Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Published reviews and notable albums, 1st quarter, 2020


These are strange and worrying times, and even though we cannot go out and experience live music for the time being (that said, I quite enjoyed a fair share of sreamed "quarantine gig"), there is still a lot of great recorded music around. Below is a round-up of the music I've covered from January through March, as well as a list of 15 album favorites of the year so far. Stay safe, all, and wash your hands!


  • Large Unit Fendika: Ethiobraz (PNL Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Jan. 13., 2020
  • Keïta – Brönnimann – Niggli: Kalan Teban (Intakt Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Jan. 20., 2020
  • JUNO: Young Star (Jazzland Recordings) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Jan. 27., 2020
  • Jeff Parker: Suite For Max Brown (International Anthem) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Feb. 10., 2020
  • Gard Nilssen Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully the Music Is Yours (Odin Records/Grappa) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Feb. 10., 2020
  • Sigurd Hole: Lys / Mørke (Elvesang/Musikkoperatøren) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, Feb 24., 2020
  • Lisa Mezzacappa Six: Cosmicomics Queen Bee Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekamepn, Feb. 24., 2020
  • Andreas Røysum Ensemble: Andreas Røysum Ensemble (Motvind Records) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klasssekampen, March 9., 2020
  • Shabaka and The Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse! Record) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, March 16., 2020
  • Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (International Anthem) Reviewed for Musikkmagasinet/Klassekampen, March 23., 2020 (Available online here. In Norwegian only)
  • Stein Urheim: Downhill Uplift (Hubro) Reviewed for Jazznytt #254



15 notable recordings of the year so far:

Heavy rotation
  • Gard Nilssen Supersonic Orchestra: If You Listen Carefully the Music Is Yours (Odin Records/Grappa)  
  • Aly Keita, Jan Galega Brönnimann, Lucas Niggli: Kalan Teban (Intakt Records)
  • Irreversible Entanglements: Who Sent You? (International Anthem)
  • Superposition: Superposition (We Jazz Records)
  • Andreas Røysum Ensemble: Andreas Røysum Ensemble (Motvind Records)
Thoroughly enjoying  
  • Lisa Mezzacappa Six: Cosmicomics (Queen Bee Records)
  • Sigurd Hole: Lys/Mørke (Elvesang)
  • Waxahatchee: Saint Cloud (Merge)
  • Torbjörn Zetterberg & Den Stora Frågan: Are You Happy? (Moserobie Recordings)
  • Shabaka and the Ancestors: We Are Sent Here By History (Impulse!)
  • Horse Lords: The Common Task (Northen Spy) 
  • Wako: Wako (Øra Fonogram)
  • Jim Black Trio: Reckon (Intakt)
  • Shopping: All or Nothing (Fatcat Records)
  • Stein Urheim: Downhill Uplift (Hubro)

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The 2019 NPR Music Jazz Critics Poll

Results for the 2019 edition of Francis Davis' Jazz Critics Poll, for the past two years hosted by NPR, were posted yesterday. In a year where I could see now clear consensus favorite in advance, it was still not that surprising too see Kris Davis' Diatom Ribbons take the no. 1 spot, considering it received a good deal of buzz late in the year. Happy to see James Brandon Lewis' An Unruly Manifesto make the top 20, especially considering he did most of the albums promotion himself, as well as the strong finish for Anna Webber's Clockwise. Steve Lehman is be now a long-time favorite who continues to impress in many formats, and even if The People I Love didn't resonate with me quite as much as  Dialect Flourescent or Selebeyone, it's still a terrific release by one of this generations leading and most original musicians, composers and improvisors. Disappointed, though, that neither Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas nor Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, who both released stellar albums, made the top 50, but at least I did my bit.

Speaking of things I did, I blurbed the winner of the Rara Avis category (re-issues, vault releases and similar), Musical Prophet, which covers Eric Dolphy's 1963 New York sessions. This, along with the results, plus Francis Davis' essay can be accessed via the link up top, while individual ballots (also available via the main article) are as always hosted by Tom Hull and can be accessed here. You should go check them all out, it's half the fun of such polls, but I'm posting mine below.

