Nicole Mitchell – Maroon Cloud

The multi-award winning avant-garde flutist continues to push the envelope through bold new concepts that are ever connected to the jazz tradition, especially those grounded in Chicago’s AACM organization. For this outing, she calls in the considerable talents of fellow-Chicagoan Tomeka Reid, on cello, the free-thinking Cuban pianist Aruan Ortiz, and the adventurous, multi-dimensional vocalist, Fay Victor. The sparks that fly between these seasoned improvisers create another major step in Mitchell’s creative trajectory.

Erroll Garner – Nightconcert

This gem of a recording shows the brilliant and utterly distinctive pianist in a 1964 concert it the rarified air of the beautiful Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. Working seamlessly with bassist Eddie Calhoun and drummer Kelly Martin, Garner puts his beautiful stamp on every composition he visits, whether lesser-known works or the best of the Great American songbook. Terrific liner notes by Nate Chinen.

Woody Shaw – Tokyo ‘81

Another welcome reissue of the blazing trumpet work of Woody Shaw, who died way too young, at the age of 44, in 1989. In spite of his relatively brief career, Shaw has already influenced a couple of generations of young musicians. This 1981 live set features the trombonist Steve Turre, along with one of Shaw’s most remarkable rhythm teams, showcasing the pianist Mulgrew Miller working with bassist Stafford James and the drummer Tony Reedus.

Steve Coleman & Five Elements – Live at the Village Vanguard

Sure to be the top pick of 2018 from many jazz writers, this lively double CD set shows the McArthur winning saxophonist and conceptualist in fast, fluid, and funky delivery of Coleman’s typically complex ideas. The band is amazing, and the terrific live recording shows trumpeter Jonathan Finlayson, guitarist (and Whidbey-Island native) Miles Okasaki, and bassist Anthony Tidd, propelled by stunning drum work from Sean Rickman. This is the top shelf for the shape of jazz today.

J.D. Allen – Lovestone

The powerful and prolific tenor saxophonist embellishes his established working trio of bassist Gregg August and drummer Rudy Royston, by calling in the multi-leveled skills of guitarist Liberty Ellman. Allen brings his own distinctive sound to any music; whether his own originals or covers from the songbook, and he does it in the true jazz spirit of honoring the tradition while pushing to extend its boundaries.

Cecile McLorin Salvant – The Window

Continuing her ascent as one of the most remarkable vocalists in jazz, McLorin Salvant showcases he prodigious talents here in one of the most vulnerable settings possible, singing in free fall with only a piano accompaniment. Young pianist Sullivan Fortner is a super-capable and like-minded collaborator here, embellishing the tensions and dramas where needed, and pulling all of the way back when the time is right. Saxophonist Melissa Aldana guests on one track, adding a fleeting texture to an almost-whispered version of Jimmy Rowles’ beautiful composition, The Peacocks.

Luciana Souza – The Book of Longing

The stunning voice of Brazilian vocalist Luciano Souza lends itself well to intelligent, expressive work done in the spare company of just one or two excellent accompanists. She also has the erudition and the talent to interpret poetry within her own compositional framework. Included here, accompanied by just acoustic guitar and bass, are three of her own works, four poems by Leonard Cohen, one each by Emily Dickinson, Christina Rossetti, and Edna St. Vincent Millay.

Holly Cole – Holly

In spite of a reputation as one of the finest jazz vocalists, Toronto-based Holly Cole seems to record seldom, and performs less. But, as Jazz Times magazine says, “quality beats quantity.” With a terrific band, augmented by even better guest artists, this turn from Cole breathes new life into a series of jazz standards, a wryly appropriate Mose Allison song, and a couple of seldom-heard numbers associated — oddly enough, but probably not coincidentally — with both Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis.

Shamie Royston – Beautiful Liar

This is the second release for the pianist Shamie Royston. A terrific instrumentalist and even better bandleader, Royston give plenty of space to group members, all within the context of the music. The rhythm section carries the day here, but any section with the incredible drummer Rudy Ryston (Shamie’s husband) is going to be on point. The music is soulful and beautifully constructed, with 9 tracks written by Shamie Royston, and the 10th, a cover of Bill Wither’s luminous classic, Lovely Day.” And it is.

Tiffany Austin – Unbroken

Based in the San Francisco Bay area, Austin is a young vocalist whose 2105 debut release, Nothing But Soul won wide acclaim. For this second release, she teams with a stellar group of musicians, including pianist Cyrus Chestnut, bassist Rodney Whitaker, and drummer Carl Allen, who are occasionally augmented by horns. The music is deep, soulful, and occasionally bluesy, embracing darker historical subjects in a way that evokes and reflects on today’s social issues. Unbroken marks Austin as a jazz vocalist with something to say and a career to keep an eye on.