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

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MATT MITCHELL Vista Accumulation Album Cover Vista Accumulation
MATT MITCHELL
5.00 | 2 ratings
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PAUL BLEY Paul Bley / Gary Peacock / Paul Motian : Not Two, Not One Album Cover Paul Bley / Gary Peacock / Paul Motian : Not Two, Not One
PAUL BLEY
4.67 | 3 ratings
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TIM BERNE Tim Berne's Snakeoil : Incidentals Album Cover Tim Berne's Snakeoil : Incidentals
TIM BERNE
4.75 | 2 ratings
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CARLA BLEY Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow : Life Goes On Album Cover Carla Bley, Andy Sheppard, Steve Swallow : Life Goes On
CARLA BLEY
4.75 | 2 ratings
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ENRICO RAVA Enrico Rava / Stefano Bollani : The Third Man Album Cover Enrico Rava / Stefano Bollani : The Third Man
ENRICO RAVA
4.75 | 2 ratings
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JOHN LINDBERG John Lindberg Raptor Trio : Western Edges Album Cover John Lindberg Raptor Trio : Western Edges
JOHN LINDBERG
4.75 | 2 ratings
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HENRY THREADGILL Henry Threadgill & Make A Move ‎: Where's Your Cup? Album Cover Henry Threadgill & Make A Move ‎: Where's Your Cup?
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4.52 | 3 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
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4.46 | 4 ratings
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4.40 | 6 ratings
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4.45 | 3 ratings
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VIJAY IYER Vijay Iyer Sextet ‎: Far From Over Album Cover Vijay Iyer Sextet ‎: Far From Over
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4.43 | 3 ratings
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4.50 | 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

CONNOR O'NEILL The Same Changes, Vol II

Album · 2023 · 21st Century Modern
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Carmel
Ah, the task at hand beckons us to delve into the soulful and intricate world of Connor O'Neill's latest offering, "The Same Changes, Vol. II." This album will interest jazz fans and those with an affinity for the six-stringed instrument, especially those with an ear for a melodic performer with a gift for well-penned compositions.

O'Neill, a beacon in Philadelphia's creative music scene, brings his virtuosic guitar skills honed through years of academia, performance, and production. His educational background, with accolades from the University of the Arts, sets a sturdy foundation for his artistic endeavors. However, it is his life experiences, particularly those challenging moments of doubt and introspection, that breathe life into "The Same Changes, Vol. II."

The album is a journey of contemporary jazz, with each track acting as a vignette into O'Neill's musical dialect. The ensemble accompanying him—Alex Delcourt on bass, Steven Perry on drums, Morgan Walbridge on vibraphone, Mervin Toussaint on alto saxophone, Jessica Cantone with her voice, and Micah Graves on piano—creates a cohesive ensemble that excels at collaboration.

"Disordinance" kicks off the album, setting a mysterious aurora with its harmonious blend of counterpoint between the guitar and vibes. Walbridge's vibraphone keeps the sense of suspense while Delcourt solos. Walbridge's solo is melodic and well-paced. O'Neill's guitar, ethereal in its tone, speaks within the chords, spinning motifs that resonate with today's jazz sounds.

"Another Moment Reconciled" shifts gears, presenting a contemporary jazz ballad that weaves through fusion and modern rhythmic structures. Here, O'Neill's guitar sings with a warm clarity, supported by the translucent vibes of Walbridge and the rhythmic backbone of Perry and Delcourt. The track embodies the ensemble's dynamic synergy and shows their collective artistry and collaboration.

In "Gears," the addition of Toussaint's alto saxophone builds a new color and energy. The track's gentle swing and post-bop influences showcase O'Neill's ability to easily compose a memorable melody through complex time changes and harmonic landscapes, painting a sonic picture that's modern and rooted in the jazz tradition. O'Neill's soloing is expressive as he digs into the swing feel, painting with a balance of legato and staccato articulations. Toussaint's solo is imaginative, blending modern, gospel, and avant-garde textures that bring out the expressive qualities of O'Neill's composition.

"Singularity" features Micah Graves, whose piano interplay with O'Neill's guitar creates a plane of cool modal jazz that exemplifies the album's thematic focus on introspection and evolution. O'Neill's guitar solo is lyrical and rhythmically centered, with each note and rhythm painting a larger picture of personal expression. Graves' solo brings in soulful elements of the blues, modal jazz, and contemporary jazz. He is an excellent player, and his interactions with Perry's drumming add a new dimension to the creative expression of the composition.

