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ICON Magazine's Best Jazz Recordings of 2015

Happy New Year from ICON Magazine and Nick Bewsey with a fantastic lineup of jazz CDs from last year!

Best / Favorite Jazz Recordings of 2015

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington: The Epic (Brainfeeder) Best Debut Release
My choice for best jazz record of the year is also the most significant release of 2015. Kamasi Washington’s madly entertaining The Epic is a 3-disc multilayered triumph that features a 10-piece band with two drummers, two bass players, a choir, and orchestra. It’s audacious, over the top, and sizzling with in-the-pocket grooves, anchored by the leader’s intoxicating saxophone solos. It’s mostly accessible, but it also doesn’t hesitate to roar like late-era spiritualized Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders. The 45 songs are presented with Sun Ra-style fervor, yet its pulse and rhythms are rooted in the present. The accompanying national tour that landed at the Blue Note was the loudest, most thrilling jazz concert I’ve experienced in a long while, and the sold-out room was full of younger music fans who saw Washington and his band as superstars. Proof of Washington’s greatness is resoundingly evident on The Epic.

Maria Schneider: The Thompson Fields (artistShare)

Ben Williams: Coming of Age (Concord Jazz)

José James

José James: Yesterday I Had the Blues (Blue Note) Best Vocal CD
The best of this year’s tribute albums to Billie Holiday on the 100th anniversary of her birth. James simplifies classic standards, closely collaborating with pianist Jason Moran, bassist John Patitucci, and drummer Eric Harland. His fluid baritone has a honeyed quality and he lets songs like “Good Morning Heartache” breathe and take gentle flight. His voice patient and shimmering, James digs “Fine and Mellow” and croons “Lover Man” as a sensual soul singer. He smolders and seduces, capturing the essence of Ms. Holiday’s charm and vulnerability.

Nick Finzer: The Chase (Origin)

Joe Locke: Love Is a Pendulum (Motema)

Revive Music presents Supreme Sonancy, Volume 1 (Revive/Blue Note)

Jamison Ross: Jamison (Concord Jazz)

Tom Harrell: First Impressions (HighNote)

Orrin Evans: The Evolution of Oneself (Smoke Sessions)

Cyrus Chestnut: A Million Colors in Your Mind (HighNote)

Duane Eubanks: Things of a Particular Nature (Sunnyside)

Marcus Roberts: Romance, Swing, and the Blues (J-Master)

Harold Mabern: Afro Blue (Smoke Sessions)

Pete Rodriguez: El Conde Negro (Destiny Records) Best Latin Jazz CD

Tony Bennett, Bill Charlap: The Silver Lining (Columbia)

Eliane Elias: Made in Brazil (Concord Jazz)

Charenee Wade: Offering (Motema)

Joey Alexander: My Favorite Things (Motema)

Joe Castro: Lush Life: A Musical Journey (Sunnyside)

Historical / Reissues

Red Garland: Swingin’ On The Korner (Elemental)

Miles Davis At Newport, The Bootleg Series #4 (Columbia/Legacy)

Wes Montgomery: In The Beginning (Resonance)

ICON Magazine is the only publication in the Greater Delaware Valley and beyond solely devoted to coverage of music, fine and performing arts, pop culture, and entertainment. Click here for more information.