Our local music scene continues to produce amazing music. Year after year, we’re impressed and surprised with the quality of music that comes from Portland. But there’s more than that to this list, here we have seven songs that push boundaries, change the game, and continue the tradition of Jazz as forward thinking music. If you were tuned in to KMHD this year, you likely heard us playing these artists and songs often.  

These artists have agreed to share this music with you, and then some: they’ve decided to give these songs to you, for free. But I’d like to ask you for a favor: if you like this music, please go and support these artists. Attend a show, purchase one of their albums or just support them by telling your friends. We’re all in this together, and it’s high time that we as fans support the music in any way we can. That’s how it thrives. Enjoy!

“Orb in Limbo,” by Coco Columbia — The opening track on CoCo Columbia’s debut album, The Weight, immediately hooks the listener with its hip-hop influenced beat. The vocalist’s stream-of-consciousness delivery is an excellent match for the vibrant sound of Nicole Glover’s saxophone. One of our favorite vocal releases of the year. 

“Separate Needles,” by Moongriffin — Elliot Ross’ space-jazz ensemble Moongriffin immediately caught our attention upon first listen. Here is an excellently crafted album that rewards the listener who goes the whole way through. But this song stands alone on it’s own — a perfect addition to any end-of-year mixtape.

“Taxometer,” by Mark Simon — Mark Simon’s grooved-out soul-jazz approach on “Taxometer” made it an immediate choice for airplay because of its feel-good sound. Devin Phillips adds a nice texture to this song, which has a sort of revamped modern sensibility of music that nods to Horace Silver or Bobby Timmons.

“Gizie Degu Neger,” by Tezeta Band — The finest Ethio Jazz merchants on the West Coast dropped the debut single from their forthcoming debut album, The Origins of Nightlife in October.  Pulling out all the stops on a stomping, brooding rendition of Mahmoud Ahmed’s tune, their version strips the gearbox and punches into overdrive from the downbeat.  The night starts here.

“Numinous,” by Grant Richards — Portland pianist Grant Richards returned from his music studies in Boston with a full-length album in his carry-on luggage that will make you want to unpack into your life.  With its stuttering, muscular rhythms, the title track shows the band’s clear love of hip hop, while Richards’ playing is positively Glasperesque.  A graceful tune filled with nuance and depth, it showcases a young talent on the rise.

“Murphy’s Hook,” by Cartridge — Though only a duo, John Savage and Will Northlich-Redmond’s opening track, “Murphy’s Hook,” will literally hook you with the building anticipation of its first note. This captivating tune could easily be mistaken for an army of musicians joining together from around the globe.

“Missoula Floods Part 2,” by Darrell Grant  — The fifth movement of a nine-movement suite, “Missoula Floods Part 2,” paints an early picture of the physical geography of Oregon. Grant’s piano builds in anticipation and is counterbalanced by the warm sound of Joe Locke’s marimba. Brian Blade’s adept drumming makes the song complete, a glowing soundtrack of the Missoula Floods washing through Eastern Washington and down the Columbia River Gorge.

“Rumpus Rumpus,” by Alan Jones Sextet – “Rumpus  Rumpus,” the opening track on Alan Jones’ new record, begins with the sextet playfully chanting, conjuring images of a “storytelling-in-the-round” ceremony. The song snaps into a groove at about the minute mark, and this sort of “playfulness” continues through the duration of the song.

“Dose,” by 1939 Ensemble — Rivulets of rain sliding across the windows.  Tall trees shaking in the autumn wind.  A powerful dose of the Pacific Northwest at the end of the year is what this outstanding single from 1939 Ensemble conjures.  With muddy drum textures and buoyant vibes, this sonic storm will wash you away. Listen here.