Thursday, December 30, 2021

Tim Mah's Recommended Canadian Jazz Albums of 2021

Frequent Four on the Floor correspondent Tim Mah returns once again, offering his extensive yearly list of recommended music released by Canadian jazz artists over the course of 2021. As you will see, read and hear below, there continues to be lots of great music coming out of Canada these days.

Tim's weekly radio program Jazz Today can be heard on CJSW Radio 90.9 fm (Calgary, Alberta, Canada) on Thursday mornings from 530-7am MST. It is also streamed on the CJSW website and available through Apple Podcasts.

Tim Mah's Year in Review 2021

In November 2011, Nicholas Payton published a blog post titled “On Why Jazz Isn’t Cool Anymore.” To read this post, go to the below link:  https://nicholaspayton.wordpress.com/2011/11/27/on-why-jazz-isnt-cool-anymore/ 

The blog post included sentences such as “Jazz died in 1959” and “Jazz is dead.” It also included “Our whole purpose on this planet is to evolve.” and “I say, we are as limited as we think.” The post was controversial and continues to be controversial to some people. Some have interpreted this post as saying that jazz music is dead and others have perpetuated this false narrative. Some people have exploited the phrase “jazz is dead” by using this as a marketing tool. 

My interpretation is that Nicholas Payton said (and continues to say) that the word jazz is no longer appropriate. The music that he creates is part of the evolution of the music. He advocates the term “Black American music” instead of the word “jazz” – Black American music is a broader term and recognizes that this music continues to grow. Ten years later, the term “Black American music” is more widely accepted. 

As quoted in Nate Chinen’s 2018 book called “Playing Changes: Jazz for the New Century,” Kamasi Washington said: “I’ve never believed in the idea that jazz is dying and people don’t like it. People who have taken the time to investigate jazz, they like it for their whole lives.”

To quote the final sentence in the afterword of “Playing Changes,” Nate Chinen said: “The music will flow and fluctuate, keep going. And where to? Anywhere. It just happens.” 

The music continues to grow and inspire. Whether you call it jazz, Black American music, social music, improvised music, creative music, stretch music...It’s all about the music. 

Year in Review

As 2021 draws to a close, it is a great time to take stock of all of the new music that was released during the last twelve months. There was an abundance of new music from Canadians, starting with music form Toronto’s Jesse Ryan (“Bridges”) in December 2020 and closing with a flurry of new releases in November 2021, including Toronto’s Carn Davidson 9 (“The History of Us”) and Montreal’s Benjamin Deschamps (“Augmented Reality”). Toronto and Montreal-based artists continue make up the majority of the new releases. 

Given the 2021 Juno award winners in the jazz music categories (Sammy Jackson, Jocelyn Gould and Andy Milne), could we be seeing a change towards more diversity?  

Some artists (Good Information, Andrew Miller and Jacob Wutzke) released singles only, choosing not to release a full album during the year. Caity Gyorgy released a series of singles over the last two years, culminating in the release of her January 2021 self-released album “No Bounds” and July 2021 album “Now Pronouncing” (released by the Brooklyn-based label, La Reserve Records). Could we see more jazz musicians emphasize the releasing more singles before releasing albums, as is the common practice in the popular music world? 

There were several solo instrumental albums released during the year, including albums from Sam Wilson, Jessica Ackerley, Francois Bourassa, Josh Rager, Erin Rogers, Matthew Stevens and Noam Lemish. Will this trend continue going forward, or was this a pandemic-only trend? 

Looking ahead to 2022

Expect new albums from Laura Anglade & Sam Kirmayer, Caity Gyorgy, Florian Hoefner, Jodi Proznick, Michelle Willis, Seamus Blake, In Common (co-led by Matthew Stevens and Walter Smith III - the third In Common album features Kris Davis, Terri Lyne Carrington and Dave Holland), Tania Gill, Dolman/Rossy/Jobin (Aaron Dolman, Sarah Rossy and Eugenie Jobin), and the Up and Over Trio (Chris Andrew, Rubim de Toledo and Jamie Cooper). 

2021 Albums from Canadians

The purpose of this guest post is to bring more attention to Canadian artists. As fans of this music, our role is to be an advocate for the music. Below is a list of my favourite 30 albums, released from December 2020 to November 2021, and led (or co-led) by Canadians. 

Anna Webber “Idiom”

This two disc album features Anna Webber’s Simple Trio and her Large Ensemble. This is a recording of Anna Webber’s Simple Trio and Idiom VI Large Ensemble concert at Roulette in Brooklyn (September 23, 2021). The music begins at about the ten minute mark: https://youtu.be/N9bLpk0zfcs

Renee Rosnes “Kinds of Love”  

Kinds of Love


Amanda Tosoff “Earth Voices” 

Birdwings (poem by Rumi)


Chet Doxas “You Can’t Take It With You” 

You Can’t Take It With You


Steph Richards (with Joshua White) “Zephyr” 



Andres Vial “When is Ancient?” 

When is Ancient?


