10 New May Music Gems

We feature more new music gems this week, starting with Italian producer Nicola Conte’s new album Let Your Light Shine On. It’s a mix of Pharoah Sanders-type spiritual vibes, Brazilian music, and acid jazz. The track “Uhuru Na Umoja” (in Swahili) translates to “Freedom and Unity.” Next up, New York deejay Nickodemus works with the Moroccan music group Innov Gnawa on a new album called A Long Engagement. I like the cut’s interesting trance rhythm and feel.

The late trumpeter Clark Terry championed the career of the young pianist Justin Kauflin, who is back with a new duet album with Danish bass player Thomas Fonnesbæk. We hear them play Lennon & McCartney’s “For No One.”

Moving on to a trio record, Japanese drummer Shinya Fukumori plays with French tenor player Matthieu Bordenave and German pianist Walter Lang. The song “Light Suite: Kojo No Tsuki” reminds me of an old Japanese folk song that I heard Abbey Lincoln sing a long time ago. So we’ll hear Lincoln sing that very same song in a version from her 1979 album People in Me, licensed by Inner City Records from a 1973 session recorded in Tokyo.

The delightful, joyous sound of French gypsy jazz known as Manouche is next, courtesy of The Django Festival All Stars. I have always loved Django Reinhardt and Stéphane Grappelli, and albums like this one keep their collective spirit and legacy alive and well. They impress with their speed and virtuosity, yet their ballads are filled with pathos and nostalgia.

Ellis Marsalis, the patriarch of the Marsalis clan (Wynton, Branford, Delfeayo, Jason, etc.) plays his own straight-ahead jazz with a complement of great players, including Derek Douget on tenor, Ashlin Parker on trumpet, Jason Stewart on bass, and drummer Stephen Gordon. Marshall University and the Nu Jazz Agency have just announced the Ellis Marsalis International Jazz Piano Competition (June 22-23, 2018) to find new jazz talents.

Saxophonist and bass clarinet player Roxy Coss follows with “Mr. President” from her new album The Future Is Female. Inside the CD jacket we find a quote from Gloria Steinem: “Girls actually need more superheroes much more than men.” I wouldn’t mess with either Steinem or Coss, who has paid her dues and is a hell of a horn player.

The filigreed beauty of two intertwined harps comes next—the Welsh harp of Catrin Finch and the West African harp-lute, played by Senegalese kora master Seckou Keita. Their album title SOAR is inspired by the osprey, a large raptor that returned to Wales in the early 2000’s after 400 years of absence. I previewed this gorgeous album back in February and it’s finally out. The CD is beautifully packaged, with a hard-bound book, photos, and interesting information about the Wales-West African osprey connection.

We conclude with a beguiling CD from Albanian singer Elina Duni, whose songs bathe in longing, displacement, and melancholy. With pared-down production and Duni playing all the instruments (piano, guitar, daf drum), there is a calm but feral rawness in her music. I’ll be writing more about this new album very soon. 


  1. Nicola Conte & Spiritual Galaxy / “Uhuru Na Umoja” /Let Your Light Shine On / MPS
  2. Nickodemus / “Mystic Molay (Feat. Innov Gnawa)” / A Long Engagement / Wonderwheel Recordings
  3. Thomas Fonnesbaek & Justin Kauflin / “For No One” / Synesthesia / Storyville
  4. Shinya Fukumori Trio / “The Light Suite” / For 2 Akis / ECM Records
  5. Abbey Lincoln / “Kohjoh-No-Tsuki” / People In Me / Inner City
  6. The Django Festival All Stars / “Attitude Manouche” / Attitude Manouche / Resilience Music
  7. The Ellis Marsalis Quintet / “12’s It” / The Ellis Marsalis Quintet Plays the Music of Ellis Marsalis / ELM Records
  8. Roxy Coss / “Mr. President” / The Future Is Female / Posi-Tone Records
  9. Catrin Finch & Seckou Keita / “Terangabah” / SOAR / Bendigedig
  10. Elina Duni / “Amara Terra Mia” / Patir / Deutsche Grammophon ECM





Tom Schnabel