This week’s playlist features my picks for the best of 2018. Looking back on the year, 2018 offered a treasure trove of jazz, world, classical, Brazilian and Cuban music. Stand-out world music albums include fabulous Algerian chaâbi music from Koum Tara, the Two Niles Sudanese music anthology, as well as the gorgeous harp-kora collaboration from Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch.
We highlight a few classical albums, too, given the plethora of new Debussy recordings in 2018 to mark the centennial of the composer’s death. Hilary Hahn’s gorgeous Bach album is here as well. We also hear two jazz sides—first, guitarist John Abercrombie’s swan song ECM album Up and Coming, plus Tailwind from bassist Bruno Råberg.
I also wanted to spotlight a few terrific reissues and box sets that came out in 2018. There is the tremendous new compilation called The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions from Concord’s Craft Recordings deluxe series. These classic mambo and charanga sessions are available as a 5-CD set and as a deluxe vinyl box. Universal Music/Virgin EMI also reissued Brian Eno’s 4-album Ambient series on deluxe gatefold audiophile vinyl (a great gift idea for Eno-philes).
Dust-to-Digital reissued African rumba classics from 1950’s pre-independence Central and East Africa, from the field recordings of Hugh Tracey. Impulse! Records unearthed a lost master tape of Coltrane called The Lost Album and reissued Pharoah Sanders’ classic Thembi album. Finally, Verve just released Brazilian superstar Jorge Ben’s self-titled first album from 1969. Be sure to pick this one up on vinyl, with the lovely cover painting of the young Ben.
Rhythm Planet’s Best of 2018
- John Abercrombie – Up and Coming (ECM)
- Seckou Keita and Catrin Finch – SOAR (Bendigedig)
- Various Artists – Two Niles to Sing a Melody: The Violins & Synths of Sudan (Ostinato Recrods)
- Koum Tara – Koum Tara (Odradek Records)
- Hilary Hahn – Hilary Hahn Plays Bach (Decca)
- Hélène Grimaud – Memory (Deustche Grammophon)
- Maurizio Pollini – Debussy: Préludes II (Deutsche Grammophon)
- Seong-Jin Cho – Debussy (Deutsche Grammophon)
- Alice Sara Ott – Nightfall (Deutsche Grammophon)
- Bruno Råberg Trio – Tailwind (Red Piano Records)
- Various Artists – The Complete Cuban Jam Sessions (Craft Recordings)
- Jorge Ben Jor – Jorge Ben (Universal Music)
- Various Artists – Listen All Around: The Golden Age of Central and East African Music (Dust to Digital)
- Bheki Mseleku – Celebration (World Circuit)
- John Coltrane – Both Directions at Once: The Lost Album (Impulse! Records)
- Pharoah Sanders – Thembi (Impulse! Records)
- Brian Eno – Ambient series – Discreet Music, Music for Films, Music for Airports, On Land (Universal Music)