Albums of the year: Jazz

'Kurt Elling gave the most moving performance of the year'
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The Independent Culture

While jazz singers who aren't really jazz at all continued to prosper, Chicago vocalist Kurt Elling's magisterial new album Nightmoves proved that genuine creativity could co-exist within a smoochy, Sinatra-esque soundtrack to flatter sex and soft furnishings. The album's closing version of Ellington's "I Like the Sunrise" remains the most moving performance of the year.

Elsewhere, new British five-piece Empirical, with their self-titled debut album on Courtney Pine's Destin-E label, made thrumming mid-Sixties free-bop in the Ornette/Dolphy vein seem deeply relevant to a consideration of contemporary gun-crime, and Richard Galliano and Tangaria Quartet's Live in Marciac reaffirmed that perhaps the most thrilling jazz improviser we have is a Franco-Italian accordionist with roots in tango and bal-musette. Texan pianist Robert Glasper's In My Element made the acoustic trio format fizz and pop with the rhythms of hip-hop, while John Law, with bassist Sam Burgess and drummer Asaf Sirkis, provided a swinging English version of the Keith Jarrett Trio on The Art of Sound, Volume 1, and Norway's Tord Gustavsen Trio completed an essential trilogy with the twinkling spirituality of Being There. Ike Quebec's Bossa Nova Soul Samba, a funky riposte to the mentholated efforts of Getz and co, was my favourite reissue.

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