“The Same Changes, Vol. II” is a six-song narrative woven through the strings of O'Neill's guitar and the collective voice of his ensemble. As a listener, one can't help but feel a part of O'Neill's journey, invited to find solace and understanding within the notes. This contemporary jazz album showcases O'Neill's technical skill as a player and composer of emotional depth and artistic integrity.

ANGELIKA NIESCIER Angelika Niescier - Tomeka Reid - Savannah Harris : Beyond Dragons

Album · 2023 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
On ancient maps there were unknown territories signed as "Hic Svnt Dracones"(here are dragons). Polish-born Germany raised sax player Angelika Niescier leads her all-female non-convential sax / cello / drums trio towards "beyond dragons" territories.

There is not much of Polish cultural influence in Angelika's music - no beautiful tunes, no melancholy, no spiritual atmosphere at all. Having grown up in Germany from the tender age of 11, Niescier sounds much more like Peter Brötzmann than Adam Pieronczyk (or Tomasz Stanko, if you want). The trio's other member, American cellist Tomeka Reid, is a significant figure on the international contemporary jazz scene, she adds a lot of creative vibes to the album's music. Third member, lesser known NYC-based drummer Savannah Harris, holds her own and does not descend below her better known collaborater's musicianship.

The album's music, which sounds free from first touch, actually contains Angelika's compositions mixed with improvisation, all under strict Niescier control. Quite heavyweight and teutonically-brutal by nature, "Beyond Dragons" is still not a radical assault attack in Brötzmann's fashion, more a well calculated, but creative product of German engineering. Not really often such music is produced by young female trio hands.

JONAS CAMBIEN Maca Conu

Album · 2024 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
Belgium-born Norway-based pianist Jonas Cambien new album's cover art doesn't proclaim there is any jazz inside. The ceramic(?) pig's figure is too quirky even for Pink Floyd's Animals, but probably it would fit well for a post-70s punk band's release. Than yes, the music inside "Maca Canu" is not your father's jazz for sure.

Leading a Nordic quartet with renown bassist Ingebrigt Håker Flaten on board (who occasionally plays Minimoog as well), Jonas offers an exotic mix of contemporary composition and Scandinavian free jazz, sounding very often as a soundtrack to Tim Burton's upcoming weird movie.

Cambien him self plays piano and a vintage Ace Tone Top 5 compact organ from the 60s. Usually a cheesy sound source, popular in school bands, Ace Tone Top 5 sounds quite surreal on the back of the dry repetitive rhythm section's beat. Camdien's piano recalls a mechanical piano sound accompanying silent movies, even reeds sounds angular, cartoonish.

Cambien's regular collaborator, Signe Emmeluth, adds some free solos here and there and surprisingly enough it's his sax that is responsible for the warmness and vivacity elements of a generally mechanistic music album.

"Maca Conu"(it's not only an album's title, but Cambien new band's name as well, whatever it means) is quite unusual and stand-alone music, which probably is more interesting than attractive. It obviously differs from many other contemporary avant-garde jazz releases, even if this album probably isn't the one you will listen to very often.

MICHAEL FORMANEK Michael Formanek Elusion Quartet : As Things Do

Album · 2023 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
Michael Formanek has enjoyed a respectable double bassist status on the New York creative jazz scene for three decades. He is probably better known by his association with reedist Tim Berne, but he has released many works as leader as well. Here on, "As Things Do", Formanek demonstrates more his abilities as a composer, the occupation he is renown for during the last decade or more.

Formanek leads the all-star Elusion Quartet on this, already their second album together. It's another New York scene veteran, sax player Tony Malaby, who steals the show though. His sax soloing is always on the front, sometimes recalling the bird calls, other times sounding as a human voice. His sax is soulful, tasteful, intelligent and full of life. Pianist Kris Davis, who released possibly one of the most highly rated albums of the year this year, stays a bit in the shade here, with just a few elegant solos and some nice interplays with Malaby (who participates on her above mentioned live album as well).

Formanek (who as usually plays vertical bass himself) composition's are a bit of a mixed bag. Tightly and precisely written on a knotty but quite accessible matter, they sound sometimes a bit too dry and too calculated. Even the very emotional Malaby soloes do not always add enough vitality. Partially, the second album half sounds quite formalistic.

Even if not a strongest Formanek work, this album is worthy to be heard because of the high level musicianship.

