello and clarinet have made a comeback.

3)Rhythmically, modern jazz is all over the map, sometimes swinging, sometimes drawing on international fusion, and sometimes totally free, almost any style can happen.

4)Harmonically modern jazz is equally eclectic, ranging from the extended harmonies of post bop, to atonal free jazz, to the simple triad based harmonies of folk songs and hymns, once again, anything can happen.

21st century modern top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm | 60 min. caching

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts Album Cover Daylight Ghosts
CRAIG TABORN
4.48 | 4 ratings
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THE CLAUDIA QUINTET Royal Toast Album Cover Royal Toast
THE CLAUDIA QUINTET
4.40 | 6 ratings
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CRAIG TABORN Chants Album Cover Chants
CRAIG TABORN
4.45 | 2 ratings
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VIJAY IYER Vijay Iyer / Wadada Leo Smith : A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke Album Cover Vijay Iyer / Wadada Leo Smith : A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke
VIJAY IYER
4.45 | 2 ratings
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MARY HALVORSON Mary Halvorson Octet : Away With You Album Cover Mary Halvorson Octet : Away With You
MARY HALVORSON
4.43 | 2 ratings
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KRIS DAVIS Save Your Breath Album Cover Save Your Breath
KRIS DAVIS
4.02 | 2 ratings
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CHES SMITH Ches Smith with Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri: The Bell Album Cover Ches Smith with Craig Taborn and Mat Maneri: The Bell
CHES SMITH
4.00 | 2 ratings
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ÉMILE PARISIEN Émile Parisien Quintet feat. Joachim Kühn : Sfumato Album Cover Émile Parisien Quintet feat. Joachim Kühn : Sfumato
ÉMILE PARISIEN
4.00 | 2 ratings
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TIM BERNE Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Shadow Man Album Cover Tim Berne's Snakeoil: Shadow Man
TIM BERNE
4.00 | 2 ratings
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MICHAEL FORMANEK Small Places Album Cover Small Places
MICHAEL FORMANEK
3.98 | 2 ratings
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CHRIS POTTER The Dreamer Is the Dream Album Cover The Dreamer Is the Dream
CHRIS POTTER
3.95 | 2 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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21st century modern Music Reviews

GERALD CLAYTON Tributary Tales

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
I never heard about Holland-born American pianist Gerald Clayton till one autumn night in 2010 when I saw him playing on his first European tour soon after the release of his debut album as leader. Leading muscular all-acoustic groovy trio,Clayton sounded as another "cat" playing quite mainstream jazz with rare freshness and without even a touch of sentimentality or nostalgia (both often destroy great artists music turning it to archival self-parody).

Only after I listened to his both debut and soon released second album, but saying true has been a bit disappointed. Somehow recorded music obviously missed that freshness and modernity which I found such attractive on Clayton live gig.

Now, after some years to come,I gave Clayton another chance and was really pleasantly surprised. Same acoustic trio has been improved with strong 3-piece reeds section (incl. Logan Richardson and Dayna Stephens on saxes and Ben Wendel on bassoon), two percussionists, two poets/spoken word artists and singer Sachal Vasandani. What is even more important - rooted in same neo post-bop,music here is tightly composed by Clayton himself, and he demonstrates non-nonsense composition abilities.

Leading quite a big combo, Clayton never overuse arrangements and as a result tuneful and complex music sounds tasteful if not minimalist. Spoken word pieces are as always an acquired taste, but at least here them don't destroy impression from album's music in whole. Band sounds best on instrumental compositions where post bop rhythmic structures organically interweave with modern composition without becoming too lifeless or frozen-formal as on some third steam recordings. Japanese edition contains Count Basie's "Blues For Stephanie" as bonus.

Serious step ahead and one great modern jazz album containing music attractive for listeners of different tastes.

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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js
Always working at the forefront of what is new and interesting in today’s jazz scene, Craig Taborn has produced one of the better albums of his career, and also one of the better new jazz albums this year with, “Daylight Ghosts”. Building on the style he established on 2013’s brilliant “Chant”, Craig continues to use repeating rhythmic figures to construct his compositions that some have compared to minimalism. Taborn’s ‘minimalism’ has very little to do with composers like John Adams or Phillip Glass, but instead reflects the timeless music of Africa and Indonesia, as well as composers who pull from that deep well such as Steve Reich. To these insistent rhythms Taborn adds a swinging flow borrowed from today’s post bop, as well as some rhythmic drive from the fusion side of things and the end result is a musical style that sounds like no one else but Craig Taborn.

One of the salient differences between “Ghosts’ and the preceding “Chant” is the addition of Chris Speed on tenor sax and clarinet, a musician who totally gets the Taborn musical vision and interacts with Craig as one mind. Much of the solo space on here finds the two musicians ‘soloing’ at the same time, almost in a method reminiscent of the earliest days of New Orleans jazz. Therein lies the roots of Taborn’s musical creation, Africa and New Orleans reconfigured for the modern age. Another new feature on “Ghosts” includes moments of reflective melody, such as “The Great Silence”, on which Chris Speed’s lonely clarinet sounds like isolated quotes from a Stravinsky recital.

Some of the best cuts on here include the opener, “The Shining One”, which features one of Craig’s best aggressive piano solos, and the hard charging “Ancient”, on which the band’s repeating rhythms take on a rock like push similar to a modern math rock combo. “New Glory” also reveals Craig’s renewed interest in melody with a high flying closing chorus that sounds like Weather Report from their Caribbean influenced mid-70s output . “Daylight Ghosts” is highly recommended for anyone who wants to hear what is new and happening in jazz.