NEW RELEASES
  1. James Brandon Lewis, An UnRuly Manifesto (Relative Pitch)
  2. Per "Texas" Johansson-Torbjörn Zetterberg-Konrad Agnas, Orakel (Moserobie)
  3. Anna Webber, Clockwise (Pi)
  4. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, To Whom Who Buys a Record (Odin)
  5. Emmeluth's Amoeba, Chimaera (Ora Fonogram)
  6. Avram Fefer Quartet, Testament (Clean Feed)
  7. Aki Takase Japanic, Thema Prima (BMC)
  8. Federico Ughi, Transoceanico (577)
  9. Steve Lehman Trio & Craig Taborn, The People I Love (Pi)
  10. Taylor Ho Bynum 9-tette, The Ambiguity Manifesto (Firehouse 12)
REISSUES/HISTORICAL
  1. Eric Dolphy, Musical Prophet: The Expanded 1963 New York Studio Sessions (Resonance -3CD -18)
  2. Detail, Day Two (1982, NoBusiness)
  3. Griot Galaxy, Kins (1981, Third Man)
VOCAL
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago, We Are on the Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi -2CD)
DEBUT
  • Nick Dunston, Atlantic Extraction (Out of Your Head)
LATIN
  • Wayne Wallace Latin Jazz Quintet, The Rhythm of Invention (Patois)

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

El Intruso 12th Annual International Critics Poll

The results for the Argentine "dedicated to other music" magazine El Intruso's 12th Annual International Critics Poll were posted this Monday. Link to the results and personal ballots here. I'll point you to the "musician of the year" category in particular, and happily note that 5 of the top 6 are female artists.



Posting my ballot below, although you can also find it via the results page linked to above.

Musician of the year: Gard Nilssen, Jaimie Branch, Eric Revis
Newcomer Musician: Georgia Wartel Collins, Nick Dunston, Claire Rousay
Group of the year: Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, Emmeluth’s Amoeba, jaimie branch’s Fly or Die II
Newcomer group: Nature Work, Aki Takase Japanic, Aila Trio
Album of the year: James Brandon Lewis – An UnRuly Manifesto (Relative Pitch Records), Per “Texas” Johansson / Torbjörn Zetterberg / Konrad Agnas – Orakel (Moserobie Music Production), Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity – To Whom Who Buys a Record (ODIN)
Composer: James Brandon Lewis, Anna Webber, Taylor Ho Bynum
Drums: Gard Nilssen, Damion Reid, Christian Lillinger
Acoustic bass: Eric Revis, Luke Stewart, Petter Eldh
Electric bass: Luke Stewart, Brian Gibson, Ellen Brekken
Guitar: Anthony Pirog, Hedvig Mollestad, Mary Halvorson
Piano: Matt Mitchell, Craig Taborn, Kris Davis
Keyboards/Synthesizer/Organ: Craig Taborn, Jamie Saft, Anja Lauvdal
Tenor Saxophone: James Brandon Lewis, Andre Roligheten, Per “Texas” Johansson
Alto Saxophone: Signe Emmeluth, Steve Lehman, Mette Rasmussen
Baritone Saxophone: Eirik Hegdal, Julian Argüelles, Mats Gustafsson
Soprano Saxophone: Sam Newsome, Roscoe Mitchell, André Kassen
Trumpet / Cornet: Magnus Broo, Jaimie Branch, Steph Richards
Clarinet / Bass Clarinet: Ken Vandermark, Jason Stein, Patrick Holmes
Trombone: Mats Äleklint, Steve Swell, Jeb Bishop
Flute: Nicole Mitchell, Henry Threadgill, Anna Webber
Violin / Viola: Matt Manieri, Ola Kvernberg, Jean Cook
Cello: Tomeka Reid, Christopher Hoffman, Fredrick Lonberg-Holm
Vibrafone: Mattias Ståhl, Christopher Dell, Matt Moran
Electronics: Ikue Mori, Noel Meek, Tommi Keränen
Other Instruments: Theon Cross (tuba), Bill Lowe (tuba), Hild Sofie Tafjord (French horn)
Female Vocals: Sofia Jernberg, Moor Mother (Camae Ayewa), Fay Victor
Best Live Band: Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity, Moskus, Henry Threadgill Zooid
Record Label: Hubro, Records Astral Spirits, Pi Recordings