MARY HALVORSON John Zorn – Mary Halvorson Quartet : Paimon (Book Of Angels Volume 32)

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
I was born eighteen years after the end of WWII and spent my early childhood in a downtown district, bordering with what during the war was a Nazi's established Jewish ghetto, one among the biggest in Europe. In the mid 30s one third of my hometown population was Jewish, at the end of the war there still were a few thousand of them survived by chance. Others were deported to German concentration camps and died there, those few who survived never returned back. Some were killed by Nazis right here, in the outskirts of the town. As a result, only three per cent of pre-war Jewish population stayed in town. Our closest neighbors and friends were Jews.

I can't remember I ever heard music coming from their apartment though. Probably, after the years of holocaust, there were not much place for music in their souls. One of the rare (still black-and-white) photos I still have from my childhood is a green sunny slope on the back of our building where 10 year old neighbor girl Rivka looked after me, a bit chubby blond boy, just started learning walking. And I remember her mum Rachele, she often feasted us flavorful dishes of unusual taste. There were a lot of partially ruined buildings around (the result of Russian bombing at the end of WWII), and plenty of abandoned too. Thousands of Jews that had predominantly inhabited the area, just disappeared, leaving the strange ghost town, which very slowly has been fulfilled with new inhabitants. Some buildings stayed ruined for decades to come, no one knew, where are the people, who lived there before the war, are they alive or not. Probably, everyone knew they will never return back though.

The main city's market square was not too far, just about 15 minutes by walk, I loved to go there with my grandma. On the way we always met people speaking loudly strange language I wasn't able to understand and sometimes there was a disabled old man playing an accordion, very catchy danceable and melancholic tunes, much different from everything I heard elsewhere. It was the Yiddish world of my childhood (I didn't know the world then).

Later our family moved to a brand new apartment on a green new district close to the city's center, and there our closest neighbors and friends were Jews. They were a two-generations family and I still remember the golden plate with their surnames engraved on their apartment's door - "Birshtein & Eidelman". The old lady (I called her "Grandma Sonia") was my grandma's best friend, and our apartments' doors have been never locked - we lived as one big family. It was her who introduced me to tasteful "Tzimmes", from her I learned what "Matzah" is. We started visiting a new market place buying meat and vegetables, and there another old Jewish accordionist played Klezmer for coins. All that has never been something big or important, better to say it was just an ordinary everyday life.

Many years later, one sunny day walking around already rebuilt Old Town, the former WWII-times Jewish ghetto district, I noticed the klezmer trumpet sounding from the small yard. It was a renown Nuyorican Frank London playing klezmer on the land where this music is born. He came to touch the roots of his music and his heritage. I was born and grew up here, listening occasionally to this music, but only found out that it's called "klezmer" in my mature age. We just called it "Jewish music", in a ghost town of Jews with a few Jews alive.

Another, more significant, popularizer of klezmer is with no doubt Nuyorican composer and trumpeter John Zorn. Thanks to him, his own sort of klezmer-jazz became well known and popular around the world. Some years ago he played in my hometown as well, during jazz fest, not on the streets, but anyway hereby klezmer returned back to his home again.

Zorn's "Book of Angels" is a series of klezmer-based compositions, performed by leading New York jazz scene musicians. Mary Halvorson Quartet's "Paimon", is the closing, 32-nd release.

With her regular drummer Tomas Fujiwara, capable bassist Drew Gress and second guitarist Miles Okazaki Halvorson dives into new for her waters. Zorn's composed klezmer-based music is tuneful very emotionally colored, tuneful and melancholic by its origin, not exactly what we know about Halvorson's own music.

The result is quite unusual - "Paimon"'s music is hardly klezmer or jazz. It's more "post-everything" take on Zorn's short well-structurized songs with catchy melodies. Halvorson's usually angular and abstract guitar sound is most successful in interplay with the more flexible (and traditional) guitar of Okazaki. Sentimental tune snippets are presented almost everywhere but not always are right in place. In best, the music flows as quite abstract and quirky take on very conservative material, in other moments there is a feeling that klezmer strict frames are suffocating for Halvorson, she tries to cross the borders, but responsibly returns back to the game's rules.

For me, Halvorson's music here on "Paimon" is a parallel universe klezmer, an interesting music with removed roots. An experiment which doesn't touch a heart. What is possibly very much my personal feeling - this sort of klezmer has nothing too much in common with my childhood's "Yiddish world". But, as with almost any of Halvorson's work, I like to hear her playing.

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