GREG LEWIS Organ Monk, The Breathe Suite

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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kev rowland


I was fortunate enough to hear Greg’s last album, ‘Organ Monk American Standard’, and was excited to see that he was releasing another, so was looking forward to hearing this, and I wasn’t disappointed. Inspired by the great Thelonious Monk, Greg Lewis has made the Hammond B-3 organ his very own in recent years and it is interesting to hear what he is doing with it. Yes, he can be soulful, yes he can be mellow and reflective, but there is an angst throughout this album, a real edge, and when the band let loose they create something that is powerful.

Each of the songs on the album are dedicated to an African American who had been killed during confrontations with police officers. By far the longest piece on the album is the first, which is dedicated to Michael Brown, who was fatally shot on August 9th, 2014 by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer, after reportedly robbing a convenience store. This is nearly nineteen minutes long, and is full of passion and driving force, almost free jazz at times, and almost hard rock at others, as all the players combine to create a powerful message. By creating a suite in this manner, with a different name applied to each, it allows the listener to understand more of the message that is being portrayed. Some of the songs are performed by a trio, while others involve more musicians, but at the heart of it all is Greg, sometimes providing the backdrop for others to solo against, while at others he is in full flight. Special mention must also be made of the two drummers involved Nasheet Waits and Jeremy ‘BEAN’ Clemons – they are both kept high in the mix, and deservedly so, as their virtuosity and understanding adds to the overall effect.

This is yet another great jazz release from Greg, and if you have yet to come across his work then you owe it to yourself to do so.

TYSHAWN SOREY The Inner Spectrum of Variables

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
In the modern jazz scene its the drummers who are changing the world, I'm serious! For last few years most current and probably most interesting trend on both sides of Atlantic is growing interest to jazz composition. And starting from influential beginners The Claudia Quintet (led by drummer John Hollenbeck) followed by ECM artist drummer Ches Smith and Canadian drummer Harris Eisenstadt, there are drummers who's bands are on a forefront of new movement.

Than it's not a strange at all that Roscoe Mitchell, Steve Coleman and John Zorn drummer Tyshawn Sorey on his fifth album as leader switches towards composition. Just as with some other Sorey works, he does it on his own radical manner. "The Inner Spectrum Of Variables" is six-movement suite, released as double CD-set and composed by Sorey,which recorded by two collectives - piano trio and strings trio. Besides of composition Sorey participates as conductor and only minimally - as drummer.

Even more unusual - music presented is based mostly on classic tradition (coming from early 20th century with feel-able romanticism influences and even baroque touches) and in big part has nothing in common with any form of jazz. Movement III is a first place (after half an hour of beautiful if not dark classical intro) where one can hear some avant-garde jazz drumming and dissonant motives in band's music, but very soon it fades to already expected classic piece.

There still will be few more explosive complex inserts till the end of the CD 1, but second disc opens with ambient drums and cymbals bringing listener more to chamber hall than on jazz scene again. Movements IV-VI, filling bigger half of second set's part, are quite dark but still tuneful chamber music hall compositions, all tasteful if having nothing too much in common with jazz.

Unorthodox album, which is difficult to evaluate strictly from jazz fan point of view, "The Inner Spectrum Of Variables" is more universal work removing accurate genres' frames. Sorey demonstrates here his great abilities as composer and besides of similar stylistic Wadada Leo Smith and Henry Threadgill most current works, this album is with no doubt one of the best releases for open ears listeners, coming from 2016.

MARY HALVORSON Mary Halvorson Octet : Away With You

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
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js
On her latest CD, “Away With You”, Mary Halvorson expands beyond her usual small group format and utilizes a full octet, and the end result is one of the best albums of her still growing career. Mary is already well known as an interesting improviser and composer, but with this new mini-big band, Halverson shows she is also a superb arranger and manipulator of large ensembles. Many of the pieces on here morph and change in organic ways that are difficult to write out, instead, much like previous masters such as Ellington and Mingus, Halvorson has learned the fine art of leading an ensemble through abstract communication while the improvising process is taking place. The end result is an ensemble that can move together as one mind.

With so many musicians to work with, Mary achieves a myriad of tone colors on “Away With You”, and often breaks the group down into small duos and trios. The icing on the tone color cake is pedal steel guitarist Susan Alcorn, who often meshes with Halvorson’s guitar in ways that make it hard to tell which one is which. Fortunately the steel guitar is not used for ironic kitsch, instead, Alcorn is a serious avant-garde improviser on the pedal steel, and pulls some wonderful effects out of the snaky instrument. The group improvising on here is very much in a jazz vein, but the head tunes often draw on modern concert hall music, as well as marches and processions. Once again there is a possible parallel to Mingus here, but in all fairness, Mary’s music really does not sound much like Mingus, even though they have some similar approaches.

Like much of today’s jazz, “Away With You” can be a bit dry and abstract, but the band also produces some serious heat with blistering saxophone solos on “Spirit Splitter” and “The Absolute Almost”, which are also two of the best tracks on the album. Another interesting cut is the murky atmosphere of “Fog Bank”, which features Alcorn’s slowly meandering steel guitar. If you are looking for whats new in the world of jazz, “Away With You” is a great place to start.

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