Friday, December 20, 2019

Fave music (i.e. mostly jazz/"jazz") of 2019

I've often been wary of posting year-end favorites until sometime into the new year, mainly since from experience something interesting invariably pops up at later dates that demands my consideration. Be that a late release that hits the sweet spot, or something that has flown under ones radar, the latter being an example of why -- in spite of the many groans they inspire -- I still find year-end lists useful: something might pique your interests when it's placed among other stuff you admire picked by a person whose taste you trust.

Whether I am to be trusted or not I'll leave up to you to decide. In any case, as years have gone by I've become less stressed out that such list should somehow be final. They are, for me, a report of how things stand at the time it is posted. And on that note, if you arrive at this list after the personal ballots for the NPR Jazz Critics Poll, in which I voted, have been published, and something doesn't quite square with my ballot, that's because this list has been posted at a later date and for whatever reason, something felt slightly different this time around. That said, even if album X placed slightly higher than Y on one compared to the other, chances are I still like them both a hell of a lot.

With that out of the way, here's a list of my favorite jazz and jazz adjacent albums released over the past year or so, stopping at 40 because I have to stop somewhere. Plus, with an additional list consisting 10 fave "other" releases, that makes 50.

The best of the best:
  • James Brandon Lewis: An UnRuly Manifsto (Relative Pitch Records)
  • Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (Moserobie Music Production) 
  • Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (ODIN)
  • Anna Webber: Clockwise (Pi Recordings)
On heavy rotation:
  • Taylor Ho Bynum 9-tette: The Ambiguity Manifesto (Firehouse Records)
  • Avram Fefer Quartet: Testament (Clean Feed)
  • Emmeluth's Amoeba: Chimaera (Øra Fonogram)
  • Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima (Budapest Music Center Records) 
  • Steve Lehman Trio + Craig Taborn: The People I Love (Pi Recordings) 
  • Federico Ughi: Transoceanico (577 Records)
  • Matt Brewer w/Mark Shim and Damion Reid: Ganymede (Criss Cross Jazz)
  • Dave Rempis, Brandon Lopes & Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic Records)
  • Gebhard Ullmann: mikroPULS (Intuition Records)
  • DKV & Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time (6CD, Catalytic Sound)
  • jaimie branch: FLY or DIE II: bird dogs of paradise (Internaional Anthem)
  • Nature Work (Jason Stein/Greg Ward/Eric Revis/Jim Black): Nature Work (Sunnyside) 
 Thoroughly enjoyed:
  • Abdullah Ibrahim: The Balance (Gearbox Records)
  • Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (Birdwatcher Records)
  • Tomeka Reid Quartet: Old New (Cuneiform Records)
  • The Big Yes: The Big Yes (Nakama Records) 
  • Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (The Royal Potato Family)
  • Rich Halley Quartet: Terra Incognita (Pine Eagle Records)
  • Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi Recordings)
  • Petter Eldh: Petter Eldh Presents Koma Saxo (We Jazz)
  • The Attic (Rodrigo Amado, Goncalo Almeida, Onno Govaert): Summer Bummer (NoBusiness
  • The Big Yes: The Big Yes (Nakama Records) 
  • Kris Davis: Diatom Ribbons (Pyroclastic Records)
  • Nick Dunston: Atlantic Extraction (Out Of Your Head Records)
  • Junius Paul: Ism (International Anthem
  • William Parker/In Order to Survive: Live/ShapeShifter (AUM Fidelity)
  • Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (Rune Grammofon)
  • Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi Recordings)
  • Somersaults (Tobias Delius / Olie Brice / Mark Sanders): Numerology of Birdsong (West Hill Records)
  • Fredrik Ljungkvist Trio: Atlantis (Moserobie Music Productions)
  • Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (WhyPlayJazz)
  • Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: As We See It... (Clean Feed)
  • Aila Trio: Aila Trio (Hoo-Ha Recordings)
  • Nick Mazzarella Trio: Counterbalance (Astral Spirits)
  • Christian Meaas Svendsen + Nakama + Rinzai Zen Center Oslo: New Rituals (Nakama)
  • Burton Greene / Damon Smith / Ra Kalam Bob Moses: Life's Intense Mystery (Astral Spirits)
Vault/Re-issue:
  • Griot Galaxy: Kins (Third Man Records)
  • Clifford Jordan: Glass Bead Games (Purple Pleasure Records)
  • The Quintet: Events: 1998-1999(PNL) [Disclaimer: I wrote liner notes for this release]
  • Detail: Day Two (NoBusiness Records)
  • Sam Rivers: Emanation (NoBusiness Records)

