Ben Monder ‘Hydra’
I discovered Ben’s music around 12 years ago. By the time Hydra was released I had been eagerly awaiting it – I got it on the day it came out. The first track is bright and sparkly – around five minutes long. Listening I was astounded. Ben was continuing to seek out new sounds and textures. The second, the title track, is much darker and opaque – around 25 minutes long. Here he remains firmly committed to his core aesthetics, a little like Monk. It’s rare I am surprised by music these days, but this album certainly did that. Anyone familiar with Ben’s music will know how unique he is, and how he somehow consistently creates his own landscape. And what I enjoyed about this album is the quite humorous title – a Hydra is an eight-headed water beast… and there are eight tracks on the album! It closes with a really beautiful, pretty song. I’m finding it hard to describe this music without contradicting myself. But you can always tell it’s Ben from the first few notes – even his collaborating with David Bowie hasn’t changed that.
Knower to me are the most joyous and fun band ever. Louis Cole creates some of the hugest grooves ever. And I love that they incorporate styles like J-pop. The lyrics are either deeply poignant or incredibly silly. Obviously their videos are legendary. I doubt this choice needs too much explanation unless anyone has been living in a cave for the last decade, but Knower consistently remind me how warm and happy music can be, and how there really are no stylistic rules any more… and subtlety is sometimes overrated!
Chris Potter ‘Imaginary Cities’
I love how evocative and cinematic this album is – the expansion of the normal Underground band with Steve Nelson, and strings (and more) helps achieve it. Chris’s writing is strong and varied. His solo on the closing piece Sky is so SO good. I like Adam Rogers’ playing on this album too. I studied with him and it’s always nice to hear him. The album title here is very accurate, this is one to listen to with your eyes closed or maybe looking out a train/plane window. Chris is obviously highly respected (and prolific) but this album REALLY stands out to me. Chris is thinking big and he nails it. You can hear some Indian influence on the melodic and rhythmic content the closing piece too, which anyone familiar with my work knows I love! The fourth part of the suite Disintegration showcases some deeper, darker elements of Chris’s writing.
Adil Amimi ‘Grand Prix du Festival des Jeunes Talents Gnaoua’
Every year, there’s a month or so where it seems everyone in the UK is talking about Glastonbury. I hope it’s not controversial but I’ve never been interested in it! The same weekend as Glasto there’s the Gnaoua festival in Essaouira, Morocco. Karim Ziad (another great musician – check his albums out) programmes the festival which including lots of great ‘world’ music alongside all the Gnaoua. The festival closes with a jazz group. The first year I went, I saw Wayne Shorter’s quartet headline. Towards the end of their set Mâalem Kouyou’s Gnaoua band joined them onstage and they played together for the rest of the set. Seeing Wayne, Danilo, John and Brian interact with the Mâalem and his band was really deep and very spiritual, for me but also for Wayne’s band it seemed. I went twice and picked up as many CDs as I could carry but this one is still my favourite. Gnaoua seems finally to be getting recognition amongst mainstream musicians and for good reason – the rhythms are unbelievable. They are so simple and yet so infinite, and a reminder that groove is, probably, the most important thing in music.
Brad Mehldau ‘Finding Gabriel’
Another one I got on release day and another one I was overjoyed listening to. I had no idea what to expect from Brad on this, but having followed his solo work, Mehliana, trio work and duo w/Chris Thile, I definitely wasn’t expecting this music. How satisfying that surprise can be. I feel like everything is here. There is, of course, great piano playing but also keyboards, electronic stuff, voice, guest soloists, samples etc. The sound world completely took me in for around a fortnight at least and I had it on repeat. I’m reminded here that there are no boundaries in music any more. You want a choral sound? Use a choir. You want microtonal detuned analogue synths? Great – go ahead. Want to distort the trumpet? Do it. Samples? Yep. I feel like Brad is continuing to search and to push himself, and that inspires me to do the same.
Ant Law’s new album ‘The Sleeper Wakes’ is released on Edition Records on 24th July 2020.