Smooth stylings and sensual songs; a wrap up of some of the sexiest Future Jazz tracks of the year.
Hello again friends, freaks and fans of future-jazz.
Should this blog have been put out basically a week ago? Yes, yes it should. Did I get distracted by Christmas pud and Baileys? Yes, yes that also happened. Is today – Wednesday 1 January – basically the last feasible day that one can release a ‘best of last year’ list? Well, technically it should be the first possible day but in the world we live in, that isn’t the case. And so, am I fighting my way through a New Year hangover to deliver this to you before it becomes completely irrelevant. Yes, yes I am.
I will endeavour to keep my level of humour and witty repartee at least no lower than it usually is.
In exactly the same style as my previous Charm Offensive, Military Coup, Peaceful Protest and Guerrilla Warfare Best of… lists, what you’ll find below, friends, is a list of 11 of my favourite tracks from the year. This time around, the theme is the Quiet Riots… essentially the smoother, more sensual side of future jazz. Of course, just because they’re quiet doesn’t mean they’re any less noisy.
As before, 10 of these have been reviewed earlier in the year and you can click through to read more on them should you wish. However, I’ve saved one little spot for a track that kinda creeped up on me and that I absolutely need to share.
As of next week, it’ll be back to the usual fare so if you’re only here for the hits, soz abar tha’, yeah? Check back next December when I’ll be doing this all again.
Until then, let these little beauties lull you back out of your alcohol-induced pain.
11. TAWIAH: DON’T HOLD YOUR BREATH
Neo-soul diva Beverley Akua Mansa Tawiah finally released her debut album in 2019 having previously been somewhat shackled due to record label issues.
This track served as a mission statement for an LP that stood proud and defiant against the powers that had hitherto held her back.
In my original review of Don’t Hold Your Breath I cooed over how “everything about [it] feels powerful to me; from the military-style drum beat to the magisterial strings… and yet there’s a real restraint to it too. [Tawiah] clearly has it in her locker to belt out those top notes if she wanted to but every time she gets close, she pulls it back. And that, in itself is its own form of exercising power.”
Hear more here…
10. SABRINA CLAUDIO: TRUTH IS (SPANISH VERSION)
Half-Cuban / half-Puerto Rican songstress, Sabrina Claudio made her name releasing music through YouTube and Soundcloud. But don’t let that fool you into thinking she’s Justin Bieber-lite. She’s twice the woman, Beiber is.
In 2019, she released her second album, the title track from which turned my head in multiple ways.
In my original review of Truth Is I described it as a “cool, confident call-to-arms (read: a massive “fuck you” to some poor ex-squeeze)” picking out “the beautiful harmonies and barely-there synthesisers” for particular praise.
The following video is the same song in English (and with somewhat more melodramatic production). It’s also probably the sexiest thing I’ve seen since Trent Alexander Arnold put in that quick free kick against Barcelona…
09. IBRAHIM MAALOUF: S3NS
French-Lebanese trumpeter, Ibrahim Maalouf released his long-awaited follow-up (proper) to 2015’s Red and Black Light last year and though the album generally moved him into new South American / Cuban soundscapes, all of Maalouf’s previous genius was on display. This track was the most obvious link back to his previous work.
In my original review of S3NS I heralded how “the tone is warm and uplifting and, while never quite reaching a climax, it does enjoy a gentle swell; like a rising tide, it’s enough to lift all around it but done so in a way that’s almost imperceptible.”
If you’d like to listen to the song, the playlist is at the bottom of this article but as an extra little Christmas pressie, I thought I’d share this video of Maalouf performing other songs live from the latest album. It shows the sheer mastery of this amazing musician.
08. MARCELL: ADVENTURE OF A LIFETIME
Indonesia’s finest (with the possible exception of Indra Lesmana), Marcell Siahaan gave us an album of covers of non-jazz tracks in 2019, performed very much in the jazz style but confusingly titled This is Not Jazz. Even more confusing was just how he turned a Coldplay track such as this one into such an absolute banger.
In my original review of Adventure of a Lifetime I enjoyed how “updated with a swing beat and buzzing with joie-de-vivre, this version is a million miles away from the original… [it does] something quite amazing; making the song more exciting and more energetic through slowing it down.”
Enjoy the music video…
07. KEFAYA FEAT. ELAHA SOROOR: AROSE JANE MADAR
My renegade choice for the Quiet Riot section.
A song from Kafaya and Elaha Soroor’s album Songs Of Our Mothers was reviewed this year but it wasn’t Arose Jane Madar; in truth I was just so taken with the story behind the release that I jumped on the first single Jama Narenji as soon as it was released only to delight in the hidden gems contained within the full-length even more.
Said story is that singer Soroor fled her native Afghanistan to live in London after her success as a singer meant she became a target in a culture that looks down on female entertainers.