Non-jazz releases:
  • Lightning Bolt: Sonic Citadel (Thrill Jockey)
  • Purple Mountains: Purple Mountains (Drag City)
  • Fontaines D.C.: Dogrel (Partisan) 
  • Little Simz: GREY Area (Age 101)
  • Ekiti Sound: Abeg No Vex (Crammed Disc)
  • Eddy Current Suppression Ring: All In Good Time (Castle Face)
  • Carly Rae Jepsen: Dedicated (Intercscope)
  • Broen: Do You See the Falling Leaves (Su Tissue)
  • black midi: Schlangenheim (Rough Trade)
  • Jamila Woods: Legacy! Legacy! (Jagjaguwar)

Friday, July 12, 2019

Jazz favorites, January through July 7th, 2019



I'm well aware we are a couple of weeks past the half-year mark, but since I'm just now enjoying something of a break between having visited Kongsberg Jazz Festival and the smaller, more condensed and thus more focused sort of protest festival Motvind last week, and gearing up to next week's Molde Jazz Festival, doing a short and quick half-year round-up seemed appropriate. Below are some of the newly released recorded music that has grabbed my attention the most over the first six months plus a week of 2019, and a couple reissues and "vault music" releases of interest. An asterix denotes that I have had a published review of the release in question.


James Brandon Lewis magnificent An UnRuly Manifesto has been a favorite since its release, and seems like a major work in an already promising career. It channels the lessons of Ornette Coleman and cohorts like Charlie Haden while avoiding the trap of trying to sound like them, the odd musical nod apart. Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity's To Whom Who Buys a Record (officially released today), does something similar in the acoustic trio format, yet another great outing from a terrific band. Catch 'em live if you can. 

Speaking of trios, the number of good-to-great sax, bass and drums albums that have crossed my path is notable, topped by two Scandinavian acts including Acoustic Unity, with Matt Brewer's an all American trio close behind, all exhibiting great inventiveness, agility and skill and slipping in and out familiar structures and melodic hooks and intricate, nimble and exciting acrobatics. Then there's the hefty yet loose limbed, occasionally ferocious Transoceanico by Federico Ughi with Rachel Musson on tenor and Adam Lane on double bass, and the freewheeling openness of Dave Rempis, Brandon Lopez and Ryan Packard's Early Bird Gets.

I'm reluctant to call this a trend, though, as I see no clear cultural, social nor really economic reasons for there being as many sax, bass and drums trios around at this moment in time. So put it down to a happy coincidence, plus that my particular predisposition for sax, bass and drums trios means I tend to sniff such albums up more easily. Nevertheless, the number of recordings in this format that have tickled my fancy are notable not only for their number, but also the variety of musical expressions they exhibit.