Benjamin Deschamps “Augmented Reality” 

Augmented Reality


CODE Quartet (Christine Jensen, Lex French, Adrian Vedady & Jim Doxas) “Genealogy”

Wind Up


Carn Davidson 9 “The History of Us” 

Wisely If Sincerely


Dan McCarthy (with Thomas Morgan & Rudy Royston) “A Place Where We Once Lived” 

Cloud Hopping


Lina Allemano Four “Vegetables” (feat. Brodie West, Andrew Downing & Nick Fraser) 

Beans (Alternate Take)


Badbadnotgood “Talk Memory” 

Talk Meaning


Erin Rogers “2000 Miles”

Waxing (Home I)


Nick Fraser Quartet “If There Were No Opposites” 

Improvisation (Part 1)


Francois Bourassa “L’impact du silence” 



Evan Arntzen “Countermelody” 

Georgia Cabin


Josh Rager “Embraceable You” 

You Stepped Out of a Dream


Lara Solnicki “The One and the Other” 

Furling Leaf Retrocede


Lorne Lofsky “This Song is New” 

Evans from Lennie


Matthew Stevens “Pittsburgh” 

Foreign Ghosts


Sam Wilson “Into a Heart, Part Two” 

Mourning Motivation


Jessica Ackerley “Morning / mourning” 

Morning 2


Jessica Ackerley and Daniel Carter “Friendship: Lucid Shared Dreams and Time Travel” 

Welcome Our Friends


Borderlands Trio (Kris Davis, Stephan Crump & Eric McPherson) “Wandersphere” 

An Invitation to Disappear


Beth McKenna “Beyond Here”



Avataar “Worldview” 



Misc. (Jerome Beaulieu, Simon Page & William Cote) “Partager l’ambulance” 



Alex Lefaivre Quartet “Naufrages” 



Jesse Ryan “Bridges”



Le Jager “Snow Lotus” 



There was an abundance of new releases from Canadians over the last twelve months. Check out the following list (in alphabetical order) of 40 more Canadian artists with new releases that you can check out.

Andrew Downing & Otterville “Lovesome”
BLOOP (Lina Allemano & Mike Smith) “Proof”
BPM Trio (Phil Dwyer, Ben Dwyer & Mark Adam) “Audi Alteram Partem (Live)”
Carl Mayotte “Pop de Ville, Vol. 1”
Caity Gyorgy “No Bounds” and “Now Pronouncing”
Cory Weeds with Strings “What is There to Say?”
Dan Pitt Quintet “Wrongs”
Dave Young “Mantra”
David Restivo Trio “Arancina”
Earl MacDonald “Consecrated”
Elizabeth Shepherd & Michael Occhipinti “The Weight of Hope”
Emily Steinwall “Welcome to the Garden”
Erin Propp & Larry Roy “We Want All The Same Things”
Gabriel Genest Quintet “Triptyque”
Gordon Grdina “Pendulum,” “Martian Kitties" (featuring Jim Black) and “Klotski"(featuring Christian Lillinger, Shahzad Ismaily, and Mat Maneri)
Hanlon Brothers Quintet “NSTX”
James Danderfer & Quincy Davis “All The Flowers” (feat. Oliver Gannon, Brad Turner & Karl Kohut)
Jazzlab Orchestra “Loguslabusmuzikus”
Jester Champwick (Curtis Nowosad & Joel Visentin) “Homework”
Jocelyn Barth “Tell Him I Said Hello”
Joel Untinen Trio “Facing Paradise”
Julien Fillion “Julien Fillion”
Kellylee Evans “Greenlight”
Kevin Dean “Going Down Slow”
L’abime (Hugo Blouin, Alex Dodier, Gabriel Genest, Jean-Philippe Godbout & Jonathan Turgeon) “L’abime”
Levi Dover “Imaginary Structures”
Lina Allemano & Nick Fraser “Trumpet and Drums Remix Festival”
Mark Eisenman “Jazz Classics” (feat. Steve Wallace & John Sumner)
Mireille Boily “Refuges Mouvants”
Montreal Jazz Trio (Steve Amirault, Adrian Vedady, Jim Doxas) “Montreal Jazz Trio”
Noam Lemish “Erlebnisse”
Oscar Peterson Quartet “A Time for Love: Live in Helsinki, 1987”
Philippe Cote with Marc Copland & Quatuor Saguenay “Bell Tolls Revisited” and “Fleur Revisited”
Pluto Juice (co-led by Anthony Fung and Dayna Stephens; with Rich Brown and Andrew Marzotto) “Pluto Juice”
Sarah Jerrom “Dream Logic” (feat. Harley Card, Rob McBride & Jeff Luciani)
See Through 4 (Pete Johnston, Lina Allemano, Michael Davidson & Jake Oelrichs) “Permanent Moving Parts” 
Shannon Gunn “On a Mountain”
Simon Denizart “Nomad”
The Shuffle Demons “All In”
TuneTown (Kelly Jefferson, Artie Roth & Ernesto Cervini) “Entering Utopia”

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