Crate Digging: 10 Albums You Need To Know for May 2021

Remember record stores? Remember the thrill of turning your friends on to new music by swapping vinyl and CDs? Yeah, we do too. That’s why we’re rebooting that tradition for the digital age with our “Crate Digging” podcast series, in which we’ll search through crates of our memories to bring you a handful of album recommendations on a given theme. It’s social media in the truest sense of the term: no algorithms, no computer-generated playlist. Just jazz fans sharing records with other jazz fans.

You can listen to the podcast version via the player below. Write-ups of individual albums and sample tracks follow. Welcome to the party! For this episode of Crate Digging, we talk about 10 new albums released this month (May 2021) that you need to know about!


Joe Lovano & Dave Douglas Sound Prints, Other Worlds (Greenleaf)

Release date: May 7

Other Worlds is the third album by the star-studded quintet Sound Prints, led by Joe Lovano and Dave Douglas, and with Lawrence Fields, Linda May Han Oh and Joey Baron. Both Lovano and Douglas contributed five original compositions apiece to the project, which was conceived as a loose homage to Wayne Shorter, and is also a fine showcase for inspired solos and band interplay. Pre-order Other Worlds here.


Mandy Barnett, Every Star Above (Melody Place/BMG)

Release date: May 7

Celebrated torch singer Mandy Barnett celebrates the legendary Billie Holiday and The Great American Songbook via interpretations of classics and selections of tracks from Lady Day’s fabled 1958 album Lady in Satin. Every Star Above was recorded with a 60-piece orchestra and arranger Sammy Nestico, whose recent passing at age 96 makes this his final work. Pre-order it here.


Noah Haidu, Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett (Sunnyside)

Release date: May 7

Pianist Noah Haidu joins the legendary rhythm section of bassist Buster Williams and drummer Billy Hart on an album conceived as a tribute to Keith Jarrett that at times recalls the energy of the latter’s collaborations with Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock. Slowly: Song for Keith Jarrett finds all three musicians contributing compositions to the project and is a major trio statement that will be released one day before the piano great’s 76th birthday. Pre-order it here.


Ulysses Owens Jr. Big Band, Soul Conversations (Outside In)

Release date: May 7

Heralded drummer/composer Ulysses Owens Jr. demonstrates a fresh approach to a large ensemble in jazz on Soul Conversations. Recorded live at Dizzy’s Club at Lincoln Center in early 2019, the album marks the debut of his 19-piece UOJ Big Band, performing a mix of covers and three of his original compositions. Order it here.


Sons of Kemet, Black to the Future (Impulse!)

Release date: May 14

Saxophonist/composer Shabaka Hutchings and his acclaimed British jazz group Sons of Kemet present a new set of pulsing grooves and global influences on their third studio album, Black to the Future. Hutchings defines the record via a statement as “a sonic poem for the invocation of power, remembrance and healing. It depicts a movement to redefine and reaffirm what it means to strive for black power.” Pre-order it here.


James Francies, Purest Form (Blue Note)

Release date: May 21

Pianist/producer James Francies’ follow-up to his acclaimed 2018 debut Flight is an eclectic new album titled Purest Form that taps into the essence of his artistry across 14 tracks, conjuring a world of sounds and textures. In addition to a core trio of bassist Burniss Travis and drummer Jeremy Dutton, the LP features Immanuel Wilkins, Joel Ross, Bilal and more guests. Order it here.


Ralph Peterson Jr., Raise Up Off Me (Onyx)

Release date: May 21

Raise Up Off Me is the final full-length album and a beautiful closing statement from drummer/bandleader/composer Ralph Peterson Jr. Released one day after what would have been his 59th birthday, it features longtime bandmates Zaccai and Luques Curtis performing five Peterson-penned originals and compositions Zaccai Curtis, Bud Powell, James Williams and more.


Wadada Leo Smith, Milford Graves, Bill Laswell, Sacred Ceremonies (TUM)

Release date: May 21

Sacred Ceremonies is a huge work bringing together three renowned masters of creative music, trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, bassist Bill Laswell and drummer/percussionist Milford Graves. This three-disc venture is a collection of unique and adventurous music they created together and that transcends any easily definable influences. Order it here.


Anna Webber, Idiom (Pi)

Release date: May 28

Composer/saxophonist/flutist Anna Webber’s double-album Idiom presents a series of six pieces, each of which is based on a specific woodwind extended technique that she has taken from her own improvisational language. The first four of these feature her Simple Trio with drummer John Hollenbeck and pianist Matt Mitchell, while the second disc is performed by a 12-piece ensemble. Order Idiom here.


Dave Holland, Another Land (Edition)

Release date: May 28

On his new album, Another Land, versatile and prolific bassist Dave Holland leads an all-star trio of fellow established bandleaders/composers with guitarist Kevin Eubanks and drummer Obed Calvaire. Together, they deliver a potent studio set of fluid themes developed and forged by them in the furnace of live performance. Order Another Land here.


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