Against that backdrop, her collaboration with world/dub duo Kefaya was always designed to be the medium for an album full of stories of joy, pain and resilience in times of hardship and oppression whilst also celebrating femininity, sensuality and the spirit of resistance.
Arose Jane Madar was probably the best encapsulation of what the three primary musicians here do so well; a wonderous mix of middle-eastern instrumentation, Soroor’s spiritual and sensual delivery and the dub talents of Al MacSween & Giuliano Modarelli.
This beautiful short film introduces the project and really hammers home why it’s so special.
06. THE GLOAMING: SHEEHAN’S JIGS
Traditional Irish music pioneers The Gloaming unveiled their third album in 2019 – imaginatively titled The Gloaming 3. But, in all honesty, who needs fancy titles when the band are putting all their creative energy into crafting such soul-stirring music.
In my original review of Sheehan’s Jigs I described it as simply “the saddest, most wonderfully wistful, misty-eyed piece of music to have ever come from the emerald isle” and I continue to echo that sentiment to this day.
This live footage shows this incredible band at their very best (though probably not their best angle), performing Sheehan’s Jigs live.
05. MICHAEL KIWANUKA: LIGHT
British singer songwriter, Michael Kiwanuka returned in 2019 with his third album Kiwanuka and this track provided the album’s soaring, celebratory final act.
In my original review of Light I rejoiced in the fact that “Michael Kiwanuka is back doing what he does best… releasing autumnal soundtracks that make you want to snuggle up next to a fire with those you love.”
Watch this excellent live performance in which the sparseness of the arrangement really emphasises the power of that string section…
04. ELIANE ELIAS: BABY, COME TO ME
Written while looking out her window at “breeze-tickled palm trees and balconies against the blue Sao Paulo sky” multiple GRAMMY-winning samba sorceress, Eliane Elias released the orchestral album Love Stories in 2019; a beautiful record tinged with the desperate sadness of a debilitating injury and the passing of her father. This track – one of seven covers on the album – was its stand-out first single.
In my original review of Baby, Come to Me I praised how it moves “smoothly from a bossa nova to a hybrid Latin feel, with harmonic and tempo shifts that would be surprising if they weren’t so seamless… it makes for a rich tapestry of a track whose depths dare not dim its brilliant light.”
Hear more here…
03. NOÉ ZAGROUN FEAT. MARO: MOVE ON
Few 2019 songs opened up such a world of new music to me as this one. Firstly, and most obviously, it introduced me to Berkley College of Music graduate Noé Zagroun who has since released two more superbly yet understatedly brilliant tracks.
It also drew my attention to Portuguese singer, MARO, whose album It’s OK made me desperate to just give her a massive cuddle and whose presence on Jacob Collier’s latest record made me pay slightly more attention than I might have done.
In my original review of Move On I opined that, “if this song were a human being, I would expect it to pull up next to me in a Rolls Royce, wind the window down and enquire as to whether I had any Grey Poupon. It simply radiates class from every note, every beat, every movement.”
Hear more here…
02. SERPENTWITHFEET: MESSY (ACOUSTIC)
In 2019 Josiah Wise (as serpentwithfeet is known to his Mum) provided us with two acoustic covers of tracks he’d previously released on his 2018 album, soil. And, while I’d only ever admired his work from afar before, this track drew me to it in a way I could not have imagined.
In my original review of Messy I specifically drew your attention to how “the backing vocals – greatly changed from the original – give the track an extra dimension. Their hook, sung over this acoustic version’s introduction, proves undeniable and will stay with you for a long time.”
Hear more here…
01. JAZZMEIA HORN: GREEN EYES
And so to our winner in the Quiet Riots section – Texan jazz prodigy Jazzmeia Horn. Having been the darling of the jazz scene since winning the Thelonious Monk Competition in 2015, she released her second album Love and Liberation in 2019 – the first to feature original music from the artist. However, it was this cover of an Erykah Badu track that got many – including me – really excited.
In my original review of Green Eyes I loved how “given extra swing by Horn’s exquisite backing band, it’s a million miles away from the envy-wrought requiem of the original. Jamison Ross’ drums are tastefully busy throughout while Victor Gould’s piano liberally splashes colour across the canvas. None of which should distract, of course, from Horn’s own predictably precocious performance. It feels almost superfluous, at this point, to point out just how good a singer she is but only because she delivers time and time again.”
Hear more here…
So there you have it, friends; the final part of our five-week wrap up of the year.
You can listen to these Top 11 Quiet Riot choices on the below Spotify playlist.
If you like what you hear (or even if you don’t), please engage in dialogue with me @45rpm_Reviews on Twitter. And, if you’d like to receive updates weekly, please subscribe to the email list to get these recommendations sent direct to your inbox.
Stay noisy. Even when you’re quiet.
– SV –