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Best of 2108: Jazz Albums

by CHRIS SEARLE

This year was definitely a year of the jazz woman, with some fine albums telling a story of a profound and innovative direction in British jazz.

Young Kentish drummer Lorraine Baker, whose first album Spark! is a tribute to her musical hero, the New Orleans-born drummer Ed Blackwell, joined forces with her band on the album Eden to play tunes associated with Blackwell, with tenor saxophonist Binker Golding, bassist Paul Michael and protean pianist Liam Noble all in powerful fettle.

Her childhood love of tap-dancing inspired Baker's drumming and of Blackwell she says: “He sounds like he's dancing when he's playing.”

Hear her drums on Dakar Dance, alongside Noble's stomping notes, and you understand why she is Blackwell's percussive daughter. Golding is potently fluent on Ornette Coleman's Blues Connotation and Baker is all over her drums beside him.

Saxophonist Camilla George's Nigerian girlhood, spent listening to Fela Kuti as well as Charlie Parker, inspired her musical devotion. On her second album The People Could Fly (Ubuntu Music), she revisits the African tales her mother told her as a child, with prodigious pianist Sarah Tandy, delving bassist Daniel Casimir and drummers Femi Koleoso and Winston Clifford.

On Tappin' the Land Turtle, she romps beside Cherise Adams-Burnett's vocal while, on the title track, her storytelling horn flies with the people over the Niger deltalands, like her jazz ancestors did over the Mississippi levees.

Helena Kay was a youthful member of the Fife Youth Jazz Orchestra in Scotland and, when she heard records of the great Sonny Rollins, she turned to the tenor saxophone and her debut album Moon Palace (Ubuntu Music) shows how creatively she has developed her own horn sound.

Lucid and free-spirited, she leaps through her notes, buoyed by Ferg Ireland's springing bass and Davis Ingamells's hustling drums. Feijao, inspired by the the great Brazilian tunester Jobim, is more reflective and on Charlie Parker's Kim her saxophone zips with life.

Her own composition Perry Street, reflecting a sojourn in New York, radiates a sense of sonic wonder at where she is.

These are three young women of rampant exuberance and musicianship, igniting the future of jazz.

 

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