The long-awaited, formal debut recording (not counting a 2012 Christmas collection) from the now-itinerant Bohemian Caverns Jazz Orchestra features a collection of swinging but tight arrangements from pianist Dan Roberts (think Ellington meets Maria Schneider). From the opening number, an aching take on Lena Seikaly’s “Written in the Stars,” and the three-part title suite that closes the album, this 17-piece ensemble puts its stamp on Brad Mehldau, Thelonious Monk and more.
Alison Crockett, Obrigada EP
Vocalist Alison Crockett is something of a stylistic chameleon, often dancing from classic vocal standards to neo-soul to a modern-jazz sound. She recorded Obrigada on a trip to Brazil, backed by musicians there. The result is a collection of songs with the melodiousness of Brazilian popular music, well suited to her commanding vocal presence. Her lyrics express the joys and wisdom gained from decades of writing, performing and living a musical life.
Organix Trio, Psalms of Baltimore
The second release by the Organix Trio — multi-instrumentalist and ethnomusicologist Jamal Moore, bassist Jeron White and drummer Warren “Trae” Crudup III — is also the fourth in a series by Moore exploring themes related to the African diaspora in America. This two-disc collection captures the flashpoints of anger that took place in the city’s 1968 and 2015 urban rebellions, as well as the smoldering frustrations of the communities where they occurred; it’s all reflected in the interplay between Moore’s reeds, White’s restless bass and Crudup’s forceful drumming.
Luke Stewart, Works for Upright Bass and Amplifier
On his solo release, Stewart explores the sonic potential of an acoustic bass and an abused amplifier. A slow build of feedback, like a meditative mantra, opens the two-part presentation (the physical album was released only as a cassette — so consider them Side A and Side B). From there, Stewart teases out patterns, melodies and textures that take the bass on a journey far from its traditional role.
Editor’s note: Luke Stewart is a member of CapitalBop’s editorial board, but in recent years he has also become an undeniable force in creative music as a performer. We decided that it would be unrealistic not to place the two albums that he made or contributed to this year in the running. Stewart did not vote on those albums; instead, we re-weighted the ballots of the other four voters to give his albums an equal shot.