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

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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CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts Album Cover Daylight Ghosts
CRAIG TABORN
4.05 | 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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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

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.

CRAIG TABORN Daylight Ghosts

Album · 2017 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
American pianist Craig Taborn is at the forefront of modern creative jazz.He played with saxophonists James Carter and AEOC's Roscoe Mitchell (Taborn's first presence on ECM label),collaborated with techno producer Carl Craig among others.

As leader, Taborn debuted in 1994 on Japanese DIW label. Since that he released five more solo albums covering such wide areas as nu jazz,avant-garde jazz and even jazz-electronics. Craig very often plays piano and electric keyboards combining them on the same album and freely adapting different techniques even on the same composition.Once I saw Taborn playing live as Michael Formanek band member with all-star line-up including saxophonist Tim Berne and drummer Gerald Cleaver and Craig really stole the show!

On Taborn more current releases for German ECM label (including this just released Daylight Ghosts) Craig demonstrates newest trend in modern jazz - improvisational musicianship based on tightly composed songs. His quartet contains one of the most influential representative of this stream reeds player Chris Speed (well known by his work in cult Claudia Quintet and solo works for ECM), popular American nu jazz bassist Chris Lightcup and The Bad Plus drummer Dave King.

Of nine compositions eight are Taborn originals ("Jamaican Farewell" is written by Roscoe Mitchell). Mixing rock, electronica,chamber and jazz traditions, album represents a very modern form of jazz, with big attention to composition but staying playful and lively because of continuing jazzy improvisational musicianship. This music can sound attractive for listener of very different background,incl. fans of ambient/rock/electronics, rock-jazz progressive, avant-garde jazz and third stream as well. Based more on atmospheric moods than concentration on technical perfection, this new Taborn release is one among great examples of new jazz, one of this better music making fame to respectful ECM label.

CHRISTOPHER HOFFMAN Silver Cord Quintet

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
American composer and cellist Christopher Hoffman is almost unknown for wide public. He is the author of several soundtracks, worked with Martin Scorcese, Yoko Ono, Marianne Faithfull and many others. For modern jazz listeners he could be known as member of several Henry Threadgill bands (incl. Zooid,Dimples and Double-Up Ensemble) and sax player Tony Malaby Tubacello Quartet.

As a leader, Hoffman released four albums of which the newest one is self-produced Silver Cord Quintet. Containing one of the best modern jazz musicians as reedist Tony Malaby and pianist Kris Davis on board among others, Silver Cord Quintet plays very modern form of adventurous jazz combining well-composed songs with quite free members' improvisations.

Band leader Hoffman's classical roots are feel-able on every album's composition, but nothing sounds chamber here. Young drummer Craig Weinrib adds lot of muscular groove and trombonist Ben Gerstein is inventively destructive. Compositions are well-written but played with with high level of inventiveness inside with excellent Malaby's sax and Davis piano soloing against each other.

Still, quite quirky and far-not-so accessible music sounds surprisingly beautiful and attractive. Great example how advanced and complex in great hands can sound simply great - one among better advanced jazz albums released this year. It's a shame if this self-released piece of art will pass unnoticed.

ÉMILE PARISIEN Émile Parisien Quintet feat. Joachim Kühn : Sfumato

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
Sax player Emile Parisien is probably brightest young French rising jazz musician. His international success begun two years ago with release of international debut album on respectable German ACT label. I saw his quartet playing live right after on European tour and to be honest wasn't too much impressed. Young French musicians had great communication (not surprisingly for active band,playing together for almost ten years),their music was well balanced containing tuneful elements and improvs,and being accessible,they didn't sound boring. Emile himself even did some show on stage, but at the end of the day I couldn't recall even small memorable moment of all gig.

Last week Parisien played in my hometown again - this time with another French rising star accordionist Vincent Peirani (who just released his album of duets with German star-pianist Michael Wollny). Parisien new album, just released on same ACT label, contains Peirani participation as guest as well. "Sfumato"(that's new album's title) already received rare five-star review in "The Guardian", so - is it really all that great?

First of all, Parisien after ten years of activities disbanded his original quartet and formed totally new band - a quintet with German piano veteran Joachim Kuhn (who lives in Paris for years). Fifth member (besides of Parisien quartet's classic sax-piano-drums-bass formula) is French electric guitarist Manu Codija, known by work with Henry Texier and Erik Truffaz among others.

Than, there are two guest stars participating on four of eleven compositions - French scene veteran Michel Portal on bass clarinet and already mentioned above accordionist Vincent Peirani.So - on his second ACT album Parisien plays with larger and technically much more potent band.

Musical changes are significant as well. From quite accessible but unmemorable and often loose compositions of former quartet,Parisien moved towards complex and more pre-composed material (new band plays his old trilogy "Le clown tueur de la fête foraine", two Joachim Kuhn songs and one Parisien-Kuhn collaborative composition as well). From French urban music influenced improvisational pieces with soloing sax on the front Parisien music made a visible step toward complex European modern jazz. Peirani accordion still adds that trade-mark French chanson -like feeling, but it works more like spices in sophisticated brew, than main accent. Kuhn's piano and Codija's rock-like guitar are excellent ingredients,making Parisien music more replete,complex and partially refined.

Still not a masterpiece but serious step forward, "Sfumato" is one great example of best modern European jazz.

VIJAY IYER Vijay Iyer / Wadada Leo Smith : A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke

Album · 2016 · 21st Century Modern
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snobb
Trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith and pianist Vijay Iyer are both brightest representatives of two different jazz generations and ambiences. Smith is one of AACM founders,who played with Anthony Braxton and in late 90's - first decades of new century became one of the leaders (together with Henry Threadgill) of re-vitalized crossover avantgarde jazz releasing series of large-format albums.

Vijay Iyer came to jazz scene in 90s and during next two decades built the reputation of one of leading pianist playing world fusion,avant-garde jazz even mixing both with contemporary classics.

"A Cosmic Rhythm With Each Stroke" is first duo's album. Released on German ECM label,it sounds according to label's standard - sound is crystal clear and emotionally quite cool.

Iyer plays piano, Fender Rhodes and uses some (lap top?) electronics which often sounds like early analogue Moog.

On a mid-tempo compositions Smith's trumpet flies over Iyer's almost chamber piano or,alternatively, electronics bass pulsation weaving unique aerial and meditative in moments aural sculptures where European and Indian classic roots are mixed with American minimalism and avant-garde jazz aesthetics.

If Iyer's few previous works for ECM already prepared listener for such sound, for often massive and even bombastic Smith's music of last decades it's quite unusual turn. Fortunately, all sound perfectly showing more intimate side of Smith's musicianship.

Structurally album contains opener, seven-part suite and the closer, and requires repeated listening. Not a jazz in a traditional sense, but no-one expects too traditional music from such duet. Excellent work, setting up new standards for jazz in contemporary world.

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