There are many contemporary albums which seem only to re-propose, maybe with some minimal variant, sound and styles and musical dynamics that are nowadays very well established and consolidated. Fortunately, however, we have also a new generation of musicians who are able to bring new life into Jazz music.
I’m presenting in this article seven representatives of the new generation of composers: a group of artists that with the freshness of new ideas and a musical language that owes so much to rock and other genres, are basically rewriting the rules of Jazz. You will find in this list a few already established Jazz musicians along with new promises. In both cases, however, these are free spirits of music: a family of authors who demonstrated the capacity to look beyond the established boundaries of the genre. This is Foward Thinking Jazz at its best.
I have to admit that Michael Wollny, along with Tigran and a few other pianists of the same generation, is one of the young jazz talents that I appreciate the most. He’s one of those musicians who manage to combine an “ancient” sensibility with that rebellious and revolutionary spirit that allow his music to progress towards the future. I have loved all the records that Wollny has released in the recent years, until the last fabulosu album Oslo, realized together with Christian Weber and Eric Schaefer. Recorded in just three days, the album is full of freshness and passion, and it immortalizes the German artist in one of the most brilliant phases of his career.
Kristjan Randalu was born in Estonia but he developed his talent for piano studying first in Germany and then in London and in the United States. His first Jazz projects dates back to 2002 but he gained attention at the beginning ot this decade by playing the piano with Tunisian singer and oud player Dhafer Youssef. This year Randalu has released a beautiful album for EMC, Absence, with support from guitarist Ben Monder and drummer Markku Ounaskari. In this record he shows a unique ability to brilliantly mix together elements of Jazz improvisation, avant-garde and classical music influences.
English musician Tony Gray is anything but a novice in the Jazz scene. He is in fact today a world-renowned bass player and one of the most talented musicians of our times. He showed his skills and unique technique by playing with artists of the caliber of Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Mike Stern, Hiromi, Zakir Hussain, Branford Marsalis and John McLaughlin. This year he released the beautiful solo album Unknown Angels, which stands out for the expressive maturity achieved by the artist. It is as if Tony Gray had reached the point where the confidence in the instrument and the compositional ability make him free to generate pure music, warm and vibrant, without unnecessary superstructures.
Pierre Marcus is is certainly one of the most interesting bass players that have appeared in the jazz scene of the last decade. He approached the music with the electric bass playing reggae, funk and rock before really getting interested in jazz. As a jazz double-bass player, however, he has already published a number of interesting albums since 2012. In 2015 he founded his own quartet with Baptiste Herbin (sax), Fred Perreard (piano) and Thomas Delor (drums), with whom he relased this year his new and latest record: Pyrodance.
Rémi Panossian is one of those musicians who grew up on bread and music. He started playing piano at an early age and showed a great talent both as a pianist and as a trio leader, gaining not only the attention of a wider audience, but also critical acclaim and international awards. After touring the world with his trio, in 2018 the Frenc jazzist decided to reveal himself in a more intimate album of solo piano. The LP, named DO, is ull of surprises and features extremely different moments: intimate and reflective tracks, aggressive songs with frenzied rhythms, and intriguing covers of classic pieces.
Belgian pianist Jonas Cambien is active on the Jazz scene since he moved to Oslo in 2008. He leads his own trio, which released its new album in 2018, We Must Mustn’t We, which is the result of a beautiful intersection between the art of improvisation and a compositional versatility that seems today out of the ordinary. Jonas Cambien is also known for using prepared piano and extended techniques as well as analog synthesizers and electronics in his music.
Many things we wrote last year about Armenian pianist and composer Tigran Hamasyan and his wonderful LP An Ancient Observer. I had also the possibility to see him live in Roma and my appreciation for this young genius of music has further increased. In 2018 Tigran released the EP For Gyumri, which is somehow the follow-on of last year’s masterpiece. The album is named as a tribute to his hometown of Gyumri, where he was born in 1987 before relocating with his family to Los Angeles in 2003.
If you enjoyed this article, I recommend to hear and follow the playlist that I’m managing on Spotify dedicated to Forward Thinking Jazz. It’s updated frequently with new tracks. Enjoy!