Other things of note: Anna Webber's intriguing, percussion work inspired Clockwise, the continued rise of trumpeter Steph Richards as an instrumentalist, composer and bandleader, the perpetual relevance and inventiveness of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, veteran pianist Burton Greene's return to the piano trio with Life's Intense Mystery, the absorbing zen-jazz of Christian Meaas Svendsen's New Rituals, to mention only a few. The list is capped at 30 for no particular reason other than to keep it somewhat short. I've heard more good music than I've found space for here, also in fields outside of jazz:



Tête de la course:

- James Brandon Lewis: An UnRuly Manifsto (Relative Pitch Records) *
- Per 'Texas' Johansson/Torbjörn Zetterberg/Konrad Agnas: Orakel (Moserobie Music Production) *

- Gard Nilssen Acoustic Unity: To Whom Who Buys a Record (ODIN) *
- Anna Webber: Clockwise (Pi Recordings) *

Chase:


- DKV & Joe McPhee: The Fire Each Time (6CD, Catalytic Sound)
- Matt Brewer w/Mark Shim and Damion Reid: Genymede (Criss Cross Jazz) *
- Allison Miller's Boom Tic Boom: Glitter Wolf (The Royal Potato Family) *

- Nature Work (Jason Stein/Greg Ward/Eric Revis/Jim Black): Nature Work (Sunnyside) *
- Scheen Jazzorkester & Thomas Johansson: As We See It... (Clean Feed) *
- Bjørn Marius Hegge: Ideas (Particular Recordings) *

Breakaway:

-  Aki Takase Japanic: Thema Prima (Budapest Music Center Records) *
- Dave Rempis, Brandon Lopes & Ryan Packard: The Early Bird Gets (Aerophonic Records)
- Federico Ughi: Transoceanico (577 Records) *
- Steph Richards: Take the Neon Lights (Birdwatcher Records) *

- Angelica Niescier: New York Trio feat. Jonathna Finlayson (Intakt)
- Fire! Orchestra: Arrival (Rune Grammofon) *
- Art Ensemble of Chicago: We Are On The Edge: A 50th Anniversary Celebration (Pi Recordings) *

- The Attic (Rodrigo Amado, Goncalo Almeida, Onno Govaert): Summer Bummer (NoBusiness) *
- Matt Mitchell: Phalanx Ambassadors (Pi Recordings)
- Gebhard Ullmann Basement Research: Impromptus and Other Short Works (WhyPlayJazz)

- Christian Meaas Svendsen + Nakama + Rinzai Zen Center Oslo: New Rituals (Nakama) *
- William Parker / In Order To Survive: Live/Shapeshifter (AUM Fidelity)
- Fabian Almazan Trio: This Land Abounds With Life (Biophilia)

- Alex Fournier: Triio (Furniture Music Records)
- Matthew Shipp Trio invites Nicole Mitchell: All Things Are (Rogue Art)
- Maria Faust, Tim Dahl & Weasel Walter: Farm Fresh (Gotta Let It Out)
- Boneshaker (Mars Williams, Paal Nilssen-Love, Kent Kessler): Fake Music (Soul What Records)
- Iro Haarla, Ulf Krokfors & Barry Altschul: Around Again - The Music of Carla Bley (TUM) *
- Lind May Han Oh: Aventurine (Biophilia Records) *
- Greg Ward presents Rogue Parade: Stompin' Off From Greenwood (Greenleaf Music) *

Reissues/vault:
- Detail: Day Two (NoBusiness)
- Alice Coltrane - Live at the Berkeley Community Theater 1972 (BCT Records)
- Griot Galaxy: Kins (Third Man Records)
- Clifford Jordan: Glass Bead Games (Purple Pleasure Records)
- Sam Rivers: Emanation - Sam Rivers Archive Project, Volume 1 (NoBusiness)
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