I have followed Wynton's music since the 1990s, met him once, and interviewed him over the phone. He was stubborn that time and talked about Bach. I have seen him play many times: in concert halls, an unadvertised jam session by a fluke, and even rap. These days because he plays mainly in big band settings or even with top symphony orchestras the distant days when he led a small band seem remote although from time to time he does it still and is an inveterate jammer in addition always in small band settings opening up say as a default with 'Sweet Georgia Brown'. Live he is even better than on record but some records are stone classics. Black Codes for instance has influenced players from different styles say players like Byron Wallen. Wynton has incredible technique, a brilliant stage manner and while I don't care for his didacticism and close relationship with big business I suppose you could make a case that you cannot build an institution like Jazz at Lincoln Center and maintain one as he has done by not doing this. No one else hand on heart could challenge him as the greatest living jazz trumpeter all caveats aside.
A brilliant film composer, superb live, I have seen him in clubs and concert halls, never interviewed him but would love to, he writes operas, leads bands, brings on new players and encourages everyone. He talks tough, knows his politics and collaborates with leading academics, did a huge amount after Katrina to help New Orleans his home town in any way he could. Blanchard rocks. Album to get: Bounce.
On the phone once Hargrove put me on hold. He's a busy man and does not mince words! Hard bop fans forget often that his sound goes back to Clifford Brown. Trad guys might even hear Little Jazz in his sound. He's big in neosoul (D'Angelo), cool, has incredible players you may have never heard of in his bands and is the best dressed male jazz musician on the planet. Albums? Go back to the 1990s and find Diamond in the Rough.
Well, Stanko I have interviewed many times and visited his home in Warsaw where we listened to Cecil Taylor records and he made very nice tea. Last time I saw him was in Bath. He is an aesthete and is well read. I love his music and always will particularly when he plays free which he does not do much now or when he does wraps it inside disarmingly simple melodies. A fine composer, albums to get: Leosia or Music for K.
I have never heard Rava play live or met him. His sound like Stanko's belongs with the angels. A hero in Italy he has brought on many young players including Giovanni Guidi one of today's most individual pianists anywhere. Album to get: The Pilgrim and the Stars.
Ambrose Akinmusire First time I heard Ambrose was when he was a teenager and was playing in the Steve Coleman Big Band. He did not become a star until much later. He's a fine composer and small band leader. He reminds me of Kenny Wheeler. Album to get: RisingGrace.
Wadada Leo Smith
The most significant avant jazz trumpeter on the planet. Check out his sublime fairly recent work with Vijay Iyer.
I have only heard Eddie once playing a club set in an upscale pizza place and spoke to him far too briefly beforehand a few years ago. We talked about Miles Davis, you got to have a gimmick Miles advised him! Eddie is a very intellectual and interesting person to talk to and like David Murray is good at deadpan tongue in cheek chat. We moved on to chat a bit about psychiatry an expertise of his and inevitably the Mwandishi band he was important in with the Herbster. Henderson has a lovely buttery sound and plenty of fire power. Go for his Capricorn period or any record that he is on.
Unique Japanese influenced sound involving the timbre of a flute, electronics and massive amounts of space.
Brilliant tone, Eastern language filtering in and quarter tone technique. Open sound.
Unique jazz rock and prog sensibility absorbed into her compositionally driven sound. Stratospheric rise with Dinosaur.
Mainstream Cubop. Influenced by Dizzy Gillespie. First bandleader I ever saw in Ronnie Scott's. A revelation.
Nils Petter Molvær
Influential Norwegian future jazz charismatic player currently with a Sly and Robbie album out. Album to get: the classic Khmer.
Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah
Go for Anthem. Snappy dresser, very affable guy to talk to. Imaginative, brave, daring.
Nicholas Payton Controversial, radical trad, influential New Orleans figurehead digging deep into trad and mainstream terrain. Increasingly plugged in. Expect the unexpected.
16 Jeremy Pelt
Best hard bop stylist on the planet. Think Freddie Hubbard. Live, I have seen him in a school hall and in a club, he is a natural communicator.
I first heard him as an unknown in Robert Glasper's band. Now's the time. The new Roy Hargrove??
Innovative middle eastern sounds and a cool amalgam of compositionally driven concepts heralded Ahmed's remarkable rise. On Radiohead's radar.
His records are hugely collectable. I have only seen him once playing a theatre in Warsaw in the 1990s. That was unforgettable. Think Clifford Brown, think the song of singing.