Albums of the year 2021: Eliane Elias

No album has better embodied this sense of musical communication, risk-taking and acute listening than that of pianist Eliane Elias. Mirror mirror, which featured Elias in alternate duets with Chucho Valdés and the late Chick Corea. For a dazzling piano, breathtaking harmonizations and hyper-romantic note effusions, follow this path.

Other jazz highlights include the welcome return to the helm of Gretchen Parlato, whose Flower presented a sublime synthesis of Brazilian music, originals, thoughtfully reworked R&B and more, with the cast of Roy Hargrove’s “Roy Allan” as a haunting samba a stroke of arrangement genius.

The first label of harpist Brandee Younger on Impulse! Recordings, Somewhere different, was a work of enormous imagination, and “Beautiful Is Black”, one of two tracks featuring bass legend Ron Carter, one of the most seductive ballads you’ll hear this year.

A big band album written, arranged and produced by singer and songwriter Jazzmeia Horn, Dear love showcased the full range of his compositional palette, his exceptional range and devastating falsetto, and his sense of joyful exhortation.

A sequel to their remarkable Songbook (2017), Calm is the star featured nine more beautifully crafted songs from pianist / songwriter Alan Broadbent’s dream couple and singer / lyricist Georgia Mancio.

Euphoric tonal changes, magnificent vocal harmonies, arrangements packed with detail: the brilliant third album by singer-songwriter Laura Mvula, winner of Ivor Novello, Pink noise, presented his singular homage to the music of the 1980s. In a strong year for K-pop, TXT’s Chapter of Chaos: Freeze ranged from the soaring title track and catchy “No Rules” to the real summer banger, “Magic”.

In More Songs from The Goodman Manuscripts, the wonderful trio of Mick O’Brien (uilleann pipes, flute, whistle), Aoife Ní Bhriain (violin, viola, accordion) and Emer Mayock (flute, whistle, pipes) brought even more coils, jigs, tunes and polkas from this A 19th century treasure has come to life in a thrilling way.

Finally, the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir has delivered a breathtaking recording of Alfred Schnittke’s extensive four-movement work. Concerto for choir – one of the masterpieces of choral music of the twentieth century – under the direction of Kaspars Putniņš, coupled with the captivating of Schnittke Three sacred hymns and the exquisite setting of Arvo Pärt of the venerably ancient Seven Antiphones Magnificat.

Two more essential 2021 albums
Gretchen Parlato – Flower
Schnittke; Part – Concerto for choir; Three sacred hymns; Seven Antiphones Magnificat

Musical experiences of the year
Cécile McLorin Salvant, Cadogan Hall, EFG London Jazz Festival
Christine Tobin, Masters of Tradition Festival, Bantry, West Cork (online)

Track of the year
Gretchen Parlato – “Roy Allan”


Watch “Armando’s Rhumba” by Mirror mirror, performed by Eliane Elias and Chick Corea

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